National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.
NMFS closes the commercial hook-and-line fishery for king mackerel in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the southern Florida west coast subzone. This closure is necessary to protect the Gulf group king mackerel resource.
Effective 12:01 a.m., local time, April 9, 2004, through June 30, 2004.Start Further Info
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Mark Godcharles, telephone: 727-570-5727, fax: 727-570-5583, e-mail: Mark.Godcharles@noaa.gov.End Further Info End Preamble Start Supplemental Information
The fishery for coastal migratory pelagic fish (king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, cero, cobia, little tunny, dolphin, and, in the Gulf of Mexico only, bluefish) is managed under the Fishery Management Plan for the Coastal Migratory Pelagic Resources of the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic (FMP). The FMP was prepared by the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic Fishery Management Councils (Councils) and is implemented under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) by regulations at 50 CFR part 622.
Based on the Councils' recommended total allowable catch and the allocation ratios in the FMP, on April 30, 2001 (66 FR 17368, March 30, 2001), NMFS implemented a commercial quota of 2.25 million lb (1.02 million kg) for the eastern zone (Florida) of the Gulf migratory group of king mackerel. That quota is further divided into separate quotas for the Florida east coast subzone and the northern and southern Florida west coast subzones. On April 27, 2000, NMFS implemented the final rule (65 FR 16336, March 28, 2000) that divided the Florida west coast subzone of the eastern zone into northern and southern subzones, and established their separate quotas. The quota implemented for the southern Florida west coast subzone is 1,040,625 lb (472,020 kg). That quota is further divided into two equal quotas of 520,312 lb (236,010 kg) for vessels in each of two groups fishing with hook-and-line gear and run-around gillnets (50 CFR 622.42(c)(1)(i)(A)(2)(i)).
Under 50 CFR 622.43(a), NMFS is required to close any segment of the king mackerel commercial fishery when its quota has been reached, or is projected to be reached, by filing a notification at the Office of the Federal Register. NMFS has determined that the commercial quota of 520,312 lb (236,010 kg) for Gulf group king mackerel for vessels using hook-and-line gear in the southern Florida west coast subzone was reached on April 6, 2004. Accordingly, the commercial hook-and-line fishery for king mackerel in the southern Florida west coast subzone is closed effective 12:01 a.m., local time, April 9, 2004, through June 30, 2004, the end of the fishing year.
The Florida west coast subzone is that part of the eastern zone south and west of 25°20.4′ N. lat. (a line directly east from the Miami-Dade County, FL boundary). The Florida west coast subzone is further divided into northern and southern subzones. The southern subzone is that part of the Florida west coast subzone which from November 1 through March 31 extends south and west from 25°20.4′ N. lat. to 26°19.8′ N. lat.(a line directly west from the Lee/Collier County, FL boundary), i.e., the area off Collier and Monroe Counties. From April 1 through October 31, the southern subzone is that part of the Florida west coast subzone which is between 26°19.8′ N. lat. and 25°48′ N. lat.(a line directly west from the Monroe/Collier County, FL boundary), i.e., the area off Collier County.
NMFS previously determined that the commercial quota for king mackerel from the western zone of the Gulf of Mexico was reached and closed that segment of the fishery on September 24, 2003 (68 FR 55554, September 26, 2003). Subsequently, NMFS determined that the commercial quota for Gulf group king mackerel in the northern Florida west coast subzone was reached and closed that segment of the fishery on November 13, 2003 (68 FR 64820; November 17, 2003). Thus, with this closure, all commercial fisheries for Gulf group king mackerel in the EEZ are closed from the U.S./Mexico border through the southern Florida west coast subzone through June 30, 2004, except for vessels fishing with run-around gillnets in the southern Florida west coast subzone.
Except for a person aboard a charter vessel or headboat, during the closure, no person aboard a vessel for which a commercial permit for king mackerel has been issued may fish for Gulf group king mackerel in the EEZ in the closed zones or subzones. A person aboard a vessel that has a valid charter vessel/headboat permit for coastal migratory pelagic fish may continue to retain king mackerel in or from the closed zones or subzones under the bag and possession limits set forth in 50 CFR 622.39(c)(1)(ii) and (c)(2), provided the vessel is operating as a charter vessel or headboat. A charter vessel or headboat that also has a commercial king mackerel permit is considered to be operating as a charter vessel or headboat when it carries a passenger who pays a fee or when there are more than three persons aboard, including operator and crew.
During the closure, king mackerel from the closed zones or subzones taken in the EEZ, including those harvested under the bag and possession limits, may not be purchased or sold. This prohibition does not apply to trade in king mackerel from the closed zones or subzones that were harvested, landed ashore, and sold prior to the closure and were held in cold storage by a dealer or processor.
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 prior notice and opportunity for public comment is unnecessary and contrary to the public interest. Such procedures would be unnecessary because the rule itself already has been subject to notice and comment, and all that remains is to notify the public of the closure. Allowing prior notice and opportunity Start Printed Page 19347for public comment is contrary to the public interest because of the need to immediately implement this action in order to protect the fishery since the capacity of the fishing fleet allows for rapid harvest of the quota. Prior notice and opportunity for public comment will require time and would potentially result in a harvest well in excess of the established quota.
For the aforementioned reasons, the AA also finds good cause to waive the 30 day delay in the effectiveness of this action under 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3).
This action is taken under 50 CFR 622.43(a) and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866.Start Signature
Dated: April 8, 2004.
Alan D. Risenhoover,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 04-8352 Filed 4-8-04; 4:15 pm]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-S