Taking and Importing Marine Mammals: Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Navy Operations of Surveillance Towed Array Sensor System Low Frequency Active Sonar, 49501-49503 [2014-19803]

Download as PDF mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 162 / Thursday, August 21, 2014 / Notices issuance of new permits. Vessel upgrade restrictions were intended to control the potential increase in effort and catch that could occur if an individual vessel increased in size or horsepower and, therefore, was able to catch more fish for a given amount of effort. For example, if a vessel were able to land more fish per DAS fished because of an increased size or horsepower, it could undermine the purpose of matching the total DAS allocation to a target total allowable catch. In the case of hard quotas, a vessel’s catch rate per trip could increase because of an upgrade to its size or horsepower, accelerating the rate the quota is taken and increasing the race to fish. A permit’s ‘‘baseline vessel’’ was generally the vessel that was first issued the limited access permit for the fishery. The specifications of this first permitted vessel (length, horsepower, gross tonnage, and net tonnage) became the permit’s ‘‘baseline specifications’’ and restrictions were placed on how much a future vessel holding the permit could deviate from these specifications. In this way, baseline specifications and upgrade restrictions limit potential future increases in harvest capacity and prevent them from undermining other management measures targeted at controlling fishing mortality. However, since the time baseline specifications were adopted, many fisheries have implemented other effort controls and annual catch limits (ACLs), which restrict effort and put a cap on total harvest. In addition, replacement and upgrade restrictions can be a costly and time-consuming administrative burden for both the industry and NMFS. In light of these circumstances, the New England and Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Councils, in cooperation with the NMFS Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office, have developed the Omnibus Amendment to Simplify Vessel Baselines. The objective of this amendment is to eliminate certain baseline restrictions to reduce the administrative and cost burden to industry and NMFS, while maintaining the benefits to conservation and fleet diversity that baseline measures provide. This action would apply to all limited access fisheries within the Councils’ jurisdiction: The Atlantic Herring Fishery Management Plan (FMP); the Atlantic Sea Scallop FMP; the Atlantic Deep-Sea Red Crab FMP; the Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish FMP; the Monkfish FMP; the Northeast Multispecies FMP; the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass FMP; the Surfclam and Ocean Quahog FMP; and the Tilefish FMP. The Baseline Amendment considers VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:18 Aug 20, 2014 Jkt 232001 alternatives to (1) maintain the status quo baseline regulations; (2) eliminate the one-time limit on vessel upgrades; (3) eliminate gross and net tonnages from vessel baselines; and (4) eliminate both the one-time limit on vessel upgrades and tonnage specifications. Under all of the alternatives, the 10percent limit on vessel size upgrades and 20-percent of vessel horsepower upgrades would remain. The Councils considered adding alternatives that would make more substantial changes to baseline regulations or eliminate them entirely. However, the Councils opted to keep this action limited in scope in order to expedite its implementation. The Councils are currently discussing initiating another omnibus amendment that would consider more substantial changes for a future fishing year and where that action would fall among the Councils’ priorities. The Councils selected Alternative 4 to eliminate the restrictions on both the one-time limit on vessel upgrades and tonnage specifications as their preferred alternative in this action. NMFS and the Councils will consider all comments received on the draft baseline amendment and the alternatives for incorporation into the final document until the end of the comment period on September 22, 2014. The public will have several additional opportunities to comment on the amendment. The final amendment will be considered for approval by the Councils at public meetings in late 2014. Once submitted to NMFS, the final Baseline Amendment will be made available for public review and comment, and regulations will be proposed for review and comment. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: August 18, 2014 Alan D. Risenhoover, Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2014–19843 Filed 8–20–14; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XD442 Taking and Importing Marine Mammals: Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Navy Operations of Surveillance Towed Array Sensor System Low Frequency Active Sonar National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and AGENCY: PO 00000 Frm 00011 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 49501 Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; issuance of four letters of authorization. In accordance with regulations issued under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, as amended, we hereby give notification that we, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), have issued four 1-year Letters of Authorization (Authorizations) to the U.S. Navy (Navy) to take marine mammals by harassment incidental to their military readiness activities associated with the routine training, testing, and military operations of Surveillance Towed Array Sensor System Low Frequency Active (SURTASS LFA) sonar within the northwest Pacific Ocean and the northcentral Pacific Ocean. DATES: These Authorizations are effective from August 15, 2014, through August 14, 2015. ADDRESSES: Electronic copies of the Navy’s April 4, 2014 application letter and the Authorizations are available by writing to Jolie Harrison, Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910– 3225, by telephoning the contact listed here (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT), or online at: http:// www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/ incidental.htm#applications. Documents cited in this notice may be viewed, by appointment, during regular business hours, at the aforementioned address. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jeannine Cody, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS (301) 427–8401. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: SUMMARY: Background Section 101(a)(5)(A) of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA; 16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) directs the Secretary of Commerce to allow, upon request, the incidental, but not intentional taking of marine mammals by U.S. citizens if certain findings are made and regulations are issued. Under the MMPA, the term ‘‘take’’ means to harass, hunt, capture, or kill or to attempt to harass, hunt, capture, or kill marine mammals. We, NMFS, have been delegated the authority to issue such regulations and Authorizations. With respect to military readiness activities, the MMPA defines harassment as ‘‘(i) any act that injures or has the significant potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild [Level A harassment]; E:\FR\FM\21AUN1.SGM 21AUN1 49502 Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 162 / Thursday, August 21, 2014 / Notices mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES or (ii) any act that disturbs or is likely to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of natural behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, surfacing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering, to a point where such behavioral patterns are abandoned or significantly altered [Level B harassment]. Authorization may be granted for periods of five years or less if we find that the total taking will have a negligible impact on the affected species or stock(s) and will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of the species or stock(s) for taking for certain subsistence uses. In addition, we must prescribe regulations that include permissible methods of taking and other means effecting the least practicable adverse impact on the species or stock and its habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance, and on the availability of the species or stocks for taking for subsistence uses. The regulations also must include requirements pertaining to the monitoring and reporting of such taking. Regulations governing the taking of marine mammals incidental to the Navy’s routine training, testing, and military operations of SURTASS LFA sonar are in effect through August 15, 2017 (77 FR 50290, August 20, 2012) and are codified at 50 CFR part 218 subpart X. These regulations include mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements for the incidental taking of marine mammals by the SURTASS LFA sonar system. For detailed information on this action, please refer to the August 20, 2012, Federal Register Notice and 50 CFR part 218 subpart X. Under those regulations, we must publish a notice of issuance of an Authorization or Authorization renewal in the Federal Register within 30 days of a determination. Summary of Request On April 4, 2014, we received an application from the Navy requesting a renewal of four Authorizations, originally issued on August 15, 2012 (August 28, 2012) and renewed in 2013 (78 FR 57368, September 18, 2013), for the taking of marine mammals incidental to routine training, testing, and military operations of SURTASS LFA sonar in the northwest Pacific Ocean and the north-central Pacific Ocean under the regulations issued on August 15, 2012 (77 FR 50290, August 20, 2012): one for the United States Naval Ship (USNS) VICTORIOUS (T– AGOS 19), one for the USNS ABLE (T– VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:18 Aug 20, 2014 Jkt 232001 AGOS 20), one for the USNS EFFECTIVE (T–AGOS 21), and one for the USNS IMPECCABLE (T–AGOS 23) The application requested that these four Authorizations become effective on August 15, 2014, for a period not to exceed one year. Summary of Activity Under the 2013 Authorizations The Navy submitted quarterly mission reports for the periods of August 2013 through May 2014 within the required timeframes. These quarterly reports include the dates and times of the military readiness activities; location of each SURTASS LFA sonar vessel; mission operational area; marine mammal observations; and records of any delays or suspensions of sonar operations. The Navy must also report on the number of marine mammals detected by visual, passive and active acoustic monitoring and the estimated percentage of each marine mammal stock taken by Level A and Level B harassment. The reports indicate the following: • The Navy conducted a total of 5 missions from August 15, 2013, through May 14, 2014, in the western North Pacific Ocean, which totaled 15.14 days and resulted in 29.3 hours of LFA sonar transmissions. • The cumulative total days of SURTASS LFA sonar operations for the ABLE, EFFECTIVE, IMPECCABLE, and VICTORIOUS were 97, 98, 100, and 98 percent below the annual levels contemplated in the Final Rule for each vessel respectively (i.e., 240 days per vessel); • The cumulative total hours of SURTASS LFA sonar transmissions for the ABLE, EFFECTIVE, IMPECCABLE, and VICTORIOUS were 97, 98, 100, and 98 percent below the levels contemplated in the Final Rule for each vessel respectively (i.e., 432 hours per vessel); • The total percentage of each marine mammal stock taken by Level B harassment has not exceeded the 12 percent cap. For each stock, the percentage of take was well below the levels authorized in the 2013 Authorizations. • The total percentage of each marine mammal stock taken by Level A harassment has not exceeded the levels authorized in the 2013 Authorizations. In fact, the Navy reported no incidences of Level A harassment takes. The operational tempo, number of active transmission hours, marine mammal detections and behavioral observations, and level of anticipated take of marine mammals fall within the scope and nature of those contemplated PO 00000 Frm 00012 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 by the Final Rule and authorized in the 2013 Authorizations. Monitoring Reports The Navy has submitted the monitoring reports on time as required under 50 CFR 218.236 and the 2013 Authorizations. We have reviewed these reports and determined them to be acceptable. Based on these reports, the Navy has not exceeded the average annual estimated usage of the four SURTASS LFA sonar systems and remains well within the take authorized. In accordance with the current SURTASS LFA sonar regulations (50 CFR 218.230), the Navy must submit an annual report to us no later than 45 days after the 2013 Authorizations have expired. Upon receipt, we will post the annual report at: http:// www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/ incidental.htm#applications. Level of Taking for 2014 Authorizations Period For the 2014 to 2015 Authorization period, the Navy expects to conduct the same type and amount of routine training, testing, and military operations of SURTASS LFA sonar in the northwest Pacific Ocean and the northcentral Pacific Ocean that they requested under the 2012 and 2013 Authorizations. Similarly, the Navy expects to remain within the annual take estimates analyzed in the Final Rule. We determined that the level of taking by incidental harassment from the activities described in the Authorizations and supporting application is consistent with the findings made for the total taking allowable under the 2012 Final Rule. Compliance With Mitigation, Monitoring, and Reporting Measures Based on our review of the Navy’s quarterly mission reports, the Navy complied with the required visual, passive, and acoustic monitoring measures in the Final Rule and 2013 Authorizations. The Navy also followed the required shutdown and other protocols for mitigating impacts to marine mammals while conducting operations. The Navy is also complying with required measures under 50 CFR 218.236(d) to gain and share information on the species. The Navy reports that they are continuing to work on information transfer, declassification and archiving of ambient noise data from the Navy’s Integrated Undersea Surveillance System (IUSS) to the public. The Final Rule and 2012 Authorizations required the Navy to E:\FR\FM\21AUN1.SGM 21AUN1 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 162 / Thursday, August 21, 2014 / Notices convene a Scientific Advisory Group (SAG) to analyze different types of monitoring and research that could increase the understanding of the potential effects of LFA sonar on beaked whales and harbor porpoises (50 CFR 218.236(e)). In March 2013, the Navy convened a SAG—comprised of subject matter experts in marine acoustics, bioacoustics, behavioral response studies, and the biology/behavior of beaked whales and porpoises— and tasked them with: summarizing our understanding of the likely impacts of SURTASS LFA sonar operations on these species; gathering information on various scientific and monitoring tools that could potentially be used to better understand these effects; and evaluating the feasibility and cost of these tools. In August 2013, NMFS received the SAG’s final report titled, Potential Effects of SURTASS LFA Sonar on Beaked Whales and Harbor Porpoises: Final Report which presented recommendations on the feasibility, efficacy, and significance of any proposed research projects that would increase the understanding of the potential effects of LFA sonar on beaked whales and harbor porpoises. In February 2014, the SAG’s Executive Oversight Group (EOG) comprised of members from the Navy and NMFS, met to assess and discuss the conclusions and proposed research approaches in the SAG’s final report. The goal of the meeting was to develop a plan of action recommending monitoring and research efforts that the Navy could implement to study the potential effects of SURTASS LFA on beaked whales and harbor porpoises. The meeting, EOG discussions, and development of an action plan will assist the Navy in fulfilling its responsibilities under the Final Rule for beaked whale and harbor porpoise monitoring and section 12(a) of the annual LOAs. The Navy has considered the SAG final report’s assessments and continues to develop an appropriate plan of action for new monitoring and/ or research and submit to NMFS in the near future. The EOG will meet again in Fall 2014 to agree on the best research or monitoring recommendations for each taxa and develop a plan of action recommending how the Navy should carry out future research. Based on the foregoing information and the Navy’s application, we determined that the mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures required under 50 CFR 218.234, .235, and .236 and NMFS’ 2013 Authorizations were undertaken and will be undertaken during the period of VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:18 Aug 20, 2014 Jkt 232001 validity of the renewed 2014 Authorizations. Adaptive Management The Final Rule and 2013 Authorizations include an adaptive management framework that allows us to consider new information and to determine (with input from the Navy regarding practicability) if modifications to mitigation and/or monitoring measures are appropriate and practicable. This framework includes a requirement for an annual meeting between us and the Navy, if either agency deems it necessary. Section 218.241 of the Final Rule describes three scenarios that could contribute to the decision to modify the mitigation or monitoring measures, including: (a) Results from the Navy’s monitoring from the previous year’s operation of SURTASS LFA sonar; (b) compiled results of Navy-funded research and development studies; (c) results from specific stranding investigations; (d) results from general marine mammal and sound research funded by the Navy or other sponsors; and (e) any information that reveals marine mammals may have been taken in a manner, extent or number not anticipated by these regulations or subsequent Authorizations. None of the information reviewed by NMFS or the Navy resulted in any modifications to the existing mitigation or monitoring measures at this time. Consideration of Areas as Potential OBIAs We intend to evaluate new information relating to several areas for potential consideration as OBIAs for mysticetes and/or sperm whales before the Navy submits their 2015 renewal request for Authorizations under the Final Rule. All of these areas fall outside the areas in which the Navy may operate under the 2014 Authorizations. Our evaluation will include the following areas: • Atlantic Ocean: Southeast ShoalGrand Banks, Canada; Grand Manan Basin Right Whale Conservation Area, Canada; Jordan Basin-Gulf of Maine, U.S.; Challenger Bank, Bermuda; and nearshore waters offshore New Jersey, U.S. • Gulf of Mexico: areas in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, U.S.; Mississippi and DeSoto Canyons, U.S. • Indian Ocean: Masira Bay, Oman and the Geyser-Zelee Complex, Madagascar. • North Sea: Dogger Bank, Germany. • Mediterranean Sea: central Tyrrhenian Sea and areas in the northern Mediterranean Sea. PO 00000 Frm 00013 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 9990 49503 • Pacific Ocean: South Taranaki Bight, New Zealand; the Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve, Australia; and the proposed expanded areas of the Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries, U.S. None of these areas is located within the Navy’s mission areas for the 2014 Authorizations and the Navy will not operate SURTASS LFA sonar in these areas within the timeframes of the 2014–2015 Authorizations. We will evaluate these areas further as a potential OBIAs with input from the Navy regarding practicability, as necessary through the adaptive management process, for the Navy’s 2015 Authorization requests. Throughout the effective period of the Final Rule, we will consider and discuss with the Navy any relevant new information as it arises related to areas that may qualify as potential OBIAs or any other mitigation for SURTASS LFA sonar. Authorization We have issued four Authorizations to the Navy, authorizing the incidental harassment of marine mammals, incidental to operating the four SURTASS LFA sonar systems for routine training, testing and use during military operations. Issuance of these four Authorizations is based on findings, described in the preamble to the final rule (77 FR 50290, August 20, 2012) and supported by information contained in the Navy’s required reports on SURTASS LFA sonar and their application, that the activities described under these four Authorizations will have a negligible impact on marine mammal species or stocks and will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on their availability for taking for subsistence uses. These Authorizations remain valid through August 14, 2015, provided the Navy remains in conformance with the conditions of the regulations and the LOAs, and the mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements described in 50 CFR 218.230 through 218.241 (77 FR 50290, August 20, 2012) and in the Authorizations are undertaken. Dated: August 15, 2014. Donna S. Wieting, Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2014–19803 Filed 8–20–14; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\21AUN1.SGM 21AUN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 162 (Thursday, August 21, 2014)]
[Notices]
[Pages 49501-49503]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-19803]


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

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XD442


Taking and Importing Marine Mammals: Taking Marine Mammals 
Incidental to Navy Operations of Surveillance Towed Array Sensor System 
Low Frequency Active Sonar

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

ACTION: Notice; issuance of four letters of authorization.

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

SUMMARY: In accordance with regulations issued under the Marine Mammal 
Protection Act, as amended, we hereby give notification that we, the 
National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), have issued four 1-year 
Letters of Authorization (Authorizations) to the U.S. Navy (Navy) to 
take marine mammals by harassment incidental to their military 
readiness activities associated with the routine training, testing, and 
military operations of Surveillance Towed Array Sensor System Low 
Frequency Active (SURTASS LFA) sonar within the northwest Pacific Ocean 
and the north-central Pacific Ocean.

DATES: These Authorizations are effective from August 15, 2014, through 
August 14, 2015.

ADDRESSES: Electronic copies of the Navy's April 4, 2014 application 
letter and the Authorizations are available by writing to Jolie 
Harrison, Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected 
Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, 
Silver Spring, MD 20910-3225, by telephoning the contact listed here 
(see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT), or online at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental.htm#applications. Documents 
cited in this notice may be viewed, by appointment, during regular 
business hours, at the aforementioned address.

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

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    Section 101(a)(5)(A) of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA; 16 
U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) directs the Secretary of Commerce to allow, upon 
request, the incidental, but not intentional taking of marine mammals 
by U.S. citizens if certain findings are made and regulations are 
issued. Under the MMPA, the term ``take'' means to harass, hunt, 
capture, or kill or to attempt to harass, hunt, capture, or kill marine 
mammals. We, NMFS, have been delegated the authority to issue such 
regulations and Authorizations.
    With respect to military readiness activities, the MMPA defines 
harassment as ``(i) any act that injures or has the significant 
potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild 
[Level A harassment];

[[Page 49502]]

or (ii) any act that disturbs or is likely to disturb a marine mammal 
or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of natural 
behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, 
surfacing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering, to a point where 
such behavioral patterns are abandoned or significantly altered [Level 
B harassment].
    Authorization may be granted for periods of five years or less if 
we find that the total taking will have a negligible impact on the 
affected species or stock(s) and will not have an unmitigable adverse 
impact on the availability of the species or stock(s) for taking for 
certain subsistence uses. In addition, we must prescribe regulations 
that include permissible methods of taking and other means effecting 
the least practicable adverse impact on the species or stock and its 
habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and 
areas of similar significance, and on the availability of the species 
or stocks for taking for subsistence uses. The regulations also must 
include requirements pertaining to the monitoring and reporting of such 
taking.
    Regulations governing the taking of marine mammals incidental to 
the Navy's routine training, testing, and military operations of 
SURTASS LFA sonar are in effect through August 15, 2017 (77 FR 50290, 
August 20, 2012) and are codified at 50 CFR part 218 subpart X. These 
regulations include mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements 
for the incidental taking of marine mammals by the SURTASS LFA sonar 
system. For detailed information on this action, please refer to the 
August 20, 2012, Federal Register Notice and 50 CFR part 218 subpart X. 
Under those regulations, we must publish a notice of issuance of an 
Authorization or Authorization renewal in the Federal Register within 
30 days of a determination.

Summary of Request

    On April 4, 2014, we received an application from the Navy 
requesting a renewal of four Authorizations, originally issued on 
August 15, 2012 (August 28, 2012) and renewed in 2013 (78 FR 57368, 
September 18, 2013), for the taking of marine mammals incidental to 
routine training, testing, and military operations of SURTASS LFA sonar 
in the northwest Pacific Ocean and the north-central Pacific Ocean 
under the regulations issued on August 15, 2012 (77 FR 50290, August 
20, 2012): one for the United States Naval Ship (USNS) VICTORIOUS (T-
AGOS 19), one for the USNS ABLE (T-AGOS 20), one for the USNS EFFECTIVE 
(T-AGOS 21), and one for the USNS IMPECCABLE (T-AGOS 23) The 
application requested that these four Authorizations become effective 
on August 15, 2014, for a period not to exceed one year.

Summary of Activity Under the 2013 Authorizations

    The Navy submitted quarterly mission reports for the periods of 
August 2013 through May 2014 within the required timeframes. These 
quarterly reports include the dates and times of the military readiness 
activities; location of each SURTASS LFA sonar vessel; mission 
operational area; marine mammal observations; and records of any delays 
or suspensions of sonar operations. The Navy must also report on the 
number of marine mammals detected by visual, passive and active 
acoustic monitoring and the estimated percentage of each marine mammal 
stock taken by Level A and Level B harassment. The reports indicate the 
following:
     The Navy conducted a total of 5 missions from August 15, 
2013, through May 14, 2014, in the western North Pacific Ocean, which 
totaled 15.14 days and resulted in 29.3 hours of LFA sonar 
transmissions.
     The cumulative total days of SURTASS LFA sonar operations 
for the ABLE, EFFECTIVE, IMPECCABLE, and VICTORIOUS were 97, 98, 100, 
and 98 percent below the annual levels contemplated in the Final Rule 
for each vessel respectively (i.e., 240 days per vessel);
     The cumulative total hours of SURTASS LFA sonar 
transmissions for the ABLE, EFFECTIVE, IMPECCABLE, and VICTORIOUS were 
97, 98, 100, and 98 percent below the levels contemplated in the Final 
Rule for each vessel respectively (i.e., 432 hours per vessel);
     The total percentage of each marine mammal stock taken by 
Level B harassment has not exceeded the 12 percent cap. For each stock, 
the percentage of take was well below the levels authorized in the 2013 
Authorizations.
     The total percentage of each marine mammal stock taken by 
Level A harassment has not exceeded the levels authorized in the 2013 
Authorizations. In fact, the Navy reported no incidences of Level A 
harassment takes.
    The operational tempo, number of active transmission hours, marine 
mammal detections and behavioral observations, and level of anticipated 
take of marine mammals fall within the scope and nature of those 
contemplated by the Final Rule and authorized in the 2013 
Authorizations.

Monitoring Reports

    The Navy has submitted the monitoring reports on time as required 
under 50 CFR 218.236 and the 2013 Authorizations. We have reviewed 
these reports and determined them to be acceptable. Based on these 
reports, the Navy has not exceeded the average annual estimated usage 
of the four SURTASS LFA sonar systems and remains well within the take 
authorized. In accordance with the current SURTASS LFA sonar 
regulations (50 CFR 218.230), the Navy must submit an annual report to 
us no later than 45 days after the 2013 Authorizations have expired. 
Upon receipt, we will post the annual report at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental.htm#applications.

Level of Taking for 2014 Authorizations Period

    For the 2014 to 2015 Authorization period, the Navy expects to 
conduct the same type and amount of routine training, testing, and 
military operations of SURTASS LFA sonar in the northwest Pacific Ocean 
and the north-central Pacific Ocean that they requested under the 2012 
and 2013 Authorizations. Similarly, the Navy expects to remain within 
the annual take estimates analyzed in the Final Rule. We determined 
that the level of taking by incidental harassment from the activities 
described in the Authorizations and supporting application is 
consistent with the findings made for the total taking allowable under 
the 2012 Final Rule.

Compliance With Mitigation, Monitoring, and Reporting Measures

    Based on our review of the Navy's quarterly mission reports, the 
Navy complied with the required visual, passive, and acoustic 
monitoring measures in the Final Rule and 2013 Authorizations. The Navy 
also followed the required shutdown and other protocols for mitigating 
impacts to marine mammals while conducting operations.
    The Navy is also complying with required measures under 50 CFR 
218.236(d) to gain and share information on the species. The Navy 
reports that they are continuing to work on information transfer, 
declassification and archiving of ambient noise data from the Navy's 
Integrated Undersea Surveillance System (IUSS) to the public.
    The Final Rule and 2012 Authorizations required the Navy to

[[Page 49503]]

convene a Scientific Advisory Group (SAG) to analyze different types of 
monitoring and research that could increase the understanding of the 
potential effects of LFA sonar on beaked whales and harbor porpoises 
(50 CFR 218.236(e)).
    In March 2013, the Navy convened a SAG--comprised of subject matter 
experts in marine acoustics, bioacoustics, behavioral response studies, 
and the biology/behavior of beaked whales and porpoises-- and tasked 
them with: summarizing our understanding of the likely impacts of 
SURTASS LFA sonar operations on these species; gathering information on 
various scientific and monitoring tools that could potentially be used 
to better understand these effects; and evaluating the feasibility and 
cost of these tools. In August 2013, NMFS received the SAG's final 
report titled, Potential Effects of SURTASS LFA Sonar on Beaked Whales 
and Harbor Porpoises: Final Report which presented recommendations on 
the feasibility, efficacy, and significance of any proposed research 
projects that would increase the understanding of the potential effects 
of LFA sonar on beaked whales and harbor porpoises.
    In February 2014, the SAG's Executive Oversight Group (EOG) 
comprised of members from the Navy and NMFS, met to assess and discuss 
the conclusions and proposed research approaches in the SAG's final 
report. The goal of the meeting was to develop a plan of action 
recommending monitoring and research efforts that the Navy could 
implement to study the potential effects of SURTASS LFA on beaked 
whales and harbor porpoises. The meeting, EOG discussions, and 
development of an action plan will assist the Navy in fulfilling its 
responsibilities under the Final Rule for beaked whale and harbor 
porpoise monitoring and section 12(a) of the annual LOAs. The Navy has 
considered the SAG final report's assessments and continues to develop 
an appropriate plan of action for new monitoring and/or research and 
submit to NMFS in the near future. The EOG will meet again in Fall 2014 
to agree on the best research or monitoring recommendations for each 
taxa and develop a plan of action recommending how the Navy should 
carry out future research.
    Based on the foregoing information and the Navy's application, we 
determined that the mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures 
required under 50 CFR 218.234, .235, and .236 and NMFS' 2013 
Authorizations were undertaken and will be undertaken during the period 
of validity of the renewed 2014 Authorizations.

Adaptive Management

    The Final Rule and 2013 Authorizations include an adaptive 
management framework that allows us to consider new information and to 
determine (with input from the Navy regarding practicability) if 
modifications to mitigation and/or monitoring measures are appropriate 
and practicable. This framework includes a requirement for an annual 
meeting between us and the Navy, if either agency deems it necessary.
    Section 218.241 of the Final Rule describes three scenarios that 
could contribute to the decision to modify the mitigation or monitoring 
measures, including: (a) Results from the Navy's monitoring from the 
previous year's operation of SURTASS LFA sonar; (b) compiled results of 
Navy-funded research and development studies; (c) results from specific 
stranding investigations; (d) results from general marine mammal and 
sound research funded by the Navy or other sponsors; and (e) any 
information that reveals marine mammals may have been taken in a 
manner, extent or number not anticipated by these regulations or 
subsequent Authorizations. None of the information reviewed by NMFS or 
the Navy resulted in any modifications to the existing mitigation or 
monitoring measures at this time.

Consideration of Areas as Potential OBIAs

    We intend to evaluate new information relating to several areas for 
potential consideration as OBIAs for mysticetes and/or sperm whales 
before the Navy submits their 2015 renewal request for Authorizations 
under the Final Rule. All of these areas fall outside the areas in 
which the Navy may operate under the 2014 Authorizations. Our 
evaluation will include the following areas:
     Atlantic Ocean: Southeast Shoal-Grand Banks, Canada; Grand 
Manan Basin Right Whale Conservation Area, Canada; Jordan Basin-Gulf of 
Maine, U.S.; Challenger Bank, Bermuda; and nearshore waters offshore 
New Jersey, U.S.
     Gulf of Mexico: areas in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, U.S.; 
Mississippi and DeSoto Canyons, U.S.
     Indian Ocean: Masira Bay, Oman and the Geyser-Zelee 
Complex, Madagascar.
     North Sea: Dogger Bank, Germany.
     Mediterranean Sea: central Tyrrhenian Sea and areas in the 
northern Mediterranean Sea.
     Pacific Ocean: South Taranaki Bight, New Zealand; the 
Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve, Australia; and the proposed 
expanded areas of the Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank National 
Marine Sanctuaries, U.S.
    None of these areas is located within the Navy's mission areas for 
the 2014 Authorizations and the Navy will not operate SURTASS LFA sonar 
in these areas within the timeframes of the 2014-2015 Authorizations. 
We will evaluate these areas further as a potential OBIAs with input 
from the Navy regarding practicability, as necessary through the 
adaptive management process, for the Navy's 2015 Authorization 
requests. Throughout the effective period of the Final Rule, we will 
consider and discuss with the Navy any relevant new information as it 
arises related to areas that may qualify as potential OBIAs or any 
other mitigation for SURTASS LFA sonar.

Authorization

    We have issued four Authorizations to the Navy, authorizing the 
incidental harassment of marine mammals, incidental to operating the 
four SURTASS LFA sonar systems for routine training, testing and use 
during military operations. Issuance of these four Authorizations is 
based on findings, described in the preamble to the final rule (77 FR 
50290, August 20, 2012) and supported by information contained in the 
Navy's required reports on SURTASS LFA sonar and their application, 
that the activities described under these four Authorizations will have 
a negligible impact on marine mammal species or stocks and will not 
have an unmitigable adverse impact on their availability for taking for 
subsistence uses.
    These Authorizations remain valid through August 14, 2015, provided 
the Navy remains in conformance with the conditions of the regulations 
and the LOAs, and the mitigation, monitoring, and reporting 
requirements described in 50 CFR 218.230 through 218.241 (77 FR 50290, 
August 20, 2012) and in the Authorizations are undertaken.

    Dated: August 15, 2014.
Donna S. Wieting,
Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
[FR Doc. 2014-19803 Filed 8-20-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P