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Rule

Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; 2015 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 Florida west coast southern 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 5, 2015, through June 30, 2015.

Start Further Info

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

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

End Further Info End Preamble Start Supplemental Information

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 Atlantic Region (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 Gulf migratory group king mackerel is divided into western and eastern zones. The Gulf's eastern zone for king mackerel is further divided into the Florida west coast northern and southern subzones that have separate commercial quotas. On January 30, 2012, NMFS implemented the final rule (76 FR 82058, December 29, 2011) that established annual catch limits (ACLs). The 2014 to 2015 fishing year quota for the hook-and-line component of the commercial sector in the Florida west coast southern 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 exclusive economic zone (EEZ) south of a line extending due west of the Lee and Collier County, FL, boundary on the Florida west coast, and south of a line extending due east of the Monroe and 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 January 24, 2015, NMFS implemented a 500-lb (227-kg) trip limit for vessels in the hook-and-line component of the commercial king mackerel sector in this subzone, because 75 percent of quota had been reached (622.385(a)(2)(ii)(B)).

Under 50 CFR 622.8(b) and 622.388(a)(1), 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 has been reached. 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 5, 2015, through June 30, 2015, the end of the fishing year.

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 Gulf migratory group king mackerel and is consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act and other applicable laws.

This action is taken under 50 CFR 622.8(b) and 622.388(a)(1) 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 scientific information available. 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 prior notice and opportunity for public comment are unnecessary and Start Printed Page 6465contrary to the public interest. Such procedures are unnecessary, because the regulations at 50 CFR 622.388(a)(1) have already been subject to notice and comment, and all that remains is to notify the public of the closure. Such procedures are contrary to the public interest, because there is a need to immediately implement this action to protect the king mackerel resource since the capacity of the fishing fleet allows for rapid harvest of the quota. Prior notice and opportunity for public comment on this action 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.

End Authority Start Signature

Dated: February 2, 2015.

Emily H. Menashes,

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

End Signature End Supplemental Information

[FR Doc. 2015-02321 Filed 2-2-15; 4:15 pm]

BILLING CODE 3510-22-P