Taking of Marine Mammals Incidental to Commercial Fishing Operations; Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan (ALWTRP), 7441-7443 [06-1306]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 29 / Monday, February 13, 2006 / Rules and Regulations [FR Doc. 06–1218 Filed 2–10–06; 8:45 am] Electronic Access BILLING CODE 6560–50–P Several of the background documents for the ALWTRP and the take reduction planning process can be downloaded from the ALWTRP web site at http:// www.nero.noaa.gov/whaletrp/. DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Background 50 CFR Part 229 [Docket No. 030221039–6029–27; I.D. 020606D] Taking of Marine Mammals Incidental to Commercial Fishing Operations; Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan (ALWTRP) National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Temporary rule. AGENCY: SUMMARY: The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries (AA), NOAA, announces temporary restrictions consistent with the requirements of the ALWTRP’s implementing regulations. These regulations apply to lobster trap/pot and anchored gillnet fishermen for 15 days in an area southeast of Portland, ME, totaling approximately 886 nm2 to 1,569 nm2 (3,039 km2 to 5,382 km2), depending on the temporal and spatial overlap with two other DAM zones currently in effect. The two other overlapping DAM zones are in effect from 0001 hours February 3, 2006 through 2400 hours February 17, 2006,and from 0001 hours February 10, 2006, through 2400 hours February 24, 2006. The purpose of this action is to provide protection to an aggregation of northern right whales (right whales). DATES: Effective beginning at 0001 hours February 15, 2006, through 2400 hours March 1, 2006. ADDRESSES: Copies of the proposed and final Dynamic Area Management (DAM) rules, Environmental Assessments (EAs), Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Team (ALWTRT) meeting summaries, and progress reports on implementation of the ALWTRP may also be obtained by writing Diane Borggaard, NMFS/Northeast Region, One Blackburn Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. wwhite on PROD1PC65 with RULES FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Diane Borggaard, NMFS/Northeast Region, 978–281–9300 x6503; or Kristy Long, NMFS, Office of Protected Resources, 301–713–2322. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: VerDate Aug<31>2005 17:25 Feb 10, 2006 Jkt 208001 The ALWTRP was developed pursuant to section 118 of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) to reduce the incidental mortality and serious injury of three endangered species of whales (right, fin, and humpback) due to incidental interaction with commercial fishing activities. In addition, the measures identified in the ALWTRP would provide conservation benefits to a fourth species (minke), which are neither listed as endangered nor threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The ALWTRP, implemented through regulations codified at 50 CFR 229.32, relies on a combination of fishing gear modifications and time/area closures to reduce the risk of whales becoming entangled in commercial fishing gear (and potentially suffering serious injury or mortality as a result). On January 9, 2002, NMFS published the final rule to implement the ALWTRP’s DAM program (67 FR 1133). On August 26, 2003, NMFS amended the regulations by publishing a final rule, which specifically identified gear modifications that may be allowed in a DAM zone (68 FR 51195). The DAM program provides specific authority for NMFS to restrict temporarily on an expedited basis the use of lobster trap/ pot and anchored gillnet fishing gear in areas north of 40° N. lat. to protect right whales. Under the DAM program, NMFS may: (1) require the removal of all lobster trap/pot and anchored gillnet fishing gear for a 15–day period; (2) allow lobster trap/pot and anchored gillnet fishing within a DAM zone with gear modifications determined by NMFS to sufficiently reduce the risk of entanglement; and/or (3) issue an alert to fishermen requesting the voluntary removal of all lobster trap/pot and anchored gillnet gear for a 15–day period and asking fishermen not to set any additional gear in the DAM zone during the 15–day period. A DAM zone is triggered when NMFS receives a reliable report from a qualified individual of three or more right whales sighted within an area (75 nm2 (139 km2)) such that right whale density is equal to or greater than 0.04 right whales per nm2 (1.85 km2). A qualified individual is an individual ascertained by NMFS to be reasonably able, through training or experience, to PO 00000 Frm 00049 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 7441 identify a right whale. Such individuals include, but are not limited to, NMFS staff, U.S. Coast Guard and Navy personnel trained in whale identification, scientific research survey personnel, whale watch operators and naturalists, and mariners trained in whale species identification through disentanglement training or some other training program deemed adequate by NMFS. A reliable report would be a credible right whale sighting. On February 2, 2006, an aerial survey reported a sighting of seven right whales in the proximity 42° 59′ N. lat. and 69° 26′ W. long. This position lies southeast of Portland, ME. After conducting an investigation, NMFS ascertained that the report came from a qualified individual and determined that the report was reliable. Thus, NMFS has received a reliable report from a qualified individual of the requisite right whale density to trigger the DAM provisions of the ALWTRP. Once a DAM zone is triggered, NMFS determines whether to impose restrictions on fishing and/or fishing gear in the zone. This determination is based on the following factors, including but not limited to: the location of the DAM zone with respect to other fishery closure areas, weather conditions as they relate to the safety of human life at sea, the type and amount of gear already present in the area, and a review of recent right whale entanglement and mortality data. NMFS has reviewed the factors and management options noted above relative to the DAM under consideration. As a result of this review, NMFS prohibits lobster trap/pot and anchored gillnet gear in this area during the 15–day restricted period unless it is modified in the manner described in this temporary rule. The DAM zone overlaps with two other DAM zones: one in effect from 0001 hours February 3, 2006, through 2400 hours February 17, 2006 (71 FR 5180, February 1, 2006), and the other in effect from 0001 hours February 10, 2006, through 2400 hours February 24, 2006 (70 FR 6396, February 8, 2006). Effective from 0001 hours February 15, 2006 through 2400 hours February 17, 2006, the DAM zone is bounded by the following coordinates when it overlaps these previously established DAM zones: 43° 18′ N., 69° 53′ W. (NW Corner) 43° 18′ N., 69° 15′ W. 42° 49′ N., 69° 15′ W. 42° 49′ N., 68° 58′ W. 42° 39′ N., 68° 58′ W. 42° 39′ N., 69° 32′ W. 43° 00′ N., 69° 32′ W. 43° 00′ N., 69° 53′ W. E:\FR\FM\13FER1.SGM 13FER1 7442 Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 29 / Monday, February 13, 2006 / Rules and Regulations Effective from 0001 hours February 18, 2006, through 2400 hours February 24, 2006, after the February 1, 2006, DAM zone (71 FR 5180) expires, the DAM zone is bounded by the following coordinates: 43° 18′ N., 69° 53′ W. (NW Corner) 43° 18′ N., 68° 58′ W. 42° 39′ N., 68° 58′ W. 42° 39′ N., 69° 32′ W. 43° 00′ N., 69° 32′ W. 43° 00′ N., 69° 53′ W. Effective from 0001 hours February 25, 2006, through 2400 hours March 1, 2006, after the February 8, 2006, DAM zone (70 FR 6396) expires, the DAM zone is bounded by the following coordinates: 43° 18′ N., 69° 53′ W. (NW Corner) 43° 18′ N., 68° 58′ W. 42° 39′ N., 68° 58′ W. 42° 39′ N., 69° 53′ W. In addition to those gear modifications currently implemented under the ALWTRP at 50 CFR 229.32, the following gear modifications are required in the DAM zone. If the requirements and exceptions for gear modification in the DAM zone, as described below, differ from other ALWTRP requirements for any overlapping areas and times, then the more restrictive requirements will apply in the DAM zone. Special note for gillnet fisherman: a portion of this DAM zone overlaps the year-round Cashes Ledge Closure Area found at 50 CFR 648.81(d) and the February Cashes Ledge Closure Area for harbor porpoise found at 50 CFR 229.33(a)(6). Due to these closures, sink gillnet gear is prohibited from these portions of the DAM zone. wwhite on PROD1PC65 with RULES Lobster Trap/Pot Gear Fishermen utilizing lobster trap/pot gear within the portion of the Northern Nearshore Lobster Waters Area that overlap with the DAM zone are required to utilize all of the following gear modifications while the DAM zone is in effect: 1. Groundlines must be made of either sinking or neutrally buoyant line. Floating groundlines are prohibited; 2. All buoy lines must be made of either sinking or neutrally buoyant line, except the bottom portion of the line, which may be a section of floating line not to exceed one-third the overall length of the buoy line; 3. Fishermen are allowed to use two buoy lines per trawl; and 4. A weak link with a maximum breaking strength of 600 lb (272.4 kg) must be placed at all buoys. Fishermen utilizing lobster trap/pot gear within the portion of the Offshore Lobster Waters Area that overlap with VerDate Aug<31>2005 17:25 Feb 10, 2006 Jkt 208001 the DAM zone are required to utilize all of the following gear modifications while the DAM zone is in effect: 1. Groundlines must be made of either sinking or neutrally buoyant line. Floating groundlines are prohibited; 2. All buoy lines must be made of either sinking or neutrally buoyant line, except the bottom portion of the line, which may be a section of floating line not to exceed one-third the overall length of the buoy line; 3. Fishermen are allowed to use two buoy lines per trawl; and 4. A weak link with a maximum breaking strength of 1,500 lb (680.4 kg) must be placed at all buoys. Anchored Gillnet Gear Fishermen utilizing anchored gillnet gear within the portion of the Other Northeast Gillnet Waters Area that overlap with the DAM zone are required to utilize all the following gear modifications while the DAM zone is in effect: 1. Groundlines must be made of either sinking or neutrally buoyant line. Floating groundlines are prohibited; 2. All buoy lines must be made of either sinking or neutrally buoyant line, except the bottom portion of the line, which may be a section of floating line not to exceed one-third the overall length of the buoy line; 3. Fishermen are allowed to use two buoy lines per string; 4. Each net panel must have a total of five weak links with a maximum breaking strength of 1,100 lb (498.8 kg). Net panels are typically 50 fathoms (91.4 m) in length, but the weak link requirements would apply to all variations in panel size. These weak links must include three floatline weak links. The placement of the weak links on the floatline must be: one at the center of the net panel and one each as close as possible to each of the bridle ends of the net panel. The remaining two weak links must be placed in the center of each of the up and down lines at the panel ends; 5. A weak link with a maximum breaking strength of 1,100 lb (498.8 kg) must be placed at all buoys; and 6. All anchored gillnets, regardless of the number of net panels, must be securely anchored with the holding power of at least a 22 lb (10.0 kg) Danforth-style anchor at each end of the net string. The restrictions will be in effect beginning at 0001 hours February 15, 2006, through 2400 hours March 1, 2006, unless terminated sooner or extended by NMFS through another notification in the Federal Register. PO 00000 Frm 00050 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 The restrictions will be announced to state officials, fishermen, ALWTRT members, and other interested parties through e-mail, phone contact, NOAA website, and other appropriate media immediately upon filing with the Federal Register. Classification In accordance with section 118(f)(9) of the MMPA, the Assistant Administrator (AA) for Fisheries has determined that this action is necessary to implement a take reduction plan to protect North Atlantic right whales. Environmental Assessments for the DAM program were prepared on December 28, 2001, and August 6, 2003. This action falls within the scope of the analyses of these EAs, which are available from the agency upon request. NMFS provided prior notice and an opportunity for public comment on the regulations establishing the criteria and procedures for implementing a DAM zone. Providing prior notice and opportunity for comment on this action, pursuant to those regulations, would be impracticable because it would prevent NMFS from executing its functions to protect and reduce serious injury and mortality of endangered right whales. The regulations establishing the DAM program are designed to enable the agency to help protect unexpected concentrations of right whales. In order to meet the goals of the DAM program, the agency needs to be able to create a DAM zone and implement restrictions on fishing gear as soon as possible once the criteria are triggered and NMFS determines that a DAM restricted zone is appropriate. If NMFS were to provide prior notice and an opportunity for public comment upon the creation of a DAM restricted zone, the aggregated right whales would be vulnerable to entanglement which could result in serious injury and mortality. Additionally, the right whales would most likely move on to another location before NMFS could implement the restrictions designed to protect them, thereby rendering the action obsolete. Therefore, pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B), the AA finds that good cause exists to waive prior notice and an opportunity to comment on this action to implement a DAM restricted zone to reduce the risk of entanglement of endangered right whales in commercial lobster trap/pot and anchored gillnet gear as such procedures would be impracticable. For the same reasons, the AA finds that, under 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3), good cause exists to waive the 30–day delay in effective date. If NMFS were to delay for 30 days the effective date of this E:\FR\FM\13FER1.SGM 13FER1 wwhite on PROD1PC65 with RULES Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 29 / Monday, February 13, 2006 / Rules and Regulations action, the aggregated right whales would be vulnerable to entanglement, which could cause serious injury and mortality. Additionally, right whales would likely move to another location between the time NMFS approved the action creating the DAM restricted zone and the time it went into effect, thereby rendering the action obsolete and ineffective. Nevertheless, NMFS recognizes the need for fishermen to have time to either modify or remove (if not in compliance with the required restrictions) their gear from a DAM zone once one is approved. Thus, NMFS makes this action effective 2 days after the date of publication of this document in the Federal Register. NMFS determined that the regulations establishing the DAM program and actions such as this one taken pursuant to those regulations are consistent to the maximum extent practicable with the enforceable policies of the approved coastal management program of the U.S. Atlantic coastal states. This determination was submitted for review by the responsible state agencies under section 307 of the Coastal Zone Management Act. Following state review of the regulations creating the DAM program, no state disagreed with NMFS’ conclusion that the DAM program is consistent to the maximum extent practicable with the enforceable policies of the approved coastal management program for that state. The DAM program under which NMFS is taking this action contains policies with federalism implications warranting preparation of a federalism assessment under Executive Order 13132. Accordingly, in October 2001 and March 2003, the Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental and Legislative Affairs, Department of Commerce, provided notice of the DAM program and its amendments to the appropriate elected officials in states to be affected by actions taken pursuant to the DAM program. Federalism issues raised by state officials were addressed in the final rules implementing the DAM program. A copy of the federalism Summary Impact Statement for the final rules is available upon request (ADDRESSES). The rule implementing the DAM program has been determined to be not significant under Executive Order 12866. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq. and 50 CFR 229.32(g)(3) VerDate Aug<31>2005 17:25 Feb 10, 2006 Jkt 208001 Dated: February 8, 2006. James W. Balsiger, Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 06–1306 Filed 2–8–06; 2:02 pm] BILLING CODE 3510–22–S DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 648 [Docket No. 051209329–5329–01; I.D. 020306B] Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Atlantic Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish Fisheries; Closure of the Quarter I Fishery for Loligo Squid National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Closure. AGENCY: SUMMARY: NMFS announces that the directed fishery for Loligo squid in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) will be closed effective 0001 hours, February 13, 2006. Vessels issued a Federal permit to harvest Loligo squid may not retain or land more than 2,500 lb (1,134 kg) of Loligo squid per trip for the remainder of the quarter (through March 31, 2006). This action is necessary to prevent the fishery from exceeding its Quarter I quota and to allow for effective management of this stock. DATES: Effective 0001 hours, February 13, 2006, through 2400 hours, March 31, 2006. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Don Frei, Fishery Management Specialist, 978–281–9221, Fax 978–281–9135. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Regulations governing the Loligo squid fishery are found at 50 CFR part 648. The regulations require specifications for maximum sustainable yield, initial optimum yield, allowable biological catch, domestic annual harvest (DAH), domestic annual processing, joint venture processing, and total allowable levels of foreign fishing for the species managed under the Atlantic Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish Fishery Management Plan. The procedures for setting the annual initial specifications are described in § 648.21. The regulations at § 648.21(d)(1) allow for the previous year’s annual specifications to remain in effect if the annual specifications for the new fishing year are not published in the Federal Register prior to the start of the PO 00000 Frm 00051 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 7443 fishing year. The 2005 annual quota for Loligo squid was 16,744.9 mt, with 5,564.3 mt allocated to Quarter I (70 FR 13406, March 21,2005). The allowable biological catch in 2006 is not proposed to change from the 2005 value, but because the proposed 2006 Research Set-Aside (RSA) is greater than the 2005 RSA allocation, the initial optimum yield and the individual quarterly quotas are minimally different. The proposed rule for the 2006 annual specifications published on December 27, 2005 (70 FR 76436), with a comment period that ended January 11, 2006. The proposed 2006 annual quota for Loligo squid is 16,872.50 mt. This amount is proposed to be allocated by quarter, as shown below. TABLE. 1 Loligo SQUID QUARTERLY ALLOCATIONS. Quarter Percent Metric Tons1 Research Setaside I (Jan-Mar) 33.23 5,606.70 N/A II (Apr-Jun) 17.61 2,971.30 N/A III (Jul-Sep) 17.3 2,918.90 N/A IV (Oct31.86 5,375.60 N/A Dec) Total 100 16,872.50 127.5 1Quarterly allocations after 127.5 mt research set-aside deduction. Section 648.22 requires NMFS to close the directed Loligo squid fishery in the EEZ when 80 percent of the quarterly allocation is harvested in Quarters I, II, and III, and when 95 percent of the total annual DAH has been harvested. NMFS is further required to notify, in advance of the closure, the Executive Directors of the Mid-Atlantic, New England, and South Atlantic Fishery Management Councils; mail notification of the closure to all holders of Loligo squid permits at least 72 hours before the effective date of the closure; provide adequate notice of the closure to recreational participants in the fishery; and publish notification of the closure in the Federal Register. The Administrator, Northeast Region, NMFS, based on dealer reports and other available information, has determined that 80 percent of the DAH for Loligo squid in Quarter I will be harvested. Therefore, effective 0001 hours, February 13, 2006, the directed fishery for Loligo squid is closed and vessels issued Federal permits for Loligo squid may not retain or land more than 2,500 lb (1,134 kg) of Loligo during a calendar day. The directed fishery will reopen effective 0001 hours, April 1, 2006, when the Quarter II quota becomes available. E:\FR\FM\13FER1.SGM 13FER1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 71, Number 29 (Monday, February 13, 2006)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 7441-7443]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 06-1306]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 229

[Docket No. 030221039-6029-27; I.D. 020606D]


Taking of Marine Mammals Incidental to Commercial Fishing 
Operations; Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan (ALWTRP)

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

ACTION: Temporary rule.

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SUMMARY: The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries (AA), NOAA, 
announces temporary restrictions consistent with the requirements of 
the ALWTRP's implementing regulations. These regulations apply to 
lobster trap/pot and anchored gillnet fishermen for 15 days in an area 
southeast of Portland, ME, totaling approximately 886 nm\2\ to 1,569 
nm\2\ (3,039 km\2\ to 5,382 km\2\), depending on the temporal and 
spatial overlap with two other DAM zones currently in effect. The two 
other overlapping DAM zones are in effect from 0001 hours February 3, 
2006 through 2400 hours February 17, 2006,and from 0001 hours February 
10, 2006, through 2400 hours February 24, 2006. The purpose of this 
action is to provide protection to an aggregation of northern right 
whales (right whales).

DATES: Effective beginning at 0001 hours February 15, 2006, through 
2400 hours March 1, 2006.

ADDRESSES: Copies of the proposed and final Dynamic Area Management 
(DAM) rules, Environmental Assessments (EAs), Atlantic Large Whale Take 
Reduction Team (ALWTRT) meeting summaries, and progress reports on 
implementation of the ALWTRP may also be obtained by writing Diane 
Borggaard, NMFS/Northeast Region, One Blackburn Drive, Gloucester, MA 
01930.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Diane Borggaard, NMFS/Northeast 
Region, 978-281-9300 x6503; or Kristy Long, NMFS, Office of Protected 
Resources, 301-713-2322.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Electronic Access

    Several of the background documents for the ALWTRP and the take 
reduction planning process can be downloaded from the ALWTRP web site 
at http://www.nero.noaa.gov/whaletrp/.

Background

    The ALWTRP was developed pursuant to section 118 of the Marine 
Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) to reduce the incidental mortality and 
serious injury of three endangered species of whales (right, fin, and 
humpback) due to incidental interaction with commercial fishing 
activities. In addition, the measures identified in the ALWTRP would 
provide conservation benefits to a fourth species (minke), which are 
neither listed as endangered nor threatened under the Endangered 
Species Act (ESA). The ALWTRP, implemented through regulations codified 
at 50 CFR 229.32, relies on a combination of fishing gear modifications 
and time/area closures to reduce the risk of whales becoming entangled 
in commercial fishing gear (and potentially suffering serious injury or 
mortality as a result).
    On January 9, 2002, NMFS published the final rule to implement the 
ALWTRP's DAM program (67 FR 1133). On August 26, 2003, NMFS amended the 
regulations by publishing a final rule, which specifically identified 
gear modifications that may be allowed in a DAM zone (68 FR 51195). The 
DAM program provides specific authority for NMFS to restrict 
temporarily on an expedited basis the use of lobster trap/pot and 
anchored gillnet fishing gear in areas north of 40[deg] N. lat. to 
protect right whales. Under the DAM program, NMFS may: (1) require the 
removal of all lobster trap/pot and anchored gillnet fishing gear for a 
15-day period; (2) allow lobster trap/pot and anchored gillnet fishing 
within a DAM zone with gear modifications determined by NMFS to 
sufficiently reduce the risk of entanglement; and/or (3) issue an alert 
to fishermen requesting the voluntary removal of all lobster trap/pot 
and anchored gillnet gear for a 15-day period and asking fishermen not 
to set any additional gear in the DAM zone during the 15-day period.
    A DAM zone is triggered when NMFS receives a reliable report from a 
qualified individual of three or more right whales sighted within an 
area (75 nm\2\ (139 km\2\)) such that right whale density is equal to 
or greater than 0.04 right whales per nm\2\ (1.85 km\2\). A qualified 
individual is an individual ascertained by NMFS to be reasonably able, 
through training or experience, to identify a right whale. Such 
individuals include, but are not limited to, NMFS staff, U.S. Coast 
Guard and Navy personnel trained in whale identification, scientific 
research survey personnel, whale watch operators and naturalists, and 
mariners trained in whale species identification through 
disentanglement training or some other training program deemed adequate 
by NMFS. A reliable report would be a credible right whale sighting.
    On February 2, 2006, an aerial survey reported a sighting of seven 
right whales in the proximity 42[deg] 59' N. lat. and 69[deg] 26' W. 
long. This position lies southeast of Portland, ME. After conducting an 
investigation, NMFS ascertained that the report came from a qualified 
individual and determined that the report was reliable. Thus, NMFS has 
received a reliable report from a qualified individual of the requisite 
right whale density to trigger the DAM provisions of the ALWTRP.
    Once a DAM zone is triggered, NMFS determines whether to impose 
restrictions on fishing and/or fishing gear in the zone. This 
determination is based on the following factors, including but not 
limited to: the location of the DAM zone with respect to other fishery 
closure areas, weather conditions as they relate to the safety of human 
life at sea, the type and amount of gear already present in the area, 
and a review of recent right whale entanglement and mortality data.
    NMFS has reviewed the factors and management options noted above 
relative to the DAM under consideration. As a result of this review, 
NMFS prohibits lobster trap/pot and anchored gillnet gear in this area 
during the 15-day restricted period unless it is modified in the manner 
described in this temporary rule.
    The DAM zone overlaps with two other DAM zones: one in effect from 
0001 hours February 3, 2006, through 2400 hours February 17, 2006 (71 
FR 5180, February 1, 2006), and the other in effect from 0001 hours 
February 10, 2006, through 2400 hours February 24, 2006 (70 FR 6396, 
February 8, 2006). Effective from 0001 hours February 15, 2006 through 
2400 hours February 17, 2006, the DAM zone is bounded by the following 
coordinates when it overlaps these previously established DAM zones:
    43[deg] 18' N., 69[deg] 53' W. (NW Corner)
    43[deg] 18' N., 69[deg] 15' W.
    42[deg] 49' N., 69[deg] 15' W.
    42[deg] 49' N., 68[deg] 58' W.
    42[deg] 39' N., 68[deg] 58' W.
    42[deg] 39' N., 69[deg] 32' W.
    43[deg] 00' N., 69[deg] 32' W.
    43[deg] 00' N., 69[deg] 53' W.

[[Page 7442]]

    Effective from 0001 hours February 18, 2006, through 2400 hours 
February 24, 2006, after the February 1, 2006, DAM zone (71 FR 5180) 
expires, the DAM zone is bounded by the following coordinates:
    43[deg] 18' N., 69[deg] 53' W. (NW Corner)
    43[deg] 18' N., 68[deg] 58' W.
    42[deg] 39' N., 68[deg] 58' W.
    42[deg] 39' N., 69[deg] 32' W.
    43[deg] 00' N., 69[deg] 32' W.
    43[deg] 00' N., 69[deg] 53' W.
    Effective from 0001 hours February 25, 2006, through 2400 hours 
March 1, 2006, after the February 8, 2006, DAM zone (70 FR 6396) 
expires, the DAM zone is bounded by the following coordinates:
    43[deg] 18' N., 69[deg] 53' W. (NW Corner)
    43[deg] 18' N., 68[deg] 58' W.
    42[deg] 39' N., 68[deg] 58' W.
    42[deg] 39' N., 69[deg] 53' W.
    In addition to those gear modifications currently implemented under 
the ALWTRP at 50 CFR 229.32, the following gear modifications are 
required in the DAM zone. If the requirements and exceptions for gear 
modification in the DAM zone, as described below, differ from other 
ALWTRP requirements for any overlapping areas and times, then the more 
restrictive requirements will apply in the DAM zone. Special note for 
gillnet fisherman: a portion of this DAM zone overlaps the year-round 
Cashes Ledge Closure Area found at 50 CFR 648.81(d) and the February 
Cashes Ledge Closure Area for harbor porpoise found at 50 CFR 
229.33(a)(6). Due to these closures, sink gillnet gear is prohibited 
from these portions of the DAM zone.

Lobster Trap/Pot Gear

    Fishermen utilizing lobster trap/pot gear within the portion of the 
Northern Nearshore Lobster Waters Area that overlap with the DAM zone 
are required to utilize all of the following gear modifications while 
the DAM zone is in effect:
    1. Groundlines must be made of either sinking or neutrally buoyant 
line. Floating groundlines are prohibited;
    2. All buoy lines must be made of either sinking or neutrally 
buoyant line, except the bottom portion of the line, which may be a 
section of floating line not to exceed one-third the overall length of 
the buoy line;
    3. Fishermen are allowed to use two buoy lines per trawl; and
    4. A weak link with a maximum breaking strength of 600 lb (272.4 
kg) must be placed at all buoys.
    Fishermen utilizing lobster trap/pot gear within the portion of the 
Offshore Lobster Waters Area that overlap with the DAM zone are 
required to utilize all of the following gear modifications while the 
DAM zone is in effect:
    1. Groundlines must be made of either sinking or neutrally buoyant 
line. Floating groundlines are prohibited;
    2. All buoy lines must be made of either sinking or neutrally 
buoyant line, except the bottom portion of the line, which may be a 
section of floating line not to exceed one-third the overall length of 
the buoy line;
    3. Fishermen are allowed to use two buoy lines per trawl; and
    4. A weak link with a maximum breaking strength of 1,500 lb (680.4 
kg) must be placed at all buoys.

Anchored Gillnet Gear

    Fishermen utilizing anchored gillnet gear within the portion of the 
Other Northeast Gillnet Waters Area that overlap with the DAM zone are 
required to utilize all the following gear modifications while the DAM 
zone is in effect:
    1. Groundlines must be made of either sinking or neutrally buoyant 
line. Floating groundlines are prohibited;
    2. All buoy lines must be made of either sinking or neutrally 
buoyant line, except the bottom portion of the line, which may be a 
section of floating line not to exceed one-third the overall length of 
the buoy line;
    3. Fishermen are allowed to use two buoy lines per string;
    4. Each net panel must have a total of five weak links with a 
maximum breaking strength of 1,100 lb (498.8 kg). Net panels are 
typically 50 fathoms (91.4 m) in length, but the weak link requirements 
would apply to all variations in panel size. These weak links must 
include three floatline weak links. The placement of the weak links on 
the floatline must be: one at the center of the net panel and one each 
as close as possible to each of the bridle ends of the net panel. The 
remaining two weak links must be placed in the center of each of the up 
and down lines at the panel ends;
    5. A weak link with a maximum breaking strength of 1,100 lb (498.8 
kg) must be placed at all buoys; and
    6. All anchored gillnets, regardless of the number of net panels, 
must be securely anchored with the holding power of at least a 22 lb 
(10.0 kg) Danforth-style anchor at each end of the net string.
    The restrictions will be in effect beginning at 0001 hours February 
15, 2006, through 2400 hours March 1, 2006, unless terminated sooner or 
extended by NMFS through another notification in the Federal Register.
    The restrictions will be announced to state officials, fishermen, 
ALWTRT members, and other interested parties through e-mail, phone 
contact, NOAA website, and other appropriate media immediately upon 
filing with the Federal Register.

Classification

    In accordance with section 118(f)(9) of the MMPA, the Assistant 
Administrator (AA) for Fisheries has determined that this action is 
necessary to implement a take reduction plan to protect North Atlantic 
right whales.
    Environmental Assessments for the DAM program were prepared on 
December 28, 2001, and August 6, 2003. This action falls within the 
scope of the analyses of these EAs, which are available from the agency 
upon request.
    NMFS provided prior notice and an opportunity for public comment on 
the regulations establishing the criteria and procedures for 
implementing a DAM zone. Providing prior notice and opportunity for 
comment on this action, pursuant to those regulations, would be 
impracticable because it would prevent NMFS from executing its 
functions to protect and reduce serious injury and mortality of 
endangered right whales. The regulations establishing the DAM program 
are designed to enable the agency to help protect unexpected 
concentrations of right whales. In order to meet the goals of the DAM 
program, the agency needs to be able to create a DAM zone and implement 
restrictions on fishing gear as soon as possible once the criteria are 
triggered and NMFS determines that a DAM restricted zone is 
appropriate. If NMFS were to provide prior notice and an opportunity 
for public comment upon the creation of a DAM restricted zone, the 
aggregated right whales would be vulnerable to entanglement which could 
result in serious injury and mortality. Additionally, the right whales 
would most likely move on to another location before NMFS could 
implement the restrictions designed to protect them, thereby rendering 
the action obsolete. Therefore, pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B), the AA 
finds that good cause exists to waive prior notice and an opportunity 
to comment on this action to implement a DAM restricted zone to reduce 
the risk of entanglement of endangered right whales in commercial 
lobster trap/pot and anchored gillnet gear as such procedures would be 
impracticable.
    For the same reasons, the AA finds that, under 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3), 
good cause exists to waive the 30-day delay in effective date. If NMFS 
were to delay for 30 days the effective date of this

[[Page 7443]]

action, the aggregated right whales would be vulnerable to 
entanglement, which could cause serious injury and mortality. 
Additionally, right whales would likely move to another location 
between the time NMFS approved the action creating the DAM restricted 
zone and the time it went into effect, thereby rendering the action 
obsolete and ineffective. Nevertheless, NMFS recognizes the need for 
fishermen to have time to either modify or remove (if not in compliance 
with the required restrictions) their gear from a DAM zone once one is 
approved. Thus, NMFS makes this action effective 2 days after the date 
of publication of this document in the Federal Register.
    NMFS determined that the regulations establishing the DAM program 
and actions such as this one taken pursuant to those regulations are 
consistent to the maximum extent practicable with the enforceable 
policies of the approved coastal management program of the U.S. 
Atlantic coastal states. This determination was submitted for review by 
the responsible state agencies under section 307 of the Coastal Zone 
Management Act. Following state review of the regulations creating the 
DAM program, no state disagreed with NMFS' conclusion that the DAM 
program is consistent to the maximum extent practicable with the 
enforceable policies of the approved coastal management program for 
that state.
    The DAM program under which NMFS is taking this action contains 
policies with federalism implications warranting preparation of a 
federalism assessment under Executive Order 13132. Accordingly, in 
October 2001 and March 2003, the Assistant Secretary for 
Intergovernmental and Legislative Affairs, Department of Commerce, 
provided notice of the DAM program and its amendments to the 
appropriate elected officials in states to be affected by actions taken 
pursuant to the DAM program. Federalism issues raised by state 
officials were addressed in the final rules implementing the DAM 
program. A copy of the federalism Summary Impact Statement for the 
final rules is available upon request (ADDRESSES).
    The rule implementing the DAM program has been determined to be not 
significant under Executive Order 12866.

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq. and 50 CFR 229.32(g)(3)

    Dated: February 8, 2006.
James W. Balsiger,
Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National 
Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 06-1306 Filed 2-8-06; 2:02 pm]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-S