Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Seabird and Pinniped Research Activities in Central California, 2011-2012, 46724-46729 [2011-19666]

Download as PDF 46724 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 149 / Wednesday, August 3, 2011 / Notices The North Carolina Coastal Management Program evaluation site visit will be held September 12–16, 2011. One public meeting will be held during the week. The public meeting will be held on Wednesday, September 14th, 2011, at 6:30 p.m. local time at the NOAA Beaufort Laboratory, NOAA/NCNERR Administration Building (Building 1), 101 Pivers Island Road, Beaufort, North Carolina. The Delaware Coastal Management Program evaluation site visit will be held September 19–23, 2011. One public meeting will be held during the week. The public meeting will be held on Monday, September 19, 2011, at 6 p.m. local time at the Delaware Reserve, 818 Kitts Hummock Road, Dover, Delaware. The Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve evaluation site visit will be held September 19–23, 2011. One public meeting will be held during the week. The public meeting will be held on Monday, September 19, 2011, at 6 p.m. local time at the Delaware Reserve, 818 Kitts Hummock Road, Dover, Delaware. ADDRESSES: Copies of the states’ most recent performance reports, as well as OCRM’s evaluation notification and supplemental information request letters to the state, are available upon request from OCRM. Written comments from interested parties regarding these programs are encouraged and will be accepted until 15 days after the public meeting held for the program. Please direct written comments to Kate Barba, Chief, National Policy and Evaluation Division, Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, NOS/NOAA, 1305 East-West Highway, 10th Floor, N/ORM7, Silver Spring, Maryland 20910, or Kate.Barba@noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Notice is hereby given of the availability of the final evaluation findings for the North Inlet/Winyah Bay (South Carolina) National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR). Sections 312 and 315 of the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972 (CZMA), as amended, require a continuing review of the performance of coastal states with respect to approval of CMPs and the operation and management of NERRs. The North Inlet/ Winyah Bay NERR was found to be adhering to programmatic requirements of the NERR System. Copies of these final evaluation findings may be obtained upon written request from: Kate Barba, Chief, National Policy and Evaluation Division, Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, NOS/NOAA, srobinson on DSK4SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES DATES AND TIME: VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:24 Aug 02, 2011 Jkt 223001 1305 East-West Highway, 10th Floor, N/ORM7, Silver Spring, Maryland 20910, or Kate.Barbaa@noaa.gov. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kate Barba, Chief, National Policy and Evaluation Division, Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, NOS/NOAA, 1305 East-West Highway, 10th Floor, N/ORM7, Silver Spring, Maryland 20910, (301) 563–1182, or Kate.Barba@noaa.gov. Federal Domestic Assistance Catalog 11.419 Coastal Zone Management Program Administration. Dated: July 19, 2011. Donna Wieting, Director, Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management National Ocean Service National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. [FR Doc. 2011–19494 Filed 8–2–11; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–08–M DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XA534 Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Seabird and Pinniped Research Activities in Central California, 2011–2012 National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; issuance of an incidental harassment authorization. AGENCY: In accordance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) regulations, notification is hereby given that NMFS has issued an Incidental Harassment Authorization (IHA) to PRBO Conservation Science (PRBO), to take marine mammals, by Level B harassment, incidental to conducting seabird and pinniped research activities on Southeast Farallon ˜ Island, Ano Nuevo Island, and Point Reyes National Seashore in central California. DATES: Effective July 29, 2011, through July 28, 2012. ADDRESSES: A copy of the authorization, application, and associated Environmental Assessment (EA) and Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) may be obtained by writing to P. Michael Payne, Chief, Permits, Conservation and Education Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910, telephoning the contact listed SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00004 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 below (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION or visiting the internet at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/ incidental.htm#applications. Documents cited in this notice may also be viewed, by appointment, during regular business hours, at the aforementioned address. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jeannine Cody, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS (301) 427–8401. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: CONTACT), Background Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1371(a)(5)(D)) directs the Secretary of Commerce to authorize, upon request, the incidental, but not intentional, taking of small numbers of marine mammals of a species or population stock, by U.S. citizens who engage in a specified activity (other than commercial fishing) within a specified geographical region if certain findings are made and, if the taking is limited to harassment, a notice of a proposed authorization is provided to the public for review. Authorization for incidental taking of small numbers of marine mammals shall be granted if NMFS finds that the taking will have a negligible impact on the species or stock(s) and will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of the species or stock(s) for subsistence uses (where relevant). The authorization must set forth the permissible methods of taking, other means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact on the species or stock and its habitat, and monitoring and reporting of such takings. NMFS has defined ‘‘negligible impact’’ in 50 CFR 216.103 as ‘‘* * * an impact resulting from the specified activity that cannot be reasonably expected to, and is not reasonably likely to, adversely affect the species or stock through effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival.’’ Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA established an expedited process by which citizens of the United States can apply for an authorization to incidentally take small numbers of marine mammals by harassment. Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA establishes a 45-day time limit for NMFS’ review of an application followed by a 30-day public notice and comment period on any proposed authorizations for the incidental harassment of small numbers of marine mammals. Within 45 days of the close of the public comment period, NMFS must either issue or deny the authorization. NMFS must publish a notice in the Federal Register within 30 days of its determination to issue or deny the authorization. E:\FR\FM\03AUN1.SGM 03AUN1 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 149 / Wednesday, August 3, 2011 / Notices Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, the MMPA defines ‘‘harassment’’ as: srobinson on DSK4SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance which (i) has the potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild [Level A harassment]; or (ii) has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering [Level B harassment]. Summary of Request NMFS received an application on January 10, 2011, from PRBO requesting the taking, by Level B harassment, of small numbers of marine mammals, incidental to conducting seabird and pinniped research activities on ˜ Southeast Farallon Island, Ano Nuevo Island, and Point Reyes National Seashore in central California (CA) for one year. PRBO, along with partners Oikonos Ecosystem Knowledge and Point Reyes National Seashore, plan to conduct the research activities for one year. NMFS reviewed PRBO’s application and identified a number of issues requiring further clarification. After addressing comments from NMFS, PRBO modified its application and submitted a revised application on February 23, 2011. NMFS determined that application complete and adequate on April 18, 2011. PRBO’s research activities involve monitoring and censusing seabird colonies; observing seabird nesting habitat; restoring nesting burrows; observing breeding elephant seals, and resupplying a field station. The activities would occur in the vicinity of pinniped haul out sites located on Southeast Farallon Island (37°41′54.32″ ˜ N, 123° 0′8.33″ W), Ano Nuevo Island (37° 6′29.25″ N, 122°20′12.20″ W), or within Point Reyes National Seashore (37°59′38.61″ N, 122°58′24.90″ W) in Central CA. Acoustic and visual stimuli generated by: (1) Noise generated by motorboat approaches and departures; (2) noise generated during restoration activities and loading operations while resupplying the field station; and (3) human presence during seabird and pinniped research activities, may have the potential to cause California sea lions (Zalophus californianus), Pacific harbor seals (Phoca vitulina), northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris), and Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) hauled out on Southeast ˜ Farallon Island, Ano Nuevo Island, or Point Reyes National Seashore to flush into the surrounding water or to cause a short-term behavioral disturbance for VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:24 Aug 02, 2011 Jkt 223001 marine mammals in the areas. These types of disturbances are the principal means of marine mammal taking associated with these activities and PRBO has requested an authorization to take 5,104 California sea lions, 526 harbor seals, 190 northern elephant seals, and 20 Steller sea lions by Level B harassment only. Description of the Specified Geographic Region The action area consists of the following three locations in the northeast Pacific Ocean: South Farallon Islands The South Farallon Islands (SFI) consist of Southeast Farallon Island (SEFI) located at 37°41′54.32″ N, 123°0′8.33″ W and West End Island (WEI). These two islands are directly adjacent to each other and separated by only a 30-foot (ft) (9.1 meter (m)) channel. The SFI have a land area of approximately 120 acres (0.49 square kilometers (km)) and are part of the Farallon National Wildlife Refuge. The islands are located near the edge of the continental shelf 28 miles (mi) (45.1 km) west of San Francisco, CA, and lie within the waters of the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary (NMS). ˜ Ano Nuevo Island ˜ Ano Nuevo Island (ANI) located at 37° 6′29.25″ N, 122°20′12.20″ W is one˜ quarter mile (402 m) offshore of Ano Nuevo Point in San Mateo County, CA. This small 25-acre (0.1 square km) ˜ island is part of the Ano Nuevo State Reserve, all of which is owned and operated by California State Parks. ANI lies within the Monterey Bay NMS and ˜ the newly established Ano Nuevo State Marine Conservation Area. Point Reyes National Seashore Point Reyes National Seashore (PRNS) is located approximately 40 miles (64.3 km) north of San Francisco Bay and also lies within the Gulf of the Farallones NMS. The research areas (Life Boat Station, Drakes Beach, and Point Bonita) are within the headland coastal areas of the national park. Description of the Specified Activity PRBO will conduct seabird and pinniped research activities on ˜ Southeast Farallon Island, Ano Nuevo Island, and Point Reyes National Seashore from July 29, 2011 through July 28, 2012. To date, NMFS has issued three, 1-year IHAs to PRBO for the conduct of the same activities from 2007 to 2011, with the last expiring on Feb. 18, 2011. PO 00000 Frm 00005 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 46725 Seabird Research on Southeast Farallon Island PRBO proposes to conduct: (1) Daily observations of seabird colonies at a maximum frequency of three 15-minute (min) visits per day; and (2) conduct daily observations of breeding common murres (Uria aalge) at a maximum frequency of one 5-hour visit per day between July 2011 and July 2012. These activities usually involve one or two observers conducting daily censuses of seabirds or conducting mark/recapture studies of breeding seabirds on Southeast Farallon Island. The researchers plan to access the island’s two landing areas, the North Landing and the East Landing, by 14 to 18 ft (4.3 to 5.5 m) open motorboats, which are hoisted onto the island using a derrick system and then travel by foot to coastal areas of the island to view breeding seabirds from behind an observation blind. Field Station Resupply on Southeast Farallon Island PRBO proposes to resupply the field station once every two weeks at a maximum frequency of 26 visits. Resupply activities involve personnel approaching either the North Landing or East Landing by motorboat. At East Landing—the primary landing site—all personnel assisting with the landing would stay on the loading platform approximately 30 ft (9.1 m) above the water. At North Landing, loading operations would occur at the water level in the intertidal areas. ˜ Seabird Research on Ano Nuevo Island PRBO, in collaboration with OikonosEcosystem Knowledge, proposes to monitor seabird burrow nesting habitat quality and to conduct habitat restoration at a maximum frequency of 20 visits per year. This activity involves two to three researchers accessing the north side of the island by a 12 ft (3.7 m) Zodiac boat. Once onshore, the researchers will check subterranean nest boxes and restore any nesting habitat for approximately 15 min. Seabird Research on Point Reyes National Seashore The National Park Service in collaboration with PRBO monitors seabird breeding and roosting colonies; conducts habitat restoration; removes non-native plants; monitors intertidal areas; maintains coastal dune habitat. Seabird monitoring usually involves one or two observers conducting the survey by small boats (12 to 22 ft; 3.6 to 6.7 m) along the Point Reyes National Seashore shoreline. Researchers would visit the site at a maximum frequency of 20 times E:\FR\FM\03AUN1.SGM 03AUN1 46726 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 149 / Wednesday, August 3, 2011 / Notices per year, with an emphasis on increasing monitoring during the nesting season. Researchers would conduct occasional, intermittent visits during the rest of the year. Pinniped Research on West End Island Pinniped research activities involve surveying breeding northern elephant seals on West End Island between early December and late February. At least three researchers would visit the site at a maximum frequency of five times per year. To conduct the census, the researchers would travel by foot approximately 1,500 ft (457.2 m) above the site to conduct the census. NMFS outlined the purpose of the program in the Notice of Proposed IHA (76 FR 30311, May 25, 2011). The activities to be conducted have not changed between the Notice of Proposed IHA (76 FR 30311, May 25, 2011) and this final notice announcing the issuance of the IHA. For a more detailed description of the authorized action, including a discussion of associated acoustic and visual stimuli from the pinniped and seabird research, NMFS refers the reader to the Notice of Proposed IHA (76 FR 30311, May 25, 2011), the application, and associated documents referenced earlier in this document. lions, northern elephant seals, and Pacific harbor seals are not listed as threatened or endangered under the ESA, nor are they categorized as depleted under the MMPA. NMFS included a more detailed discussion of the status of these stocks and their occurrence at SEFI, ANI, and PRNS in the Notice of Proposed IHA (76 FR 30311, May 25, 2011). srobinson on DSK4SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Comments and Responses NMFS published a notice of receipt of the PRBO application and proposed IHA in the Federal Register on May 25, 2011 (76 FR 30311). During the 30-day public comment period, NMFS received no comments from the public and one letter from the Marine Mammal Commission (Commission), which recommended that NMFS issue the requested authorization provided that PRBO carry out the required mitigation measures and monitoring as described in the Notice of Proposed IHA (76 FR 30311, May 25, 2011). NMFS has included all measures proposed in the Notice of Proposed IHA (76 FR 30311, May 25, 2011) in the authorization. Potential Effects on Marine Mammals Acoustic and visual stimuli generated by: (1) Motorboat operations; and (2) the appearance of researchers may have the potential to cause Level B harassment of any pinnipeds hauled out on Southeast ˜ Farallon Island, Ano Nuevo Island, or Point Reyes National Seashore. This disturbance from acoustic and visual stimuli is the principal means of marine mammal taking associated with these activities. The effects of the pinniped and seabird research activities would be limited to short-term startle responses and localized behavioral changes and have the potential to temporarily displace the animals from a haulout site. NMFS would expect the pinnipeds to return to a haulout site within 60 min of the disturbance (Allen et al., 1985) and does not expect that the pinnipeds would permanently abandon a haulout site during the conduct of pinniped and seabird research operations. Finally, no research activities would occur on pinniped rookeries and breeding animals are concentrated in areas where researchers would not visit. Therefore, NMFS does not expect mother and pup separation or crushing of pups to occur. For a more detailed discussion of behavioral reactions of marine mammals to loud noises or looming visual stimuli, and some specific observations of the response of marine mammals to this activity gathered during previous monitoring, NMFS refers the reader to the Notice of Proposed IHA (76 FR 30311, May 25, 2011), the application, and associated documents. Description of Marine Mammals in the Area of the Specified Activity The marine mammals most likely to be harassed incidental to conducting seabird and pinniped research at the research areas on Southeast Farallon ˜ Island, Ano Nuevo Island, or Point Reyes National Seashore are primarily California sea lions, northern elephant seals, Pacific harbor seals, and to a lesser extent the eastern distinct population of the Steller sea lion, which is listed as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA; 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). California sea Anticipated Effects on Habitat NMFS does not anticipate that the research operations would result in any temporary or permanent effects on the habitats used by the marine mammals in the research areas, including the food sources they use (i.e., fish and invertebrates). NMFS does not anticipate that there would be any physical damage to any habitat. While NMFS anticipates that the specified activity may result in marine mammals avoiding certain areas due to temporary ensonification and human presence, this impact to habitat is temporary and VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:24 Aug 02, 2011 Jkt 223001 PO 00000 Frm 00006 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 reversible. See the Notice of Proposed IHA (76 FR 30311, May 25, 2011). Mitigation In order to issue an incidental take authorization (ITA) under Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA, NMFS must set forth the permissible methods of taking pursuant to such activity, and other means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact on such species or stock and its habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance, and the availability of such species or stock for taking for certain subsistence uses. PRBO has based the mitigation measures described herein, to be implemented for the seabird and pinniped research activities, on the following: (1) Protocols used during previous PRBO seabird and pinniped research activities as approved by NMFS; (2) Recommended best practices in Richardson et al. (1995); (3) The Terms and Conditions of Scientific Research Permit 373–1868– 00; and (4) The Terms and Conditions listed in the Incidental Take Statement for NMFS’ 2008 Biological Opinion for these activities. To reduce the potential for disturbance from acoustic and visual stimuli associated with the activities, PRBO and/or its designees will implement the following mitigation measures for marine mammals: (1) Abide by all of the Terms and Conditions listed in the Incidental Take Statement for NMFS’ 2008 Biological Opinion, including: Monitoring for offshore predators and reporting on observed behaviors of Steller sea lions in relation to the disturbance. (2) Abide by the Terms and Conditions of Scientific Research Permit 373–1868–00. ˜ (3) Postpone beach landings on Ano Nuevo Island until pinnipeds that may be present on the beach have slowly entered the water. (4) Select a pathway of approach to research sites that minimizes the number of marine mammals harassed, with the first priority being avoiding the disturbance of Steller sea lions at haulouts. (5) Avoid visits to sites used by pinnipeds for pupping. (6) Monitor for offshore predators and not approach hauled out Steller sea lions or other pinnipeds if great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) or killer whales (Orcinas orca) are seen in the area. If predators are seen, eastern U.S. stock Steller sea lions or any other E:\FR\FM\03AUN1.SGM 03AUN1 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 149 / Wednesday, August 3, 2011 / Notices srobinson on DSK4SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES pinniped must not be disturbed until the area is free of predators. (7) Keep voices hushed and bodies low to the ground in the visual presence of pinnipeds. (8) Conduct seabird observations at North Landing on Southeast Farallon Island in an observation blind, shielded from the view of hauled out pinnipeds. (9) Crawl slowly to access seabird nest ˜ boxes on Ano Nuevo Island if pinnipeds are within view. (10) Coordinate research visits to intertidal areas of Southeast Farallon Island (to reduce potential take) and to ˜ coordinate research goals for Ano Nuevo Island to minimize the number of trips to the island. (11) Coordinate monitoring schedules ˜ on Ano Nuevo Island, so that areas near any pinnipeds would be accessed only once per visit. (12) Have the lead biologist serve as an observer to evaluate incidental take. NMFS has carefully evaluated the applicant’s proposed mitigation measures and has considered a range of other measures in the context of ensuring that NMFS prescribes the means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact on the affected marine mammal species and stocks and their habitat. Our evaluation of potential measures included consideration of the following factors in relation to one another: (i) The manner in which, and the degree to which, the successful implementation of the measure is expected to minimize adverse impacts to marine mammals; (ii) the proven or likely efficacy of the specific measure to minimize adverse impacts as planned; and (iii) the practicability of the measure for applicant implementation. Based on our evaluation of the applicant’s proposed measures, as well as other measures considered by NMFS or recommended by the public, NMFS has determined that the mitigation measures provide the means of effecting the least practicable adverse impacts on marine mammals species or stocks and their habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance. Monitoring In order to issue an ITA for an activity, section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA states that NMFS must set forth ‘‘requirements pertaining to the monitoring and reporting of such taking.’’ The MMPA implementing regulations at 50 CFR 216.104 (a)(13) indicate that requests for IHAs must include the suggested means of accomplishing the necessary monitoring and reporting that will result in increased knowledge of the species and VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:24 Aug 02, 2011 Jkt 223001 of the level of taking or impacts on populations of marine mammals that are expected to be present in the action area. PRBO will sponsor a marine mammal monitor during the present research project, in order to implement the mitigation measures thus satisfying the monitoring requirements of the IHA. PRBO’s monitoring activities will consist of monitoring the area for pinnipeds during all research activities and conducting and recording observations on pinnipeds within the vicinity of the research areas. The monitoring notes would provide dates, location, species, the researcher’s activity, behavioral state, numbers of animals that were alert or moved greater than one meter, and numbers of pinnipeds that flushed into the water. Reporting The PRBO will submit a final monitoring report to the NMFS Director of Office of Protected Resources no later than 90 days after the expiration of the IHA. The final report will describe the operations that were conducted and sightings of marine mammals near the project. The report will provide full documentation of methods, results, and interpretation pertaining to all monitoring. The final report will provide: (i) A summary and table of the dates, times, and weather during all seabird and pinniped research activities. (ii) Species, number, location, and behavior of any marine mammals, observed throughout all monitoring activities. (iii) An estimate of the number (by species) of marine mammals that are known to have been exposed to acoustic or visual stimuli associated with the seabird and pinniped research activities. (iv) A description of the implementation and effectiveness of the monitoring and mitigation measures of the IHA and full documentation of methods, results, and interpretation pertaining to all monitoring. In the unanticipated event that PRBO’s activities cause any taking of a marine mammal in a manner prohibited by the IHA, such as an injury (Level A harassment), serious injury or mortality (e.g., vessel-strike), PRBO shall immediately cease the specified activities and immediately report the incident to the Chief of the Permits, Conservation, and Education Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, at 301–427–8401 and/or by e-mail to Michael.Payne@noaa.gov and Jeannine.Cody@noaa.gov, and the Southwest Regional Stranding Coordinators (Joe.Cordaro@noaa.gov PO 00000 Frm 00007 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 46727 and Sarah.Wilkin@noaa.gov). The report must include the following information: (a) Time, date, and location (latitude/ longitude) of the incident; the name and type of vessel involved; the vessel’s speed during and leading up to the incident; description of the incident; water depth; environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, Beaufort sea state, cloud cover, and visibility); description of marine mammal observations in the 24 hours preceding the incident; species identification or description of the animal(s) involved; the fate of the animal(s); and photographs or video footage of the animal (if equipment is available). PRBO shall not resume its activities until NMFS is able to review the circumstances of the prohibited take. NMFS shall work with PRBO to determine what is necessary to minimize the likelihood of further prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. PRBO may not resume their activities until notified by NMFS in writing via a letter or e-mail or via the telephone. In the event that PRBO discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the lead researcher determines that the cause of the injury or death is unknown and the death is relatively recent (i.e., in less than a moderate state of decomposition as described in the next paragraph), PRBO will immediately report the incident to the Chief of the Permits, Conservation, and Education Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, at 301–427–8401 and/or by email to Michael.Payne@noaa.gov and Jeannine.Cody@noaa.gov, and the Southwest Regional Stranding Coordinators (Joe.Cordaro@noaa.gov and Sarah.Wilkin@noaa.gov). The report must include the same information required above for unauthorized takings. Activities may continue while NMFS reviews the circumstances of the incident. NMFS will work with PRBO to determine whether modifications in the activities are appropriate. In the event that PRBO discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the lead researcher determines that the injury or death is not associated with or related to the activities authorized in the IHA (e.g., previously wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced decomposition, or scavenger damage), PRBO will report the incident to the Chief of the Permits, Conservation, and Education Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, at 301–427–8401 and/or by e-mail to Michael.Payne@noaa.gov and Jeannine.Cody@noaa.gov, and the Southwest Regional Stranding Coordinators (Joe.Cordaro@noaa.gov E:\FR\FM\03AUN1.SGM 03AUN1 46728 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 149 / Wednesday, August 3, 2011 / Notices and Sarah.Wilkin@noaa.gov) within 24 hours of the discovery. PRBO will provide photographs or video footage (if available) or other documentation of the stranded animal sighting to NMFS and the Marine Mammal Stranding Network. Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, the MMPA defines ‘‘harassment’’ as: Any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance which (i) has the potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild [Level A harassment]; or (ii) has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering [Level B harassment]. NMFS anticipates take by Level B harassment only as a result of the pinniped and research operations on ˜ Southeast Farallon Island, Ano Nuevo Island, and Point Reyes National Seashore. Based on PRBO’s previous research experiences, with the same activities conducted in the research areas, NMFS estimates that small numbers of California sea lions, Pacific harbor seals, northern elephant seals, and Steller sea lions could be potentially affected by Level B behavioral harassment over the course of the IHA. For this IHA, NMFS has authorized the take of 5,104 California sea lions, 526 harbor seals, 190 northern elephant seals, and 20 Steller sea lions. Because of the required mitigation measures and the likelihood that some pinnipeds will avoid the areas, NMFS expects no injury, serious injury, or mortality to occur, and no takes by injury or mortality are authorized. Negligible Impact and Small Numbers Analysis and Determination NMFS has defined ‘‘negligible impact’’ in 50 CFR 216.103 as ‘‘* * * an impact resulting from the specified activity that cannot be reasonably expected to, and is not reasonably likely to, adversely affect the species or stock through effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival.’’ srobinson on DSK4SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES In making a negligible impact determination, NMFS considers: (1) The number of anticipated mortalities; (2) The number and nature of anticipated injuries; (3) The number, nature, and intensity, and duration of Level B harassment; and (4) The context in which the takes occur. VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:24 Aug 02, 2011 Jkt 223001 As mentioned previously, NMFS estimates that four species of marine mammals could be potentially affected by Level B harassment over the course of the IHA. For each species, these numbers are small (each, less than or equal to two percent) relative to the population size. NMFS does not anticipate takes by Level A harassment, serious injury, or mortality to occur as a result of PRBO’s research activities, and none are authorized. These species may exhibit behavioral modifications, including temporarily vacating the area during the seabird and pinniped research activities to avoid the resultant acoustic and visual disturbances. However, NMFS anticipates only short-term behavioral disturbance to occur due to the brief duration of the research activities, the availability of alternate areas for marine mammals to avoid the resultant acoustic and visual disturbances, and limited access of PRBO researchers to Southeast ˜ Farallon Island, Ano Nuevo Island, and Point Reyes National Seashore during the pupping season. Due to the nature, degree, and context of the behavioral harassment anticipated, NMFS does not expect these activities to impact rates of recruitment or survival. Based on the analysis contained herein of the likely effects of the specified activity on marine mammals and their habitat, and taking into consideration the implementation of the mitigation and monitoring measures, NMFS finds that the impact of conducting seabird and pinniped research activities on Southeast Farallon ˜ Island, Ano Nuevo Island, and Point Reyes National Seashore in central California, July 29, 2011 through July 28, 2012, will result in the incidental take of small numbers of marine mammals, by Level B behavioral harassment only, and that the total taking from PRBO’s activities would have a negligible impact on the affected species or stocks; and that impacts to affected species or stocks of marine mammals would be mitigated to the lowest level practicable. Impact on Availability of Affected Species or Stock for Taking for Subsistence Uses There are no relevant subsistence uses of marine mammals implicated by this action. Therefore, NMFS has determined that the total taking of affected species or stocks would not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of such species or stocks for taking for subsistence purposes. PO 00000 Frm 00008 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Endangered Species Act The Steller sea lion, eastern U.S. stock is listed as threatened under the ESA and occurs in the research area. NMFS Headquarters’ Office of Protected Resources, Permits, Conservation, and Education Division conducted a formal section 7 consultation under the ESA. On November 18, 2008, NMFS issued a Biological Opinion (2008 BiOp); concluded that the issuance of an IHA is likely to affect, but not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of Steller sea lions; and issued an incidental take statement (ITS) for Steller sea lions pursuant to section 7 of the ESA. The ITS contains reasonable and prudent measures for implementing terms and conditions to minimize the effects of this take. NMFS has reviewed the 2008 BiOp and determined that there is no new information regarding effects to Steller sea lions; the action has not been modified in a manner which would cause adverse effects not previously evaluated; there has been no new listing of species or no new designation of critical habitat that could be affected by the action; and the action will not exceed the extent or amount of incidental take authorized in the 2008 BiOp. Therefore, the IHA does not require the reinitiation of Section 7 consultation under the ESA. National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) To meet NMFS’ NEPA requirements for the issuance of an IHA to PRBO, NMFS prepared an Environmental Assessment (EA) in 2007 that was specific to seabird research activities on SEFI, WEI, ANI, and PRNS and evaluated the impacts on the human environment of NMFS’ authorization of incidental Level B harassment resulting from seabird research in Central California. At that time, NMFS determined that conducting the seabird research would not have a significant impact on the quality of the human environment and issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) and, therefore, it was not necessary to prepare an environmental impact statement for the issuance of an IHA to PRBO for this activity. In 2008, NMFS prepared a supplemental EA (SEA) titled ‘‘Supplemental Environmental Assessment for the issuance of an Incidental Harassment Authorization To Take Marine Mammals by Harassment Incidental to Conducting Seabird And Pinniped Research in Central California And Environmental Assessment For The Continuation of Scientific Research on Pinnipeds in California Under Scientific Research Permit 373–1868–00,’’ to E:\FR\FM\03AUN1.SGM 03AUN1 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 149 / Wednesday, August 3, 2011 / Notices address new available information regarding the effects of PRBO’s seabird and pinniped research activities that may have cumulative impacts to the physical and biological environment. At that time, NMFS concluded that issuance of an IHA for the December 2008 through 2009 season would not significantly affect the quality of the human environment and issued a FONSI for the 2008 SEA regarding PRBO’s activities. In conjunction with this year’s application, NMFS has again reviewed the 2007 EA and the 2008 SEA and determined that there are no new direct, indirect or cumulative impacts to the human and natural environment associated with the IHA requiring evaluation in a supplemental EA and NMFS, therefore, reaffirms the 2008 FONSI. A copy of the EA, SEA, and the NMFS FONSI for this activity is available upon request (see ADDRESSES). Authorization As a result of these determinations, NMFS has issued an IHA to PRBO to take marine mammals, by Level B harassment only, incidental to conducting seabird and pinniped research activities on Southeast Farallon ˜ Island, Ano Nuevo Island, and Point Reyes National Seashore in central California provided the previously mentioned mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements are incorporated. Dated: July 29, 2011. Helen M. Golde, Deputy Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2011–19666 Filed 8–2–11; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XA396 Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Shallow Hazards Survey in the Chukchi Sea, Alaska National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; issuance of an incidental take authorization. srobinson on DSK4SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES AGENCY: In accordance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) regulations, notification is hereby given that NMFS has issued an Incidental Harassment Authorization (IHA) to Statoil USA E&P Inc. (Statoil) SUMMARY: VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:24 Aug 02, 2011 Jkt 223001 to take, by harassment, small numbers of 13 species of marine mammals incidental to shallow hazards and geotechnical surveys in the Chukchi Sea, Alaska, during the 2011 Arctic open-water season. DATES: Effective August 1, 2011, through November 30, 2011. ADDRESSES: Inquiry for information on the incidental take authorization should be addressed to P. Michael Payne, Chief, Permits, Conservation and Education Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910. A copy of the application containing a list of the references used in this document, NMFS’ 2010 Environmental Assessment (EA), 2011 Supplemental Environmental Assessment (SEA), Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), and the IHA may be obtained by writing to the address specified above, telephoning the contact listed below (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT), or visiting the Internet at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/ pr/permits/incidental.htm#applications. Documents cited in this notice may be viewed, by appointment, during regular business hours, at the aforementioned address. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Shane Guan, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, (301) 427–8401 or Brad Smith, NMFS, Alaska Region, (907) 271–3023. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background Sections 101(a)(5)(A) and (D) of the MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) direct the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) to allow, upon request, the incidental, but not intentional taking of marine mammals by U.S. citizens who engage in a specified activity (other than commercial fishing) within a specified geographical region if certain findings are made and regulations are issued or, if the taking is limited to harassment, a notice of a proposed authorization is provided to the public for review. Authorization shall be granted if NMFS finds that the taking will have a negligible impact on the species or stock(s), will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of the species or stock(s) for subsistence uses (where relevant), and if the permissible methods of taking and requirements pertaining to the mitigation, monitoring and reporting of such taking are set forth. NMFS has defined ‘‘negligible impact’’ in 50 CFR 216.103 as: An impact resulting from the specified activity that cannot be reasonably expected PO 00000 Frm 00009 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 46729 to, and is not reasonably likely to, adversely affect the species or stock through effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival. Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA established an expedited process by which citizens of the U.S. can apply for an authorization to incidentally take small numbers of marine mammals by harassment. Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, the MMPA defines ‘‘harassment’’ as: Any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance which (i) has the potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild [Level A harassment]; or (ii) has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering [Level B harassment]. Section 101(a)(5)(D) establishes a 45day time limit for NMFS review of an application followed by a 30-day public notice and comment period on any proposed authorizations for the incidental harassment of marine mammals. Within 45 days of the close of the comment period, NMFS must either issue or deny issuance of the authorization. Summary of Request NMFS received an application on March 1, 2011, from Statoil for the taking, by harassment, of marine mammals incidental to shallow hazards site surveys and soil investigations (geotechnical boreholes) in the Chukchi Sea, Alaska, during the 2011 open-water season. After addressing comments from NMFS, Statoil modified its application and submitted a revised application on April 19, 2011. The April 19, 2011, application was the one available for public comment (see ADDRESSES) and considered by NMFS for the IHA. The shallow hazards and site clearance surveys would use a towed airgun cluster consisting of four, 10-in3 airguns with a ∼600 m (1,969 ft) towed hydrophone streamer, as well as additional lower-powered and higher frequency survey equipment for collecting bathymetric and shallow subbottom data. The proposed survey will take place on and near Statoil’s leases in the Chukchi Sea, covering a total area of ∼665 km2 located ∼240 km (150 mi) west of Barrow and ∼165 km (103 mi) northwest of Wainwright, in water depths of ∼30–50 m (100–165 ft). The geotechnical soil investigations will take place at prospective drilling locations on Statoil’s leases and leases jointly owned with ConocoPhillips Alaska Inc. (CPAI). All cores will be either 5.3 cm or 7.1 cm (2.1 in. or 2.8 in.) in diameter (depending on soil E:\FR\FM\03AUN1.SGM 03AUN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 149 (Wednesday, August 3, 2011)]
[Notices]
[Pages 46724-46729]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-19666]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XA534


Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; 
Seabird and Pinniped Research Activities in Central California, 2011-
2012

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

ACTION: Notice; issuance of an incidental harassment authorization.

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

SUMMARY: In accordance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) 
regulations, notification is hereby given that NMFS has issued an 
Incidental Harassment Authorization (IHA) to PRBO Conservation Science 
(PRBO), to take marine mammals, by Level B harassment, incidental to 
conducting seabird and pinniped research activities on Southeast 
Farallon Island, A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island, and Point Reyes National 
Seashore in central California.

DATES: Effective July 29, 2011, through July 28, 2012.

ADDRESSES: A copy of the authorization, application, and associated 
Environmental Assessment (EA) and Finding of No Significant Impact 
(FONSI) may be obtained by writing to P. Michael Payne, Chief, Permits, 
Conservation and Education Division, Office of Protected Resources, 
National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East West Highway, Silver 
Spring, MD 20910, telephoning the contact listed below (see FOR FURTHER 
INFORMATION CONTACT), or visiting the internet at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental.htm#applications.
    Documents cited in this notice may also be viewed, by appointment, 
during regular business hours, at the aforementioned address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jeannine Cody, Office of Protected 
Resources, NMFS (301) 427-8401.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1371(a)(5)(D)) directs 
the Secretary of Commerce to authorize, upon request, the incidental, 
but not intentional, taking of small numbers of marine mammals of a 
species or population stock, by U.S. citizens who engage in a specified 
activity (other than commercial fishing) within a specified 
geographical region if certain findings are made and, if the taking is 
limited to harassment, a notice of a proposed authorization is provided 
to the public for review.
    Authorization for incidental taking of small numbers of marine 
mammals shall be granted if NMFS finds that the taking will have a 
negligible impact on the species or stock(s) and will not have an 
unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of the species or 
stock(s) for subsistence uses (where relevant). The authorization must 
set forth the permissible methods of taking, other means of effecting 
the least practicable adverse impact on the species or stock and its 
habitat, and monitoring and reporting of such takings. NMFS has defined 
``negligible impact'' in 50 CFR 216.103 as ``* * * an impact resulting 
from the specified activity that cannot be reasonably expected to, and 
is not reasonably likely to, adversely affect the species or stock 
through effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival.''
    Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA established an expedited process 
by which citizens of the United States can apply for an authorization 
to incidentally take small numbers of marine mammals by harassment. 
Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA establishes a 45-day time limit for 
NMFS' review of an application followed by a 30-day public notice and 
comment period on any proposed authorizations for the incidental 
harassment of small numbers of marine mammals. Within 45 days of the 
close of the public comment period, NMFS must either issue or deny the 
authorization. NMFS must publish a notice in the Federal Register 
within 30 days of its determination to issue or deny the authorization.

[[Page 46725]]

    Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, the 
MMPA defines ``harassment'' as:

    Any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance which (i) has the 
potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the 
wild [Level A harassment]; or (ii) has the potential to disturb a 
marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing 
disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, 
migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering 
[Level B harassment].

Summary of Request

    NMFS received an application on January 10, 2011, from PRBO 
requesting the taking, by Level B harassment, of small numbers of 
marine mammals, incidental to conducting seabird and pinniped research 
activities on Southeast Farallon Island, A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island, and 
Point Reyes National Seashore in central California (CA) for one year. 
PRBO, along with partners Oikonos Ecosystem Knowledge and Point Reyes 
National Seashore, plan to conduct the research activities for one 
year. NMFS reviewed PRBO's application and identified a number of 
issues requiring further clarification. After addressing comments from 
NMFS, PRBO modified its application and submitted a revised application 
on February 23, 2011. NMFS determined that application complete and 
adequate on April 18, 2011.
    PRBO's research activities involve monitoring and censusing seabird 
colonies; observing seabird nesting habitat; restoring nesting burrows; 
observing breeding elephant seals, and resupplying a field station. The 
activities would occur in the vicinity of pinniped haul out sites 
located on Southeast Farallon Island (37[deg]41'54.32'' N, 123[deg] 
0'8.33'' W), A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island (37[deg] 6'29.25'' N, 
122[deg]20'12.20'' W), or within Point Reyes National Seashore 
(37[deg]59'38.61'' N, 122[deg]58'24.90'' W) in Central CA.
    Acoustic and visual stimuli generated by: (1) Noise generated by 
motorboat approaches and departures; (2) noise generated during 
restoration activities and loading operations while resupplying the 
field station; and (3) human presence during seabird and pinniped 
research activities, may have the potential to cause California sea 
lions (Zalophus californianus), Pacific harbor seals (Phoca vitulina), 
northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris), and Steller sea 
lions (Eumetopias jubatus) hauled out on Southeast Farallon Island, 
A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island, or Point Reyes National Seashore to flush into 
the surrounding water or to cause a short-term behavioral disturbance 
for marine mammals in the areas. These types of disturbances are the 
principal means of marine mammal taking associated with these 
activities and PRBO has requested an authorization to take 5,104 
California sea lions, 526 harbor seals, 190 northern elephant seals, 
and 20 Steller sea lions by Level B harassment only.

Description of the Specified Geographic Region

    The action area consists of the following three locations in the 
northeast Pacific Ocean:

South Farallon Islands

    The South Farallon Islands (SFI) consist of Southeast Farallon 
Island (SEFI) located at 37[deg]41'54.32'' N, 123[deg]0'8.33'' W and 
West End Island (WEI). These two islands are directly adjacent to each 
other and separated by only a 30-foot (ft) (9.1 meter (m)) channel. The 
SFI have a land area of approximately 120 acres (0.49 square kilometers 
(km)) and are part of the Farallon National Wildlife Refuge. The 
islands are located near the edge of the continental shelf 28 miles 
(mi) (45.1 km) west of San Francisco, CA, and lie within the waters of 
the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary (NMS).

A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island

    A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island (ANI) located at 37[deg] 6'29.25'' N, 
122[deg]20'12.20'' W is one-quarter mile (402 m) offshore of A[ntilde]o 
Nuevo Point in San Mateo County, CA. This small 25-acre (0.1 square km) 
island is part of the A[ntilde]o Nuevo State Reserve, all of which is 
owned and operated by California State Parks. ANI lies within the 
Monterey Bay NMS and the newly established A[ntilde]o Nuevo State 
Marine Conservation Area.

Point Reyes National Seashore

    Point Reyes National Seashore (PRNS) is located approximately 40 
miles (64.3 km) north of San Francisco Bay and also lies within the 
Gulf of the Farallones NMS. The research areas (Life Boat Station, 
Drakes Beach, and Point Bonita) are within the headland coastal areas 
of the national park.

Description of the Specified Activity

    PRBO will conduct seabird and pinniped research activities on 
Southeast Farallon Island, A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island, and Point Reyes 
National Seashore from July 29, 2011 through July 28, 2012. To date, 
NMFS has issued three, 1-year IHAs to PRBO for the conduct of the same 
activities from 2007 to 2011, with the last expiring on Feb. 18, 2011.

Seabird Research on Southeast Farallon Island

    PRBO proposes to conduct: (1) Daily observations of seabird 
colonies at a maximum frequency of three 15-minute (min) visits per 
day; and (2) conduct daily observations of breeding common murres (Uria 
aalge) at a maximum frequency of one 5-hour visit per day between July 
2011 and July 2012. These activities usually involve one or two 
observers conducting daily censuses of seabirds or conducting mark/
recapture studies of breeding seabirds on Southeast Farallon Island. 
The researchers plan to access the island's two landing areas, the 
North Landing and the East Landing, by 14 to 18 ft (4.3 to 5.5 m) open 
motorboats, which are hoisted onto the island using a derrick system 
and then travel by foot to coastal areas of the island to view breeding 
seabirds from behind an observation blind.

Field Station Resupply on Southeast Farallon Island

    PRBO proposes to resupply the field station once every two weeks at 
a maximum frequency of 26 visits. Resupply activities involve personnel 
approaching either the North Landing or East Landing by motorboat. At 
East Landing--the primary landing site--all personnel assisting with 
the landing would stay on the loading platform approximately 30 ft (9.1 
m) above the water. At North Landing, loading operations would occur at 
the water level in the intertidal areas.

Seabird Research on A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island

    PRBO, in collaboration with Oikonos-Ecosystem Knowledge, proposes 
to monitor seabird burrow nesting habitat quality and to conduct 
habitat restoration at a maximum frequency of 20 visits per year. This 
activity involves two to three researchers accessing the north side of 
the island by a 12 ft (3.7 m) Zodiac boat. Once onshore, the 
researchers will check subterranean nest boxes and restore any nesting 
habitat for approximately 15 min.

Seabird Research on Point Reyes National Seashore

    The National Park Service in collaboration with PRBO monitors 
seabird breeding and roosting colonies; conducts habitat restoration; 
removes non-native plants; monitors intertidal areas; maintains coastal 
dune habitat. Seabird monitoring usually involves one or two observers 
conducting the survey by small boats (12 to 22 ft; 3.6 to 6.7 m) along 
the Point Reyes National Seashore shoreline. Researchers would visit 
the site at a maximum frequency of 20 times

[[Page 46726]]

per year, with an emphasis on increasing monitoring during the nesting 
season. Researchers would conduct occasional, intermittent visits 
during the rest of the year.

Pinniped Research on West End Island

    Pinniped research activities involve surveying breeding northern 
elephant seals on West End Island between early December and late 
February. At least three researchers would visit the site at a maximum 
frequency of five times per year. To conduct the census, the 
researchers would travel by foot approximately 1,500 ft (457.2 m) above 
the site to conduct the census.
    NMFS outlined the purpose of the program in the Notice of Proposed 
IHA (76 FR 30311, May 25, 2011). The activities to be conducted have 
not changed between the Notice of Proposed IHA (76 FR 30311, May 25, 
2011) and this final notice announcing the issuance of the IHA. For a 
more detailed description of the authorized action, including a 
discussion of associated acoustic and visual stimuli from the pinniped 
and seabird research, NMFS refers the reader to the Notice of Proposed 
IHA (76 FR 30311, May 25, 2011), the application, and associated 
documents referenced earlier in this document.

Comments and Responses

    NMFS published a notice of receipt of the PRBO application and 
proposed IHA in the Federal Register on May 25, 2011 (76 FR 30311). 
During the 30-day public comment period, NMFS received no comments from 
the public and one letter from the Marine Mammal Commission 
(Commission), which recommended that NMFS issue the requested 
authorization provided that PRBO carry out the required mitigation 
measures and monitoring as described in the Notice of Proposed IHA (76 
FR 30311, May 25, 2011). NMFS has included all measures proposed in the 
Notice of Proposed IHA (76 FR 30311, May 25, 2011) in the 
authorization.

Description of Marine Mammals in the Area of the Specified Activity

    The marine mammals most likely to be harassed incidental to 
conducting seabird and pinniped research at the research areas on 
Southeast Farallon Island, A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island, or Point Reyes 
National Seashore are primarily California sea lions, northern elephant 
seals, Pacific harbor seals, and to a lesser extent the eastern 
distinct population of the Steller sea lion, which is listed as 
endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA; 16 
U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). California sea lions, northern elephant seals, 
and Pacific harbor seals are not listed as threatened or endangered 
under the ESA, nor are they categorized as depleted under the MMPA.
    NMFS included a more detailed discussion of the status of these 
stocks and their occurrence at SEFI, ANI, and PRNS in the Notice of 
Proposed IHA (76 FR 30311, May 25, 2011).

Potential Effects on Marine Mammals

    Acoustic and visual stimuli generated by: (1) Motorboat operations; 
and (2) the appearance of researchers may have the potential to cause 
Level B harassment of any pinnipeds hauled out on Southeast Farallon 
Island, A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island, or Point Reyes National Seashore. This 
disturbance from acoustic and visual stimuli is the principal means of 
marine mammal taking associated with these activities.
    The effects of the pinniped and seabird research activities would 
be limited to short-term startle responses and localized behavioral 
changes and have the potential to temporarily displace the animals from 
a haulout site. NMFS would expect the pinnipeds to return to a haulout 
site within 60 min of the disturbance (Allen et al., 1985) and does not 
expect that the pinnipeds would permanently abandon a haulout site 
during the conduct of pinniped and seabird research operations.
    Finally, no research activities would occur on pinniped rookeries 
and breeding animals are concentrated in areas where researchers would 
not visit. Therefore, NMFS does not expect mother and pup separation or 
crushing of pups to occur.
    For a more detailed discussion of behavioral reactions of marine 
mammals to loud noises or looming visual stimuli, and some specific 
observations of the response of marine mammals to this activity 
gathered during previous monitoring, NMFS refers the reader to the 
Notice of Proposed IHA (76 FR 30311, May 25, 2011), the application, 
and associated documents.

Anticipated Effects on Habitat

    NMFS does not anticipate that the research operations would result 
in any temporary or permanent effects on the habitats used by the 
marine mammals in the research areas, including the food sources they 
use (i.e., fish and invertebrates). NMFS does not anticipate that there 
would be any physical damage to any habitat. While NMFS anticipates 
that the specified activity may result in marine mammals avoiding 
certain areas due to temporary ensonification and human presence, this 
impact to habitat is temporary and reversible. See the Notice of 
Proposed IHA (76 FR 30311, May 25, 2011).

Mitigation

    In order to issue an incidental take authorization (ITA) under 
Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA, NMFS must set forth the permissible 
methods of taking pursuant to such activity, and other means of 
effecting the least practicable adverse impact on such species or stock 
and its habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating 
grounds, and areas of similar significance, and the availability of 
such species or stock for taking for certain subsistence uses.
    PRBO has based the mitigation measures described herein, to be 
implemented for the seabird and pinniped research activities, on the 
following:
    (1) Protocols used during previous PRBO seabird and pinniped 
research activities as approved by NMFS;
    (2) Recommended best practices in Richardson et al. (1995);
    (3) The Terms and Conditions of Scientific Research Permit 373-
1868-00; and
    (4) The Terms and Conditions listed in the Incidental Take 
Statement for NMFS' 2008 Biological Opinion for these activities.
    To reduce the potential for disturbance from acoustic and visual 
stimuli associated with the activities, PRBO and/or its designees will 
implement the following mitigation measures for marine mammals:
    (1) Abide by all of the Terms and Conditions listed in the 
Incidental Take Statement for NMFS' 2008 Biological Opinion, including: 
Monitoring for offshore predators and reporting on observed behaviors 
of Steller sea lions in relation to the disturbance.
    (2) Abide by the Terms and Conditions of Scientific Research Permit 
373-1868-00.
    (3) Postpone beach landings on A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island until 
pinnipeds that may be present on the beach have slowly entered the 
water.
    (4) Select a pathway of approach to research sites that minimizes 
the number of marine mammals harassed, with the first priority being 
avoiding the disturbance of Steller sea lions at haul-outs.
    (5) Avoid visits to sites used by pinnipeds for pupping.
    (6) Monitor for offshore predators and not approach hauled out 
Steller sea lions or other pinnipeds if great white sharks (Carcharodon 
carcharias) or killer whales (Orcinas orca) are seen in the area. If 
predators are seen, eastern U.S. stock Steller sea lions or any other

[[Page 46727]]

pinniped must not be disturbed until the area is free of predators.
    (7) Keep voices hushed and bodies low to the ground in the visual 
presence of pinnipeds.
    (8) Conduct seabird observations at North Landing on Southeast 
Farallon Island in an observation blind, shielded from the view of 
hauled out pinnipeds.
    (9) Crawl slowly to access seabird nest boxes on A[ntilde]o Nuevo 
Island if pinnipeds are within view.
    (10) Coordinate research visits to intertidal areas of Southeast 
Farallon Island (to reduce potential take) and to coordinate research 
goals for A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island to minimize the number of trips to 
the island.
    (11) Coordinate monitoring schedules on A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island, so 
that areas near any pinnipeds would be accessed only once per visit.
    (12) Have the lead biologist serve as an observer to evaluate 
incidental take.
    NMFS has carefully evaluated the applicant's proposed mitigation 
measures and has considered a range of other measures in the context of 
ensuring that NMFS prescribes the means of effecting the least 
practicable adverse impact on the affected marine mammal species and 
stocks and their habitat. Our evaluation of potential measures included 
consideration of the following factors in relation to one another: (i) 
The manner in which, and the degree to which, the successful 
implementation of the measure is expected to minimize adverse impacts 
to marine mammals; (ii) the proven or likely efficacy of the specific 
measure to minimize adverse impacts as planned; and (iii) the 
practicability of the measure for applicant implementation.
    Based on our evaluation of the applicant's proposed measures, as 
well as other measures considered by NMFS or recommended by the public, 
NMFS has determined that the mitigation measures provide the means of 
effecting the least practicable adverse impacts on marine mammals 
species or stocks and their habitat, paying particular attention to 
rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance.

Monitoring

    In order to issue an ITA for an activity, section 101(a)(5)(D) of 
the MMPA states that NMFS must set forth ``requirements pertaining to 
the monitoring and reporting of such taking.'' The MMPA implementing 
regulations at 50 CFR 216.104 (a)(13) indicate that requests for IHAs 
must include the suggested means of accomplishing the necessary 
monitoring and reporting that will result in increased knowledge of the 
species and of the level of taking or impacts on populations of marine 
mammals that are expected to be present in the action area.
    PRBO will sponsor a marine mammal monitor during the present 
research project, in order to implement the mitigation measures thus 
satisfying the monitoring requirements of the IHA. PRBO's monitoring 
activities will consist of monitoring the area for pinnipeds during all 
research activities and conducting and recording observations on 
pinnipeds within the vicinity of the research areas. The monitoring 
notes would provide dates, location, species, the researcher's 
activity, behavioral state, numbers of animals that were alert or moved 
greater than one meter, and numbers of pinnipeds that flushed into the 
water.

Reporting

    The PRBO will submit a final monitoring report to the NMFS Director 
of Office of Protected Resources no later than 90 days after the 
expiration of the IHA. The final report will describe the operations 
that were conducted and sightings of marine mammals near the project. 
The report will provide full documentation of methods, results, and 
interpretation pertaining to all monitoring. The final report will 
provide:
    (i) A summary and table of the dates, times, and weather during all 
seabird and pinniped research activities.
    (ii) Species, number, location, and behavior of any marine mammals, 
observed throughout all monitoring activities.
    (iii) An estimate of the number (by species) of marine mammals that 
are known to have been exposed to acoustic or visual stimuli associated 
with the seabird and pinniped research activities.
    (iv) A description of the implementation and effectiveness of the 
monitoring and mitigation measures of the IHA and full documentation of 
methods, results, and interpretation pertaining to all monitoring.
    In the unanticipated event that PRBO's activities cause any taking 
of a marine mammal in a manner prohibited by the IHA, such as an injury 
(Level A harassment), serious injury or mortality (e.g., vessel-
strike), PRBO shall immediately cease the specified activities and 
immediately report the incident to the Chief of the Permits, 
Conservation, and Education Division, Office of Protected Resources, 
NMFS, at 301-427-8401 and/or by e-mail to Michael.Payne@noaa.gov and 
Jeannine.Cody@noaa.gov, and the Southwest Regional Stranding 
Coordinators (Joe.Cordaro@noaa.gov and Sarah.Wilkin@noaa.gov). The 
report must include the following information: (a) Time, date, and 
location (latitude/longitude) of the incident; the name and type of 
vessel involved; the vessel's speed during and leading up to the 
incident; description of the incident; water depth; environmental 
conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, Beaufort sea state, cloud 
cover, and visibility); description of marine mammal observations in 
the 24 hours preceding the incident; species identification or 
description of the animal(s) involved; the fate of the animal(s); and 
photographs or video footage of the animal (if equipment is available).
    PRBO shall not resume its activities until NMFS is able to review 
the circumstances of the prohibited take. NMFS shall work with PRBO to 
determine what is necessary to minimize the likelihood of further 
prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. PRBO may not resume their 
activities until notified by NMFS in writing via a letter or e-mail or 
via the telephone.
    In the event that PRBO discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, 
and the lead researcher determines that the cause of the injury or 
death is unknown and the death is relatively recent (i.e., in less than 
a moderate state of decomposition as described in the next paragraph), 
PRBO will immediately report the incident to the Chief of the Permits, 
Conservation, and Education Division, Office of Protected Resources, 
NMFS, at 301-427-8401 and/or by e-mail to Michael.Payne@noaa.gov and 
Jeannine.Cody@noaa.gov, and the Southwest Regional Stranding 
Coordinators (Joe.Cordaro@noaa.gov and Sarah.Wilkin@noaa.gov). The 
report must include the same information required above for 
unauthorized takings. Activities may continue while NMFS reviews the 
circumstances of the incident. NMFS will work with PRBO to determine 
whether modifications in the activities are appropriate.
    In the event that PRBO discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, 
and the lead researcher determines that the injury or death is not 
associated with or related to the activities authorized in the IHA 
(e.g., previously wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced 
decomposition, or scavenger damage), PRBO will report the incident to 
the Chief of the Permits, Conservation, and Education Division, Office 
of Protected Resources, NMFS, at 301-427-8401 and/or by e-mail to 
Michael.Payne@noaa.gov and Jeannine.Cody@noaa.gov, and the Southwest 
Regional Stranding Coordinators (Joe.Cordaro@noaa.gov

[[Page 46728]]

and Sarah.Wilkin@noaa.gov) within 24 hours of the discovery. PRBO will 
provide photographs or video footage (if available) or other 
documentation of the stranded animal sighting to NMFS and the Marine 
Mammal Stranding Network.

Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment

    Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, the 
MMPA defines ``harassment'' as:

Any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance which (i) has the 
potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the 
wild [Level A harassment]; or (ii) has the potential to disturb a 
marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing 
disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, 
migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering 
[Level B harassment].

NMFS anticipates take by Level B harassment only as a result of the 
pinniped and research operations on Southeast Farallon Island, 
A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island, and Point Reyes National Seashore. Based on 
PRBO's previous research experiences, with the same activities 
conducted in the research areas, NMFS estimates that small numbers of 
California sea lions, Pacific harbor seals, northern elephant seals, 
and Steller sea lions could be potentially affected by Level B 
behavioral harassment over the course of the IHA.
    For this IHA, NMFS has authorized the take of 5,104 California sea 
lions, 526 harbor seals, 190 northern elephant seals, and 20 Steller 
sea lions. Because of the required mitigation measures and the 
likelihood that some pinnipeds will avoid the areas, NMFS expects no 
injury, serious injury, or mortality to occur, and no takes by injury 
or mortality are authorized.

Negligible Impact and Small Numbers Analysis and Determination

    NMFS has defined ``negligible impact'' in 50 CFR 216.103 as ``* * * 
an impact resulting from the specified activity that cannot be 
reasonably expected to, and is not reasonably likely to, adversely 
affect the species or stock through effects on annual rates of 
recruitment or survival.''

In making a negligible impact determination, NMFS considers:

    (1) The number of anticipated mortalities;
    (2) The number and nature of anticipated injuries;
    (3) The number, nature, and intensity, and duration of Level B 
harassment; and
    (4) The context in which the takes occur.
    As mentioned previously, NMFS estimates that four species of marine 
mammals could be potentially affected by Level B harassment over the 
course of the IHA. For each species, these numbers are small (each, 
less than or equal to two percent) relative to the population size.
    NMFS does not anticipate takes by Level A harassment, serious 
injury, or mortality to occur as a result of PRBO's research 
activities, and none are authorized. These species may exhibit 
behavioral modifications, including temporarily vacating the area 
during the seabird and pinniped research activities to avoid the 
resultant acoustic and visual disturbances. However, NMFS anticipates 
only short-term behavioral disturbance to occur due to the brief 
duration of the research activities, the availability of alternate 
areas for marine mammals to avoid the resultant acoustic and visual 
disturbances, and limited access of PRBO researchers to Southeast 
Farallon Island, A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island, and Point Reyes National 
Seashore during the pupping season. Due to the nature, degree, and 
context of the behavioral harassment anticipated, NMFS does not expect 
these activities to impact rates of recruitment or survival.
    Based on the analysis contained herein of the likely effects of the 
specified activity on marine mammals and their habitat, and taking into 
consideration the implementation of the mitigation and monitoring 
measures, NMFS finds that the impact of conducting seabird and pinniped 
research activities on Southeast Farallon Island, A[ntilde]o Nuevo 
Island, and Point Reyes National Seashore in central California, July 
29, 2011 through July 28, 2012, will result in the incidental take of 
small numbers of marine mammals, by Level B behavioral harassment only, 
and that the total taking from PRBO's activities would have a 
negligible impact on the affected species or stocks; and that impacts 
to affected species or stocks of marine mammals would be mitigated to 
the lowest level practicable.

Impact on Availability of Affected Species or Stock for Taking for 
Subsistence Uses

    There are no relevant subsistence uses of marine mammals implicated 
by this action. Therefore, NMFS has determined that the total taking of 
affected species or stocks would not have an unmitigable adverse impact 
on the availability of such species or stocks for taking for 
subsistence purposes.

Endangered Species Act

    The Steller sea lion, eastern U.S. stock is listed as threatened 
under the ESA and occurs in the research area. NMFS Headquarters' 
Office of Protected Resources, Permits, Conservation, and Education 
Division conducted a formal section 7 consultation under the ESA. On 
November 18, 2008, NMFS issued a Biological Opinion (2008 BiOp); 
concluded that the issuance of an IHA is likely to affect, but not 
likely to jeopardize the continued existence of Steller sea lions; and 
issued an incidental take statement (ITS) for Steller sea lions 
pursuant to section 7 of the ESA. The ITS contains reasonable and 
prudent measures for implementing terms and conditions to minimize the 
effects of this take. NMFS has reviewed the 2008 BiOp and determined 
that there is no new information regarding effects to Steller sea 
lions; the action has not been modified in a manner which would cause 
adverse effects not previously evaluated; there has been no new listing 
of species or no new designation of critical habitat that could be 
affected by the action; and the action will not exceed the extent or 
amount of incidental take authorized in the 2008 BiOp. Therefore, the 
IHA does not require the reinitiation of Section 7 consultation under 
the ESA.

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

    To meet NMFS' NEPA requirements for the issuance of an IHA to PRBO, 
NMFS prepared an Environmental Assessment (EA) in 2007 that was 
specific to seabird research activities on SEFI, WEI, ANI, and PRNS and 
evaluated the impacts on the human environment of NMFS' authorization 
of incidental Level B harassment resulting from seabird research in 
Central California. At that time, NMFS determined that conducting the 
seabird research would not have a significant impact on the quality of 
the human environment and issued a Finding of No Significant Impact 
(FONSI) and, therefore, it was not necessary to prepare an 
environmental impact statement for the issuance of an IHA to PRBO for 
this activity. In 2008, NMFS prepared a supplemental EA (SEA) titled 
``Supplemental Environmental Assessment for the issuance of an 
Incidental Harassment Authorization To Take Marine Mammals by 
Harassment Incidental to Conducting Seabird And Pinniped Research in 
Central California And Environmental Assessment For The Continuation of 
Scientific Research on Pinnipeds in California Under Scientific 
Research Permit 373-1868-00,'' to

[[Page 46729]]

address new available information regarding the effects of PRBO's 
seabird and pinniped research activities that may have cumulative 
impacts to the physical and biological environment. At that time, NMFS 
concluded that issuance of an IHA for the December 2008 through 2009 
season would not significantly affect the quality of the human 
environment and issued a FONSI for the 2008 SEA regarding PRBO's 
activities. In conjunction with this year's application, NMFS has again 
reviewed the 2007 EA and the 2008 SEA and determined that there are no 
new direct, indirect or cumulative impacts to the human and natural 
environment associated with the IHA requiring evaluation in a 
supplemental EA and NMFS, therefore, reaffirms the 2008 FONSI. A copy 
of the EA, SEA, and the NMFS FONSI for this activity is available upon 
request (see ADDRESSES).

Authorization

    As a result of these determinations, NMFS has issued an IHA to PRBO 
to take marine mammals, by Level B harassment only, incidental to 
conducting seabird and pinniped research activities on Southeast 
Farallon Island, A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island, and Point Reyes National 
Seashore in central California provided the previously mentioned 
mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements are incorporated.

    Dated: July 29, 2011.
Helen M. Golde,
Deputy Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2011-19666 Filed 8-2-11; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P