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Rule

Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Fisheries

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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Start Preamble

AGENCY:

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

ACTION:

Temporary rule; inseason retention limit adjustment.

SUMMARY:

NMFS has determined that the Atlantic bluefin tuna (BFT) General category daily retention limit for three of the previously designated restricted fishing days (RFD) for December should be adjusted. These General category RFDs are being waived to provide reasonable opportunity for utilization of the coastwide General category BFT quota. Therefore, NMFS waives three RFDs in December and increases the daily retention limit from zero to two large medium or giant BFT on these previously designated RFDs.

DATES:

Effective dates for BFT daily retention limits are provided in Table 1 under SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION.

Start Further Info

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Brad McHale, 978-281-9260.

End Further Info End Preamble Start Supplemental Information

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Regulations implemented under the authority of the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act (16 U.S.C. 971 et seq.) and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act; 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.) governing the harvest of BFT by persons and vessels subject to U.S. jurisdiction are found at 50 CFR part 635. The 2005 BFT fishing year began on June 1, 2005, and ends May 31, 2006. The final initial 2005 BFT specifications and General category effort controls (June 7, 2005; 70 FR 33033) established the following RFD schedule for the 2005 fishing year: All Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from November 18, 2005, through January 31, 2006, and Thursday, November 24, 2005, inclusive, provided quota remained available and the fishery was open. RFDs are intended to extend the General category BFT fishery late into the season and provide for a winter fishery in the southern Atlantic region.

Table 1. Effective dates for retention limit adjustments

Permit CategoryEffective DatesAreaBFT Size Class Limit
Atlantic tunas General and HMS Charter/Headboat (while fishing commercially)December 16 through 18, 2005, inclusive.AllTwo BFT per vessel per day/trip, measuring 73 inches (185 cm) CFL or larger

Adjustment of General Category Daily Retention Limits

Under 50 CFR 635.23(a)(4), NMFS may increase or decrease the General category daily retention limit of large medium and giant BFT over a range from zero (on RFDs) to a maximum of three per vessel to allow for maximum utilization of the quota for BFT. NMFS has taken multiple actions during the 2005 fishing year in an attempt to allow for maximum utilization of the General category BFT quota. On September 28, 2005 (70 FR 56595), NMFS adjusted the commercial daily BFT retention limit (on non-RFDs), in all areas, for those vessels fishing under the General category quota, to two large medium or giant BFT, measuring 73 inches (185 cm) or greater curved fork length (CFL), per vessel per day/trip, effective through January 31, 2006, inclusive, provided quota remained available and the fishery remained open. On November 9, 2005 (70 FR 67929), NMFS waived the previously designated RFDs for the month of November and adjusted the daily retention limit on those RFDs to two large medium or giant BFT.

On December 7, 2005 (70 FR 72724), NMFS adjusted the General category quota by conducting a 200 mt inseason quota transfer to the Reserve category, resulting in an adjusted General category quota of 708.3 mt. This action was taken to account for any potential overharvests that may occur in the Angling category during the 2005 fishing year (June 1, 2005 through May 31, 2006) and to ensure that U.S. BFT harvest is consistent with international and domestic mandates.

Based on a review of dealer reports, daily landing trends, available quota, weather conditions, and the availability of BFT on the fishing grounds, NMFS has determined that waiving three RFDs Start Printed Page 74713established for the month of December and increasing the General category daily BFT retention limit on those RFDs is warranted. Therefore, NMFS adjusts the General category daily BFT retention limits for December 16, 17, and 18, 2005, to two large medium or giant BFT per vessel. NMFS has selected these days to give enough advance notice to fishery participants and to assist the fishery access the available quota.

NMFS recognizes that catch rates have continued to be low so far this season however, they may increase rapidly, and to ensure equitable fishing opportunities in all areas and provide opportunities for a late winter General category BFT fishery, NMFS needs to carefully monitor and manage this fishery. Conversely, if catch rates continue to be low, some or all of the remaining previously scheduled RFDs may be waived as well.

The intent of this current adjustment is to provide reasonable opportunity to utilize landings quota of BFT while maintaining an equitable distribution of fishing opportunities to help achieve optimum yield in the General category BFT fishery, to collect a broad range of data for stock monitoring purposes, and to be consistent with the objectives of the HMS FMP.

Monitoring and Reporting

NMFS selected the RFDs being waived after examining current fishing year catch and effort rates, previous fishing years catch and effort rates, predicted weather patterns over the next week, and the available quota for the 2005 fishing year. NMFS will continue to monitor the BFT fishery closely through dealer landing reports. Depending on the level of fishing effort and catch rates of BFT, NMFS may determine that additional retention limit adjustments are necessary to ensure available quota is not exceeded or, to enhance scientific data collection from, and fishing opportunities in, all geographic areas.

Closures or subsequent adjustments to the daily retention limits, if any, will be published in the Federal Register. In addition, fishermen may call the Atlantic Tunas Information Line at (888) 872-8862 or (978) 281-9260, or access the Internet at www.nmfspermits.com for updates on quota monitoring and retention limit adjustments.

Classification

The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA (AA), finds that it is impracticable and contrary to the public interest to provide prior notice of, and an opportunity for, public comment on this action.

NMFS has recently become aware of increased availability of large medium and giant BFT on the fishing grounds. This increase in abundance provides the potential for the fishery to increase General category landings rates if participants are authorized to harvest two large medium or giant BFT per day on previously designated RFDs. The regulations implementing the 1999 Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for Atlantic Tunas, Swordfish, and Sharks provide for inseason retention limit adjustments to respond to the unpredictable nature of BFT availability on the fishing grounds, the migratory nature of this species, and the regional variations in the BFT fishery. Based on a review of recent information regarding the availability of BFT on the fishing grounds, dealer reports, daily landing trends, available quota, and weather conditions, NMFS has determined that this retention limit adjustment is warranted to increase access to available quota.

Delays in waiving the selected December RFDs, and thereby increasing the General category daily retention limit, would be contrary to the public interest. Such delays would adversely affect those General category vessels that would otherwise have an opportunity to harvest BFT on an RFD and would further exacerbate the problem of low catch rates. Limited opportunities to access the General category quota may have negative social and economic impacts to U.S. fishermen that depend on catching the available quota. For the General category, waiving of the selected December RFDs needs to be done as expeditiously as possible for the General category participants to be able to use the waived RFDs to take advantage of the adjusted retention limits and plan accordingly.

Therefore

, the AA finds good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) to waive prior notice and the opportunity for public comment. For all of the above reasons, and because this action relieves a restriction (i.e., waives a number of RFDs, thus increasing the opportunity to retain more fish), there is also good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(d) to waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness.

This action is being taken under 50 CFR 635.23(a)(4) and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866.

Start Authority

Authority: 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq. and 1801 et seq.

End Authority Start Signature

Dated: December 13, 2005.

Alan Risenhoover,

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

End Signature End Supplemental Information

[FR Doc. 05-24133 Filed 12-13-05; 10:57 am]

BILLING CODE 3510-22-S