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Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic; 2016 Recreational Accountability Measure and Closure for South Atlantic Greater Amberjack

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AGENCY:

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

ACTION:

Temporary rule; closure.

SUMMARY:

NMFS implements accountability measures (AMs) for the recreational sector of greater amberjack in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the South Atlantic for the current Start Printed Page 85446fishing year through this temporary rule. NMFS estimates that recreational landings have reached the recreational annual catch limit (ACL) for greater amberjack in the South Atlantic. Therefore, NMFS closes the recreational sector for greater amberjack in the South Atlantic exclusive economic zone (EEZ) through the remainder of the current fishing year (see DATES). This closure is necessary to protect the greater amberjack resource in the South Atlantic.

DATES:

This rule is effective from 12:01 a.m., local time, November 30, 2016, until 12:01 a.m. local time, on March 1, 2017.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Mary Vara, NMFS Southeast Regional Office, telephone: 727-824-5305, email: mary.vara@noaa.gov.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

The snapper-grouper fishery of the South Atlantic includes greater amberjack and is managed under the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region (FMP). The FMP was prepared by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) and is implemented by NMFS under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) by regulations at 50 CFR part 622.

The recreational ACL for South Atlantic greater amberjack is 1,167,837 lb (529,722 kg), round weight, as specified at 50 CFR 622.193(k)(2)(i). The fishing year for South Atlantic greater amberjack is from March 1 through the end of February (50 CFR 622.7(d)). Under 50 CFR 622.193(k)(2)(i), when landings of the greater amberjack recreational sector reach, or are projected to reach, the recreational ACL, NMFS is required to close the recreational sector for greater amberjack by filing a notification to that effect with the Office of the Federal Register.

NMFS has determined that the recreational ACL in the current fishing year that is from March 1, 2016, through the end of February 2017, has been reached. Therefore, this temporary rule implements an AM to close the recreational sector for greater amberjack in the South Atlantic for the remainder of the current fishing year. As a result, the recreational sector for greater amberjack in the South Atlantic EEZ will close effective 12:01 a.m., local time, November 30, 2016, until March 1, 2017, the start of the next fishing year.

During the recreational closure, the bag and possession limits for greater amberjack in or from the South Atlantic EEZ are zero. The prohibition on possession in the South Atlantic onboard a vessel for which a valid Federal charter vessel/headboat permit for South Atlantic snapper-grouper has been issued applies regardless of whether greater amberjack were harvested in state or Federal waters.

On October 4, 2016, NMFS closed the commercial sector of greater amberjack in the South Atlantic because the sector had reached the commercial quota (equivalent to the commercial ACL) (81 FR 67215, September 30, 2016). Because the commercial sector for South Atlantic greater amberjack has already closed for the remainder of the current fishing year, all harvest of South Atlantic greater amberjack will end on November 30, 2016. Both the commercial and recreational sectors will reopen on March 1, 2017, the start of the next fishing year.

Classification

The Regional Administrator, Southeast Region, NMFS, has determined this temporary rule is necessary for the conservation and management of South Atlantic greater amberjack and is consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act and other applicable laws.

This action is taken under 50 CFR 622.193(k)(2)(i) 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 NOAA Fisheries (AA) finds that the need to immediately implement this action to close the recreational sector for greater amberjack constitutes good cause to waive the requirements to provide prior notice and opportunity for public comment on this temporary rule pursuant to the authority set forth in 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B), because such procedures are unnecessary and contrary to the public interest. Such procedures are unnecessary because the rule implementing the AM itself has 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 of the need to immediately implement this action to protect greater amberjack. Prior notice and opportunity for public comment would require time and would potentially allow the recreational sector to further exceed the recreational ACL.

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).

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

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Dated: November 22, 2016.

Emily H. Menashes,

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

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[FR Doc. 2016-28546 Filed 11-25-16; 8:45 am]

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