Marine Mammals; Subsistence Taking of Northern Fur Seals; St. Paul Island, 41168-41170 [2012-17034]

Download as PDF 41168 Federal Register / Vol. 77, No. 134 / Thursday, July 12, 2012 / Notices Integrated Transponder tags), trapping (pipe traps), and release of fish. Permit 15730 authorizes SPAWN non-lethal and low levels of unintentional lethal take of juvenile ESA-listed salmonids and take of adult carcasses of these species. Permit 15730 does not authorize any intentional lethal take of ESA-listed salmonids or lethal or nonlethal take of live adult salmonids. Dated: July 9, 2012. Angela Somma, Chief, Endangered Species Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2012–17055 Filed 7–11–12; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XC103 Endangered and Threatened Species; Take of Anadromous Fish Written responses to the environmental assessment should be sent to Brett Farman, National Marine Fisheries Services, Salmon Management Division, 1201 NE. Lloyd Boulevard, Suite 1100, Portland, OR 97232. Comments may also be submitted by email to: SnakeFallEA.nwr@noaa.gov. Include in the subject line of the email comment the following identifier: Comments on Snake Fall Chinook Hatchery Assessment. Comments may also be sent via facsimile (fax) to (503) 872–2737. Requests for copies of the draft environmental assessment should be directed to the National Marine Fisheries Services, Salmon Management Division, 1201 N.E. Lloyd Boulevard, Suite 1100, Portland, OR 97232. Comments received will also be available for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours by calling (503) 230–5418. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Brett Farman at (503) 231–6222 or email: brett.farman@noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: ADDRESSES: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice of availability and request for comment. Section 9 of the ESA and Federal regulations prohibit the ‘‘taking’’ of a species listed as endangered or threatened. The term ‘‘take’’ is defined under the ESA to mean harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct. NMFS may issue permits to take listed species for any act otherwise prohibited by section 9 for scientific purposes or to enhance the propagation or survival of the affected species, under section 10(a)(1)(A) of the ESA. NMFS regulations governing permits for threatened and endangered species are promulgated at 50 CFR 222.307. The proposed action is to issue the two section 10(a)(1)(A) direct take permits. The receipt of the applications for the permits was previously noticed (76 FR 43986, July 22, 2011), and comments were invited. Hatchery operations to be permitted would be carried out at the Nez Perce Tribal Hatchery, and at Lyons Ferry, Oxbow, and Irrigon Hatcheries, and associated facilities. The purpose of these programs is to mitigate for losses of Snake River fall Chinook salmon caused by the four lower Snake River dams, the Federal Columbia River Power System, and the Hells Canyon dam complex. AGENCY: SUMMARY: pmangrum on DSK3VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES NEPA requires Federal agencies to conduct an environmental analysis of their proposed actions to determine if the actions may affect the human environment. NMFS expects to take action on two ESA section 10(a)(1)(A) permits. Therefore, NMFS is seeking public input on the scope of the required NEPA analysis, including the range of reasonable alternatives and associated impacts of any alternatives. Dated: July 9, 2012. Angela Somma, Chief, Endangered Species Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2012–17052 Filed 7–11–12; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XZ28 Species Covered in This Notice Notice is hereby given that NMFS has prepared a draft Environmental Assessment (EA) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of the potential effects of two direct take permits for hatchery operations in the Snake River basin involving Snake River fall Chinook salmon. The permit applicants are the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), Idaho Department of Fish and Game, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) on behalf of the Nez Perce Tribe (NPT). The proposed permits would expire on December 31, 2017. This document serves to notify the public of the draft EA for public review, comment, and submission of written data, views, arguments or other relevant information before a final decision on whether to issue a Finding of No Significant Impact is made by NMFS. All comments and other information received will become part of the public record and will be available for review pursuant to section 10(c) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Authority Comments and other submissions must be received at the appropriate address or fax number (see ADDRESSES) no later than 5 p.m. Pacific time on July 27, 2012. DATES: VerDate Mar<15>2010 15:39 Jul 11, 2012 Jkt 226001 Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha): Threatened, naturally produced and artificially propagated Snake River fall-run. Background PO 00000 Frm 00006 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Marine Mammals; Subsistence Taking of Northern Fur Seals; St. Paul Island National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. AGENCY: Notice and request for comments. ACTION: NMFS announces the receipt of a petition for rulemaking under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The Pribilof Island Community of St. Paul Island, Aleut Community of St. Paul Island-Tribal Government (St. Paul) petitioned NMFS to revise regulations governing the subsistence taking of northern fur seals on St. Paul Island. St. Paul’s petition requests that NMFS revise the regulations to allow residents of St. Paul, Alaska to: Take male young of the year (less than 1 year old) fur seals; take a total of up to 3,000 fur seals annually compared to 2,000 currently allowed, including up to 1,500 male young of the year and up to 1,500 sub-adult (1–4 years old) males; hunt or harvest fur seals during a total of 329 days annually, rather than the 47-day harvest season provided for under existing regulations; and take fur seals with firearms, in addition to harvesting (the current method of herding, stunning, and immediate exsanguination, which is allowed under existing regulations). NMFS solicits public comment on all aspects of this request. SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\12JYN1.SGM 12JYN1 Federal Register / Vol. 77, No. 134 / Thursday, July 12, 2012 / Notices Written comments must be received at the appropriate address or fax number by September 10, 2012. ADDRESSES: Send comments to Jon Kurland, Assistant Regional Administrator for Protected Resources, Alaska Region, Attn: Ellen Sebastian. You may submit comments, identified by FDMS Docket Number NOAA– NMFS–2012–0038, by any one of the following methods: • Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal www.regulations.gov. To submit comments via the e-Rulemaking Portal, first click the ‘‘submit a comment’’ icon, then enter NOAA–NMFS–2012–0038 in the keyword search. Locate the document you wish to comment on from the resulting list and click on the ‘‘Submit a Comment’’ icon on the right of that line. • Mail: Submit written comments to P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802. • Fax: 907–586–7557. • Hand Delivery to the Federal Building: 709 West 9th Street, Room 420A, Juneau, AK. Instructions: Comments must be submitted by one of the above methods to ensure that the comments are received, documented, and considered by NMFS. Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.) submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. Do not submit confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive or protected information. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/A’’ in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word or Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats only. Information related to the request for rulemaking is available on the Internet at the following address: http:// www.alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/ protectedresources/seals/fur.htm. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Michael Williams, (907) 271–5006, email Michael.Williams@noaa.gov; Jon Kurland, (907) 586–7235, email Jon.Kurland@noaa.gov; or Shannon Bettridge, (301) 427–8402, email Shannon.Bettridge@noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The subsistence harvest of northern fur seals pmangrum on DSK3VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES DATES: VerDate Mar<15>2010 15:39 Jul 11, 2012 Jkt 226001 on the Pribilof Islands is governed by regulations at 50 CFR 216.71–.74 established under the Fur Seal Act (FSA) 16 U.S.C. 1511 et seq., and Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) 16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq. The regulations impose a variety of restrictions on the harvest of fur seals on St. Paul Island. The regulations (1) Establish a 47-day period between June 23 and August 8 of each year during which fur seals may be taken for subsistence purposes; (2) limit the harvest of sub-adult male fur seals to those less than 124.5 cm in length (i.e., ≤4 years old); (3) identify specific hauling grounds from which fur seals may be taken and provide that no hauling ground on St. Paul may be harvested more than once per week; (4) require that NMFS receive adequate advance notice of scheduled harvest activities to enable NMFS to monitor the harvest; (5) and require NMFS to publish triennially a summary of the harvest during the preceding three years and the estimated subsistence needs for the next three years (71 FR 8222; 73 FR 49616; 77 FR 6682). The harvest regulations additionally state (50 CFR 216.72(c)(2)): No fur seal may be taken except by experienced sealers using the traditional harvesting methods, including stunning followed immediately by exsanguination. The harvesting method shall include organized drives of sub-adult males to killing fields unless it is determined by the NMFS representatives, in consultation with the Pribilovians conducting the harvest, that alternative methods will not result in increased disturbance to the rookery or the increased accidental take of female seals. St. Paul submitted a resolution on February 16, 2007, requesting that NMFS change the regulations to allow a harvest that St. Paul asserts better fits the scope and duration of their customary and traditional seal harvests and to allow hunting with firearms that St. Paul asserts will better meet their changing subsistence needs. NMFS considers this resolution, together with subsequent letters and documents submitted in the past few years by St. Paul, to be a petition for rulemaking under the APA. The St. Paul petition states that the subsistence harvest methods currently authorized by NMFS were developed to transition from a commercial harvest to a subsistence harvest and no longer accommodate the community’s changing subsistence needs. The petition further suggests that the subsistence harvest methods currently authorized do not reflect the customary PO 00000 Frm 00007 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 41169 and traditional practices of harvesting young of the year (i.e., less than one year old) fur seals and hunting male fur seals of various ages. The current method, hereafter referred to as ‘‘harvest,’’ involves organized herding and driving of groups of sub-adult male fur seals from the hauling grounds to the killing fields, where they are taken by harvesters who come in close proximity with the seals before taking them. By contrast, ‘‘hunting’’ refers to an individual shooting with a firearm specific fur seals from some distance while the seals occupy the hauling (or breeding) grounds. St. Paul’s petition requests that NMFS establish separate seasons during which residents may hunt and harvest fur seals. St. Paul’s petition recognizes three different age classes of sub-adult male fur seals: young of the year (animals less than one year old); yearlings (one-year old animals); and sub-adults (animals between 2 and 4 years old). St. Paul requested that NMFS modify its regulations to allow: (1) Take by harvesting and individual hunting of up to 1,500 young of the year male fur seals annually from August 25 to December 31, of which no more than 10% may be composed of incidental take of female young of the year; (2) Take by harvesting and hunting with firearms of up to 1,500 sub-adult (i.e., 1–4 year-old) male fur seals annually in the following St. Paul hauling grounds: Reef, Gorbatch, Morjovi, Sea Lion Neck, Vostochni, Big Zapadni, Little Zapadni, Zapadni Reef, Tolstoi, Polovina, Lukanin, and Ketovi; (3) Take by firearms sub-adult males at Sea Lion Neck beginning September 1 through June 1 of each year and from October 15 through June 1 at the following hauling grounds: Reef, Gorbatch, Morjovi, Vostochni, Big Zapadni, Little Zapadni, Zapadni Reef, Tolstoi, Polovina, Lukanin, and Ketovi; (4) Extension of the current annual harvest period for all sub-adult males by two days (from June 23–August 8 to June 23–August 10) and an additional harvest period for sub-adult males from September 15 to October 31; and (5) St. Paul residents to individually hunt young of the year fur seals with firearms no larger than .22 caliber and a minimum of .22 caliber to take subadult males. Taking outside the June 23 to August 8 season, taking of adult or young of the year fur seals, and the intentional taking of sub-adult female fur seals are all prohibited under the current regulations. St. Paul requests that NMFS authorize the hunting and harvesting of young of the year and sub-adult male fur seals E:\FR\FM\12JYN1.SGM 12JYN1 41170 Federal Register / Vol. 77, No. 134 / Thursday, July 12, 2012 / Notices during the specified seasons at any of the following hauling grounds: Reef, Gorbatch, Morjovi, Sea Lion Neck, Vostochni, Big Zapadni, Little Zapadni, Zapadni Reef, Tolstoi, Polovina, Lukanin, and Ketovi. The current regulations allow fur seals to be harvested in all of these hauling grounds. St. Paul’s intent in describing these subsistence use areas was to clarify ambiguity in the current regulations which use a combination of regional fur seal breeding area names (e.g., Northeast Point) along with individually-named breeding areas (e.g., Kitovi). St. Paul intends for the regulations to employ the locally-used seasonal subsistence place names for those places where northern fur seals may be harvested under the regulations. According to St. Paul, a separate spring hunt and fall hunt and harvest season at the above hauling grounds would better meet the community’s customary and traditional use of the northern fur seal. These changes are summarized in Table 1. TABLE 1—REQUESTED MODIFICATIONS OF THE NORTHERN FUR SEAL HARVESTING REGULATIONS AS COMPARED TO EXISTING REGULATIONS Current regulations Petitioned changes Coordinated harvesting crew Coordinated harvesting crew Season for Young-of-the-Year (<1 year old) males. None ............................................. Aug. 25–Dec. 31 ........................... Annual Number of Young-of-theYear (<1 year old) males. 0 .................................................... Season for Sub-adult (1–4 year old) males. June 23–Aug. 8 ............................ Annual Number of Sub-adult (1–4 year old) males. 1,645–2,000 (for 2011–2013) ....... Total open period .................... pmangrum on DSK3VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Subsistence method 47 days ......................................... NMFS is uncertain about the frequency of young of the year and yearlings occupying hauling grounds, rather than breeding areas, during the time of year proposed for taking by St. Paul. It is also uncertain whether hunters would consider young of the year and yearlings more available and accessible on the specified hauling grounds than breeding grounds. Each of the St. Paul’s named hauling grounds has an associated breeding ground. Adult, sub-adult, and young of the year fur seals alter their use of hauling grounds and breeding grounds as the season progresses, largely as a result of the departure of territorial adult males beginning in August and the onset of strong storms later in the autumn. As a result, in late summer the distinction between hauling grounds and breeding grounds becomes unclear. Moreover, NMFS scientists have determined the vast majority of yearlings do not return to land and instead remain at sea. On rare occasions during the autumn yearling fur seals can be found on the Pribilof Islands but are not considered a significant part of the population on land until they are two years old. The current timing restriction results in exclusion of yearlings from the harvest, as few if any are found on land until well after the end of the subsistence harvest season (August 8). St. Paul’s request to take fur seals in September–December will likely result VerDate Mar<15>2010 15:39 Jul 11, 2012 Jkt 226001 Frm 00008 Fmt 4703 Aug. 25–Dec. 31. 1,500 including both methods. June 23–Aug. 10 .......................... Sept. 15–Oct. 31 .......................... Sept. 1–June 1 (Sea Lion Neck) Oct. 15–June 1 (other specified hauling ground locations). 1,500 Including both methods. 178 days ....................................... in the taking of yearlings and therefore this separate age class can be grouped into the sub-adult category for the purposes of the petition. NMFS has not previously considered the taking of yearlings in prior harvest assessments. The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA, has determined that the petition contains enough information to warrant consideration of the requests. NMFS solicits public comment on St. Paul’s request to modify regulations that govern the taking of fur seals for subsistence purposes by residents of St. Paul Island. NMFS is particularly interested in information that would improve NMFS’s evaluation of the effects on the fur seal population of: (1) Extension of the current 47-day harvest season to a 178-day harvest season and creation of an additional 281-day individual hunting season with firearms; (2) Increased lethal takes of adult and sub-adult females by hunters due to the difficulty of distinguishing young male from young female fur seals at a distance; (3) Increased human presence on the hauling grounds and breeding grounds throughout the year and resultant harassment of fur seals; and (4) Seals wounded, but not lethally taken, by hunters using firearms. NMFS is also interested in information regarding the extent to which young of the year occupy the PO 00000 Individuals hunting with rirearms Sfmt 9990 281 days. hauling grounds as opposed to the breeding grounds. Finally, NMFS is interested in information that would improve our evaluation of the risk to field researchers studying fur seals, who may be present on or near these sites during hunting activities. NMFS will consider public comments received in determining whether to proceed with any of the revisions of the regulations requested by St. Paul. Upon determining whether to initiate the requested or alternative rulemaking, the Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA, will publish in the Federal Register a proposed rule or notice of the Agency’s final disposition of St. Paul’s petition. Dated: July 9, 2012. Alan D. Risenhoover, Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, performing the functions and duties of the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2012–17034 Filed 7–11–12; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\12JYN1.SGM 12JYN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 134 (Thursday, July 12, 2012)]
[Notices]
[Pages 41168-41170]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-17034]


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

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XZ28


Marine Mammals; Subsistence Taking of Northern Fur Seals; St. 
Paul Island

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

ACTION: Notice and request for comments.

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

SUMMARY: NMFS announces the receipt of a petition for rulemaking under 
the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The Pribilof Island Community 
of St. Paul Island, Aleut Community of St. Paul Island-Tribal 
Government (St. Paul) petitioned NMFS to revise regulations governing 
the subsistence taking of northern fur seals on St. Paul Island. St. 
Paul's petition requests that NMFS revise the regulations to allow 
residents of St. Paul, Alaska to: Take male young of the year (less 
than 1 year old) fur seals; take a total of up to 3,000 fur seals 
annually compared to 2,000 currently allowed, including up to 1,500 
male young of the year and up to 1,500 sub-adult (1-4 years old) males; 
hunt or harvest fur seals during a total of 329 days annually, rather 
than the 47-day harvest season provided for under existing regulations; 
and take fur seals with firearms, in addition to harvesting (the 
current method of herding, stunning, and immediate exsanguination, 
which is allowed under existing regulations). NMFS solicits public 
comment on all aspects of this request.

[[Page 41169]]


DATES: Written comments must be received at the appropriate address or 
fax number by September 10, 2012.

ADDRESSES: Send comments to Jon Kurland, Assistant Regional 
Administrator for Protected Resources, Alaska Region, Attn: Ellen 
Sebastian. You may submit comments, identified by FDMS Docket Number 
NOAA-NMFS-2012-0038, by any one of the following methods:
     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal www.regulations.gov. To 
submit comments via the e-Rulemaking Portal, first click the ``submit a 
comment'' icon, then enter NOAA-NMFS-2012-0038 in the keyword search. 
Locate the document you wish to comment on from the resulting list and 
click on the ``Submit a Comment'' icon on the right of that line.
     Mail: Submit written comments to P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, 
AK 99802.
     Fax: 907-586-7557.
     Hand Delivery to the Federal Building: 709 West 9th 
Street, Room 420A, Juneau, AK.
    Instructions: Comments must be submitted by one of the above 
methods to ensure that the comments are received, documented, and 
considered by NMFS. Comments sent by any other method, to any other 
address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, 
may not be considered. All comments received are a part of the public 
record and will generally be posted for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address, etc.) submitted voluntarily by the 
sender will be publicly accessible. Do not submit confidential business 
information, or otherwise sensitive or protected information. NMFS will 
accept anonymous comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you 
wish to remain anonymous). Attachments to electronic comments will be 
accepted in Microsoft Word or Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file 
formats only.
    Information related to the request for rulemaking is available on 
the Internet at the following address: http://www.alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/protectedresources/seals/fur.htm.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Michael Williams, (907) 271-5006, 
email Michael.Williams@noaa.gov; Jon Kurland, (907) 586-7235, email 
Jon.Kurland@noaa.gov; or Shannon Bettridge, (301) 427-8402, email 
Shannon.Bettridge@noaa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The subsistence harvest of northern fur 
seals on the Pribilof Islands is governed by regulations at 50 CFR 
216.71-.74 established under the Fur Seal Act (FSA) 16 U.S.C. 1511 et 
seq., and Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) 16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq. 
The regulations impose a variety of restrictions on the harvest of fur 
seals on St. Paul Island. The regulations (1) Establish a 47-day period 
between June 23 and August 8 of each year during which fur seals may be 
taken for subsistence purposes; (2) limit the harvest of sub-adult male 
fur seals to those less than 124.5 cm in length (i.e., <=4 years old); 
(3) identify specific hauling grounds from which fur seals may be taken 
and provide that no hauling ground on St. Paul may be harvested more 
than once per week; (4) require that NMFS receive adequate advance 
notice of scheduled harvest activities to enable NMFS to monitor the 
harvest; (5) and require NMFS to publish triennially a summary of the 
harvest during the preceding three years and the estimated subsistence 
needs for the next three years (71 FR 8222; 73 FR 49616; 77 FR 6682). 
The harvest regulations additionally state (50 CFR 216.72(c)(2)): No 
fur seal may be taken except by experienced sealers using the 
traditional harvesting methods, including stunning followed immediately 
by exsanguination. The harvesting method shall include organized drives 
of sub-adult males to killing fields unless it is determined by the 
NMFS representatives, in consultation with the Pribilovians conducting 
the harvest, that alternative methods will not result in increased 
disturbance to the rookery or the increased accidental take of female 
seals.
    St. Paul submitted a resolution on February 16, 2007, requesting 
that NMFS change the regulations to allow a harvest that St. Paul 
asserts better fits the scope and duration of their customary and 
traditional seal harvests and to allow hunting with firearms that St. 
Paul asserts will better meet their changing subsistence needs. NMFS 
considers this resolution, together with subsequent letters and 
documents submitted in the past few years by St. Paul, to be a petition 
for rulemaking under the APA.
    The St. Paul petition states that the subsistence harvest methods 
currently authorized by NMFS were developed to transition from a 
commercial harvest to a subsistence harvest and no longer accommodate 
the community's changing subsistence needs. The petition further 
suggests that the subsistence harvest methods currently authorized do 
not reflect the customary and traditional practices of harvesting young 
of the year (i.e., less than one year old) fur seals and hunting male 
fur seals of various ages. The current method, hereafter referred to as 
``harvest,'' involves organized herding and driving of groups of sub-
adult male fur seals from the hauling grounds to the killing fields, 
where they are taken by harvesters who come in close proximity with the 
seals before taking them. By contrast, ``hunting'' refers to an 
individual shooting with a firearm specific fur seals from some 
distance while the seals occupy the hauling (or breeding) grounds.
    St. Paul's petition requests that NMFS establish separate seasons 
during which residents may hunt and harvest fur seals. St. Paul's 
petition recognizes three different age classes of sub-adult male fur 
seals: young of the year (animals less than one year old); yearlings 
(one-year old animals); and sub-adults (animals between 2 and 4 years 
old). St. Paul requested that NMFS modify its regulations to allow:
    (1) Take by harvesting and individual hunting of up to 1,500 young 
of the year male fur seals annually from August 25 to December 31, of 
which no more than 10% may be composed of incidental take of female 
young of the year;
    (2) Take by harvesting and hunting with firearms of up to 1,500 
sub-adult (i.e., 1-4 year-old) male fur seals annually in the following 
St. Paul hauling grounds: Reef, Gorbatch, Morjovi, Sea Lion Neck, 
Vostochni, Big Zapadni, Little Zapadni, Zapadni Reef, Tolstoi, 
Polovina, Lukanin, and Ketovi;
    (3) Take by firearms sub-adult males at Sea Lion Neck beginning 
September 1 through June 1 of each year and from October 15 through 
June 1 at the following hauling grounds: Reef, Gorbatch, Morjovi, 
Vostochni, Big Zapadni, Little Zapadni, Zapadni Reef, Tolstoi, 
Polovina, Lukanin, and Ketovi;
    (4) Extension of the current annual harvest period for all sub-
adult males by two days (from June 23-August 8 to June 23-August 10) 
and an additional harvest period for sub-adult males from September 15 
to October 31; and
    (5) St. Paul residents to individually hunt young of the year fur 
seals with firearms no larger than .22 caliber and a minimum of .22 
caliber to take sub-adult males.
    Taking outside the June 23 to August 8 season, taking of adult or 
young of the year fur seals, and the intentional taking of sub-adult 
female fur seals are all prohibited under the current regulations.
    St. Paul requests that NMFS authorize the hunting and harvesting of 
young of the year and sub-adult male fur seals

[[Page 41170]]

during the specified seasons at any of the following hauling grounds: 
Reef, Gorbatch, Morjovi, Sea Lion Neck, Vostochni, Big Zapadni, Little 
Zapadni, Zapadni Reef, Tolstoi, Polovina, Lukanin, and Ketovi. The 
current regulations allow fur seals to be harvested in all of these 
hauling grounds. St. Paul's intent in describing these subsistence use 
areas was to clarify ambiguity in the current regulations which use a 
combination of regional fur seal breeding area names (e.g., Northeast 
Point) along with individually-named breeding areas (e.g., Kitovi). St. 
Paul intends for the regulations to employ the locally-used seasonal 
subsistence place names for those places where northern fur seals may 
be harvested under the regulations. According to St. Paul, a separate 
spring hunt and fall hunt and harvest season at the above hauling 
grounds would better meet the community's customary and traditional use 
of the northern fur seal. These changes are summarized in Table 1.

    Table 1--Requested modifications of the northern fur seal harvesting regulations as compared to existing
                                                   regulations
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                         Current regulations                   Petitioned changes
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                        Coordinated harvesting   Coordinated harvesting    Individuals hunting
          Subsistence method                     crew                     crew                with rirearms
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Season for Young-of-the-Year (<1 year  None...................  Aug. 25-Dec. 31........  Aug. 25-Dec. 31.
 old) males.
                                                               -------------------------------------------------
Annual Number of Young-of-the-Year     0......................            1,500 including both methods.
 (<1 year old) males.
                                                               -------------------------------------------------
Season for Sub-adult (1-4 year old)    June 23-Aug. 8.........  June 23-Aug. 10........  Sept. 1-June 1 (Sea
 males.                                                         Sept. 15-Oct. 31.......   Lion Neck) Oct. 15-
                                                                                          June 1 (other
                                                                                          specified hauling
                                                                                          ground locations).
                                                               -------------------------------------------------
Annual Number of Sub-adult (1-4 year   1,645-2,000 (for 2011-             1,500 Including both methods.
 old) males.                            2013).
                                      --------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Total open period................  47 days................  178 days...............  281 days.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    NMFS is uncertain about the frequency of young of the year and 
yearlings occupying hauling grounds, rather than breeding areas, during 
the time of year proposed for taking by St. Paul. It is also uncertain 
whether hunters would consider young of the year and yearlings more 
available and accessible on the specified hauling grounds than breeding 
grounds.
    Each of the St. Paul's named hauling grounds has an associated 
breeding ground. Adult, sub-adult, and young of the year fur seals 
alter their use of hauling grounds and breeding grounds as the season 
progresses, largely as a result of the departure of territorial adult 
males beginning in August and the onset of strong storms later in the 
autumn. As a result, in late summer the distinction between hauling 
grounds and breeding grounds becomes unclear.
    Moreover, NMFS scientists have determined the vast majority of 
yearlings do not return to land and instead remain at sea. On rare 
occasions during the autumn yearling fur seals can be found on the 
Pribilof Islands but are not considered a significant part of the 
population on land until they are two years old. The current timing 
restriction results in exclusion of yearlings from the harvest, as few 
if any are found on land until well after the end of the subsistence 
harvest season (August 8). St. Paul's request to take fur seals in 
September-December will likely result in the taking of yearlings and 
therefore this separate age class can be grouped into the sub-adult 
category for the purposes of the petition. NMFS has not previously 
considered the taking of yearlings in prior harvest assessments.
    The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA, has determined 
that the petition contains enough information to warrant consideration 
of the requests. NMFS solicits public comment on St. Paul's request to 
modify regulations that govern the taking of fur seals for subsistence 
purposes by residents of St. Paul Island.
    NMFS is particularly interested in information that would improve 
NMFS's evaluation of the effects on the fur seal population of:
    (1) Extension of the current 47-day harvest season to a 178-day 
harvest season and creation of an additional 281-day individual hunting 
season with firearms;
    (2) Increased lethal takes of adult and sub-adult females by 
hunters due to the difficulty of distinguishing young male from young 
female fur seals at a distance;
    (3) Increased human presence on the hauling grounds and breeding 
grounds throughout the year and resultant harassment of fur seals; and
    (4) Seals wounded, but not lethally taken, by hunters using 
firearms.
    NMFS is also interested in information regarding the extent to 
which young of the year occupy the hauling grounds as opposed to the 
breeding grounds. Finally, NMFS is interested in information that would 
improve our evaluation of the risk to field researchers studying fur 
seals, who may be present on or near these sites during hunting 
activities.
    NMFS will consider public comments received in determining whether 
to proceed with any of the revisions of the regulations requested by 
St. Paul. Upon determining whether to initiate the requested or 
alternative rulemaking, the Assistant Administrator for Fisheries,
    NOAA, will publish in the Federal Register a proposed rule or 
notice of the Agency's final disposition of St. Paul's petition.

    Dated: July 9, 2012.
Alan D. Risenhoover,
Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, performing the functions and 
duties of the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, 
National Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2012-17034 Filed 7-11-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P