Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Rocky Intertidal Monitoring Surveys Along the Oregon and California Coasts, 79403-79408 [2013-31196]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 250 / Monday, December 30, 2013 / Notices be brought to the full Council for formal consideration and action, if appropriate. Although non-emergency issues not contained in this agenda may come before this group for discussion, those issues may not be the subject of formal action during this meeting. Action will be restricted to those issues specifically listed in this notice and any issues arising after publication of this notice that require emergency action under section 305(c) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, provided the public has been notified of the Council’s intent to take final action to address the emergency. Special Accommodations This meeting will be physically accessible to people with disabilities. Requests for sign language interpretation or other auxiliary aids should be directed to Thomas A. Nies, Executive Director, at (978) 465–0492, at least 5 days prior to the meeting date. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: December 24, 2013. Tracey L. Thompson, Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2013–31173 Filed 12–27–13; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Candace Nachman, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, (301) 427–8401. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Need for Correction The public comment period for the proposal to issue an IHA to the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Study of Coastal Oceans (PISCO) at the University of California Santa Cruz published in the Federal Register on October 30, 2013 (78 FR 64918), requesting comments from the public for 30 days on that proposal. NMFS issued an IHA to PISCO for the proposed action on December 17, 2013, which took into consideration the public comments received at that time. The Federal Register notice that NMFS incorrectly published on December 23, 2013 (78 FR 77433), is a duplicate of the original notice from October 2013. The notice that should have published in the Federal Register on December 23, 2013, was the notice of issuance of an IHA. NMFS has submitted the notice of issuance to the Federal Register for publication. Therefore, NMFS is withdrawing the Notice of Proposed IHA notice of December 23, 2013 (78 FR 77433), as the public was already afforded an opportunity to comment on the proposal, and the final action has already been taken. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Dated: December 23, 2013. Perry Gayaldo, Acting Deputy Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. RIN 0648–XC893 [FR Doc. 2013–31201 Filed 12–27–13; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Rocky Intertidal Monitoring Surveys Along the Oregon and California Coasts: Correction National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; correction. AGENCY: NMFS incorrectly published a second notice in the Federal Register on December 23, 2013, requesting comments on the proposed issuance of an Incidental Harassment Authorization (IHA) pursuant to the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). NMFS had published the first notice in the Federal Register on October 30, 2013, requesting comments from the public for 30 days. The comment period closed on November 29, 2013. The notice that should have published in the Federal Register on December 23, 2013, was the notice of issuance of an IHA. maindgalligan on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:15 Dec 27, 2013 Jkt 232001 DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XC893 Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Rocky Intertidal Monitoring Surveys Along the Oregon and California Coasts National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; issuance of an incidental harassment authorization. AGENCY: In accordance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) regulations, notification is hereby given that NMFS has issued an Incidental Harassment Authorization (IHA) to the Partnership for SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00014 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 79403 Interdisciplinary Study of Coastal Oceans (PISCO) at the University of California (UC) Santa Cruz for an Incidental Harassment Authorization (IHA) to take marine mammals, by harassment, incidental to rocky intertidal monitoring surveys. DATES: Effective December 17, 2013, through December 16, 2014. ADDRESSES: A copy of the authorization, application, and associated Environmental Assessment (EA) and Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) may be obtained by writing to Michael Payne, Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910, telephoning the contact listed below (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT), or visiting the internet at: http:// www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/ incidental.htm. Documents cited in this notice may also be viewed, by appointment, during regular business hours, at the aforementioned address. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Candace Nachman, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, (301) 427–8401. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background Sections 101(a)(5)(A) and (D) of the MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) direct the Secretary of Commerce to allow, upon request, the incidental, but not intentional, taking of small numbers of marine mammals by U.S. citizens who engage in a specified activity (other than commercial fishing) within a specified geographical region if certain findings are made and either regulations are issued or, if the taking is limited to harassment, a notice of a proposed authorization is provided to the public for review. Authorization for incidental takings shall be granted if NMFS finds that the taking will have a negligible impact on the species or stock(s), will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of the species or stock(s) for subsistence uses (where relevant), and if the permissible methods of taking, other means of effecting the least practicable impact on the species or stock and its habitat, and requirements pertaining to the mitigation, monitoring and reporting of such takings are set forth. NMFS has defined ‘‘negligible impact’’ in 50 CFR 216.103 as ‘‘. . . an impact resulting from the specified activity that cannot be reasonably expected to, and is not reasonably likely to, adversely affect the species or stock through effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival.’’ E:\FR\FM\30DEN1.SGM 30DEN1 79404 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 250 / Monday, December 30, 2013 / Notices maindgalligan on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA established an expedited process by which citizens of the United States can apply for an authorization to incidentally take small numbers of marine mammals by harassment. Section 101(a)(5)(D) establishes a 45-day time limit for NMFS review of an application followed by a 30-day public notice and comment period on any proposed authorizations for the incidental harassment of marine mammals. Within 45 days of the close of the comment period, NMFS must either issue or deny the authorization. Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, the MMPA defines ‘‘harassment’’ as: ‘‘Any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance which (i) has the potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild [Level A harassment]; or (ii) has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering [Level B harassment].’’ Summary of Request On July 10, 2013, NMFS received an application from PISCO for the taking of marine mammals incidental to rocky intertidal monitoring surveys along the Oregon and California coasts. NMFS determined that the application was adequate and complete on July 31, 2013. On October 30, 2013, we published a notice in the Federal Register of our proposal to issue an IHA with preliminary determinations and explained the basis for the proposal and preliminary determinations (78 FR 64918). The notice initiated a 30-day public comment period. Responses are discussed below. In December 2012, NMFS issued a 1-year IHA to PISCO to take marine mammals incidental to these same proposed activities (77 FR 72327, December 5, 2012). That IHA expired on December 2, 2013. The research group at UC Santa Cruz operates in collaboration with two largescale marine research programs: PISCO and the Multi-agency Rocky Intertidal Network. The research group at UC Santa Cruz (PISCO) is responsible for many of the ongoing rocky intertidal monitoring programs along the Pacific coast. Monitoring occurs at rocky intertidal sites, often large bedrock benches, from the high intertidal to the water’s edge. Long-term monitoring projects include Community Structure Monitoring, Intertidal Biodiversity Surveys, Marine Protected Area Baseline Monitoring, Intertidal Recruitment Monitoring, and Ocean Acidification. Research is conducted VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:15 Dec 27, 2013 Jkt 232001 throughout the year along the California and Oregon coasts and will continue indefinitely. Most sites are sampled one to two times per year over a 4–6 hour period during a negative low tide series. This IHA is only effective for a 12month period. The following specific aspects of the proposed activities are likely to result in the take of marine mammals: Presence of survey personnel near pinniped haulout sites and approach of survey personnel towards hauled out pinnipeds. Take, by Level B harassment only, of individuals of three species of marine mammals is anticipated to result from the specified activity. Description of the Specified Activity and Specified Geographic Region PISCO focuses on understanding the nearshore ecosystems of the U.S. west coast through a number of interdisciplinary collaborations. PISCO integrates long-term monitoring of ecological and oceanographic processes at dozens of sites with experimental work in the lab and field. A short description of each project is contained here. Additional information can be found in PISCO’s application (see ADDRESSES) and the Notice of Proposed IHA (78 FR 64918, October 30, 2013). Community Structure Monitoring involves the use of permanent photoplot quadrats which target specific algal and invertebrate assemblages (e.g. mussels, rockweeds, barnacles). This project provides managers with insight into the causes and consequences of changes in species abundance. Each Community Structure site is surveyed over a 1-day period during a low tide series one to two times a year. Sites, location, number of times sampled per year, and typical sampling months for each site are presented in Table 1 in PISCO’s application (see ADDRESSES). Biodiversity Surveys, which are part of a long-term monitoring project and are conducted every 3–5 years at established sites, involve point contact identification along permanent transects, mobile invertebrate quadrat counts, sea star band counts, and tidal height topographic measurements. Table 2 in PISCO’s application (see ADDRESSES) lists established biodiversity sites in Oregon and California. No Biodiversity Surveys are planned to be conducted during the 12month period of this IHA. In September 2007, the state of California began establishing a network of Marine Protected Areas along the California coast as part of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA). Under baseline monitoring programs funded by Sea Grant and the Ocean Protection PO 00000 Frm 00015 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Council, PISCO established additional intertidal monitoring sites in the Central Coast (Table 3 in PISCO’s application), North Central Coast (Table 4 in PISCO’s application), and South Coast (Table 5 in PISCO’s application) study regions. Intertidal recruitment monitoring collects data on invertebrate larval recruitment. Mussel and other bivalve recruits are collected in mesh potscrubbers bolted into the substrate. Barnacle recruits and cyprids are collected on PVC plates covered in nonslip tape and bolted to the substrate. The Ocean Margin Ecosystems Group for Acidification Studies is a National Science Foundation funded project that involves research at eight sites along the California Current upwelling system from Southern California into Oregon. PISCO is responsible for research at three of these sites—Hopkins, Terrace Point, and Soberanes—located in the Monterey Bay region of mainland California. The intention of this collaboration is to monitor oceanic pH on large spatial and temporal scales and to determine if any relationship exists between changing ocean chemistry and the state of intertidal calcifying organisms. During summer 2014, PISCO will sample eight sites along the Oregon coast (see Table 7 in PISCO’s application) using a combination of community structure and biodiversity survey methods to establish a baseline prior to the proposed installation of several wave energy conversion device arrays. This baseline will be used to assess the effects of the arrays on nearshore communities. Specified Geographic Location and Activity Timeframe PISCO’s research is conducted throughout the year along the California and Oregon coasts. Most sites are sampled one to two times per year over a 1-day period (4–6 hours per site) during a negative low tide series. Due to the large number of research sites, scheduling constraints, the necessity for negative low tides and favorable weather/ocean conditions, exact survey dates are variable and difficult to predict. Table 1 in PISCO’s application (see ADDRESSES) outlines the typical sampling season for the various locations. Some sampling is anticipated to occur in all months, except for January, August, and September. The intertidal zones where PISCO conducts intertidal monitoring are also areas where pinnipeds can be found hauled out on the shore at or adjacent to some research sites. Accessing portions of the intertidal habitat may cause incidental Level B (behavioral) E:\FR\FM\30DEN1.SGM 30DEN1 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 250 / Monday, December 30, 2013 / Notices harassment of pinnipeds through some unavoidable approaches if pinnipeds are hauled out directly in the study plots or while biologists walk from one location to another. No motorized equipment is involved in conducting these surveys. The species for which Level B harassment is requested are: California sea lions (Zalophus californianus californianus); harbor seals (Phoca vitulina richardii); and northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris). maindgalligan on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Comments and Responses A Notice of Proposed IHA was published in the Federal Register on October 30, 2013 (78 FR 64918) for public comment. During the 30-day public comment period, NMFS received one letter from the Marine Mammal Commission and one letter from a private citizen. No other organizations provided comments on the proposed issuance of an IHA for this activity. The Marine Mammal Commission recommended that NMFS issue the IHA, subject to inclusion of the proposed mitigation and monitoring measures. NMFS has included all of the mitigation and monitoring measures proposed in the Notice of Proposed IHA (78 FR 64918, October 30, 2013) in the issued IHA. The letter from the private citizen did not contain any substantive comments. Description of Marine Mammals in the Area of the Specified Activity Several pinniped species can be found along the California and Oregon coasts. The three that are most likely to occur at some of the research sites are California sea lion, harbor seal, and northern elephant seal. On rare occasions, PISCO researchers have seen very small numbers (i.e., five or fewer) of Steller sea lions at one of the sampling sites. These sightings are rare. Therefore, encounters are not expected. However, if Steller sea lions are sighted before approaching a sampling site, researchers will abandon approach and return at a later date. For this reason, this species is not considered further in this IHA notice. We refer the public to Carretta et al. (2013) for general information on these species. The publication is available on the internet at: http:// www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/sars/pdf/ po2012.pdf. Additional information on the status, distribution, seasonal distribution, and life history can also be found in PISCO’s application and NMFS’ Notice of Proposed IHA (78 FR 64918, October 30, 2013). The information has not changed and is therefore not repeated here. VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:15 Dec 27, 2013 Jkt 232001 California (southern) sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis), listed as threatened under the ESA and categorized as depleted under the MMPA, usually range in coastal waters within 2 km (1.2 mi) of shore. This species is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and is not considered further in this notice. Potential Effects of the Specified Activity on Marine Mammals The appearance of researchers may have the potential to cause Level B harassment of any pinnipeds hauled out at sampling sites. Although marine mammals are never deliberately approached by abalone survey personnel, approach may be unavoidable if pinnipeds are hauled out in the immediate vicinity of the permanent study plots. Disturbance may result in reactions ranging from an animal simply becoming alert to the presence of researchers (e.g., turning the head, assuming a more upright posture) to flushing from the haul-out site into the water. NMFS does not consider the lesser reactions to constitute behavioral harassment, or Level B harassment takes, but rather assumes that pinnipeds that move greater than 1 m (3.3 ft) or change the speed or direction of their movement in response to the presence of researchers are behaviorally harassed, and thus subject to Level B taking. Animals that respond to the presence of researchers by becoming alert, but do not move or change the nature of locomotion as described, are not considered to have been subject to behavioral harassment. NMFS’ Notice of Proposed IHA (78 FR 64918, October 30, 2013) contains information regarding potential impacts to marine mammals from the specified activity. The information has not changed and is therefore not repeated here. Typically, even those reactions constituting Level B harassment would result at most in temporary, short-term disturbance. In any given study season, researchers will visit sites one to two times per year for a total of 4–6 hours per visit. Therefore, disturbance of pinnipeds resulting from the presence of researchers lasts only for short periods of time and is separated by significant amounts of time in which no disturbance occurs. Because such disturbance is sporadic, rather than chronic, and of low intensity, individual marine mammals are unlikely to incur any detrimental impacts to vital rates or ability to forage and, thus, loss of fitness. Correspondingly, even local populations, much less the overall stocks of animals, are extremely PO 00000 Frm 00016 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 79405 unlikely to accrue any significantly detrimental impacts. NMFS does not anticipate that the activities would result in the injury, serious injury, or mortality of pinnipeds because pups are only found at a couple of the sampling locations during certain times of the year and that many rookeries occur on the offshore islands and not the mainland areas where the activities would occur. In addition, researchers will exercise appropriate caution approaching sites, especially when pups are present and will redirect activities when pups are present. Anticipated Effects on Marine Mammal Habitat The only habitat modification associated with the activity is the placement of permanent bolts and other sampling equipment in the intertidal. Bolts are installed during the set-up of a site and, at existing sites, this has already occurred. In some instances, bolts will need to be replaced or installed for new plots. Bolts are 7.6 to 12.7 cm (2 to 5 in) long, stainless steel 1 cm (3⁄8 in) Hex or Carriage bolts. They are installed by drilling a hole with a battery powered DeWalt 24 volt rotary hammer drill with a 1 cm (3⁄8 in) bit. The bolts protrude 1.3–7.6 cm (0.5–3 in) above the rock surface and are held in place with marine epoxy. Although the drill does produce noticeable noise, researchers have never observed an instance where near-by or offshore marine mammals were disturbed by it. Any marine mammal at the site would likely be disturbed by the presence of researchers and retreat to a distance where the noise of the drill would not increase the disturbance. In most instances, wind and wave noise also drown out the noise of the drill. The installation of bolts and other sampling equipment is conducted under the appropriate permits (Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, California State Parks). Once a particular study has ended, the respective sampling equipment is removed. No trash or field gear is left at a site. Thus, the proposed activity is not expected to have any habitat-related effects, including to marine mammal prey species, that could cause significant or long-term consequences for individual marine mammals or their populations. Mitigation In order to issue an incidental take authorization (ITA) under Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA, NMFS must, where applicable, set forth the permissible methods of taking pursuant to such activity, and other means of effecting the least practicable impact on E:\FR\FM\30DEN1.SGM 30DEN1 maindgalligan on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with NOTICES 79406 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 250 / Monday, December 30, 2013 / Notices such species or stock and its habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance, and on the availability of such species or stock for taking for certain subsistence uses (where relevant). PISCO shall implement several mitigation measures to reduce potential take by Level B (behavioral disturbance) harassment. Measures include: (1) Conducting slow movements and staying close to the ground to prevent or minimize stampeding; (2) avoiding loud noises (i.e., using hushed voices); (3) avoiding pinnipeds along access ways to sites by locating and taking a different access way and vacating the area as soon as sampling of the site is completed; (4) monitoring the offshore area for predators (such as killer whales and white sharks) and avoid flushing of pinnipeds when predators are observed in nearshore waters; (5) using binoculars to detect pinnipeds before close approach to avoid being seen by animals; (6) only flushing pinnipeds if they are located in the sampling plots and there are no other means to accomplish the survey (however, flushing must be done slowly and quietly so as not to cause a stampede); (7) no intentional flushing if pups are present at the sampling site; and (8) rescheduling sampling if Steller sea lions are present at the site. The methodologies and actions noted in this section will be utilized and included as mitigation measures in the IHA to ensure that impacts to marine mammals are mitigated to the lowest level practicable. The primary method of mitigating the risk of disturbance to pinnipeds, which will be in use at all times, is the selection of judicious routes of approach to study sites, avoiding close contact with pinnipeds hauled out on shore, and the use of extreme caution upon approach. In no case will marine mammals be deliberately approached by survey personnel, and in all cases every possible measure will be taken to select a pathway of approach to study sites that minimizes the number of marine mammals potentially harassed. In general, researchers will stay inshore of pinnipeds whenever possible to allow maximum escape to the ocean. Each visit to a given study site will last for approximately 4–6 hours, after which the site is vacated and can be reoccupied by any marine mammals that may have been disturbed by the presence of researchers. By arriving before low tide, worker presence will tend to encourage pinnipeds to move to other areas for the day before they haul out and settle onto rocks at low tide. VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:15 Dec 27, 2013 Jkt 232001 PISCO will suspend sampling and monitoring operations immediately if an injured marine mammal is found in the vicinity of the project area and the monitoring activities could aggravate its condition. NMFS has carefully evaluated PISCO’s mitigation measures and considered a range of other measures in the context of ensuring that NMFS prescribes the means of effecting the least practicable 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: • The manner in which, and the degree to which, the successful implementation of the measure is expected to minimize adverse impacts to marine mammals; • The proven or likely efficacy of the specific measure to minimize adverse impacts as planned; and • The practicability of the measure for applicant implementation. Based on our evaluation of the applicant’s final measures, NMFS has determined that the mitigation measures provide the means of effecting the least practicable impact on marine mammal species or stocks and their habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance. Monitoring and Reporting In order to issue an ITA for an activity, Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA states that NMFS must, where applicable, set forth ‘‘requirements pertaining to the monitoring and reporting of such taking’’. The MMPA implementing regulations at 50 CFR 216.104(a)(13) indicate that requests for ITAs must include the suggested means of accomplishing the necessary monitoring and reporting that will result in increased knowledge of the species and of the level of taking or impacts on populations of marine mammals that are expected to be present in the proposed action area. PISCO can add to the knowledge of pinnipeds in California and Oregon by noting observations of: (1) Unusual behaviors, numbers, or distributions of pinnipeds, such that any potential follow-up research can be conducted by the appropriate personnel; (2) tagbearing carcasses of pinnipeds, allowing transmittal of the information to appropriate agencies and personnel; and (3) rare or unusual species of marine mammals for agency follow-up. Monitoring requirements in relation to PISCO’s rocky intertidal monitoring will include observations made by the PO 00000 Frm 00017 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 applicant. Information recorded will include species counts (with numbers of pups/juveniles when possible), numbers of observed disturbances, and descriptions of the disturbance behaviors during the monitoring surveys, including location, date, and time of the event. In addition, observations regarding the number and species of any marine mammals observed, either in the water or hauled out, at or adjacent to the site, will be recorded as part of field observations during research activities. Observations of unusual behaviors, numbers, or distributions of pinnipeds will be reported to NMFS so that any potential follow-up observations can be conducted by the appropriate personnel. In addition, observations of tag-bearing pinniped carcasses as well as any rare or unusual species of marine mammals will be reported to NMFS. Information regarding physical and biological conditions pertaining to a site, as well as the date and time that research was conducted will also be noted. If at any time injury, serious injury, or mortality of the species for which take is authorized should occur, or if take of any kind of any other marine mammal occurs, and such action may be a result of the research, PISCO will suspend research activities and contact NMFS immediately to determine how best to proceed to ensure that another injury or death does not occur and to ensure that the applicant remains in compliance with the MMPA. A draft final report must be submitted to NMFS Office of Protected Resources within 60 days after the conclusion of the 2013–2014 field season or 60 days prior to the start of the next field season if a new IHA will be requested. The report will include a summary of the information gathered pursuant to the monitoring requirements set forth in the IHA. A final report must be submitted to the Director of the NMFS Office of Protected Resources and to the NMFS Southwest Office Regional Administrator within 30 days after receiving comments from NMFS on the draft final report. If no comments are received from NMFS, the draft final report will be considered to be the final report. Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, the MMPA defines ‘‘harassment’’ as: Any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance which (i) has the potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild [Level A harassment]; or (ii) has the potential to disturb a marine E:\FR\FM\30DEN1.SGM 30DEN1 maindgalligan on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 250 / Monday, December 30, 2013 / Notices 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]. All anticipated takes would be by Level B harassment, involving temporary changes in behavior. The mitigation and monitoring measures are expected to minimize the possibility of injurious or lethal takes such that take by injury, serious injury, or mortality is considered remote. Animals hauled out close to the actual survey sites may be disturbed by the presence of biologists and may alter their behavior or attempt to move away from the researchers. As discussed earlier, NMFS considers an animal to have been harassed if it moved greater than 1 m (3.3 ft) in response to the researcher’s presence or if the animal was already moving and changed direction and/or speed, or if the animal flushed into the water. Animals that became alert without such movements were not considered harassed. For the purpose of this IHA, only Oregon and California sites that are frequently sampled and have a marine mammal presence during sampling were included in take estimates. Sites where only Biodiversity Surveys are conducted were not included due to the infrequency of sampling and rarity of occurrences of pinnipeds during sampling. In addition, Steller sea lions are not included in take estimates as they will not be disturbed by researchers or research activities since activities will not occur or will be suspended if Steller sea lions are present. A small number of harbor seal and northern elephant seal pup takes are anticipated as pups may be present at several sites during spring and summer sampling. Takes estimates are based on marine mammal observations from each site. Marine mammal observations are done as part of PISCO site observations, which include notes on physical and biological conditions at the site. The maximum number of marine mammals, by species, seen at any given time throughout the sampling day is recorded at the conclusion of sampling. A marine mammal is counted if it is seen on access ways to the site, at the site, or immediately up-coast or down-coast of the site. Marine mammals in the water VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:15 Dec 27, 2013 Jkt 232001 immediately offshore are also recorded. Any other relevant information, including the location of a marine mammal relevant to the site, any unusual behavior, and the presence of pups is also noted. These observations formed the basis from which researchers with extensive knowledge and experience at each site estimated the actual number of marine mammals that may be subject to take. In most cases the number of takes is based on the maximum number of marine mammals that have been observed at a site throughout the history of the site (2–3 observation per year for 5–10 years or more). Section 6 in PISCO’s application outlines the number of visits per year for each sampling site and the potential number of pinnipeds anticipated to be encountered at each site. Table 8 in PISCO’s application outlines the number of potential takes per site (see ADDRESSES). Based on this information, NMFS has authorized the take, by Level B harassment only, of 60 California sea lions, 337 harbor seals, and 36 northern elephant seals. These numbers are considered to be maximum take estimates; therefore, actual take may be slightly less if animals decide to haul out at a different location for the day or animals are out foraging at the time of the survey activities. Negligible Impact and Small Numbers Analysis and Determination NMFS typically includes our negligible impact and small numbers analyses and determinations under the same section heading of our Federal Register 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. NMFS has defined ‘‘negligible impact’’ in 50 CFR 216.103 as ‘‘. . . an impact resulting from the specified activity that cannot be reasonably expected to, and is not reasonably likely to, adversely affect the species or stock through effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival.’’ In making a negligible impact determination, NMFS considers a variety of factors, including PO 00000 Frm 00018 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 79407 but not limited to: (1) The number of anticipated mortalities; (2) the number and nature of anticipated injuries; (3) the number, nature, intensity, and duration of Level B harassment; and (4) the context in which the take occurs. No injuries or mortalities are anticipated to occur as a result of PISCO’s rocky intertidal monitoring, and none are authorized. The behavioral harassments that could occur would be of limited duration, as researchers only conduct sampling one to two times per year at each site for a total of 4–6 hours per sampling event. Therefore, disturbance will be limited to a short duration, allowing pinnipeds to reoccupy the sites within a short amount of time. Some of the pinniped species may use some of the sites during certain times of year to conduct pupping and/or breeding. However, some of these species prefer to use the offshore islands for these activities. At the sites where pups may be present, PISCO will implement certain mitigation measures, such as no intentional flushing if dependent pups are present, which will avoid mother/pup separation and trampling of pups. Of the three marine mammal species anticipated to occur in the activity areas, none are listed under the ESA. Table 1 in this document presents the abundance of each species or stock, the authorized take estimates, and the percentage of the affected populations or stocks that may be taken by harassment. Based on these estimates, PISCO would take less than 2.1% of each species or stock. Because these are maximum estimates, actual take numbers are likely to be lower, as some animals may select other haulout sites the day the researchers are present. Based on the analysis contained herein of the likely effects of the specified activity on marine mammals and their habitat, and taking into consideration the implementation of the mitigation and monitoring measures, NMFS finds that the rocky intertidal monitoring program will result in the incidental take of small numbers of marine mammals, by Level B harassment only, and that the total taking from the rocky intertidal monitoring program will have a negligible impact on the affected species or stocks. E:\FR\FM\30DEN1.SGM 30DEN1 79408 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 250 / Monday, December 30, 2013 / Notices TABLE 1—POPULATION ABUNDANCE ESTIMATES, TOTAL AUTHORIZED LEVEL B TAKE, AND PERCENTAGE OF POPULATION THAT MAY BE TAKEN FOR THE POTENTIALLY AFFECTED SPECIES DURING THE PROPOSED ROCKY INTERTIDAL MONITORING PROGRAM Species Abundance* Total authorized level b take 1 30,196 Harbor Seal ................................................................................................................ Percentage of stock or population 337 1.1–2.1 60 36 0.02 0.03 2 16,165 California Sea Lion .................................................................................................... Northern Elephant Seal ............................................................................................. 296,750 124,000 * Abundance estimates are taken from the 2012 U.S. Pacific Marine Mammal Stock Assessments (Carretta et al., 2013). 1 California stock abundance estimate. 2 Oregon/Washington stock abundance estimate. Impact on Availability of Affected Species or Stock for Taking for Subsistence Uses There are no relevant subsistence uses of marine mammals implicated by this action. Therefore, NMFS has determined that the total taking of affected species or stocks would not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of such species or stocks for taking for subsistence purposes. Endangered Species Act (ESA) None of the marine mammals for which incidental take is authorized are listed as threatened or endangered under the ESA. NMFS’ Permits and Conservation Division worked with the NMFS Southwest Regional Office to ensure that Steller sea lions would be avoided and incidental take would not occur. Therefore, NMFS has determined that issuance of the IHA to PISCO under section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA will have no effect on species listed as threatened or endangered under the ESA. maindgalligan on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with NOTICES National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) 17:15 Dec 27, 2013 Jkt 232001 Dated: December 23, 2013. Perry Gayaldo, Acting Deputy Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2013–31196 Filed 12–27–13; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P COMMODITY FUTURES TRADING COMMISSION Agency Information Collection Activities; Notice of Intent To Renew Collection: Procedural Requirements for Requests for Interpretative, NoAction, and Exemptive Letters Commodity Futures Trading Commission. ACTION: Notice. AGENCY: The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) seeks public comment on the proposed renewal of a collection of information by the agency. Under the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA), Federal agencies are required to publish notice in the Federal Register concerning each proposed collection of information, including each proposed extension of an existing collection of information, and to allow 60 days for public comment in response to the notice. This notice solicits comments on requirements relating to requests for and issuance of exemptive, no-action, and interpretative letters. DATES: Comments must be submitted on or before February 28, 2014. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by ‘‘Collection 3038–0049– Renewal,’’ by any of the following methods: SUMMARY: In 2012, we prepared an EA analyzing the potential effects to the human environment from conducting rocky intertidal surveys along the California and Oregon coasts and issued a FONSI on the issuance of an IHA for PISCO’s rocky intertidal surveys in accordance with section 6.01 of the NOAA Administrative Order 216–6 (Environmental Review Procedures for Implementing the National Environmental Policy Act, May 20, 1999). PISCO’s proposed activities and impacts for 2013–2014 are within the scope of our 2012 EA and FONSI. We have reviewed the 2012 EA and determined that there are no new direct, indirect, or cumulative impacts to the human and natural environment associated with the IHA requiring evaluation in a supplemental EA and we, therefore, reaffirm the 2012 FONSI. VerDate Mar<15>2010 Authorization As a result of these determinations, NMFS has authorized the take of marine mammals incidental to PISCO’s rocky intertidal monitoring research activities, provided the previously mentioned mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements are incorporated. PO 00000 Frm 00019 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 • The Agency’s Web site, at http:// comments.cftc.gov/. Follow the instructions for submitting comments through the Web site. • Mail: Melissa D. Jurgens, Secretary of the Commission, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Three Lafayette Centre, 1155 21st Street NW., Washington, DC 20581. • Hand Delivery/Courier: Same as mail, above. Please submit your comments using only one method. All comments must be submitted in English, or if not, accompanied by an English translation. Comments will be posted as received to www.cftc.gov. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Christopher W. Cummings, Special Counsel, Division of Swap Dealer and Intermediary Oversight, (202) 418–5228, email: ccummings@cftc.gov; Jocelyn Partridge, Special Counsel, Division of Clearing and Risk, (202) 418–5926, email: jpartridge@cftc.gov; Riva Spear Adriance, Senior Special Counsel, Division of Market Oversight, (202) 418– 5494, email: radriance@cftc.gov; or Beverly E. Loew, Assistant General Counsel, Office of General Counsel, (202) 418–5648, email: bloew@cftc.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Under the PRA, Federal agencies must obtain approval from the Office of Management and Budget (‘‘OMB’’) for each collection of information they conduct or sponsor. ‘‘Collection of Information’’ is defined in 44 U.S.C. 3502(3) and 5 CFR 1320.3. The definition includes agency requests or requirements that members of the public submit reports, keep records, or provide information to a third party. An agency may not conduct or sponsor, and a person is not required to respond to, a collection of information unless it displays a valid OMB control number. Sections 3506(c)(2)(A) and 3507(h) of the PRA, 44 U.S.C. 3506(c)(2)(A) and 3507(h), require a Federal agency to provide a 60-day notice in the Federal Register whenever it seeks to renew a collection of information previously E:\FR\FM\30DEN1.SGM 30DEN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 250 (Monday, December 30, 2013)]
[Notices]
[Pages 79403-79408]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-31196]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XC893


Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; 
Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Rocky Intertidal Monitoring Surveys 
Along the Oregon and California Coasts

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

ACTION: Notice; issuance of an incidental harassment authorization.

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SUMMARY: In accordance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) 
regulations, notification is hereby given that NMFS has issued an 
Incidental Harassment Authorization (IHA) to the Partnership for 
Interdisciplinary Study of Coastal Oceans (PISCO) at the University of 
California (UC) Santa Cruz for an Incidental Harassment Authorization 
(IHA) to take marine mammals, by harassment, incidental to rocky 
intertidal monitoring surveys.

DATES: Effective December 17, 2013, through December 16, 2014.

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

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

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    Sections 101(a)(5)(A) and (D) of the MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) 
direct the Secretary of Commerce to allow, upon request, the 
incidental, but not intentional, taking of small numbers of marine 
mammals by U.S. citizens who engage in a specified activity (other than 
commercial fishing) within a specified geographical region if certain 
findings are made and either regulations are issued or, if the taking 
is limited to harassment, a notice of a proposed authorization is 
provided to the public for review.
    Authorization for incidental takings shall be granted if NMFS finds 
that the taking will have a negligible impact on the species or 
stock(s), will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the 
availability of the species or stock(s) for subsistence uses (where 
relevant), and if the permissible methods of taking, other means of 
effecting the least practicable impact on the species or stock and its 
habitat, and requirements pertaining to the mitigation, monitoring and 
reporting of such takings are set forth. NMFS has defined ``negligible 
impact'' in 50 CFR 216.103 as ``. . . an impact resulting from the 
specified activity that cannot be reasonably expected to, and is not 
reasonably likely to, adversely affect the species or stock through 
effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival.''

[[Page 79404]]

    Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA established an expedited process 
by which citizens of the United States can apply for an authorization 
to incidentally take small numbers of marine mammals by harassment. 
Section 101(a)(5)(D) establishes a 45-day time limit for NMFS review of 
an application followed by a 30-day public notice and comment period on 
any proposed authorizations for the incidental harassment of marine 
mammals. Within 45 days of the close of the comment period, NMFS must 
either issue or deny the authorization. Except with respect to certain 
activities not pertinent here, the MMPA defines ``harassment'' as: 
``Any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance which (i) has the potential 
to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild [Level A 
harassment]; or (ii) has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or 
marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral 
patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, 
breeding, feeding, or sheltering [Level B harassment].''

Summary of Request

    On July 10, 2013, NMFS received an application from PISCO for the 
taking of marine mammals incidental to rocky intertidal monitoring 
surveys along the Oregon and California coasts. NMFS determined that 
the application was adequate and complete on July 31, 2013. On October 
30, 2013, we published a notice in the Federal Register of our proposal 
to issue an IHA with preliminary determinations and explained the basis 
for the proposal and preliminary determinations (78 FR 64918). The 
notice initiated a 30-day public comment period. Responses are 
discussed below. In December 2012, NMFS issued a 1-year IHA to PISCO to 
take marine mammals incidental to these same proposed activities (77 FR 
72327, December 5, 2012). That IHA expired on December 2, 2013.
    The research group at UC Santa Cruz operates in collaboration with 
two large-scale marine research programs: PISCO and the Multi-agency 
Rocky Intertidal Network. The research group at UC Santa Cruz (PISCO) 
is responsible for many of the ongoing rocky intertidal monitoring 
programs along the Pacific coast. Monitoring occurs at rocky intertidal 
sites, often large bedrock benches, from the high intertidal to the 
water's edge. Long-term monitoring projects include Community Structure 
Monitoring, Intertidal Biodiversity Surveys, Marine Protected Area 
Baseline Monitoring, Intertidal Recruitment Monitoring, and Ocean 
Acidification. Research is conducted throughout the year along the 
California and Oregon coasts and will continue indefinitely. Most sites 
are sampled one to two times per year over a 4-6 hour period during a 
negative low tide series. This IHA is only effective for a 12-month 
period. The following specific aspects of the proposed activities are 
likely to result in the take of marine mammals: Presence of survey 
personnel near pinniped haulout sites and approach of survey personnel 
towards hauled out pinnipeds. Take, by Level B harassment only, of 
individuals of three species of marine mammals is anticipated to result 
from the specified activity.

Description of the Specified Activity and Specified Geographic Region

    PISCO focuses on understanding the nearshore ecosystems of the U.S. 
west coast through a number of interdisciplinary collaborations. PISCO 
integrates long-term monitoring of ecological and oceanographic 
processes at dozens of sites with experimental work in the lab and 
field. A short description of each project is contained here. 
Additional information can be found in PISCO's application (see 
ADDRESSES) and the Notice of Proposed IHA (78 FR 64918, October 30, 
2013).
    Community Structure Monitoring involves the use of permanent 
photoplot quadrats which target specific algal and invertebrate 
assemblages (e.g. mussels, rockweeds, barnacles). This project provides 
managers with insight into the causes and consequences of changes in 
species abundance. Each Community Structure site is surveyed over a 1-
day period during a low tide series one to two times a year. Sites, 
location, number of times sampled per year, and typical sampling months 
for each site are presented in Table 1 in PISCO's application (see 
ADDRESSES).
    Biodiversity Surveys, which are part of a long-term monitoring 
project and are conducted every 3-5 years at established sites, involve 
point contact identification along permanent transects, mobile 
invertebrate quadrat counts, sea star band counts, and tidal height 
topographic measurements. Table 2 in PISCO's application (see 
ADDRESSES) lists established biodiversity sites in Oregon and 
California. No Biodiversity Surveys are planned to be conducted during 
the 12-month period of this IHA.
    In September 2007, the state of California began establishing a 
network of Marine Protected Areas along the California coast as part of 
the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA). Under baseline monitoring 
programs funded by Sea Grant and the Ocean Protection Council, PISCO 
established additional intertidal monitoring sites in the Central Coast 
(Table 3 in PISCO's application), North Central Coast (Table 4 in 
PISCO's application), and South Coast (Table 5 in PISCO's application) 
study regions.
    Intertidal recruitment monitoring collects data on invertebrate 
larval recruitment. Mussel and other bivalve recruits are collected in 
mesh pot-scrubbers bolted into the substrate. Barnacle recruits and 
cyprids are collected on PVC plates covered in non-slip tape and bolted 
to the substrate.
    The Ocean Margin Ecosystems Group for Acidification Studies is a 
National Science Foundation funded project that involves research at 
eight sites along the California Current upwelling system from Southern 
California into Oregon. PISCO is responsible for research at three of 
these sites--Hopkins, Terrace Point, and Soberanes--located in the 
Monterey Bay region of mainland California. The intention of this 
collaboration is to monitor oceanic pH on large spatial and temporal 
scales and to determine if any relationship exists between changing 
ocean chemistry and the state of intertidal calcifying organisms.
    During summer 2014, PISCO will sample eight sites along the Oregon 
coast (see Table 7 in PISCO's application) using a combination of 
community structure and biodiversity survey methods to establish a 
baseline prior to the proposed installation of several wave energy 
conversion device arrays. This baseline will be used to assess the 
effects of the arrays on nearshore communities.

Specified Geographic Location and Activity Timeframe

    PISCO's research is conducted throughout the year along the 
California and Oregon coasts. Most sites are sampled one to two times 
per year over a 1-day period (4-6 hours per site) during a negative low 
tide series. Due to the large number of research sites, scheduling 
constraints, the necessity for negative low tides and favorable 
weather/ocean conditions, exact survey dates are variable and difficult 
to predict. Table 1 in PISCO's application (see ADDRESSES) outlines the 
typical sampling season for the various locations. Some sampling is 
anticipated to occur in all months, except for January, August, and 
September.
    The intertidal zones where PISCO conducts intertidal monitoring are 
also areas where pinnipeds can be found hauled out on the shore at or 
adjacent to some research sites. Accessing portions of the intertidal 
habitat may cause incidental Level B (behavioral)

[[Page 79405]]

harassment of pinnipeds through some unavoidable approaches if 
pinnipeds are hauled out directly in the study plots or while 
biologists walk from one location to another. No motorized equipment is 
involved in conducting these surveys. The species for which Level B 
harassment is requested are: California sea lions (Zalophus 
californianus californianus); harbor seals (Phoca vitulina richardii); 
and northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris).

Comments and Responses

    A Notice of Proposed IHA was published in the Federal Register on 
October 30, 2013 (78 FR 64918) for public comment. During the 30-day 
public comment period, NMFS received one letter from the Marine Mammal 
Commission and one letter from a private citizen. No other 
organizations provided comments on the proposed issuance of an IHA for 
this activity. The Marine Mammal Commission recommended that NMFS issue 
the IHA, subject to inclusion of the proposed mitigation and monitoring 
measures. NMFS has included all of the mitigation and monitoring 
measures proposed in the Notice of Proposed IHA (78 FR 64918, October 
30, 2013) in the issued IHA. The letter from the private citizen did 
not contain any substantive comments.

Description of Marine Mammals in the Area of the Specified Activity

    Several pinniped species can be found along the California and 
Oregon coasts. The three that are most likely to occur at some of the 
research sites are California sea lion, harbor seal, and northern 
elephant seal. On rare occasions, PISCO researchers have seen very 
small numbers (i.e., five or fewer) of Steller sea lions at one of the 
sampling sites. These sightings are rare. Therefore, encounters are not 
expected. However, if Steller sea lions are sighted before approaching 
a sampling site, researchers will abandon approach and return at a 
later date. For this reason, this species is not considered further in 
this IHA notice.
    We refer the public to Carretta et al. (2013) for general 
information on these species. The publication is available on the 
internet at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/sars/pdf/po2012.pdf. 
Additional information on the status, distribution, seasonal 
distribution, and life history can also be found in PISCO's application 
and NMFS' Notice of Proposed IHA (78 FR 64918, October 30, 2013). The 
information has not changed and is therefore not repeated here.
    California (southern) sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis), listed as 
threatened under the ESA and categorized as depleted under the MMPA, 
usually range in coastal waters within 2 km (1.2 mi) of shore. This 
species is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and is not 
considered further in this notice.

Potential Effects of the Specified Activity on Marine Mammals

    The appearance of researchers may have the potential to cause Level 
B harassment of any pinnipeds hauled out at sampling sites. Although 
marine mammals are never deliberately approached by abalone survey 
personnel, approach may be unavoidable if pinnipeds are hauled out in 
the immediate vicinity of the permanent study plots. Disturbance may 
result in reactions ranging from an animal simply becoming alert to the 
presence of researchers (e.g., turning the head, assuming a more 
upright posture) to flushing from the haul-out site into the water. 
NMFS does not consider the lesser reactions to constitute behavioral 
harassment, or Level B harassment takes, but rather assumes that 
pinnipeds that move greater than 1 m (3.3 ft) or change the speed or 
direction of their movement in response to the presence of researchers 
are behaviorally harassed, and thus subject to Level B taking. Animals 
that respond to the presence of researchers by becoming alert, but do 
not move or change the nature of locomotion as described, are not 
considered to have been subject to behavioral harassment. NMFS' Notice 
of Proposed IHA (78 FR 64918, October 30, 2013) contains information 
regarding potential impacts to marine mammals from the specified 
activity. The information has not changed and is therefore not repeated 
here.
    Typically, even those reactions constituting Level B harassment 
would result at most in temporary, short-term disturbance. In any given 
study season, researchers will visit sites one to two times per year 
for a total of 4-6 hours per visit. Therefore, disturbance of pinnipeds 
resulting from the presence of researchers lasts only for short periods 
of time and is separated by significant amounts of time in which no 
disturbance occurs. Because such disturbance is sporadic, rather than 
chronic, and of low intensity, individual marine mammals are unlikely 
to incur any detrimental impacts to vital rates or ability to forage 
and, thus, loss of fitness. Correspondingly, even local populations, 
much less the overall stocks of animals, are extremely unlikely to 
accrue any significantly detrimental impacts.
    NMFS does not anticipate that the activities would result in the 
injury, serious injury, or mortality of pinnipeds because pups are only 
found at a couple of the sampling locations during certain times of the 
year and that many rookeries occur on the offshore islands and not the 
mainland areas where the activities would occur. In addition, 
researchers will exercise appropriate caution approaching sites, 
especially when pups are present and will redirect activities when pups 
are present.

Anticipated Effects on Marine Mammal Habitat

    The only habitat modification associated with the activity is the 
placement of permanent bolts and other sampling equipment in the 
intertidal. Bolts are installed during the set-up of a site and, at 
existing sites, this has already occurred. In some instances, bolts 
will need to be replaced or installed for new plots. Bolts are 7.6 to 
12.7 cm (2 to 5 in) long, stainless steel 1 cm (\3/8\ in) Hex or 
Carriage bolts. They are installed by drilling a hole with a battery 
powered DeWalt 24 volt rotary hammer drill with a 1 cm (\3/8\ in) bit. 
The bolts protrude 1.3-7.6 cm (0.5-3 in) above the rock surface and are 
held in place with marine epoxy. Although the drill does produce 
noticeable noise, researchers have never observed an instance where 
near-by or offshore marine mammals were disturbed by it. Any marine 
mammal at the site would likely be disturbed by the presence of 
researchers and retreat to a distance where the noise of the drill 
would not increase the disturbance. In most instances, wind and wave 
noise also drown out the noise of the drill. The installation of bolts 
and other sampling equipment is conducted under the appropriate permits 
(Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, California State Parks). Once 
a particular study has ended, the respective sampling equipment is 
removed. No trash or field gear is left at a site. Thus, the proposed 
activity is not expected to have any habitat-related effects, including 
to marine mammal prey species, that could cause significant or long-
term consequences for individual marine mammals or their populations.

Mitigation

    In order to issue an incidental take authorization (ITA) under 
Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA, NMFS must, where applicable, set 
forth the permissible methods of taking pursuant to such activity, and 
other means of effecting the least practicable impact on

[[Page 79406]]

such species or stock and its habitat, paying particular attention to 
rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance, and on 
the availability of such species or stock for taking for certain 
subsistence uses (where relevant).
    PISCO shall implement several mitigation measures to reduce 
potential take by Level B (behavioral disturbance) harassment. Measures 
include: (1) Conducting slow movements and staying close to the ground 
to prevent or minimize stampeding; (2) avoiding loud noises (i.e., 
using hushed voices); (3) avoiding pinnipeds along access ways to sites 
by locating and taking a different access way and vacating the area as 
soon as sampling of the site is completed; (4) monitoring the offshore 
area for predators (such as killer whales and white sharks) and avoid 
flushing of pinnipeds when predators are observed in nearshore waters; 
(5) using binoculars to detect pinnipeds before close approach to avoid 
being seen by animals; (6) only flushing pinnipeds if they are located 
in the sampling plots and there are no other means to accomplish the 
survey (however, flushing must be done slowly and quietly so as not to 
cause a stampede); (7) no intentional flushing if pups are present at 
the sampling site; and (8) rescheduling sampling if Steller sea lions 
are present at the site.
    The methodologies and actions noted in this section will be 
utilized and included as mitigation measures in the IHA to ensure that 
impacts to marine mammals are mitigated to the lowest level 
practicable. The primary method of mitigating the risk of disturbance 
to pinnipeds, which will be in use at all times, is the selection of 
judicious routes of approach to study sites, avoiding close contact 
with pinnipeds hauled out on shore, and the use of extreme caution upon 
approach. In no case will marine mammals be deliberately approached by 
survey personnel, and in all cases every possible measure will be taken 
to select a pathway of approach to study sites that minimizes the 
number of marine mammals potentially harassed. In general, researchers 
will stay inshore of pinnipeds whenever possible to allow maximum 
escape to the ocean. Each visit to a given study site will last for 
approximately 4-6 hours, after which the site is vacated and can be re-
occupied by any marine mammals that may have been disturbed by the 
presence of researchers. By arriving before low tide, worker presence 
will tend to encourage pinnipeds to move to other areas for the day 
before they haul out and settle onto rocks at low tide.
    PISCO will suspend sampling and monitoring operations immediately 
if an injured marine mammal is found in the vicinity of the project 
area and the monitoring activities could aggravate its condition.
    NMFS has carefully evaluated PISCO's mitigation measures and 
considered a range of other measures in the context of ensuring that 
NMFS prescribes the means of effecting the least practicable 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:
     The manner in which, and the degree to which, the 
successful implementation of the measure is expected to minimize 
adverse impacts to marine mammals;
     The proven or likely efficacy of the specific measure to 
minimize adverse impacts as planned; and
     The practicability of the measure for applicant 
implementation.
    Based on our evaluation of the applicant's final measures, NMFS has 
determined that the mitigation measures provide the means of effecting 
the least practicable impact on marine mammal species or stocks and 
their habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating 
grounds, and areas of similar significance.

Monitoring and Reporting

    In order to issue an ITA for an activity, Section 101(a)(5)(D) of 
the MMPA states that NMFS must, where applicable, set forth 
``requirements pertaining to the monitoring and reporting of such 
taking''. The MMPA implementing regulations at 50 CFR 216.104(a)(13) 
indicate that requests for ITAs must include the suggested means of 
accomplishing the necessary monitoring and reporting that will result 
in increased knowledge of the species and of the level of taking or 
impacts on populations of marine mammals that are expected to be 
present in the proposed action area.
    PISCO can add to the knowledge of pinnipeds in California and 
Oregon by noting observations of: (1) Unusual behaviors, numbers, or 
distributions of pinnipeds, such that any potential follow-up research 
can be conducted by the appropriate personnel; (2) tag-bearing 
carcasses of pinnipeds, allowing transmittal of the information to 
appropriate agencies and personnel; and (3) rare or unusual species of 
marine mammals for agency follow-up.
    Monitoring requirements in relation to PISCO's rocky intertidal 
monitoring will include observations made by the applicant. Information 
recorded will include species counts (with numbers of pups/juveniles 
when possible), numbers of observed disturbances, and descriptions of 
the disturbance behaviors during the monitoring surveys, including 
location, date, and time of the event. In addition, observations 
regarding the number and species of any marine mammals observed, either 
in the water or hauled out, at or adjacent to the site, will be 
recorded as part of field observations during research activities. 
Observations of unusual behaviors, numbers, or distributions of 
pinnipeds will be reported to NMFS so that any potential follow-up 
observations can be conducted by the appropriate personnel. In 
addition, observations of tag-bearing pinniped carcasses as well as any 
rare or unusual species of marine mammals will be reported to NMFS. 
Information regarding physical and biological conditions pertaining to 
a site, as well as the date and time that research was conducted will 
also be noted.
    If at any time injury, serious injury, or mortality of the species 
for which take is authorized should occur, or if take of any kind of 
any other marine mammal occurs, and such action may be a result of the 
research, PISCO will suspend research activities and contact NMFS 
immediately to determine how best to proceed to ensure that another 
injury or death does not occur and to ensure that the applicant remains 
in compliance with the MMPA.
    A draft final report must be submitted to NMFS Office of Protected 
Resources within 60 days after the conclusion of the 2013-2014 field 
season or 60 days prior to the start of the next field season if a new 
IHA will be requested. The report will include a summary of the 
information gathered pursuant to the monitoring requirements set forth 
in the IHA. A final report must be submitted to the Director of the 
NMFS Office of Protected Resources and to the NMFS Southwest Office 
Regional Administrator within 30 days after receiving comments from 
NMFS on the draft final report. If no comments are received from NMFS, 
the draft final report will be considered to be the final report.

Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment

    Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, the 
MMPA defines ``harassment'' as: Any act of pursuit, torment, or 
annoyance which (i) has the potential to injure a marine mammal or 
marine mammal stock in the wild [Level A harassment]; or (ii) has the 
potential to disturb a marine

[[Page 79407]]

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].
    All anticipated takes would be by Level B harassment, involving 
temporary changes in behavior. The mitigation and monitoring measures 
are expected to minimize the possibility of injurious or lethal takes 
such that take by injury, serious injury, or mortality is considered 
remote. Animals hauled out close to the actual survey sites may be 
disturbed by the presence of biologists and may alter their behavior or 
attempt to move away from the researchers.
    As discussed earlier, NMFS considers an animal to have been 
harassed if it moved greater than 1 m (3.3 ft) in response to the 
researcher's presence or if the animal was already moving and changed 
direction and/or speed, or if the animal flushed into the water. 
Animals that became alert without such movements were not considered 
harassed.
    For the purpose of this IHA, only Oregon and California sites that 
are frequently sampled and have a marine mammal presence during 
sampling were included in take estimates. Sites where only Biodiversity 
Surveys are conducted were not included due to the infrequency of 
sampling and rarity of occurrences of pinnipeds during sampling. In 
addition, Steller sea lions are not included in take estimates as they 
will not be disturbed by researchers or research activities since 
activities will not occur or will be suspended if Steller sea lions are 
present. A small number of harbor seal and northern elephant seal pup 
takes are anticipated as pups may be present at several sites during 
spring and summer sampling.
    Takes estimates are based on marine mammal observations from each 
site. Marine mammal observations are done as part of PISCO site 
observations, which include notes on physical and biological conditions 
at the site. The maximum number of marine mammals, by species, seen at 
any given time throughout the sampling day is recorded at the 
conclusion of sampling. A marine mammal is counted if it is seen on 
access ways to the site, at the site, or immediately up-coast or down-
coast of the site. Marine mammals in the water immediately offshore are 
also recorded. Any other relevant information, including the location 
of a marine mammal relevant to the site, any unusual behavior, and the 
presence of pups is also noted.
    These observations formed the basis from which researchers with 
extensive knowledge and experience at each site estimated the actual 
number of marine mammals that may be subject to take. In most cases the 
number of takes is based on the maximum number of marine mammals that 
have been observed at a site throughout the history of the site (2-3 
observation per year for 5-10 years or more). Section 6 in PISCO's 
application outlines the number of visits per year for each sampling 
site and the potential number of pinnipeds anticipated to be 
encountered at each site. Table 8 in PISCO's application outlines the 
number of potential takes per site (see ADDRESSES).
    Based on this information, NMFS has authorized the take, by Level B 
harassment only, of 60 California sea lions, 337 harbor seals, and 36 
northern elephant seals. These numbers are considered to be maximum 
take estimates; therefore, actual take may be slightly less if animals 
decide to haul out at a different location for the day or animals are 
out foraging at the time of the survey activities.

Negligible Impact and Small Numbers Analysis and Determination

    NMFS typically includes our negligible impact and small numbers 
analyses and determinations under the same section heading of our 
Federal Register 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.
    NMFS has defined ``negligible impact'' in 50 CFR 216.103 as ``. . . 
an impact resulting from the specified activity that cannot be 
reasonably expected to, and is not reasonably likely to, adversely 
affect the species or stock through effects on annual rates of 
recruitment or survival.'' In making a negligible impact determination, 
NMFS considers a variety of factors, including but not limited to: (1) 
The number of anticipated mortalities; (2) the number and nature of 
anticipated injuries; (3) the number, nature, intensity, and duration 
of Level B harassment; and (4) the context in which the take occurs.
    No injuries or mortalities are anticipated to occur as a result of 
PISCO's rocky intertidal monitoring, and none are authorized. The 
behavioral harassments that could occur would be of limited duration, 
as researchers only conduct sampling one to two times per year at each 
site for a total of 4-6 hours per sampling event. Therefore, 
disturbance will be limited to a short duration, allowing pinnipeds to 
reoccupy the sites within a short amount of time.
    Some of the pinniped species may use some of the sites during 
certain times of year to conduct pupping and/or breeding. However, some 
of these species prefer to use the offshore islands for these 
activities. At the sites where pups may be present, PISCO will 
implement certain mitigation measures, such as no intentional flushing 
if dependent pups are present, which will avoid mother/pup separation 
and trampling of pups.
    Of the three marine mammal species anticipated to occur in the 
activity areas, none are listed under the ESA. Table 1 in this document 
presents the abundance of each species or stock, the authorized take 
estimates, and the percentage of the affected populations or stocks 
that may be taken by harassment. Based on these estimates, PISCO would 
take less than 2.1% of each species or stock. Because these are maximum 
estimates, actual take numbers are likely to be lower, as some animals 
may select other haulout sites the day the researchers are present.
    Based on the analysis contained herein of the likely effects of the 
specified activity on marine mammals and their habitat, and taking into 
consideration the implementation of the mitigation and monitoring 
measures, NMFS finds that the rocky intertidal monitoring program will 
result in the incidental take of small numbers of marine mammals, by 
Level B harassment only, and that the total taking from the rocky 
intertidal monitoring program will have a negligible impact on the 
affected species or stocks.

[[Page 79408]]



Table 1--Population Abundance Estimates, Total Authorized Level B Take, and Percentage of Population That May Be
       Taken For The Potentially Affected Species During The Proposed Rocky Intertidal Monitoring Program
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                 Percentage of
                        Species                              Abundance*      Total authorized       stock or
                                                                               level b take        population
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Harbor Seal............................................         \1\ 30,196                337            1.1-2.1
                                                                \2\ 16,165
California Sea Lion....................................            296,750                 60               0.02
Northern Elephant Seal.................................            124,000                 36               0.03
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
* Abundance estimates are taken from the 2012 U.S. Pacific Marine Mammal Stock Assessments (Carretta et al.,
  2013).
\1\ California stock abundance estimate.
\2\ Oregon/Washington stock abundance estimate.

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

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

Endangered Species Act (ESA)

    None of the marine mammals for which incidental take is authorized 
are listed as threatened or endangered under the ESA. NMFS' Permits and 
Conservation Division worked with the NMFS Southwest Regional Office to 
ensure that Steller sea lions would be avoided and incidental take 
would not occur. Therefore, NMFS has determined that issuance of the 
IHA to PISCO under section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA will have no effect 
on species listed as threatened or endangered under the ESA.

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

    In 2012, we prepared an EA analyzing the potential effects to the 
human environment from conducting rocky intertidal surveys along the 
California and Oregon coasts and issued a FONSI on the issuance of an 
IHA for PISCO's rocky intertidal surveys in accordance with section 
6.01 of the NOAA Administrative Order 216-6 (Environmental Review 
Procedures for Implementing the National Environmental Policy Act, May 
20, 1999). PISCO's proposed activities and impacts for 2013-2014 are 
within the scope of our 2012 EA and FONSI. We have reviewed the 2012 EA 
and determined that there are no new direct, indirect, or cumulative 
impacts to the human and natural environment associated with the IHA 
requiring evaluation in a supplemental EA and we, therefore, reaffirm 
the 2012 FONSI.

Authorization

    As a result of these determinations, NMFS has authorized the take 
of marine mammals incidental to PISCO's rocky intertidal monitoring 
research activities, provided the previously mentioned mitigation, 
monitoring, and reporting requirements are incorporated.

    Dated: December 23, 2013.
Perry Gayaldo,
Acting Deputy Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2013-31196 Filed 12-27-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P