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Rule

Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Reallocation of Pacific Cod in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area

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AGENCY:

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

ACTION:

Temporary rule; reallocation.

SUMMARY:

NMFS is reallocating the projected unused amounts of Pacific cod from catcher vessels greater than 60 feet (18.3 meters (m)) length overall (LOA) using pot gear, catcher vessels using trawl gear, and vessels using jig gear to catcher vessels less than 60 feet (18.3 m) LOA using hook-and-line or pot gear, catcher processors (C/Ps) using pot gear, and Amendment 80 (A80) C/Ps in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area. This action is necessary to allow the 2016 total allowable catch of Pacific cod to be harvested.

DATES:

Effective October 5, 2016, through 2400 hours, Alaska local time (A.l.t.), December 31, 2016.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Josh Keaton, 907-586-7228.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

NMFS manages the groundfish fishery in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI) according to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area (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 2016 Pacific cod TAC specified for catcher vessels greater than 60 feet (18.3 m) LOA using pot gear in the BSAI is 18,798 metric tons (mt) as established by the final 2016 and 2017 harvest specifications for groundfish of the BSAI (81 FR 14773, March 18, 2016). The Regional Administrator has determined that catcher vessels greater than 60 feet (18.3 m) LOA using pot gear in the BSAI will not be able to harvest 1,200 mt of the remaining 2016 Pacific cod TAC allocated to those vessels under § 679.20(a)(7)(ii)(A)(5).

The 2016 Pacific cod TAC specified for catcher vessels using trawl gear in the BSAI is 49,638 mt as established by the final 2016 and 2017 harvest specifications for groundfish of the BSAI (81 FR 14773, March 18, 2016). The Regional Administrator has determined that catcher vessels using trawl gear will not be able to harvest 1,000 mt of the remaining 2016 Pacific cod TAC allocated to those vessels under § 679.20(a)(7)(ii)(A)(9).

The 2016 Pacific cod TAC specified for vessels using jig gear in the BSAI is 394 mt as established by the final 2016 and 2017 harvest specifications for groundfish of the BSAI (81 FR 14773, March 18, 2016) and reallocation (81 FR 57491, August 23, 2016). The Regional Administrator has determined that vessels using jig gear will not be able to harvest 300 mt of the remaining 2016 Pacific cod TAC allocated to those vessels under § 679.20(a)(7)(ii)(A)(1).

Therefore, in accordance with § 679.20(a)(7)(iii)(A) and § 679.20(a)(7)(iii)(B), NMFS reallocates 2,500 mt of Pacific cod to catcher vessels less than 60 feet (18.3 m) LOA using hook-and-line or pot gear, C/Ps using pot gear, and A80 C/Ps in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area.

The harvest specifications for Pacific cod included in the final 2016 and 2017 harvest specifications for groundfish of the BSAI (81 FR 14773, March 18, 2016, 81 FR 57491, August 23, 2016, 81 FR 61143, September 6, 2016) are revised as follows: 17,598 mt for catcher vessels greater than 60 feet (18.3 m) LOA using pot gear, 48,638 mt for catcher vessels using trawl gear, 94 mt for vessels using jig gear, 8,674 for catcher vessels less than 60 feet (18.3 m) LOA using hook-and-line or pot gear, 4,357 for C/Ps using pot gear, and 31,097 mt for A80 C/Ps.

Classification

This action responds to the best available information recently obtained from the fishery. The 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 reallocation of Pacific cod specified from multiple sectors to catcher vessels less than 60 feet (18.3 m) LOA using hook-and-line or pot gear, C/Ps using pot gear, and A80 C/Ps in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area. Since these fisheries are currently open, it is important to immediately inform the industry as to the revised allocations. Immediate notification is necessary to allow for the orderly conduct and efficient operation of this fishery, to allow the industry to plan for the fishing season, and to avoid potential disruption to the fishing fleet as well as processors. NMFS was unable to publish a notice providing time for public comment because the most recent, relevant data only became available as of September 29, 2016.

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 § 679.20 and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866.

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

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Dated: September 30, 2016.

Emily H. Menashes,

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

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[FR Doc. 2016-24116 Filed 10-5-16; 8:45 am]

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