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Rule

Fisheries Off West Coast States; Highly Migratory Species Fisheries

Document Details

Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

Published Document

This document has been published in the Federal Register. Use the PDF linked in the document sidebar for the official electronic format.

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AGENCY:

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

ACTION:

Final rule.

SUMMARY:

NMFS issues a final rule to amend text in the regulations governing closures of the drift gillnet fishery in the Pacific Loggerhead Conservation Area during El Nino events under the Fishery Management Plan for U.S. West Coast Fisheries for Highly Migratory Species (HMS FMP). The regulation is necessary to avoid jeopardizing loggerhead sea turtles, which are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, by clarifying the time period in which the area is to be closed and the methods that NMFS will use to determine if an El Nino event is occurring or forecast to occur. This final rule also corrects an inaccurate cross-reference in the regulations governing special requirements for fishing activities to protect threatened and endangered sea turtles under the HMS FMP.

DATES:

This final rule is effective July 9, 2007.

ADDRESSES:

Rodney R. McInnis, Regional Administrator, Southwest Region, NMFS, 501 West Ocean Blvd., Suite 4200, Long Beach, CA 90802 4213.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Craig Heberer, Sustainable Fisheries Division, NMFS, 760-431-9440, ext. 303.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

On April 7, 2004, NMFS published a final rule to implement the HMS FMP (69 FR 18444) that included incorrect regulatory text in 50 CFR 660.713(c)(2) pertaining to the timing of a closure for the California/Oregon swordfish/thresher shark drift gillnet fishery during declared El Nino events and methods for determination and notification concerning an El Nino event. This final rule amends that regulatory text and provides the correct information. The closure is necessary to avoid jeopardizing the continued existence of threatened loggerhead sea turtles. This final rule describes the area of the closure, the time period in which the area is to be closed, the methods that NMFS will use to determine if an El Nino event is occurring or is going to occur, and how the Assistant Administrator will provide notification that an El Nino is occurring.

This final rule clarifies that any closure as a result of an El Nino event would occur from June 1 - August 31 only, as currently specified in 50 CFR 660.713(c)(2), rather than during the time periods of January 1 - January 15 and August 15 - August 31, as currently specified inconsistently in 50 CFR 660.713 (c)(2)(ii). This final rule amends regulatory text at 50 CFR 224.104(c) that describes special requirements for fishing activities to protect endangered sea turtles. The existing text refers to special prohibitions relating to sea turtles at § 223.206(d)(2)(iv). However, paragraph (d)(2)(iv) no longer exists in 50 CFR 223.206. The reference should be to § 223.206(d). For further background information on this action please refer to the preamble of the proposed rule (72 FR 4225, January 30, 2007). No public comments were received during the comment period for Start Printed Page 31757the proposed rule. The regulatory text was not modified in drafting of the final rule.

Classification

NMFS has determined that the final rule is consistent with the HMS FMP and is consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and other applicable laws.

This final rule has been determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order 12866.

The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration during the proposed rule stage that this action would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. The factual basis for the certification was published in the proposed rule and is not repeated here. No comments were received regarding this certification or the economic impact of the rule. As a result, a regulatory flexibility analysis was not required and none was prepared.

List of Subjects

50 CFR Part 224

Administrative practice and procedure, Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

50 CFR Part 660

Fisheries, Fishing, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

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Dated: June 04, 2007.

William T. Hogarth,

Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service.

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For the reasons set out in the preamble,

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PART 224—ENDANGERED MARINE AND ANADROMOUS SPECIES

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1. The authority citation for part 224 continues to read as follows:

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Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1531-1543 and 16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.

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2. In § 224.104, paragraph (c) is revised to read as follows:

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Special requirements for fishing activities to protect endangered sea turtles.
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(c) Special prohibitions relating to sea turtles are provided at § 223.206(d).

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PART 660—FISHERIES OFF THE WEST COAST STATES

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3. The authority citation for part 660 continues to read as follows:

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

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4. In § 660.713, paragraph (c)(2) is revised to read as follows:

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Drift gillnet fishery.
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(c)(2) Pacific loggerhead conservation area. No person may fish with, set, or haul back drift gillnet gear in U.S. waters of the Pacific Ocean east of the 120° W. meridian from June 1 through August 31 during a forecasted, or occurring, El Nino event off the coast of southern California.

(i) Notification of an El Nino event. The Assistant Administrator will publish in the Federal Register a notification that an El Nino event is occurring, or is forecast to occur, off the coast of southern California and the requirement of a closure under this paragraph (c)(2). Furthermore, the Assistant Administrator will announce the requirement of such a closure by other methods as are necessary and appropriate to provide actual notice to the participants in the California/Oregon drift gillnet fishery.

(ii) Determination of El Nino conditions. The Assistant Administrator will rely on information developed by NOAA offices which monitor El Nino events, such as NOAA's Climate Prediction Center and the West Coast Office of NOAA's Coast Watch program, in order to determine whether an El Nino is forecasted or occurring for the coast of southern California. The Assistant Administrator will use the monthly sea surface temperature anomaly charts to determine whether there are warmer than normal sea surface temperatures present off of southern California during the months prior to the closure month for years in which an El Nino event has been declared by the NOAA Climate Prediction Center. Specifically, the Assistant Administrator, will use sea surface temperature data from the third and second months prior to the month of the closure for determining whether El Nino conditions are present off of southern California.

(iii) Reopening. If, during a closure as described within this paragraph (c)(2), sea surface temperatures return to normal or below normal, the Assistant Administrator may publish a Federal Register notice announcing that El Nino conditions are no longer present off the coast of southern California and may terminate the closure prior to August 31.

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[FR Doc. E7-11124 Filed 6-7-07; 8:45 am]

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