Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Seabird Research Activities in Central California, 2015-2016, 61376-61378 [2015-25942]

Download as PDF 61376 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 197 / Tuesday, October 13, 2015 / Notices and important for, any effort to enhance the understanding, assessment, development, management, utilization, or conservation of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes resources. No individual is eligible to be a voting member of the Board if the individual is (A) the director of a Sea Grant College or Sea Grant Institute; (B) an applicant for, or beneficiary (as determined by the Secretary) of, any grant or contract under section 205 [33 uses § 1124]; or (C) a full-time officer or employee of the United States. Dated: October 1, 2015. Jason Donaldson. Chief Financial Officer, Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. National Sea Grant Advisory Board (NSGAB) Fall Meeting Wednesday, November 4, 2015 OPEN TO THE PUBLIC 8:00 am–12:00 p.m. HST 8:00–8:45 Call to Order and follow up from previous days meeting 8:45–9:00 Public Comment Period 9:00–10:00 Charge to the Board— Review of the Sea Grant Extension—NOAA Liaison positions (D. Baker, NSGAB) 10:00–10:30 Break 10:30–11:15 Globalization of the Sea Grant Model (R. Vortmann, NSGAB) 11:15–11:45 Member Updates 11:45–12:00 Discussion of meeting topics and wrap-up (R. Schmitten, NSGAB) 12:00 Meeting Adjourned [FR Doc. 2015–25681 Filed 10–9–15; 8:45 am] DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE Honolulu, HI National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Tuesday, November 3, 2015 RIN 0648–XE240 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES OPEN TO THE PUBLIC 8:30 a.m.–5:00 p.m. HST 8:30–8:45 Welcome, introduction of new members, review of agenda, approval of minutes (Rollie Schmitten, Chair NSGAB) 8:45–9:00 Chair’s update (R. Schmitten, NSGAB) 9:00–10:30 National Sea Grant College Program, Director’s Update (Nikola Garber, Acting Director, NSGCP) 10:30–11:00 Break 11:00–12:00 Sea Grant Association Update (Sylvain DeGuise, President, Sea Grant Association) 12:00–1:15 Break for Lunch 1:15–2:00 Set the stage for afternoon discussion & Reauthorization (N. Garber, NSGCP; R. Schmitten, NSGAB; S. DeGuise, SGA) 2:00–3:00 Sea Grant Visioning & Sea Grant Roadmap (N. Garber, NSGCP; R. Schmitten, NSGAB; S. DeGuise, SGA) 3:00–3:30 Break 3:30–4:00 Program Implementation & Evaluation (PIE) (N. Garber, NSCGP) 4:00–4:30 Strategic Planning 2018–2021 (N. Garber, NSGCP) 4:30–4:45 National Ocean Sciences Bowl Discussion (R. Fortner, NSGAB) 4:45–5:00 Discussion of days topics and wrap-up (R. Schmitten, NSGAB) 5:00 Public Meeting recessed until 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, November 4, 2015 5:00–6:00 Advisory Board Business Meeting (Board Only) Jkt 238001 Dated: October 7, 2015. Tracey L. Thompson, Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2015–25962 Filed 10–9–15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration AGENDA 21:23 Oct 09, 2015 Special Accommodations These meetings are physically accessible to people with disabilities. Requests for sign language interpretation or other auxiliary aids should be directed to Shannon Gleason at (907) 271–2809 at least 7 working days prior to the meeting date. BILLING CODE 3510–KA–P November 3–4, 2015 VerDate Sep<11>2014 latest version will be posted at http:// www.npfmc.org/. North Pacific Fishery Management Council; Public Meeting National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice of a public meeting. AGENCY: The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) Ecosystem Committee will meet October 29–30, 2015, in Anchorage, AK. DATES: The meeting will be held on Thursday, October 29, 2015, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., finishing in the afternoon on Friday, October 30, 2015. ADDRESSES: The meeting will be held in the New Federal Building, 222 W. 7th Ave., Suite 552, Anchorage, AK 99513; telephone: (907) 271–6368. Council address: North Pacific Fishery Management Council, 605 W. 4th Ave., Suite 306, Anchorage, AK 99501–2252; telephone (907) 271–2809. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Steve MacLean, Council staff; telephone: (907) 271–2809. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: SUMMARY: Agenda Thursday, October 29, 2015 Through Friday, October 30, 2015 The agenda will include: (a) Bering Sea Fishery Ecosystem Plan discussion paper, (b) NMFS draft policy on Ecosystem Based Fishery Management, and (c) the Groundfish Work Plan. The Agenda is subject to change, and the PO 00000 Frm 00043 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 RIN 0648–XD66 Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Seabird Research Activities in Central California, 2015– 2016 National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; revision of an incidental harassment authorization; request for comments. AGENCY: We, NMFS, have received a request from Point Blue Conservation Science (Point Blue) to revise an issued Incidental Harassment Authorization (Authorization) to take marine mammals, by harassment, incidental to conducting seabird research activities ˜ on Southeast Farallon Island, Ano Nuevo Island, and Point Reyes National Seashore in central California. Point Blue’s current Authorization is effective until January 30, 2016, and authorizes the incidental harassment, by Level B harassment only, of approximately 9,871 California sea lions (Zalophus californianus). Current environmental conditions in the Pacific Ocean offshore California—which researchers have attributed to an impending El Nino event—have contributed to unprecedented numbers of California sea lions hauled out in areas where Point Blue conducts surveys and maintains critical infrastructure. As such, Point Blue has requested a modification to their current Authorization to increase the number of authorized take for California sea lions to continue critical operations and research. Per the Marine Mammal Protection Act, we are requesting SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\13OCN1.SGM 13OCN1 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 197 / Tuesday, October 13, 2015 / Notices mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES comments on our proposal to revise the Authorization to Point Blue to incidentally harass, by Level B harassment only, a total of 44,871 California sea lions. DATES: NMFS must receive comments and information on or before November 12, 2015. ADDRESSES: Address comments on the application to Jolie Harrison, Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 EastWest Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910. The mailbox address for providing email comments is ITP.Cody@ noaa.gov. Please include 0648–XD66 in the subject line. Comments sent via email to ITP.Cody@noaa.gov, including all attachments, must not exceed a 25megabyte file size. NMFS is not responsible for email comments sent to addresses other than the one provided here. Instructions: All submitted comments are a part of the public record and NMFS will post them to http:// www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/ incidental/research.htm without change. All Personal Identifying Information (for example, name, address, etc.) voluntarily submitted by the commenter may be publicly accessible. Do not submit confidential business information or otherwise sensitive or protected information. To obtain an electronic copy of the application containing a list of the references used in this document, write to the previously mentioned address, telephone the contact listed here (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT), or visit the internet at: http:// www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/ incidental/research.htm. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jeannine Cody, NMFS, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS (301) 427– 8401. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Summary of Request On December 23, 2014, NMFS published a Federal Register notice of a proposed Authorization to Point Blue (79 FR 76975) and subsequently published a Federal Register notice of issuance of the Authorization on February 25, 2015 (80 FR 10066), effective from January 31, 2015, through January 30, 2016. To date, we have issued six one-year Authorizations to Point Blue, along with partners Oikonos Ecosystem Knowledge and Point Reyes National Seashore, for the conduct of the same activities from 2007 to 2015 (72 FR 71121, December 14, 2007; 73 FR 77011, December 18, 2008; 75 FR 8677, VerDate Sep<11>2014 21:23 Oct 09, 2015 Jkt 238001 February 19, 2010; 77 FR 73989, December 7, 2012; 78 FR 66686, November 6, 2013; and 80 FR 10066, February 25, 2015). On September 22, 2015, NMFS received a request from Point Blue seeking to revise the Authorization issued on January 31, 2015 (80 FR 10066, February 25, 2015) to increase the number of authorized take of small numbers of California sea lions from approximately 9,871 to a total of 44,871 for the duration of the current Authorization which expires on January 30, 2016. Current environmental conditions in the Pacific Ocean offshore California—which researchers have attributed to an impending El Nino event—have contributed to unprecedented numbers of California sea lions hauled out in areas where Point Blue conducts surveys and maintains critical infrastructure. As such, Point Blue has requested a modification to their current Authorization to increase the number of authorized take for California sea lions to continue their critical operations and research. This is the only requested change to the current Authorization. This Federal Register notice sets forth only a proposed change in the numbers of take for California sea lions. There are no other changes to the current Authorization as described in the February 25, 2015, Federal Register notice of an issued Authorization (80 FR 10066): The specified activity; description of marine mammals in the area of the specified activity; potential effects on marine mammals and their habitat; mitigation and related monitoring used to implement mitigation; reporting; estimated take by incidental harassment for Pacific harbor seals (Phoca vitulina), northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris), or Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus); negligible impact and small numbers analyses and determinations; impact on availability of affected species or stocks for subsistence uses and the period of effectiveness remain unchanged and are herein incorporated by reference. Description of the Specified Activity Overview Point Blue will continue to monitor and census seabird colonies; observe seabird nesting habitat; restore nesting burrows; and resupply a field station annually in central California (i.e., Southeast Farallon Island, West End ˜ Island, Ano Nuevo Island, Point Reyes National Seashore, San Francisco Bay, and the Russian River in Sonoma County). The purpose of the seabird research is to continue a 30-year PO 00000 Frm 00044 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 61377 monitoring program of the region’s seabird populations. NMFS outlined the purpose of Point Blue’s activities in a previous notice for the proposed authorization (79 FR 76975, December 23, 2014). Point Blue’s activities and level of survey effort have not changed since the publication of the Federal Register notice announcing the issuance of the Authorization (80 FR 10066, February 25, 2015). For a more detailed description of the authorized action, we refer the reader to that notice of Authorization (80 FR 10066, February 25, 2015). Need for Modification to the Authorization The Authorization requires Point Blue to monitor for marine mammals in order to implement mitigation measures to effect the least practicable adverse impact on marine mammals. Monitoring activities consist of conducting and recording observations on pinnipeds within the vicinity of the research areas. The monitoring reports provide dates, location, species, and the researcher’s activities. The reports will also include the behavioral state of marine mammals present, numbers of animals that moved greater than one meter, and numbers of pinnipeds that flushed into the water. Point Blue reports that between January and March, 2015, California sea lion incidental take patterns were relatively normal at the South Farallon Islands survey locations. However, during the summer of 2015, warm water conditions along the California coast in summer have resulted in more California sea lions hauling out in areas where Point Blue conducts its activities. Point Blue reports that throughout the summer months, sea lion numbers continued to grow, with greater numbers hauled out in areas where researchers have not normally recorded sea lion attendance. For example, since August 15, 2015 at the South Farallon Islands, Point Blue reports that thousands of sea lions hauled out in unusual locations high on the islands. Many California sea lions climbed onto critical infrastructure, including boat landings, a water storage structure, and main access paths. Point Blue reports that for the period between August 15 and September 20, 2015, they recorded 13,559 Level B harassment takes; 16 percent involved animals slowly flushing into the water, and the remaining 84 percent of recorded take involved California sea lions moving greater than one meter (3.2 feet) on land. During this period, Point Blue has restricted their activities as much as possible to still perform basic E:\FR\FM\13OCN1.SGM 13OCN1 61378 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 197 / Tuesday, October 13, 2015 / Notices maintenance and monitoring duties, while trying to minimize pinniped disturbance. It is critical for Point Blue to keep the California sea lions off of these structures to prevent severe damage and ensure the safety of island staff. However, to do so would be impossible for Point Blue and its partners without disturbing a larger number of California sea lions. Thus, NMFS proposes to modify the current Authorization to increase the number of take by Level B harassment only for California sea lions to a total of 44,871 for the duration of the current Authorization which expires on January 30, 2016. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Findings Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA)—As required by the MMPA, for the original Authorization, NMFS determined that: (1) The required mitigation measures are sufficient to reduce the effects of the specified activities to the level of least practicable impact; (2) the authorized takes will have a negligible impact on the affected marine mammal species; (3) the authorized takes represent small numbers relative to the affected stock abundances; and (4) Point Blue’s activities will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on taking for subsistence purposes as no relevant subsistence uses of marine mammals are implicated by this action. Negligible Impact: For reasons stated previously in the Federal Register notices for the proposed authorization (79 FR 76975, December 23, 2014) and the issued Authorization (80 FR 10066, February 25, 2015), NMFS anticipates that impacts to hauled-out California sea lions during Point Blue’s activities would be behavioral harassment of limited duration (i.e., less than one day) and limited intensity (i.e., temporary flushing at most). NMFS does not expect Point Blue’s specified activities to cause long-term behavioral disturbance, abandonment of the haul out area, or stampeding, and therefore injury or mortality to occur. With the exception of a proposed increase in the number of authorized takes for California sea lions, no other substantive changes have occurred in the interim. 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 required monitoring and mitigation measures, NMFS preliminarily finds that the total marine mammal take from Point Blue’s survey activities will have a negligible impact VerDate Sep<11>2014 21:23 Oct 09, 2015 Jkt 238001 on the affected marine mammal species or stocks. Small Numbers: For reasons stated previously in the Federal Register notices for the proposed authorization (79 FR 76975, December 23, 2014) and the issued Authorization (80 FR 10066, February 25, 2015), NMFS estimates that four species of marine mammals could be potentially affected by Level B harassment over the course of the proposed Authorization. With the exception of a proposed increase in authorized take for California sea lions, no other substantive changes have occurred in the interim. For California sea lions, the proposed increase in take is small relative to the population size. The revised incidental harassment number represents approximately 15.1 percent of the U.S. stock of California sea lion. National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)—In compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), NMFS prepared an Environmental Assessment (EA) analyzing the potential effects to the human environment from the issuance of a proposed Authorization to Point Blue for their seabird research activities. In January 2014, NMFS issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) on the issuance of an Authorization for Point Blue’s research activities 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). No substantive changes have occurred in the interim. Endangered Species Act (ESA)—No marine mammal species listed under the ESA occur in the action area. Therefore, NMFS has determined that a section 7 consultation under the ESA is not required. No substantive changes have occurred in the interim. Request for Public Comments NMFS invites comment on the proposed revised Incidental Harassment Authorization to Point Blue. Please include with your comments any supporting data or literature citations to help inform NMFS’ final decision on Point Blue’s request for a revised Authorization. Dated: October 7, 2015. Donna S. Wieting, Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2015–25942 Filed 10–9–15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P PO 00000 Frm 00045 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Proposed Information Collection; Comment Request; Groundfish Tagging Program National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice. AGENCY: The Department of Commerce, as part of its continuing effort to reduce paperwork and respondent burden, invites the general public and other Federal agencies to take this opportunity to comment on proposed and/or continuing information collections, as required by the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995. DATES: Written comments must be submitted on or before December 14, 2015. ADDRESSES: Direct all written comments to Jennifer Jessup, Departmental Paperwork Clearance Officer, Department of Commerce, Room 6616, 14th and Constitution Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20230 (or via the Internet at JJessup@doc.gov). FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Requests for additional information or copies of the information collection instrument and instructions should be directed to John Clary, (206) 526–4039 or email john.c.clary@noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: SUMMARY: I. Abstract This request is for extension of a currently approved information collection. The groundfish tagging program provides scientists with information necessary for effective conservation, management, and scientific understanding of the groundfish fishery off Alaska and the Northwest Pacific. The program area includes the Pacific Ocean off Alaska (the Gulf of Alaska, the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Area, and the Alexander Archipelago of Southeast Alaska), California, Oregon, and Washington. Fish movement information from recovered tags is used in population dynamics models for stock assessment. There are two general categories of tags. Simple plastic tags (spaghetti tags) are external tags approximately two inches long, printed with code numbers. When a tag is returned, the tag number is correlated with databases of released, tagged fish to determine the net movement and growth rate of the tagged fish. Archival tags are microchips with sensors E:\FR\FM\13OCN1.SGM 13OCN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 197 (Tuesday, October 13, 2015)]
[Notices]
[Pages 61376-61378]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-25942]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XD66


Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; 
Seabird Research Activities in Central California, 2015-2016

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

ACTION: Notice; revision of an incidental harassment authorization; 
request for comments.

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

SUMMARY: We, NMFS, have received a request from Point Blue Conservation 
Science (Point Blue) to revise an issued Incidental Harassment 
Authorization (Authorization) to take marine mammals, by harassment, 
incidental to conducting seabird research activities on Southeast 
Farallon Island, A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island, and Point Reyes National 
Seashore in central California. Point Blue's current Authorization is 
effective until January 30, 2016, and authorizes the incidental 
harassment, by Level B harassment only, of approximately 9,871 
California sea lions (Zalophus californianus). Current environmental 
conditions in the Pacific Ocean offshore California--which researchers 
have attributed to an impending El Nino event--have contributed to 
unprecedented numbers of California sea lions hauled out in areas where 
Point Blue conducts surveys and maintains critical infrastructure. As 
such, Point Blue has requested a modification to their current 
Authorization to increase the number of authorized take for California 
sea lions to continue critical operations and research. Per the Marine 
Mammal Protection Act, we are requesting

[[Page 61377]]

comments on our proposal to revise the Authorization to Point Blue to 
incidentally harass, by Level B harassment only, a total of 44,871 
California sea lions.

DATES: NMFS must receive comments and information on or before November 
12, 2015.

ADDRESSES: Address comments on the application to Jolie Harrison, 
Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected 
Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, 
Silver Spring, MD 20910. The mailbox address for providing email 
comments is ITP.Cody@noaa.gov. Please include 0648-XD66 in the subject 
line. Comments sent via email to ITP.Cody@noaa.gov, including all 
attachments, must not exceed a 25-megabyte file size. NMFS is not 
responsible for email comments sent to addresses other than the one 
provided here.
    Instructions: All submitted comments are a part of the public 
record and NMFS will post them to http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental/research.htm without change. All Personal Identifying 
Information (for example, name, address, etc.) voluntarily submitted by 
the commenter may be publicly accessible. Do not submit confidential 
business information or otherwise sensitive or protected information.
    To obtain an electronic copy of the application containing a list 
of the references used in this document, write to the previously 
mentioned address, telephone the contact listed here (see FOR FURTHER 
INFORMATION CONTACT), or visit the internet at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental/research.htm.

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

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Summary of Request

    On December 23, 2014, NMFS published a Federal Register notice of a 
proposed Authorization to Point Blue (79 FR 76975) and subsequently 
published a Federal Register notice of issuance of the Authorization on 
February 25, 2015 (80 FR 10066), effective from January 31, 2015, 
through January 30, 2016. To date, we have issued six one-year 
Authorizations to Point Blue, along with partners Oikonos Ecosystem 
Knowledge and Point Reyes National Seashore, for the conduct of the 
same activities from 2007 to 2015 (72 FR 71121, December 14, 2007; 73 
FR 77011, December 18, 2008; 75 FR 8677, February 19, 2010; 77 FR 
73989, December 7, 2012; 78 FR 66686, November 6, 2013; and 80 FR 
10066, February 25, 2015).
    On September 22, 2015, NMFS received a request from Point Blue 
seeking to revise the Authorization issued on January 31, 2015 (80 FR 
10066, February 25, 2015) to increase the number of authorized take of 
small numbers of California sea lions from approximately 9,871 to a 
total of 44,871 for the duration of the current Authorization which 
expires on January 30, 2016. Current environmental conditions in the 
Pacific Ocean offshore California--which researchers have attributed to 
an impending El Nino event--have contributed to unprecedented numbers 
of California sea lions hauled out in areas where Point Blue conducts 
surveys and maintains critical infrastructure. As such, Point Blue has 
requested a modification to their current Authorization to increase the 
number of authorized take for California sea lions to continue their 
critical operations and research. This is the only requested change to 
the current Authorization.
    This Federal Register notice sets forth only a proposed change in 
the numbers of take for California sea lions. There are no other 
changes to the current Authorization as described in the February 25, 
2015, Federal Register notice of an issued Authorization (80 FR 10066): 
The specified activity; description of marine mammals in the area of 
the specified activity; potential effects on marine mammals and their 
habitat; mitigation and related monitoring used to implement 
mitigation; reporting; estimated take by incidental harassment for 
Pacific harbor seals (Phoca vitulina), northern elephant seals 
(Mirounga angustirostris), or Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus); 
negligible impact and small numbers analyses and determinations; impact 
on availability of affected species or stocks for subsistence uses and 
the period of effectiveness remain unchanged and are herein 
incorporated by reference.

Description of the Specified Activity

Overview

    Point Blue will continue to monitor and census seabird colonies; 
observe seabird nesting habitat; restore nesting burrows; and resupply 
a field station annually in central California (i.e., Southeast 
Farallon Island, West End Island, A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island, Point Reyes 
National Seashore, San Francisco Bay, and the Russian River in Sonoma 
County). The purpose of the seabird research is to continue a 30-year 
monitoring program of the region's seabird populations.
    NMFS outlined the purpose of Point Blue's activities in a previous 
notice for the proposed authorization (79 FR 76975, December 23, 2014). 
Point Blue's activities and level of survey effort have not changed 
since the publication of the Federal Register notice announcing the 
issuance of the Authorization (80 FR 10066, February 25, 2015). For a 
more detailed description of the authorized action, we refer the reader 
to that notice of Authorization (80 FR 10066, February 25, 2015).

Need for Modification to the Authorization

    The Authorization requires Point Blue to monitor for marine mammals 
in order to implement mitigation measures to effect the least 
practicable adverse impact on marine mammals. Monitoring activities 
consist of conducting and recording observations on pinnipeds within 
the vicinity of the research areas. The monitoring reports provide 
dates, location, species, and the researcher's activities. The reports 
will also include the behavioral state of marine mammals present, 
numbers of animals that moved greater than one meter, and numbers of 
pinnipeds that flushed into the water.
    Point Blue reports that between January and March, 2015, California 
sea lion incidental take patterns were relatively normal at the South 
Farallon Islands survey locations. However, during the summer of 2015, 
warm water conditions along the California coast in summer have 
resulted in more California sea lions hauling out in areas where Point 
Blue conducts its activities. Point Blue reports that throughout the 
summer months, sea lion numbers continued to grow, with greater numbers 
hauled out in areas where researchers have not normally recorded sea 
lion attendance. For example, since August 15, 2015 at the South 
Farallon Islands, Point Blue reports that thousands of sea lions hauled 
out in unusual locations high on the islands. Many California sea lions 
climbed onto critical infrastructure, including boat landings, a water 
storage structure, and main access paths.
    Point Blue reports that for the period between August 15 and 
September 20, 2015, they recorded 13,559 Level B harassment takes; 16 
percent involved animals slowly flushing into the water, and the 
remaining 84 percent of recorded take involved California sea lions 
moving greater than one meter (3.2 feet) on land.
    During this period, Point Blue has restricted their activities as 
much as possible to still perform basic

[[Page 61378]]

maintenance and monitoring duties, while trying to minimize pinniped 
disturbance. It is critical for Point Blue to keep the California sea 
lions off of these structures to prevent severe damage and ensure the 
safety of island staff. However, to do so would be impossible for Point 
Blue and its partners without disturbing a larger number of California 
sea lions. Thus, NMFS proposes to modify the current Authorization to 
increase the number of take by Level B harassment only for California 
sea lions to a total of 44,871 for the duration of the current 
Authorization which expires on January 30, 2016.

Findings

    Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA)--As required by the MMPA, for 
the original Authorization, NMFS determined that: (1) The required 
mitigation measures are sufficient to reduce the effects of the 
specified activities to the level of least practicable impact; (2) the 
authorized takes will have a negligible impact on the affected marine 
mammal species; (3) the authorized takes represent small numbers 
relative to the affected stock abundances; and (4) Point Blue's 
activities will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on taking for 
subsistence purposes as no relevant subsistence uses of marine mammals 
are implicated by this action.
    Negligible Impact: For reasons stated previously in the Federal 
Register notices for the proposed authorization (79 FR 76975, December 
23, 2014) and the issued Authorization (80 FR 10066, February 25, 
2015), NMFS anticipates that impacts to hauled-out California sea lions 
during Point Blue's activities would be behavioral harassment of 
limited duration (i.e., less than one day) and limited intensity (i.e., 
temporary flushing at most). NMFS does not expect Point Blue's 
specified activities to cause long-term behavioral disturbance, 
abandonment of the haul out area, or stampeding, and therefore injury 
or mortality to occur.
    With the exception of a proposed increase in the number of 
authorized takes for California sea lions, no other substantive changes 
have occurred in the interim. 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 
required monitoring and mitigation measures, NMFS preliminarily finds 
that the total marine mammal take from Point Blue's survey activities 
will have a negligible impact on the affected marine mammal species or 
stocks.
    Small Numbers: For reasons stated previously in the Federal 
Register notices for the proposed authorization (79 FR 76975, December 
23, 2014) and the issued Authorization (80 FR 10066, February 25, 
2015), NMFS estimates that four species of marine mammals could be 
potentially affected by Level B harassment over the course of the 
proposed Authorization. With the exception of a proposed increase in 
authorized take for California sea lions, no other substantive changes 
have occurred in the interim. For California sea lions, the proposed 
increase in take is small relative to the population size. The revised 
incidental harassment number represents approximately 15.1 percent of 
the U.S. stock of California sea lion.
    National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)--In compliance with the 
National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), 
NMFS prepared an Environmental Assessment (EA) analyzing the potential 
effects to the human environment from the issuance of a proposed 
Authorization to Point Blue for their seabird research activities. In 
January 2014, NMFS issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) on 
the issuance of an Authorization for Point Blue's research activities 
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). No substantive changes have 
occurred in the interim.
    Endangered Species Act (ESA)--No marine mammal species listed under 
the ESA occur in the action area. Therefore, NMFS has determined that a 
section 7 consultation under the ESA is not required. No substantive 
changes have occurred in the interim.

Request for Public Comments

    NMFS invites comment on the proposed revised Incidental Harassment 
Authorization to Point Blue. Please include with your comments any 
supporting data or literature citations to help inform NMFS' final 
decision on Point Blue's request for a revised Authorization.

    Dated: October 7, 2015.
Donna S. Wieting,
Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
[FR Doc. 2015-25942 Filed 10-9-15; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P