[Federal Register Volume 61, Number 235 (Thursday, December 5, 1996)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 64497-64498]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 96-30973]



National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 656

[Docket No. 950915230-6327-04; I.D. 110196E]
RIN 0648-AH57

Atlantic Striped Bass Fishery; Withdrawal of Proposed Rule

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

ACTION: Proposed rule; withdrawal.


SUMMARY: NMFS withdraws the September 27, 1995, proposed rule to remove 
a Federal moratorium on the harvest or possession of Atlantic striped 
bass in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ), offshore from Maine to 
Florida, and the implementation of a minimum size limit for Atlantic 
striped bass possessed in the EEZ. The proposed rule is withdrawn 
because of specific recommendations not considered at the time of 
proposed rulemaking.

DATES: This proposed rule is withdrawn on December 4, 1996.


[[Page 64498]]

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: A proposed rule was published on September 
27, 1995 (60 FR 49821), under section 6 of the Atlantic Striped Bass 
Conservation Act (Striped Bass Act), Public Law 100-589, reproduced at 
16 U.S.C. 1851 note, to: (1) Remove the current moratorium on the 
harvest and possession of striped bass in the EEZ, (2) prohibit the 
possession of striped bass in the EEZ of less than 28 inches (71.1 cm) 
total length, and (3) provide that state regulations apply to any 
striped bass being transported into a state's jurisdiction from the 
    Comments received during the proposed rule comment period (ending 
October 27, 1995) at nine public hearings and from numerous letters 
indicated substantial public concern on the following: (1) The stock 
was not fully recovered and the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) 
should wait until the 2-year transitional period is completed (January 
1, 1997) before reopening the EEZ, (2) reopening the EEZ would create 
law enforcement loopholes, and (3) a large percentage of the public 
objected to any commercial fishing for striped bass in the EEZ. In 
addition, NMFS received specific recommendations from both the Atlantic 
States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery 
Management Council (MAFMC) to delay removal of the moratorium in the 
EEZ until the ASMFC moved from the transitional fishery mortality rate 
(F) target of (F = 0.33) to a ``fully restored'' fishery (F = 0.40), 
which was scheduled to occur on January 1, 1997.
    On May 29, 1996, the ASMFC's Striped Bass Stock Assessment 
Committee (SBSAC) presented preliminary data to the ASMFC's Striped 
Bass Management Board (Board) that suggests that, on a coast-wide 
basis, striped bass fisheries may be occurring at or above the 
prescribed transitional fishing mortality rate (F = 0.33) contained in 
Amendment 5 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic 
Striped Bass (Plan). Based on these data, the SBSAC recommended to the 
Board that the transitional F (0.33) remain operable for at least 1 
more year (until January 1, 1998). The Board unanimously adopted this 
recommendation and provided additional supplementary guidance to 
certain states, and to NMFS, directed at strengthening the regulatory 
    On September 25, 1996, the Board approved a motion (nine to eight) 
to freeze the quotas for striped bass along the Atlantic coast, 
including the important spawning areas represented by Chesapeake Bay 
and other estuaries, until January 1, 1998. As a result of that vote, 
many of the technical issues placed before the Board by the Striped 
Bass Technical Committee were left unresolved. In an effort to resolve 
them, the Board met again on October 21, 1996, and decided to have 
ASMFC staff prepare an addendum to the Plan. Consequently, no 
determination will be made on possible quota increases for striped bass 
until January 1997, following public hearings.
    In addition, the President signed into law the Sustainable 
Fisheries Act of 1996 (SFA) on October 11, 1996. The SFA added three 
new national standards to the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and 
Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act). These new national standards 
were not considered at the time of proposed rulemaking. Regulations 
under the Striped Bass Act must be consistent with the national 
    The Striped Bass Act provides authority to the Secretary to 
implement regulations that are necessary to ensure the effectiveness of 
state regulations to implement the ASMFC's Plan. The proposed rule was 
designed to complement the ASMFC's Plan while meeting this legal 
requirement. Based on the current uncertainty about the interim fishing 
mortality rate target (F = 0.33) being achieved, the ASMFC's action to 
postpone going to a full (F = 0.40) fishery until January 1, 1998, the 
ongoing work to identify and correct some potential enforcement 
loopholes, the ASMFC's decision to prepare an addendum to Amendment 5 
to address the 1997 fishery, and the addition of three new national 
standards to the Magnuson-Stevens Act not considered at the time of 
proposed rulemaking, the Secretary is withdrawing the proposed rule to 
allow NMFS and the ASMFC additional time to address these concerns 
before considering reinitiation of rulemaking on or about January 1, 

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1851 note.

    Dated: November 27, 1996.
Gary C. Matlock,
Acting Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries 
[FR Doc. 96-30973 Filed 12-4-96; 8:45 am]