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Rule

Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Reallocation of Pacific Cod in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area

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AGENCY:

National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

ACTION:

Reallocation.

SUMMARY:

NMFS is reallocating the projected unused amount of Pacific cod from vessels using jig gear to catcher vessels less than 60 feet (18.3 meters (m)) length overall (LOA) using pot or hook-and-line gear in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area (BSAI). This action is necessary to allow the 2004 A season total allowable catch (TAC) of Pacific cod to be harvested.

DATES:

Effective April 7, 2004, until 2400 hours, Alaska local time (A.l.t.), December 31, 2004.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Josh Keaton, 907-586-7228.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

NMFS manages the groundfish fishery in the BSAI exclusive economic zone 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 final harvest specifications for groundfish of the BSAI (69 FR 9242, February 27, 2004), established the Pacific cod TAC allocated to vessels using jig gear in the BSAI for the period 1200 hrs, A.l.t., January 1, 2004, through 1200 hrs, A.l.t., April 30, 2004, as 1,595 metric tons (mt).

As of April 1, 2004, the Administrator, Alaska Region, NMFS, has determined that jig vessels will not be able to harvest 1,545 mt of the A season apportionment of Pacific cod allocated to those vessels under § 679.20(a)(7)(i)(A) and § 679.20(a)(7)(iii)(A). Therefore, in accordance with § 679.20(a)(7)(ii)(C)(1), NMFS apportions 1,545 mt of Pacific cod from the A season apportionment of jig gear to catcher vessels less than 60 feet (18.3 m) LOA using pot or hook-and-line gear.

The harvest specifications for Pacific cod included in the harvest specifications for groundfish in the BSAI (69 FR 9242, February 27, 2004) are revised as follows: 50 mt to the A season apportionment for vessels using jig gear and 2,961 mt to catcher vessels less than 60 feet (18.3 m) LOA using pot or hook-and-line gear.

Classification

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 Start Printed Page 19117opportunity for public comment pursuant to the authority set forth at 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) as such a requirement is impracticable 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 reallocation of Pacific cod specified for jig vessels to catcher vessels less than 60 feet (18.3 m) LOA using pot or hook-and-line gear and therefore would cause disruption to the industry by requiring unnecessary closures, disruption within the fishing industry, and the potential for regulatory discards when the current allocation is projected to be reached on April 24, 2004. This reallocation will relieve a restriction on the industry and allow for the orderly conduct and efficient operation of this fishery.

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.

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Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.

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Dated: April 6, 2004.

Alan D. Risenhoover,

Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service.

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[FR Doc. 04-8233 Filed 4-7-04; 2:22 pm]

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