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DOC/NOAA RIN: 0648-BM31 Publication ID: Fall 2023 
Title: ●Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan Modifications to Reduce Serious Injury and Mortality of Large Whales in Commercial Trap/Pot Fisheries Along the U.S. East Coast 

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is proposing a rule under the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan (ALWTRP or Plan) to reduce the risk of North Atlantic right whale entanglement in commercial trap/pot fisheries along the U.S. East Coast. The proposed rule would modify the boundaries of the Massachusetts Restricted Area (MRA) to include a 200 square miles area known as the MRA Wedge to fill a gap in protections that occurs during the implementation of the current closure in Federal waters from February through April every year. This small gap area was inadvertently created by a 2021 modification to an existing MRA seasonal closure to buoy lines which mirrored a state water closure enacted by Massachusetts in early 2021. The resultant gap within the MRA created an opportunity for federally permitted vessels to fish or store buoyed trap gear in the MRA Wedge at great risk of incidental mortality and serious injury of North Atlantic right whales that are seasonally abundant in surrounding waters. Empirical gear and whale sightings collected during aerial surveys of the MRA Wedge during February-April demonstrate the high entanglement risk to right whales in this area. No novel management measures or policies are proposed; this Wedge area was closed through emergency rulemaking in 2021 and 2022, and this rule proposes to permanently implement a small expansion of an existing three-month seasonal restriction to fishing with buoy lines.

Agency: Department of Commerce(DOC)  Priority: Substantive, Nonsignificant 
RIN Status: First time published in the Unified Agenda Agenda Stage of Rulemaking: Final Rule Stage 
Major: No  Unfunded Mandates: No 
CFR Citation: 50 CFR 229   
Legal Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1387   
Legal Deadline:  None
Action Date FR Cite
NPRM  09/18/2023  88 FR 63917   
NPRM Comment Period End  10/18/2023 
Final Action  12/00/2023 
Regulatory Flexibility Analysis Required: Yes  Government Levels Affected: None 
Small Entities Affected: Businesses  Federalism: No 
Included in the Regulatory Plan: No 
RIN Data Printed in the FR: Yes 
Agency Contact:
Kim Damon-Randall
Director, Office of Protected Resources
Department of Commerce
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
1315 East-West Highway,
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Phone:301 427-8400