Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Rocky Intertidal Monitoring Surveys on the South Farallon Islands, California, 3560-3566 [2015-01154]

Download as PDF 3560 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 15 / Friday, January 23, 2015 / Notices Management Action Team (FMAT), and/or an advisory panel —Discuss workshop and potential invitees 3 p.m. Council Convenes 3 p.m.–5:30 p.m. Climate Change and Fisheries— Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management —NOAA Fisheries Climate Science Strategy, Roger Griffis—NMFS —Review Climate White Paper —Discuss incorporation of climate change and variability into Council fishery science and management programs Wednesday, February 11, 2015 9 a.m. Council Convenes 9 a.m.–10:30 a.m. Surfclam and Ocean Quahog Cost Recovery Amendment —Review public hearing comments —Select preferred alternatives for submission to NMFS 10:30 a.m.–11:50 a.m. Omnibus Observer Amendment —Review and approve document for public comment and hearings 11:50 a.m.–12 p.m. Ricks E Savage Award 1 p.m.–5 p.m. Deep Sea Coral Amendment —Review public hearing comments —Select preferred alternatives for submission to NMFS 5 p.m.–6 p.m. Listening Session—MRIP New Effort Estimation Methodology, Rob Andrews—NMFS tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Thursday, February 12, 2015 8 a.m. Council Convenes 8 a.m.–8:30 a.m. ACCSP Presentation—Recent Data Collection Improvements, Mike Cahall—ACCSP 8:30 a.m.–9 a.m. Electronic Technology Implementation Plan—Update, Dan Morris—NMFS 9 a.m.–1 p.m. Business Session Organization Reports —NMFS Greater Atlantic Regional Office —NMFS Northeast Fisheries Science Center —Stock Assessment Program Review and Follow-up —NOAA Office of General Counsel —NOAA Office of Law Enforcement —U.S. Coast Guard —Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Liaison Reports —New England Council VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:05 Jan 22, 2015 Jkt 235001 —South Atlantic Council Executive Director’s Report, Chris Moore Science Report, Rich Seagraves Committee Reports —RSA (Cooperative Research) Committee —Continuing and New Business Although non-emergency issues not contained in this agenda may come before this group for discussion, in accordance with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), those issues may not be the subject of formal action during these meetings. Actions will be restricted to those issues specifically identified in this notice and any issues arising after publication of this notice that require emergency action under section 305(c) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, provided the public has been notified of the Council’s intent to take final action to address the emergency. Special Accommodations These meetings are physically accessible to people with disabilities. Requests for sign language interpretation or other auxiliary aid should be directed to M. Jan Saunders, (302) 526–5251, at least 5 days prior to the meeting date. Dated: January 20, 2015. Tracey L. Thompson, Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2015–01147 Filed 1–22–15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XD602 Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Rocky Intertidal Monitoring Surveys on the South Farallon Islands, California 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 National Ocean Service’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00014 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary (GFNMS) to take marine mammals, by harassment, incidental to rocky intertidal monitoring work and searching for black abalone, components of the Sanctuary Ecosystem Assessment Surveys. DATES: Effective January 10, 2015, through January 30, 2015. ADDRESSES: Electronic copies of the authorization, application, and associated Environmental Assessment (EA) and Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) may be obtained by writing to Jolie Harrison, Supervisor, Incidental Take Program, 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: Robert Pauline, 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\23JAN1.SGM 23JAN1 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 15 / Friday, January 23, 2015 / Notices tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES 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 August 18, 2014 NMFS received an application from GFNMS for the taking of marine mammals incidental to rocky intertidal monitoring work and searching for black abalone. NMFS determined that the application was adequate and complete on August 29, 2014. On December 2, 2014, 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 (79 FR 71388). The notice initiated a 30-day public comment period. Responses are discussed below. In November 2012, NMFS issued a 1-year IHA to GFNMS to take marine mammals incidental to these same proposed activities (77 FR 68107, November 15, 2012). That IHA expired on November 7, 2013. However, GFNMS did not conduct any abalone sampling during this time period. Therefore, no take occurred. GFNMS proposes to continue rocky intertidal monitoring work and the search for black abalone in areas previously unexplored for black abalone from January 16 through January 23, 2015. All work will be done only during daylight minus low tides. This is a longterm study that began in 1992. This IHA is effective from January 10 through January 30, 2015 to allow for a bit of flexibility in the sampling schedule. Twelve sites are proposed for sampling. The following specific aspects of the 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 five species of marine mammals is anticipated to result from the specified activity. Description of the Specified Activity and Specified Geographic Region Since the listing of black abalone as ‘‘endangered’’ under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA; 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), NMFS has requested that VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:05 Jan 22, 2015 Jkt 235001 GFNMS explore as much of the shoreline as possible, as well as document and map the location of quality habitat for black abalone and the location of known animals. This listing prompted the need to expand the search for black abalone into other areas on the South Farallon Islands (beyond those that have been studied since 1992) to gain a better understanding of the abundance and health of the black abalone population in this remote and isolated location. The monitoring is planned to remain ongoing, and efforts to assess the status and health of the black abalone population on the South Farallon Islands may take several years, and perhaps decades, because black abalone tend to be very cryptic and difficult to find, especially when they are sparse and infrequent in occurrence. In order for the assessment of black abalone to be more comprehensive, GFNMS needs to expand shore searches in areas beyond the proximity of their quantitative quadrat sampling areas and also into new areas on Southeast Farallon and Maintop (West End) Islands. Additional information can be found in the IHA application (see ADDRESSES) and the Notice of Proposed IHA (79 FR 71388, December 2, 2014). Routine shore activity will continue to involve the use of only nondestructive sampling methods to monitor rocky intertidal algal and invertebrate species abundances (see Figure 2 in GFNMS’ application). The sampling, photographic documentation, and shore walks for the period of this IHA have been scheduled to occur from January 16 through January 23, 2015. Each survey will last for approximately 4 to 8 days. All work will be done only during daylight minus, low tides. Each location (as listed in Tables 2 and 3 in GFNMS’ application) will be visited/ sampled by five to six biologists, for a duration of 4–5 hours, one to two times each minus tide cycle. The Notice of Proposed IHA contains additional information on the survey methodology (79 FR 71388, December 2, 2014). That information has not changed and is therefore not repeated here. Point Blue (formerly named PRBO Conservation Science) continues its year round pinniped and seabird research and monitoring efforts on the South Farallon Islands, which began in 1968, under MMPA scientific research permits and IHAs. GFNMS biologists will gain access to the sites via boats operated by Point Blue, with disturbance and incidental take authorized via IHAs issued to Point Blue. For this reason, GFNMS has not requested authorization for take from disturbance by boat, as PO 00000 Frm 00015 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 3561 incidental take from that activity is authorized in a separate IHA. Specified Geographic Location and Activity Timeframe The Farallon Islands consists of a chain of seven islands located approximately 48 km (30 mi) west of San Francisco, near the edge of the continental shelf and in the geographic center of the GFNMS (see Figure 1 in GFNMS’ application). The land of the islands above the mean high tide mark is designated as the Farallon National Wildlife Refuge (managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service [USFWS]), while the shore and subtidal below are in GFNMS. The nearshore and offshore waters are foraging areas for pinniped species discussed in this document. The two largest islands of the seven islands are the Southeast Farallon and Maintop (aka West End) Islands. These and several smaller rocks are collectively referred to as the South Farallon Islands and are the subject of this IHA request. The two largest islands are separated by only a 9 m (30 ft) wide surge channel. Together, these islands are approximately 49 hectares (120 acres) in size with an intertidal perimeter around both islands of 7.7 km (4.8 mi). The areas proposed for sampling are: Blow Hole Peninsula; Mussel Flat; Dead Sea Lion Flat; Low Arch; Raven’s Cliff; Drunk Uncle Islet; East Landing; North Landing; Fisherman’s Bay; Weather Service Peninsula; Indian Head; and Shell Beach (see Figure 2 in GFNMS’ application). Each sample site will be visited one to two times each minus tide cycle for 4–5 hours each visit. The shorelines on these islands, including areas above the mean high tide elevation, have become more heavily used over time as haulout sites for pinnipeds to rest, give birth, and molt. The intertidal zones where GFNMS conducts intertidal monitoring area also areas where pinnipeds can be found hauled out on the shore. Accessing portions of the intertidal habitat may cause incidental Level B (behavioral) 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 authorized are: California sea lions (Zalophus californianus californianus); harbor seals (Phoca vitulina richardii); northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris); Stellar sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus); and northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus). E:\FR\FM\23JAN1.SGM 23JAN1 3562 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 15 / Friday, January 23, 2015 / Notices Comments and Responses A Notice of Proposed IHA was published in the Federal Register on December 2, 2014 (79 FR 71388) for public comment. During the 30-day public comment period, NMFS received one letter from the Marine Mammal Commission. 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 the inclusion of the proposed mitigation and monitoring measures. NMFS has included all of the mitigation and monitoring measures in the Notice of Proposed IHA (79 FR 71388, December 2, 2014) in the issued IHA. tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Description of Marine Mammals in the Area of the Specified Activity Many of the shores of the two South Farallon Islands provide resting, molting, and breeding habitat for pinniped species: Northern elephant seals; harbor seals; California sea lions; northern fur seals; and Steller sea lions. California sea lion is the species anticipated to be encountered most frequently during the specified activity. The other four species are only anticipated to be encountered at some of the sites. Tables 2 and 3 in GFNMS’ application outline the average and maximum expected occurrences of each species at each sampling location, respectively. Numbers in these tables are based on weekly surveys conducted by PRBO (now Point Blue) in January 2012 and 2013. Figures contained in Appendix I of GFNMS’ application depict the overlap between pinniped haulouts and abalone sampling sites. None of the species noted here are listed as threatened and endangered under the ESA. On November 4, 2013, NMFS published a final rule delisting the eastern distinct population segment (DPS) of Steller sea lions (78 FR 66139). We have determined that this DPS has recovered and no longer meets the definition of an endangered or threatened species under the ESA. The Steller sea lions on the South Farallon Islands are part of the eastern DPS. We refer the public to Carretta et al. (2014) and Allen and Angliss (2014) for general information on these species which are presented below this section. The publications are available on the internet at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/ pr/sars/pdf/pacific2013_final.pdf and http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/sars/pdf/ ak2013_final.pdf. Additional information on the status, distribution, seasonal distribution, and life history can also be found in GFNMS’ application and NMFS’ Notice of VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:05 Jan 22, 2015 Jkt 235001 Proposed IHA (79 FR 71388, December 2, 2014). 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. PRBO has not encountered California sea otters on Southeast Farallon Island during the course of seabird or pinniped research activities over the past five years. This species is managed by the USFWS 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 on Southeast Farallon and Maintop (West End) Islands. 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 abalone 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 (79 FR 71388, December 2, 2014) 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. Researchers will visit approximately 12 sites over about an 8 day period. Each site visit typically lasts 4–5 hours. Therefore, disturbance of pinnipeds resulting from the presence of researchers lasts only for short periods of time. Because such disturbance is sporadic, rather than chronic, and of low intensity, individual marine PO 00000 Frm 00016 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 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 (1) the timing of research visits would preclude separation of mothers and pups for four of the pinniped species, as activities occur outside of the pupping/breeding season and (2) elephant seals are generally not susceptible to disturbance as a result of researchers’ presence. 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 proposed activity is the quadrat locations being marked with marine epoxy. The plot corners are marked with a 3x3 cm (1.2x1.2 in) patch of marine epoxy glued to the benchrock for relocating the quadrat sites. Markers have been in place since 1993, and pinniped populations have increased throughout the islands during this time. Maintenance is sometimes required, which consists of replenishing worn markers with fresh epoxy or replacing markers that have become dislodged. No gas power tools are used, so there is no potential for noise or accidental fuel spills disturbing animals and impacting habitats. Thus, the 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 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). GFNMS shall implement several mitigation measures to reduce potential take by Level B (behavioral disturbance) E:\FR\FM\23JAN1.SGM 23JAN1 tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 15 / Friday, January 23, 2015 / Notices harassment. Measures include: (1) Coordinating sampling efforts with other permitted activities (i.e., Point Blue and USFWS); (2) conducting slow movements and staying close to the ground to prevent or minimize stampeding; (3) avoiding loud noises (i.e., using hushed voices); (4) vacating the area as soon as sampling of the site is completed; (5) 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; (6) using binoculars to detect pinnipeds before close approach to avoid being seen by animals; and (7) rescheduling work at sites where pups other than elephant seal pups are present, unless other means to accomplishing the work can be done without causing disturbance to mothers and dependent pups. 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 abalone 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 abalone 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 4–5 hours, after which the site is vacated and can be reoccupied by any marine mammals that may have been disturbed by the presence of abalone 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. The following measures are required to avoid disturbances to elephant seal pups. Disturbances to females with dependent pups can be mitigated to the greatest extent practicable by avoiding visits to those intertidal sites with pinnipeds that are actively nursing, with the exception of northern elephant seals. The time of year when GFNMS plans to sample avoids disturbance to young, dependent pups, with the exception of northern elephant seals. VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:05 Jan 22, 2015 Jkt 235001 Thus, late January/early February, at minimum, is preferable for the proposed intertidal survey work in order to minimize the risk of harassment. Harassment of nursing northern elephant seal pups may occur but only to a limited extent. Disruption of nursing to northern elephant seal pups will occur only as biologists pass by the area. No flushing on nursing northern elephant seal pups will occur, and no disturbance to newborn northern elephant seals (pups less than one week old) will occur. Moreover, elephant seals have a much higher tolerance of nearby human activity than sea lions or harbor seals. In the event of finding pinnipeds, other than elephant seals, breeding and nursing, the intertidal monitoring activities will be re-directed to sites where these activities and behaviors are not occurring. This mitigation measure will reduce the possibility of takes by harassment and further reduce the remote possibility of serious injury or mortality of dependent pups. NMFS has carefully evaluated GFNMS’ 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 PO 00000 Frm 00017 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 3563 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. Currently many aspects of pinniped research are being conducted by Point Blue scientists on the Farallon Islands, which includes elephant seal pup tagging and behavior observations with special notice to tagged animals. Additional observations are always desired, such as observations of pinniped carcasses bearing tags, as well as any rare or unusual marine mammal occurrences. GFNMS’ observations and reporting will add to the observational database and on-going marine mammal assessments on the Farallon Islands. GFNMS can add to the knowledge of pinnipeds on the South Farallon Islands 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 GFNMS’ abalone research surveys will include observations made by the applicant. Information recorded will include species counts (with numbers of pups/juveniles), numbers of observed disturbances, and descriptions of the disturbance behaviors during the abalone surveys. Observations of unusual behaviors, numbers, or distributions of pinnipeds on the South Farallon Islands will be reported to NMFS and Point Blue 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 and Point Blue. 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 abalone research, GFNMS 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 2014 field season or 60 days prior to the start of the next field season if a E:\FR\FM\23JAN1.SGM 23JAN1 3564 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 15 / Friday, January 23, 2015 / Notices 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. tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, the MMPA defines ‘‘harassment’’ as: Any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance which (i) has the potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild [Level A harassment]; or (ii) has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering [Level B harassment]. 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. No motorized equipment is involved in conducting the abalone monitoring surveys. 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. The distribution of pinnipeds VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:05 Jan 22, 2015 Jkt 235001 hauled out on beaches is not consistent throughout the year. The number of marine mammals disturbed will vary by month and location. PRBO (now Point Blue) obtains weekly counts of pinnipeds on the South Farallon Islands, dating back to the early 1970s. GFNMS used data collected by PRBO in February 2012 and 2013 to estimate the number of pinnipeds that may potentially be taken by Level B (behavioral) harassment. Table 3 in GFNMS’ IHA application and Table 1 here present the maximum numbers of California sea lions, harbor seals, northern elephant seals, northern fur seals, and Steller sea lions that may be present at the various sampling sites during the activity timeframe under this IHA. Based on this information, NMFS has authorized the take, by Level B harassment only, of 7,126 California sea lions, 119 harbor seals, 66 northern elephant seals, 124 northern fur seals, and 112 Steller sea lions. 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 Determinations 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 PO 00000 Frm 00018 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 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 GFNMS’ rocky intertidal monitoring work and searching for black abalone, and none are authorized. The behavioral harassments that could occur would be of limited duration, as researchers will only conduct sampling over a period of 8 days. Additionally, each site is sampled for approximately 4–5 hours before moving to the next sampling site. 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 use the islands to conduct pupping and/or breeding. However, with the exception of northern elephant seals, GFNMS will conduct its abalone site sampling outside of the pupping/breeding seasons. GFNMS will implement measures to minimize impacts to northern elephant seals nursing or tending to dependent pups. Such measures will avoid mother/pup separation or trampling of pups. None of the five marine mammal species anticipated to occur in the activity area are listed as threatened or endangered under the ESA. Table 2 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, GFNMS would take less than 1% of each species or stock, with the exception of the California sea lion, which would result in an estimated take of 2.4% of the 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. BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\23JAN1.SGM 23JAN1 3565 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 15 / Friday, January 23, 2015 / Notices BILLING CODE 3510–22–C 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. TABLE 2—POPULATION ABUNDANCE ESTIMATES, TOTAL PROPOSED LEVEL B TAKE, AND PERCENTAGE OF POPULATION THAT MAY BE TAKEN FOR THE POTENTIALLY AFFECTED SPECIES DURING THE PROPOSED ROCKY INTERTIDAL MONITORING PROGRAM Abundance * Harbor Seal .......................................................................................................... California Sea Lion .............................................................................................. Northern Elephant Seal ....................................................................................... Steller Sea Lion ................................................................................................... Northern Fur Seal ................................................................................................ Total proposed Level B take 30,196 ....................... 296,750 ..................... 124,000 ..................... 63,160 to 78,198 ....... 12,844 ....................... 119 7,126 66 112 * 124 Percentage of stock or population 0.4 2.4 0.05 0.1–0.2 0.01 * Abundance estimates are taken from the 2013 U.S. Pacific Marine Mammal Stock Assessments (Carretta et al., 2014) and 2013 Alaska Marine Mammal Stock Assessments (Allen and Anglis, 2014). VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:05 Jan 22, 2015 Jkt 235001 PO 00000 Frm 00019 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 E:\FR\FM\23JAN1.SGM 23JAN1 EN23JA15.025</GPH> tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Species 3566 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 15 / Friday, January 23, 2015 / Notices Impact on Availability of Affected Species or Stock for Taking for Subsistence Uses Endangered Species Act (ESA) None of the marine mammals for which incidental take is proposed are listed as threatened or endangered under the ESA. Therefore, NMFS has determined that issuance of the IHA to GFNMS 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 GFNMS’ 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). GFNMS’ proposed activities and impacts for 2015 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 tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES As a result of these determinations, NMFS has authorized the take of marine mammals incidental to GFNMS’ rocky intertidal and black abalone monitoring research activities, provided the previously mentioned mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements are incorporated. [FR Doc. 2015–01154 Filed 1–22–15; 8:45 am] 18:05 Jan 22, 2015 SUMMARY: RIN 0648–XD660 Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Seabird Research Activities in Central California, 2015– 2016; Correction National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; proposed incidental harassment authorization; correction. AGENCY: NMFS published a notice in the Federal Register on December 23, 2014, concerning an application from Point Blue Conservation Science (Point Blue) requesting an Incidental Harassment Authorization (Authorization) to take marine mammals, by harassment, incidental to conducting proposed seabird research activities on Southeast Farallon Island, ˜ Ano Nuevo Island, and Point Reyes National Seashore in central California from January 2015 through January 2016. The December 23, 2014 notice did not contain an ending date for the public comment period. This notice correctly identifies the end of the public comment period as January 23, 2015. DATES: Comments must be received by January 23, 2015. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jeannine Cody, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS (301) 427–8401. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: SUMMARY: Correction In the Federal Register of December 23, 2014, FR Doc. 2014–29991, on page 76975, in the second column, the DATES section was omitted and this correction has added it to inform the public of the comment end date. Dated: January 12, 2015. Donna S. Wieting, Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2015–01136 Filed 1–22–15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE Patent and Trademark Office [Docket No. PTO–C–2014–0074] National Medal of Technology and Innovation Call for 2015 Nominations United States Patent and Trademark Office. AGENCY: BILLING CODE 3510–22–P VerDate Sep<11>2014 ACTION: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 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. Dated: January 15, 2015. Donna S. Wieting, Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. Jkt 235001 Notice and request for nominations. DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE PO 00000 Frm 00020 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 The Department of Commerce (United States Patent and Trademark Office) is accepting nominations for the National Medal of Technology and Innovation (NMTI). Since establishment by Congress in the Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act of 1980, the President of the United States has awarded the annual National Medal of Technology and Innovation (initially known as the National Medal of Technology) to our nation’s leading innovators. If you know of a candidate who has made an outstanding contribution to the country’s economic, environmental, or social well-being through the promotion of technology, technological innovation, or the development of technological manpower, you may obtain a nomination form from: http:// www.uspto.gov/about/nmti/index.jsp. ADDRESSES: The NMTI nomination form for the year 2015 may be obtained by visiting the USPTO Web site at http:// www.uspto.gov/about/nmti/index.jsp. Nomination applications should be submitted to John Palafoutas, Program Manager, National Medal of Technology and Innovation Program, by electronic mail to NMTI@uspto.gov or by postal mail to: John Palafoutas, NMTI Program Manager, United States Patent and Trademark Office, P.O. Box 1450, Alexandria, Virginia 22313–1450. DATES: The deadline for submission of a nomination is June 1, 2015. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: John Palafoutas, Program Manager, National Medal of Technology and Innovation Program, United States Patent and Trademark Office, 600 Dulany Street, Alexandria, VA 22314; by telephone: (571) 272–9821 or by electronic mail: nmti@uspto.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background As provided by Congress in the Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act of 1980, the National Medal of Technology was first awarded in 1985. On August 9, 2007, the President signed the America COMPETES (Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science) Act of 2007. The Act amended Section 16 of the Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act of 1980, changing the name of the Medal to the ‘‘National Medal of Technology and Innovation.’’ The NMTI is the highest honor awarded by the President of the United States to America’s leading innovators in the E:\FR\FM\23JAN1.SGM 23JAN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 15 (Friday, January 23, 2015)]
[Notices]
[Pages 3560-3566]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-01154]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XD602


Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; 
Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Rocky Intertidal Monitoring Surveys 
on the South Farallon Islands, California

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

ACTION: Notice; issuance of an incidental harassment authorization.

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

SUMMARY: In accordance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) 
regulations, notification is hereby given that NMFS has issued an 
Incidental Harassment Authorization (IHA) to the National Ocean 
Service's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries Gulf of the Farallones 
National Marine Sanctuary (GFNMS) to take marine mammals, by 
harassment, incidental to rocky intertidal monitoring work and 
searching for black abalone, components of the Sanctuary Ecosystem 
Assessment Surveys.

DATES: Effective January 10, 2015, through January 30, 2015.

ADDRESSES: Electronic copies of the authorization, application, and 
associated Environmental Assessment (EA) and Finding of No Significant 
Impact (FONSI) may be obtained by writing to Jolie Harrison, 
Supervisor, Incidental Take Program, 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: Robert Pauline, 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 3561]]

    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 August 18, 2014 NMFS received an application from GFNMS for the 
taking of marine mammals incidental to rocky intertidal monitoring work 
and searching for black abalone. NMFS determined that the application 
was adequate and complete on August 29, 2014. On December 2, 2014, 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 (79 FR 71388). The notice 
initiated a 30-day public comment period. Responses are discussed 
below. In November 2012, NMFS issued a 1-year IHA to GFNMS to take 
marine mammals incidental to these same proposed activities (77 FR 
68107, November 15, 2012). That IHA expired on November 7, 2013. 
However, GFNMS did not conduct any abalone sampling during this time 
period. Therefore, no take occurred.
    GFNMS proposes to continue rocky intertidal monitoring work and the 
search for black abalone in areas previously unexplored for black 
abalone from January 16 through January 23, 2015. All work will be done 
only during daylight minus low tides. This is a long-term study that 
began in 1992. This IHA is effective from January 10 through January 
30, 2015 to allow for a bit of flexibility in the sampling schedule. 
Twelve sites are proposed for sampling. The following specific aspects 
of the 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 five species of marine mammals is 
anticipated to result from the specified activity.

Description of the Specified Activity and Specified Geographic Region

    Since the listing of black abalone as ``endangered'' under the U.S. 
Endangered Species Act (ESA; 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), NMFS has 
requested that GFNMS explore as much of the shoreline as possible, as 
well as document and map the location of quality habitat for black 
abalone and the location of known animals. This listing prompted the 
need to expand the search for black abalone into other areas on the 
South Farallon Islands (beyond those that have been studied since 1992) 
to gain a better understanding of the abundance and health of the black 
abalone population in this remote and isolated location. The monitoring 
is planned to remain ongoing, and efforts to assess the status and 
health of the black abalone population on the South Farallon Islands 
may take several years, and perhaps decades, because black abalone tend 
to be very cryptic and difficult to find, especially when they are 
sparse and infrequent in occurrence. In order for the assessment of 
black abalone to be more comprehensive, GFNMS needs to expand shore 
searches in areas beyond the proximity of their quantitative quadrat 
sampling areas and also into new areas on Southeast Farallon and 
Maintop (West End) Islands. Additional information can be found in the 
IHA application (see ADDRESSES) and the Notice of Proposed IHA (79 FR 
71388, December 2, 2014).
    Routine shore activity will continue to involve the use of only 
non-destructive sampling methods to monitor rocky intertidal algal and 
invertebrate species abundances (see Figure 2 in GFNMS' application). 
The sampling, photographic documentation, and shore walks for the 
period of this IHA have been scheduled to occur from January 16 through 
January 23, 2015. Each survey will last for approximately 4 to 8 days. 
All work will be done only during daylight minus, low tides. Each 
location (as listed in Tables 2 and 3 in GFNMS' application) will be 
visited/sampled by five to six biologists, for a duration of 4-5 hours, 
one to two times each minus tide cycle. The Notice of Proposed IHA 
contains additional information on the survey methodology (79 FR 71388, 
December 2, 2014). That information has not changed and is therefore 
not repeated here.
    Point Blue (formerly named PRBO Conservation Science) continues its 
year round pinniped and seabird research and monitoring efforts on the 
South Farallon Islands, which began in 1968, under MMPA scientific 
research permits and IHAs. GFNMS biologists will gain access to the 
sites via boats operated by Point Blue, with disturbance and incidental 
take authorized via IHAs issued to Point Blue. For this reason, GFNMS 
has not requested authorization for take from disturbance by boat, as 
incidental take from that activity is authorized in a separate IHA.

Specified Geographic Location and Activity Timeframe

    The Farallon Islands consists of a chain of seven islands located 
approximately 48 km (30 mi) west of San Francisco, near the edge of the 
continental shelf and in the geographic center of the GFNMS (see Figure 
1 in GFNMS' application). The land of the islands above the mean high 
tide mark is designated as the Farallon National Wildlife Refuge 
(managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service [USFWS]), while the 
shore and subtidal below are in GFNMS. The nearshore and offshore 
waters are foraging areas for pinniped species discussed in this 
document.
    The two largest islands of the seven islands are the Southeast 
Farallon and Maintop (aka West End) Islands. These and several smaller 
rocks are collectively referred to as the South Farallon Islands and 
are the subject of this IHA request. The two largest islands are 
separated by only a 9 m (30 ft) wide surge channel. Together, these 
islands are approximately 49 hectares (120 acres) in size with an 
intertidal perimeter around both islands of 7.7 km (4.8 mi).
    The areas proposed for sampling are: Blow Hole Peninsula; Mussel 
Flat; Dead Sea Lion Flat; Low Arch; Raven's Cliff; Drunk Uncle Islet; 
East Landing; North Landing; Fisherman's Bay; Weather Service 
Peninsula; Indian Head; and Shell Beach (see Figure 2 in GFNMS' 
application). Each sample site will be visited one to two times each 
minus tide cycle for 4-5 hours each visit.
    The shorelines on these islands, including areas above the mean 
high tide elevation, have become more heavily used over time as haulout 
sites for pinnipeds to rest, give birth, and molt. The intertidal zones 
where GFNMS conducts intertidal monitoring area also areas where 
pinnipeds can be found hauled out on the shore. Accessing portions of 
the intertidal habitat may cause incidental Level B (behavioral) 
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 authorized are: California sea lions (Zalophus 
californianus californianus); harbor seals (Phoca vitulina richardii); 
northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris); Stellar sea lions 
(Eumetopias jubatus); and northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus).

[[Page 3562]]

Comments and Responses

    A Notice of Proposed IHA was published in the Federal Register on 
December 2, 2014 (79 FR 71388) for public comment. During the 30-day 
public comment period, NMFS received one letter from the Marine Mammal 
Commission. 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 the inclusion of the 
proposed mitigation and monitoring measures. NMFS has included all of 
the mitigation and monitoring measures in the Notice of Proposed IHA 
(79 FR 71388, December 2, 2014) in the issued IHA.

Description of Marine Mammals in the Area of the Specified Activity

    Many of the shores of the two South Farallon Islands provide 
resting, molting, and breeding habitat for pinniped species: Northern 
elephant seals; harbor seals; California sea lions; northern fur seals; 
and Steller sea lions. California sea lion is the species anticipated 
to be encountered most frequently during the specified activity. The 
other four species are only anticipated to be encountered at some of 
the sites. Tables 2 and 3 in GFNMS' application outline the average and 
maximum expected occurrences of each species at each sampling location, 
respectively. Numbers in these tables are based on weekly surveys 
conducted by PRBO (now Point Blue) in January 2012 and 2013. Figures 
contained in Appendix I of GFNMS' application depict the overlap 
between pinniped haulouts and abalone sampling sites. None of the 
species noted here are listed as threatened and endangered under the 
ESA. On November 4, 2013, NMFS published a final rule delisting the 
eastern distinct population segment (DPS) of Steller sea lions (78 FR 
66139). We have determined that this DPS has recovered and no longer 
meets the definition of an endangered or threatened species under the 
ESA. The Steller sea lions on the South Farallon Islands are part of 
the eastern DPS.
    We refer the public to Carretta et al. (2014) and Allen and Angliss 
(2014) for general information on these species which are presented 
below this section. The publications are available on the internet at: 
http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/sars/pdf/pacific2013_final.pdf and http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/sars/pdf/ak2013_final.pdf. Additional information 
on the status, distribution, seasonal distribution, and life history 
can also be found in GFNMS' application and NMFS' Notice of Proposed 
IHA (79 FR 71388, December 2, 2014). 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. PRBO has 
not encountered California sea otters on Southeast Farallon Island 
during the course of seabird or pinniped research activities over the 
past five years. This species is managed by the USFWS 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 on Southeast Farallon and 
Maintop (West End) Islands. 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 abalone 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 (79 FR 71388, December 2, 2014) 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. Researchers 
will visit approximately 12 sites over about an 8 day period. Each site 
visit typically lasts 4-5 hours. Therefore, disturbance of pinnipeds 
resulting from the presence of researchers lasts only for short periods 
of time. 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 (1) the 
timing of research visits would preclude separation of mothers and pups 
for four of the pinniped species, as activities occur outside of the 
pupping/breeding season and (2) elephant seals are generally not 
susceptible to disturbance as a result of researchers' presence. 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 proposed activity 
is the quadrat locations being marked with marine epoxy. The plot 
corners are marked with a 3x3 cm (1.2x1.2 in) patch of marine epoxy 
glued to the benchrock for relocating the quadrat sites. Markers have 
been in place since 1993, and pinniped populations have increased 
throughout the islands during this time. Maintenance is sometimes 
required, which consists of replenishing worn markers with fresh epoxy 
or replacing markers that have become dislodged. No gas power tools are 
used, so there is no potential for noise or accidental fuel spills 
disturbing animals and impacting habitats. Thus, the 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 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).
    GFNMS shall implement several mitigation measures to reduce 
potential take by Level B (behavioral disturbance)

[[Page 3563]]

harassment. Measures include: (1) Coordinating sampling efforts with 
other permitted activities (i.e., Point Blue and USFWS); (2) conducting 
slow movements and staying close to the ground to prevent or minimize 
stampeding; (3) avoiding loud noises (i.e., using hushed voices); (4) 
vacating the area as soon as sampling of the site is completed; (5) 
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; (6) using binoculars to detect pinnipeds 
before close approach to avoid being seen by animals; and (7) 
rescheduling work at sites where pups other than elephant seal pups are 
present, unless other means to accomplishing the work can be done 
without causing disturbance to mothers and dependent pups.
    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 abalone 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 abalone 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 4-5 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 abalone 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.
    The following measures are required to avoid disturbances to 
elephant seal pups. Disturbances to females with dependent pups can be 
mitigated to the greatest extent practicable by avoiding visits to 
those intertidal sites with pinnipeds that are actively nursing, with 
the exception of northern elephant seals. The time of year when GFNMS 
plans to sample avoids disturbance to young, dependent pups, with the 
exception of northern elephant seals. Thus, late January/early 
February, at minimum, is preferable for the proposed intertidal survey 
work in order to minimize the risk of harassment. Harassment of nursing 
northern elephant seal pups may occur but only to a limited extent. 
Disruption of nursing to northern elephant seal pups will occur only as 
biologists pass by the area. No flushing on nursing northern elephant 
seal pups will occur, and no disturbance to newborn northern elephant 
seals (pups less than one week old) will occur. Moreover, elephant 
seals have a much higher tolerance of nearby human activity than sea 
lions or harbor seals. In the event of finding pinnipeds, other than 
elephant seals, breeding and nursing, the intertidal monitoring 
activities will be re-directed to sites where these activities and 
behaviors are not occurring. This mitigation measure will reduce the 
possibility of takes by harassment and further reduce the remote 
possibility of serious injury or mortality of dependent pups.
    NMFS has carefully evaluated GFNMS' 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.
    Currently many aspects of pinniped research are being conducted by 
Point Blue scientists on the Farallon Islands, which includes elephant 
seal pup tagging and behavior observations with special notice to 
tagged animals. Additional observations are always desired, such as 
observations of pinniped carcasses bearing tags, as well as any rare or 
unusual marine mammal occurrences. GFNMS' observations and reporting 
will add to the observational database and on-going marine mammal 
assessments on the Farallon Islands.
    GFNMS can add to the knowledge of pinnipeds on the South Farallon 
Islands 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 GFNMS' abalone research 
surveys will include observations made by the applicant. Information 
recorded will include species counts (with numbers of pups/juveniles), 
numbers of observed disturbances, and descriptions of the disturbance 
behaviors during the abalone surveys. Observations of unusual 
behaviors, numbers, or distributions of pinnipeds on the South Farallon 
Islands will be reported to NMFS and Point Blue 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 
and Point Blue.
    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 
abalone research, GFNMS 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 2014 field season 
or 60 days prior to the start of the next field season if a

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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 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. No motorized equipment is 
involved in conducting the abalone monitoring surveys.
    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. The distribution of pinnipeds hauled out on beaches is not 
consistent throughout the year. The number of marine mammals disturbed 
will vary by month and location. PRBO (now Point Blue) obtains weekly 
counts of pinnipeds on the South Farallon Islands, dating back to the 
early 1970s. GFNMS used data collected by PRBO in February 2012 and 
2013 to estimate the number of pinnipeds that may potentially be taken 
by Level B (behavioral) harassment. Table 3 in GFNMS' IHA application 
and Table 1 here present the maximum numbers of California sea lions, 
harbor seals, northern elephant seals, northern fur seals, and Steller 
sea lions that may be present at the various sampling sites during the 
activity timeframe under this IHA. Based on this information, NMFS has 
authorized the take, by Level B harassment only, of 7,126 California 
sea lions, 119 harbor seals, 66 northern elephant seals, 124 northern 
fur seals, and 112 Steller sea lions. 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 Determinations

    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 
GFNMS' rocky intertidal monitoring work and searching for black 
abalone, and none are authorized. The behavioral harassments that could 
occur would be of limited duration, as researchers will only conduct 
sampling over a period of 8 days. Additionally, each site is sampled 
for approximately 4-5 hours before moving to the next sampling site. 
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 use the islands to conduct pupping 
and/or breeding. However, with the exception of northern elephant 
seals, GFNMS will conduct its abalone site sampling outside of the 
pupping/breeding seasons. GFNMS will implement measures to minimize 
impacts to northern elephant seals nursing or tending to dependent 
pups. Such measures will avoid mother/pup separation or trampling of 
pups.
    None of the five marine mammal species anticipated to occur in the 
activity area are listed as threatened or endangered under the ESA. 
Table 2 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, GFNMS would take less than 1% of each species or 
stock, with the exception of the California sea lion, which would 
result in an estimated take of 2.4% of the 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.
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[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TN23JA15.025

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    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.

 Table 2--Population Abundance Estimates, Total Proposed 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 proposed        stock or
                                                                               Level B take        population
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Harbor Seal..........................  30,196.............................                119                0.4
California Sea Lion..................  296,750............................              7,126                2.4
Northern Elephant Seal...............  124,000............................                 66               0.05
Steller Sea Lion.....................  63,160 to 78,198...................                112            0.1-0.2
Northern Fur Seal....................  12,844.............................              * 124               0.01
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
* Abundance estimates are taken from the 2013 U.S. Pacific Marine Mammal Stock Assessments (Carretta et al.,
  2014) and 2013 Alaska Marine Mammal Stock Assessments (Allen and Anglis, 2014).


[[Page 3566]]

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 proposed 
are listed as threatened or endangered under the ESA. Therefore, NMFS 
has determined that issuance of the IHA to GFNMS 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 GFNMS' 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). 
GFNMS' proposed activities and impacts for 2015 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 GFNMS' rocky intertidal and black 
abalone monitoring research activities, provided the previously 
mentioned mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements are 
incorporated.

    Dated: January 15, 2015.
Donna S. Wieting,
Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
[FR Doc. 2015-01154 Filed 1-22-15; 8:45 am]
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