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Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act Provisions; Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Atlantic Sea Scallop Fishery; Closure of the Elephant Trunk Scallop Access Area to General Category Scallop Vessels

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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AGENCY:

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

ACTION:

Temporary rule; closure.

SUMMARY:

NMFS announces that the Elephant Trunk Scallop Access Area (ETAA) will close to general category scallop vessels until it re-opens on March 1, 2009 under current regulations. This action is based on the determination that 865 general category scallop trips into the ETAA are projected to be taken as of 0001 hr local time, March 13, 2008. This action is being taken to prevent the allocation of general category trips in the ETAA from being exceeded during the 2008 fishing year, in accordance with the regulations implementing Framework 18 to the Atlantic Sea Scallop Fishery Management Plan (FMP) and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

DATES:

The closure of the ETAA to all general category scallop vessels is effective 0001 hr local time, March 13, 2008, through February 28, 2009.

Start Further Info

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Don Frei, Fishery Management Specialist, (978) 281-9221, fax (978) 281-9135.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Regulations governing fishing activity in the Sea Scallop Access Areas are found at §§ 648.59 and 648.60. Regulations specifically governing general category scallop vessel operations in the ETAA are specified at § 648.59(e)(4)(ii). These regulations authorize vessels issued a valid general category scallop permit to fish in the ETAA under specific conditions, including a total of 865 trips that may be taken by general category vessels during the 2008 fishing year. The regulations at § 648.59(e)(4)(ii) require the ETAA to be closed to general category scallop vessels once the Northeast Regional Administrator has determined that the allowed number of trips are projected to be taken.

Based on Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) trip declarations by general category scallop vessels fishing in the ETAA, and analysis of fishing effort, a projection concluded that, given current activity levels by general category scallop vessels in the area, the trip-cap will be attained on March 12, 2008. Therefore, in accordance with the regulations at § 648.59(e)(4)(ii), the ETAA is closed to all general category scallop vessels as of 0001 hr local time, March 13, 2008. This closure is in effect for the remainder of the 2008 scallop fishing year under current regulations. The ETAA is scheduled to re-open to scallop fishing, including trips for general category scallop vessels, on March 1, 2009, unless the schedule for scallop access areas is modified by the New England Fishery Management Council.

Classification

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

This action closes the ETAA to all general category scallop vessels until March 1, 2009 under current regulations. The regulations at § 648.59(e)(4)(ii) allow such action to ensure that general category scallop vessels do not take more than their allocated number of trips in the ETAA. The ETAA opened for the 2008 fishing year at 0001 hours on March 1, 2008. Data indicating the general category scallop fleet has taken all of the ETAA Start Printed Page 14188trips have only recently become available. To allow general category scallop vessels to continue to take trips in the ETAA during the period necessary to publish and receive comments on a proposed rule would result in vessels taking much more than the allowed number of trips in the ETAA. Excessive trips and harvest from the ETAA would result in excessive fishing effort in the ETAA, where effort controls are critical, thereby undermining conservation objectives of the FMP. Should excessive effort occur in the ETAA, future management measures would need to be more restrictive. Based on the above, under 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3), proposed rulemaking is waived because it would be impracticable and contrary to the public interest to allow a period for public comment. Furthermore, for the same reasons, there is good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3) to waive the 30-day delayed effectiveness period for this action.

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

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Dated: March 12, 2008.

Emily H. Menashes,

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

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[FR Doc. 08-1034 Filed 3-12-08; 1:42 pm]

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