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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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Start Preamble

AGENCY:

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

ACTION:

Reallocation of Pacific cod.

SUMMARY:

NMFS is reallocating the projected unused amount of Pacific cod from vessels using trawl and jig gear to vessels using hook-and-line and pot gear in the BSAI. These actions are necessary to allow the 2004 total allowable catch (TAC) of Pacific cod to be harvested.

DATES:

Effective October 15, 2004, until 2400 hours, A.l.t., December 31, 2004.

Start Further Info

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Josh Keaton, 907-586-7228.

End Further Info End Preamble Start Supplemental Information

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 as 199,338 metric tons (mt). Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(7)(i)(A), 3,987 mt was allocated to vessels using jig gear, 101,662 mt to vessels using hook-and-line or pot gear, and 93,689 mt to vessels using trawl gear. The share of the Pacific cod TAC allocated to trawl gear was further allocated 50 percent to Start Printed Page 61608catcher vessels and 50 percent to catcher/processor vessels (§ 679.20(a)(7)(i)(B)). The share of the Pacific cod TAC allocated to hook-and-line or pot gear was further allocated 80 percent to catcher/processor vessels using hook-and-line gear; 0.3 percent to catcher vessels using hook-and-line gear; 3.3 percent to catcher/processor vessels using pot gear; 15 percent to catcher vessels using pot gear; and 1.4 percent to catcher vessels less than 60 ft (18.3 meters (m)) length overall (LOA) that use either hook-and-line or pot gear (§ 679.20(a)(7)(i)(C)).

On April 7, 2004, 1,545 mt of Pacific cod from the A season apportionment of the jig gear allocation was reallocated to catcher vessels less than 60 ft (18.3 m) LOA using hook-and-line or pot gear (69 FR 19116, April 12, 2004).

As of October 7, 2004, the Administrator, Alaska Region, NMFS (Regional Administrator), has determined that trawl catcher/processors will not be able to harvest 5,700 mt and trawl catcher vessels will not be able to harvest 7,000 mt of Pacific cod allocated to those vessels under § 679.20(a)(7)(i)(B). Therefore, in accordance with § 679.20(a)(7)(ii)(C)(2), NMFS apportions 12,700 mt of Pacific cod from trawl gear to catcher/processor vessels using hook-and-line gear and vessels using pot gear.

The Regional Administrator has also determined that vessels using jig gear will not harvest 2,000 mt of their Pacific cod allocation by the end of the year. Also, catcher vessels less than 60 feet (18.3 m) LOA using hook-and-line or pot gear will not be able to harvest any additional Pacific cod. Therefore, in accordance with § 679.20(a)(7)(ii)(C)(1) and § 679.20(a)(7)(ii)(B), NMFS is reallocating the unused amount of 2,000 mt of Pacific cod allocated to vessels using jig gear to catcher/processor vessels using 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: 442 mt to vessels using jig gear, 94,995 mt to catcher/processor vessels using hook-and-line gear, 15,695 mt to catcher vessels using pot gear, 3,452 mt to catcher processor vessels using pot gear, 41,144 mt to catcher/processor vessels using trawl gear, and 39,844 mt to catcher vessels using trawl 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 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 NMFS from responding to the most recent fisheries data in a timely fashion and would delay the reallocation of Pacific cod specified for trawl and jig vessels to vessels using hook-and-line and pot gear in the BSAI 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 allocations are reached. 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.

Start Authority

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

End Authority Start Signature

Dated: October 15,2004.

Alan D. Risenhoover,

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

End Signature End Supplemental Information

[FR Doc. 04-23467 Filed 10-15-04; 2:57 pm]

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