Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Seabird and Pinniped Research Activities in Central California, 2013-2014, 66686-66695 [2013-26596]

Download as PDF 66686 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 215 / Wednesday, November 6, 2013 / Notices England Fishery Management Council, the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, and the Caribbean Fishery Management Council. The HMS AP also includes 22 ex-officio participants: 20 representatives of the coastal states and two representatives of the interstate commissions (the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission). NMFS will provide the necessary administrative support, including technical assistance, for the HMS AP. However, NMFS will not compensate participants with monetary support of any kind. Depending on availability of funds, members may be reimbursed for travel costs related to the HMS AP meetings. C. Meeting Schedule Meetings of the HMS AP will be held as frequently as necessary but are routinely held twice each year—once in the spring, and once in the fall. The meetings may be held in conjunction with public hearings. Dated: November 1, 2013. James P. Burgess, Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2013–26600 Filed 11–5–13; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XC837 Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Seabird and Pinniped Research Activities in Central California, 2013–2014 National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; proposed incidental harassment authorization; request for comments. AGENCY: We, NMFS, have received an application from Point Blue Conservation Science (Point Blue, formerly PRBO Conservation Science), requesting an Incidental Harassment Authorization (Authorization) to take marine mammals, by harassment, incidental to conducting proposed seabird and pinniped research activities ˜ on Southeast Farallon Island, Ano Nuevo Island, and Point Reyes National Seashore in central California from mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:25 Nov 05, 2013 Jkt 232001 December 2013 through December 2014. Per the Marine Mammal Protection Act, we are requesting comments on our proposal to issue an Authorization to Point Blue to incidentally harass, by Level B harassment only, four species of marine mammals during the year-long research project. DATES: We must receive comments and information no later than December 5, 2013. ADDRESSES: Address your comments on the application to P. Michael Payne, Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910. The mailbox address for providing email comments is ITP.Cody@ noaa.gov. Please include 0648–XC837 in the subject line. We are not responsible for email comments sent to addresses other than the one provided here. Comments sent via email, including all attachments, must not exceed a 10megabyte file size. All comments received are a part of the public record and we will generally post them to http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/ pr/permits/incidental.htm#applications without change. All Personal Identifying Information (for example, name, address, etc.) voluntarily submitted by the commenter may be publicly accessible. Do not submit confidential business information or otherwise sensitive or protected information. To obtain an electronic copy of the application, write to the previously mentioned address, telephone the contact listed here (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT) or access the documents on our Web page at: http:// www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/ incidental.htm#applications. We will prepare a separate NEPA analysis to evaluate the environmental effects related to the scope of our federal action, which is the proposed issuance of an Authorization to Point Blue for their proposed seabird and pinniped research activities. This notice presents detailed information on the scope of our federal action under NEPA (i.e., the proposed Authorization including mitigation measures and monitoring) and we will consider comments submitted in response to this notice as we prepare our NEPA analysis. The public can view documents cited in this notice by appointment, during regular business hours, at the previously mentioned address. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jeannine Cody, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS (301) 427–8401. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the Marine Mammal PO 00000 Frm 00006 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Protection Act (MMPA; 16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) 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 United States citizens who engage in a specified activity (other than commercial fishing) within a specified geographical region if: (1) We make certain findings; (2) the taking is limited to harassment; and (3) we provide a notice of a proposed authorization to the public for review. We shall allow authorization for the incidental taking of small numbers of marine mammals if we find 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 (i.e., mitigation); and requirements pertaining to the monitoring and reporting of such takings. We have 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 marine mammals by harassment. Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the Act establishes a 45-day time limit for our review of an application followed by a 30-day public notice and comment period on any proposed authorization for the incidental harassment of small numbers of marine mammals. Within 45 days of the close of the public comment period, we must either issue or deny the authorization and must publish a notice in the Federal Register within 30 days of our determination to issue or deny the authorization. Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, the Marine Mammal Protection Act 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]. E:\FR\FM\06NON1.SGM 06NON1 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 215 / Wednesday, November 6, 2013 / Notices Summary of Request We received an application on July 17, 2013, from Point Blue requesting the taking by 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. Point Blue, along with partners Oikonos Ecosystem Knowledge and Point Reyes National Seashore, plan to conduct the proposed activities for one year. These partners are conducting this research under cooperative agreements with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in consultation with the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. We determined the application complete and adequate on August 27, 2013. Their proposed research activities would involve monitoring and censusing seabird colonies; observing seabird nesting habitat; restoring nesting burrows; observing breeding elephant seals, and resupplying a field station. The proposed 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 California. 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, 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 shortterm behavioral disturbance for marine mammals in the proposed areas. These types of disturbances are the principal means of marine mammal taking associated with these activities. Point Blue has requested an authorization to take 5,390 California sea lions, 526 harbor seals, 190 northern elephant seals, and 20 Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) by Level B harassment only. To date, we have issued five 1-year Incidental Harassment Authorizations to Point Blue (formerly known as PRBO Conservation Science) for the conduct of the same activities from 2007 to 2013. VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:25 Nov 05, 2013 Jkt 232001 The current Authorization expires on December 5, 2013 (77 FR 73989, December 7, 2012). This is the organization’s sixth request for an Authorization and they will submit a monitoring report to us no later than 90 days after the expiration of the current Authorization. Description of the Specified Geographic Region The proposed action area consists of the following three locations in the northeast Pacific Ocean: South Farallones Islands The South Farallon Islands consist of Southeast Farallon Island located at 37°41′54.32″ N; 123°0′8.33″ W and West End Island. These two islands are directly adjacent to each other and separated by only a 30-foot (ft) (9.1 meter (m)) channel. The South Farallon Islands 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. ˜ Ano Nuevo Island ˜ Ano Nuevo Island 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. The Island lies within the Monterey Bay ˜ National Marine Sanctuary and the Ano Nuevo State Marine Conservation Area. Point Reyes National Seashore Point Reyes National Seashore located is approximately 40 miles (64.3 km) north of San Francisco Bay and also lies within the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. The proposed 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 Seabird Research on Southeast Farallon Island Point Blue proposes to conduct: (1) Daily observations of seabird colonies at a maximum frequency of three 15minute 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 September 2013, and September 2014. These activities PO 00000 Frm 00007 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 66687 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. The potential for incidental take related to the mark/recapture studies is very low as these activities are conducted within the interior of the island away from the intertidal areas where the pinnipeds haul out. Most potential for incidental take would occur when the researchers approach or depart the intertidal area by motorboat or when the researchers walk within 50 ft (15.2 m) of the haulout areas to enter the observation blinds to observe shorebirds. Field Station Resupply on Southeast Farallon Island Point Blue 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. Most potential for incidental take would occur when the researchers approach the area by motorboat or when the researchers load or unload supplies onshore. ˜ Seabird Research on Ano Nuevo Island Point Blue and its partners propose 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 minutes. Most potential for incidental take would occur at the landing beach on the north side of the island when the researchers arrive and depart to check the boxes. Non-breeding pinnipeds may occasionally be present, including California sea lions that may be hauled out near a small group of subterranean seabird nest boxes on the island terrace. E:\FR\FM\06NON1.SGM 06NON1 66688 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 215 / Wednesday, November 6, 2013 / Notices In both locations researchers are located more than 50 ft (15.2 m) away from any pinnipeds which may be hauled out. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Seabird Research on Point Reyes National Seashore The National Park Service in collaboration with Point Blue 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 per year, with an emphasis on increasing monitoring during the nesting season. Researchers would conduct occasional, intermittent visits during the rest of the year. A majority of the research occurs in areas where marine mammals are not present. However, the potential for incidental harassment will occur at the landing beaches along Point Reyes Headland, boat ramps, or parking lots where northern elephant seals, harbor seals, or California sea lions may be hauled out in the vicinity. 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. Historically, a few juvenile Steller sea lions may haul out on a spit of rocks called Shell Beach Rocks below the transit path to the northern elephant seal haul out. Thus, the potential for incidental harassment of Steller sea lions may occur when the researchers transit above Shell Beach Rocks. We expect that acoustic and visual stimuli resulting from the proposed motorboat operations and human presence has the potential to harass marine mammals. We also expect that these disturbances would be temporary and result, at worst, in a temporary modification in behavior and/or lowlevel physiological effects (Level B harassment) of certain species of marine mammals. Description of the Marine Mammals in the Area of the Proposed Specified Activity The marine mammals most likely to be harassed incidental to conducting VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:25 Nov 05, 2013 Jkt 232001 seabird and pinniped research at the proposed research areas on Southeast ˜ Farallon Island, Ano Nuevo Island, and Point Reyes National Seashore are primarily California sea lions, northern elephant seals, Pacific harbor seals, and to a lesser extent the eastern distinct population segment (DPS) of the Steller sea lion, which NMFS has removed from the list of threatened species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA; 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), effective November, 2013. We refer the public to Carretta et al., (2013) for general information on these species which we present below this section. The publication is available at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/sars/pdf/ po2012.pdf. Northern Elephant Seal Northern elephant seals are not listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act, nor are they categorized as depleted under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The estimated population of the California Breeding Stock is approximately 124,000 animals and the maximum population growth rate is 11.7 percent (Carretta et al., 2013). Northern elephant seals range in the eastern and central North Pacific Ocean, from as far north as Alaska and as far south as Mexico. Northern elephant seals spend much of the year, generally about nine months, in the ocean. They are usually underwater, diving to depths of about 1,000 to 2,500 ft (330–800 m) for 20- to 30-minute intervals with only short breaks at the surface. They are rarely seen out at sea for this reason. While on land, they prefer sandy beaches. Northern elephant seals breed and give birth in California (U.S.) and Baja California (Mexico), primarily on offshore islands (Stewart et al., 1994), from December to March (Stewart and Huber, 1993). Males feed near the eastern Aleutian Islands and in the Gulf of Alaska, and females feed further south, south of 45° N. (Stewart and Huber, 1993; Le Boeuf et al., 1993). Adults return to land between March and August to molt, with males returning later than females. Adults return to their feeding areas again between their spring/summer molting and their winter breeding seasons. At Point Reyes, the population ranges from 1,500 and 2,000 animals (NPS, 2013a). Adult northern elephant seals visit Point Reyes twice a year (NPS, 2013a). They arrive in early winter from their feeding grounds off Alaska and the largest congregations occur in the winter, when the females arrive to deliver their pups and nurse them, and PO 00000 Frm 00008 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 in spring when immature seals and adult females return to molt. During the time they are onshore they are fasting (NPS, 2013b). At Southeast Farallon, the population consists of approximately 500 animals (FNMS, 2013). Northern elephant seals began recolonizing the South Farallon Islands in the early 1970s (Stewart et al., 1994) at which time the colony grew rapidly. In 1983 a record 475 pups were born on the South Farallones (Stewart et al., 1994). Since then, the size of the South Farallones colony has declined, stabilizing in the early 2000s and then declining further over the past six years (USFWS, 2013). In 2012, a total of 90 cows were counted on the South Farallones, and 60 pups were weaned (USFWS, 2013). Point Blue’s average monthly counts from 2000 to 2009 ranged from 20 individuals in July to nearly 500 individuals in November (USFWS, 2013). Northern elephant seals are present on the islands and in the waters surrounding the South Farallones yearround for either breeding or molting; however, they are more abundant during breeding and peak molting seasons (Le Boeuf and Laws 1994, Sydeman and Allen, 1997). They live and feed in deep, offshore waters the remainder of the year. In mid-December, adult males begin arriving on the South Farallones, closely followed by pregnant females on the verge of giving birth. Females give birth to a single pup, generally in late December or January (Le Boeuf and Laws, 1994) and nurse their pups for approximately four weeks (Reiter et al., 1978). Upon pup weaning, females mate with an adult male and then depart the islands. The last adult breeders depart the islands in mid-March. The spring peak of elephant seals on the rookery occurs in April, when females and immature seals (approximately one to four years old) arrive at the colony to molt (a one month process) (USFWS, 2013). The year’s new pups remain on the island throughout both of these peaks, generally leaving by the end of April (USFWS, 2013). The lowest numbers of elephant seals present on the rookery occurs during June, July, and August, when sub-adult and adult males molt. Another peak of young seals return to the rookery for a haul-out period in October, and at that time some individuals undergo partial ˜ molt (Le Boeuf and Laws, 1994). At Ano Nuevo Island the population ranges from 900 to 1,000 adults. Observers first sighted elephant seals ˜ on Ano Nuevo Island in 1955 and today the population ranges from 900 to 1,000 adults (M. Lowry, unpubl. data). Males E:\FR\FM\06NON1.SGM 06NON1 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 215 / Wednesday, November 6, 2013 / Notices mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES began to haul out on the mainland in 1965. California State Park reports that by 1988/1989, approximately 2,000 ˜ elephant seals came ashore to Ano Nuevo (CSP, 2012). California Sea Lion California sea lions are not listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act, nor are they categorized as depleted under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The California sea lion is now a full species, separated from the Galapagos sea lion (Z. wollebaeki) and the extinct Japanese sea lion (Z. japonicus) (Brunner 2003, Wolf et al., 2007, Schramm et al., 2009). The estimated population of the U.S. stock of California sea lion is approximately 296,750 animals and the current maximum population growth rate is 12 percent (Carretta et. al., 2012). California sea lion breeding areas are on islands located in southern California, in western Baja California, Mexico, and the Gulf of California. During the breeding season, most California sea lions inhabit southern California and Mexico. Rookery sites in southern California are limited to the San Miguel Islands and the southerly Channel Islands of San Nicolas, Santa Barbara, and San Clemente (Carretta et. al., 2012). Males establish breeding territories during May through July on both land and in the water. Females come ashore in mid-May and June where they give birth to a single pup approximately four to five days after arrival and will nurse pups for about a week before going on their first feeding trip. Females will alternate feeding trips with nursing bouts until the pup is weaned between four and 10 months of age (NMML, 2010). Adult and juvenile males will migrate as far north as British Columbia, Canada while females and pups remain in southern California waters in the nonbreeding season. In warm water (El ˜ Nino) years, some females are found as far north as Washington and Oregon, presumably following prey. The U.S. stock of California sea lion is the only stock present in the proposed research area and in recent years, California sea lions have begun to breed annually in small numbers at Southeast ˜ Farallon and Ano Nuevo Islands. On the Farallon Islands, California sea lions haul out in many intertidal areas year round, fluctuating from several hundred to several thousand animals. California sea lions at Point Reyes National Seashore haul out at only a few locations, but will occur on human structures such as boat ramps. The annual population averages around 300 to 500 during the fall through spring VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:25 Nov 05, 2013 Jkt 232001 months, although on occasion, several thousand sea lions can arrive depending upon local prey resources (S. Allen, ˜ unpublished data). On Ano Nuevo Island, California sea lions may haulout at one of eight beach areas on the perimeter of the island (see Figure 2 in the Application). The island’s average population ranges from 4,000 to 9,500 animals (M. Lowry, unpublished data). Pacific Harbor Seal Pacific harbor seals are not listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act, nor are they categorized as depleted under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The estimated population of the California stock of Pacific harbor seals is approximately 26,667 animals (Carretta et. al., 2012). The animals inhabit near-shore coastal and estuarine areas from Baja California, Mexico, to the Pribilof Islands in Alaska. Pacific harbor seals are divided into two subspecies: P. v. stejnegeri in the western North Pacific, near Japan, and P. v. richardsi in the northeast Pacific Ocean. The latter subspecies, recognized as three separate stocks, inhabits the west coast of the continental United States, including: The outer coastal waters of Oregon and Washington states; Washington state inland waters; and Alaska coastal and inland waters. In California, over 500 harbor seal haulout sites are widely distributed along the mainland and offshore islands, and include rocky shores, beaches and intertidal sandbars (Lowry et. al., 2005). Harbor seals mate at sea and females give birth during the spring and summer, although, the pupping season varies with latitude. Pups are nursed for an average of 24 days and are ready to swim minutes after being born. Harbor seal pupping takes place at many locations and rookery size varies from a few pups to many hundreds of pups. In California, over 500 harbor seal haulout sites are widely distributed along the mainland and offshore islands, and include rocky shores, beaches and intertidal sandbars (Lowry et al., 2005). On the Farallon Islands, approximately 40 to 120 Pacific harbor seals haul out in the intertidal areas (Point Blue unpublished data). Harbor seals at Point Reyes National Seashore haul out at nine locations with an annual population of up to 4,000 animals (M. Lowry, unpublished data). ˜ On Ano Nuevo Island, harbor seals may haulout at one of eight beach areas on the perimeter of the island (see Figure 2 in Point Blue’s Application) and the island’s average population ranges from PO 00000 Frm 00009 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 66689 100 to 150 animals (M. Lowry, unpublished data). Steller Sea Lion Steller sea lions consist of two distinct population segments: the western and eastern distinct population segments divided at 144° West longitude (Cape Suckling, Alaska). On October 23, 2013 NMFS found that the eastern distinct population segment of Steller sea lions has recovered. As a result of the finding, NMFS removed them from the list of threatened species under the ESA. The eastern distinct population segment is depleted under the MMPA. Steller sea lions range along the North Pacific Rim from northern Japan to California (Loughlin et. al., 1984), with centers of abundance and distribution in the Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian Islands, respectively. The species is not known to migrate, but individuals disperse widely outside of the breeding season (late May through early July), thus potentially intermixing with animals from other areas. The western segment of Steller sea lions inhabit central and western Gulf of Alaska, Aleutian Islands, as well as coastal waters and breed in Asia (e.g., Japan and Russia). The eastern segment includes sea lions living in southeast Alaska, British Columbia, California, and Oregon. In 2012, the estimated population of the eastern distinct population segment ranged from a minimum of 52,847 up to 72,223 animals and the maximum population growth rate is 12.1 percent (Allen and Angliss, 2012). The eastern distinct population segment of Steller sea lions breeds on rookeries located in southeast Alaska, British Columbia, Oregon, and California. There are no rookeries located in Washington state. Steller sea lions give birth in May through July and breeding commences a couple of weeks after birth. Pups are weaned during the winter and spring of the following year. Despite the wide-ranging movements of juveniles and adult males in particular, exchange between rookeries by breeding adult females and males (other than between adjoining rookeries) appears low, although males have a higher tendency to disperse than females (NMFS, 1995; Trujillo et al., 2004; Hoffman et al., 2006). A northward shift in the overall breeding distribution has occurred, with a contraction of the range in southern California and new rookeries established in southeastern Alaska (Pitcher et al., 2007). The current population of Steller sea lions in the proposed research area is E:\FR\FM\06NON1.SGM 06NON1 66690 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 215 / Wednesday, November 6, 2013 / Notices estimated to number between 50 and 750 animals. Overall, counts of nonpups at trend sites in California and Oregon have been relatively stable or increasing slowly since the 1980s (Allen and Angliss, 2012). Point Blue estimates that between 50 and 150 Steller sea lions live on the Farallon Islands. On Southeast Farallon Island, the abundance of females declined an average of 3.6 percent per year from 1974 to 1997 (Sydeman and Allen, 1999). The National Marine Fisheries Service’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center estimates between 400 and 600 ˜ live on Ano Nuevo Island (Point Blue unpublished data, 2008; Southwest Fisheries Science Center unpublished ˜ data, 2008). At Ano Nuevo Island off central California, a steady decline in ground counts started around 1970, and there was an 85 percent reduction in the breeding population by 1987 (LeBoeuf et al., 1991) ˜ Pup counts at Ano Nuevo Island declined five percent annually through the 1990s (NOAA Stock Assessment, 2003), and have apparently stabilized between 2001 and 2005 (M. Lowry, SWFSC unpublished data). In 2000, the combined pup estimate for both islands was 349. In 2005, the pup estimate was 204 on the Island. Pup counts on the Farallon Islands have generally varied from five to 15 (Hastings and Sydeman, 2002; Point Blue unpublished data). Pups have not been born at Point Reyes Headland since the 1970s and Steller sea lions are seen in very low numbers there currently (S. Allen, unpublished data). mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Other Marine Mammals in the Proposed Action Area California (southern) sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis), listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and categorized as depleted under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, usually range in coastal waters within two km of shore. Point Blue has not encountered California sea otters on ˜ Southeast Farallon Island, Ano Nuevo Island, or Point Reyes National Seashore during the course of seabird or pinniped research activities over the past five years. This species is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and is not considered further in this notice. 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. The VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:25 Nov 05, 2013 Jkt 232001 effects of sounds from motorboat operations and the appearance of researchers might include hearing impairment or behavioral disturbance (Southall, et al., 2007). Hearing Impairment Marine mammals produce sounds in various important contexts—social interactions, foraging, navigating, and responding to predators. The best available science suggests that pinnipeds have a functional aerial hearing sensitivity between 75 hertz (Hz) and 75 kilohertz (kHz) and can produce a diversity of sounds, though generally from 100 Hz to several tens of kHz (Southall, et al., 2007). Exposure to high intensity sound for a sufficient duration may result in auditory effects such as a noise-induced threshold shift—an increase in the auditory threshold after exposure to noise (Finneran, Carder, Schlundt, and Ridgway, 2005). Factors that influence the amount of threshold shift include the amplitude, duration, frequency content, temporal pattern, and energy distribution of noise exposure. The magnitude of hearing threshold shift normally decreases over time following cessation of the noise exposure. The amount of threshold shift just after exposure is called the initial threshold shift. If the threshold shift eventually returns to zero (i.e., the threshold returns to the pre-exposure value), it is called temporary threshold shift (Southall et al., 2007). Pinnipeds have the potential to be disturbed by airborne and underwater noise generated by the small boats equipped with outboard engines (Richardson, Greene, Malme, and Thomson, 1995). However, there is a dearth of information on acoustic effects of motorboats on pinniped hearing and communication and to our knowledge there has been no specific documentation of hearing impairment in free-ranging pinnipeds exposed to small motorboats during realistic field conditions. Behavioral Disturbance Disturbances resulting from human activity can impact short- and long-term pinniped haul out behavior (Renouf et al., 1981; Schneider and Payne, 1983; Terhune and Almon, 1983; Allen et al., 1984; Stewart, 1984; Suryan and Harvey, 1999; Mortenson et al., 2000; and Kucey and Trites, 2006). Disturbance includes a variety of effects, including subtle to conspicuous changes in behavior, movement, and displacement. Reactions to sound, if any, depend on species, state of maturity, experience, current activity, PO 00000 Frm 00010 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 reproductive state, time of day, and many other factors (Richardson et al., 1995; Wartzok et al., 2004; Southall et al., 2007; Weilgart, 2007). If a sound source displaces marine mammals from an important feeding or breeding area for a prolonged period, impacts on individuals and populations could be significant (e.g., Lusseau and Bejder, 2007; Weilgart, 2007). Numerous studies have shown that human activity can flush harbor seals off haulout sites (Allen et al., 1984; Calambokidis et al., 1991; Suryan and Harvey, 1999; and Mortenson et al., 2000). The Hawaiian monk seal (Monachus schauinslandi) has been shown to avoid beaches that have been disturbed often by humans (Kenyon, 1972). And in one case, human disturbance appeared to cause Steller sea lions to desert a breeding area at Northeast Point on St. Paul Island, Alaska (Kenyon, 1962). In 1997, Henry and Hammil (2001) conducted a study to measure the impacts of small boats (i.e., kayaks, canoes, motorboats and sailboats) on ´ harbor seal haulout behavior in Metis Bay, Quebec, Canada. During that study, the authors noted that the most frequent disturbances (n=73) were caused by lower speed, lingering kayaks and canoes (33.3 percent) as opposed to motorboats (27.8 percent) conducting high speed passes. The seal’s flight reactions could be linked to a surprise factor by kayaks-canoes which approach slowly, quietly and low on water making them look like predators. However, the authors note that once the animals were disturbed, there did not appear to be any significant lingering effect on the recovery of numbers to their pre-disturbance levels. In conclusion, the study showed that boat traffic at current levels has only a temporary effect on the haulout ´ behavior of harbor seals in the Metis Bay area. In 2004, Johnson and AcevedoGutierrez (2007) evaluated the efficacy of buffer zones for watercraft around harbor seal haulout sites on Yellow Island, Washington state. The authors estimated the minimum distance between the vessels and the haul-out sites; categorized the vessel types; and evaluated seal responses to the disturbances. During the course of the seven-weekend study, the authors recorded 14 human-related disturbances which were associated with stopped powerboats and kayaks. During these events, hauled out seals became noticeably active and moved into the water. The flushing occurred when stopped kayaks and powerboats were at distances as far as 453 and 1,217 ft (138 E:\FR\FM\06NON1.SGM 06NON1 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 215 / Wednesday, November 6, 2013 / Notices and 371 m) respectively. The authors note that the seals were unaffected by passing powerboats, even those approaching as close as 128 ft (39 m), possibly indicating that the animals had become tolerant of the brief presence of the vessels and ignored them. The authors reported that on average, the seals quickly recovered from the disturbances and returned to the haulout site in less than or equal to 60 minutes. Seal numbers did not return to pre-disturbance levels within 180 minutes of the disturbance less than one quarter of the time observed. The study concluded that the return of seal numbers to pre-disturbance levels and the relatively regular seasonal cycle in abundance throughout the area counter the idea that disturbances from powerboats may result in site abandonment (Johnson and AcevedoGutierrez, 2007). As a general statement from the available information, pinnipeds exposed to intense (approximately 110 to 120 decibels re: 20 mPa) non-pulse sounds often leave haulout areas and seek refuge temporarily (minutes to a few hours) in the water (Southall et al., 2007). Based on the available data, previous monitoring reports from Point Blue, and studies described here, we anticipate that any pinnipeds found in the vicinity of the proposed project could have short-term behavioral reactions to the noise attributed to Point Blue’s motorboat operations and human presence related to the seabird and pinniped research. We would expect the pinnipeds to return to a haulout site within 60 minutes of the disturbance (Allen et al., 1985). The effects to pinnipeds appear at the most, to displace the animals temporarily from their haul out sites and we do not expect that the pinnipeds would permanently abandon a haul-out site during the conduct of the proposed research. The maximum disturbance to Steller sea lions would result in the animals slowly flushing into the water in response to presence of the researchers. Finally, no research activities would occur on pinniped rookeries. Breeding animals are concentrated in areas where researchers would not visit. Therefore, we do not expect mother and pup separation or crushing of pups during flushing. The potential effects to marine mammals described in this section of the document do not take into consideration the proposed monitoring and mitigation measures described later in this document (see the ‘‘Proposed Mitigation’’ and ‘‘Proposed Monitoring and Reporting’’ sections). VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:25 Nov 05, 2013 Jkt 232001 Anticipated Effects on Habitat We do not anticipate that the proposed operations would result in any temporary or permanent effects on the habitats used by the marine mammals in the proposed area, including the food sources they use (i.e., fish and invertebrates). While it is anticipated that the specified activity may result in marine mammals avoiding certain areas due to temporary ensonification, this impact to habitat is temporary and reversible and was considered in further detail earlier in this document, as behavioral modification. The main impact associated with the proposed activity will be temporarily elevated noise levels and the associated direct effects on marine mammals, previously discussed in this notice. Proposed Mitigation In order to issue an incidental take authorization under section 101(a)(5)(D) of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, we 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. Point Blue has based the mitigation measures which they will implement during the proposed research, on the following: (1) Protocols used during previous Point Blue seabird and pinniped research activities as required by our previous authorizations and Incidental Take Statement for the Biological Opinion for these activities; (2) recommended best practices in Richardson et al. (1995); and (3) the Terms and Conditions of NMFS Scientific Research Permit 17152–00. To reduce the potential for disturbance from acoustic and visual stimuli associated with the activities Point Blue and/or its designees has proposed to implement the following mitigation measures for marine mammals: (1) Abide by the Terms and Conditions of NMFS Scientific Research Permit 17152–00. ˜ (2) Postpone beach landings on Ano Nuevo Island until pinnipeds that may be present on the beach have slowly entered the water. (3) Select a pathway of approach to research sites that minimizes the number of marine mammals harassed. (4) Avoid visits to sites used by pinnipeds for pupping. (5) Monitor for offshore predators and do not approach hauled out pinnipeds PO 00000 Frm 00011 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 66691 if great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) or killer whales (Orcinas orca). If Point Blue and/or its designees see predators in the area, they must not disturb the animals until the area is free of predators. (6) Keep voices hushed and bodies low to the ground in the visual presence of pinnipeds. (7) Conduct seabird observations at North Landing on Southeast Farallon Island in an observation blind, shielded from the view of hauled out pinnipeds. (8) Crawl slowly to access seabird nest ˜ boxes on Ano Nuevo Island if pinnipeds are within view. (9) Coordinate research visits to intertidal areas of Southeast Farallon Island (to reduce potential take) and ˜ coordinate research goals for Ano Nuevo Island to minimize the number of trips to the island. (10) Coordinate monitoring schedules ˜ on Ano Nuevo Island, so that areas near any pinnipeds would be accessed only once per visit. (11) Have the lead biologist serve as an observer to evaluate incidental take. We have carefully evaluated the applicant’s proposed mitigation measures and have considered a range of other measures in the context of ensuring that we have prescribed 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: (1) The manner in which, and the degree to which, we expect that the successful implementation of the measure would minimize adverse impacts to marine mammals; (2) The proven or likely efficacy of the specific measure to minimize adverse impacts as planned; and (3) The practicability of the measure for applicant implementation. Based on our evaluation of Point Blue’s proposed measures, we have preliminarily 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. Proposed Monitoring In order to issue an incidental take authorization for an activity, section 101(a)(5)(D) of the Marine Mammal Protection Act states that we must set forth ‘‘requirements pertaining to the monitoring and reporting of such taking.’’ The Act’s implementing E:\FR\FM\06NON1.SGM 06NON1 66692 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 215 / Wednesday, November 6, 2013 / Notices regulations at 50 CFR 216.104(a)(13) indicate that requests for an authorization must include the suggested means of accomplishing the necessary monitoring and reporting that will result in increased knowledge of the species and our expectations of the level of taking or impacts on populations of marine mammals present in the action area. As part of its 2013 application, Point Blue proposes to sponsor marine mammal monitoring during the present project, in order to implement the mitigation measures that require realtime monitoring, and to satisfy the monitoring requirements of the incidental harassment authorization. The Point Blue researchers will monitor the area for pinnipeds during all research activities. Monitoring activities will consist of conducting and recording observations on pinnipeds within the vicinity of the proposed 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. Point Blue has complied with the monitoring requirements under the previous authorizations for the 2007 through 2013 seasons. The results from previous Point Blue’s monitoring reports support our findings that the proposed mitigation measures, which we also required under the 2007–2012 Authorizations provide the means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact on the species or stock. Point Blue will submit a monitoring report on the December 6, 2012 through December 5, 2013 research period by January, 2014. Upon receipt and review, we will post this annual report on our Web site at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/ pr/permits/incidental.htm#applications. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Proposed Reporting Point Blue will submit a final monitoring report to us no later than 90 days after the expiration of the Incidental Harassment Authorization, if we issue it. The final report will describe the operations conducted and sightings of marine mammals near the proposed 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 VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:25 Nov 05, 2013 Jkt 232001 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 Authorization and full documentation of methods, results, and interpretation pertaining to all monitoring. In the unanticipated event that the specified activity clearly causes the take of a marine mammal in a manner prohibited by the authorization (if issued), such as an injury (Level A harassment), serious injury, or mortality (e.g., vessel-strike, stampede, etc.), Point Blue shall immediately cease the specified activities and immediately report the incident to the Incidental Take Program Supervisor, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, at 301– 427–8401 and/or by email to Jolie.Harrison@noaa.gov and ITP.Cody@ noaa.gov and the Southwest Regional Stranding Coordinator at (562) 980– 3230 (Sarah.Wilkin@noaa.gov). The report must include the following information: • Time, date, and location (latitude/ longitude) of the incident; • Description and location of the incident (including water depth, if applicable); • Environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, Beaufort sea state, cloud cover, and visibility); • Description of all marine mammal observations in the 24 hours preceding the incident; • Species identification or description of the animal(s) involved; • Fate of the animal(s); and • Photographs or video footage of the animal(s) (if equipment is available). Point Blue shall not resume its activities until we are able to review the circumstances of the prohibited take. We shall work with Point Blue to determine what is necessary to minimize the likelihood of further prohibited take and ensure Marine Mammal Protection Act compliance. Point Blue may not resume their activities until notified by us via letter, email, or telephone. In the event that Point Blue discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the lead visual observer 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 we describe in the next paragraph), Point Blue will PO 00000 Frm 00012 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 immediately report the incident to the Incidental Take Program Supervisor, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, at 301– 427–8401 and/or by email to Jolie.Harrison@noaa.gov and ITP.Cody@ noaa.gov and the Southwest Regional Stranding Coordinator at (562) 980– 3230 (Sarah.Wilkin@noaa.gov). The report must include the same information identified in the paragraph above this section. Activities may continue while we review the circumstances of the incident. We will work with Point Blue to determine whether modifications in the activities are appropriate. In the event that Point Blue discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the lead visual observer determines that the injury or death is not associated with or related to the authorized activities (e.g., previously wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced decomposition, or scavenger damage), Point Blue will report the incident to the Incidental Take Program Supervisor, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, at 301–427–8401 and/or by email to Jolie.Harrison@noaa.gov and ITP.Cody@ noaa.gov and the Southwest Regional Stranding Coordinator at (562) 980– 3230 (Sarah.Wilkin@noaa.gov), within 24 hours of the discovery. Point Blue staff will provide photographs or video footage (if available) or other documentation of the stranded animal sighting to us. Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, the Marine Mammal Protection Act 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]. We propose to authorize take by Level B harassment only for the proposed pinniped and seabird research activities ˜ on Southeast Farallon Island, Ano Nuevo Island, and Point Reyes National Seashore. Acoustic (i.e., increased sound) and visual stimuli generated during these proposed activities may have the potential to cause marine mammals in the harbor area to experience temporary, short-term changes in behavior. E:\FR\FM\06NON1.SGM 06NON1 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 215 / Wednesday, November 6, 2013 / Notices Steller sea lions could be potentially affected by Level B behavioral harassment over the course of the effective period of the proposed Authorization. We base these estimates by multiplying three components: (1) The maximum number of animals that could Based on Point Blue’s previous research experiences, with the same activities conducted in the proposed research area, and on marine mammal research activities in these areas, we estimate that approximately 5,104 California sea lions, 526 harbor seals, 190 northern elephant seals, and 20 66693 be present; (2) the maximum number of disturbances; and (3) the estimated number of days that an animal could be present in the proposed area. We derived these estimates from the results of the 2007–2012 monitoring reports and anecdotal information from Point Blue scientists. TABLE 1—ESTIMATES OF THE POSSIBLE NUMBERS OF MARINE MAMMALS EXPOSED TO ACOUSTIC AND VISUAL STIMULI DURING POINT BLUE’S PROPOSED SEABIRD AND PINNIPED RESEARCH DURING DECEMBER, 2013–DECEMBER, 2014 Maximum estimated number present Activity Maximum estimated number of disturbances Estimated number of days with animal presence Requested number of incidental takes California sea lions: Requested take = 5,104 SEFI Daily Observations ............................ SEFI Murre Research ................................. SEFI Field Station Resupply ...................... ANI Seabird Monitoring .............................. ANI Intermittent Activities ........................... PRNS Seabird Monitoring .......................... ........................ ........................ 27 26 31 68 110 3 ........................ ........................ 3 1 1 1 1 1 E. Landing—15 ........................ N. Landing—22 ........................ Other Areas—4 ........................ Other Areas—17 ...................... E. Landing—13 ........................ Other Areas—12 ...................... Other Areas—1 ........................ Other Areas—4 ........................ E. Landing—1,215. N. Landing—1,782. Other Areas—324. Other Areas—442. E. Landing—403. Other Areas—816. Other Areas—110. Other Areas—12. Harbor seals: Requested Take = 526 SEFI Daily Observations ............................ SEFI Murre Research ................................. SEFI Field Station Resupply ...................... ANI Seabird Monitoring .............................. PRNS Seabird Monitoring .......................... ........................ ........................ 5 2 ........................ 12 2 15 ........................ ........................ 3 1 ........................ 1 1 1 E. Landing—4 .......................... N. Landing—7 .......................... Other Areas—18 ...................... N. Landing—9 .......................... E. Landing—2 .......................... N. Landing—2 .......................... Other Areas—5 ........................ Other Areas—1 ........................ E. Landing—60. N. Landing—105. Other Areas—270. N. Landing—18. E. Landing—24. N. Landing—24. Other Areas—10. Other Areas—15. Northern elephant seals: Requested Take = 190 SEFI Daily Observations ............................ SEFI Murre Research ................................. SEFI Field Station Resupply ...................... ANI Seabird Monitoring .............................. PRNS Seabird Monitoring .......................... ........................ 2 4 2 10 2 ........................ 3 1 1 1 1 E. Landing—4 .......................... N. Landing—7 .......................... N. Landing—5 .......................... E. Landing—1 .......................... Other Areas—10 ...................... Other Areas—1 ........................ E. Landing—24. N. Landing—42. N. Landing—20. E. Landing—2. Other Areas—100. Other Areas—2. Steller sea lions: Requested Take = 20 SEFI Daily Observations ............................ SEFI Murre Research ................................. SEFI Field Station Resupply ...................... ANI Seabird Monitoring .............................. ANI Intermittent Activities ........................... PRNS Seabird Monitoring .......................... 2 9 1 1 1 1 3 1 1 1 1 1 Other Areas—1 ........................ Other Areas—1 ........................ E. Landing—1 .......................... Other Areas—2 ........................ Other Areas—1 ........................ Other Areas—1 ........................ Other Areas—6. Other Areas—9. E. Landing—1. Other Areas—2. Other Areas—1. Other Areas—1. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Other Areas: Elephant Seal Colony (SEFI), Sea Lion Cove (SEFI), Landing Cove (ANI), and Drakes Beach (PRNS). Estimates of the numbers of marine mammals that might be affected are based on consideration of the maximum number of marine mammals that could be disturbed by approximately 1,908 ˜ visits to Southeast Farallon Island, Ano Nuevo Island, and Point Reyes National Seashore during the course of the proposed activity. There is no evidence that Point Blue’s planned activities could result in injury, serious injury or mortality within the action area. The required mitigation and monitoring measures will minimize any VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:25 Nov 05, 2013 Jkt 232001 potential risk for injury, serious injury, or mortality. Thus, we do not propose to authorize any injury, serious injury or mortality. We expect all potential takes to fall under the category of Level B harassment only. Encouraging and Coordinating Research Point Blue will continue to coordinate monitoring of pinnipeds during the research activities occurring on ˜ Southeast Farallon Island, Ano Nuevo Island, and Point Reyes National PO 00000 Frm 00013 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Seashore. Point Blue conducts bone fide research on marine mammals, the results of which may contribute to the basic knowledge of marine mammal biology or ecology, or are likely to identify, evaluate, or resolve conservation problems. Negligible Impact and Small Numbers Analyses and Determinations We typically include our negligible impact and small numbers analyses and determinations under the same section heading of our Federal Register notices. E:\FR\FM\06NON1.SGM 06NON1 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES 66694 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 215 / Wednesday, November 6, 2013 / Notices Despite co-locating these terms, we acknowledge that negligible impact and small numbers are distinct standards under the MMPA and treat them as such. The analyses presented below do not conflate the two standards; instead, each standard has been considered independently and we have applied the relevant factors to inform our negligible impact and small numbers determinations. We have 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, we consider: (1) The number of anticipated injuries, serious injuries, or mortalities; (2) The number, nature, and intensity, and duration of Level B harassment; and (3) The context in which the takes occur (e.g., impacts to areas of significance, impacts to local populations, and cumulative impacts when taking into account successive/ contemporaneous actions when added to baseline data); (4) The status of stock or species of marine mammals (i.e., depleted, not depleted, decreasing, increasing, stable, impact relative to the size of the population); (5) Impacts on habitat affecting rates of recruitment/survival; and (6) The effectiveness of monitoring and mitigation measures. As mentioned previously, we estimate that four species of marine mammals could be potentially affected by Level B harassment over the course of the proposed Authorization. For each species, these numbers are small numbers (each, less than or equal to two percent) relative to the population size. These incidental harassment numbers represent approximately 1.82 percent of the U.S. stock of California sea lion, 1.74 percent of the California stock of Pacific harbor seal, 0.15 percent of the California breeding stock of northern elephant seal, and 0.04 percent of the eastern distinct population segment of Steller sea lion. For reasons stated previously in this document and based on the following factors, Point Blue’s specified activities are not likely to cause long-term behavioral disturbance, abandonment of the haulout area, injury, serious injury, or mortality because: (1) The effects of the pinniped and seabird research activities would be limited to short-term startle responses and localized behavioral changes due to the short and sporadic duration of the VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:25 Nov 05, 2013 Jkt 232001 research activities. Minor and brief responses, such as short-duration startle or alert reactions, are not likely to constitute disruption of behavioral patterns, such as migration, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering. (2) The availability of alternate areas for pinnipeds to avoid the resultant acoustic and visual disturbances from the research operations. Results from previous monitoring reports also show that the pinnipeds returned to the various sites and did not permanently abandon haul-out sites after Point Blue conducted their pinniped and research activities. (3) There is no potential for largescale movements leading to injury, serious injury, or mortality because the researchers must delay ingress into the landing areas until after the pinnipeds present have slowly entered the water. (4) The limited access of Point Blue’s researchers to Southeast Farallon Island, ˜ Ano Nuevo Island, and Point Reyes National Seashore during the pupping season. We do not anticipate that any injuries, serious injuries, or mortalities would occur as a result of Point Blue’s proposed activities, and we do not propose to authorize injury, serious injury or mortality. These species may exhibit behavioral modifications, including temporarily vacating the area during the proposed seabird and pinniped research activities to avoid the resultant acoustic and visual disturbances. Further, these proposed activities would not take place in areas of significance for marine mammal feeding, resting, breeding, or calving and would not adversely impact marine mammal habitat. Due to the nature, degree, and context of the behavioral harassment anticipated, the activities are not expected 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, we have preliminarily determined that the total taking from the proposed activities will 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 Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA also requires us to determine that the taking will not have an unmitigable adverse effect on the availability of PO 00000 Frm 00014 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 marine mammal species or stocks for subsistence use. There are no relevant subsistence uses of marine mammals in the study area (northeastern Pacific Ocean) that implicate section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA. Endangered Species Act On October 23, 2013 NMFS announced the removal of the eastern distinct population segment of Steller sea lions from the list of threatened species under the ESA. With the delisting, federal agencies proposing actions that may affect the eastern Steller sea lions are no longer required to consult with NMFS under section 7 of the ESA. This delisting will be effective by the time that we make our final determinations on the proposed issuance of an Authorization to Point Blue. National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) To meet our NEPA requirements for the issuance of an Authorization to Point Blue, we intend to prepare an Environmental Assessment (EA) titled ‘‘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.’’ Prior to making a final decision on the issuance of an Authorization, we would decide whether or not to issue a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI). Proposed Authorization As a result of these preliminary determinations, we propose to authorize the take of marine mammals incidental to Point Blue’s proposed seabird and pinniped research activities in the northeast Pacific Ocean, provided they incorporate the previously mentioned mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements. The duration of the Incidental harassment Authorization would not exceed one year from the effective date. Information Solicited We request interested persons to submit comments and information concerning this proposed take authorization (see ADDRESSES). Concurrent with the publication of this notice in the Federal Register, we will forward copies of this application to the Marine Mammal Commission and its Committee of Scientific Advisors. E:\FR\FM\06NON1.SGM 06NON1 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 215 / Wednesday, November 6, 2013 / Notices Dated: November 1, 2013. Donna S. Wieting, Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY Western Area Power Administration Loveland Area Projects, Colorado River Storage Project, Pacific Northwest-Pacific Southwest Intertie Project, Central Arizona Project, and Parker-Davis Project—Rate Order No. WAPA–163 [FR Doc. 2013–26596 Filed 11–5–13; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY Notice of Availability for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Announcement of Public Hearings for the Proposed Champlain Hudson Power Express Transmission Line Project; Correction AGENCY: U.S. Department of Energy. Notice of availability and public hearings; correction. ACTION: The Department of Energy (DOE) published a document in the Federal Register of November 1, 2013, announcing the availability for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement and public hearings for the proposed Champlain Hudson Power Express transmission line project. This document corrects an error in that notice. SUMMARY: FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Requests for additional information should be directed to Brian Mills at Brian.Mills@hq.doe.gov. Correction mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES In the Federal Register of November 1, 2013 in FR Doc. 2013–26080, 78 FR 65622, please make the following correction: On page 65622, third column, under the heading DATES, the second sentence is corrected to read: ‘‘The public comment period started on November 1, 2013, with the publication in the Federal Register by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of its Notice of Availability of the Draft EIS, and will continue until December 16, 2013.’’ Issued in Washington, DC, on November 1, 2013. Brian Mills, NEPA Compliance Officer, Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability. [FR Doc. 2013–26573 Filed 11–5–13; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6450–01–P VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:25 Nov 05, 2013 Western Area Power Administration, DOE. ACTION: Notice of Proposed Formula Rates for Western Area Power Administration (Western) Transmission Projects to Enter into WestConnect’s Point-to-Point Regional Transmission Service Participation Agreement (PA). AGENCY: [OE Docket No. PP–362] Jkt 232001 Western is proposing new formula rates to participate in WestConnect’s PA. The proposed formula rates under Rate Schedule WC– 8 would become effective June 1, 2014, and remain in effect through May 30, 2019. Western, along with other WestConnect participants (Participants), has participated in the WestConnect Pricing Experiment (Experiment) since its inception in June 2009. On June 28, 2013, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued an order (143 FERC ¶ 61,291) conditionally accepting the PA and regional tariffs. FERC ordered that the Participants in the filing submit separate compliance filings. Western has determined that no changes are necessary to Western’s Open Access Transmission Tariff (Tariff) because Western will continue to offer this transmission service under the existing Tariff Schedule 8. For Western to implement the permanent arrangement, however, Western needs to adopt new formula rates. Publication of this Federal Register notice begins the formal process for the proposed formula rates. DATES: The consultation and comment period will begin today and will end December 6, 2013. Western will accept written comments any time during the consultation and comment period. The proposed action constitutes a minor rate adjustment as defined by 10 CFR part 903. As such, Western has determined it is not necessary to hold a public information or public comment forum. ADDRESSES: Send written comments to: Ms. Lynn C. Jeka, Colorado River Storage Project Manager, Colorado River Storage Project Management Center, 150 East Social Hall Avenue, Suite 300, Salt Lake City, UT 84111–1580, fax (801) 524–5017, or email WestConnect@ wapa.gov. Western will post information about the rate process on its Web site at http://www.wapa.gov/dsw/ SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00015 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 66695 pwrmkt/WestConnect/Default.htm. Western will post official comments received to its Web site after the close of the comment period. Western must receive comments by the end of the consultation and comment period to ensure they are considered in Western’s decision process. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Thomas Hackett, Rates Team Lead, Colorado River Storage Project Management Center, 150 East Social Hall Avenue, Suite 300, Salt Lake City, UT 84111–1580, telephone (801) 524– 5503, or email hackett@wapa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: WestConnect consists of a group of electric utilities currently providing transmission service in the Western Interconnection. Its members are a mixture of investor- and consumerowned utilities and Western. The WestConnect membership encompasses an interconnected grid stretching from western Nebraska to southern California and from Wyoming to the United StatesMexico border. Western began participating in the Experiment in June 2009, which offered potential customers the option of scheduling a single transaction for hourly, non-firm, pointto-point transmission service over multiple transmission providers’ systems at a single rate. The original term of the Experiment was 2 years and expired on June 30, 2011. In 2011, WestConnect filed with FERC to extend the term of the Experiment for 2 additional years, until June 30, 2013. To participate in the Experiment during its total 4-year term, Western had to convert its ‘‘all-hours,’’ non-firm, point-to-point transmission rates into on-peak and off-peak rates, similar to other Participants. Western’s FERCapproved Tariff transmission rate designs for all regions yield an ‘‘allhours’’ transmission rate. Western’s transmission rates do not make a rate distinction between on-peak and offpeak, but rather spread the annual revenue requirements over all hours of the year. Western established these onpeak and off-peak rates using the authority granted to Western’s Administrator in Delegation Order No. 00–037.00A to set rates for short-term sales. On April 16, 2013, WestConnect submitted to FERC an Amended and Restated PA that, in essence, offers the coordinated hourly, non-firm, point-topoint transmission service at a single rate on a permanent basis, effective July 1, 2013. On June 28, 2013, FERC issued an order conditionally accepting the PA and regional tariffs. In its order, FERC stated it was approving the proposal E:\FR\FM\06NON1.SGM 06NON1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 215 (Wednesday, November 6, 2013)]
[Notices]
[Pages 66686-66695]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-26596]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XC837


Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; 
Seabird and Pinniped Research Activities in Central California, 2013-
2014

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

ACTION: Notice; proposed incidental harassment authorization; request 
for comments.

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

SUMMARY: We, NMFS, have received an application from Point Blue 
Conservation Science (Point Blue, formerly PRBO Conservation Science), 
requesting an Incidental Harassment Authorization (Authorization) to 
take marine mammals, by harassment, incidental to conducting proposed 
seabird and pinniped research activities on Southeast Farallon Island, 
A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island, and Point Reyes National Seashore in central 
California from December 2013 through December 2014. Per the Marine 
Mammal Protection Act, we are requesting comments on our proposal to 
issue an Authorization to Point Blue to incidentally harass, by Level B 
harassment only, four species of marine mammals during the year-long 
research project.

DATES: We must receive comments and information no later than December 
5, 2013.

ADDRESSES: Address your comments on the application to P. Michael 
Payne, Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected 
Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, 
Silver Spring, MD 20910. The mailbox address for providing email 
comments is ITP.Cody@noaa.gov. Please include 0648-XC837 in the subject 
line. We are not responsible for email comments sent to addresses other 
than the one provided here. Comments sent via email, including all 
attachments, must not exceed a 10-megabyte file size.
    All comments received are a part of the public record and we will 
generally post them to http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental.htm#applications without change. All Personal Identifying 
Information (for example, name, address, etc.) voluntarily submitted by 
the commenter may be publicly accessible. Do not submit confidential 
business information or otherwise sensitive or protected information.
    To obtain an electronic copy of the application, write to the 
previously mentioned address, telephone the contact listed here (see 
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT) or access the documents on our Web 
page at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental.htm#applications.
    We will prepare a separate NEPA analysis to evaluate the 
environmental effects related to the scope of our federal action, which 
is the proposed issuance of an Authorization to Point Blue for their 
proposed seabird and pinniped research activities. This notice presents 
detailed information on the scope of our federal action under NEPA 
(i.e., the proposed Authorization including mitigation measures and 
monitoring) and we will consider comments submitted in response to this 
notice as we prepare our NEPA analysis.
    The public can view documents cited in this notice by appointment, 
during regular business hours, at the previously mentioned address.

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

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the Marine Mammal 
Protection Act (MMPA; 16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) 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 United States citizens who engage in a specified 
activity (other than commercial fishing) within a specified 
geographical region if: (1) We make certain findings; (2) the taking is 
limited to harassment; and (3) we provide a notice of a proposed 
authorization to the public for review.
    We shall allow authorization for the incidental taking of small 
numbers of marine mammals if we find 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 (i.e., mitigation); and requirements pertaining to the 
monitoring and reporting of such takings. We have 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 marine mammals by harassment. Section 101(a)(5)(D) 
of the Act establishes a 45-day time limit for our review of an 
application followed by a 30-day public notice and comment period on 
any proposed authorization for the incidental harassment of small 
numbers of marine mammals. Within 45 days of the close of the public 
comment period, we must either issue or deny the authorization and must 
publish a notice in the Federal Register within 30 days of our 
determination to issue or deny the authorization.
    Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, the 
Marine Mammal Protection Act 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].

[[Page 66687]]

Summary of Request

    We received an application on July 17, 2013, from Point Blue 
requesting the taking by 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. Point Blue, along with 
partners Oikonos Ecosystem Knowledge and Point Reyes National Seashore, 
plan to conduct the proposed activities for one year. These partners 
are conducting this research under cooperative agreements with the U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service in consultation with the Gulf of the 
Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. We determined the application 
complete and adequate on August 27, 2013.
    Their proposed research activities would involve monitoring and 
censusing seabird colonies; observing seabird nesting habitat; 
restoring nesting burrows; observing breeding elephant seals, and 
resupplying a field station. The proposed 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 California.
    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, 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 proposed areas. These types of disturbances 
are the principal means of marine mammal taking associated with these 
activities. Point Blue has requested an authorization to take 5,390 
California sea lions, 526 harbor seals, 190 northern elephant seals, 
and 20 Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) by Level B harassment 
only.
    To date, we have issued five 1-year Incidental Harassment 
Authorizations to Point Blue (formerly known as PRBO Conservation 
Science) for the conduct of the same activities from 2007 to 2013. The 
current Authorization expires on December 5, 2013 (77 FR 73989, 
December 7, 2012). This is the organization's sixth request for an 
Authorization and they will submit a monitoring report to us no later 
than 90 days after the expiration of the current Authorization.

Description of the Specified Geographic Region

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

South Farallones Islands

    The South Farallon Islands consist of Southeast Farallon Island 
located at 37[deg]41'54.32'' N; 123[deg]0'8.33'' W and West End Island. 
These two islands are directly adjacent to each other and separated by 
only a 30-foot (ft) (9.1 meter (m)) channel. The South Farallon Islands 
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.

A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island

    A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island 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. The Island lies within 
the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and the A[ntilde]o Nuevo 
State Marine Conservation Area.

Point Reyes National Seashore

    Point Reyes National Seashore located is approximately 40 miles 
(64.3 km) north of San Francisco Bay and also lies within the Gulf of 
the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. The proposed 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

Seabird Research on Southeast Farallon Island

    Point Blue proposes to conduct: (1) Daily observations of seabird 
colonies at a maximum frequency of three 15-minute 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 September 
2013, and September 2014. 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.
    The potential for incidental take related to the mark/recapture 
studies is very low as these activities are conducted within the 
interior of the island away from the intertidal areas where the 
pinnipeds haul out. Most potential for incidental take would occur when 
the researchers approach or depart the intertidal area by motorboat or 
when the researchers walk within 50 ft (15.2 m) of the haulout areas to 
enter the observation blinds to observe shorebirds.

Field Station Resupply on Southeast Farallon Island

    Point Blue 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. Most 
potential for incidental take would occur when the researchers approach 
the area by motorboat or when the researchers load or unload supplies 
onshore.

Seabird Research on A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island

    Point Blue and its partners propose 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 minutes.
    Most potential for incidental take would occur at the landing beach 
on the north side of the island when the researchers arrive and depart 
to check the boxes. Non-breeding pinnipeds may occasionally be present, 
including California sea lions that may be hauled out near a small 
group of subterranean seabird nest boxes on the island terrace.

[[Page 66688]]

In both locations researchers are located more than 50 ft (15.2 m) away 
from any pinnipeds which may be hauled out.

Seabird Research on Point Reyes National Seashore

    The National Park Service in collaboration with Point Blue 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 per year, with an emphasis 
on increasing monitoring during the nesting season. Researchers would 
conduct occasional, intermittent visits during the rest of the year.
    A majority of the research occurs in areas where marine mammals are 
not present. However, the potential for incidental harassment will 
occur at the landing beaches along Point Reyes Headland, boat ramps, or 
parking lots where northern elephant seals, harbor seals, or California 
sea lions may be hauled out in the vicinity.

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. Historically, a few juvenile Steller 
sea lions may haul out on a spit of rocks called Shell Beach Rocks 
below the transit path to the northern elephant seal haul out. Thus, 
the potential for incidental harassment of Steller sea lions may occur 
when the researchers transit above Shell Beach Rocks.
    We expect that acoustic and visual stimuli resulting from the 
proposed motorboat operations and human presence has the potential to 
harass marine mammals. We also expect that these disturbances would be 
temporary and result, at worst, in a temporary modification in behavior 
and/or low-level physiological effects (Level B harassment) of certain 
species of marine mammals.

Description of the Marine Mammals in the Area of the Proposed Specified 
Activity

    The marine mammals most likely to be harassed incidental to 
conducting seabird and pinniped research at the proposed research areas 
on Southeast Farallon Island, A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island, and Point Reyes 
National Seashore are primarily California sea lions, northern elephant 
seals, Pacific harbor seals, and to a lesser extent the eastern 
distinct population segment (DPS) of the Steller sea lion, which NMFS 
has removed from the list of threatened species under the U.S. 
Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA; 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), effective 
November, 2013.
    We refer the public to Carretta et al., (2013) for general 
information on these species which we present below this section. The 
publication is available at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/sars/pdf/po2012.pdf.

Northern Elephant Seal

    Northern elephant seals are not listed as threatened or endangered 
under the Endangered Species Act, nor are they categorized as depleted 
under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The estimated population of the 
California Breeding Stock is approximately 124,000 animals and the 
maximum population growth rate is 11.7 percent (Carretta et al., 2013).
    Northern elephant seals range in the eastern and central North 
Pacific Ocean, from as far north as Alaska and as far south as Mexico. 
Northern elephant seals spend much of the year, generally about nine 
months, in the ocean. They are usually underwater, diving to depths of 
about 1,000 to 2,500 ft (330-800 m) for 20- to 30-minute intervals with 
only short breaks at the surface. They are rarely seen out at sea for 
this reason. While on land, they prefer sandy beaches.
    Northern elephant seals breed and give birth in California (U.S.) 
and Baja California (Mexico), primarily on offshore islands (Stewart et 
al., 1994), from December to March (Stewart and Huber, 1993). Males 
feed near the eastern Aleutian Islands and in the Gulf of Alaska, and 
females feed further south, south of 45[deg] N. (Stewart and Huber, 
1993; Le Boeuf et al., 1993). Adults return to land between March and 
August to molt, with males returning later than females. Adults return 
to their feeding areas again between their spring/summer molting and 
their winter breeding seasons.
    At Point Reyes, the population ranges from 1,500 and 2,000 animals 
(NPS, 2013a). Adult northern elephant seals visit Point Reyes twice a 
year (NPS, 2013a). They arrive in early winter from their feeding 
grounds off Alaska and the largest congregations occur in the winter, 
when the females arrive to deliver their pups and nurse them, and in 
spring when immature seals and adult females return to molt. During the 
time they are onshore they are fasting (NPS, 2013b).
    At Southeast Farallon, the population consists of approximately 500 
animals (FNMS, 2013). Northern elephant seals began recolonizing the 
South Farallon Islands in the early 1970s (Stewart et al., 1994) at 
which time the colony grew rapidly. In 1983 a record 475 pups were born 
on the South Farallones (Stewart et al., 1994). Since then, the size of 
the South Farallones colony has declined, stabilizing in the early 
2000s and then declining further over the past six years (USFWS, 2013). 
In 2012, a total of 90 cows were counted on the South Farallones, and 
60 pups were weaned (USFWS, 2013). Point Blue's average monthly counts 
from 2000 to 2009 ranged from 20 individuals in July to nearly 500 
individuals in November (USFWS, 2013).
    Northern elephant seals are present on the islands and in the 
waters surrounding the South Farallones year-round for either breeding 
or molting; however, they are more abundant during breeding and peak 
molting seasons (Le Boeuf and Laws 1994, Sydeman and Allen, 1997). They 
live and feed in deep, offshore waters the remainder of the year.
    In mid-December, adult males begin arriving on the South 
Farallones, closely followed by pregnant females on the verge of giving 
birth. Females give birth to a single pup, generally in late December 
or January (Le Boeuf and Laws, 1994) and nurse their pups for 
approximately four weeks (Reiter et al., 1978). Upon pup weaning, 
females mate with an adult male and then depart the islands. The last 
adult breeders depart the islands in mid-March. The spring peak of 
elephant seals on the rookery occurs in April, when females and 
immature seals (approximately one to four years old) arrive at the 
colony to molt (a one month process) (USFWS, 2013). The year's new pups 
remain on the island throughout both of these peaks, generally leaving 
by the end of April (USFWS, 2013).
    The lowest numbers of elephant seals present on the rookery occurs 
during June, July, and August, when sub-adult and adult males molt. 
Another peak of young seals return to the rookery for a haul-out period 
in October, and at that time some individuals undergo partial molt (Le 
Boeuf and Laws, 1994). At A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island the population ranges 
from 900 to 1,000 adults.
    Observers first sighted elephant seals on A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island 
in 1955 and today the population ranges from 900 to 1,000 adults (M. 
Lowry, unpubl. data). Males

[[Page 66689]]

began to haul out on the mainland in 1965. California State Park 
reports that by 1988/1989, approximately 2,000 elephant seals came 
ashore to A[ntilde]o Nuevo (CSP, 2012).

California Sea Lion

    California sea lions are not listed as threatened or endangered 
under the Endangered Species Act, nor are they categorized as depleted 
under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The California sea lion is now 
a full species, separated from the Galapagos sea lion (Z. wollebaeki) 
and the extinct Japanese sea lion (Z. japonicus) (Brunner 2003, Wolf et 
al., 2007, Schramm et al., 2009). The estimated population of the U.S. 
stock of California sea lion is approximately 296,750 animals and the 
current maximum population growth rate is 12 percent (Carretta et. al., 
2012).
    California sea lion breeding areas are on islands located in 
southern California, in western Baja California, Mexico, and the Gulf 
of California. During the breeding season, most California sea lions 
inhabit southern California and Mexico. Rookery sites in southern 
California are limited to the San Miguel Islands and the southerly 
Channel Islands of San Nicolas, Santa Barbara, and San Clemente 
(Carretta et. al., 2012). Males establish breeding territories during 
May through July on both land and in the water. Females come ashore in 
mid-May and June where they give birth to a single pup approximately 
four to five days after arrival and will nurse pups for about a week 
before going on their first feeding trip. Females will alternate 
feeding trips with nursing bouts until the pup is weaned between four 
and 10 months of age (NMML, 2010).
    Adult and juvenile males will migrate as far north as British 
Columbia, Canada while females and pups remain in southern California 
waters in the non-breeding season. In warm water (El Ni[ntilde]o) 
years, some females are found as far north as Washington and Oregon, 
presumably following prey.
    The U.S. stock of California sea lion is the only stock present in 
the proposed research area and in recent years, California sea lions 
have begun to breed annually in small numbers at Southeast Farallon and 
A[ntilde]o Nuevo Islands.
    On the Farallon Islands, California sea lions haul out in many 
intertidal areas year round, fluctuating from several hundred to 
several thousand animals. California sea lions at Point Reyes National 
Seashore haul out at only a few locations, but will occur on human 
structures such as boat ramps. The annual population averages around 
300 to 500 during the fall through spring months, although on occasion, 
several thousand sea lions can arrive depending upon local prey 
resources (S. Allen, unpublished data). On A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island, 
California sea lions may haulout at one of eight beach areas on the 
perimeter of the island (see Figure 2 in the Application). The island's 
average population ranges from 4,000 to 9,500 animals (M. Lowry, 
unpublished data).

Pacific Harbor Seal

    Pacific harbor seals are not listed as threatened or endangered 
under the Endangered Species Act, nor are they categorized as depleted 
under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The estimated population of the 
California stock of Pacific harbor seals is approximately 26,667 
animals (Carretta et. al., 2012).
    The animals inhabit near-shore coastal and estuarine areas from 
Baja California, Mexico, to the Pribilof Islands in Alaska. Pacific 
harbor seals are divided into two subspecies: P. v. stejnegeri in the 
western North Pacific, near Japan, and P. v. richardsi in the northeast 
Pacific Ocean. The latter subspecies, recognized as three separate 
stocks, inhabits the west coast of the continental United States, 
including: The outer coastal waters of Oregon and Washington states; 
Washington state inland waters; and Alaska coastal and inland waters.
    In California, over 500 harbor seal haulout sites are widely 
distributed along the mainland and offshore islands, and include rocky 
shores, beaches and intertidal sandbars (Lowry et. al., 2005). Harbor 
seals mate at sea and females give birth during the spring and summer, 
although, the pupping season varies with latitude. Pups are nursed for 
an average of 24 days and are ready to swim minutes after being born. 
Harbor seal pupping takes place at many locations and rookery size 
varies from a few pups to many hundreds of pups.
    In California, over 500 harbor seal haulout sites are widely 
distributed along the mainland and offshore islands, and include rocky 
shores, beaches and intertidal sandbars (Lowry et al., 2005). On the 
Farallon Islands, approximately 40 to 120 Pacific harbor seals haul out 
in the intertidal areas (Point Blue unpublished data). Harbor seals at 
Point Reyes National Seashore haul out at nine locations with an annual 
population of up to 4,000 animals (M. Lowry, unpublished data). On 
A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island, harbor seals may haulout at one of eight beach 
areas on the perimeter of the island (see Figure 2 in Point Blue's 
Application) and the island's average population ranges from 100 to 150 
animals (M. Lowry, unpublished data).

Steller Sea Lion

    Steller sea lions consist of two distinct population segments: the 
western and eastern distinct population segments divided at 144[deg] 
West longitude (Cape Suckling, Alaska). On October 23, 2013 NMFS found 
that the eastern distinct population segment of Steller sea lions has 
recovered. As a result of the finding, NMFS removed them from the list 
of threatened species under the ESA. The eastern distinct population 
segment is depleted under the MMPA.
    Steller sea lions range along the North Pacific Rim from northern 
Japan to California (Loughlin et. al., 1984), with centers of abundance 
and distribution in the Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian Islands, 
respectively. The species is not known to migrate, but individuals 
disperse widely outside of the breeding season (late May through early 
July), thus potentially intermixing with animals from other areas.
    The western segment of Steller sea lions inhabit central and 
western Gulf of Alaska, Aleutian Islands, as well as coastal waters and 
breed in Asia (e.g., Japan and Russia). The eastern segment includes 
sea lions living in southeast Alaska, British Columbia, California, and 
Oregon.
    In 2012, the estimated population of the eastern distinct 
population segment ranged from a minimum of 52,847 up to 72,223 animals 
and the maximum population growth rate is 12.1 percent (Allen and 
Angliss, 2012).
    The eastern distinct population segment of Steller sea lions breeds 
on rookeries located in southeast Alaska, British Columbia, Oregon, and 
California. There are no rookeries located in Washington state. Steller 
sea lions give birth in May through July and breeding commences a 
couple of weeks after birth. Pups are weaned during the winter and 
spring of the following year.
    Despite the wide-ranging movements of juveniles and adult males in 
particular, exchange between rookeries by breeding adult females and 
males (other than between adjoining rookeries) appears low, although 
males have a higher tendency to disperse than females (NMFS, 1995; 
Trujillo et al., 2004; Hoffman et al., 2006). A northward shift in the 
overall breeding distribution has occurred, with a contraction of the 
range in southern California and new rookeries established in 
southeastern Alaska (Pitcher et al., 2007).
    The current population of Steller sea lions in the proposed 
research area is

[[Page 66690]]

estimated to number between 50 and 750 animals. Overall, counts of non-
pups at trend sites in California and Oregon have been relatively 
stable or increasing slowly since the 1980s (Allen and Angliss, 2012).
    Point Blue estimates that between 50 and 150 Steller sea lions live 
on the Farallon Islands. On Southeast Farallon Island, the abundance of 
females declined an average of 3.6 percent per year from 1974 to 1997 
(Sydeman and Allen, 1999).
    The National Marine Fisheries Service's Southwest Fisheries Science 
Center estimates between 400 and 600 live on A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island 
(Point Blue unpublished data, 2008; Southwest Fisheries Science Center 
unpublished data, 2008). At A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island off central 
California, a steady decline in ground counts started around 1970, and 
there was an 85 percent reduction in the breeding population by 1987 
(LeBoeuf et al., 1991)
    Pup counts at A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island declined five percent 
annually through the 1990s (NOAA Stock Assessment, 2003), and have 
apparently stabilized between 2001 and 2005 (M. Lowry, SWFSC 
unpublished data). In 2000, the combined pup estimate for both islands 
was 349. In 2005, the pup estimate was 204 on the Island. Pup counts on 
the Farallon Islands have generally varied from five to 15 (Hastings 
and Sydeman, 2002; Point Blue unpublished data). Pups have not been 
born at Point Reyes Headland since the 1970s and Steller sea lions are 
seen in very low numbers there currently (S. Allen, unpublished data).

Other Marine Mammals in the Proposed Action Area

    California (southern) sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis), listed as 
threatened under the Endangered Species Act and categorized as depleted 
under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, usually range in coastal waters 
within two km of shore. Point Blue has not encountered California sea 
otters on Southeast Farallon Island, A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island, or Point 
Reyes National Seashore during the course of seabird or pinniped 
research activities over the past five years. This species is managed 
by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and is not considered further in 
this notice.

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. The 
effects of sounds from motorboat operations and the appearance of 
researchers might include hearing impairment or behavioral disturbance 
(Southall, et al., 2007).

Hearing Impairment

    Marine mammals produce sounds in various important contexts--social 
interactions, foraging, navigating, and responding to predators. The 
best available science suggests that pinnipeds have a functional aerial 
hearing sensitivity between 75 hertz (Hz) and 75 kilohertz (kHz) and 
can produce a diversity of sounds, though generally from 100 Hz to 
several tens of kHz (Southall, et al., 2007).
    Exposure to high intensity sound for a sufficient duration may 
result in auditory effects such as a noise-induced threshold shift--an 
increase in the auditory threshold after exposure to noise (Finneran, 
Carder, Schlundt, and Ridgway, 2005). Factors that influence the amount 
of threshold shift include the amplitude, duration, frequency content, 
temporal pattern, and energy distribution of noise exposure. The 
magnitude of hearing threshold shift normally decreases over time 
following cessation of the noise exposure. The amount of threshold 
shift just after exposure is called the initial threshold shift. If the 
threshold shift eventually returns to zero (i.e., the threshold returns 
to the pre-exposure value), it is called temporary threshold shift 
(Southall et al., 2007).
    Pinnipeds have the potential to be disturbed by airborne and 
underwater noise generated by the small boats equipped with outboard 
engines (Richardson, Greene, Malme, and Thomson, 1995). However, there 
is a dearth of information on acoustic effects of motorboats on 
pinniped hearing and communication and to our knowledge there has been 
no specific documentation of hearing impairment in free-ranging 
pinnipeds exposed to small motorboats during realistic field 
conditions.

Behavioral Disturbance

    Disturbances resulting from human activity can impact short- and 
long-term pinniped haul out behavior (Renouf et al., 1981; Schneider 
and Payne, 1983; Terhune and Almon, 1983; Allen et al., 1984; Stewart, 
1984; Suryan and Harvey, 1999; Mortenson et al., 2000; and Kucey and 
Trites, 2006). Disturbance includes a variety of effects, including 
subtle to conspicuous changes in behavior, movement, and displacement. 
Reactions to sound, if any, depend on species, state of maturity, 
experience, current activity, reproductive state, time of day, and many 
other factors (Richardson et al., 1995; Wartzok et al., 2004; Southall 
et al., 2007; Weilgart, 2007). If a sound source displaces marine 
mammals from an important feeding or breeding area for a prolonged 
period, impacts on individuals and populations could be significant 
(e.g., Lusseau and Bejder, 2007; Weilgart, 2007).
    Numerous studies have shown that human activity can flush harbor 
seals off haulout sites (Allen et al., 1984; Calambokidis et al., 1991; 
Suryan and Harvey, 1999; and Mortenson et al., 2000). The Hawaiian monk 
seal (Monachus schauinslandi) has been shown to avoid beaches that have 
been disturbed often by humans (Kenyon, 1972). And in one case, human 
disturbance appeared to cause Steller sea lions to desert a breeding 
area at Northeast Point on St. Paul Island, Alaska (Kenyon, 1962).
    In 1997, Henry and Hammil (2001) conducted a study to measure the 
impacts of small boats (i.e., kayaks, canoes, motorboats and sailboats) 
on harbor seal haulout behavior in M[eacute]tis Bay, Quebec, Canada. 
During that study, the authors noted that the most frequent 
disturbances (n=73) were caused by lower speed, lingering kayaks and 
canoes (33.3 percent) as opposed to motorboats (27.8 percent) 
conducting high speed passes. The seal's flight reactions could be 
linked to a surprise factor by kayaks-canoes which approach slowly, 
quietly and low on water making them look like predators. However, the 
authors note that once the animals were disturbed, there did not appear 
to be any significant lingering effect on the recovery of numbers to 
their pre-disturbance levels. In conclusion, the study showed that boat 
traffic at current levels has only a temporary effect on the haulout 
behavior of harbor seals in the M[eacute]tis Bay area.
    In 2004, Johnson and Acevedo-Gutierrez (2007) evaluated the 
efficacy of buffer zones for watercraft around harbor seal haulout 
sites on Yellow Island, Washington state. The authors estimated the 
minimum distance between the vessels and the haul-out sites; 
categorized the vessel types; and evaluated seal responses to the 
disturbances. During the course of the seven-weekend study, the authors 
recorded 14 human-related disturbances which were associated with 
stopped powerboats and kayaks. During these events, hauled out seals 
became noticeably active and moved into the water. The flushing 
occurred when stopped kayaks and powerboats were at distances as far as 
453 and 1,217 ft (138

[[Page 66691]]

and 371 m) respectively. The authors note that the seals were 
unaffected by passing powerboats, even those approaching as close as 
128 ft (39 m), possibly indicating that the animals had become tolerant 
of the brief presence of the vessels and ignored them. The authors 
reported that on average, the seals quickly recovered from the 
disturbances and returned to the haulout site in less than or equal to 
60 minutes. Seal numbers did not return to pre-disturbance levels 
within 180 minutes of the disturbance less than one quarter of the time 
observed. The study concluded that the return of seal numbers to pre-
disturbance levels and the relatively regular seasonal cycle in 
abundance throughout the area counter the idea that disturbances from 
powerboats may result in site abandonment (Johnson and Acevedo-
Gutierrez, 2007).
    As a general statement from the available information, pinnipeds 
exposed to intense (approximately 110 to 120 decibels re: 20 [mu]Pa) 
non-pulse sounds often leave haulout areas and seek refuge temporarily 
(minutes to a few hours) in the water (Southall et al., 2007). Based on 
the available data, previous monitoring reports from Point Blue, and 
studies described here, we anticipate that any pinnipeds found in the 
vicinity of the proposed project could have short-term behavioral 
reactions to the noise attributed to Point Blue's motorboat operations 
and human presence related to the seabird and pinniped research. We 
would expect the pinnipeds to return to a haulout site within 60 
minutes of the disturbance (Allen et al., 1985). The effects to 
pinnipeds appear at the most, to displace the animals temporarily from 
their haul out sites and we do not expect that the pinnipeds would 
permanently abandon a haul-out site during the conduct of the proposed 
research. The maximum disturbance to Steller sea lions would result in 
the animals slowly flushing into the water in response to presence of 
the researchers.
    Finally, no research activities would occur on pinniped rookeries. 
Breeding animals are concentrated in areas where researchers would not 
visit. Therefore, we do not expect mother and pup separation or 
crushing of pups during flushing.
    The potential effects to marine mammals described in this section 
of the document do not take into consideration the proposed monitoring 
and mitigation measures described later in this document (see the 
``Proposed Mitigation'' and ``Proposed Monitoring and Reporting'' 
sections).

Anticipated Effects on Habitat

    We do not anticipate that the proposed operations would result in 
any temporary or permanent effects on the habitats used by the marine 
mammals in the proposed area, including the food sources they use 
(i.e., fish and invertebrates). While it is anticipated that the 
specified activity may result in marine mammals avoiding certain areas 
due to temporary ensonification, this impact to habitat is temporary 
and reversible and was considered in further detail earlier in this 
document, as behavioral modification. The main impact associated with 
the proposed activity will be temporarily elevated noise levels and the 
associated direct effects on marine mammals, previously discussed in 
this notice.

Proposed Mitigation

    In order to issue an incidental take authorization under section 
101(a)(5)(D) of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, we 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.
    Point Blue has based the mitigation measures which they will 
implement during the proposed research, on the following: (1) Protocols 
used during previous Point Blue seabird and pinniped research 
activities as required by our previous authorizations and Incidental 
Take Statement for the Biological Opinion for these activities; (2) 
recommended best practices in Richardson et al. (1995); and (3) the 
Terms and Conditions of NMFS Scientific Research Permit 17152-00.
    To reduce the potential for disturbance from acoustic and visual 
stimuli associated with the activities Point Blue and/or its designees 
has proposed to implement the following mitigation measures for marine 
mammals:
    (1) Abide by the Terms and Conditions of NMFS Scientific Research 
Permit 17152-00.
    (2) Postpone beach landings on A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island until 
pinnipeds that may be present on the beach have slowly entered the 
water.
    (3) Select a pathway of approach to research sites that minimizes 
the number of marine mammals harassed.
    (4) Avoid visits to sites used by pinnipeds for pupping.
    (5) Monitor for offshore predators and do not approach hauled out 
pinnipeds if great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) or killer 
whales (Orcinas orca). If Point Blue and/or its designees see predators 
in the area, they must not disturb the animals until the area is free 
of predators.
    (6) Keep voices hushed and bodies low to the ground in the visual 
presence of pinnipeds.
    (7) Conduct seabird observations at North Landing on Southeast 
Farallon Island in an observation blind, shielded from the view of 
hauled out pinnipeds.
    (8) Crawl slowly to access seabird nest boxes on A[ntilde]o Nuevo 
Island if pinnipeds are within view.
    (9) Coordinate research visits to intertidal areas of Southeast 
Farallon Island (to reduce potential take) and coordinate research 
goals for A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island to minimize the number of trips to 
the island.
    (10) Coordinate monitoring schedules on A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island, so 
that areas near any pinnipeds would be accessed only once per visit.
    (11) Have the lead biologist serve as an observer to evaluate 
incidental take.
    We have carefully evaluated the applicant's proposed mitigation 
measures and have considered a range of other measures in the context 
of ensuring that we have prescribed 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:
    (1) The manner in which, and the degree to which, we expect that 
the successful implementation of the measure would minimize adverse 
impacts to marine mammals;
    (2) The proven or likely efficacy of the specific measure to 
minimize adverse impacts as planned; and
    (3) The practicability of the measure for applicant implementation.
    Based on our evaluation of Point Blue's proposed measures, we have 
preliminarily 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.

Proposed Monitoring

    In order to issue an incidental take authorization for an activity, 
section 101(a)(5)(D) of the Marine Mammal Protection Act states that we 
must set forth ``requirements pertaining to the monitoring and 
reporting of such taking.'' The Act's implementing

[[Page 66692]]

regulations at 50 CFR 216.104(a)(13) indicate that requests for an 
authorization must include the suggested means of accomplishing the 
necessary monitoring and reporting that will result in increased 
knowledge of the species and our expectations of the level of taking or 
impacts on populations of marine mammals present in the action area.
    As part of its 2013 application, Point Blue proposes to sponsor 
marine mammal monitoring during the present project, in order to 
implement the mitigation measures that require real-time monitoring, 
and to satisfy the monitoring requirements of the incidental harassment 
authorization.
    The Point Blue researchers will monitor the area for pinnipeds 
during all research activities. Monitoring activities will consist of 
conducting and recording observations on pinnipeds within the vicinity 
of the proposed 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.
    Point Blue has complied with the monitoring requirements under the 
previous authorizations for the 2007 through 2013 seasons. The results 
from previous Point Blue's monitoring reports support our findings that 
the proposed mitigation measures, which we also required under the 
2007-2012 Authorizations provide the means of effecting the least 
practicable adverse impact on the species or stock.
    Point Blue will submit a monitoring report on the December 6, 2012 
through December 5, 2013 research period by January, 2014. Upon receipt 
and review, we will post this annual report on our Web site at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental.htm#applications.

Proposed Reporting

    Point Blue will submit a final monitoring report to us no later 
than 90 days after the expiration of the Incidental Harassment 
Authorization, if we issue it. The final report will describe the 
operations conducted and sightings of marine mammals near the proposed 
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 Authorization and full 
documentation of methods, results, and interpretation pertaining to all 
monitoring.
    In the unanticipated event that the specified activity clearly 
causes the take of a marine mammal in a manner prohibited by the 
authorization (if issued), such as an injury (Level A harassment), 
serious injury, or mortality (e.g., vessel-strike, stampede, etc.), 
Point Blue shall immediately cease the specified activities and 
immediately report the incident to the Incidental Take Program 
Supervisor, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected 
Resources, NMFS, at 301-427-8401 and/or by email to 
Jolie.Harrison@noaa.gov and ITP.Cody@noaa.gov and the Southwest 
Regional Stranding Coordinator at (562) 980-3230 
(Sarah.Wilkin@noaa.gov). The report must include the following 
information:
     Time, date, and location (latitude/longitude) of the 
incident;
     Description and location of the incident (including water 
depth, if applicable);
     Environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, 
Beaufort sea state, cloud cover, and visibility);
     Description of all marine mammal observations in the 24 
hours preceding the incident;
     Species identification or description of the animal(s) 
involved;
     Fate of the animal(s); and
     Photographs or video footage of the animal(s) (if 
equipment is available).
    Point Blue shall not resume its activities until we are able to 
review the circumstances of the prohibited take. We shall work with 
Point Blue to determine what is necessary to minimize the likelihood of 
further prohibited take and ensure Marine Mammal Protection Act 
compliance. Point Blue may not resume their activities until notified 
by us via letter, email, or telephone.
    In the event that Point Blue discovers an injured or dead marine 
mammal, and the lead visual observer 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 we describe in the next 
paragraph), Point Blue will immediately report the incident to the 
Incidental Take Program Supervisor, Permits and Conservation Division, 
Office of Protected Resources, at 301-427-8401 and/or by email to 
Jolie.Harrison@noaa.gov and ITP.Cody@noaa.gov and the Southwest 
Regional Stranding Coordinator at (562) 980-3230 
(Sarah.Wilkin@noaa.gov). The report must include the same information 
identified in the paragraph above this section. Activities may continue 
while we review the circumstances of the incident. We will work with 
Point Blue to determine whether modifications in the activities are 
appropriate.
    In the event that Point Blue discovers an injured or dead marine 
mammal, and the lead visual observer determines that the injury or 
death is not associated with or related to the authorized activities 
(e.g., previously wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced 
decomposition, or scavenger damage), Point Blue will report the 
incident to the Incidental Take Program Supervisor, Permits and 
Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, at 301-427-8401 
and/or by email to Jolie.Harrison@noaa.gov and ITP.Cody@noaa.gov and 
the Southwest Regional Stranding Coordinator at (562) 980-3230 
(Sarah.Wilkin@noaa.gov), within 24 hours of the discovery. Point Blue 
staff will provide photographs or video footage (if available) or other 
documentation of the stranded animal sighting to us.

Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment

    Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, the 
Marine Mammal Protection Act 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].
    We propose to authorize take by Level B harassment only for the 
proposed pinniped and seabird research activities on Southeast Farallon 
Island, A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island, and Point Reyes National Seashore. 
Acoustic (i.e., increased sound) and visual stimuli generated during 
these proposed activities may have the potential to cause marine 
mammals in the harbor area to experience temporary, short-term changes 
in behavior.

[[Page 66693]]

    Based on Point Blue's previous research experiences, with the same 
activities conducted in the proposed research area, and on marine 
mammal research activities in these areas, we estimate that 
approximately 5,104 California sea lions, 526 harbor seals, 190 
northern elephant seals, and 20 Steller sea lions could be potentially 
affected by Level B behavioral harassment over the course of the 
effective period of the proposed Authorization.
    We base these estimates by multiplying three components: (1) The 
maximum number of animals that could be present; (2) the maximum number 
of disturbances; and (3) the estimated number of days that an animal 
could be present in the proposed area. We derived these estimates from 
the results of the 2007-2012 monitoring reports and anecdotal 
information from Point Blue scientists.

Table 1--Estimates of the Possible Numbers of Marine Mammals Exposed to Acoustic and Visual Stimuli During Point
               Blue's Proposed Seabird and Pinniped Research During December, 2013-December, 2014
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                        Maximum
                                        Maximum        estimated     Estimated number of    Requested number of
             Activity                  estimated       number of       days with animal       incidental takes
                                    number present   disturbances          presence
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                  California sea lions: Requested take = 5,104
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                    ..............  ..............  E. Landing--15.......  E. Landing--1,215.
                                    ..............  ..............  N. Landing--22.......  N. Landing--1,782.
SEFI Daily Observations...........              27               3  Other Areas--4.......  Other Areas--324.
SEFI Murre Research...............              26               1  Other Areas--17......  Other Areas--442.
SEFI Field Station Resupply.......              31               1  E. Landing--13.......  E. Landing--403.
ANI Seabird Monitoring............              68               1  Other Areas--12......  Other Areas--816.
ANI Intermittent Activities.......             110               1  Other Areas--1.......  Other Areas--110.
PRNS Seabird Monitoring...........               3               1  Other Areas--4.......  Other Areas--12.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                       Harbor seals: Requested Take = 526
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                    ..............  ..............  E. Landing--4........  E. Landing--60.
                                    ..............  ..............  N. Landing--7........  N. Landing--105.
SEFI Daily Observations...........               5               3  Other Areas--18......  Other Areas--270.
SEFI Murre Research...............               2               1  N. Landing--9........  N. Landing--18.
                                    ..............  ..............  E. Landing--2........  E. Landing--24.
SEFI Field Station Resupply.......              12               1  N. Landing--2........  N. Landing--24.
ANI Seabird Monitoring............               2               1  Other Areas--5.......  Other Areas--10.
PRNS Seabird Monitoring...........              15               1  Other Areas--1.......  Other Areas--15.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                  Northern elephant seals: Requested Take = 190
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                    ..............  ..............  E. Landing--4........  E. Landing--24.
SEFI Daily Observations...........               2               3  N. Landing--7........  N. Landing--42.
SEFI Murre Research...............               4               1  N. Landing--5........  N. Landing--20.
SEFI Field Station Resupply.......               2               1  E. Landing--1........  E. Landing--2.
ANI Seabird Monitoring............              10               1  Other Areas--10......  Other Areas--100.
PRNS Seabird Monitoring...........               2               1  Other Areas--1.......  Other Areas--2.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                     Steller sea lions: Requested Take = 20
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
SEFI Daily Observations...........               2               3  Other Areas--1.......  Other Areas--6.
SEFI Murre Research...............               9               1  Other Areas--1.......  Other Areas--9.
SEFI Field Station Resupply.......               1               1  E. Landing--1........  E. Landing--1.
ANI Seabird Monitoring............               1               1  Other Areas--2.......  Other Areas--2.
ANI Intermittent Activities.......               1               1  Other Areas--1.......  Other Areas--1.
PRNS Seabird Monitoring...........               1               1  Other Areas--1.......  Other Areas--1.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Other Areas: Elephant Seal Colony (SEFI), Sea Lion Cove (SEFI), Landing Cove (ANI), and Drakes Beach (PRNS).

    Estimates of the numbers of marine mammals that might be affected 
are based on consideration of the maximum number of marine mammals that 
could be disturbed by approximately 1,908 visits to Southeast Farallon 
Island, A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island, and Point Reyes National Seashore 
during the course of the proposed activity.
    There is no evidence that Point Blue's planned activities could 
result in injury, serious injury or mortality within the action area. 
The required mitigation and monitoring measures will minimize any 
potential risk for injury, serious injury, or mortality. Thus, we do 
not propose to authorize any injury, serious injury or mortality. We 
expect all potential takes to fall under the category of Level B 
harassment only.

Encouraging and Coordinating Research

    Point Blue will continue to coordinate monitoring of pinnipeds 
during the research activities occurring on Southeast Farallon Island, 
A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island, and Point Reyes National Seashore. Point Blue 
conducts bone fide research on marine mammals, the results of which may 
contribute to the basic knowledge of marine mammal biology or ecology, 
or are likely to identify, evaluate, or resolve conservation problems.

Negligible Impact and Small Numbers Analyses and Determinations

    We typically include our negligible impact and small numbers 
analyses and determinations under the same section heading of our 
Federal Register notices.

[[Page 66694]]

Despite co-locating these terms, we acknowledge that negligible impact 
and small numbers are distinct standards under the MMPA and treat them 
as such. The analyses presented below do not conflate the two 
standards; instead, each standard has been considered independently and 
we have applied the relevant factors to inform our negligible impact 
and small numbers determinations.
    We have 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, 
we consider:
    (1) The number of anticipated injuries, serious injuries, or 
mortalities;
    (2) The number, nature, and intensity, and duration of Level B 
harassment; and
    (3) The context in which the takes occur (e.g., impacts to areas of 
significance, impacts to local populations, and cumulative impacts when 
taking into account successive/contemporaneous actions when added to 
baseline data);
    (4) The status of stock or species of marine mammals (i.e., 
depleted, not depleted, decreasing, increasing, stable, impact relative 
to the size of the population);
    (5) Impacts on habitat affecting rates of recruitment/survival; and
    (6) The effectiveness of monitoring and mitigation measures.
    As mentioned previously, we estimate that four species of marine 
mammals could be potentially affected by Level B harassment over the 
course of the proposed Authorization. For each species, these numbers 
are small numbers (each, less than or equal to two percent) relative to 
the population size. These incidental harassment numbers represent 
approximately 1.82 percent of the U.S. stock of California sea lion, 
1.74 percent of the California stock of Pacific harbor seal, 0.15 
percent of the California breeding stock of northern elephant seal, and 
0.04 percent of the eastern distinct population segment of Steller sea 
lion.
    For reasons stated previously in this document and based on the 
following factors, Point Blue's specified activities are not likely to 
cause long-term behavioral disturbance, abandonment of the haulout 
area, injury, serious injury, or mortality because:
    (1) The effects of the pinniped and seabird research activities 
would be limited to short-term startle responses and localized 
behavioral changes due to the short and sporadic duration of the 
research activities. Minor and brief responses, such as short-duration 
startle or alert reactions, are not likely to constitute disruption of 
behavioral patterns, such as migration, nursing, breeding, feeding, or 
sheltering.
    (2) The availability of alternate areas for pinnipeds to avoid the 
resultant acoustic and visual disturbances from the research 
operations. Results from previous monitoring reports also show that the 
pinnipeds returned to the various sites and did not permanently abandon 
haul-out sites after Point Blue conducted their pinniped and research 
activities.
    (3) There is no potential for large-scale movements leading to 
injury, serious injury, or mortality because the researchers must delay 
ingress into the landing areas until after the pinnipeds present have 
slowly entered the water.
    (4) The limited access of Point Blue's researchers to Southeast 
Farallon Island, A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island, and Point Reyes National 
Seashore during the pupping season.
    We do not anticipate that any injuries, serious injuries, or 
mortalities would occur as a result of Point Blue's proposed 
activities, and we do not propose to authorize injury, serious injury 
or mortality. These species may exhibit behavioral modifications, 
including temporarily vacating the area during the proposed seabird and 
pinniped research activities to avoid the resultant acoustic and visual 
disturbances. Further, these proposed activities would not take place 
in areas of significance for marine mammal feeding, resting, breeding, 
or calving and would not adversely impact marine mammal habitat. Due to 
the nature, degree, and context of the behavioral harassment 
anticipated, the activities are not expected 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, we have preliminarily determined that the total taking from 
the proposed activities will 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

    Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA also requires us to determine that 
the taking will not have an unmitigable adverse effect on the 
availability of marine mammal species or stocks for subsistence use. 
There are no relevant subsistence uses of marine mammals in the study 
area (northeastern Pacific Ocean) that implicate section 101(a)(5)(D) 
of the MMPA.

Endangered Species Act

    On October 23, 2013 NMFS announced the removal of the eastern 
distinct population segment of Steller sea lions from the list of 
threatened species under the ESA. With the delisting, federal agencies 
proposing actions that may affect the eastern Steller sea lions are no 
longer required to consult with NMFS under section 7 of the ESA. This 
delisting will be effective by the time that we make our final 
determinations on the proposed issuance of an Authorization to Point 
Blue.

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

    To meet our NEPA requirements for the issuance of an Authorization 
to Point Blue, we intend to prepare an Environmental Assessment (EA) 
titled ``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.'' Prior to making a final decision on the issuance of an 
Authorization, we would decide whether or not to issue a Finding of No 
Significant Impact (FONSI).

Proposed Authorization

    As a result of these preliminary determinations, we propose to 
authorize the take of marine mammals incidental to Point Blue's 
proposed seabird and pinniped research activities in the northeast 
Pacific Ocean, provided they incorporate the previously mentioned 
mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements. The duration of the 
Incidental harassment Authorization would not exceed one year from the 
effective date.

Information Solicited

    We request interested persons to submit comments and information 
concerning this proposed take authorization (see ADDRESSES). Concurrent 
with the publication of this notice in the Federal Register, we will 
forward copies of this application to the Marine Mammal Commission and 
its Committee of Scientific Advisors.


[[Page 66695]]


    Dated: November 1, 2013.
Donna S. Wieting,
Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
[FR Doc. 2013-26596 Filed 11-5-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P