[Federal Register Volume 63, Number 216 (Monday, November 9, 1998)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Page 60287]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 98-29944]



National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 622

[I.D. 103098C]
RIN 0648-AJ17

Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; 
Amendment to the Fishery Management Plans of the Gulf of Mexico

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

ACTION: Notice of availability of an amendment to fishery management 
plans; request for comments.


SUMMARY: NMFS announces that the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management 
Council (Council) has submitted for review and approval a generic 
amendment to the fishery management plans of the Gulf of Mexico that 
designates essential fish habitat (EFH). Written comments are requested 
from the public.

DATES: Written comments must be received on or before January 8, 1999.

ADDRESSES: Comments must be mailed to the Southeast Regional Office, 
NMFS, 9721 Executive Center Drive N., St. Petersburg, FL 33702.
    Requests for copies of the generic amendment, which includes an 
environmental assessment, should be sent to the Gulf of Mexico Fishery 
Management Council, 3018 U.S. Highway 301 North, Suite 1000, Tampa, FL 
33619-2266; Phone: 727-228-2815; Fax: 727-225-7015.

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

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation 
and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act, 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.) 
requires each regional fishery management council to submit any fishery 
management plan (FMP) or amendment to the Secretary of Commerce for 
review and approval, disapproval, or partial approval. The Magnuson-
Stevens Act also requires that NMFS, upon receiving an amendment, 
immediately publish a document in the Federal Register stating that the 
amendment is available for public review and comment. Therefore, NMFS 
solicits comments on the approval, disapproval, or partial approval of 
this generic amendment designating EFH in the Gulf of Mexico.
    Section 303(a)(7) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act requires that any FMP 
describe and identify EFH for the fishery, minimize to the extent 
practicable adverse effects on such habitat caused by fishing, and 
identify other actions to encourage the conservation and enhancement of 
such habitat. Section 305(b)(1)(A) and (B) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act 
require that the regional fishery management councils submit, by 
October 11, 1998, FMP amendments to identify and describe EFH for 
species under management.
    NMFS published guidelines to assist regional fishery management 
councils in the description and identification of EFH, the 
identification of adverse impacts on EFH, and the identification of 
actions required to conserve and enhance EFH (62 FR 66531, December 19, 
1997). The NMFS guidelines encourage ecosystem approaches to protecting 
and conserving EFH. Ecological roles of the managed species (i.e., 
prey, competitors, trophic links within foodwebs, and nutrient transfer 
between ecosystems) should be considered when identifying EFH. The 
guidelines also specify that sufficient EFH be protected and conserved 
to support sustainable fisheries and managed species' contribution to a 
healthy ecosystem.
    The generic amendment designates EFH for species included in all 
seven of the Council's FMPs. EFH is identified and described based on 
areas where various life stages of 26 selected managed species and the 
coral complex commonly occur. The Council selected these 26 species 
because they are considered to be ecologically representative of the 
remaining species in the FMPs. The selected species are: Shrimp (brown 
shrimp, white shrimp, pink shrimp, royal red shrimp); red drum; reef 
fish (red grouper, gag grouper, scamp grouper, black grouper, red 
snapper, vermilion snapper, gray snapper, yellowtail snapper, lane 
snapper, greater amberjack, lesser amberjack, tilefish, and gray 
triggerfish); coastal migratory pelagic species (king mackerel, Spanish 
mackerel, cobia, dolphin, bluefish, little tunny); stone crab; spiny 
lobster; and the coral complex.
    The selected species represent about a third of the species under 
management by the Council. EFH for the remaining managed species will 
be addressed in future FMP amendments, as appropriate.
    EFH is identified based on where the individual managed species 
commonly occur. Collectively, these species commonly occur throughout 
all of the marine and estuarine waters of the Gulf of Mexico. For 
purposes of this generic EFH amendment, EFH is separated into estuarine 
and marine components. Collectively, EFH for the estuarine component 
includes all estuarine waters and substrates (mud, sand, shell, rock, 
and associated biological communities), including subtidal vegetation 
(seagrasses and algae) and adjacent intertidal vegetation (marshes and 
mangroves). Collectively, EFH in marine waters of the Gulf of Mexico 
includes all marine waters and substrates (mud, sand, shell, rock, and 
associated biological communities) from the shoreline to the seaward 
limit of the exclusive economic zone.
    The amendment also identifies: Threats to EFH from fishing and 
nonfishing activities; options to conserve and enhance EFH; and 
research needs. No management measures and, therefore, no regulations 
are proposed at this time. Fishing-related management measures to 
minimize any identified impacts are deferred to future amendments when 
the Council has adequate information to decide whether measures are 
    Comments received by January 8, 1999 will be considered in the 
approval/disapproval decision on the amendment.

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

    Dated: November 3, 1998.
Bruce C. Morehead,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 98-29944 Filed 11-6-98; 8:45 am]