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Rule

Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; Coastal Migratory Pelagic Resources of the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic; Closure

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ACTION:

Temporary rule; closure.

SUMMARY:

NMFS closes the commercial sector of the coastal migratory pelagic fishery for king mackerel in the Florida east coast subzone. This closure is necessary to protect the Gulf king mackerel resource.

DATES:

This rule is effective 12:01 a.m., local time, March 14, 2012, through 12:01 a.m., local time, April 1, 2012.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Susan Gerhart, telephone 727-824-5305, email susan.gerhart@noaa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

The fishery for coastal migratory pelagic fish (king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, and cobia) is managed under the Fishery Management Plan for the Coastal Migratory Pelagic Resources of the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic (FMP). The FMP was prepared by the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic Fishery Management Councils (Councils) 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.

Based on the Councils' recommended total allowable catch and the allocation ratios in the FMP, on April 30, 2001 (66 FR 17368, March 30, 2001) NMFS implemented a commercial quota of 2.25 million lb (1.02 million kg) for the eastern zone (Florida) of the Gulf migratory group of king mackerel. That quota is further divided into separate quotas for the Florida east coast subzone and the northern and southern Florida west coast subzones. The quota implemented for the Florida east coast subzone is 1,040,625 lb (472,020 kg)(50 CFR 622.42(c)(1)(i)(A)(1)).

Under 50 CFR 622.43(a), NMFS is required to close any segment of the king mackerel commercial sector when its quota has been reached, or is projected to be reached, by filing a notification at the Office of the Federal Register. NMFS has determined the commercial quota for Gulf group king mackerel in the Florida east coast subzone will be reached by March 14, 2012. Accordingly, the commercial sector for Gulf group king mackerel in the east coast subzone is closed effective 12:01 a.m., local time, March 14, 2012, through March 31, 2012, the end of the fishing year.

From November 1 through March 31 the Florida east coast subzone of the Gulf group king mackerel is that part of the eastern zone north of 25°20.4′ N. lat. (a line directly east from the Miami-Dade/Monroe County, FL, boundary) to 29°25′ N. lat. (a line directly east from the Flagler/Volusia County, FL, boundary). Beginning April 1, the boundary between Atlantic and Gulf groups of king mackerel shifts south and west to the Monroe/Collier County boundary on the west coast of Florida. From April 1 through October 31, king mackerel harvested along the east coast of Florida, including all of Monroe County, are considered to be Atlantic group king mackerel.

During the closure period, no person aboard a vessel for which a commercial permit for king mackerel has been issued may fish for or retain Gulf group king mackerel in Federal waters of the closed subzone. There is one exception, however, for a person aboard a charter vessel or headboat. A person aboard a vessel that has a valid charter/headboat permit and also has a commercial king mackerel permit for coastal migratory pelagic fish may continue to retain king mackerel in or from the closed subzone under the 2-fish daily bag limit, provided the vessel is operating as a charter vessel or headboat. Charter vessels or headboats that hold a commercial king mackerel permit are considered to be operating as a charter vessel or headboat when they carry a passenger who pays a fee or when more than three persons are aboard, including operator and crew.

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 this component of the fishery 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 fishery since 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.

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

Dated: March 12, 2012.

Steven Thur,

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

[FR Doc. 2012-6290 Filed 3-12-12; 4:15 pm]

BILLING CODE 3510-22-P