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Rule

Fisheries of the Economic Exclusive Zone Off Alaska; Deep-Water Species Fishery by Vessels Using Trawl Gear in the Gulf of Alaska

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ACTION:

Temporary rule; closure.

SUMMARY:

NMFS is prohibiting directed fishing for species that comprise the deep-water species fishery by vessels using trawl gear in the Gulf of Alaska (GOA). This action is necessary because the third seasonal apportionment of the Pacific halibut bycatch allowance specified for the deep-water species fishery in the GOA has been reached.

DATES:

Effective 1200 hrs, Alaska local time (A.l.t.), August 1, 2012, through 1200 hrs, A.l.t., September 1, 2012.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Obren Davis, 907-586-7228.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

NMFS manages the groundfish fishery in the GOA exclusive economic zone according to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska (FMP) prepared by the North Pacific Fishery Management 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 third seasonal apportionment of the Pacific halibut bycatch allowance specified for the deep-water species fishery in the GOA is 400 metric tons (mt) as established by the final 2012 and 2013 harvest specifications for groundfish of the GOA (77 FR 15194, March 14, 2012), for the period 1200 hrs, A.l.t., July 1, 2012, through 1200 hrs, A.l.t., September 1, 2012. This apportionment is reduced to 208 mt after allocating 192 mt to vessels participating in cooperatives in the Central GOA Rockfish Program. Rockfish Program allocations are established annually once NMFS receives information about the vessel composition of each cooperative. The 2012 Central GOA Rockfish Program allocations are available at http://www.alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/sustainablefisheries/rockfish/.

In accordance with § 679.21(d)(7)(i), the Administrator, Alaska Region, NMFS, has determined that the third seasonal apportionment of the Pacific halibut bycatch allowance specified for the trawl deep-water species fishery in the GOA has been reached. Consequently, NMFS is prohibiting directed fishing for the deep-water species fishery by vessels using trawl gear in the GOA. The species and species groups that comprise the deep-water species fishery include sablefish, rockfish, deep-water flatfish, rex sole, and arrowtooth flounder. This closure does not apply to fishing by vessels participating in the cooperative fishery in the Rockfish Program for the Central GOA.

After the effective date of this closure the maximum retainable amounts at § 679.20(e) and (f) apply at any time during a trip.

Classification

This action responds to the best available information recently obtained from the fishery. The Acting 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 delay the closure of the deep-water species fishery by vessels using trawl gear in the GOA. NMFS was unable to publish a notice providing time for public comment because the most recent, relevant data only became available as of July 27, 2012.

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.

This action is required by § 679.21 and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866.

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

Dated: July 30, 2012.

Lindsay Fullenkamp,

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

[FR Doc. 2012-19027 Filed 7-31-12; 4:15 pm]

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