[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 194 (Friday, October 5, 2012)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 60945-60946]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-24651]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 622

[Docket No. 0907271173-0629-03]
RIN 0648-XC152


2012-2013 Accountability Measure and Closure for Commercial Black 
Sea Bass in the South Atlantic

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

ACTION: Temporary rule; closure.

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SUMMARY: NMFS implements an accountability measure (AM) for the 
commercial sector of black sea bass in the exclusive economic zone 
(EEZ) of the South Atlantic through this temporary final rule. NMFS has 
determined that the annual catch limit (ACL) (equal to the commercial 
quota) for black sea bass will have been reached by October 8, 2012. 
Therefore, NMFS closes the commercial sector for black sea bass in the 
EEZ of the South Atlantic. This closure is necessary to protect the 
black sea bass resource.

DATES: Closure is effective 12:01 a.m., local time, October 8, 2012, 
through 12:01 a.m., local time, on June 1, 2013.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Catherine Hayslip, telephone 727-824-
5305, email Catherine.Hayslip@noaa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The snapper-grouper fishery of the South 
Atlantic is managed under the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-
Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region (FMP), and black sea bass 
is a species contained in that FMP. The FMP was prepared by the South 
Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) and is implemented under 
the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and 
Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) by regulations at 50 CFR part 
622. NMFS published a temporary rule to delay the start of the 2012-
2013 fishing season for the commercial sector of black sea bass from 
June 1, 2012 to July 1, 2012 (77 FR 28305, May 14, 2012). The 
commercial ACL (commercial quota) for black sea bass in the South 
Atlantic is 309,000 lb (140,160 kg), gutted weight, for the current 
fishing year (July 1, 2012, through May 31, 2013) as specified in 50 
CFR 622.42(e)(5).

Background

    Black sea bass are managed throughout their range. In the South 
Atlantic EEZ, black sea bass are managed under the FMP by the Council 
from 35[deg]15.19' N. lat., the latitude of Cape Hatteras Light, North 
Carolina, south to the boundary between the South Atlantic and Gulf of 
Mexico (Gulf) Councils, off of Key West, Florida. The boundary between 
the South Atlantic and Gulf Councils coincides with the line of 
demarcation between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf, which begins at 
the intersection of the outer boundary of the EEZ, as specified in the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act, and 83[deg]00' W. long., proceeds northward along 
that meridian to 24[deg]35' N. lat., (near the Dry Tortugas Islands), 
thence eastward along that parallel, through Rebecca Shoal and the 
Quicksand Shoal, to the Marquesas Keys, and then through the Florida 
Keys to the mainland at the eastern end of Florida Bay, the line so 
running that the narrow waters within the Dry Tortugas Islands, the 
Marquesas Keys and the Florida Keys, and between the Florida Keys and 
the mainland, are within the Gulf. From Cape Hatteras Light, North 
Carolina, through Maine, black sea bass are managed jointly by the Mid-
Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Atlantic States Marine 
Fisheries Commission. Therefore, the closure provisions contained in 
this notice are applicable to those vessels harvesting or possessing 
black sea bass from Cape Hatteras Light, North Carolina, through to the 
boundary between the South Atlantic and Gulf Councils (off of Key West, 
Florida), as described above.
    The AM at 50 CFR 622.49(b)(5)(i) requires NMFS to close the 
commercial sector for black sea bass when the ACL (quota) is reached, 
or is projected to be reached, by filing a notification to that effect 
with the Office of the Federal Register. Also, under 50 CFR 622.43(a), 
NMFS is required to close the commercial sector for a species or 
species group when the quota for that species or species group is 
reached, or is projected to be reached, by filing a notification to 
that effect with the Office of the Federal Register. Based on the best 
scientific information available, NMFS has determined that the 
available commercial ACL (commercial quota) of 309,000 lb (140,160 kg), 
gutted weight, for black sea bass will be reached on or before October 
8, 2012. Accordingly, NMFS is implementing an AM to close the 
commercial sector for black sea bass in the South Atlantic EEZ at 12:01 
a.m., local time, on October 8, 2012 from 35[deg]15.19' N. lat., the 
latitude of Cape Hatteras Light, North Carolina, south to the boundary 
between the South Atlantic and Gulf Councils, as previously described 
in this temporary rule. The commercial sector for black sea bass will 
remain closed until 12:01 a.m., local time, on June 1, 2013. The 
operator of a vessel with a valid commercial vessel permit for snapper-
grouper having black sea bass onboard must have landed and bartered, 
traded, or sold such black sea bass prior to 12:01 a.m., local time, 
October 8, 2012.
    During the closure, the bag limit and possession limits specified 
in 50 CFR 622.39(d)(1)(vii) and (d)(2), respectively, apply to all 
harvest or possession of black sea bass in or from the South Atlantic 
EEZ, and the sale or purchase of black sea bass taken from the EEZ is 
prohibited. The prohibition on sale or purchase does not apply to sale 
or

[[Page 60946]]

purchase of black sea bass that were harvested, landed ashore, and sold 
prior to 12:01 a.m., local time, October 8, 2012, and 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 black sea bass would 
apply regardless of whether the fish were harvested in state or Federal 
waters, as specified in 50 CFR 622.43(a)(5)(ii).

Classification

    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 
sector to the harvest of black sea bass 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 would be unnecessary and contrary to the public 
interest. Such procedures would be unnecessary because the regulations 
have already been subject to notice and comment, and all that remains 
is to notify the public of the closure.
    Additionally, allowing prior notice and opportunity for public 
comment is contrary to the public interest because of the need to 
immediately implement this action to protect the black sea bass stock 
because it is subject to overfishing and the capacity of the fishing 
fleet allows for rapid harvest of the commercial ACL (commercial 
quota). Prior notice and opportunity for public comment would require 
time and would potentially result in a harvest well in excess of the 
established commercial ACL (commercial quota), which would impede the 
rebuilding of the stock by the end of the rebuilding period set at 
2016.
    For the aforementioned reasons, the AA also finds good cause to 
waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness of the action under 5 U.S.C. 
553(d)(3).
    This action is taken under 50 CFR 622.43(a) and is exempt from 
review under Executive Order 12866.

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

    Dated: October 2, 2012.
Lindsay Fullenkamp,
Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National 
Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2012-24651 Filed 10-2-12; 4:15 pm]
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