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Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; 2017 Commercial Accountability Measure and Closure for South Atlantic Golden Tilefish Hook-and-Line Component

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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 accountability measures for the commercial hook-and-line component for golden tilefish in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the South Atlantic. NMFS projects commercial hook-and-line landings for golden tilefish will reach the hook-and-line component's commercial annual catch limit (ACL) on November 29, 2017. Therefore, NMFS closes the commercial hook-and-line component for golden tilefish in the South Atlantic EEZ on November 29, 2017, and it will remain closed until the start of the next fishing year on January 1, 2018. This closure is necessary to protect the golden tilefish resource.

DATES:

This rule is effective 12:01 a.m., local time, November 29, 2017, until 12:01 a.m., local time, January 1, 2018.

Start Further Info

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

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

End Further Info End Preamble Start Supplemental Information

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

The snapper-grouper fishery of the South Atlantic includes golden tilefish 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 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.

On April 23, 2013, NMFS published a final rule for Amendment 18B to the FMP (78 FR 23858). Amendment 18B to the FMP established a longline endorsement program for the commercial golden tilefish component of the snapper-grouper fishery and allocated the commercial golden tilefish ACL among two gear types, the longline and hook-and-line components.

The commercial ACL (equivalent to the commercial quota) for the hook-and-line component for golden tilefish in the South Atlantic is 135, 324 lb (61,382 kg), gutted weight, for the current fishing year, January 1 through December 31, 2017, as specified in 50 CFR 622.190(a)(2)(ii).

Under 50 CFR 622.193(a)(1)(i), NMFS is required to close the commercial hook-and-line component for golden tilefish when the hook-and-line component's commercial ACL has been reached, or is projected to be reached, by filing a notification to that effect with the Office of the Federal Register. NMFS has determined that the commercial ACL for the hook-and-line component for golden tilefish in the South Atlantic will be reached by November 29, 2017. Accordingly, the commercial hook-and-line component for South Atlantic golden tilefish is closed effective 12:01 a.m., local time, November 29, 2017, until 12:01 a.m., local time, January 1, 2018.

The commercial longline component for South Atlantic golden tilefish closed on May 9, 2017, for the remainder of the current fishing year, until 12:01 a.m., local time, January 1, 2018 (82 FR 21316; May 8, 2017). Therefore, because the commercial longline component is already closed, and NMFS is closing the commercial hook-and-line component through this temporary rule, all commercial fishing for South Atlantic golden tilefish is closed effective 12:01 a.m., local time, November 29, 2017, until 12:01 a.m., local time, January 1, 2018.

The operator of a vessel with a valid Federal commercial vessel permit for South Atlantic snapper-grouper having golden tilefish on board must have landed and bartered, traded, or sold such golden tilefish prior to 12:01 a.m., local time, November 29, 2017. During the closure, the sale or purchase of golden tilefish taken from the EEZ is prohibited. The prohibition on sale or purchase does not apply to the sale or purchase of golden tilefish that were harvested by hook-and-line, landed ashore, and sold prior to 12:01 a.m., local time, November 29, 2017, and were held in cold storage by a dealer or processor. For a person on board a vessel for which a Federal commercial or charter vessel/headboat permit for the South Atlantic snapper-grouper fishery has been issued, the sale and purchase provisions of the commercial closure for golden tilefish would apply regardless of whether the fish are harvested in state or Federal waters, as specified in 50 CFR 622.190(c).

Classification

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

This action is taken under 50 CFR 622.193(a)(1)(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 Fisheries, NOAA (AA), finds that the need to immediately implement this action to close the commercial hook-and-line component for golden tilefish 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 are unnecessary and contrary to the public interest. Such procedures are unnecessary because the rule 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 the capacity of the fishing fleet allows for rapid harvest of the commercial ACL for the hook-and-line component, and there is a need to immediately implement this action to protect golden tilefish. Prior notice and Start Printed Page 55953opportunity for public comment would require time and could potentially result in a harvest well in excess of the established commercial ACL for the hook-and-line component.

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).

Start Authority

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

End Authority Start Signature

Dated: November 21, 2017.

Emily H. Menashes,

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

End Signature End Supplemental Information

[FR Doc. 2017-25559 Filed 11-21-17; 4:15 pm]

BILLING CODE 3510-22-P