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Rule

Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Inseason Adjustment to the 2008 Bering Sea Pollock Total Allowable Catch Amount

Document Details

Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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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:

Temporary rule; inseason adjustment; request for comments.

SUMMARY:

NMFS is adjusting the 2008 total allowable catch amount (TAC) for the Bering Sea pollock fishery. This action is necessary because NMFS has determined this TAC is incorrectly specified. This action will ensure the Bering Sea pollock TAC does not exceed the appropriate amount based on the best available scientific information for pollock in the Bering Sea subarea. This action is consistent with the goals and objectives of the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area (FMP).

DATES:

Effective 1200 hrs, Alaska local time (A.l.t.), December 31, 2007, through 2400 hrs, A.l.t., December 31, 2008, unless otherwise modified or superceded through publication of a notification in the Federal Register.

Comments must be received at the following address no later than 4:30 p.m., A.l.t., January 15, 2008.

ADDRESSES:

You may submit comments, identified by “RIN 0648-XE78,” by any one of the following methods:

  • Mail to: P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802
  • Hand delivery to the Federal Building, 709 West 9th Street, Room 420A, Juneau, Alaska
  • Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal http://www.regulations.gov
  • FAX to 907-586-7557, Attn: Ellen Sebastian

Instructions: All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted to http://www.regulations.gov without change. All Personal Identifying Information (for example, name, address, etc.) voluntarily submitted by the commenter may be publicly accessible. Do not submit Confidential Business Information or otherwise sensitive or protected information.

NMFS will accept anonymous comments. Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats only.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Jennifer Hogan, 907-586-7228.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

NMFS manages the groundfish fishery in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI) according to the FMP prepared by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (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 2008 pollock TAC in the Bering Sea subarea was set at 1,318,000 metric tons (mt) by the 2007 and 2008 harvest specification for groundfish in the BSAI (72 FR 9451, March 2, 2007).

In December 2007, the Council recommended a 2008 pollock TAC of 1,000,000 mt for the Bering Sea subarea. This amount is less than the 1,318,000 mt established by the 2007 and 2008 harvest specification for groundfish in the BSAI (72 FR 9451, March 2, 2007). The TAC recommended by the Council is based on the Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation report (SAFE), dated November 2007, which NMFS has determined is the best available scientific information for this fishery.

Steller sea lions occur in the same location as the pollock fishery and are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Pollock is a principal prey species for Steller sea lions in the BSAI. The seasonal apportionment of pollock harvest is necessary to ensure the groundfish fisheries are not likely to cause jeopardy of extinction or adverse modification of critical habitat for Steller sea lions. The regulations at § 679.20(a)(5)(i)(A) specifies how the pollock TAC shall be apportioned.

In accordance with § 679.25(a)(2)(i)(B), the Administrator, Alaska Region, NMFS (Regional Administrator), has determined that, based on the November 2007 SAFE report for this fishery, the current Bering Sea pollock TAC is incorrectly specified. Consequently, the Regional Administrator is adjusting the 2008 pollock TAC to 1,000,000 mt in the Bering Sea subarea.

Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(5), Table 3 of the 2007 and 2008 final harvest specifications for groundfish in the BSAI (72 FR 9451, March 2, 2007) is revised for the 2008 pollock TACs consistent with this adjustment.

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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 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 allow for harvests that exceed the appropriate allocations for pollock based on the best scientific information available. NMFS was unable to publish a notice providing time for public comment because the most recent, relevant data only became available as of December 13, 2007, and additional time for prior public comment would result in conservation concerns for the ESA-listed Steller sea lions.

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.

Under § 679.25(c)(2), interested persons are invited to submit written comments on this action to the above address until January 15, 2008.

This action is required by § 679.22 and § 679.25 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: December 31, 2007.

William D. Chappell

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

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[FR Doc. 07-6309 Filed 12-31-07; 2:23 pm]

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