Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Atka Mackerel in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area

Summary:

NMFS is prohibiting directed fishing for Atka mackerel with gears other than jig gear in the Eastern Aleutian District and the Bering Sea subarea of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area (BSAI). This action is necessary to prevent exceeding the 2007 total allowable catch (TAC) of Atka mackerel in these areas. NMFS is also announcing the opening and closing dates of the first and second directed fisheries within the harvest limit area (HLA) in Statistical Areas 542 and 543. These actions are necessary to conduct directed fishing for Atka mackerel in the HLA in areas 542 and 543.

Table of Figures

Dates:

The effective dates are provided in Table 1 under the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of this temporary action.

For further information contact:

Jennifer Hogan, 907-586-7228.

Supplementary information:

NMFS manages the groundfish fishery in the BSAI exclusive economic zone 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 2007 TAC of Atka mackerel specified for other gear in the Eastern Aleutian District and the Bering Sea subarea was established as 3,434 metric tons (mt) by the 2006 and 2007 final harvest specifications for groundfish in the BSAI (71 FR 10894, March 3, 2006). See § 679.20(a)(8)(ii) and (c)(3)(iii).

In accordance with § 679.20(d)(1)(i) and (d)(1)(ii)(B), the Acting Administrator, Alaska Region, NMFS (Regional Administrator), has determined that 800 mt of the 2007 Atka mackerel TAC for other gear in the Eastern Aleutian District and the Bering Sea subarea will be necessary as incidental catch to support other anticipated groundfish fisheries. Therefore, the Regional Administrator is establishing a directed fishing allowance of 2,634 mt. In accordance with § 679.20(d)(1)(iii), the Regional Administrator finds that this directed fishing allowance has been reached. Consequently, NMFS is prohibiting directed fishing for Atka mackerel by vessels using other gear in the Eastern Aleutian District and the Bering Sea subarea.

In accordance with § 679.20(a)(8)(iii)(C), the Regional Administrator is opening the first directed fisheries for Atka mackerel within the HLA in areas 542 and 543, 48 hours after the closure of the Eastern Aleutian District and the Bering Sea subarea Atka mackerel directed fishery. The Regional Administrator has established the opening date for the second HLA directed fisheries as 48 hours after the last closure of the first HLA fisheries in either area 542 or 543. Consequently, NMFS is opening andclosing directed fishing for Atka mackerel in the HLA of areas 542 and 543 in accordance with the periods listed under Table 1 of this notice.

Table 1. Effective dates and times
ActionAreaEffective Date1
FromTo
1Alaska local time
Closing Atka Mackerel with gears other than jig gear Eastern Aleutian District and the Bering Sea subarea 1200 hrs, February 3, 2007 1200 hrs, September 1, 2007
Opening the first directed fishery in the HLA 542 1200 hrs, February 5, 2007 1200 hrs, February 19, 2007
543 1200 hrs, February 5, 2007 1200 hrs, February 6, 2007
Opening the second directed fishery in the HLA 542 1200 hrs, February 21, 2007 1200 hrs, March 7, 2007
543 1200 hrs, February 21, 2007 1200 hrs, February 22, 2007

In accordance with § 679.20(a)(8)(iii)(A) and (B), vessels using trawl gear for directed fishing for Atka mackerel have previously registered with NMFS to fish in the HLA fisheries in areas 542 and/or 543. NMFS has randomly assigned each vessel to the directed fishery or fisheries for which they have registered. NMFS has notified each vessel owner as to which fishery each vessel has been assigned by NMFS (72 FR 2201, January 18, 2006).

In accordance with the 2006 and 2007 final harvest specifications for groundfish in the BSAI (71 FR 10894, March 3, 2006), inseason adjustment (72 FR 1463, January 12, 2007), and § 679.20(a)(8)(ii)(C)(1), the HLA limits of the A season allowance of the 2007 TACs in areas 542 and 543 are 8,214 mt and 2,664 mt, respectively. Based on those limits and the proportion of the number of vessels in each fishery compared to the total number of vessels participating in the HLA directed fishery for area 542 or 543, the harvest limit for each HLA directed fishery in areas 542 and 543 are as follows: for the first directed fishery in area 542, 4,107 mt; for the first directed fishery in area 543, 1,332 mt; for the second directed fishery in area 542, 4,107 mt; and for the second directed fishery in area 543, 1,332 mt. In accordance with § 679.20(a)(8)(iii)(E), the Regional Administrator has establish the closure dates of the Atka mackerel directed fisheries in the HLA for areas 542 and 543 based on the amount of the harvest limit and the estimated fishing capacity of the vessels assigned to the respective fisheries. Consequently, NMFS is prohibiting directed fishing for Atka mackerel in the HLA of areas 542 and 543 in accordance with the dates and times listed in Table 1 of this notice.

After the effective dates of these closures, the maximum retainable amounts at § 679.20(e) and (f) apply at any time during a trip.

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 a 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 closure of the Atka mackerel fishery in the Eastern Aleutian District and the Bering Sea subarea and the opening and closing of the fisheries for the HLA limits established for area 542 and area 543 pursuant to the 2007 Atka mackerel TAC. NMFS was unable to publish a notice providing time for public comment because the most recent, relevant data only became available as of February 1, 2007. 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.

Authority:

16 U.S.C. 1801et seq.

Dated: February 1, 2007. James P. Burgess,

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

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