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Rule

Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; 2014 Commercial Accountability Measure and Closure for Coastal Migratory Pelagic Resources of the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic

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Start Preamble

AGENCY:

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

ACTION:

Temporary rule; closure.

SUMMARY:

NMFS implements an accountability measure (AM) to close the hook-and-line component of the commercial sector for king mackerel in the southern Florida west coast subzone. This closure is necessary to protect the Gulf of Mexico (Gulf) king mackerel resource.

DATES:

This rule is effective 12:01 a.m., local time, February 21, 2014, through June 30, 2014.

Start Further Info Start Printed Page 9867

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

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

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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.

On April 27, 2000, NMFS implemented the final rule (65 FR 16336, March 28, 2000) that divided the Florida west coast subzone of the Gulf eastern zone into northern and southern subzones, and established their separate commercial quotas. On January 30, 2012, NMFS implemented the final rule (76 FR 82058, December 29, 2011) that established annual catch limits (ACLs), equal to commercial quotas. The 2013 to 2014 fishing year quota for the hook-and-line component of the commercial sector in the southern Florida west coast subzone is 551,448 lb (250,133 kg) (50 CFR 622.384(b)(1)(i)(B)(1)).

From November 1 through March 31, the southern subzone encompasses an area of the EEZ south of a line extending due west of the Lee/Collier County, FL, boundary on the Florida west coast, and south of a line extending due east of the Monroe/Miami-Dade County, FL, boundary on the Florida east coast, which includes the EEZ off Collier and Monroe Counties, FL. From April 1 through October 31, the southern subzone is reduced to the EEZ off Collier County, and the EEZ off Monroe County becomes part of the Atlantic migratory group area.

On February 16, 2014, NMFS implemented a 500-lb (227-kg) trip limit for vessels in the hook-and-line component of the commercial sector for king mackerel in or from the EEZ in the southern Florida west coast subzone.

Under 50 CFR 622.8(b), NMFS is required to close any component 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 quota for the hook-and-line component of the commercial sector for Gulf migratory group king mackerel in the southern Florida west coast subzone will be reached by February 21, 2014. Accordingly, the hook-and-line component of the commercial sector for Gulf migratory group king mackerel in the southern Florida west coast subzone is closed effective 12:01 a.m., local time, February 21, 2014, through June 30, 2014, the end of the fishing year. On January 29, 2014, NMFS implemented a temporary rule to close commercial harvest of king mackerel in the southern Florida west coast subzone of the eastern zone of the Gulf EEZ using run-around gillnet gear (79 FR 3200, January 31, 2014).

As specified in 50 CFR 622.384(e), during the closure period no person aboard a vessel for which a commercial permit for king mackerel has been issued may harvest or possess Gulf migratory group king mackerel in or from Federal waters of the closed subzone. However, there is one exception that 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

The Regional Administrator, Southeast Region, NMFS, has determined this temporary rule is necessary for the conservation and management of the Gulf migratory group king mackerel resource and is consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act and other applicable laws.

This action is taken under 50 CFR 622.8(b) and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866.

These measures are exempt from the procedures of the Regulatory Flexibility Act because the temporary rule is issued without opportunity for prior notice and comment.

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 hook-and-line component of the commercial sector 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 ACL (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).

Start Authority

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

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Dated: February 18, 2014.

Emily H. Menashes,

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

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[FR Doc. 2014-03718 Filed 2-18-14; 4:15 pm]

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