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Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; Coastal Migratory Pelagic Resources of the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Region; 2017 Commercial Run-Around Gillnet Closure

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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) through this temporary rule for commercial harvest of king mackerel in the Florida west coast southern subzone of the eastern zone of the Gulf of Mexico (Gulf) exclusive economic zone (EEZ) using run-around gillnet gear. NMFS has determined that the commercial annual catch limit (ACL, equivalent to the commercial quota) for king mackerel using run-around gillnet gear in the Florida west coast southern subzone of the Gulf EEZ will be reached by February 10, 2017. Therefore, NMFS closes the Florida west coast southern subzone to commercial king mackerel fishing using run-around gillnet gear in the Gulf EEZ. This closure is necessary to protect the Gulf king mackerel resource.

DATES:

The closure is effective from 12:01 p.m., eastern standard time, February 10, 2017, until 6 a.m., eastern standard time, January 16, 2018.

Start Further Info

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Kelli O'Donnell, NMFS Southeast Regional Office, telephone: 727-824-5305, email: kelli.odonnell@noaa.gov.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

The fishery for coastal migratory pelagic fish includes king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, and cobia, and 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 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 Florida west coast subzone of the Gulf eastern zone for Gulf migratory group king mackerel (Gulf king mackerel) is divided into northern and southern subzones, each with separate commercial quotas. 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 and Collier County, Florida, boundary on the Florida west coast, and south of a line extending due east of the Monroe and Miami-Dade County, Florida, boundary on the Florida east coast, which includes the EEZ off Collier and Monroe Counties, Florida. 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 (50 CFR 622.369(a)(1)(ii)(A)(2)).

The commercial quota for Gulf king mackerel in the Florida west coast southern subzone is 551,448 lb (250,133 kg) for vessels using run-around gillnet gear (50 CFR 622.384(b)(1)(i)(B)(1)), for the current fishing year, July 1, 2016, through June 30, 2017.

Regulations at 50 CFR 622.8(b) and 622.388(a)(1) require NMFS to close any segment of the king mackerel commercial sector when its quota has been reached, or is projected to be reached, by filing a notification with the Office of the Federal Register. NMFS has determined that the Gulf king mackerel commercial quota of 551,448 lb (250,133 kg) for vessels using run-around gillnet gear in the Florida west coast southern subzone will be reached by February 10, 2017. Accordingly, commercial fishing using such gear in the Florida west coast southern subzone is closed at 12:01 p.m., eastern standard time, February 10, 2017, until 6 a.m., eastern standard time, January 16, 2018, the beginning of the next fishing season, i.e., the day after the 2018 Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal holiday. Accordingly, the vessel operator that has been issued a Federal commercial permit to harvest Gulf king mackerel using run-around gillnet gear in the Florida west coast southern subzone must have landed ashore and bartered, traded, or sold such king mackerel prior to 12:01 p.m., eastern standard time, February 10, 2017.

Persons aboard a vessel for which a commercial permit for king mackerel has been issued, except persons who also possess a king mackerel gillnet permit, may fish for or retain Gulf king mackerel harvested using hook-and-line gear in the Florida west coast southern subzone unless the commercial quota for hook-and-line gear has been met and the hook-and-line segment of the commercial sector has been closed. 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 closed zones or subzones under the bag and possession limits set forth in 50 CFR 622.382(a)(1)(ii) and (a)(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 harvested using run-around gillnet gear in the Florida west coast southern subzone may not be purchased or sold. This prohibition does not apply to king mackerel harvested using run-around gillnet gear in the Florida west coast southern subzone that were harvested, landed ashore, and sold prior to the closure and were held in cold storage by a dealer or processor.Start Printed Page 10554

Classification

The Regional Administrator for the NMFS Southeast Region has determined this temporary rule is necessary for the conservation and management of Gulf 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 prior notice and opportunity for public comment.

This action responds to the best scientific information available. The NOAA Assistant Administrator for Fisheries (AA) finds that the need to immediately implement this action to close the fishery segment that uses run-around gillnet gear 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), because prior notice and opportunity for public comment on this temporary rule is unnecessary and contrary to the public interest. Such procedures are unnecessary because the rule implementing the commercial quota and the associated AM has already been subject to notice and comment, and all that remains is to notify the public of the closure. Prior notice and opportunity for public comment is contrary to the public interest, because any delay in the closure of the commercial harvest could result in the commercial quota being exceeded. There is a need to immediately implement this action to protect the king mackerel resource, because 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 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: February 9, 2017.

Karen H. Abrams,

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

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[FR Doc. 2017-02969 Filed 2-9-17; 4:15 pm]

BILLING CODE 3510-22-P