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Rule

Coastal Migratory Pelagic Resources of the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic; 2012-2013 Accountability Measure and Closure for Gulf King Mackerel in Western Zone

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ACTION:

Temporary rule; closure.

SUMMARY:

NMFS implements an accountability measure (AM) for commercial king mackerel in the western zone of the Gulf of Mexico (Gulf) exclusive economic zone (EEZ) through this temporary final rule. NMFS has determined that the commercial annual catch limit (ACL) (equal to the commercial quota) for king mackerel in the western zone of the Gulf EEZ will have been reached by August 22, 2012. Therefore, NMFS closes the western zone of the Gulf to commercial king mackerel fishing in the EEZ. This closure is necessary to protect the Gulf king mackerel resource.

DATES:

The closure is effective noon, local time, August 22, 2012, until 12:01 a.m., local time, on July 1, 2013.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Susan Gerhart, 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.

The commercial ACL (commercial quota) for the Gulf migratory group king mackerel in the western zone is 1,180,480 lb (535,457 kg) (76 FR 82058, December 29, 2011), for the current fishing year, July 1, 2012, through June 30, 2013.

Regulations at 50 CFR 622.49(h)(1)(i) and 50 CFR 622.43(a)(3) require NMFS to close the commercial sector for Gulf migratory group king mackerel in the western zone when the ACL (quota) is reached, or is projected to be reached, by filing a notification to that effect with the Office of the Federal Register. Based on the best scientific information available, NMFS has determined the commercial ACL (commercial quota) of 1,180,480 lb (535,457 kg) for Gulf migratory group king mackerel in the western zone will be reached by August 22, 2012. Accordingly, the western zone is closed effective noon, local time, August 22, 2012, through June 30, 2013, the end of the fishing year to commercial fishing for Gulf group king mackerel. The Gulf group king mackerel western zone begins at the United States/Mexico border (near Brownsville, Texas) and continues to the boundary between the eastern and western zones at 87°31.1′ W. long., which is a line directly south from the Alabama/Florida boundary.

Except for a person aboard a charter vessel or headboat, during the closure, 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 the EEZ in the closed zones or subzones. A person aboard a vessel that has a valid charter vessel/headboat permit for coastal migratory pelagic fish may continue to retain king mackerel in or from the closed zones or subzones under the bag and possession limits set forth in 50 CFR 622.39(c)(1)(ii) and (c)(2), provided the vessel is operating as a charter vessel or headboat. A charter vessel or headboat that also has a commercial king mackerel permit is considered to be operating as a charter vessel or headboat when it carries a passenger who pays a fee or when there are more than three persons aboard, including operator and crew.

During the closure, king mackerel from the closed zone, including those harvested under the bag and possession limits, may not be purchased or sold. This prohibition does not apply to trade in king mackerel from the closed zones or subzones that were harvested, landed ashore, and sold prior to the closure and were held in cold storage by a dealer or processor.

Classification

This action responds to the best scientific information available. The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA (AA), finds that the need to immediately implement this action to close the western zone of the Gulf to commercial king mackerel fishing constitutes good cause to waive the requirements 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 prior notice and opportunity for public comment is unnecessary and contrary to the public interest. Such procedures would be unnecessary because the rule implementing the commercial ACL (commercial quota) and the associated requirement for closure of the commercial harvest when the ACL (quota) is reached or projected to be reached has already been subject to notice and comment, and all that remains is to notify the public of the closure.

Additionally, 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 king mackerel 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 the effectiveness of this 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: August 16, 2012.

James P. Burgess,

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

[FR Doc. 2012-20510 Filed 8-16-12; 4:15 pm]

BILLING CODE 3510-22-P