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Rule

Fisheries of the Economic Exclusive Zone Off Alaska; Deep-Water Species Fishery by Vessels Using Trawl Gear in the Gulf of Alaska

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AGENCY:

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

ACTION:

Closure.

SUMMARY:

NMFS is prohibiting directed fishing for species that comprise the deep-water species fishery by vessels using trawl gear in the Gulf of Alaska (GOA). This action is necessary because the second seasonal apportionment of the 2004 halibut bycatch allowance specified for the deep-water species fishery in the GOA has been reached.

DATES:

Effective 1200 hrs, Alaska local time (A.l.t.), April 26, 2004, through 1200 hrs, A.l.t., July 4, 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 GOA exclusive economic zone according to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska (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 GOA (69 FR 9261, February 27, 2004), established the second seasonal apportionment of the halibut bycatch allowance specified for the trawl deep-water species fishery in the GOA for the period 1200 hrs, A.l.t., April 1, 2004, through 1200 hrs, A.l.t., July 4, 2004, as 300 metric tons.

In accordance with § 679.21(d)(7)(i), the Administrator, Alaska Region, NMFS, has determined that the second seasonal apportionment of the 2004 Pacific halibut bycatch allowance specified for the trawl deep-water species fishery in the GOA has been reached. Consequently, NMFS is prohibiting directed fishing for the deep-water species fishery by vessels using trawl gear in the GOA. The species and species groups that comprise the deep-water species fishery are: all rockfish of the genera Sebastes and Sebastolobus, deep water flatfish, rex sole, arrowtooth flounder, and sablefish.

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 opportunity 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 closure of the deep-water species fishery by vessels using trawl gear in the GOA.

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 23, 2004.

Alan D. Risenhoover,

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

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[FR Doc. 04-9757 Filed 4-26-04; 4:00 pm]

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