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Rule

Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic; Closure of the 2011-2012 Commercial Sector for Black Sea Bass in the South Atlantic

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AGENCY:

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

ACTION:

Temporary rule; closure.

SUMMARY:

NMFS closes the commercial sector for black sea bass in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the South Atlantic. NMFS has determined that the quota for the commercial sector for black sea bass will have been reached by July 15, 2011. This closure is necessary to protect the black sea bass resource.

DATES:

Closure is effective 12:01 a.m., local time, July 15, 2011, through 12:01 a.m., local time, on June 1, 2012.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Catherine Bruger, telephone 727-824-5305, fax 727-824-5308, e-mail Catherine.Bruger@noaa.gov.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

The snapper-grouper fishery of the South Atlantic is managed under the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region (FMP). The FMP was prepared by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council and is implemented under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) by regulations at 50 CFR part 622. Those regulations set the commercial quota for black sea bass in the South Atlantic at 309,000 lb (140,160 kg) for the current fishing year, June 1, 2011, through May 31, 2012, as specified in 50 CFR 622.42(e)(5)(iii).

Black sea bass are managed throughout their range. In the South Atlantic EEZ, black sea bass are managed by the Council from 35°15.19′ N. lat., the latitude of Cape Hatteras Light, North Carolina, south. From Cape Hatteras Light, North Carolina, through Maine, black sea bass are managed jointly by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. Therefore, the closure provisions contained in this notice are applicable to those vessels harvesting or possessing black sea bass from Key West, Florida, through Cape Hatteras Light, North Carolina.

Under 50 CFR 622.43(a), NMFS is required to close the commercial sector for a species or species group when the quota for that species or species group is reached, or is projected to be reached, by filing a notification to that effect with the Office of the Federal Register. Based on current statistics, NMFS has determined that the available commercial quota of 309,000 lb (140,160 kg) for black sea bass will be reached on or before July 15, 2011. Accordingly, NMFS is closing the commercial sector for black sea bass in the South Atlantic EEZ from 12:01 a.m., local time, on July 15, 2011, through 12:01 a.m., local time, on June 1, 2012. The operator of a vessel with a valid commercial vessel permit for snapper-grouper having black sea bass onboard must have landed and bartered, traded, or sold such black sea bass prior to 12:01 a.m., local time, July 15, 2011.

During the closure, the bag limit and possession limits specified in 50 CFR 622.39(d)(1)(vii) and (d)(2), respectively, apply to all harvest or possession of black sea bass in or from the South Atlantic EEZ, and the sale or purchase of black sea bass taken from the EEZ is prohibited. The prohibition on sale or purchase does not apply to sale or purchase of black sea bass that were harvested, landed ashore, and sold prior to 12:01 a.m., local time, July 15, 2011, and were held in cold storage by a dealer or processor. For a person on board a vessel for which a Federal commercial or charter vessel/headboat permit for the South Atlantic snapper-grouper fishery has been issued, the sale and purchase provisions of the commercial closure for black sea bass would apply regardless of whether the fish are harvested in state or Federal waters, as specified in 50 CFR 622.43(a)(5)(ii).

Classification

This action responds to the best available information recently obtained from the fishery. The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA (AA), finds that the need to immediately implement this action to close the commercial sector to the harvest of black sea bass constitutes good cause to waive the requirements to provide prior notice and opportunity for public comment pursuant to the authority set forth in 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B), as such procedures would be unnecessary and contrary to the public interest. Such procedures would be unnecessary because the rule itself already has been subject to notice and comment, and all that remains is to notify the public of the closure.

Allowing prior notice and opportunity for public comment is contrary to the public interest because of the need to immediately implement this action to protect the black sea bass stock because the capacity of the fishing fleet allows for rapid harvest of the quota. Prior notice and opportunity for public comment would require time and would potentially result in a harvest well in excess of the established quota.

For the aforementioned reasons, the AA also finds good cause to waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness of the action under 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3).

This action is taken under 50 CFR 622.43(a) 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: July 8, 2011.

Margo Schulze-Haugen,

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

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[FR Doc. 2011-17639 Filed 7-8-11; 4:15 pm]

BILLING CODE 3510-22-P