[Federal Register Volume 62, Number 250 (Wednesday, December 31, 1997)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Page 68229]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 97-33974]



National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 679

[Docket No. 961126334-7052-02; I.D. 122297A]

Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Closures of 
Specified Groundfish Fisheries in the Gulf of Alaska

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

ACTION: Closure.


SUMMARY: NMFS is closing specified groundfish fisheries in the Gulf of 
Alaska (GOA). This action is necessary to prevent exceeding the 
directed fishing allowances specified for the 1998 interim total 
allowable catch (TAC) amounts for the GOA.

DATES: Effective 0001 hrs, Alaska local time (A.l.t.), January 1, 1998, 
until superseded by the Final 1998 Harvest Specification for 
Groundfish, which will be published in the Federal Register.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mary Furuness, 907-586-7228.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The groundfish fishery in the exclusive 
economic zone of the GOA is managed by NMFS according to the Fishery 
Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska (FMP) prepared by 
the North Pacific Fishery Management Council under authority of the 
Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Fishing by 
U.S. vessels is governed by regulations implementing the FMP at subpart 
H of 50 CFR part 600 and 50 CFR part 679.
    In accordance with Sec. 679.20(d), if the Administrator, Alaska 
Region, NMFS (Regional Administrator), determines that the amount of a 
target species or ``other species'' category apportioned to a fishery 
or, with respect to pollock and Pacific cod, to an inshore or offshore 
component allocation, will be reached, the Regional Administrator may 
establish a directed fishing allowance for that species or species 
group. If the Regional Administrator establishes a directed fishing 
allowance, and that allowance is or will be reached before the end of 
the fishing year, NMFS will prohibit directed fishing for that species 
or species group in the specified GOA Regulatory Area or district (see 
    NMFS has published interim 1998 harvest specifications for these 
groundfish fisheries (62 FR 65622, December 15, 1997). The Regional 
Administrator has determined that the following interim TAC amounts 
will be reached and are necessary as incidental catch to support other 
anticipated groundfish fisheries prior to the time that final 
specifications for groundfish are likely to be in effect for the 1998 
fishing year:

Thornyhead rockfish.......................  entire GOA.                 
Atka mackerel.............................  entire GOA.                 
Sablefish.................................  entire GOA.                 
``Other rockfish''........................  entire GOA.                 
Shortraker/rougheye rockfish..............  entire GOA.                 
Pacific cod...............................  offshore component, entire  
Pollock...................................  offshore component, entire  
Deep-water flatfish.......................  Western Regulatory Area.    
Northern rockfish.........................  Eastern Regulatory Area.    

Consequently, in accordance with Sec. 679.20(d)(i), the Regional 
Administrator establishes these interim TAC amounts as directed fishing 
    Further, The Regional Administrator finds that these directed 
fishing allowances will be reached before the end of 1998. Therefore, 
in accordance with Sec. 679.20(d) NMFS is prohibiting directed fishing 
for these species in the specified areas.
    These closures will be in effect beginning at 0001 hours, A.l.t., 
January 1, 1998, until superseded by the Final 1998 Initial Harvest 
Specifications for Groundfish.
    While these closures are in effect, the maximum retainable bycatch 
amounts at Sec. 679.20 (e) and (f) apply at any time during a fishing 
trip. Additional closures and restrictions may be found in existing 
regulations at 50 CFR part 679. These closures to directed fishing are 
in addition to closures and prohibitions found in regulations at 50 CFR 
part 679. Refer to Sec. 679.2 for definitions of areas. The definitions 
of GOA deep-water flatfish and ``Other rockfish'' species categories 
are provided in the Federal Register publication of the interim 1998 
harvest specifications (62 FR 65622, December 15, 1997).
    NMFS may implement other closures at the time the Final 1998 
Initial Harvest Specifications are implemented or during the 1998 
fishing year, as necessary for effective conservation and management.


    This action is required by Sec. 679.20 and is exempt from review 
under E.O. 12866.
    This action responds to the interim TAC limitations and other 
restrictions on the fisheries established in the interim 1998 harvest 
specifications for groundfish for the GOA. It must be implemented 
immediately to prevent overharvesting the 1998 interim TAC of several 
groundfish species in the GOA. A delay in the effective date is 
impracticable and contrary to the public interest. The fleet will begin 
to harvest groundfish on January 1, 1998. Further delay would only 
result in overharvest. NMFS finds for good cause that the 
implementation of this action should not be delayed for 30 days. 
Accordingly, under 5 U.S.C. 553(d), a delay in the effective date is 
hereby waived.

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

    Dated: December 23, 1997.
Gary C. Matlock,
Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries 
[FR Doc. 97-33974 Filed 12-30-97; 8:45 am]