National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.
NMFS is prohibiting directed fishing for Pacific cod by catcher vessels 60 feet (18.3 meters) length overall (LOA) and longer using pot gear in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area (BSAI). This action is necessary to prevent exceeding the 2004 interim total allowable catch (TAC) of Pacific cod allocated to these vessels using pot gear in this area.
Effective 1200 hrs, Alaska local time (A.l.t.), February 15, 2004, until superseded by the notice of Final 2004 Harvest Specifications of Groundfish for the BSAI, which will be published in the Federal Register.Start Further Info
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Josh Keaton, 907-586-7228.End Further Info End Preamble Start Supplemental Information
NMFS manages the groundfish fishery in the BSAI according to the Fishery Management Plan for the Groundfish Fishery of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Area (FMP) prepared by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council under authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Regulations governing fishing by U.S. vessels in accordance with the FMP appear at subpart H of 50 CFR part 600 and 50 CFR part 679.
The 2004 interim TAC of Pacific cod allocated to catcher vessels 60 feet (18.3 meters) LOA and longer using pot gear in the BSAI was established as a directed fishing allowance of 8,051 metric tons by the interim 2004 harvest specifications for groundfish in the BSAI (68 FR 68265, December 8, 2003). See § § 679.20(c)(2)(ii)(A), 679.20(c)(5), and 679.20(a)(7)(i)(A) and (C).
In accordance with § 679.20(d)(1)(iii), the Administrator, Alaska Region, NMFS, has determined that the 2004 interim TAC of Pacific cod allocated as a directed fishing allowance to catcher vessels 60 feet (18.3 meters) LOA and longer using pot gear in the BSAI will soon be reached. Consequently, NMFS is prohibiting directed fishing for Pacific cod by catcher vessels 60 feet (18.3 meters) LOA and longer using pot gear in the BSAI. Vessels less than 60 feet (18.3 meters) LOA using pot gear in the BSAI may continue to participate in the directed fishery for Pacific cod under a separate Pacific cod allocation to catcher vessels less than 60 feet (18.3 meters) LOA using hook-and-line or pot gear.
This action responds to the best available information recently obtained from the fishery. The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA, (AA), finds good cause to waive the requirement to provide prior notice and opportunity for public comment pursuant to the authority set forth at 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) as such requirement is Start Printed Page 7704impracticable and contrary to the public interest. This requirement is impracticable and contrary to the public interest as it would prevent the Agency from responding to the most recent fisheries data in a timely fashion and would delay the closure of the fishery under the interim 2004 TAC of Pacific cod specified for catcher vessels 60 feet (18.3 meters) LOA and longer using pot gear in the BSAI.
The AA also finds good cause to waive the 30-day delay in the effective date of this action under 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3). This finding is based upon the reasons provided above for waiver of prior notice and opportunity for public comment.
This action is required by § 679.20 and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866.Start Signature
Dated: February 12, 2004.
Bruce C. Morehead,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 04-3626 Filed 2-13-04; 2:26 pm]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-S