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Rule

Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act Provisions; Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Northeast (NE) Multispecies Fishery; Modification of the Yellowtail Flounder Landing Limit for the U.S./Canada Management Area

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Start Preamble

AGENCY:

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

ACTION:

Temporary rule; landing limit.

SUMMARY:

NMFS announces that the Administrator, Northeast (NE) Region, NMFS (Regional Administrator), is increasing the Georges Bank (GB) yellowtail flounder trip limit to 25,000 lb (11,340 kg) for NE multispecies days-at-sea (DAS) vessels fishing in the U.S./Canada Management Area. This action is authorized by the regulations implementing Amendment 13 to the NE Multispecies Fishery Management Plan and is intended to prevent under-harvesting of the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for GB yellowtail flounder while ensuring that the TAC will not be exceeded during the 2006 fishing year. This action is being taken to provide additional opportunities for vessels to fully harvest the GB yellowtail flounder TAC under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act).

DATES:

Effective April 5, 2007, through April 30, 2007.

Start Further Info

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Tobey Curtis, Fishery Management Specialist, (978) 281-9273, fax (978) 281-9135.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Regulations governing the GB yellowtail flounder landing limit within the U.S./Canada Management Area are found at § 648.85(a)(3)(iv)(C) and (D). The regulations authorize vessels issued a valid limited access NE multispecies permit and fishing under a NE multispecies DAS to fish in the U.S./Canada Management Area, as defined at § 648.85(a)(1), under specific conditions. The TAC for GB yellowtail flounder for the 2006 fishing year (May 1, 2006 - April 30, 2007) is 2,070 mt. The regulations at § 648.85(a)(3)(iv)(D) authorize the Regional Administrator to increase or decrease the trip limits in the U.S./Canada Management Area to prevent over-harvesting or under-harvesting the TAC allocation. On March 8, 2007, the 10,000-lb (4,536-kg) trip limit for GB yellowtail flounder was reduced to 5,000 lb (2,268 kg) in the Eastern U.S./Canada Area to prevent over-harvesting the TAC (72 FR 10426), and the requirement to only use a haddock separator trawl in the Eastern U.S./Canada Area was removed. Currently, NE multispecies vessels fishing in the Eastern U.S./Canada Area under a NE multispecies day-at-sea (DAS) with trawl gear must use either a haddock separator trawl or a flounder trawl net, as specified at § 648.85(a)(3)(iii). Based upon the most Start Printed Page 17807recent Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) reports and other available information, the Regional Administrator has determined that the current rate of harvest will result in the under-harvest of the GB yellowtail flounder TAC during the 2006 fishing year. Based on this information, the Regional Administrator is increasing the current 10,000-lb (4,536-kg) trip limit in the Western U.S./Canada Area, and the 5,000-lb (2,268-kg) trip limit in the Eastern U.S./Canada Area to 25,000 lb (11,340 kg) in both areas, effective April 5, 2007, through April 30, 2007. Accordingly, there is a 25,000-lb (11,340-kg) trip limit on the amount of GB yellowtail flounder that can be harvested or landed for the remainder of the fishing year for vessels subject to these regulations. GB yellowtail flounder landings will be closely monitored through VMS and other available information. Should 100 percent of the TAC allocation for GB yellowtail flounder be projected to be harvested, the Eastern U.S./Canada Area will close to all groundfish DAS vessels, and all vessels will be prohibited from harvesting, possessing, or landing yellowtail flounder from the U.S./Canada Management Area for the remainder of the fishing year. Additionally, the Eastern GB cod TAC will also be closely monitored, and should 100 percent of its TAC allocation be projected to be harvested, groundfish DAS vessels will be prohibited from entering the Eastern U.S./Canada Area for the remainder of the fishing year, as required by the regulations at § 648.85(a)(3)(iv).

Classification

This action is authorized by 50 CFR part 648 and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866.

Pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B), the Assistant Administrator (AA) finds good cause to waive prior notice and opportunity for public comment for this action, because notice and comment would be impracticable and contrary to the public interest. The regulations at § 648.85(a)(3)(iv)(D) grant the Regional Administrator the authority to adjust the GB yellowtail flounder trip limits to prevent over-harvesting or under-harvesting the TAC allocation. Given that approximately 20 percent of the GB yellowtail flounder TAC remains unharvested and the 2006 fishing year ends on April 30, 2007, the time necessary to provide for prior notice, opportunity for public comment, or delayed effectiveness would prevent the agency from ensuring that the 2006 TAC for GB yellowtail flounder will be fully harvested. If implementation of this action is delayed, the NE multispecies fishery could be prevented from fully harvesting the TAC for GB yellowtail flounder during the 2006 fishing year. Under-harvesting the GB yellowtail TAC would result in increased economic impacts to the industry and social impacts beyond those analyzed for Amendment 13, as the full potential revenue from the available GB yellowtail flounder TAC in the U.S./Canada Management Area would not be realized. This action also relieves a restriction placed on the NE multispecies fishing industry by liberalizing the trip limits for GB yellowtail flounder.

For the reasons specified above and because this action relieves a restriction, the AA finds good cause, pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3), to waive the entire 30-day delayed effectiveness period for this action. A delay in the effectiveness of the trip limit modification in this rule would prevent the agency from meeting its management obligation and ensuring the opportunity for the 2006 TAC for GB yellowtail flounder specified for the U.S./Canada Management Area to be harvested at a level that approaches optimum yield. Any such delay could lead to the negative impacts to the fishing industry described above.

The rate of harvest of the GB yellowtail flounder TAC in the U.S./Canada Management Area is updated weekly on the internet at http://www.nero.noaa.gov. Accordingly, the public is able to obtain information that would provide at least some advanced notice of a potential action to provide additional opportunities to the NE multispecies industry to fully harvest the TAC for GB yellowtail flounder during the 2006 fishing year. Further, the potential for this action was considered and open to public comment during the development of Amendment 13 and Framework 42. Therefore, any negative effect the waiving of public comment and delayed effectiveness may have on the public is mitigated by these factors.

Start Authority

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

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Dated: April 5, 2007.

James P. Burgess

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

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[FR Doc. 07-1764 Filed 4-5-07; 1:36 pm]

BILLING CODE 3510-22-S