Sea Turtle Conservation; Exceptions to Taking Prohibitions for Endangered Sea Turtles, 15799-15803 [05-6187]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 70, No. 59 / Tuesday, March 29, 2005 / Proposed Rules Argentina,’’ and to accept comments related to the relationship of this study to the proposed addition of blue-fronted amazon parrots from Argentina’s program to the approved list of noncaptive-bred (wild-caught) species under the WBCA. We invite all interested parties to submit comments on this study as it relates to the proposed action. Comments previously submitted on this proposed action need not be resubmitted as they have already been incorporated into the public record and will be fully considered in any final decision. DATES: We will accept comments until April 28, 2005. We will consider any comments received by that date in the final decision on the proposal. ADDRESSES: If you wish to comment, you may submit your comments and materials by any one of several methods: 1. You may submit written comments and information to Dr. Peter O. Thomas, Chief, Division of Management Authority, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Room 700, Arlington, Virginia 22203. 2. You may hand-deliver written comments and information to the Division of Management Authority, at the above address, or fax your comments to 703/358–2298. 3. You may send your comments by electronic mail (e-mail) to bluefront@fws.gov. Please submit e-mail comments as an ASCII file, avoiding the use of special characters and any form of encryption. Please also include ‘‘Attention: [blue-fronted amazon]’’ and your name and return address in your message. Please note that the e-mail address, bluefront@fws.gov, will be closed out at the end of the public comment period. 4. We request that you not submit duplicate comments by multiple means. See SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION for comment procedures. To obtain a copy of the aforementioned study, you can download or print it from http:// international.fws.gov or contact Anne St. John at 703/358–2095 (phone) or 703/358–2298 (facsimile) to receive a faxed or mailed copy. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dr. Peter O. Thomas, Chief, Division of Management Authority, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; telephone 703/358– 2093; fax 703/358–2280. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background The blue-fronted amazon parrot ranges from northeastern Brazil south to Paraguay and northern Argentina. It feeds on fruits and seeds of a wide VerDate jul<14>2003 16:56 Mar 28, 2005 Jkt 205001 15799 variety of plants and inhabits a variety of wooded habitats, ranging from subtropical forests to chaco scrub, savanna, and gallery forest. It is closely tied to old-growth areas with large trees that provide nest cavities. The species was included in CITES Appendix II in 1981 when the Order Psittaciformes was listed. The WBCA limits or prohibits import into the United States of exotic bird species to ensure that their wild populations are not harmed by international trade. It also encourages wild bird conservation programs in countries of origin by ensuring that all imports of such species are biologically sustainable and not detrimental to the survival of the species. On November 16, 1993, we published a final rule in the Federal Register (58 FR 60536) in which we informed the public that imports of all CITES-listed birds (as defined in the final rule) were prohibited, except for (a) species included in an approved list; (b) specimens for which an import permit has been issued; (c) species from countries that have approved sustainable-use management plans for those species; or (d) specimens from approved foreign captive-breeding facilities. On August 6, 2003, we published in the Federal Register (68 FR 46559) a rule proposing to approve a sustainableuse management plan developed by the CITES Management Authority of Argentina for blue-fronted amazon parrots under the WBCA. The rule proposed to add blue-fronted amazon parrots from Argentina’s program to the approved list of non-captive-bred (wildcaught) species contained in 50 CFR 15.33(b). The public comment period on this proposed rule was open for 60 days, and in our final rule, we will address the comments we received. The purpose of reopening the comment period through the date specified in DATES above is to enter into the record Dr. Jorge Rabinovich’s 2004 study, ‘‘Modeling the Sustainable Use of the Blue-Fronted Parrot (Amazona aestiva) in the Dry Chaco Region of Argentina,’’ and any comments we receive regarding the relationship of this study to the proposed addition of blue-fronted amazon parrots from Argentina’s program to the approved list of noncaptive-bred (wild-caught) species under the WBCA. and its relationship to the proposed rule. In making a final decision, we will take into consideration the comments we received and their relationship to the proposed action. Such communications may lead to a final determination that differs from the proposed rule. The previous comment period on this proposed rule closed on October 6, 2003. To allow all interested parties time to submit their comments for the record, we are reopening the comment period until the date specified above in DATES. Our practice is to make comments, including names and home addresses of respondents, available for public review during regular business hours. Individual respondents may request that we withhold their home address from the rulemaking record, which we will honor to the extent allowable by law. There also may be circumstances in which we would withhold from the rulemaking record a respondent’s identity, as allowable by law. If you wish us to withhold your name and/or address, you must state this prominently at the beginning of your comment. However, we will not consider anonymous comments. We will make all submissions from organizations or businesses, and from individuals identifying themselves as representatives or officials of organizations or businesses, available for public inspection in their entirety. Comments and materials received will be available for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the above address. Public Comments Solicited We request comments or suggestions from the public, other concerned governmental agencies, the scientific community, industry, or any other interested party concerning this study Dated: March 17, 2005. Craig Manson, Assistant Secretary—Fish and Wildlife and Parks. [FR Doc. 05–6159 Filed 3–28–05; 8:45 am] PO 00000 Frm 00017 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 References Cited Rabinovich, Jorge. 2004. Unpublished report. ´ Centro de Estudios Parasitologicos y de Vectores (CEPAVE), Universidad Nacional de La Plata, La Plata, Prov. de Buenos Aires, Argentina. 147 pp. with figures. Author The primary author of this notice is Anne St. John (see ADDRESSES section). Authority The authority for this action is the Wild Bird Conservation Act of 1992 (Pub. L. 102–440, 16 U.S.C. 4901– 4916.). BILLING CODE 4310–55–P E:\FR\FM\29MRP1.SGM 29MRP1 15800 Federal Register / Vol. 70, No. 59 / Tuesday, March 29, 2005 / Proposed Rules DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 222 [Docket No. 050224044–5044–01; I.D. 092304A] RIN 0648–AS57 Sea Turtle Conservation; Exceptions to Taking Prohibitions for Endangered Sea Turtles National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments. AGENCY: SUMMARY: NMFS proposes to allow any agent or employee of NMFS, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the U.S. Coast Guard, or any other Federal land or water management agency, or any agent or employee of a state agency responsible for fish and wildlife who, when acting in the course of his or her official duties, is a member of the Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network (STSSN), to take endangered sea turtles encountered in the marine environment if such taking is necessary to aid a stranded endangered sea turtle, or dispose a dead endangered sea turtle, or salvage a dead endangered sea turtle that may be useful for scientific and educational purposes. This action is necessary to provide equal conservation and protection measures to stranded endangered sea turtles as is afforded for threatened sea turtles under 50 CFR 223.206. Comments on this action are requested, and must be received at the appropriate address, e-mail, or fax number (ADDRESSES) by no later than 5 p.m., eastern daylight time, on April 28, 2005. ADDRESSES: Written comments on this action or requests for copies of the draft Environmental Assessment should be addressed to Michael Payne, Chief, Marine Mammal Division, NMFS Office of Protected Resources, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD, 20910; or by fax (301) 427–2522, or by e-mail at: Seaturtle.STSSN@noaa.gov. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Therese Conant, phone: 301–713–1401, fax: 301–427–2523. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: DATES: Background All sea turtles that occur in U.S. waters are listed as either endangered or VerDate jul<14>2003 16:56 Mar 28, 2005 Jkt 205001 threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Kemp’s ridley (Lepidochelys kempii), leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), and hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) sea turtles are listed as endangered. Loggerhead (Caretta caretta), green (Chelonia mydas), and olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) sea turtles are listed as threatened, except for breeding colony populations of green turtles in Florida and on the Pacific coast of Mexico and breeding colony populations of olive ridleys on the Pacific coast of Mexico which are listed as endangered. NMFS and the FWS share jurisdictional responsibility for sea turtles under the ESA. FWS has responsibility in the terrestrial environment and NMFS has responsibility in the marine environment. Under the ESA and its implementing regulations, taking endangered sea turtles - even incidentally - is prohibited. The ESA allows take of threatened species; however, section 4(d) of the ESA allows NMFS to implement regulations for the conservation of threatened species. NMFS implemented a section 4(d) regulation that extended the take prohibitions to threatened sea turtles with exceptions identified in 50 CFR 223.206. The take of endangered species may be authorized by an incidental take statement pursuant to section 7 or a permit or programmatic permit regulation issued pursuant to section 10 of the ESA. NMFS implemented regulations (50 CFR 223.206) pursuant to section 4(d) of the ESA to allow appropriate handling of sick, injured, entangled, or dead threatened sea turtles found in the marine environment. Activities related to responding to sick, injured, entangled, and dead turtles have been ongoing for over 30 years and became institutionalized in 1980 with the establishment of the NMFS’ STSSN. The STSSN consists of agents or employees of NMFS, the FWS, the U.S. Coast Guard, or any other Federal land or water management agency, or any agent or employee of a state agency responsible for fish and wildlife (hereinafter referred to as the STSSN Responder). Each state participating in the STSSN has an ESA section 6 agreement with the FWS. The FWS grants authority to each cooperating state for permitting land-based activities (i.e., on the beach and in holding facilities) related to the STSSN. FWS also implemented regulations to allow any employee or agent of FWS, NMFS, or a state conservation agency, to aid, dispose, salvage or humanely remove endangered species that constitute a PO 00000 Frm 00018 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 demonstrable threat to human safety (50 CFR 17.21). NMFS currently has ESA section 6 agreements with only 10 states/territories: Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands (note: On June 11, 1997, NMFS entered into a Memorandum of Agreement with the California Department of Fish and Game, Office of Oil Spill Prevention and Response to aid sick, injured or stranded sea turtles impacted by oil and other hazardous material spills) . The STSSN encompasses all U.S. states and territories. The ESA does not allow exceptions to takings for endangered species through section 4(d). Therefore, NMFS proposes to grant authority under section 10(a)(1)(A) to provide for the aid, collection, and disposition of, stranded endangered sea turtles found in the marine environment. By definition, the term ’stranded’ includes live endangered sea turtles that are sick, injured, or entangled and dead endangered sea turtles found in the marine environment. Because the activities of the STSSN are similar in nature and scope, NMFS proposes to issue a programmatic permit by regulation pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(A). Implementing this section 10(a)(1)(A) action would provide consistency with FWS regulations which allow such activities on land as described in 50 CFR 17.21. The STSSN was formally established in the southeastern United States and Gulf of Mexico in 1980 and in Hawaii in 1982. The NMFS Southwest Region California Marine Mammal Stranding Network (CMMSN) has responded to sea turtle strandings in California since 1983. Maintaining an active stranding network has been identified in each of the ESA section 4 sea turtle recovery plans developed jointly by FWS and NMFS as a task necessary for the conservation and recovery of listed sea turtles. The purpose of the STSSN is to document dead sea turtles, salvage specimens, and aid sick, injured, or entangled sea turtles that strand in coastal areas under U.S. jurisdiction. State agencies that hold an ESA section 6 agreement with FWS and/or NMFS have designated staff or have developed memorandums of understanding (MOU) with academic institutions or other state-run institutions (e.g., aquaria) to oversee the STSSN. In some cases where NMFS does not have a direct MOU with a STSSN participant within a state, NMFS has applied directly to the FWS to cover STSSN activities (permit number: TED697823–2). The STSSN is organized under a national coordinator E:\FR\FM\29MRP1.SGM 29MRP1 Federal Register / Vol. 70, No. 59 / Tuesday, March 29, 2005 / Proposed Rules and consists of a coordinator for each state as well as trained volunteers and municipal, state and Federal employees and their designated agents operating under the direction of the state and national coordinator. Each state oversees and is responsible for collecting data under their STSSN program, except for California where NMFS oversees the program. In response to the high number of leatherbacks found entangled in fishing gear (primarily pot gear) along the U.S. northeast Atlantic coast, NMFS established the Northeast Atlantic Coast Sea Turtle Disentanglement Network (STDN) in 2002. The STDN is considered a component of the larger STSSN program, and the NMFS Northeast Regional Office oversees the STDN program. Training Requirements for the STSSN STSSN Responders are highly experienced personnel who have undertaken extensive training through NMFS and/or state STSSN programs. The U.S. Coast Guard maintains a separate professional training program for responding to events involving protected resources. However, U.S. Coast Guard staff often attend STSSN meetings and training workshops held by states. Individual state STSSNs conduct annual training and refresher workshops for authorized STSSN Responders. STSSN Responders who receive additional training may also perform necropsies on sea turtle carcasses to determine the general state of health prior to death, sex, and document any abnormalities that may have contributed to the mortality of the animal. It is particularly important to undertake necropsies during an unexplained mass mortality event. Comprehensive disentanglement guidelines and sea turtle disentanglement tool kits were disseminated to the STSSN in October, 2003. In addition, NMFS holds regular meetings with the state STSSN coordinators to exchange information and develop recommendations for improving the STSSN. Reporting Requirements for the STSSN The state STSSN programs collect the following information: name and address of observer, date, stranding location, species identification, state of decomposition; description of any obvious wounds, injuries or abnormalities; standard carapace measurements; and disposition. Photographs are taken whenever possible to verify species identification. Data are recorded on standardized report forms which are submitted to the VerDate jul<14>2003 16:56 Mar 28, 2005 Jkt 205001 state coordinator and then to the national STSSN coordinator at the NMFS Southeast Fisheries Science Center or the NMFS Pacific Islands Science Center. For disentanglement events, the following information is collected: name and type of reporting vessel; vessel cell phone number or radio call channel; reporter name and home phone number; date/time of report (and/or sighting event); location (latitude and longitude); description of turtle for species identification; status of turtle (alive or dead); description of entangling gear (rope, line, buoys, colors, ID numbers); location of entangling gear on turtle (head, flippers, single wrap, multiple wraps); description of any visible injuries; and weather/sea conditions at the scene. NMFS reviews the information collected and submitted through the states in the STSSN on a monthly basis for data quality control and assesses, in coordination with the states, the effectiveness of the program on a yearly basis. Types of Activities Conducted Under the STSSN Tens of thousands of sea turtles have been reported through the STSSN since its inception. A portion of these reports have been endangered sea turtles found in the marine environment. Cumulatively, from 1993–2002, the STSSN responded to approximately 1,000 endangered sea turtles in the marine environment in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. The species composition of these events in the marine environment was: 99 leatherbacks, 45 hawksbills, 223 Kemp’s ridleys, and 633 green turtles (note: all green turtles are considered endangered because breeding colony origin is largely unknown). Thirty-seven percent of these incidents were live encounters. In Hawaii, for the same time period, approximately 20 endangered sea turtles were responded to in the marine environment. The species composition of these events was approximately split between hawksbill and olive ridleys (note: all olive ridleys are considered endangered because breeding colony origin is largely unknown). Of these events, over half were live encounters. In California, for the same time period, the STSSN responded to 12 endangered sea turtles in the marine environment. The species composition of these events was 4 leatherbacks, 2 olive ridleys, and 6 green turtles. Of the total 12, half were live encounters. The types of events that render turtles in need of aid in the marine environment are varied and include PO 00000 Frm 00019 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 15801 cold-stunning, disease and health related issues, entanglement in and impingement on commercial and recreational fishing gear, ingestion of pollutants or marine debris, and vessel strikes and other traumatic injuries, including shark attacks. Typically, these events are reported through a NMFS dedicated phone line or through the state’s STSSN phone line for reporting sick, injured, entangled or stranded wildlife. Alternately, the STSSN Responder may encounter a turtle in the water when acting in the course of official duties. On rare occasions, a sick, injured or entangled sea turtle is reported by the public and an immediate response is necessary to prevent further injury or death to the turtle. In these rare events, NMFS grants authority and gives specific instructions to the person at the scene to safely and properly aid the sea turtle. When a turtle is encountered in the water, the STSSN Responder determines whether the turtle is alive or dead. The response protocol is based upon this determination. For live turtles, the treatment is, in part, based upon the circumstances surrounding the event. For example, when water temperatures drop below a certain level, sea turtles can become lethargic or comatose, a condition known as cold-stunning. For these cold stun cases, the most immediate response is to remove the turtle from the water, apply a moisture emollient around the nostrils and eyes to prevent the membranes from drying out, provide a cover for the animal and transport it to a rehabilitation facility for veterinary care. For entanglement events, removal from the water is not always the best response and can result in further injury. The STSSN Responder assesses the amount and type of gear that is involved and examines where and how the turtle is entangled in the gear. The STSSN Responder also looks for injuries associated with the entanglement and observes the turtle’s behavior (e.g., lethargic, energetic). Based on the assessment and examination, and given concern for their own safety, the STSSN Responder attempts to remove any gear that can be removed without further injury to the turtle. If the animal can be brought on board a vessel without further injury, the STSSN Responder attempts to remove all external gear and treat the turtle for any associated injuries. If the turtle’s injuries are severe, and it is logistically possible, the turtle is transported to shore for transfer to a rehabilitation facility for veterinary care. During transport, the turtle is kept shaded and kept moist. For live turtles E:\FR\FM\29MRP1.SGM 29MRP1 15802 Federal Register / Vol. 70, No. 59 / Tuesday, March 29, 2005 / Proposed Rules that are not injured but need resuscitation, procedures specified in 50 CFR 223.206(d)(1) are followed. Resuscitation and rehabilitation increases the turtle’s chance of survival after being released. For dead specimens found in the marine environment, the STSSN Responder records data and either leaves the carcass in the water with a mark on the animal or salvages the specimen for further examination or for scientific or educational purposes (for example, data are collected to determine population sex and age structure, and etiology of diseases). Summary The STSSN was established in response to the need to better understand threats to sea turtles in the marine environment and to provide aid to stranded sea turtles, or dispose of a dead endangered sea turtle, or salvage a dead endangered sea turtle that may be useful for scientific and educational purposes. Maintaining a stranding network is identified as a recovery task in all federal sea turtle recovery plans. The extensive training requirements, comprehensive data collection, and frequent review and evaluation of these programs, satisfy the requirements described for individual directed research permits. Actions taken by stranding and entanglement networks improve survivability of sick, injured, entangled or stranded turtles and improve our knowledge about population structure, the etiology of disease, environmental stressors and manmade threats in the marine environment. The proposed rule would authorize activities that clearly provide a bona fide and desirable benefit to the enhancement and survival of endangered sea turtles. This proposed rule would not authorize incidental take. The activities described are limited to responding to a sea turtle stranding or death that has occurred incidental to a human activity and responding to a stranding or death due to natural causes. NMFS is requesting comment on this proposed action. Copies of the draft Environmental Assessment are available (see ADDRESSES). Classification This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order 12866. This action does not contain new reporting or recordkeeping requirements. This proposed rule does not duplicate, overlap or conflict with other Federal rules. VerDate jul<14>2003 16:56 Mar 28, 2005 Jkt 205001 This proposed rule does not limit state policymaking or preempt state law and, therefore, does not contain policies with federalism implications under Executive Order 13132. The Assistant General Counsel for Legislation and Regulation of the Department of Commerce certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration that this proposed rule, if adopted, will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small businesses, organizations, or governments pursuant to the Regulatory Flexibility Act, 5 U.S.C. 601 et seq. Activities authorized under this proposed rule authorize a suite of activities that may be taken at the discretion of the STSSN Responder. Proscriptive activities are limited to safe handling protocols for live sea turtles described at 50 CFR 223.206(d)(1). These protocols were most recently updated and authorized through separate rulemaking (66 FR 67495, December 31, 2001). The activities authorized under this proposed rule will only affect STSSN Responders and will not constitute any additional burden to small businesses, organizations, or governments. Dated: March 23, 2005. Rebecca Lent, Deputy Assisstant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 222 Administrative practice and procedure, Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements. For the reasons set forth in the preamble, 50 CFR part 222 is proposed to be amended as follows: PART 222—GENERAL ENDANGERED AND THREATENED MARINE SPECIES 1. The authority citation for 50 CFR part 222 continues to read as follows: Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.; 16 U.S.C. 742a et seq.; 31 U.S.C. 9701. 2. In subpart C, § 222.310 is added to read as follows: § 222.310 Permit authority for designated agents and employees of specified Federal and state agencies. (a) This section constitutes a programmatic permit, pursuant to 16 U.S.C. 1539(a)(1)(A), that authorizes activities by agents and employees of Federal and state agencies, as described in paragraph (b) of this section, to aid stranded endangered sea turtles, and to salvage, collect data from, and dispose of, dead carcasses of endangered sea turtles in the marine environment. For PO 00000 Frm 00020 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 purposes of this section, ’stranded’ means endangered sea turtles, in the marine environment, that are alive but sick, injured, or entangled. (b) If any member of any endangered species of sea turtle is found stranded or dead in the marine environment, any agent or employee of the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Coast Guard, or any other Federal land or water management agency, or any agent or employee of a state agency responsible for fish and wildlife who is designated by his or her agency for such purposes, may, when acting in the course of his or her official duties, take such endangered sea turtles if such taking is necessary to aid a stranded sea turtle, or dispose of or salvage a dead sea turtle, or collect data from a dead sea turtle which may be useful for scientific and educational purposes. Live turtles will be handled as described in § 223.206(d)(1). Whenever possible, live sea turtles shall be returned to their aquatic environment as soon as possible. The following data collection activities for live turtles while they are in the marine environment are allowed: (1) Turtles may be flipper and passive integrated transponder (PIT) tagged, prior to release. Flipper tags would be applied to the trailing edge of either the front or rear flippers with standard tagging applicators after the tagging area has been cleaned with alcohol or iodine solution. PIT tags would be subcutaneously inserted after cleaning the insertion site with alcohol or iodine solution. Before application of flipper tags or insertion of PIT tags all flippers and the neck/shoulder area will be examined and scanned for the presence of any pre-existing flipper or PIT tags. (2) Turtles may also be weighed, measured, and photographed prior to release. (c) Every action shall be reported in writing to the Assistant Administrator, or authorized representative, via the agency or institution designated by the state to record such events. Reports shall contain the following information: (1) Name and position of the official or employee involved; (2) Description of the sea turtle(s) involved including species and condition of the animal; (3) When applicable, description of entangling gear, its location on the turtle, and the amount of gear left on the turtle at release; (4) Method, date and location of disposal of the sea turtle(s), including, if applicable, where the sea turtle(s) has been retained in captivity; and E:\FR\FM\29MRP1.SGM 29MRP1 Federal Register / Vol. 70, No. 59 / Tuesday, March 29, 2005 / Proposed Rules (5) Such other information as the Assistant Administrator, or authorized representative, may require. [FR Doc. 05–6187 Filed 3–28–05; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–S DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 648 [Docket No. 050314072–5072–01; I.D. 030705D] RIN 0648–AS33 Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Northeast (NE) Multispecies Fishery; Framework Adjustment 40–B (FW 40B) Environmental Assessment (EA) are available from Paul J. Howard, Executive Director, New England Fishery Management Council, 50 Water Street, The Tannery - Mill 2, Newburyport, MA 01950. Written comments regarding the burden-hour estimates or other aspects of the collection-of-information requirements contained in this rule should be submitted to the Regional Administrator at the address above and to David Rostker, Office of Management and Budget (OMB), by e-mail at DavidlRotsker@omb.eop.gov, or fax to (202) 395–7285. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Douglas W. Christel, Fishery Policy Analyst, (978) 281–9141, fax (978) 281– 9135. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: AGENCY: Background SUMMARY: NMFS proposes regulations to implement measures in FW 40B to the NE Multispecies Fishery Management Plan (FMP). FW 40B was developed by the New England Fishery Management Council (Council) to modify existing effort control programs implemented under Amendment 13 to the FMP to improve the effectiveness of these programs and to create additional opportunities for commercial fishing vessels in the fishery to target healthy groundfish stocks. In addition, this action includes measures that would increase the information available to assess groundfish bycatch in the herring fishery. DATES: Comments must be received on or before April 18, 2005. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by any of the following methods: • E-mail: FW40B@NOAA.gov. Include in the subject line the following: ‘‘Comments on the Proposed Rule for Groundfish Framework 40B.’’ • Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: http:/ /www.regulations.gov. • Mail: Paper, disk, or CD-ROM comments should be sent to Patricia A. Kurkul, Regional Administrator, National Marine Fisheries Service, One Blackburn Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. Mark the outside of the envelope, ‘‘Comments on the Proposed Rule for Groundfish Framework 40B.’’ • Fax: (978) 281–9135. Copies of FW 40B, its Regulatory Impact Review (RIR), Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA), and the The Council developed Amendment 13 in order to bring the FMP into conformance with all MagnusonStevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) requirements, including ending overfishing and rebuilding all overfished groundfish stocks. Amendment 13 was partially approved by the Secretary of Commerce on March 18, 2004. A final rule implementing the approved measures in the amendment was published April 27, 2004 (69 FR 22906) and became effective May 1, 2004. Amendment 13 contained a suite of management measures to reduce fishing mortality on stocks that are either overfished, or where overfishing is occurring. For several stocks, the mortality targets adopted in Amendment 13 represented substantial reductions from the previous levels. For other stocks, the Amendment 13 mortality targets were at or above previous levels. Because of the mixedstock nature of the NE multispecies fishery, management measures to reduce mortality on overfished stocks adopted in Amendment 13 are expected to reduce fishing mortality more than is necessary on other, healthy stocks. As a result, yield from healthy stocks may be sacrificed and the FMP may not provide for the fishery to harvest the optimum yield (OY), the amount of fish that will provide the greatest overall benefit to the Nation, from all stocks managed under the FMP for a given year. Amendment 13 categorized the DAS allocated to each NE multispecies permit as Category A, B (Regular), B (Reserve), or C DAS. Category A DAS can be used to target any regulated groundfish stock, while Category B DAS are to be used only to target healthy National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments. VerDate jul<14>2003 16:56 Mar 28, 2005 Jkt 205001 PO 00000 Frm 00021 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 15803 groundfish stocks. Category C DAS cannot be used unless authorized some time in the future. The regulations implementing Amendment 13 created one opportunity to use Category B DAS: A SAP designed to target GB yellowtail flounder in CA II. Framework Adjustment 40A (FW 40A), implemented November 19, 2004 (69 FR 67780), provided additional opportunities to use Category B DAS by creating two SAP’s to target GB haddock and a pilot program designed for using Category B (Regular) DAS outside of a SAP (i.e., the Regular B DAS Pilot Program). These programs are intended to allow vessels to target healthy groundfish stocks without compromising the rebuilding programs of other groundfish stocks, thus enabling the industry to harvest OY from the healthy stocks. Since the implementation of Amendment 13 and submission of FW 40A, several issues have been raised concerning the overall approach to controlling effort. The primary purpose of FW 40B is to improve the effectiveness of the Amendment 13 effort control program, including the opportunities developed to target healthy stocks and other measures to facilitate adaptation to the Amendment 13 effort reductions. Proposed Measures FW 40B proposes 12 specific management measures, as described here. 1. DAS Transfer Program Modifications Amendment 13 created a DAS Transfer Program, which allows for the permanent exchange of DAS between vessels with limited access NE multispecies permits. Exchanges of DAS through this program are subject to a number of restrictions that govern which vessels can exchange DAS, and what happens to the other permits of the vessel that is selling its DAS to another vessel. As adopted in Amendment 13, Category A and B DAS that are permanently exchanged through the DAS Transfer Program are reduced by 40 percent, while Category C DAS are reduced by 90 percent. This reduction in DAS exchanged through the DAS Transfer Program is commonly referred to as a conservation tax. FW 40B would reduce the conservation tax on Category A or B DAS that are permanently exchanged through the DAS Transfer Program to 20 percent. The conservation tax on Category C DAS exchanged under this program would not be affected by this action. Under the existing DAS Transfer Program regulations, vessels involved in E:\FR\FM\29MRP1.SGM 29MRP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 70, Number 59 (Tuesday, March 29, 2005)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 15799-15803]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 05-6187]



[[Page 15800]]

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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 222

[Docket No. 050224044-5044-01; I.D. 092304A]
RIN 0648-AS57


Sea Turtle Conservation; Exceptions to Taking Prohibitions for 
Endangered Sea Turtles

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

ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: NMFS proposes to allow any agent or employee of NMFS, the U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the U.S. Coast Guard, or any other 
Federal land or water management agency, or any agent or employee of a 
state agency responsible for fish and wildlife who, when acting in the 
course of his or her official duties, is a member of the Sea Turtle 
Stranding and Salvage Network (STSSN), to take endangered sea turtles 
encountered in the marine environment if such taking is necessary to 
aid a stranded endangered sea turtle, or dispose a dead endangered sea 
turtle, or salvage a dead endangered sea turtle that may be useful for 
scientific and educational purposes. This action is necessary to 
provide equal conservation and protection measures to stranded 
endangered sea turtles as is afforded for threatened sea turtles under 
50 CFR 223.206.

DATES: Comments on this action are requested, and must be received at 
the appropriate address, e-mail, or fax number (ADDRESSES) by no later 
than 5 p.m., eastern daylight time, on April 28, 2005.

ADDRESSES: Written comments on this action or requests for copies of 
the draft Environmental Assessment should be addressed to Michael 
Payne, Chief, Marine Mammal Division, NMFS Office of Protected 
Resources, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD, 20910; or by fax 
(301) 427-2522, or by e-mail at: Seaturtle.STSSN@noaa.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Therese Conant, phone: 301-713-1401, 
fax: 301-427-2523.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    All sea turtles that occur in U.S. waters are listed as either 
endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Kemp's 
ridley (Lepidochelys kempii), leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), and 
hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) sea turtles are listed as 
endangered. Loggerhead (Caretta caretta), green (Chelonia mydas), and 
olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) sea turtles are listed as 
threatened, except for breeding colony populations of green turtles in 
Florida and on the Pacific coast of Mexico and breeding colony 
populations of olive ridleys on the Pacific coast of Mexico which are 
listed as endangered. NMFS and the FWS share jurisdictional 
responsibility for sea turtles under the ESA. FWS has responsibility in 
the terrestrial environment and NMFS has responsibility in the marine 
environment.
    Under the ESA and its implementing regulations, taking endangered 
sea turtles - even incidentally - is prohibited. The ESA allows take of 
threatened species; however, section 4(d) of the ESA allows NMFS to 
implement regulations for the conservation of threatened species. NMFS 
implemented a section 4(d) regulation that extended the take 
prohibitions to threatened sea turtles with exceptions identified in 50 
CFR 223.206. The take of endangered species may be authorized by an 
incidental take statement pursuant to section 7 or a permit or 
programmatic permit regulation issued pursuant to section 10 of the 
ESA.
    NMFS implemented regulations (50 CFR 223.206) pursuant to section 
4(d) of the ESA to allow appropriate handling of sick, injured, 
entangled, or dead threatened sea turtles found in the marine 
environment. Activities related to responding to sick, injured, 
entangled, and dead turtles have been ongoing for over 30 years and 
became institutionalized in 1980 with the establishment of the NMFS' 
STSSN. The STSSN consists of agents or employees of NMFS, the FWS, the 
U.S. Coast Guard, or any other Federal land or water management agency, 
or any agent or employee of a state agency responsible for fish and 
wildlife (hereinafter referred to as the STSSN Responder). Each state 
participating in the STSSN has an ESA section 6 agreement with the FWS. 
The FWS grants authority to each cooperating state for permitting land-
based activities (i.e., on the beach and in holding facilities) related 
to the STSSN. FWS also implemented regulations to allow any employee or 
agent of FWS, NMFS, or a state conservation agency, to aid, dispose, 
salvage or humanely remove endangered species that constitute a 
demonstrable threat to human safety (50 CFR 17.21). NMFS currently has 
ESA section 6 agreements with only 10 states/territories: Florida, 
Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland, New Jersey, New 
York, Massachusetts, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands (note: On 
June 11, 1997, NMFS entered into a Memorandum of Agreement with the 
California Department of Fish and Game, Office of Oil Spill Prevention 
and Response to aid sick, injured or stranded sea turtles impacted by 
oil and other hazardous material spills) . The STSSN encompasses all 
U.S. states and territories. The ESA does not allow exceptions to 
takings for endangered species through section 4(d). Therefore, NMFS 
proposes to grant authority under section 10(a)(1)(A) to provide for 
the aid, collection, and disposition of, stranded endangered sea 
turtles found in the marine environment. By definition, the term 
'stranded' includes live endangered sea turtles that are sick, injured, 
or entangled and dead endangered sea turtles found in the marine 
environment. Because the activities of the STSSN are similar in nature 
and scope, NMFS proposes to issue a programmatic permit by regulation 
pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(A). Implementing this section 10(a)(1)(A) 
action would provide consistency with FWS regulations which allow such 
activities on land as described in 50 CFR 17.21.
    The STSSN was formally established in the southeastern United 
States and Gulf of Mexico in 1980 and in Hawaii in 1982. The NMFS 
Southwest Region California Marine Mammal Stranding Network (CMMSN) has 
responded to sea turtle strandings in California since 1983. 
Maintaining an active stranding network has been identified in each of 
the ESA section 4 sea turtle recovery plans developed jointly by FWS 
and NMFS as a task necessary for the conservation and recovery of 
listed sea turtles. The purpose of the STSSN is to document dead sea 
turtles, salvage specimens, and aid sick, injured, or entangled sea 
turtles that strand in coastal areas under U.S. jurisdiction. State 
agencies that hold an ESA section 6 agreement with FWS and/or NMFS have 
designated staff or have developed memorandums of understanding (MOU) 
with academic institutions or other state-run institutions (e.g., 
aquaria) to oversee the STSSN. In some cases where NMFS does not have a 
direct MOU with a STSSN participant within a state, NMFS has applied 
directly to the FWS to cover STSSN activities (permit number: 
TED697823-2). The STSSN is organized under a national coordinator

[[Page 15801]]

and consists of a coordinator for each state as well as trained 
volunteers and municipal, state and Federal employees and their 
designated agents operating under the direction of the state and 
national coordinator. Each state oversees and is responsible for 
collecting data under their STSSN program, except for California where 
NMFS oversees the program. In response to the high number of 
leatherbacks found entangled in fishing gear (primarily pot gear) along 
the U.S. northeast Atlantic coast, NMFS established the Northeast 
Atlantic Coast Sea Turtle Disentanglement Network (STDN) in 2002. The 
STDN is considered a component of the larger STSSN program, and the 
NMFS Northeast Regional Office oversees the STDN program.

Training Requirements for the STSSN

    STSSN Responders are highly experienced personnel who have 
undertaken extensive training through NMFS and/or state STSSN programs. 
The U.S. Coast Guard maintains a separate professional training program 
for responding to events involving protected resources. However, U.S. 
Coast Guard staff often attend STSSN meetings and training workshops 
held by states. Individual state STSSNs conduct annual training and 
refresher workshops for authorized STSSN Responders. STSSN Responders 
who receive additional training may also perform necropsies on sea 
turtle carcasses to determine the general state of health prior to 
death, sex, and document any abnormalities that may have contributed to 
the mortality of the animal. It is particularly important to undertake 
necropsies during an unexplained mass mortality event. Comprehensive 
disentanglement guidelines and sea turtle disentanglement tool kits 
were disseminated to the STSSN in October, 2003. In addition, NMFS 
holds regular meetings with the state STSSN coordinators to exchange 
information and develop recommendations for improving the STSSN.

Reporting Requirements for the STSSN

    The state STSSN programs collect the following information: name 
and address of observer, date, stranding location, species 
identification, state of decomposition; description of any obvious 
wounds, injuries or abnormalities; standard carapace measurements; and 
disposition. Photographs are taken whenever possible to verify species 
identification. Data are recorded on standardized report forms which 
are submitted to the state coordinator and then to the national STSSN 
coordinator at the NMFS Southeast Fisheries Science Center or the NMFS 
Pacific Islands Science Center.
    For disentanglement events, the following information is collected: 
name and type of reporting vessel; vessel cell phone number or radio 
call channel; reporter name and home phone number; date/time of report 
(and/or sighting event); location (latitude and longitude); description 
of turtle for species identification; status of turtle (alive or dead); 
description of entangling gear (rope, line, buoys, colors, ID numbers); 
location of entangling gear on turtle (head, flippers, single wrap, 
multiple wraps); description of any visible injuries; and weather/sea 
conditions at the scene.
    NMFS reviews the information collected and submitted through the 
states in the STSSN on a monthly basis for data quality control and 
assesses, in coordination with the states, the effectiveness of the 
program on a yearly basis.

Types of Activities Conducted Under the STSSN

    Tens of thousands of sea turtles have been reported through the 
STSSN since its inception. A portion of these reports have been 
endangered sea turtles found in the marine environment. Cumulatively, 
from 1993-2002, the STSSN responded to approximately 1,000 endangered 
sea turtles in the marine environment in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of 
Mexico. The species composition of these events in the marine 
environment was: 99 leatherbacks, 45 hawksbills, 223 Kemp's ridleys, 
and 633 green turtles (note: all green turtles are considered 
endangered because breeding colony origin is largely unknown). Thirty-
seven percent of these incidents were live encounters. In Hawaii, for 
the same time period, approximately 20 endangered sea turtles were 
responded to in the marine environment. The species composition of 
these events was approximately split between hawksbill and olive 
ridleys (note: all olive ridleys are considered endangered because 
breeding colony origin is largely unknown). Of these events, over half 
were live encounters. In California, for the same time period, the 
STSSN responded to 12 endangered sea turtles in the marine environment. 
The species composition of these events was 4 leatherbacks, 2 olive 
ridleys, and 6 green turtles. Of the total 12, half were live 
encounters.
    The types of events that render turtles in need of aid in the 
marine environment are varied and include cold-stunning, disease and 
health related issues, entanglement in and impingement on commercial 
and recreational fishing gear, ingestion of pollutants or marine 
debris, and vessel strikes and other traumatic injuries, including 
shark attacks. Typically, these events are reported through a NMFS 
dedicated phone line or through the state's STSSN phone line for 
reporting sick, injured, entangled or stranded wildlife. Alternately, 
the STSSN Responder may encounter a turtle in the water when acting in 
the course of official duties. On rare occasions, a sick, injured or 
entangled sea turtle is reported by the public and an immediate 
response is necessary to prevent further injury or death to the turtle. 
In these rare events, NMFS grants authority and gives specific 
instructions to the person at the scene to safely and properly aid the 
sea turtle.
    When a turtle is encountered in the water, the STSSN Responder 
determines whether the turtle is alive or dead. The response protocol 
is based upon this determination. For live turtles, the treatment is, 
in part, based upon the circumstances surrounding the event. For 
example, when water temperatures drop below a certain level, sea 
turtles can become lethargic or comatose, a condition known as cold-
stunning. For these cold stun cases, the most immediate response is to 
remove the turtle from the water, apply a moisture emollient around the 
nostrils and eyes to prevent the membranes from drying out, provide a 
cover for the animal and transport it to a rehabilitation facility for 
veterinary care. For entanglement events, removal from the water is not 
always the best response and can result in further injury. The STSSN 
Responder assesses the amount and type of gear that is involved and 
examines where and how the turtle is entangled in the gear. The STSSN 
Responder also looks for injuries associated with the entanglement and 
observes the turtle's behavior (e.g., lethargic, energetic). Based on 
the assessment and examination, and given concern for their own safety, 
the STSSN Responder attempts to remove any gear that can be removed 
without further injury to the turtle. If the animal can be brought on 
board a vessel without further injury, the STSSN Responder attempts to 
remove all external gear and treat the turtle for any associated 
injuries. If the turtle's injuries are severe, and it is logistically 
possible, the turtle is transported to shore for transfer to a 
rehabilitation facility for veterinary care. During transport, the 
turtle is kept shaded and kept moist. For live turtles

[[Page 15802]]

that are not injured but need resuscitation, procedures specified in 50 
CFR 223.206(d)(1) are followed. Resuscitation and rehabilitation 
increases the turtle's chance of survival after being released.
    For dead specimens found in the marine environment, the STSSN 
Responder records data and either leaves the carcass in the water with 
a mark on the animal or salvages the specimen for further examination 
or for scientific or educational purposes (for example, data are 
collected to determine population sex and age structure, and etiology 
of diseases).

Summary

    The STSSN was established in response to the need to better 
understand threats to sea turtles in the marine environment and to 
provide aid to stranded sea turtles, or dispose of a dead endangered 
sea turtle, or salvage a dead endangered sea turtle that may be useful 
for scientific and educational purposes. Maintaining a stranding 
network is identified as a recovery task in all federal sea turtle 
recovery plans. The extensive training requirements, comprehensive data 
collection, and frequent review and evaluation of these programs, 
satisfy the requirements described for individual directed research 
permits. Actions taken by stranding and entanglement networks improve 
survivability of sick, injured, entangled or stranded turtles and 
improve our knowledge about population structure, the etiology of 
disease, environmental stressors and manmade threats in the marine 
environment. The proposed rule would authorize activities that clearly 
provide a bona fide and desirable benefit to the enhancement and 
survival of endangered sea turtles.
    This proposed rule would not authorize incidental take. The 
activities described are limited to responding to a sea turtle 
stranding or death that has occurred incidental to a human activity and 
responding to a stranding or death due to natural causes. NMFS is 
requesting comment on this proposed action. Copies of the draft 
Environmental Assessment are available (see ADDRESSES).

Classification

    This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.
    This action does not contain new reporting or recordkeeping 
requirements.
    This proposed rule does not duplicate, overlap or conflict with 
other Federal rules.
    This proposed rule does not limit state policymaking or preempt 
state law and, therefore, does not contain policies with federalism 
implications under Executive Order 13132.
    The Assistant General Counsel for Legislation and Regulation of the 
Department of Commerce certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of 
the Small Business Administration that this proposed rule, if adopted, 
will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of 
small businesses, organizations, or governments pursuant to the 
Regulatory Flexibility Act, 5 U.S.C. 601 et seq. Activities authorized 
under this proposed rule authorize a suite of activities that may be 
taken at the discretion of the STSSN Responder. Proscriptive activities 
are limited to safe handling protocols for live sea turtles described 
at 50 CFR 223.206(d)(1). These protocols were most recently updated and 
authorized through separate rulemaking (66 FR 67495, December 31, 
2001). The activities authorized under this proposed rule will only 
affect STSSN Responders and will not constitute any additional burden 
to small businesses, organizations, or governments.

    Dated: March 23, 2005.
Rebecca Lent,
Deputy Assisstant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National 
Marine Fisheries Service.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 222

    Administrative practice and procedure, Endangered and threatened 
species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.
    For the reasons set forth in the preamble, 50 CFR part 222 is 
proposed to be amended as follows:

PART 222--GENERAL ENDANGERED AND THREATENED MARINE SPECIES

    1. The authority citation for 50 CFR part 222 continues to read as 
follows:

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.; 16 U.S.C. 742a et seq.; 31 
U.S.C. 9701.
    2. In subpart C, Sec.  222.310 is added to read as follows:


Sec.  222.310  Permit authority for designated agents and employees of 
specified Federal and state agencies.

    (a) This section constitutes a programmatic permit, pursuant to 16 
U.S.C. 1539(a)(1)(A), that authorizes activities by agents and 
employees of Federal and state agencies, as described in paragraph (b) 
of this section, to aid stranded endangered sea turtles, and to 
salvage, collect data from, and dispose of, dead carcasses of 
endangered sea turtles in the marine environment. For purposes of this 
section, 'stranded' means endangered sea turtles, in the marine 
environment, that are alive but sick, injured, or entangled.
    (b) If any member of any endangered species of sea turtle is found 
stranded or dead in the marine environment, any agent or employee of 
the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, 
the U.S. Coast Guard, or any other Federal land or water management 
agency, or any agent or employee of a state agency responsible for fish 
and wildlife who is designated by his or her agency for such purposes, 
may, when acting in the course of his or her official duties, take such 
endangered sea turtles if such taking is necessary to aid a stranded 
sea turtle, or dispose of or salvage a dead sea turtle, or collect data 
from a dead sea turtle which may be useful for scientific and 
educational purposes. Live turtles will be handled as described in 
Sec.  223.206(d)(1). Whenever possible, live sea turtles shall be 
returned to their aquatic environment as soon as possible. The 
following data collection activities for live turtles while they are in 
the marine environment are allowed:
    (1) Turtles may be flipper and passive integrated transponder (PIT) 
tagged, prior to release. Flipper tags would be applied to the trailing 
edge of either the front or rear flippers with standard tagging 
applicators after the tagging area has been cleaned with alcohol or 
iodine solution. PIT tags would be subcutaneously inserted after 
cleaning the insertion site with alcohol or iodine solution. Before 
application of flipper tags or insertion of PIT tags all flippers and 
the neck/shoulder area will be examined and scanned for the presence of 
any pre-existing flipper or PIT tags.
    (2) Turtles may also be weighed, measured, and photographed prior 
to release.
    (c) Every action shall be reported in writing to the Assistant 
Administrator, or authorized representative, via the agency or 
institution designated by the state to record such events. Reports 
shall contain the following information:
    (1) Name and position of the official or employee involved;
    (2) Description of the sea turtle(s) involved including species and 
condition of the animal;
    (3) When applicable, description of entangling gear, its location 
on the turtle, and the amount of gear left on the turtle at release;
    (4) Method, date and location of disposal of the sea turtle(s), 
including, if applicable, where the sea turtle(s) has been retained in 
captivity; and

[[Page 15803]]

    (5) Such other information as the Assistant Administrator, or 
authorized representative, may require.
[FR Doc. 05-6187 Filed 3-28-05; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-S