Taking of Marine Mammals Incidental to Commercial Fishing Operations; Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan (ALWTRP), 17360-17362 [06-3285]

Download as PDF 17360 Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 66 / Thursday, April 6, 2006 / Rules and Regulations 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 will also endeavor to provide notice of this action to fishermen through other means as soon as this final rule is issued by the AA, thereby providing approximately 3 additional days of notice while the Office of the Federal Register processes the document for publication. 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. rwilkins on PROD1PC63 with RULES Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq. and 50 CFR 229.32(g)(3). Dated: March 31, 2006. James W. Balsiger, Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 06–3284 Filed 3–31–06; 4:15 pm] BILLING CODE 3510–22–S VerDate Aug<31>2005 16:14 Apr 05, 2006 Jkt 208001 DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 229 [Docket No. 030221039–6088–29; I.D. 032906B] 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 in an area totaling approximately 1,514 nm2 ( 5,193 km2), southeast of the Great South Channel, for 15 days. The purpose of this action is to provide protection to an aggregation of northern right whales (right whales). DATES: Effective beginning at 0001 hours April 8, 2006, through 2400 hours April 22, 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 PO 00000 Frm 00026 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 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 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 March 24, 2006, an aerial survey reported a sighting of six right whales in the proximity 41° 16′ N. lat. and 67° 34′ E:\FR\FM\06APR1.SGM 06APR1 Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 66 / Thursday, April 6, 2006 / Rules and Regulations rwilkins on PROD1PC63 with RULES W. long. This position lies southeast of the Great South Channel. 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 is bound by the following coordinates: 41° 35′ N., 68° 00′ W. (NW Corner) 41° 35′ N., 67° 07′ W. 40° 57′ N., 67° 07′ W. 40° 57′ N., 68° 00′ W. 41° 35′ N., 68° 00′ W. (NW Corner) 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 Closure Area II for Northeast Multispecies found at 50 CFR 648.81(b). Due to this closure, sink gillnet gear is prohibited from this portion of the DAM zone. Lobster Trap/Pot Gear 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; VerDate Aug<31>2005 16:14 Apr 05, 2006 Jkt 208001 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 portions 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 April 8, 2006, through 2400 hours April 22, 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 issuance of this final rule by the AA. PO 00000 Frm 00027 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 17361 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 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 E:\FR\FM\06APR1.SGM 06APR1 rwilkins on PROD1PC63 with RULES 17362 Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 66 / Thursday, April 6, 2006 / Rules and Regulations 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 will also endeavor to provide notice of this action to fishermen through other means as soon as this final rule is issued by the AA, thereby providing approximately 3 additional days of notice while the Office of the Federal Register processes the document for publication. 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 16:14 Apr 05, 2006 Jkt 208001 Dated: March 31, 2006. James W. Balsiger, Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 06–3285 Filed 3–31–06; 4:15 pm] BILLING CODE 3510–22–S DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 679 [Docket No. 050607152-6070-02; I.D. 052605B] RIN 0648–AT04 Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Groundfish Retention Standard National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Final rule. AGENCY: SUMMARY: NMFS issues a final rule to implement a groundfish retention standard (GRS) program in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Island management area (BSAI) for trawl catcher/processor vessels (C/Ps) that are 125 ft (38.1 m) length overall (LOA) or greater and that are not listed American Fisheries Act (AFA) catcher/processors referred to throughout this rule as non-AFA trawl C/Ps. This action is necessary to reduce bycatch and improve utilization of groundfish harvested by these non-AFA trawl C/Ps. This action is intended to promote the management objectives of the Improved Retention/Improved Utilization (IRIU) program, the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area (FMP), and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act). DATES: Effective on January 20, 2008. ADDRESSES: Copies of the Environmental Assessment/Regulatory Impact Review/Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (EA/RIR/FRFA) prepared for this action may be obtained from NMFS, Alaska Region, P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, Alaska, 99802–1668, Attn: Records Officer, or from the NMFS Alaska Region website at www.fakr.noaa.gov. Written comments regarding the burden-hour estimates or other aspects of the collection-of-information requirements contained in this final rule may be submitted to NMFS, Alaska PO 00000 Frm 00028 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 Region, and by email to DavidlRostker@omb.eop.gov or fax to 202–395–7285. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jason Anderson at jason.anderson@noaa.gov or Jeff Hartman at jeff.hartman@noaa.gov. Either person may be contacted at (907) 586–7228. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background NMFS manages the U.S. groundfish fisheries of the BSAI in the Exclusive Economic Zone under the FMP. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) prepared the FMP pursuant to the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Regulations implementing the FMP appear at 50 CFR part 679. General regulations that pertain to U.S. fisheries appear at subpart H of 50 CFR part 600. This action was adopted by the Council to decrease regulatory and economic discards and increase catch utilization in the BSAI groundfish fisheries. Amendment 49 to the FMP (62 FR 63880, January 3, 1998), establishes retention and utilization standards for pollock and Pacific cod. In June 2003, the Council adopted Amendment 79 to the FMP, which authorizes groundfish retention standards as a tool for further increasing the retention and utilization of groundfish and responding to bycatch reduction goals described in National Standard 9. A notice of availability for Amendment 79 was published in the Federal Register on June 2, 2005 (70 FR 32287), and Amendment 79 was approved by the Secretary of Commerce on August 31, 2005. Also in June 2003, the Council adopted a GRS program for all non-AFA trawl C/Ps that are used to harvest BSAI groundfish. A proposed rule for the GRS program was published in the Federal Register on June 16, 2005 (70 FR 35054). The public comment period for the proposed rule ended on August 1, 2005. NMFS received 19 letters of comment and 38 discrete comments on the proposed rule. These comments are summarized and responded to below under Response to Comments. The Council’s analysis of groundfish retention rates in the BSAI groundfish fishery revealed that vessels in the nonAFA trawl catcher/processor sector (all lengths) had the lowest retained catch rates of any groundfish trawl fishery in the BSAI. The EA/RIR/FRFA for the GRS program reports that non-AFA trawl C/Ps had a retained groundfish catch rate of 75.1 percent in 2001 and accounted for 67 percent of all discards in the BSAI. However, during the same year in the BSAI, AFA trawl catcher/ E:\FR\FM\06APR1.SGM 06APR1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 71, Number 66 (Thursday, April 6, 2006)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 17360-17362]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 06-3285]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 229

[Docket No. 030221039-6088-29; I.D. 032906B]


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.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

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 in an area totaling 
approximately 1,514 nm\2\ ( 5,193 km\2\), southeast of the Great South 
Channel, for 15 days. The purpose of this action is to provide 
protection to an aggregation of northern right whales (right whales).

DATES:  Effective beginning at 0001 hours April 8, 2006, through 2400 
hours April 22, 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 March 24, 2006, an aerial survey reported a sighting of six 
right whales in the proximity 41[deg] 16' N. lat. and 67[deg] 34'

[[Page 17361]]

W. long. This position lies southeast of the Great South Channel. 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 is bound by the following coordinates:
    41[deg] 35' N., 68[deg] 00' W. (NW Corner)
    41[deg] 35' N., 67[deg] 07' W.
    40[deg] 57' N., 67[deg] 07' W.
    40[deg] 57' N., 68[deg] 00' W.
    41[deg] 35' N., 68[deg] 00' W. (NW Corner)
    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 
Closure Area II for Northeast Multispecies found at 50 CFR 648.81(b). 
Due to this closure, sink gillnet gear is prohibited from this portion 
of the DAM zone.

Lobster Trap/Pot Gear

    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 portions 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 April 8, 
2006, through 2400 hours April 22, 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 
issuance of this final rule by the AA.

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 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

[[Page 17362]]

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 will also 
endeavor to provide notice of this action to fishermen through other 
means as soon as this final rule is issued by the AA, thereby providing 
approximately 3 additional days of notice while the Office of the 
Federal Register processes the document for publication.
    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: March 31, 2006.
James W. Balsiger,
Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National 
Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 06-3285 Filed 3-31-06; 4:15 pm]
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