Sea Turtle Conservation; Shrimp Trawling Requirements, 71406-71408 [05-23442]

Download as PDF 71406 Federal Register / Vol. 70, No. 228 / Tuesday, November 29, 2005 / Rules and Regulations § 721.10001 2-Ethoxyethanol, 2ethoxyethanol acetate, 2-methoxyethanol, and 2-methoxyethanol acetate. J. Executive Order 12898: Federal Actions To Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations This action does not entail special considerations of environmental justice related issues as delineated by Executive Order 12898, entitled Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations (59 FR 7629, February 16, 1994). K. Executive Order 12988: Civil Justice Reform In issuing this rule, EPA has taken the necessary steps to eliminate drafting errors and ambiguity, minimize potential litigation, and provide a clear legal standard for affected conduct, as required by section 3 of Executive Order 12988, entitled Civil Justice Reform (61 FR 4729, February 7, 1996). X. Congressional Review Act The Congressional Review Act, 5 U.S.C. 801 et seq., as added by the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996, generally provides that before a rule may take effect, the Agency promulgating the rule must submit a rule report, which includes a copy of the rule, to each House of the Congress and the Comptroller General of the United States. EPA will submit a report containing this rule and other required information to the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives, and the Comptroller General of the United States prior to publication of the rule in the Federal Register. This rule is not a ‘‘major rule’’ as defined by 5 U.S.C. 804(2). (a) Chemical substances and significant new uses subject to reporting. (1) The chemical substances identified as 2-ethoxyethanol (CAS No. 110–80–5), 2-ethoxyethanol acetate (CAS No. 111– 15–9), 2-methoxyethanol (CAS No. 109– 86–4), and 2-methoxyethanol acetate (CAS No. 110–49–6) are subject to reporting under this section for the significant new use described in paragraph (a)(2) of this section. (2) The significant new use is domestic use in a consumer product or the manufacture or import of 2methoxyethanol acetate at levels greater than 10,000 pounds per year. (b) Specific requirements. The provisions of subpart A of this part apply to this section except as modified by this paragraph. (1) Recordkeeping. Recordkeeping requirements as specified in § 721.125 (a), (b), and (c) apply to the significant new use specified in § 721.10001. In addition, records documenting compliance with the significant new use of domestic use in a consumer product or the manufacture or import of 2methoxyethanol acetate at levels greater than 10,000 pounds per year must be maintained. (2) [Reserved] [FR Doc. 05–23421 Filed 11–28–05; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6560–50–S DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Parts 222 and 223 List of Subjects in 40 CFR Part 721 [Docket No. 050922245–5307–03; I.D. 092005A, 100505D] Environmental protection, Chemicals, Hazardous substances, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements. RIN 0648–AT89 Dated: November 17, 2005. Charles M. Auer, Director, Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics. Therefore, 40 CFR part 721 is amended as follows: I PART 721—[AMENDED] 1. The authority citation for part 721 continues to read as follows: I Authority: 15 U.S.C. 2604, 2607, and 2625(c). 2. By adding new § 721.10001 to subpart E to read as follows: I VerDate Aug<31>2005 14:11 Nov 28, 2005 Jkt 208001 Sea Turtle Conservation; Shrimp Trawling Requirements National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Temporary rule. AGENCY: NMFS issues this 30–day temporary rule to allow shrimp fishermen to continue to use limited tow times as an alternative to Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) in inshore and offshore waters from the Florida/ Alabama border, westward to the boundary shared by Matagorda and Brazoria Counties, Texas, and extending offshore 20 nautical miles. The previous SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00026 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 30–day variances of the TED requirements were from September 23 through October 23, 2005; October 11 through November 10, 2005; and from October 22 through November 23, 2005, for waters affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. These variances were for 50 nautical miles offshore. After an investigation, NMFS has determined that excessive debris is still affecting fishermen’s ability to use TEDs effectively; however, the debris field has decreased to approximately 20 nautical miles offshore. This action is necessary because environmental conditions resulting from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita persist on the fishing grounds, preventing some fishermen from using TEDs effectively. DATES: Effective from November 23, 2005, through 11:59 p.m, local time, December 23, 2005. ADDRESSES: Requests for copies of the Environmental Assessment on this action should be addressed to the Chief, Marine Mammal Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, 1315 EastWest Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Michael Barnette, 727–551–5794. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background All sea turtles that occur in U.S. waters are listed as either endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA). The Kemp’s ridley (Lepidochelys kempii), leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), and hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) turtles are listed as endangered. The loggerhead (Caretta caretta) and green (Chelonia mydas) turtles are listed as threatened, except for breeding populations of green turtles in Florida and on the Pacific coast of Mexico, which are listed as endangered. Sea turtles are incidentally taken, and some are killed, as a result of numerous activities, including fishery-related trawling activities in the Gulf of Mexico and along the Atlantic seaboard. Under the ESA and its implementing regulations, the taking of sea turtles is prohibited, with exceptions identified in 50 CFR 223.206(d), or according to the terms and conditions of a biological opinion issued under section 7 of the ESA, or according to an incidental take permit issued under section 10 of the ESA. The incidental taking of turtles during shrimp or summer flounder trawling is exempted from the taking prohibition of section 9 of the ESA if the conservation measures specified in the sea turtle conservation regulations (50 CFR 223) are followed. The regulations E:\FR\FM\29NOR1.SGM 29NOR1 Federal Register / Vol. 70, No. 228 / Tuesday, November 29, 2005 / Rules and Regulations require most shrimp trawlers and summer flounder trawlers operating in the southeastern United States (Atlantic area, Gulf area, and summer flounder sea turtle protection area, see 50 CFR 223.206) to have a NMFS-approved TED installed in each net that is rigged for fishing to allow sea turtles to escape. TEDs currently approved by NMFS include single-grid hard TEDs and hooped hard TEDs conforming to a generic description, the flounder TED, and one type of soft TED B the Parker soft TED (see 50 CFR 223.207). TEDs incorporate an escape opening, usually covered by a webbing flap, which allows sea turtles to escape from trawl nets. To be approved by NMFS, a TED design must be shown to be 97 percent effective in excluding sea turtles during testing based upon specific testing protocols (50 CFR 223.207(e)(1)). Most approved hard TEDs are described in the regulations (50 CFR 223.207(a)) according to generic criteria based upon certain parameters of TED design, configuration, and installation, including height and width dimensions of the TED opening through which the turtles escape. The regulations governing sea turtle take prohibitions and exemptions provide for the use of limited tow times as an alternative to the use of TEDs for vessels with certain specified characteristics or under certain special circumstances. The provisions of 50 CFR 223.206(d)(3)(ii) specify that the NOAA Assistant Administrator for Fisheries (AA) may authorize compliance with tow time restrictions as an alternative to the TED requirement if the AA determines that the presence of algae, seaweed, debris, or other special environmental conditions in a particular area makes trawling with TED-equipped nets impracticable. The provisions of 50 CFR 223.206(d)(3)(i) specify the maximum tow times that may be used when tow time limits are authorized as an alternative to the use of TEDs. Each tow may be no more than 55 minutes from April 1 through October 31 and no more than 75 minutes from November 1 through March 31, as measured from the time that the trawl doors enter the water until they are removed from the water. These tow time limits are designed to minimize the level of mortality of sea turtles that are captured by trawl nets not equipped with TEDs. Recent Events On September 12, 2005, the NMFS Southeast Regional Administrator received requests from the Marine Fisheries Division of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural VerDate Aug<31>2005 14:11 Nov 28, 2005 Jkt 208001 Resources (ALDCNR) and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LADWF) to allow the use of tow times as an alternative to TEDs in inshore and offshore waters because of excessive storm related debris on the fishing grounds as a result of Hurricane Katrina. NMFS received a similar request from the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (MDMR) on September 13. On September 27, 2005, the NMFS Southeast Regional Administrator received requests from the LADWF and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) to allow the use of tow times as an alternative to TEDs in inshore and offshore waters because of excessive storm related debris on the fishing grounds as a result of Hurricane Rita. Subsequent to these requests, NMFS issued 30–day exemptions to the TED requirements from September 23 through October 23, 2005, and October 11 through November 10, 2005, for waters affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, respectively (70 FR 56593 and 70 FR 60013, respectively). On October 11, 2005, the NMFS Southeast Regional Administrator received requests from the ALDCNR, MDMR, LADWF, and the TPWD for an additional 30–day period allowing the use of restricted tow times as an alternative to TEDs in inshore and offshore waters because of excessive storm-related debris that was still present on the fishing grounds as a result of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Subsequent to these requests, NMFS issued a 30–day extension encompassing both previous exemptions to the TED requirements, from October 23, 2005, through November 23, 2005. On November 15, 2005, the NMFS Southeast Regional Administrator received requests from the Marine Fisheries Division of the ALDCNR, MDMR, LADWF, and TPWD for an additional 30–day period allowing the use of restricted tow times as an alternative to TEDs in state and federal waters because of excessive stormrelated debris on the fishing grounds as a result of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The area cumulatively affected by the two hurricanes extends from the Florida/Alabama border, westward to the boundary shared by Matagorda and Brazoria Counties, Texas, and offshore 20 nautical miles. When a TED is clogged with debris it can no longer catch shrimp effectively nor can it effectively exclude turtles. An investigation by NMFS, confirmed there are continuing problems with debris in inshore and offshore waters off Alabama, westward to the boundary shared by Matagorda and Brazoria PO 00000 Frm 00027 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 71407 Counties, Texas, and extending offshore 20 nautical miles, which are likely to affect the effectiveness of TEDs. Special Environmental Conditions The AA finds that debris washed into inshore and offshore waters by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita off Alabama, westward to the boundary shared by Matagorda and Brazoria Counties, Texas, and extending offshore 20 nautical miles, has created ongoing special environmental conditions that make trawling with TED-equipped nets impracticable. Therefore, the AA issues this notification to extend the current authorization for the use of restricted tow times as an alternative to the use of TEDs in inshore and offshore waters off Alabama, westward to the boundary shared by Matagorda and Brazoria Counties, Texas, and extending offshore 20 nautical miles, through 11:59 p.m., local time, December 23, 2005. Tow times must be limited to no more than 75 minutes measured from the time trawl doors enter the water until they are retrieved from the water. Continued Use of TEDs NMFS encourages shrimp trawlers in the affected areas to continue to use TEDs if possible, even though they are authorized under this action to use restricted tow times. NMFS’ gear experts have provided several general operational recommendations to fishermen to maximize the debris exclusion ability of TEDs that may allow some fishermen to continue using TEDs without resorting to restricted tow times. To exclude debris, NMFS recommends the use of hard TEDs made of either solid rod or of hollow pipe that incorporate a bent angle at the escape opening, in a bottom-opening configuration. In addition, the installation angle of a hard TED in the trawl extension is an important performance element in excluding debris from the trawl. High installation angles can trap debris either on or in front of the bars of the TED; NMFS recommends an installation angle of 45°, relative to the normal horizontal flow of water through the trawl, to optimize the TED’s ability to exclude turtles and debris. Furthermore, the use of accelerator funnels, which are allowable modifications to hard TEDs, is not recommended in areas with heavy amounts of debris or vegetation. Lastly, the webbing flap that is usually installed to cover the turtle escape opening may be modified to help exclude debris quickly: the webbing flap can either be cut horizontally to shorten it so that it does not overlap the frame of the TED or be slit in a fore-and-aft E:\FR\FM\29NOR1.SGM 29NOR1 71408 Federal Register / Vol. 70, No. 228 / Tuesday, November 29, 2005 / Rules and Regulations direction to facilitate the exclusion of debris. The use of the double cover flap TED will also aid in debris exclusion. All of these recommendations represent legal configurations of TEDs for shrimpers fishing in the affected areas. This action does not authorize any other departure from the TED requirements, including any illegal modifications to TEDs. In particular, if TEDs are installed in trawl nets, they may not be sewn shut. Alternative to Required Use of TEDs The authorization provided by this rule applies to all shrimp trawlers that would otherwise be required to use TEDs in accordance with the requirements of 50 CFR 223.206(d)(2) who are operating in inshore and offshore waters affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita off Alabama, westward to the boundary shared by Matagorda and Brazoria Counties, Texas, and extending offshore 50 nautical miles, through December 23, 2005. Through this temporary rule, shrimp trawlers may choose either restricted tow times or TEDs to comply with the sea turtle conservation regulations, as prescribed above. Alternative to Required Use of TEDs; Termination The AA, at any time, may withdraw or modify this temporary authorization to use tow time restrictions in lieu of TEDs through publication of a notice in the Federal Register, if necessary to ensure adequate protection of endangered and threatened sea turtles. Under this procedure, the AA may VerDate Aug<31>2005 14:11 Nov 28, 2005 Jkt 208001 modify the affected area or impose any necessary additional or more stringent measures, including more restrictive tow times, synchronized tow times, or withdrawal of the authorization if the AA determines that the alternative authorized by this rule is not sufficiently protecting turtles or no longer needed. The AA may also terminate this authorization if information from enforcement, state authorities, or NMFS indicates compliance cannot be monitored effectively. This authorization will expire automatically at 11:59 p.m., local time, December 23, 2005, unless it is explicitly extended through another notification published in the Federal Register. Classification This action has been determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order 12866. The AA has determined that this action is necessary to respond to special environmental conditions to allow more efficient fishing for shrimp, while providing adequate protection for endangered and threatened sea turtles pursuant to the ESA and applicable regulations. Pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B), the AA finds that there is good cause to waive prior notice and opportunity to comment on this rule. The AA finds that unusually high amounts of debris has created ongoing special environmental conditions that make trawling with TED-equipped nets impracticable. Prior notice and opportunity to comment are impracticable and contrary to the public PO 00000 Frm 00028 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 interest in this instance because providing notice and comment would prevent the agency from providing the affected industry relief from the effects of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in a timely manner. The AA finds that there is good cause to waive the 30–day delay in effective date pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3) to provide alternatives to comply with the sea turtle regulations in a timely manner. Many fishermen may be unable to operate under the special environmental conditions created by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita without an alternative to using TEDs. Providing a 30–day delay in effective date would prevent the agency from providing the affected industry relief from the effects of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in a timely manner. For the reasons stated above, the AA finds that this temporary rule should not be subject to a 30–day delay in effective date, pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(1). Since prior notice and an opportunity for public comment are not required to be provided for this action by 5 U.S.C. 553, or by any other law, the analytical requirements of 5 U.S.C. 601 et seq. are inapplicable. The AA prepared an Environmental Assessment (EA) for this rule. Copies of the EA are available (see ADDRESSES). Dated: November 22, 2005. William T. Hogarth, Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 05–23442 Filed 11–23–05; 3:02 pm] BILLING CODE 3510–22–S E:\FR\FM\29NOR1.SGM 29NOR1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 70, Number 228 (Tuesday, November 29, 2005)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 71406-71408]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 05-23442]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Parts 222 and 223

[Docket No. 050922245-5307-03; I.D. 092005A, 100505D]
RIN 0648-AT89


Sea Turtle Conservation; Shrimp Trawling Requirements

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

ACTION:  Temporary rule.

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SUMMARY:  NMFS issues this 30-day temporary rule to allow shrimp 
fishermen to continue to use limited tow times as an alternative to 
Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) in inshore and offshore waters from the 
Florida/Alabama border, westward to the boundary shared by Matagorda 
and Brazoria Counties, Texas, and extending offshore 20 nautical miles. 
The previous 30-day variances of the TED requirements were from 
September 23 through October 23, 2005; October 11 through November 10, 
2005; and from October 22 through November 23, 2005, for waters 
affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. These variances were for 50 
nautical miles offshore. After an investigation, NMFS has determined 
that excessive debris is still affecting fishermen's ability to use 
TEDs effectively; however, the debris field has decreased to 
approximately 20 nautical miles offshore. This action is necessary 
because environmental conditions resulting from Hurricanes Katrina and 
Rita persist on the fishing grounds, preventing some fishermen from 
using TEDs effectively.

DATES:  Effective from November 23, 2005, through 11:59 p.m, local 
time, December 23, 2005.

ADDRESSES:  Requests for copies of the Environmental Assessment on this 
action should be addressed to the Chief, Marine Mammal Division, Office 
of Protected Resources, NMFS, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 
20910.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:  Michael Barnette, 727-551-5794.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    All sea turtles that occur in U.S. waters are listed as either 
endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 
(ESA). The Kemp's ridley (Lepidochelys kempii), leatherback 
(Dermochelys coriacea), and hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) turtles 
are listed as endangered. The loggerhead (Caretta caretta) and green 
(Chelonia mydas) turtles are listed as threatened, except for breeding 
populations of green turtles in Florida and on the Pacific coast of 
Mexico, which are listed as endangered.
    Sea turtles are incidentally taken, and some are killed, as a 
result of numerous activities, including fishery-related trawling 
activities in the Gulf of Mexico and along the Atlantic seaboard. Under 
the ESA and its implementing regulations, the taking of sea turtles is 
prohibited, with exceptions identified in 50 CFR 223.206(d), or 
according to the terms and conditions of a biological opinion issued 
under section 7 of the ESA, or according to an incidental take permit 
issued under section 10 of the ESA. The incidental taking of turtles 
during shrimp or summer flounder trawling is exempted from the taking 
prohibition of section 9 of the ESA if the conservation measures 
specified in the sea turtle conservation regulations (50 CFR 223) are 
followed. The regulations

[[Page 71407]]

require most shrimp trawlers and summer flounder trawlers operating in 
the southeastern United States (Atlantic area, Gulf area, and summer 
flounder sea turtle protection area, see 50 CFR 223.206) to have a 
NMFS-approved TED installed in each net that is rigged for fishing to 
allow sea turtles to escape. TEDs currently approved by NMFS include 
single-grid hard TEDs and hooped hard TEDs conforming to a generic 
description, the flounder TED, and one type of soft TED B the Parker 
soft TED (see 50 CFR 223.207).
    TEDs incorporate an escape opening, usually covered by a webbing 
flap, which allows sea turtles to escape from trawl nets. To be 
approved by NMFS, a TED design must be shown to be 97 percent effective 
in excluding sea turtles during testing based upon specific testing 
protocols (50 CFR 223.207(e)(1)). Most approved hard TEDs are described 
in the regulations (50 CFR 223.207(a)) according to generic criteria 
based upon certain parameters of TED design, configuration, and 
installation, including height and width dimensions of the TED opening 
through which the turtles escape.
    The regulations governing sea turtle take prohibitions and 
exemptions provide for the use of limited tow times as an alternative 
to the use of TEDs for vessels with certain specified characteristics 
or under certain special circumstances. The provisions of 50 CFR 
223.206(d)(3)(ii) specify that the NOAA Assistant Administrator for 
Fisheries (AA) may authorize compliance with tow time restrictions as 
an alternative to the TED requirement if the AA determines that the 
presence of algae, seaweed, debris, or other special environmental 
conditions in a particular area makes trawling with TED-equipped nets 
impracticable. The provisions of 50 CFR 223.206(d)(3)(i) specify the 
maximum tow times that may be used when tow time limits are authorized 
as an alternative to the use of TEDs. Each tow may be no more than 55 
minutes from April 1 through October 31 and no more than 75 minutes 
from November 1 through March 31, as measured from the time that the 
trawl doors enter the water until they are removed from the water. 
These tow time limits are designed to minimize the level of mortality 
of sea turtles that are captured by trawl nets not equipped with TEDs.

Recent Events

    On September 12, 2005, the NMFS Southeast Regional Administrator 
received requests from the Marine Fisheries Division of the Alabama 
Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ALDCNR) and the 
Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LADWF) to allow the use 
of tow times as an alternative to TEDs in inshore and offshore waters 
because of excessive storm related debris on the fishing grounds as a 
result of Hurricane Katrina. NMFS received a similar request from the 
Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (MDMR) on September 13. On 
September 27, 2005, the NMFS Southeast Regional Administrator received 
requests from the LADWF and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department 
(TPWD) to allow the use of tow times as an alternative to TEDs in 
inshore and offshore waters because of excessive storm related debris 
on the fishing grounds as a result of Hurricane Rita. Subsequent to 
these requests, NMFS issued 30-day exemptions to the TED requirements 
from September 23 through October 23, 2005, and October 11 through 
November 10, 2005, for waters affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, 
respectively (70 FR 56593 and 70 FR 60013, respectively).
    On October 11, 2005, the NMFS Southeast Regional Administrator 
received requests from the ALDCNR, MDMR, LADWF, and the TPWD for an 
additional 30-day period allowing the use of restricted tow times as an 
alternative to TEDs in inshore and offshore waters because of excessive 
storm-related debris that was still present on the fishing grounds as a 
result of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Subsequent to these requests, 
NMFS issued a 30-day extension encompassing both previous exemptions to 
the TED requirements, from October 23, 2005, through November 23, 2005.
    On November 15, 2005, the NMFS Southeast Regional Administrator 
received requests from the Marine Fisheries Division of the ALDCNR, 
MDMR, LADWF, and TPWD for an additional 30-day period allowing the use 
of restricted tow times as an alternative to TEDs in state and federal 
waters because of excessive storm-related debris on the fishing grounds 
as a result of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The area cumulatively 
affected by the two hurricanes extends from the Florida/Alabama border, 
westward to the boundary shared by Matagorda and Brazoria Counties, 
Texas, and offshore 20 nautical miles. When a TED is clogged with 
debris it can no longer catch shrimp effectively nor can it effectively 
exclude turtles. An investigation by NMFS, confirmed there are 
continuing problems with debris in inshore and offshore waters off 
Alabama, westward to the boundary shared by Matagorda and Brazoria 
Counties, Texas, and extending offshore 20 nautical miles, which are 
likely to affect the effectiveness of TEDs.

Special Environmental Conditions

    The AA finds that debris washed into inshore and offshore waters by 
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita off Alabama, westward to the boundary 
shared by Matagorda and Brazoria Counties, Texas, and extending 
offshore 20 nautical miles, has created ongoing special environmental 
conditions that make trawling with TED-equipped nets impracticable. 
Therefore, the AA issues this notification to extend the current 
authorization for the use of restricted tow times as an alternative to 
the use of TEDs in inshore and offshore waters off Alabama, westward to 
the boundary shared by Matagorda and Brazoria Counties, Texas, and 
extending offshore 20 nautical miles, through 11:59 p.m., local time, 
December 23, 2005. Tow times must be limited to no more than 75 minutes 
measured from the time trawl doors enter the water until they are 
retrieved from the water.

Continued Use of TEDs

    NMFS encourages shrimp trawlers in the affected areas to continue 
to use TEDs if possible, even though they are authorized under this 
action to use restricted tow times.
    NMFS' gear experts have provided several general operational 
recommendations to fishermen to maximize the debris exclusion ability 
of TEDs that may allow some fishermen to continue using TEDs without 
resorting to restricted tow times. To exclude debris, NMFS recommends 
the use of hard TEDs made of either solid rod or of hollow pipe that 
incorporate a bent angle at the escape opening, in a bottom-opening 
configuration. In addition, the installation angle of a hard TED in the 
trawl extension is an important performance element in excluding debris 
from the trawl. High installation angles can trap debris either on or 
in front of the bars of the TED; NMFS recommends an installation angle 
of 45[deg], relative to the normal horizontal flow of water through the 
trawl, to optimize the TED's ability to exclude turtles and debris. 
Furthermore, the use of accelerator funnels, which are allowable 
modifications to hard TEDs, is not recommended in areas with heavy 
amounts of debris or vegetation. Lastly, the webbing flap that is 
usually installed to cover the turtle escape opening may be modified to 
help exclude debris quickly: the webbing flap can either be cut 
horizontally to shorten it so that it does not overlap the frame of the 
TED or be slit in a fore-and-aft

[[Page 71408]]

direction to facilitate the exclusion of debris. The use of the double 
cover flap TED will also aid in debris exclusion.
    All of these recommendations represent legal configurations of TEDs 
for shrimpers fishing in the affected areas. This action does not 
authorize any other departure from the TED requirements, including any 
illegal modifications to TEDs. In particular, if TEDs are installed in 
trawl nets, they may not be sewn shut.

Alternative to Required Use of TEDs

    The authorization provided by this rule applies to all shrimp 
trawlers that would otherwise be required to use TEDs in accordance 
with the requirements of 50 CFR 223.206(d)(2) who are operating in 
inshore and offshore waters affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita off 
Alabama, westward to the boundary shared by Matagorda and Brazoria 
Counties, Texas, and extending offshore 50 nautical miles, through 
December 23, 2005. Through this temporary rule, shrimp trawlers may 
choose either restricted tow times or TEDs to comply with the sea 
turtle conservation regulations, as prescribed above.

Alternative to Required Use of TEDs; Termination

    The AA, at any time, may withdraw or modify this temporary 
authorization to use tow time restrictions in lieu of TEDs through 
publication of a notice in the Federal Register, if necessary to ensure 
adequate protection of endangered and threatened sea turtles. Under 
this procedure, the AA may modify the affected area or impose any 
necessary additional or more stringent measures, including more 
restrictive tow times, synchronized tow times, or withdrawal of the 
authorization if the AA determines that the alternative authorized by 
this rule is not sufficiently protecting turtles or no longer needed. 
The AA may also terminate this authorization if information from 
enforcement, state authorities, or NMFS indicates compliance cannot be 
monitored effectively. This authorization will expire automatically at 
11:59 p.m., local time, December 23, 2005, unless it is explicitly 
extended through another notification published in the Federal 
Register.

Classification

    This action has been determined to be not significant for purposes 
of Executive Order 12866.
    The AA has determined that this action is necessary to respond to 
special environmental conditions to allow more efficient fishing for 
shrimp, while providing adequate protection for endangered and 
threatened sea turtles pursuant to the ESA and applicable regulations.
    Pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B), the AA finds that there is good 
cause to waive prior notice and opportunity to comment on this rule. 
The AA finds that unusually high amounts of debris has created ongoing 
special environmental conditions that make trawling with TED-equipped 
nets impracticable. Prior notice and opportunity to comment are 
impracticable and contrary to the public interest in this instance 
because providing notice and comment would prevent the agency from 
providing the affected industry relief from the effects of Hurricanes 
Katrina and Rita in a timely manner.
    The AA finds that there is good cause to waive the 30-day delay in 
effective date pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3) to provide alternatives 
to comply with the sea turtle regulations in a timely manner. Many 
fishermen may be unable to operate under the special environmental 
conditions created by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita without an 
alternative to using TEDs. Providing a 30-day delay in effective date 
would prevent the agency from providing the affected industry relief 
from the effects of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in a timely manner. For 
the reasons stated above, the AA finds that this temporary rule should 
not be subject to a 30-day delay in effective date, pursuant to 5 
U.S.C. 553(d)(1).
    Since prior notice and an opportunity for public comment are not 
required to be provided for this action by 5 U.S.C. 553, or by any 
other law, the analytical requirements of 5 U.S.C. 601 et seq. are 
inapplicable.
    The AA prepared an Environmental Assessment (EA) for this rule. 
Copies of the EA are available (see ADDRESSES).

    Dated: November 22, 2005.
William T. Hogarth,
Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
[FR Doc. 05-23442 Filed 11-23-05; 3:02 pm]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-S