[Federal Register Volume 63, Number 3 (Tuesday, January 6, 1998)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 443-444]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 97-34233]



National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 622

[Docket No. 971205289-7313-02; I.D. 120497C]
RIN 0648-AK28

Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; 
Reef Fish Fishery of the Gulf of Mexico; Red Snapper Minimum Size Limit

AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and

[[Page 444]]

Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

ACTION: Final rule.


SUMMARY: NMFS issues this final rule to implement the provisions of a 
regulatory amendment prepared by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management 
Council (Council) in accordance with framework procedures for adjusting 
management measures of the Fishery Management Plan for the Reef Fish 
Resources of the Gulf of Mexico (FMP). The regulatory amendment and 
this final rule maintain the current minimum size limit for red snapper 
of 15 inches (38.1 cm), total length (TL). The minimum size limit had 
been scheduled to increase to 16 inches (40.6 cm), TL, on January 1, 
1998. The intended effect of this action is to maximize the economic 
benefits from the red snapper resource within the constraints of the 
rebuilding program for this overfished resource.

DATES: This rule is effective January 1, 1998.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Robert A. Sadler, 813-570-5305.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The reef fish fishery in the exclusive 
economic zone of the Gulf of Mexico is managed under the FMP. The FMP 
was prepared by the Council and is implemented under the authority of 
the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act by 
regulations at 50 CFR part 622.
    The Council proposed an adjusted management measure (a regulatory 
amendment) for the Gulf red snapper fishery for NMFS' review, approval, 
and implementation. This measure was developed and submitted to NMFS 
under the terms of the FMP's framework procedure for annual adjustments 
in total allowable catch and related measures for the red snapper 
fishery (framework procedure). Additional background for this measure 
was published in the proposed rule (62 FR 65056, December 10, 1997) and 
is not repeated here.

Comments and Responses

    One comment was received that supported leaving the minimum size 
limit for Gulf red snapper at 15 inches (38.1 cm), TL, and one comment 
was received that supported increasing the minimum size limit to 16 
inches (40.6 cm), TL.
    Comment 1: A commenter stated that it was difficult for fishermen 
with small vessels to go far enough offshore to catch legal-sized 15-
inch (38.1-cm) red snapper. A size increase to 16 inches (40.6 cm) 
would pose even a greater burden on such fishermen to find legal-sized 
fish. He also stated that a size limit change to 16 inches (40.6 cm) 
would increase the number of released undersized fish killed by 
dolphins and sharks. Thus, he supported leaving the size limit at 15 
inches (38.1 cm).
    Response: NMFS concurs.
    Comment 2: A commenter stated that the minimum size length should 
be increased to 16 inches (40.6 cm). He did not offer any reason for 
his conclusion.
    Response: The rationale for maintaining the red snapper minimum 
size limit at 15 inches (38.1 cm) is contained in the proposed rule and 
is not repeated here.
    The final rule is being issued to implement the regulatory 
amendment as proposed and submitted by the Council.


    This final rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of E.O. 12866.
    When the proposed rule was published, the Assistant General Counsel 
for Legislation and Regulation of the Department of Commerce certified 
to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration 
that, if adopted, it would not have a significant economic impact on a 
substantial number of small entities. Accordingly, a regulatory 
flexibility analysis was not prepared. No comments were received 
regarding this certification.
    This final rule maintains the minimum size limit for red snapper at 
15 inches (38.1 cm), TL, in lieu of allowing the scheduled regulatory 
increase to 16 inches (40.6 cm), TL. Thus, this final rule relieves a 
restriction and, pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(1), is not subject to a 
30-day delay in the effective date.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 622

    Fisheries, Fishing, Puerto Rico, Reporting and recordkeeping 
requirements, Virgin Islands.

    Dated: December 30, 1997.
Hilda Diaz-Soltero,
Acting Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries 
    For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 622 is amended 
as follows:


    1. The authority citation for part 622 continues to read as 

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

    2. In Sec. 622.37, paragraph (d)(3) is revised to read as follows:

Sec. 622.37  Minimum sizes.

* * * * *
    (d) * * *
    (3) Red snapper--15 inches (38.1 cm), TL.
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 97-34233 Filed 12-30-97; 4:12 pm]