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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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Start Preamble

AGENCY:

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

ACTION:

Temporary rule; reallocation.

SUMMARY:

NMFS is reallocating the projected unused amount of Pacific cod total allowable catch (TAC) from trawl catcher vessels and American Fisheries Act (AFA) trawl catcher/processors to catcher vessels less than 60 feet (18.3 meters) length overall (LOA) using hook-and-line or pot gear in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management Start Printed Page 851area. This action is necessary to allow the 2019 TAC of Pacific cod to be harvested.

DATES:

Effective January 7, 2020, through 2400 hours, Alaska local time (A.l.t.), December 31, 2020.

Start Further Info

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Josh Keaton, 907-586-7228.

End Further Info End Preamble Start Supplemental Information

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 2019 Pacific cod TAC specified for catcher vessels using trawl gear in the BSAI is 32,160 metric tons (mt) as established by the final 2019 and 2020 harvest specifications for groundfish in the BSAI (84 FR 9000, March 13, 2019), and two reallocations (84 FR 43727, August 21, 2019 and 84 FR 59968, November 7, 2019).

The 2019 Pacific cod TAC specified for AFA trawl catcher/processors in the BSAI is 3,711 mt as established by the final 2019 and 2020 harvest specifications for groundfish in the BSAI (84 FR 9000, March 13, 2019).

The 2019 Pacific cod TAC allocated to catcher vessels less than 60 feet (18.3 meters (m)) length overall (LOA) using hook-and-line or pot gear in the BSAI is 8,800 mt as established by the final 2019 and 2020 harvest specifications for groundfish in the BSAI (84 FR 9000, March 13, 2019) and three reallocations (84 FR 2068, February 6, 2019, 84 FR 43727, August 21, 2019, and 84 FR 59968, November 7, 2019).

The Administrator, Alaska Region, NMFS, (Regional Administrator) has determined that catcher vessels using trawl gear will not be able to harvest 470 mt of the 2019 Pacific cod TAC allocated to those vessels under § 679.20(a)(7)(ii)(A)(9) and AFA trawl catcher/processors will not be able to harvest 530 mt of the 2019 Pacific cod TAC allocated to those vessels under § 679.20(a)(7)(ii)(A)(7).

Therefore, in accordance with § 679.20(a)(7)(iii)(A), NMFS reallocates 470 mt from the trawl catcher vessel apportionment and 530 mt from AFA trawl catcher/processor allocation to the annual amount specified for catcher vessels less than 60 feet (18.3 m) LOA using hook-and-line or pot gear.

The harvest specifications for Pacific cod included in final 2019 and 2020 harvest specifications for groundfish in the BSAI (84 FR 9000, March 13, 2019) and three reallocations (84 FR 2068, February 6, 2019, 84 FR 43727, August 21, 2019, 84 FR 59968, and November 7, 2019) are revised as follows: 31,690 mt to catcher vessels using trawl gear, 3,181 mt to AFA trawl catcher/processors, and 9,800 mt to catcher vessels less than 60 feet (18.3 m) LOA using hook-and-line or pot gear.

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 reallocations of Pacific cod to catcher vessels less than 60 feet (18.3 m) LOA using hook-and-line or pot gear. Since the fishery is 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 December 17, 2019.

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.

Start Authority

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

End Authority Start Signature

Dated: December 20, 2019.

Alan D. Risenhoover,

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

End Signature End Supplemental Information

[FR Doc. 2019-28042 Filed 1-7-20; 8:45 am]

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