Endangered and Threatened Wildlife; Notice of 90-Day Finding on a Petition to List the Ribbon Seal as a Threatened or Endangered Species, 16617-16619 [E8-6432]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 61 / Friday, March 28, 2008 / Proposed Rules date provide sufficient information to begin the scoping process. This assessment is supported by the public comments submitted on the 2005 NPRM that led to the 2006 Rule (70 FR 51414, August 30, 2005). As noted above, NHTSA plans to publish a separate scoping notice in the Federal Register to provide further information and guidance to facilitate public participation in the scoping process. Based on comments received during scoping, NHTSA expects to prepare a draft EIS for public comment and a final EIS to support a final rule later this year. Issued: March 21, 2008. Ronald Medford, Senior Associate Administrator for Vehicle Safety. [FR Doc. E8–6227 Filed 3–27–08; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4910–59–M DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 216 [Docket No. 071105649–8028–01] RIN 0648–AW22 Marine Mammals; Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Advance notice of proposed rulemaking; extension of comment period. AGENCY: rmajette on DSK29S0YB1PROD with PROPOSALS SUMMARY: On January 31, 2008, NMFS published an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) soliciting public comments on revisions to its implementing regulations governing the taking of stranded marine mammals. Written comments were due by March 31, 2008. NMFS has decided to allow additional time for submission of public comments on this action. DATES: The public comment period for this action has been extended for 30 days. Written comments must be received or postmarked by April 30, 2008. You may submit comments by any one of the following methods: • Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http:// www.regulations.gov; • Fax: 301–427–2522, Attn: Chief, Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle ADDRESSES: VerDate Mar<15>2010 11:16 Mar 09, 2011 Jkt 223001 Conservation Division (Stranding Regulations ANPR); or • Mail: Chief, Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Conservation Division, Attn: Stranding Regulations ANPR, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, 1315 EastWest Highway, Room 13635, Silver Spring, MD 20910. Instructions: All comments received are part of the public record and will generally be posted to http:// www.regulations.gov without change. All Personal Identifying Information (for example, name, address, etc.) voluntarily submitted by the commenter may be publicly accessible. Do not submit Confidential Business Information or otherwise sensitive or protected information. NMFS will accept anonymous comments. Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats only. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sarah Howlett at (301) 713–2322. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The ANPR, published on January 31, 2008 (73 FR 5786), is available upon request and can be found on the NMFS Office of Protected Resources web site: http:// www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/health/ mmpalanpr.htm. Dated: March 24, 2008. David Cottingham, Chief, Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. E8–6443 Filed 3–27–08; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–S DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR 223 and 224 [Docket No. 080318441–8467–01] RIN 0648–AV36 Endangered and Threatened Wildlife; Notice of 90–Day Finding on a Petition to List the Ribbon Seal as a Threatened or Endangered Species National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Department of Commerce. ACTION: Notice of a 90–day petition finding; request for information; and initiation of status reviews of ribbon, bearded, ringed, and spotted seals. AGENCY: SUMMARY: We (NMFS) announce a 90– day finding on a petition to list the ribbon seal (Histriophoca fasciata) as a PO 00000 Frm 00043 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 16617 threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). We find that the petition presents substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted. Therefore, we initiate a status review of the ribbon seal to determine if listing under the ESA is warranted. Concurrently, we also initiate a status review of the other ice seal species: bearded (Erignathus barbatus), ringed (Phoca fasciata), and spotted (Phoca largha). To ensure these status reviews are comprehensive, we solicit scientific and commercial information regarding all of these ice seal species. DATES: Information and comments must be submitted to NMFS by May 27, 2008. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, information, or data, identified by the Regulation Identifier Number (RIN), 0648–AV36, by any of the following methods: Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http:// www.regulations.gov. Mail: Assistant Regional Administrator, Protected Resources Division, NMFS, Alaska Regional Office, P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802. Facsimile (fax): 907–586–7012. Instructions: All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally beposted to http:// www.regulations.gov without change. All Personal Identifying Information (for example, name, address, etc.) voluntarily submitted by the commenter may be publicly accessible. Do not submit Confidential Business Information or otherwise sensitive or protected information. NMFS will accept anonymous comments. Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats only. Interested persons may obtain a copy of the ribbon seal petition from the above address or online from the NMFS Alaska Region website: http:// www.fakr.noaa.gov/protectedresources/ seals/ice.htm. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: James Wilder, NMFS Alaska Region, (907) 271 6620; Kaja Brix, NMFS Alaska Region, (907) 586–7235; or Marta Nammack, NMFS, Office of Protected Resources, (301) 713–1401. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Section 4(b)(3)(A) of the ESA of 1973, as amended (U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), requires, to the maximum extent practicable, that within 90 days of receipt of a petition to designate a species as threatened or endangered, the Secretary of Commerce E:\ERIC\28MRP1.SGM 28MRP1 rmajette on DSK29S0YB1PROD with PROPOSALS 16618 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 61 / Friday, March 28, 2008 / Proposed Rules (Secretary) make a finding on whether that petition presents substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted. Joint ESAimplementing regulations between NMFS and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (50 CFR 424.14) define ‘‘substantial information’’ as the amount of information that would lead a reasonable person to believe that the measure proposed in the petition may be warranted. In making a finding on a petition to list a species, the Secretary must consider whether the petition: (i) clearly indicates the administrative measure recommended and gives the scientific and any common name of the species involved; (ii) contains a detailed narrative justification for the recommended measure, describing, based on available information, past and present numbers and distribution of the species involved and any threats faced by the species; (iii) provides information regarding the status of the species over all or a significant portion of its range; and (iv) is accompanied by the appropriate supporting documentation in the form of bibliographic references, reprints of pertinent publications, copies of reports or letters from authorities, and maps (50 CFR 424.14(b)(2)). To the maximum extent practicable, this finding is to be made within 90 days of the date the petition was received, and the finding is to be published promptly in the Federal Register. When it is found that substantial information is presented in the petition, we are required to promptly commence a review of the status of the species concerned. Within 1 year of receipt of the petition, we shall conclude the review with a finding as to whether or not the petitioned action is warranted. Under the ESA, a listing determination may address a species, subspecies, or a distinct population segment (DPS) of any vertebrate species which interbreeds when mature (16 U.S.C. 1532(15)). A joint NOAA-USFWS policy clarifies the agencies’ interpretation of the phrase ‘‘distinct population segment of any species of vertebrate fish or wildlife’’ (ESA section 3(16)) for the purposes of listing, delisting, and reclassifying a species under the ESA (61 FR 4722, February 7, 1996). The joint DPS policy established two criteria that must be met for a population or group of populations to be considered a DPS: (1) the population segment must be discrete in relation to the remainder of the species (or subspecies) to which it belongs; and (2) the population segment must be VerDate Mar<15>2010 11:16 Mar 09, 2011 Jkt 223001 significant to the remainder of the species (or subspecies) to which it belongs. A population segment may be considered discrete if it satisfies either one of the following conditions: (1) it is markedly separated from other populations of the same biological taxon as a consequence of physical, physiological, ecological, or behavioral factors (quantitative measures of genetic or morphological discontinuity may provide evidence of this separation); or (2) it is delimited by international governmental boundaries across which there is a significant difference in exploitation control, habitat management, conservation status, or if regulatory mechanisms exist that are significant in light of section 4(a)(1) of the ESA. If a population is determined to be discrete, the agency must then consider whether it is significant to the taxon to which it belongs. Considerations in evaluating the significance of a discrete population include: (1) persistence of the discrete population in an unusual or unique ecological setting for the taxon; (2) evidence that the loss of the discrete population segment would cause a significant gap in the taxon’s range; (3) evidence that the discrete population segment represents the only surviving natural occurrence of a taxon that may be more abundant elsewhere outside its historical geographic range; or (4) evidence that the discrete population has marked genetic differences from other populations of the species. A species, subspecies, or DPS is ‘‘endangered’’ if it is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range, or ‘‘threatened’’ if it is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range (ESA sections 3(6) and 3(20), respectively). Background On December 20, 2007, we received a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity to list the ribbon seal as an endangered species under the ESA. The petitioner also requested that critical habitat be designated for ribbon seals concurrent with listing under the ESA. The petition states the ribbon seal population is a ‘‘species’’ under the definition of the ESA, with distinctive characteristics, morphology, and mtDNA to be considered its own genus, which is the current accepted taxonomy. The petitioner provides genetic and physiological information to support that ribbon seals are discrete from other pinnipeds of the Arctic shelf region. It is the petitioner’s contention that the ribbon seal faces global extinction in the wild, and therefore, is PO 00000 Frm 00044 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 an endangered species as defined under 16 U.S.C. 1532(6). The petition presents information on (1) ‘‘global warming which is resulting in the rapid melt of the [seals’] sea-ice habitat;’’ (2) ‘‘high harvest levels allowed by the Russian Federation;’’ (3) ‘‘current oil and gas development;’’ (4) ‘‘rising contaminant levels in the Arctic;’’ and (5) ‘‘bycatch mortality and competition for prey resources from commercial fisheries.’’ The petition also presents information on the taxonomy, distribution, habitat requirements, reproduction, diet, natural mortality, and demographics; as well as a discussion of the applicability of the five factors listed under ESA section 4(a)(1). We have reviewed the petition, the literature cited in the petition, and other literature and information available in our files. Based on that literature and information, we find that the petition meets the aforementioned requirements of the regulations under 50 CFR 424.14(b)(2) and, therefore, determine that the petition presents substantial information indicating that the requested listing action may be warranted. It is also our prerogative to broaden the scope of the review if available information indicates such an action is appropriate. In this case, we have also chosen to initiate a status review of the other ice seal species (bearded-Erignathus barbatus, ringed--Phoca fasciata, and spotted--Phoca largha) in the Alaska region that share similar habitat and biological requirements as ribbon seals (Histriophoca fasciata). This status review is not subject to the statutory timelines which govern the ribbon seal status review, as outlined above, and will be completed as agency resources allow. Status Review As a result of this finding, we will commence a status review to determine whether or not listing ribbon seals under the ESA is warranted. We intend that any final action resulting from this status review be as accurate and as effective as possible. Because the ribbon seal is one of three marine mammals in Arctic waters (the other two are polar bears—Ursus maritimus--and walrus— Odobenus rosmarus divergens), which have been petitioned under the ESA in recent years primarily due to the effects of global climate change, we have decided to also initiate a status review of the other ice seals in U.S. waters. These other ice seal species include the bearded, ringed, and spotted seals. Therefore, we are opening a 60–day public comment period to solicit comments, suggestions, and information E:\ERIC\28MRP1.SGM 28MRP1 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 61 / Friday, March 28, 2008 / Proposed Rules from the public, government agencies, the scientific community, industry, and any other interested parties on the status of the ribbon seal and other ice seals throughout their range, including: (1) Information on taxonomy, abundance, reproductive success, age structure, distribution, habitat selection, food habits, population density and trends, habitat trends, and effects of management on ribbon seals and other ice seals; (2) Information on the effects of climate change and sea ice change on the distribution and abundance of ribbon seals, and other ice seals, and their principal prey over the short- and long-term; (3) Information on the effects of other potential threat factors, including oil and gas development, contaminants, hunting, and poaching, on the distribution and abundance of ribbon seals, and other ice seals, and their principal prey over the short- and longterm; (4) Information on management programs for ribbon seal conservation, including mitigation measures related to oil and gas exploration and development, hunting conservation programs, anti-poaching programs, and any other private, tribal, or governmental conservation programs which benefit ribbon seals and other ice seals; and (5) Information relevant to whether any populations of the ice seal species may qualify as distinct population segments. We will base our findings on a review of the best scientific and commercial information available, including all information received during the public comment period. Authority The authority for this action is the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). rmajette on DSK29S0YB1PROD with PROPOSALS BILLING CODE 3510–22–S VerDate Mar<15>2010 11:16 Mar 09, 2011 Jkt 223001 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 300 [Docket No. 080118059–8067–01] RIN 0648–AW41 South Pacific Tuna Fisheries; Establishment of Limits on Entry or Effort in the Purse Seine Fishery in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Advance notice of proposed rulemaking; notification of control date; request for comments. AGENCY: NMFS announces that persons who enter the purse seine fishery in the western and central Pacific Ocean (WCPO), as managed under the South Pacific Tuna Act of 1988 (SPTA), the Western and Central Pacific Convention Implementation Act (WCPFCIA) and other law, after March 28, 2008 (‘‘control date’’), are not guaranteed future participation in the fishery if NMFS decides to revise the criteria and procedures used to process license applications and/or to limit further the number of licenses available in the fishery. NMFS is considering the need to undertake such actions in order to provide greater clarity about the process used and thus help license holders and prospective license applicants in making business decisions, as well as to fulfill the obligations of the United States under international agreements to which it is party. This action does not commit NMFS to revising the criteria and procedures it uses or to establishing a new limit, and it does not prevent any other date or criteria from being selected for eligibility to participate in the fishery. SUMMARY: Comments must be submitted in writing by April 28, 2008. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this advance notice of proposed rulemaking by any of the following methods: • Federal e-Rulemaking portal: http:// www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments. • Mail: William L. Robinson, Regional Administrator, NMFS Pacific Islands Regional Office (PIRO), 1601 Kapiolani Blvd., Suite 1110, Honolulu, HI 96814. Include the identifier ‘‘0648– AW41’’ in the comments. DATES: Dated: March 25, 2008. Samuel D. Rauch III, Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. E8–6432 Filed 3–27–08; 8:45 am] DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE PO 00000 Frm 00045 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 16619 • Fax: 808–973–2941. Include the identifier ‘‘0648–AW41’’ in the comments. Instructions: All comments received are part of the public record and will generally be posted to http:// www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (for example, name and address) voluntarily submitted by the commenter may be publically accessible. Do not submit confidential business information or otherwise sensitive or protected information. NMFS will accept anonymous comments. Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats only. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Tom Graham, NMFS PIRO, 808–944–2219. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background The WCPO purse seine fishery is regulated primarily under the authority of the SPTA (16 U.S.C. 973–973r) via implementing regulations at 50 CFR part 300, subpart D. The SPTA and its implementing regulations implement the terms of a treaty between the United States and 16 Members of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (Treaty on Fisheries between the Governments of Certain Pacific Island States and the Government of the United States of America and its annexes, schedules, and implementing agreements, as amended; hereafter called ‘‘the Treaty’’). The Treaty governs the conduct of U.S. fishing vessel operations in the Treaty Area. The Treaty Area, which is defined at 50 CFR 300.31, encompasses approximately 10 million square miles (26 million square kilometers). The Treaty provides access by U.S. purse seine vessels to a large portion of the WCPO by authorizing, and regulating through a licensing system, U.S. purse seine vessels operations within all or part of the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of the 16 Pacific Island Parties to the Treaty (PIPs). Licenses are issued by the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), based in Honiara, Solomon Islands, which acts as the Treaty administrator on behalf of the PIPs. The Treaty and SPTA and its implementing regulations allow U.S. longline vessels and U.S. vessels fishing for albacore by the trolling method to fish in the high seas portion of the Treaty Area, but such vessels are not subject to the Treaty’s or SPTA’s licensing requirements. The Treaty entered into force in 1988 following ratification by the U.S. and the PIPs. After an initial 5–year E:\ERIC\28MRP1.SGM 28MRP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 73, Number 61 (Friday, March 28, 2008)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 16617-16619]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E8-6432]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR 223 and 224

[Docket No. 080318441-8467-01]
RIN 0648-AV36


Endangered and Threatened Wildlife; Notice of 90-Day Finding on a 
Petition to List the Ribbon Seal as a Threatened or Endangered Species

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

ACTION: Notice of a 90-day petition finding; request for information; 
and initiation of status reviews of ribbon, bearded, ringed, and 
spotted seals.

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

SUMMARY: We (NMFS) announce a 90-day finding on a petition to list the 
ribbon seal (Histriophoca fasciata) as a threatened or endangered 
species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). We find that the 
petition presents substantial scientific or commercial information 
indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted. Therefore, we 
initiate a status review of the ribbon seal to determine if listing 
under the ESA is warranted. Concurrently, we also initiate a status 
review of the other ice seal species: bearded (Erignathus barbatus), 
ringed (Phoca fasciata), and spotted (Phoca largha). To ensure these 
status reviews are comprehensive, we solicit scientific and commercial 
information regarding all of these ice seal species.

DATES: Information and comments must be submitted to NMFS by May 27, 
2008.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, information, or data, identified by 
the Regulation Identifier Number (RIN), 0648-AV36, by any of the 
following methods:
    Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public comments via 
the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov.
    Mail: Assistant Regional Administrator, Protected Resources 
Division, NMFS, Alaska Regional Office, P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 
99802.
    Facsimile (fax): 907-586-7012.
    Instructions: All comments received are a part of the public record 
and will generally beposted to http://www.regulations.gov without 
change. All Personal Identifying Information (for example, name, 
address, etc.) voluntarily submitted by the commenter may be publicly 
accessible. Do not submit Confidential Business Information or 
otherwise sensitive or protected information.
    NMFS will accept anonymous comments. Attachments to electronic 
comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or 
Adobe PDF file formats only.
    Interested persons may obtain a copy of the ribbon seal petition 
from the above address or online from the NMFS Alaska Region website: 
http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/protectedresources/seals/ice.htm.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: James Wilder, NMFS Alaska Region, 
(907) 271 6620; Kaja Brix, NMFS Alaska Region, (907) 586-7235; or Marta 
Nammack, NMFS, Office of Protected Resources, (301) 713-1401.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Section 4(b)(3)(A) of the ESA of 1973, as 
amended (U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), requires, to the maximum extent 
practicable, that within 90 days of receipt of a petition to designate 
a species as threatened or endangered, the Secretary of Commerce

[[Page 16618]]

(Secretary) make a finding on whether that petition presents 
substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the 
petitioned action may be warranted. Joint ESA-implementing regulations 
between NMFS and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (50 CFR 424.14) define 
``substantial information'' as the amount of information that would 
lead a reasonable person to believe that the measure proposed in the 
petition may be warranted.
    In making a finding on a petition to list a species, the Secretary 
must consider whether the petition: (i) clearly indicates the 
administrative measure recommended and gives the scientific and any 
common name of the species involved; (ii) contains a detailed narrative 
justification for the recommended measure, describing, based on 
available information, past and present numbers and distribution of the 
species involved and any threats faced by the species; (iii) provides 
information regarding the status of the species over all or a 
significant portion of its range; and (iv) is accompanied by the 
appropriate supporting documentation in the form of bibliographic 
references, reprints of pertinent publications, copies of reports or 
letters from authorities, and maps (50 CFR 424.14(b)(2)). To the 
maximum extent practicable, this finding is to be made within 90 days 
of the date the petition was received, and the finding is to be 
published promptly in the Federal Register. When it is found that 
substantial information is presented in the petition, we are required 
to promptly commence a review of the status of the species concerned. 
Within 1 year of receipt of the petition, we shall conclude the review 
with a finding as to whether or not the petitioned action is warranted.
    Under the ESA, a listing determination may address a species, 
subspecies, or a distinct population segment (DPS) of any vertebrate 
species which interbreeds when mature (16 U.S.C. 1532(15)). A joint 
NOAA-USFWS policy clarifies the agencies' interpretation of the phrase 
``distinct population segment of any species of vertebrate fish or 
wildlife'' (ESA section 3(16)) for the purposes of listing, delisting, 
and reclassifying a species under the ESA (61 FR 4722, February 7, 
1996). The joint DPS policy established two criteria that must be met 
for a population or group of populations to be considered a DPS: (1) 
the population segment must be discrete in relation to the remainder of 
the species (or subspecies) to which it belongs; and (2) the population 
segment must be significant to the remainder of the species (or 
subspecies) to which it belongs. A population segment may be considered 
discrete if it satisfies either one of the following conditions: (1) it 
is markedly separated from other populations of the same biological 
taxon as a consequence of physical, physiological, ecological, or 
behavioral factors (quantitative measures of genetic or morphological 
discontinuity may provide evidence of this separation); or (2) it is 
delimited by international governmental boundaries across which there 
is a significant difference in exploitation control, habitat 
management, conservation status, or if regulatory mechanisms exist that 
are significant in light of section 4(a)(1) of the ESA. If a population 
is determined to be discrete, the agency must then consider whether it 
is significant to the taxon to which it belongs. Considerations in 
evaluating the significance of a discrete population include: (1) 
persistence of the discrete population in an unusual or unique 
ecological setting for the taxon; (2) evidence that the loss of the 
discrete population segment would cause a significant gap in the 
taxon's range; (3) evidence that the discrete population segment 
represents the only surviving natural occurrence of a taxon that may be 
more abundant elsewhere outside its historical geographic range; or (4) 
evidence that the discrete population has marked genetic differences 
from other populations of the species.
    A species, subspecies, or DPS is ``endangered'' if it is in danger 
of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range, or 
``threatened'' if it is likely to become endangered within the 
foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range 
(ESA sections 3(6) and 3(20), respectively).

Background

    On December 20, 2007, we received a petition from the Center for 
Biological Diversity to list the ribbon seal as an endangered species 
under the ESA. The petitioner also requested that critical habitat be 
designated for ribbon seals concurrent with listing under the ESA. The 
petition states the ribbon seal population is a ``species'' under the 
definition of the ESA, with distinctive characteristics, morphology, 
and mtDNA to be considered its own genus, which is the current accepted 
taxonomy. The petitioner provides genetic and physiological information 
to support that ribbon seals are discrete from other pinnipeds of the 
Arctic shelf region. It is the petitioner's contention that the ribbon 
seal faces global extinction in the wild, and therefore, is an 
endangered species as defined under 16 U.S.C. 1532(6). The petition 
presents information on (1) ``global warming which is resulting in the 
rapid melt of the [seals'] sea-ice habitat;'' (2) ``high harvest levels 
allowed by the Russian Federation;'' (3) ``current oil and gas 
development;'' (4) ``rising contaminant levels in the Arctic;'' and (5) 
``bycatch mortality and competition for prey resources from commercial 
fisheries.'' The petition also presents information on the taxonomy, 
distribution, habitat requirements, reproduction, diet, natural 
mortality, and demographics; as well as a discussion of the 
applicability of the five factors listed under ESA section 4(a)(1).
    We have reviewed the petition, the literature cited in the 
petition, and other literature and information available in our files. 
Based on that literature and information, we find that the petition 
meets the aforementioned requirements of the regulations under 50 CFR 
424.14(b)(2) and, therefore, determine that the petition presents 
substantial information indicating that the requested listing action 
may be warranted.
    It is also our prerogative to broaden the scope of the review if 
available information indicates such an action is appropriate. In this 
case, we have also chosen to initiate a status review of the other ice 
seal species (bearded--Erignathus barbatus, ringed--Phoca fasciata, and 
spotted--Phoca largha) in the Alaska region that share similar habitat 
and biological requirements as ribbon seals (Histriophoca fasciata). 
This status review is not subject to the statutory timelines which 
govern the ribbon seal status review, as outlined above, and will be 
completed as agency resources allow.

Status Review

    As a result of this finding, we will commence a status review to 
determine whether or not listing ribbon seals under the ESA is 
warranted. We intend that any final action resulting from this status 
review be as accurate and as effective as possible. Because the ribbon 
seal is one of three marine mammals in Arctic waters (the other two are 
polar bears--Ursus maritimus--and walrus--Odobenus rosmarus divergens), 
which have been petitioned under the ESA in recent years primarily due 
to the effects of global climate change, we have decided to also 
initiate a status review of the other ice seals in U.S. waters. These 
other ice seal species include the bearded, ringed, and spotted seals. 
Therefore, we are opening a 60-day public comment period to solicit 
comments, suggestions, and information

[[Page 16619]]

from the public, government agencies, the scientific community, 
industry, and any other interested parties on the status of the ribbon 
seal and other ice seals throughout their range, including:
    (1) Information on taxonomy, abundance, reproductive success, age 
structure, distribution, habitat selection, food habits, population 
density and trends, habitat trends, and effects of management on ribbon 
seals and other ice seals;
    (2) Information on the effects of climate change and sea ice change 
on the distribution and abundance of ribbon seals, and other ice seals, 
and their principal prey over the short- and long-term;
    (3) Information on the effects of other potential threat factors, 
including oil and gas development, contaminants, hunting, and poaching, 
on the distribution and abundance of ribbon seals, and other ice seals, 
and their principal prey over the short- and long-term;
    (4) Information on management programs for ribbon seal 
conservation, including mitigation measures related to oil and gas 
exploration and development, hunting conservation programs, anti-
poaching programs, and any other private, tribal, or governmental 
conservation programs which benefit ribbon seals and other ice seals; 
and
    (5) Information relevant to whether any populations of the ice seal 
species may qualify as distinct population segments.
    We will base our findings on a review of the best scientific and 
commercial information available, including all information received 
during the public comment period.

Authority

    The authority for this action is the Endangered Species Act of 
1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

    Dated: March 25, 2008.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. E8-6432 Filed 3-27-08; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-S