Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to a Marine Geophysical Survey in the South Atlantic Ocean, January to March 2016, 2174-2189 [2016-00660]

Download as PDF 2174 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 10 / Friday, January 15, 2016 / Notices • Products that have been cold-rolled (cold-reduced) after hot-rolling; 9 • Ball bearing steels; 10 • Tool steels; 11 and • Silico-manganese steels; 12 The products subject to this investigation are currently classified in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (‘‘HTSUS’’) under item numbers: 7208.10.1500, 7208.10.3000, 7208.10.6000, 7208.25.3000, 7208.25.6000, 7208.26.0030, 7208.26.0060, 7208.27.0030, 7208.27.0060, 7208.36.0030, 7208.36.0060, 7208.37.0030, 7208.37.0060, 7208.38.0015, 7208.38.0030, 7208.38.0090, 7208.39.0015, 7208.39.0030, 7208.39.0090, 7208.40.6030, 7208.40.6060, 7208.53.0000, 7208.54.0000, 7208.90.0000, 7210.70.3000, 7211.14.0030, 7211.14.0090, 7211.19.1500, 7211.19.2000, 7211.19.3000, 7211.19.4500, 7211.19.6000, 7211.19.7530, 7211.19.7560, 7211.19.7590, 7225.11.0000, 7225.19.0000, 7225.30.3050, 7225.30.7000, 7225.40.7000, 7225.99.0090, 7226.11.1000, 7226.11.9030, 7226.11.9060, 7226.19.1000, 7226.19.9000, 7226.91.5000, 7226.91.7000, and 7226.91.8000. The products subject to the investigation may also enter under the following HTSUS numbers: 7210.90.9000, 7211.90.0000, 7212.40.1000, 7212.40.5000, 7212.50.0000, 7214.91.0015, 7214.91.0060, 7214.91.0090, 7214.99.0060, 7214.99.0075, 7214.99.0090, 7215.90.5000, 7226.99.0180, and 7228.60.6000. The HTSUS subheadings above are provided for convenience and U.S. Customs purposes only. The written description of the scope of the investigation is dispositive. [FR Doc. 2016–00750 Filed 1–14–16; 8:45 am] mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES BILLING CODE 3510–DS–P 9 For purposes of this scope exclusion, rolling operations such as a skin pass, levelling, temper rolling or other minor rolling operations after the hot-rolling process for purposes of surface finish, flatness, shape control, or gauge control do not constitute cold-rolling sufficient to meet this exclusion. 10 Ball bearing steels are defined as steels which contain, in addition to iron, each of the following elements by weight in the amount specified: (i) Not less than 0.95 nor more than 1.13 percent of carbon; (ii) not less than 0.22 nor more than 0.48 percent of manganese; (iii) none, or not more than 0.03 percent of sulfur; (iv) none, or not more than 0.03 percent of phosphorus; (v) not less than 0.18 nor more than 0.37 percent of silicon; (vi) not less than 1.25 nor more than 1.65 percent of chromium; (vii) none, or not more than 0.28 percent of nickel; (viii) none, or not more than 0.38 percent of copper; and (ix) none, or not more than 0.09 percent of molybdenum. 11 Tool steels are defined as steels which contain the following combinations of elements in the quantity by weight respectively indicated: (i) More than 1.2 percent carbon and more than 10.5 percent chromium; or (ii) not less than 0.3 percent carbon and 1.25 percent or more but less than 10.5 percent chromium; or (iii) not less than 0.85 percent carbon and 1 percent to 1.8 percent, inclusive, manganese; or (iv) 0.9 percent to 1.2 percent, inclusive, chromium and 0.9 percent to 1.4 percent, inclusive, molybdenum; or (v) not less than 0.5 percent carbon and not less than 3.5 percent molybdenum; or (vi) not less than 0.5 percent carbon and not less than 5.5 percent tungsten. 12 Silico-manganese steel is defined as steels containing by weight: (i) Not more than 0.7 percent of carbon; (ii) 0.5 percent or more but not more than 1.9 percent of manganese, and (iii) 0.6 percent or more but not more than 2.3 percent of silicon. VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:01 Jan 14, 2016 Jkt 238001 DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XE291 Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to a Marine Geophysical Survey in the South Atlantic Ocean, January to March 2016 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) implementing regulations, we hereby give notice that we have issued an Incidental Harassment Authorization (Authorization) to Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (Lamont-Doherty), a component of Columbia University, in collaboration with the National Science Foundation (NSF), to take marine mammals, by harassment, in the South Atlantic Ocean, January through March 2016. DATES: Effective January 4 through March 31, 2016. ADDRESSES: A copy of the final Authorization and application and other supporting documents are available by writing to Jolie Harrison, Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910, by telephoning the contacts listed here, or by visiting the internet at: http://www. nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental/ research.htm. The NSF prepared a draft Environmental Analysis in accordance with Executive Order 12114, ‘‘Environmental Effects Abroad of Major Federal Actions’’ for their proposed federal action. The environmental analysis titled ‘‘Environmental Analysis of a Marine Geophysical Survey by the R/V Marcus G. Langseth in the South Atlantic Ocean, Austral Summer 2016,’’ prepared by LGL, Ltd. environmental research associates, on behalf of NSF and Lamont-Doherty is available at the same internet address. NMFS prepared an Environmental Assessment (EA) titled, ‘‘Proposed Issuance of an Incidental Harassment Authorization to Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory to Take Marine Mammals by Harassment Incidental to a Marine Geophysical Survey in the South Atlantic Ocean, January–March 2016,’’ SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00015 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 in accordance with NEPA and NOAA Administrative Order 216–6. To obtain an electronic copy of these documents, write to the previously mentioned address, telephone the contact listed here (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT), or download the files at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/ incidental/research.htm. NMFS also issued a Biological Opinion under section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to evaluate the effects of the survey and Authorization on marine species listed as threatened and endangered. The Biological Opinion is available online at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/ consultations/opinions.htm. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jeannine Cody, NMFS, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS (301) 427– 8401. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, as amended (MMPA; 16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) directs the Secretary of Commerce to allow, upon request, the incidental, but not intentional, taking of small numbers of marine mammals of a species or population stock, by U.S. citizens who engage in a specified activity (other than commercial fishing) within a specified geographical region if, after NMFS provides a notice of a proposed authorization to the public for review and comment: (1) NMFS makes certain findings; and (2) the taking is limited to harassment. An Authorization shall be granted for the incidental taking of small numbers of marine mammals if NMFS finds that the taking will have a negligible impact on the species or stock(s), and will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of the species or stock(s) for subsistence uses (where relevant). The Authorization must also set forth the permissible methods of taking; other means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact on the species or stock and its habitat (i.e., mitigation); and requirements pertaining to the monitoring and reporting of such taking. 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.’’ Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, the MMPA at 16 U.S.C. 1362(18)(A) defines ‘‘harassment’’ as: Any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance which (i) has the E:\FR\FM\15JAN1.SGM 15JAN1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 10 / Friday, January 15, 2016 / Notices potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild [Level A harassment]; or (ii) has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering [Level B harassment]. Summary of Request On July 29, 2015, NMFS received an application from Lamont-Doherty requesting that NMFS issue an Authorization for the take of marine mammals, incidental to Texas A&M University and the University of Texas conducting a seismic survey in the South Atlantic Ocean, January through March 2016. Following the initial application submission, LamontDoherty submitted a revised application with revised take estimates. NMFS considered the revised application adequate and complete on October 30, 2015. Lamont-Doherty proposes to conduct a two-dimensional (2–D), seismic survey on the R/V Marcus G. Langseth (Langseth), a vessel owned by NSF and operated on its behalf by Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty in international waters in the South Atlantic Ocean approximately 1,938 kilometers (km) (1,232 miles [mi]) southeast of the west coast of Brazil for approximately 22 days. The following specific aspect of the proposed activity has the potential to take marine mammals: Increased underwater sound generated during the operation of the seismic airgun array. We anticipate that take, by Level B harassment, of 38 species of marine mammals could result from the specified activity. Although unlikely, NMFS also anticipates that a small level of take by Level A harassment of 16 species of marine mammals could occur during the proposed survey. Description of the Specified Activity mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Overview Lamont-Doherty plans to use one source vessel, the Langseth, an array of 36 airguns as the energy source, a receiving system of seven ocean bottom seismometers (OBS), and a single 8kilometer (km) hydrophone streamer. In addition to the operations of the airguns, Lamont-Doherty intends to operate a multibeam echosounder and a sub-bottom profiler continuously throughout the proposed survey. However, Lamont-Doherty will not operate the multibeam echosounder and sub-bottom profiler during transits to and from the survey area and in VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:01 Jan 14, 2016 Jkt 238001 between transits to each of the five OBS tracklines (i.e., when the airguns are not operating). The purpose of the survey is to collect and analyze seismic refraction data from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge westward to the Rio Grande Rise to study the evolution of the South Atlantic Ocean crust on million-year timescales and the evolution and stability of low-spreading ridges over time. NMFS refers the public to Lamont-Doherty’s application (see page 3) for more detailed information on the proposed research objectives. Dates and Duration Lamont-Doherty proposes to conduct the seismic survey for approximately 42 days, which includes approximately 22 days of seismic surveying with 10 days of OBS deployment and retrieval. The proposed study (e.g., equipment testing, startup, line changes, repeat coverage of any areas, and equipment recovery) would include approximately 528 hours of airgun operations (i.e., 22 days over 24 hours). Some minor deviation from Lamont-Doherty’s requested dates of January through March 2016 is possible, depending on logistics, weather conditions, and the need to repeat some lines if data quality is substandard. Thus, the proposed Authorization, if issued, would be effective from early January through March 31, 2016. Specified Geographic Region Lamont-Doherty proposes to conduct the proposed seismic survey in the South Atlantic Ocean, located approximately between 10–35° W, 27– 33° S (see Figure 1). Water depths in the survey area range from approximately 1,150 to 4,800 meters (m) (3,773 feet [ft] to 2.98 miles [mi]). Principal and Collaborating Investigators The proposed survey’s principal investigators are Drs. R. Reece and R. Carlson (Texas A&M University) and Dr. G. Christeson (University of Texas at Austin). Detailed Description of the Specified Activities Transit Activities The Langseth would depart and return from Cape Verde and transit to the survey area. Some minor deviations with the transit schedule and port locations are possible depending on logistics and weather. Vessel Specifications NMFS outlined the vessel’s specifications in the notice of proposed Authorization (80 FR 75355, December 1, 2015). NMFS does not repeat the PO 00000 Frm 00016 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 2175 information here as the vessel’s specifications have not changed between the notice of proposed Authorization and this notice of an issued Authorization. Data Acquisition Activities NMFS outlined the details regarding Lamont-Doherty’s data acquisition activities using the airguns, multibeam echosounder, and the sub-bottom profiler in the notice of proposed Authorization (80 FR 75355, December 1, 2015). NMFS does not repeat the information here as the data acquisition activities have not changed between the notice of proposed Authorization and this notice of an issued Authorization. For a more detailed description of the authorized action (i.e., vessel and acoustic source specifications, metrics, characteristics of airgun pulses, predicted sound levels of airguns, etc.,) please see the notice of proposed Authorization (80 FR 75355, December 1, 2015) and associated documents referenced above this section. Comments and Responses NMFS published a notice of receipt of Lamont-Doherty’s application and proposed Authorization in the Federal Register on December 1, 2015 (80 FR 75355). During the 30-day public comment period, NMFS received comments from the Marine Mammal Commission (Commission). NMFS has posted the comments online at: http:// www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/ incidental/research.htm. NMFS addresses any comments specific to Lamont-Doherty’s application related to the statutory and regulatory requirements or findings that NMFS must make under the MMPA in order to issue an Authorization. The following is a summary of the public comments and NMFS’ responses. Modeling Exclusion and Buffer Zones Comment 1: The Commission expressed concerns regarding LamontDoherty’s method to estimate exclusion and buffer zones. It stated that the model is not the best available science because it assumes the following: Spherical spreading, constant sound speed, and no bottom interactions. In light of their concerns, the Commission recommended that NMFS require Lamont-Doherty to re-estimate the proposed exclusion and buffer zones incorporating site-specific environmental and operational parameters (e.g., sound speed profiles, refraction, bathymetry/water depth, sediment properties/bottom loss, or absorption coefficients) into their model. E:\FR\FM\15JAN1.SGM 15JAN1 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES 2176 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 10 / Friday, January 15, 2016 / Notices Response: NMFS acknowledges the Commission’s concerns about LamontDoherty’s current modeling approach for estimating exclusion and buffer zones and also acknowledges that Lamont-Doherty did not incorporate site-specific sound speed profiles, bathymetry, and sediment characteristics of the research area in the current approach to estimate those zones for this proposed seismic survey. Lamont-Doherty’s application (LGL, 2015) and the NSF’s draft environmental analyses (NSF, 2015) describe the approach to establishing mitigation exclusion and buffer zones. In summary, Lamont-Doherty acquired field measurements for several array configurations at shallow- and deepwater depths during acoustic verification studies conducted in the northern Gulf of Mexico in 2003 (Tolstoy et al., 2004) and in 2007 and 2008 (Tolstoy et al., 2009). Based on the empirical data from those studies, Lamont-Doherty developed a sound propagation modeling approach that predicts received sound levels as a function of distance from a particular airgun array configuration in deep water. For this proposed survey, Lamont-Doherty developed the exclusion and buffer zones for the airgun array based on the empiricallyderived measurements from the Gulf of Mexico calibration survey (Fig. 5a in Appendix H of the NSF’s 2011 PEIS). Based upon the best available information (i.e., the three data points, two of which are peer-reviewed, discussed in this response), NMFS finds that the exclusion and buffer zone calculations are appropriate for use in this particular survey. In 2015, Lamont-Doherty explored solutions to this issue (i.e., the question of whether the Gulf of Mexico calibration data adequately informs the model to predict exclusion isopleths in other areas) by conducting a retrospective sound power analysis of one of the lines acquired during Lamont-Doherty’s seismic survey offshore New Jersey in 2014 (Crone, 2015). NMFS presented a comparison of the predicted radii (i.e., modeled exclusion zones) with radii based on in situ measurements (i.e., the upper bound [95th percentile] of the cross-line prediction) in a previous notice of issued Authorization (see Table 1, 80 FR 27635, May 14, 2015) for LamontDoherty. Briefly, Crone’s (2015) preliminary analysis, specific to the proposed survey site offshore New Jersey, confirmed that in-situ, site specific measurements and estimates of the 160- and 180-decibel (dB) isopleths collected by the VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:01 Jan 14, 2016 Jkt 238001 Langseth’s hydrophone streamer in shallow water were smaller than the modeled (i.e., predicted) exclusion and buffer zones proposed for use in two seismic surveys conducted offshore New Jersey in shallow water in 2014 and 2015. In that particular case, Crone’s (2015) results show that Lamont-Doherty’s modeled exclusion (180-dB) and buffer (160-dB) zones were approximately 28 and 33 percent smaller than the in situ, site-specific measurements confirming that LamontDoherty’s model was conservative in that case, as emphasized by LamontDoherty in its application and in supporting environmental documentation. The following is a summary of two additional analyses of in-situ data that support LamontDoherty’s use of the modeled exclusion and buffer zones in this particular case. In 2010, Lamont-Doherty assessed the accuracy of their modeling approach by comparing the sound levels of the field measurements acquired in the Gulf of Mexico study to their model predictions (Diebold et al., 2010). They reported that the observed sound levels from the field measurements fell almost entirely below the predicted mitigation radii curve for deep water (greater than 1,000 meters [m]; 3280.8 feet [ft]) (Diebold et al., 2010). In 2012, Lamont-Doherty used a similar process to model exclusion and buffer zones for a shallow-water seismic survey in the northeast Pacific Ocean offshore Washington in 2012. LamontDoherty conducted the shallow-water survey using the same airgun configuration proposed for this seismic survey (i.e., 6,600 cubic inches [in3]) and recorded the received sound levels on the shelf and slope off Washington State using the Langseth’s 8-kilometer (km) hydrophone streamer. Crone et al. (2014) analyzed those received sound levels from the 2012 survey and confirmed that in-situ, site specific measurements and estimates of the 160and 180-dB isopleths collected by the Langseth’s hydrophone streamer in shallow water were two to three times smaller than what Lamont-Doherty’s modeling approach predicted. While the results confirm bathymetry’s role in sound propagation, Crone et al. (2014) were able to confirm that the empirical measurements from the Gulf of Mexico calibration survey (the same measurements used to inform LamontDoherty’s modeling approach for this seismic survey in the South Atlantic Ocean) overestimated the size of the exclusion and buffer zones for the shallow-water 2012 survey off Washington and were thus precautionary, in that particular case. PO 00000 Frm 00017 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 The model Lamont-Doherty currently uses does not allow for the consideration of environmental and sitespecific parameters as requested by the Commission. NMFS continues to work with Lamont-Doherty and the NSF to address the issue of incorporating sitespecific information to further inform the analysis and development of mitigation measures in oceanic and coastal areas for future seismic surveys with Lamont-Doherty. However, Lamont-Doherty’s current modeling approach (supported by the three data points discussed previously) represents the best available information for NMFS to reach determinations for the Authorization. As described earlier, the comparisons of Lamont-Doherty’s model results and the field data collected in the Gulf of Mexico, offshore Washington, and offshore New Jersey illustrate a degree of conservativeness built into Lamont-Doherty’s model for deep water, which NMFS expects to offset some of the limitations of the model to capture the variability resulting from site-specific factors. Lamont-Doherty has conveyed to NMFS that additional modeling efforts to refine the process and conduct comparative analysis may be possible with the availability of research funds and other resources. Obtaining research funds is typically through a competitive process, including those submitted to U.S. Federal agencies. The use of models for calculating buffer and exclusion zone radii and for developing take estimates is not a requirement of the MMPA incidental take authorization process. Furthermore, NMFS does not provide specific guidance on model parameters nor prescribe a specific model for applicants as part of the MMPA incidental take authorization process at this time. There is a level of variability not only with parameters in the models, but also the uncertainty associated with data used in models, and therefore, the quality of the model results submitted by applicants. NMFS considers this variability when evaluating applications and the take estimates and mitigation that the model informs. NMFS takes into consideration the model used and its results in determining the potential impacts to marine mammals; however, it is just one component of the analysis during the MMPA consultation process as NMFS also takes into consideration other factors associated with the proposed action, (e.g., geographic location, duration of activities, context, intensity, etc.). E:\FR\FM\15JAN1.SGM 15JAN1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 10 / Friday, January 15, 2016 / Notices Monitoring and Reporting Comment 2: The Commission has indicated that monitoring and reporting requirements should provide a reasonably accurate assessment of the types of taking and the numbers of animals taken by the proposed activity. They recommend that NMFS and Lamont-Doherty incorporate an accounting for animals at the surface but not detected [i.e., g(0) values] and for animals present but underwater and not available for sighting [i.e., f(0) values] into monitoring efforts. In light of the Commission’s previous comments, they recommend that NMFS consult with the funding agency (i.e., the NSF) and individual applicants (e.g., LamontDoherty and other related entities) to develop, validate, and implement a monitoring program that provides a scientifically sound, reasonably accurate assessment of the types of marine mammal takes and the actual numbers of marine mammals taken, accounting for applicable g(0) and f(0) values. They also recommend that Lamont-Doherty and other relevant entities continue to collect appropriate sightings data in the field which NMFS can then pool to determine g(0) and f(0) values relevant to the various geophysical survey types. Response: NMFS agrees with the Commission’s recommendation to improve the post-survey reporting requirements for NSF and LamontDoherty by accounting for takes using applicable g(0) and f(0) values. In December 2015, NMFS met with Commission representatives to discuss ways to develop and validate a monitoring program that provides a scientifically sound, reasonably accurate assessment of the types of marine mammal takes and the actual numbers of marine mammals taken, accounting for applicable g(0) and f(0) values. We will work with NSF to develop ways to improve their post-survey take estimates and have included a requirement in the 2177 South Atlantic Authorization for them to do so in collaboration with us and the Commission. Description of Marine Mammals in the Area of the Specified Activity Table 1 in this notice provides the following: All marine mammal species with possible or confirmed occurrence in the proposed activity area; information on those species’ regulatory status under the MMPA and the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.); abundance; and occurrence and seasonality in the proposed activity area. Based on the best available information, NMFS expects that there may be a potential for certain cetacean and pinniped species to occur within the survey area (i.e., potentially be taken) and have included additional information for these species in Table 1 of this notice. NMFS will carry forward analyses on the species listed in Table 1 later in this document. TABLE 1—GENERAL INFORMATION ON MARINE MAMMALS THAT COULD POTENTIALLY OCCUR IN THE PROPOSED SURVEY AREAS WITHIN THE SOUTH ATLANTIC OCEAN [January through March 2016] Regulatory status 1 2 Antarctic minke whale (Balaenoptera bonaerensis). Blue whale (B. musculus) .................. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Species MMPA—NC, ESA—NL ........... 6 515,000 MMPA—D ............................... ESA—EN ................................. MMPA—NC, ESA—NL ........... MMPA—NC, ESA—NL ........... 7 2,300 MMPA—D, ESA—EN ............. MMPA—D, ESA—EN ............. 9 22,000 MMPA—D, ESA—EN ............. MMPA—D, ESA—EN ............. 11 10,000 MMPA—D, ESA—EN ............. 13 355,000 Bryde’s whale (B. edeni) .................... Common (dwarf) minke whale (B. acutorostrata). Fin whale (B. physalus) ..................... Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae). Sei whale (B. borealis) ....................... Southern right whale (Eubalaena australis). Sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus). Dwarf sperm whale (Kogia sima) ....... Pygmy sperm whale (K. breviceps) ... Cuvier’s beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris). Andrew’s beaked whale (Mesoplodon bowdoini). Arnoux’s beaked whale (Berardius arnuxii). Blainville’s beaked whale (M.densirostris). Gervais’ beaked whale (M. europaeus). Gray’s beaked whale (M. grayi) ......... Hector’s beaked whale (M. hectori) ... Shepherd’s beaked whale (Tasmacetus shepherdi). Strap-toothed beaked whale (M. layardii). True’s beaked whale (M. mirus) ........ Southern bottlenose whale (Hyperoodon planifrons). Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus). VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:01 Jan 14, 2016 Species abundance 3 Local occurrence and range 4 Season 5 ............. Uncommon shelf, pelagic .................. Winter. ................. Rare coastal, slope, pelagic .............. Winter. ............... ............. Rare coastal, pelagic ........................ Uncommon shelf, pelagic .................. Winter. Winter. ............... .............. Uncommon Coastal, pelagic ............. Uncommon Coastal, shelf, pelagic ... Fall. Winter. .............. .............. Uncommon Shelf edges, pelagic ...... Uncommon Coastal, shelf ................. Winter. Winter. ............ Uncommon Slope, pelagic ................ Winter. MMPA—NC, ESA—NL ........... MMPA—NC, ESA—NL ........... MMPA—NC, ESA—NL ........... 3,785 ................... 3,785 ................... 14 599,300 ............ Rare Shelf, slope, pelagic ................. Rare Shelf, slope, pelagic ................. Uncommon Slope .............................. Winter. Winter. Winter. MMPA—NC, ESA—NL ........... 14 599,300 ............ Rare Pelagic ...................................... Winter. MMPA—NC, ESA—NL ........... 14 599,300 ............ Rare Pelagic ...................................... Winter. MMPA—NC, ESA—NL ........... 14 599,300 ............ Rare Slope, pelagic ........................... Winter. MMPA—NC, ESA—NL ........... 14 599,300 ............ Rare pelagic ...................................... Winter. MMPA—NC, ESA—NL ........... MMPA—NC, ESA—NL ........... MMPA—NC, ESA—NL ........... 14 599,300 ............ ............ 14 599,300 ............ Rare Pelagic ...................................... Rare pelagic ...................................... Rare pelagic ...................................... Winter. Winter. Winter. MMPA—NC, ESA—NL ........... 14 599,300 ............ Rare pelagic ...................................... Winter. MMPA—NC, ESA—NL ........... MMPA—NC, ESA—NL ........... 7,092 ................... 14 599,300 ............ Rare pelagic ...................................... Rare Coastal, shelf, pelagic .............. Winter. Winter. MMPA—NC, ESA—NL ........... 15 600,000 ............ Uncommon Coastal, pelagic ............. Winter. Sfmt 4703 E:\FR\FM\15JAN1.SGM Jkt 238001 PO 00000 Frm 00018 Fmt 4703 8 43,633 6 515,000 10 42,000 12 12,000 14 599,300 15JAN1 2178 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 10 / Friday, January 15, 2016 / Notices TABLE 1—GENERAL INFORMATION ON MARINE MAMMALS THAT COULD POTENTIALLY OCCUR IN THE PROPOSED SURVEY AREAS WITHIN THE SOUTH ATLANTIC OCEAN—Continued [January through March 2016] Species Regulatory status 1 2 Species abundance 3 Local occurrence and range 4 Rough-toothed dolphin (Steno bredanensis). Pantropical spotted dolphin (Stenella attennuata). Striped dolphin (S. coeruleoalba) ...... Fraser’s dolphin (Lagenodelphis hosei). Spinner dolphin (Stenella longirostris) Atlantic spotted dolphin (S. frontalis) Clymene dolphin (S. clymene) ........... Risso’s dolphin (Grampus griseus) .... Long-beaked common dolphin (Delphinus capensis). Short-beaked common dolphin (Delphinus delphis). Southern right whale dolphin (Lissodelphis peronii). Melon-headed whale (Peponocephala electra). Pygmy killer whale (Feresa attenuate). False killer whale (Pseudorca crassidens). Killer whale (Orcinus orca) ................. Long-finned pilot whale (Globicephala melas). Short-finned pilot whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus). Southern Elephant Seal (Mirounga leonina). Subantarctic fur seal (Arctocephalus tropicalis). MMPA—NC, ESA—NL ........... 271 ...................... Uncommon shelf, pelagic .................. Winter. MMPA—NC, ESA—NL ........... 3,333 ................... Uncommon Coastal, slope, pelagic .. Winter. MMPA—NC, ESA—NL ........... MMPA—NC, ESA—NL ........... 54,807 ................. 16 289,000 ............ Rare Pelagic ...................................... Uncommon Pelagic ........................... Winter. Winter. MMPA—NC, MMPA—NC, MMPA—NC, MMPA—NC, MMPA—NC, ........... ........... ........... ........... ........... 16 1,200,000 ......... 44,715 ................. 6,215 ................... 20,692 ................. 17 20,000 .............. Rare Pelagic ...................................... Uncommon Pelagic ........................... Rare Pelagic ...................................... Uncommon Pelagic ........................... Rare Coastal ..................................... Winter. Winter. Winter. Winter. Winter. MMPA—NC, ESA—NL ........... 173,486 ............... Uncommon Coastal, shelf ................. Winter. MMPA—NC, ESA—NL ........... Unknown ............. Uncommon Coastal, shelf ................. Winter. MMPA—NC, ESA—NL ........... 18 50,000 .............. Uncommon Coastal, shelf, pelagic ... Winter. MMPA—NC, ESA—NL ........... 3,585 ................... Uncommon Coastal, shelf, pelagic ... Winter. MMPA—NC, ESA—NL ........... 442 ...................... Rare Pelagic ...................................... Winter. MMPA—NC, ESA—NL ........... MMPA—NC, ESA—NL ........... 19 50,000 Uncommon Coastal, pelagic ............. Uncommon Pelagic ........................... Winter. Winter. MMPA—NC, ESA—NL ........... 14 200,000 ............ Uncommon Pelagic ........................... Winter. MMPA—NC, ESA—NL ........... 20 650,000 ............ Rare Coastal ..................................... Winter. MMPA—NC, ESA—NL ........... 21 310,000 ............ Uncommon Pelagic ........................... Winter. ESA—NL ESA—NL ESA—NL ESA—NL ESA—NL .............. ............ 14 200,000 Season 5 2 MMPA: NC= Not classified; D= Depleted; ESA: EN = Endangered, T = Threatened, DL = Delisted, NL = Not listed. where noted abundance information obtained from NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS–NE–231, U.S. Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico Marine Mammal Stock Assessments–2014 (Waring et al., 2015) and the Draft 2015 U.S. Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico Marine Mammal Stock Assessments (in review, 2015). NA = Not available. 4 Occurrence and range information available from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). 5 NA= Not available due to limited information on that species’ seasonal occurrence in the proposed area. 6 Best estimate from the International Whaling Commission’s (IWC) estimate for the minke whale population (Southern Hemisphere, 2004). 7 Best estimate from the IWC’s estimate for the blue whale population (Southern Hemisphere, 1998). 8 Estimate from IUCN Web page for Bryde’s whales. Southern Hemisphere: Southern Indian Ocean (13,854); western South Pacific (16,585); and eastern South Pacific (13,194) (IWC, 1981). 9 Best estimate from the IWC’s estimate for the fin whale population (East Greenland to Faroes, 2007). 10 Best estimate from the IWC’s estimate for the humpback whale population (Southern Hemisphere, partial coverage of Antarctic feeding grounds, 2007). 11 Estimate from the IUCN Web page for sei whales (IWC, 1996). 12 Best estimate from the IWC’s estimate for the southern right whale population (Southern Hemisphere, 2009). 13 Whitehead, (2002). 14 Abundance estimates for beaked, southern bottlenose, and pilot whales south of the Antarctic Convergence in January (Kasamatsu and Joyce, 1995). 15 Wells and Scott, (2009). 16 Jefferson et al., (2008). 17 Cockcroft and Peddemors, (1990). 18 Estimate from the IUCN Web page for melon-headed whales (IUCN, 2015). 19 Estimate from the IUCN Web page for killer whales (IUCN, 2015). 20 Estimate from the IUCN Web page for southern elephant seals (IUCN, 2015). 21 Arnoud, (2009). mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES 3 Except NMFS refers the public to LamontDoherty’s application, NSF’s draft environmental analysis (see ADDRESSES), NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS– NE–231, U.S. Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico Marine Mammal Stock Assessments–2014 (Waring et al., 2015); and the Draft 2015 U.S. Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico Marine Mammal Stock Assessments (in review, 2015) available VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:01 Jan 14, 2016 Jkt 238001 online at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/ sars/species.htm for further information on the biology and local distribution of these species. Potential Effects of the Specified Activities on Marine Mammals NMFS provided a summary and discussion of the ways that the types of stressors associated with the specified PO 00000 Frm 00019 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 activity (e.g., seismic airgun operations, vessel movement, and entanglement) impact marine mammals (via observations or scientific studies) in the notice of proposed Authorization (80 FR 75355, December 1, 2015). The ‘‘Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment’’ section later in this document will include a quantitative discussion of the number of marine E:\FR\FM\15JAN1.SGM 15JAN1 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 10 / Friday, January 15, 2016 / Notices mammals anticipated to be taken by this activity. The ‘‘Negligible Impact Analysis’’ section will include the analysis of how this specific proposed activity would impact marine mammals and will consider the content of this section, the ‘‘Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment’’ section, the ‘‘Mitigation’’ section, and the ‘‘Anticipated Effects on Marine Mammal Habitat’’ section to draw conclusions regarding the likely impacts of this activity on the reproductive success or survivorship of individuals and from that on the affected marine mammal populations or stocks. NMFS provided a background of potential effects of Lamont-Doherty’s activities in the notice of proposed Authorization (80 FR 75355, December 1, 2015). Operating active acoustic sources, such as airgun arrays, has the potential for adverse effects on marine mammals. The majority of anticipated impacts would be from the use of acoustic sources. The effects of sounds from airgun pulses might include one or more of the following: Tolerance, masking of natural sounds, behavioral disturbance, and temporary or permanent hearing impairment or nonauditory effects (Richardson et al., 1995). However, for reasons discussed in the notice of proposed Authorization (80 FR 75355, December 1, 2015), it is unlikely that there would be any cases of temporary or permanent hearing impairment resulting from LamontDoherty’s activities. NMFS’ predicted estimates for Level A harassment take for some species are likely overestimates of the injury that will occur. NMFS expects that successful implementation of the required visual and acoustic mitigation measures would avoid Level A take in some instances. As outlined in previous NMFS documents, the effects of noise on marine mammals are highly variable, often depending on species and contextual factors (based on Richardson et al., 1995). In the Potential Effects of the Specified Activity on Marine Mammals section (80 FR 75355, December 1, 2015); NMFS included a qualitative discussion of the different ways that Lamont-Doherty’s seismic survey may potentially affect marine mammals. Behavior: Marine mammals may behaviorally react to sound when exposed to anthropogenic noise. These behavioral reactions are often shown as: Changing durations of surfacing and dives, number of blows per surfacing, or moving direction and/or speed; reduced/increased vocal activities; changing/cessation of certain behavioral activities (such as socializing or VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:01 Jan 14, 2016 Jkt 238001 feeding); visible startle response or aggressive behavior (such as tail/fluke slapping or jaw clapping); avoidance of areas where noise sources are located; and/or flight responses (e.g., pinnipeds flushing into water from haulouts or rookeries). Masking: Marine mammals use acoustic signals for a variety of purposes, which differ among species, but include communication between individuals, navigation, foraging, reproduction, avoiding predators, and learning about their environment (Erbe and Farmer, 2000; Tyack, 2000). Introduced underwater sound may through masking reduce the effective communication distance of a marine mammal species if the frequency of the source is close to that of a signal that needs to be detected by the marine mammal, and if the anthropogenic sound is present for a significant fraction of the time (Richardson et al., 1995). For the airgun sound generated from Lamont-Doherty’s seismic survey, sound will consist of low frequency (under 500 Hz) pulses with extremely short durations (less than one second). Masking from airguns is more likely in low-frequency marine mammals like mysticetes. There is little concern that masking would occur near the sound source due to the brief duration of these pulses and relative silence between air gun shots (approximately 22 to 170 seconds). The sounds important to small odontocete communication are predominantly at much higher frequencies than the dominant components of airgun sounds, thus limiting the potential for masking in those species. Hearing Impairment: Hearing impairment (either temporary or permanent) is also unlikely. Given the higher level of sound necessary to cause permanent threshold shift as compared with temporary threshold shift, it is considerably less likely that permanent threshold shift would occur during the seismic survey. Cetaceans generally avoid the immediate area around operating seismic vessels, as do some other marine mammals. Some pinnipeds show avoidance reactions to airguns, but their avoidance reactions are generally not as strong or consistent compared to cetacean reactions. Also, NMFS expects that some individuals would avoid the source at levels expected to result in injury. Nonetheless, although NMFS expects that Level A harassment is unlikely to occur, we have conservatively authorized and analyzed a low level of permanent threshold shift occurrences for certain species. We acknowledge that it is difficult to quantify the degree PO 00000 Frm 00020 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 2179 to which the mitigation and avoidance will reduce the number of animals that might incur permanent threshold shift; however, we are proposing to authorize the modeled number of Level A takes, which does not take the mitigation or avoidance into consideration. Vessel Movement and Entanglement: The Langseth will operate at a relatively slow speed (typically 4.6 knots [8.5 km/ h; 5.3 mph]) when conducting the survey. Protected species observers would monitor for marine mammals, which would trigger mitigation measures, including vessel avoidance where safe. Therefore, NMFS does not anticipate nor do we authorize takes of marine mammals from vessel strike or entanglement. NMFS refers the reader to LamontDoherty’s application and the NSF’s environmental analysis for additional information on the behavioral reactions (or lack thereof) by all types of marine mammals to seismic vessels. NMFS has reviewed these data and based our decision on the relevant information. Anticipated Effects on Marine Mammal Habitat NMFS included a detailed discussion of the potential effects of this action on marine mammal habitat, including physiological and behavioral effects on marine mammal prey items (e.g., fish and invertebrates) in the notice of proposed Authorization (80 FR 75355, December 1, 2015). While NMFS anticipates that the specified activity may result in marine mammals avoiding certain areas due to temporary ensonification, the impact to habitat is temporary and reversible. Further, NMFS also considered these impacts to marine mammals in detail in the notice of proposed Authorization as behavioral modification. The main impact associated with the activity would be temporarily elevated noise levels and the associated direct effects on marine mammals. Mitigation In order to issue an Incidental Harassment Authorization under section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA, NMFS must set forth the permissible methods of taking pursuant to such activity, and other means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact on such species or stock and its habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance, and on the availability of such species or stock for taking for certain subsistence uses (where relevant). Lamont-Doherty has reviewed the following source documents and has E:\FR\FM\15JAN1.SGM 15JAN1 2180 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 10 / Friday, January 15, 2016 / Notices incorporated a suite of proposed mitigation measures into their project description. (1) Protocols used during previous Lamont-Doherty and NSF-funded seismic research cruises as approved by us and detailed in the NSF’s 2011 PEIS and 2015 draft environmental analysis; (2) Previous incidental harassment authorizations applications and authorizations that NMFS has approved and authorized; and (3) Recommended best practices in Richardson et al. (1995), Pierson et al. (1998), and Weir and Dolman, (2007). To reduce the potential for disturbance from acoustic stimuli associated with the activities, LamontDoherty, and/or its designees have proposed to implement the following mitigation measures for marine mammals: (1) Vessel-based visual mitigation monitoring; (2) Proposed exclusion zones; (3) Power down procedures; (4) Shutdown procedures; (5) Ramp-up procedures; and (6) Speed and course alterations. NMFS reviewed Lamont-Doherty’s proposed mitigation measures and has proposed an additional measure to effect the least practicable adverse impact on marine mammals. They are: (1) Expanded power down procedures for concentrations of six or more whales that do not appear to be traveling (e.g., feeding, socializing, etc.). Vessel-Based Visual Mitigation Monitoring Lamont-Doherty would position observers aboard the seismic source vessel to watch for marine mammals near the vessel during daytime airgun operations and during any start-ups at night. Observers would also watch for marine mammals near the seismic vessel for at least 30 minutes prior to the start of airgun operations after an extended shutdown (i.e., greater than approximately eight minutes for this proposed cruise). When feasible, the observers would conduct observations during daytime periods when the seismic system is not operating for comparison of sighting rates and behavior with and without airgun operations and between acquisition periods. Based on the observations, the Langseth would power down or shutdown the airguns when marine mammals are observed within or about to enter a designated exclusion zone for cetaceans or pinnipeds. During seismic operations, at least four protected species observers would be aboard the Langseth. Lamont-Doherty would appoint the observers with NMFS concurrence, and they would conduct observations during ongoing daytime operations and nighttime rampups of the airgun array. During the majority of seismic operations, two observers would be on duty from the observation tower to monitor marine mammals near the seismic vessel. Using two observers would increase the effectiveness of detecting animals near the source vessel. However, during mealtimes and bathroom breaks, it is sometimes difficult to have two observers on effort, but at least one observer would be on watch during bathroom breaks and mealtimes. Observers would be on duty in shifts of no longer than four hours in duration. Two observers on the Langseth would also be on visual watch during all nighttime ramp-ups of the seismic airguns. A third observer would monitor the passive acoustic monitoring equipment 24 hours a day to detect vocalizing marine mammals present in the action area. In summary, a typical daytime cruise would have scheduled two observers (visual) on duty from the observation tower, and an observer (acoustic) on the passive acoustic monitoring system. Before the start of the seismic survey, Lamont-Doherty would instruct the vessel’s crew to assist in detecting marine mammals and implementing mitigation requirements. The Langseth is a suitable platform for marine mammal observations. When stationed on the observation platform, the eye level would be approximately 21.5 m (70.5 ft) above sea level, and the observer would have a good view around the entire vessel. During daytime, the observers would scan the area around the vessel systematically with reticle binoculars (e.g., 7 x 50 Fujinon), Big-eye binoculars (25 x 150), and with the naked eye. During darkness, night vision devices would be available (ITT F500 Series Generation 3 binocular-image intensifier or equivalent), when required. Laser rangefinding binoculars (Leica LRF 1200 laser rangefinder or equivalent) would be available to assist with distance estimation. They are useful in training observers to estimate distances visually, but are generally not useful in measuring distances to animals directly. The user measures distances to animals with the reticles in the binoculars. Lamont-Doherty would immediately power down or shutdown the airguns when observers see marine mammals within or about to enter the designated exclusion zone. The observer(s) would continue to maintain watch to determine when the animal(s) are outside the exclusion zone by visual confirmation. Airgun operations would not resume until the observer has confirmed that the animal has left the zone, or if not observed after 15 minutes for species with shorter dive durations (small odontocetes and pinnipeds) or 30 minutes for species with longer dive durations (mysticetes and large odontocetes, including sperm, pygmy sperm, dwarf sperm, killer, and beaked whales). Lamont-Doherty would use safety radii to designate exclusion zones and to estimate take for marine mammals. Table 2 shows the distances at which one would expect to receive sound levels (160-, 180-, and 190-dB,) from the airgun array and a single airgun. If the protected species visual observer detects marine mammal(s) within or about to enter the appropriate exclusion zone, the Langseth crew would immediately power down the airgun array, or perform a shutdown if necessary (see Shut-down Procedures). TABLE 2—PREDICTED DISTANCES TO WHICH SOUND LEVELS GREATER THAN OR EQUAL TO 160 RE: 1 μPA COULD BE RECEIVED DURING THE PROPOSED SURVEY AREAS WITHIN THE SOUTH ATLANTIC OCEAN mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES [January through March, 2016] Source and volume (in3) Tow depth (m) Predicted RMS distances 1 (m) Water depth (m) 190 dB Single Bolt airgun (40 in3) ................................................... 36-Airgun Array (6,600 in3) .................................................. 1 Predicted VerDate Sep<11>2014 9 9 >1,000 >1,000 180 dB 100 286 distances based on information presented in Lamont-Doherty’s application. 20:01 Jan 14, 2016 Jkt 238001 PO 00000 Frm 00021 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 E:\FR\FM\15JAN1.SGM 15JAN1 160 dB 100 927 388 5,780 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 10 / Friday, January 15, 2016 / Notices The 180- or 190-dB level shutdown criteria are applicable to cetaceans and pinnipeds respectively as specified by NMFS (2000). Lamont-Doherty used these levels to establish the exclusion zones as presented in their application. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Power Down Procedures A power down involves decreasing the number of airguns in use such that the radius of the 180-dB or 190-dB exclusion zone is smaller to the extent that marine mammals are no longer within or about to enter the exclusion zone. A power down of the airgun array can also occur when the vessel is moving from one seismic line to another. During a power down for mitigation, the Langseth would operate one airgun (40 in3). The continued operation of one airgun would alert marine mammals to the presence of the seismic vessel in the area. A shutdown occurs when the Langseth suspends all airgun activity. If the observer detects a marine mammal outside the exclusion zone and the animal is likely to enter the zone, the crew would power down the airguns to reduce the size of the 180-dB or 190dB exclusion zone before the animal enters that zone. Likewise, if a mammal is already within the zone after detection, the crew would power-down the airguns immediately. During a power down of the airgun array, the crew would operate a single 40-in3 airgun which has a smaller exclusion zone. If the observer detects a marine mammal within or near the smaller exclusion zone around the airgun (Table 3), the crew would shut down the single airgun (see next section). Resuming Airgun Operations After a Power Down Following a power-down, the Langseth crew would not resume full airgun activity until the marine mammal has cleared the 180-dB or 190-dB exclusion zone. The observers would consider the animal to have cleared the exclusion zone if: • The observer has visually observed the animal leave the exclusion zone; or • An observer has not sighted the animal within the exclusion zone for 15 minutes for species with shorter dive durations (i.e., small odontocetes or pinnipeds), or 30 minutes for species with longer dive durations (i.e., mysticetes and large odontocetes, including sperm, pygmy sperm, dwarf sperm, and beaked whales); or The Langseth crew would resume operating the airguns at full power after 15 minutes of sighting any species with short dive durations (i.e., small odontocetes or pinnipeds). Likewise, the VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:01 Jan 14, 2016 Jkt 238001 crew would resume airgun operations at full power after 30 minutes of sighting any species with longer dive durations (i.e., mysticetes and large odontocetes, including sperm, pygmy sperm, dwarf sperm, and beaked whales). NMFS estimates that the Langseth would transit outside the original 180dB or 190-dB exclusion zone after an 8minute wait period. This period is based on the average speed of the Langseth while operating the airguns (8.5 km/h; 5.3 mph). Because the vessel has transited away from the vicinity of the original sighting during the 8-minute period, implementing ramp-up procedures for the full array after an extended power down (i.e., transiting for an additional 35 minutes from the location of initial sighting) would not meaningfully increase the effectiveness of observing marine mammals approaching or entering the exclusion zone for the full source level and would not further minimize the potential for take. The Langseth’s observers are continually monitoring the exclusion zone for the full source level while the mitigation airgun is firing. On average, observers can observe to the horizon (10 km; 6.2 mi) from the height of the Langseth’s observation deck and should be able to say with a reasonable degree of confidence whether a marine mammal would be encountered within this distance before resuming airgun operations at full power. Shutdown Procedures The Langseth crew would shut down the operating airgun(s) if they see a marine mammal within or approaching the exclusion zone for the single airgun. The crew would implement a shutdown: (1) If an animal enters the exclusion zone of the single airgun after the crew has initiated a power down; or (2) If an observer sees the animal is initially within the exclusion zone of the single airgun when more than one airgun (typically the full airgun array) is operating. Resuming Airgun Operations After a Shutdown: Following a shutdown in excess of eight minutes, the Langseth crew would initiate a ramp-up with the smallest airgun in the array (40-in3). The crew would turn on additional airguns in a sequence such that the source level of the array would increase in steps not exceeding 6 dB per five-minute period over a total duration of approximately 30 minutes. During ramp-up, the observers would monitor the exclusion zone, and if he/she sees a marine mammal, the Langseth crew would implement a power down or shutdown PO 00000 Frm 00022 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 2181 as though the full airgun array were operational. During periods of active seismic operations, there are occasions when the Langseth crew would need to temporarily shut down the airguns due to equipment failure or for maintenance. In this case, if the airguns are inactive longer than eight minutes, the crew would follow ramp-up procedures for a shutdown described earlier and the observers would monitor the full exclusion zone and would implement a power down or shutdown if necessary. If the full exclusion zone is not visible to the observer for at least 30 minutes prior to the start of operations in either daylight or nighttime, the Langseth crew would not commence ramp-up unless at least one airgun (40-in3 or similar) has been operating during the interruption of seismic survey operations. Given these provisions, it is likely that the vessel’s crew would not ramp up the airgun array from a complete shutdown at night or in thick fog, because the outer part of the zone for that array would not be visible during those conditions. If one airgun has operated during a power down period, ramp-up to full power would be permissible at night or in poor visibility, on the assumption that marine mammals would be alerted to the approaching seismic vessel by the sounds from the single airgun and could move away. The vessel’s crew would not initiate a ramp-up of the airguns if an observer sees the marine mammal within or near the applicable exclusion zones during the day or close to the vessel at night. Ramp-Up Procedures Ramp-up of an airgun array provides a gradual increase in sound levels, and involves a step-wise increase in the number and total volume of airguns firing until the full volume of the airgun array is achieved. The purpose of a ramp-up is to ‘‘warn’’ marine mammals in the vicinity of the airguns, and to provide the time for them to leave the area and thus avoid any potential injury or impairment of their hearing abilities. Lamont-Doherty would follow a rampup procedure when the airgun array begins operating after an 8 minute period without airgun operations or when shut down has exceeded that period. Lamont-Doherty has used similar waiting periods (approximately eight to 10 minutes) during previous seismic surveys. Ramp-up would begin with the smallest airgun in the array (40 in3). The crew would add airguns in a sequence such that the source level of the array would increase in steps not exceeding E:\FR\FM\15JAN1.SGM 15JAN1 2182 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 10 / Friday, January 15, 2016 / Notices six dB per five minute period over a total duration of approximately 30 to 35 minutes. During ramp-up, the observers would monitor the exclusion zone, and if marine mammals are sighted, LamontDoherty would implement a powerdown or shut-down as though the full airgun array were operational. If the complete exclusion zone has not been visible for at least 30 minutes prior to the start of operations in either daylight or nighttime, Lamont-Doherty would not commence the ramp-up unless at least one airgun (40 in3 or similar) has been operating during the interruption of seismic survey operations. Given these provisions, it is likely that the crew would not ramp up the airgun array from a complete shutdown at night or in thick fog, because the outer part of the exclusion zone for that array would not be visible during those conditions. If one airgun has operated during a power-down period, ramp-up to full power would be permissible at night or in poor visibility, on the assumption that marine mammals would be alerted to the approaching seismic vessel by the sounds from the single airgun and could move away. Lamont-Doherty would not initiate a ramp-up of the airguns if an observer sights a marine mammal within or near the applicable exclusion zones. Special Procedures for Concentrations of Large Whales The Langseth would avoid exposing concentrations of large whales to sounds greater than 160 dB re: 1 mPa within the 160-dB zone and would power down the array, if necessary. For purposes of this proposed survey, a concentration or group of whales would consist of six or more individuals visually sighted that do not appear to be traveling (e.g., feeding, socializing, etc.). mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Speed and Course Alterations If during seismic data collection, Lamont-Doherty detects marine mammals outside the exclusion zone and, based on the animal’s position and direction of travel, is likely to enter the exclusion zone, the Langseth would change speed and/or direction if this does not compromise operational safety. Due to the limited maneuverability of the primary survey vessel, altering speed, and/or course can result in an extended period of time to realign the Langseth to the transect line. However, if the animal(s) appear likely to enter the exclusion zone, the Langseth would undertake further mitigation actions, including a power down or shut down of the airguns. VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:01 Jan 14, 2016 Jkt 238001 Mitigation Conclusions NMFS has carefully evaluated Lamont-Doherty’s proposed mitigation measures in the context of ensuring that we prescribe 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. Any mitigation measure(s) prescribed by NMFS should be able to accomplish, have a reasonable likelihood of accomplishing (based on current science), or contribute to the accomplishment of one or more of the general goals listed here: 1. Avoidance or minimization of injury or death of marine mammals wherever possible (goals 2, 3, and 4 may contribute to this goal). 2. A reduction in the numbers of marine mammals (total number or number at biologically important time or location) exposed to airgun operations that we expect to result in the take of marine mammals (this goal may contribute to 1, above, or to reducing harassment takes only). 3. A reduction in the number of times (total number or number at biologically important time or location) individuals would be exposed to airgun operations that we expect to result in the take of marine mammals (this goal may contribute to 1, above, or to reducing harassment takes only). 4. A reduction in the intensity of exposures (either total number or number at biologically important time or location) to airgun operations that we expect to result in the take of marine mammals (this goal may contribute to 1, above, or to reducing the severity of harassment takes only). 5. Avoidance or minimization of adverse effects to marine mammal habitat, paying special attention to the food base, activities that block or limit passage to or from biologically important areas, permanent destruction of habitat, or temporary destruction/ disturbance of habitat during a biologically important time. 6. For monitoring directly related to mitigation—an increase in the probability of detecting marine PO 00000 Frm 00023 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 mammals, thus allowing for more effective implementation of the mitigation. Based on the evaluation of LamontDoherty’s proposed measures, as well as other measures proposed by NMFS (i.e., special procedures for concentrations of large whales), NMFS has determined that the proposed 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 In order to issue an Incidental Harassment Authorization for an activity, section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA states that NMFS must 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 Authorizations 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 we expect to be present in the proposed action area. Lamont-Doherty submitted a marine mammal monitoring plan in section XIII of the Authorization application. NMFS, NSF, or Lamont-Doherty may modify or supplement the plan based on comments or new information received from the public during the public comment period. Monitoring measures prescribed by NMFS should accomplish one or more of the following general goals: 1. An increase in the probability of detecting marine mammals, both within the mitigation zone (thus allowing for more effective implementation of the mitigation) and during other times and locations, in order to generate more data to contribute to the analyses mentioned later; 2. An increase in our understanding of how many marine mammals would be affected by seismic airguns and other active acoustic sources and the likelihood of associating those exposures with specific adverse effects, such as behavioral harassment, temporary or permanent threshold shift; 3. An increase in our understanding of how marine mammals respond to stimuli that we expect to result in take and how those anticipated adverse effects on individuals (in different ways and to varying degrees) may impact the population, species, or stock (specifically through effects on annual E:\FR\FM\15JAN1.SGM 15JAN1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 10 / Friday, January 15, 2016 / Notices rates of recruitment or survival) through any of the following methods: a. Behavioral observations in the presence of stimuli compared to observations in the absence of stimuli (i.e., to be able to accurately predict received level, distance from source, and other pertinent information); b. Physiological measurements in the presence of stimuli compared to observations in the absence of stimuli (i.e., to be able to accurately predict received level, distance from source, and other pertinent information); c. Distribution and/or abundance comparisons in times or areas with concentrated stimuli versus times or areas without stimuli; 4. An increased knowledge of the affected species; and 5. An increase in our understanding of the effectiveness of certain mitigation and monitoring measures. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Monitoring Measures Lamont-Doherty proposes to sponsor marine mammal monitoring during the present project to supplement the mitigation measures that require realtime monitoring, and to satisfy the monitoring requirements of the Authorization. Lamont-Doherty understands that NMFS would review the monitoring plan and may require refinements to the plan. LamontDoherty planned the monitoring work as a self-contained project independent of any other related monitoring projects that may occur in the same regions at the same time. Further, Lamont-Doherty is prepared to discuss coordination of its monitoring program with any other related work that might be conducted by other groups working insofar as it is practical for Lamont-Doherty. Vessel-Based Passive Acoustic Monitoring Passive acoustic monitoring would complement the visual mitigation monitoring program, when practicable. Visual monitoring typically is not effective during periods of poor visibility or at night, and even with good visibility, is unable to detect marine mammals when they are below the surface or beyond visual range. Passive acoustic monitoring can improve detection, identification, and localization of cetaceans when used in conjunction with visual observations. The passive acoustic monitoring would serve to alert visual observers (if on duty) when vocalizing cetaceans are detected. It is only useful when marine mammals call, but it can be effective either by day or by night, and does not depend on good visibility. The acoustic observer would monitor the system in VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:01 Jan 14, 2016 Jkt 238001 real time so that he/she can advise the visual observers if they acoustically detect cetaceans. The passive acoustic monitoring system consists of hardware (i.e., hydrophones) and software. The ‘‘wet end’’ of the system consists of a towed hydrophone array connected to the vessel by a tow cable. The tow cable is 250 m (820.2 ft) long and the hydrophones are fitted in the last 10 m (32.8 ft) of cable. A depth gauge, attached to the free end of the cable, typically is towed at depths less than 20 m (65.6 ft). The Langseth crew would deploy the array from a winch located on the back deck. A deck cable would connect the tow cable to the electronics unit in the main computer lab where the acoustic station, signal conditioning, and processing system would be located. The Pamguard software amplifies, digitizes, and then processes the acoustic signals received by the hydrophones. The system can detect marine mammal vocalizations at frequencies up to 250 kHz. One acoustic observer, an expert bioacoustician with primary responsibility for the passive acoustic monitoring system would be aboard the Langseth in addition to the other visual observers who would rotate monitoring duties. The acoustic observer would monitor the towed hydrophones 24 hours per day during airgun operations and during most periods when the Langseth is underway while the airguns are not operating. However, passive acoustic monitoring may not be possible if damage occurs to both the primary and back-up hydrophone arrays during operations. The primary passive acoustic monitoring streamer on the Langseth is a digital hydrophone streamer. Should the digital streamer fail, back-up systems should include an analog spare streamer and a hullmounted hydrophone. One acoustic observer would monitor the acoustic detection system by listening to the signals from two channels via headphones and/or speakers and watching the real-time spectrographic display for frequency ranges produced by cetaceans. The observer monitoring the acoustical data would be on shift for one to six hours at a time. The other observers would rotate as an acoustic observer, although the expert acoustician would be on passive acoustic monitoring duty more frequently. When the acoustic observer detects a vocalization while visual observations are in progress, the acoustic observer on duty would contact the visual observer immediately, to alert him/her to the presence of cetaceans (if they have not PO 00000 Frm 00024 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 2183 already been seen), so that the vessel’s crew can initiate a power down or shutdown, if required. The observer would enter the information regarding the call into a database. Data entry would include an acoustic encounter identification number, whether it was linked with a visual sighting, date, time when first and last heard and whenever any additional information was recorded, position and water depth when first detected, bearing if determinable, species or species group (e.g., unidentified dolphin, sperm whale), types and nature of sounds heard (e.g., clicks, continuous, sporadic, whistles, creaks, burst pulses, strength of signal, etc.), and any other notable information. Acousticians record the acoustic detection for further analysis. Observer Data and Documentation Observers would record data to estimate the numbers of marine mammals exposed to various received sound levels and to document apparent disturbance reactions or lack thereof. They would use the data to help better understand the impacts of the activity on marine mammals and to estimate numbers of animals potentially ‘taken’ by harassment (as defined in the MMPA). They will also provide information needed to order a power down or shut down of the airguns when a marine mammal is within or near the exclusion zone. When an observer makes a sighting, they will record the following information: 1. Species, group size, age/size/sex categories (if determinable), behavior when first sighted and after initial sighting, heading (if consistent), bearing and distance from seismic vessel, sighting cue, apparent reaction to the airguns or vessel (e.g., none, avoidance, approach, paralleling, etc.), and behavioral pace. 2. Time, location, heading, speed, activity of the vessel, sea state, visibility, and sun glare. The observer will record the data listed under (2) at the start and end of each observation watch, and during a watch whenever there is a change in one or more of the variables. Observers will record all observations and power downs or shutdowns in a standardized format and will enter data into an electronic database. The observers will verify the accuracy of the data entry by computerized data validity checks during data entry and by subsequent manual checking of the database. These procedures will allow the preparation of initial summaries of data during and shortly after the field program, and will facilitate transfer of E:\FR\FM\15JAN1.SGM 15JAN1 2184 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 10 / Friday, January 15, 2016 / Notices the data to statistical, graphical, and other programs for further processing and archiving. Results from the vessel-based observations will provide: 1. The basis for real-time mitigation (airgun power down or shutdown). 2. Information needed to estimate the number of marine mammals potentially taken by harassment, which LamontDoherty must report to the Office of Protected Resources. 3. Data on the occurrence, distribution, and activities of marine mammals and turtles in the area where Lamont-Doherty would conduct the seismic study. 4. Information to compare the distance and distribution of marine mammals and turtles relative to the source vessel at times with and without seismic activity. 5. Data on the behavior and movement patterns of marine mammals detected during non-active and active seismic operations. Reporting Lamont-Doherty would submit a report to us and to NSF within 90 days after the end of the cruise. The report would describe the operations conducted and sightings of marine mammals near the operations. The report would provide full documentation of methods, results, and interpretation pertaining to all monitoring. The 90-day report would summarize the dates and locations of seismic operations, and all marine mammal sightings (dates, times, locations, activities, associated seismic survey activities). The report would also include estimates of the number and nature of exposures that occurred above the harassment threshold based on the observations. The report would consider both published literature and previous monitoring results that could inform the detectability of different species and how that information affects post survey exposure estimates. In the unanticipated event that the specified activity clearly causes the take of a marine mammal in a manner not permitted by the authorization (if issued), such as an injury, serious injury, or mortality (e.g., ship-strike, gear interaction, and/or entanglement), Lamont-Doherty shall immediately cease the specified activities and immediately report the take to the Division Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS. The report must include the following information: • Time, date, and location (latitude/ longitude) of the incident; • Name and type of vessel involved; • Vessel’s speed during and leading up to the incident; • Description of the incident; • Status of all sound source use in the 24 hours preceding the incident; • Water depth; • Environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, Beaufort sea state, cloud cover, and visibility); • Description of all marine mammal observations in the 24 hours preceding the incident; • Species identification or description of the animal(s) involved; • Fate of the animal(s); and • Photographs or video footage of the animal(s) (if equipment is available). Lamont-Doherty shall not resume its activities until we are able to review the circumstances of the prohibited take. We shall work with Lamont-Doherty to determine what is necessary to minimize the likelihood of further prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. Lamont-Doherty may not resume their activities until notified by us via letter, email, or telephone. In the event that Lamont-Doherty discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the lead visual observer determines that the cause of the injury or death is unknown and the death is relatively recent (i.e., in less than a moderate state of decomposition as we describe in the next paragraph), LamontDoherty will immediately report the incident to the Division Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS. The report must include the same information identified in the paragraph above this section. Activities may continue while NMFS reviews the circumstances of the incident. NMFS would work with Lamont-Doherty to determine whether modifications in the activities are appropriate. In the event that Lamont-Doherty discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the lead visual observer determines that the injury or death is not associated with or related to the authorized activities (e.g., previously wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced decomposition, or scavenger damage), Lamont-Doherty would report the incident to the Chief Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, within 24 hours of the discovery. Lamont-Doherty would provide photographs or video footage (if available) or other documentation of the stranded animal sighting to NMFS. Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, section 3(18) of 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]. Acoustic stimuli (i.e., increased underwater sound) generated during the operation of the airgun array may have the potential to result in the behavioral disturbance of some marine mammals and may have an even smaller potential to result in permanent threshold shift (non-lethal injury) of some marine mammals. NMFS expects that the proposed mitigation and monitoring measures would minimize the possibility of injurious or lethal takes. However, NMFS cannot discount the possibility (albeit small) that exposure to energy from the proposed survey could result in non-lethal injury (Level A harassment). Thus, NMFS proposes to authorize take by Level B harassment and Level A harassment resulting from the operation of the sound sources for the proposed seismic survey based upon the current acoustic exposure criteria shown in Table 3 subject to the limitations in take described in Table 5 later in this notice. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES TABLE 3—NMFS’ CURRENT ACOUSTIC EXPOSURE CRITERIA Criterion Criterion definition Threshold Level A Harassment (Injury) ............................... Permanent Threshold Shift (PTS) ................... (Any level above that which is known to cause TTS). Behavioral Disruption (for impulse noises) ...... 180 dB re 1 microPa-m (cetaceans)/190 dB re 1 microPa-m (pinnipeds) root mean square (rms). 160 dB re 1 microPa-m (rms). Level B Harassment ........................................... VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:01 Jan 14, 2016 Jkt 238001 PO 00000 Frm 00025 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 E:\FR\FM\15JAN1.SGM 15JAN1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 10 / Friday, January 15, 2016 / Notices mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES NMFS’ practice is to apply the 160 dB re: 1 mPa received level threshold for underwater impulse sound levels to predict whether behavioral disturbance that rises to the level of Level B harassment is likely to occur. NMFS’ practice is to apply the 180 dB or 190 dB re: 1 mPa received level threshold for underwater impulse sound levels to predict whether permanent threshold shift (auditory injury), which we consider as Level A harassment is likely to occur. Acknowledging Uncertainties in Estimating Take Given the many uncertainties in predicting the quantity and types of impacts of sound on marine mammals, it is common practice to estimate how many animals are likely to be present within a particular distance of a given activity, or exposed to a particular level of sound, and use that information to predict how many animals are taken. In practice, depending on the amount of information available to characterize daily and seasonal movement and distribution of affected marine mammals, distinguishing between the numbers of individuals harassed and the instances of harassment can be difficult to parse. Moreover, when one considers the duration of the activity, in the absence of information to predict the degree to which individual animals are likely exposed repeatedly on subsequent days, the simple assumption is that entirely new animals are exposed every day, which results in a take estimate that in some circumstances overestimates the number of individuals harassed. The following sections describe NMFS’ methods to estimate take by incidental harassment. We base these estimates on the number of marine mammals that could be potentially harassed by seismic operations with the airgun array during approximately 3,236 km (2,028 mi) of transect lines in the South Atlantic Ocean. Modeled Number of Instances of Exposures: Lamont-Doherty would conduct the proposed seismic survey within the high seas in the South Atlantic Ocean. NMFS presents estimates of the anticipated numbers of instances that marine mammals could be exposed to sound levels greater than or equal to 160, 180, and 190 dB re: 1 mPa during the proposed seismic survey. Table 5 represents the numbers of instances of take that NMFS proposes to authorize for this survey within the South Atlantic Ocean. NMFS’ Take Estimate Method for Species with Density Information: In order to estimate the potential number VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:01 Jan 14, 2016 Jkt 238001 of instances that marine mammals could be exposed to airgun sounds above the 160-dB Level B harassment threshold and the 180-dB Level A harassment thresholds, NMFS used the following approach for species with density estimates derived from the Navy’s Atlantic Fleet Training and Testing Navy Marine Species Density Database (NMSDD) maps for the survey area in the Southern Atlantic Ocean. NMFS used the highest density range for each species within the survey area. (1) Calculate the total area that the Langseth would ensonify above the 160dB Level B harassment threshold and above the 180-dB Level A harassment threshold for cetaceans within a 24-hour period. This calculation includes a daily ensonified area of approximately 1,377 square kilometers (km2) (532 square miles [mi2]) for the five OBS tracklines and 1,839 km2 (710 mi2) for the MCS trackline based on the Langseth traveling approximately 150 km [93 mi] in one day). Generally, the Langseth travels approximately 137 km (85 mi) in one day while conducting a seismic survey; thus, NMFS’ estimate of a daily ensonified area based on 150 km is an estimation of the theoretical maximum that the Langseth could travel within 24 hours. (2) Multiply each daily ensonified area above the 160-dB Level B harassment threshold by the species’ density (animals/km2) to derive the predicted number of instances of exposures to received levels greater than or equal to 160-dB re: 1 mPa on a given day; (3) Multiply each product (i.e., the expected number of instances of exposures within a day) by the number of survey days that includes a 25 percent contingency (i.e., a total of six days for the five OBS tracklines and a total of 22 days for the MCS trackline) to derive the predicted number of instances of exposures above 160 dB over the duration of the survey; (4) Multiply the daily ensonified area by each species-specific density to derive the predicted number of instances of exposures to received levels greater than or equal to 180-dB re: 1 mPa for cetaceans on a given day (i.e., Level A takes). This calculation includes a daily ensonified area of approximately 207 km2 (80 mi2) for the five OBS tracklines and 281 km2 (108 mi2) for the MCS trackline. (5) Multiply each product by the number of survey days that includes a 25 percent contingency (i.e., a total of six days for the five OBS tracklines and a total of 22 days for the MCS trackline). Subtract that product from the predicted number of instances of exposures to PO 00000 Frm 00026 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 2185 received levels greater than or equal to 160-dB re: 1 mPa on a given day to derive the number of instances of exposures estimated to occur between 160 and 180-dB threshold (i.e., Level B takes). In many cases, this estimate of instances of exposures is likely an overestimate of the number of individuals that are taken, because it assumes 100 percent turnover in the area every day, (i.e., that each new day results in takes of entirely new individuals with no repeat takes of the same individuals over the 22-day period (28 days with contingency). It is difficult to quantify to what degree this method overestimates the number of individuals potentially taken. Except as described later for a few specific species, NMFS uses this number of instances as the estimate of individuals (and authorized take) even though NMFS is aware that the number may be somewhat high due to the use of the maximum density estimate from the NMSDD. Take Estimates for Species with Less than One Instance of Exposure: Using the approach described earlier, the model generated instances of take for some species that were less than one over the 28-day duration. Those species include the humpback, blue, Bryde’s, pygmy sperm, and dwarf sperm whale. NMFS used data based on dedicated survey sighting information from the Atlantic Marine Assessment Program for Protected Species (AMAPPS) surveys in 2010, 2011, and 2013 (AMAPPS, 2010, 2011, 2013) to estimate take and assumed that Lamont-Doherty could potentially encounter one group of each species during the proposed seismic survey. NMFS believes it is reasonable to use the average (mean) group size (weighted by effort and rounded up) from the AMMAPS surveys for humpback whale (3), blue whale (2), Bryde’s whale (2), pygmy sperm whale (2), and dwarf sperm whale (2) to derive a reasonable estimate of take for eruptive occurrences. Take Estimates for Species with No Density Information: Density information for the Southern right whale, southern elephant seal, and Subantarctic fur seal in the South Atlantic Ocean is data poor or nonexistent. When density estimates were not available, NMFS used data based on dedicated survey sighting information from the Atlantic Marine Assessment Program for Protected Species (AMAPPS) surveys in 2010, 2011, and 2013 (AMAPPS, 2010, 2011, 2013) to estimate take for the three species. NMFS assumed that Lamont-Doherty could potentially encounter one group E:\FR\FM\15JAN1.SGM 15JAN1 2186 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 10 / Friday, January 15, 2016 / Notices of each species during the seismic survey. NMFS believes it is reasonable to use the average (mean) group size (weighted by effort and rounded up) for North Atlantic right whales (3) from the AMMAPS surveys for the Southern right whale and the mean group size for unidentified seals (2) from the AMMAPS surveys for southern elephant and Subantarctic fur seals multiplied by 28 days to derive an estimate of take from a potential encounter. NMFS used sighting information from a survey off Namibia, Africa (Rose and Payne, 1991) to estimate a mean group size for southern right whale dolphins (58) and also multiplied that estimate by 28 days to derive an estimate of take from a potential encounter with that species. TABLE 4—DENSITIES AND/OR MEAN GROUP SIZE, AND ESTIMATES OF THE POSSIBLE NUMBERS OF MARINE MAMMALS AND POPULATION PERCENTAGES EXPOSED TO SOUND LEVELS GREATER THAN OR EQUAL TO 160, 180, AND 190 dB re: 1 μPa OVER 28 DAYS DURING THE PROPOSED SEISMIC SURVEY IN THE SOUTH ATLANTIC OCEAN [January through March, 2016] Density estimate 1 Species mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Antarctic minke whale ...................................... Blue whale ........................................................ Bryde’s whale ................................................... Common minke whale ...................................... Fin whale .......................................................... Humpback whale .............................................. Sei whale .......................................................... Southern right whale ........................................ Sperm whale .................................................... Dwarf sperm whale .......................................... Pygmy sperm whale ......................................... Cuvier’s beaked whale ..................................... Andrew’s beaked whale ................................... Arnoux’s beaked whale .................................... Blainville’s beaked whale ................................. Gervais’ beaked whale ..................................... Gray’s beaked whale ........................................ Hector’s beaked whale ..................................... Shepherd’s beaked whale ................................ Strap-toothed beaked whale ............................ True’s beaked whale ........................................ Southern bottlenose whale ............................... Bottlenose dolphin ............................................ Rough-toothed dolphin ..................................... Pantropical spotted dolphin .............................. Striped dolphin ................................................. Fraser’s dolphin ................................................ Spinner dolphin ................................................ Atlantic spotted dolphin .................................... Clymene dolphin ............................................... Risso’s dolphin ................................................. Long-beaked common dolphin ......................... Short-beaked common dolphin ........................ Southern right whale dolphin ........................... Melon-headed whale ........................................ Pygmy killer whale ........................................... False killer whale .............................................. Killer whale ....................................................... Long-finned pilot whale .................................... Short-finned pilot whale .................................... Southern Elephant Seal ................................... Subantarctic fur seal ........................................ 0.054983 0.000032 0.000262 0.054983 0.002888 0.000078 0.002688 NA 0.001214 0.000041 0.000021 0.003831 0.000511 0.000956 0.000663 0.001334 0.000944 0.000246 0.000816 0.000638 0.000876 0.000917 0.020744 0.000418 0.003674 0.174771 0.001568 0.006255 0.077173 0.000258 0.037399 0.000105 0.129873 NA 0.006285 0.001039 0.000158 0.003312 0.007614 0.015616 NA NA Modeled number of instances of exposures to sound levels ≥160, 180, and 190 dB 2 2,276, 396, 2, 0, 2, 0, 2,276, 396, 106, 28, 3, 0, 106, 28, 18, 0, 50, 0, 2, 0, 2, 0, 156, 28, 28, 0, 28, 0, 28, 0, 56, 0, 28, 0, 0, 0, 28, 0, 28, 0, 28, 0, 28, 0, 848, 156, 22, 0, 156, 28, 7,208, 1,294, 56, 0, 262, 50, 3,180, 580, 0, 0, 1,540, 290, 0, 0, 5,356, 954, 1,624, 0, 262, 50, 50, 0, 0, 0, 134, 28, 318, 56, 636, 106, 56, 0, 0 56, 0, 0 Proposed Level A take 3 Proposed Level B take 3 396 0 0 396 28 0 28 0 0 0 0 28 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 156 0 28 1,294 0 50 580 0 290 0 954 0 50 0 0 28 56 106 0 0 2,276 2 2 2,276 106 3 106 18 50 2 2 156 28 28 28 56 28 0 28 28 28 28 848 22 156 7,208 56 262 3,180 0 1,540 0 5,356 1,624 262 50 0 134 318 636 56 56 Percent of population 4 0.519 0.074 0.005 0.519 0.609 0.200 1.340 0.150 0.014 0.053 0.053 0.031 0.005 0.005 0.005 0.009 0.005 0.000 0.005 0.005 0.005 0.005 0.167 8.118 5.521 15.513 0.019 0.026 8.409 0.000 8.844 0.000 3.637 Unknown 0.624 1.395 0.000 0.324 0.187 0.371 0.009 0.018 Population trend 5 Unknown. Unknown. Unknown. Unknown. Unknown. ↑. Unknown. Unknown. Unknown. Unknown. Unknown. Unknown. Unknown. Unknown. Unknown. Unknown. Unknown. Unknown. Unknown. Unknown. Unknown. Unknown. Unknown. Unknown. Unknown. Unknown. Unknown. Unknown. Unknown. Unknown. Unknown. Unknown. Unknown. Unknown. Unknown. Unknown. Unknown. Unknown. Unknown. Unknown. Unknown. Unknown. 1 Densities (where available) are expressed as number of individuals per km2. Densities estimated from the Navy’s Atlantic Fleet Training and Testing Navy Marine Species Density Database maps for the survey area in the Southern Atlantic Ocean. NA = Not available. 2 See preceding text for information on NMFS’ take estimate calculations. NA = Not applicable. 3 Modeled instances of exposures include adjustments for species with no density information. The Level A estimates are overestimates of predicted impacts to marine mammals as the estimates do not take into consideration the required mitigation measures for shutdowns or power downs if a marine mammal is likely to enter the 180 dB exclusion zone while the airguns are active. 4 Table 2 in this notice lists the stock species abundance estimates used in calculating the percentage of the population. 5 Population trend information from Waring et al., 2015. ↑= Increasing. ↓ = Decreasing. Unknown = Insufficient data. Lamont-Doherty did not estimate any additional take from sound sources VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:01 Jan 14, 2016 Jkt 238001 other than airguns. NMFS does not expect the sound levels produced by the PO 00000 Frm 00027 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 echosounder and sub-bottom profiler to exceed the sound levels produced by E:\FR\FM\15JAN1.SGM 15JAN1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 10 / Friday, January 15, 2016 / Notices the airguns. Lamont-Doherty will not operate the multibeam echosounder and sub-bottom profiler during transits to and from the survey area, (i.e., when the airguns are not operating) and in between transits to each of the five OBS tracklines, and, therefore, NMFS does not anticipate additional takes from these sources in this particular case. NMFS considers the probability for entanglement of marine mammals as low because of the vessel speed and the monitoring efforts onboard the survey vessel. Therefore, NMFS does not believe it is necessary to authorize additional takes for entanglement at this time. The Langseth will operate at a relatively slow speed (typically 4.6 knots [8.5 km/h; 5.3 mph]) when conducting the survey. Protected species observers would monitor for marine mammals, which would trigger mitigation measures, including vessel avoidance where safe. Therefore, NMFS does not anticipate nor do we authorize takes of marine mammals from vessel strike. There is no evidence that the planned survey activities could result in serious injury or mortality within the specified geographic area for the requested proposed Authorization. The required mitigation and monitoring measures would minimize any potential risk for serious injury or mortality. Analysis and Determinations mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Negligible Impact Negligible impact is ‘‘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’’ (50 CFR 216.103). The lack of likely adverse effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival (i.e., population level effects) forms the basis of a negligible impact finding. Thus, an estimate of the number of takes, alone, is not enough information on which to base an impact determination. In addition to considering estimates of the number of marine mammals that might be ‘‘taken’’ through behavioral harassment, NMFS must consider other factors, such as the likely nature of any responses (their intensity, duration, etc.), the context of any responses (critical reproductive time or location, migration, etc.), as well as the number and nature of estimated Level A harassment takes, the number of estimated mortalities, effects on habitat, and the status of the species. In making a negligible impact determination, NMFS considers: VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:01 Jan 14, 2016 Jkt 238001 • The number of anticipated injuries, serious injuries, or mortalities; • The number, nature, and intensity, and duration of harassment; and • The context in which the takes occur (e.g., impacts to areas of significance, impacts to local populations, and cumulative impacts when taking into account successive/ contemporaneous actions when added to baseline data); • The status of stock or species of marine mammals (i.e., depleted, not depleted, decreasing, increasing, stable, impact relative to the size of the population); • Impacts on habitat affecting rates of recruitment/survival; and • The effectiveness of monitoring and mitigation measures to reduce the number or severity of incidental takes. To avoid repetition, our analysis applies to all the species listed in Table 5, given that NMFS expects the anticipated effects of the seismic airguns to be similar in nature. Where there are meaningful differences between species or stocks, or groups of species, in anticipated individual responses to activities, impact of expected take on the population due to differences in population status, or impacts on habitat, NMFS has identified species-specific factors to inform the analysis. Given the required mitigation and related monitoring, NMFS does not anticipate that serious injury or mortality would occur as a result of Lamont-Doherty’s proposed seismic survey in the South Atlantic Ocean. Thus the proposed authorization does not authorize any mortality. NMFS’ predicted estimates for Level A harassment take for some species are likely overestimates of the injury that will occur. NMFS expects that successful implementation of the required visual and acoustic mitigation measures would avoid Level A take in some instances. Also, NMFS expects that some individuals would avoid the source at levels expected to result in injury. Nonetheless, although NMFS expects that Level A harassment is unlikely to occur at the numbers proposed to be authorized, because it is difficult to quantify the degree to which the mitigation and avoidance will reduce the number of animals that might incur PTS, we are proposing to authorize, and have included in our analyses, the modeled number of Level A takes, which does not take the mitigation or avoidance into consideration. However, because of the constant movement of the Langseth and the animals, as well as the fact that the boat is not staying in any one area in which individuals would be expected to PO 00000 Frm 00028 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 2187 concentrate for any long amount of time (i.e., since the duration of exposure to loud sounds will be relatively short), we anticipate that any PTS incurred would be in the form of only a small degree of permanent threshold shift and not total deafness. Of the marine mammal species under our jurisdiction that are known to occur or likely to occur in the study area, the following species are listed as endangered under the ESA: Blue, fin, humpback, sei, Southern right whale, and sperm whales. The western north Atlantic population of humpback whales is known to be increasing. The other marine mammal species that may be taken by harassment during LamontDoherty’s seismic survey program are not listed as threatened or endangered under the ESA. Cetaceans. Odontocete reactions to seismic energy pulses are usually thought to be limited to shorter distances from the airgun(s) than are those of mysticetes, in part because odontocete low-frequency hearing is assumed to be less sensitive than that of mysticetes. Given sufficient notice through relatively slow ship speed, NMFS generally expects marine mammals to move away from a noise source that is annoying prior to becoming potentially injurious, although Level A takes for a small group of species are proposed for authorization here. Potential impacts to marine mammal habitat were discussed previously in this document (see the ‘‘Anticipated Effects on Habitat’’ section). Although some disturbance is possible to food sources of marine mammals, the impacts are anticipated to be minor enough as to not affect annual rates of recruitment or survival of marine mammals in the area. Based on the size of the South Atlantic Ocean where feeding by marine mammals occurs versus the localized area of the marine survey activities, any missed feeding opportunities in the direct project area will be minor based on the fact that other feeding areas exist elsewhere. Taking into account the planned mitigation measures, effects on cetaceans are generally expected to be restricted to avoidance of a limited area around the survey operation and shortterm changes in behavior, falling within the MMPA definition of ‘‘Level B harassment.’’ Animals are not expected to permanently abandon any area that is surveyed, and any behaviors that are interrupted during the activity are expected to resume once the activity ceases. Only a small portion of marine mammal habitat will be affected at any time, and other areas within the South E:\FR\FM\15JAN1.SGM 15JAN1 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES 2188 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 10 / Friday, January 15, 2016 / Notices Atlantic Ocean would be available for necessary biological functions. Pinnipeds. During foraging trips, extralimital pinnipeds may not react at all to the sound from the proposed survey, ignore the stimulus, change their behavior, or avoid the immediate area by swimming away or diving. Behavioral responses can range from a mild orienting response, or a shifting of attention, to flight and panic. Research and observations show that pinnipeds in the water are tolerant of anthropogenic noise and activity. They may react in a number of ways depending on their experience with the sound source and what activity they are engaged in at the time of the exposure. Significant behavioral effects are more likely at higher received levels within a few kilometers of the source and activities involving sound from the proposed survey would not occur near any haulout areas where resting behaviors occur. Many animals perform vital functions, such as feeding, resting, traveling, and socializing, on a diel cycle (i.e., 24 hour cycle). Behavioral reactions to noise exposure (such as disruption of critical life functions, displacement, or avoidance of important habitat) are more likely to be significant if they last more than one diel cycle or recur on subsequent days (Southall et al., 2007). While NMFS anticipates that the seismic operations would occur on consecutive days and the duration of the survey would last no more than 28 days, the seismic operations would increase sound levels in the marine environment in a relatively small area surrounding the vessel (compared to the range of most of the marine mammals within the proposed survey area), which is constantly travelling over distances, and some animals may only be exposed to and harassed by sound for less than a day. For reasons stated previously in this document and based on the following factors, Lamont-Doherty’s specified activities are not likely to cause longterm behavioral disturbance, serious injury, or death, or other effects that would be expected to adversely affect reproduction or survival of any individuals. They include: • The anticipated impacts of LamontDoherty’s survey activities on marine mammals are temporary behavioral changes due, primarily, to avoidance of the area; • The likelihood that, given the constant movement of boat and animals and the nature of the survey design (not concentrated in areas of high marine mammal concentration), PTS incurred would be of a low level; VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:01 Jan 14, 2016 Jkt 238001 • The availability of alternate areas of similar habitat value for marine mammals to temporarily vacate the survey area during the operation of the airgun(s) to avoid acoustic harassment; • The expectation that the seismic survey would have no more than a temporary and minimal adverse effect on any fish or invertebrate species that serve as prey species for marine mammals, and therefore consider the potential impacts to marine mammal habitat minimal; and • The knowledge that the survey is taking place in the open ocean and not located within an area of biological importance for breeding, calving, or foraging for marine mammals. Table 4 in this document outlines the number of requested Level A and Level B harassment takes that we anticipate as a result of these activities. Required mitigation measures, such as special shutdowns for large whales, vessel speed, course alteration, and visual monitoring would be implemented to help reduce impacts to marine mammals. Based on the analysis herein of the likely effects of the specified activity on marine mammals and their habitat, and taking into consideration the implementation of the proposed monitoring and mitigation measures, NMFS finds that LamontDoherty’s proposed seismic survey would have a negligible impact on the affected marine mammal species or stocks. Small Numbers As mentioned previously, NMFS estimates that Lamont-Doherty’s activities could potentially affect, by Level B harassment, 38 species of marine mammals under our jurisdiction. NMFS estimates that Lamont-Doherty’s activities could potentially affect, by Level A harassment, up to 16 species of marine mammals under our jurisdiction. For each species, the numbers of take being proposed for authorization are small numbers relative to the population sizes: Less than 16 percent for striped dolphins, less than 8 percent of Risso’s dolphins, less than 6 percent for pantropical spotted dolphins, and less than 4 percent for all other species. NMFS has provided the regional population and take estimates for the marine mammal species that may be taken by Level A and Level B harassment in Table 4 in this notice. NMFS finds that the proposed incidental take described in Table 4 for the proposed activity would be limited to small numbers relative to the affected species or stocks. PO 00000 Frm 00029 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 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. Endangered Species Act (ESA) There are six marine mammal species listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act that may occur in the proposed survey area. Under section 7 of the ESA, NSF initiated formal consultation with NMFS on the proposed seismic survey. NMFS (i.e., National Marine Fisheries Service, Office of Protected Resources, Permits and Conservation Division) also consulted internally with NMFS on the proposed issuance of an Authorization under section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA. In January, 2016, the Endangered Species Act Interagency Cooperation Division issued a Biological Opinion with an Incidental Take Statement to us and to the NSF, which concluded that the issuance of the Authorization and the conduct of the seismic survey were not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of blue, fin, humpback, sei, South Atlantic right and sperm whales. The Biological Opinion also concluded that the issuance of the Authorization and the conduct of the seismic survey would not affect designated critical habitat for these species. National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) NSF has prepared an environmental analysis titled ‘‘Environmental Analysis of a Marine Geophysical Survey by the R/V Marcus G. Langseth in South Atlantic Ocean, Austral Summer 2016.’’ NMFS has also prepared an environmental assessment (EA) titled, ‘‘Proposed Issuance of an Incidental Harassment Authorization to Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory to Take Marine Mammals by Harassment Incidental to a Marine Geophysical Survey in the South Atlantic Ocean, January–March 2016,’’ which tiers off of NSF’s environmental analysis. NMFS and NSF provided relevant environmental information to the public through the notice of proposed Authorization (80 FR 75355, December 1, 2015) and considered public comments received prior to finalizing our EA and deciding whether or not to issue a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI). NMFS concluded that issuance of an Incidental Harassment Authorization to Lamont-Doherty would not significantly affect the quality of the human environment and prepared and E:\FR\FM\15JAN1.SGM 15JAN1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 10 / Friday, January 15, 2016 / Notices issued a FONSI in accordance with NEPA and NOAA Administrative Order 216–6. NMFS’ EA and FONSI for this activity are available upon request (see ADDRESSES). Authorization NMFS has issued an Incidental Harassment Authorization to LamontDoherty for the take of marine mammals, incidental to conducting a marine seismic survey in the South Atlantic Ocean January through March 2016. Dated: January 11, 2016. Perry F. Gayaldo, Deputy Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2016–00660 Filed 1–14–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XE396 Endangered and Threatened Species; Take of Anadromous Fish National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Issuance seven new scientific research permits, and fourteen renewal scientific research permits. AGENCY: Notice is hereby given that NMFS has issued Permit 1440–2R to the Interagency Ecological Program (IEP); Permit 13675–2R to the Fishery Foundation of California (FFC); Permit 13791–2R to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Stockton Fish and Wildlife Office (SFWO); Permit 14516–2R to Dr. Jerry Smith, Associate Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at San Jose State University; Permit 15215 to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), Fisheries Branch, Fish Health Laboratory; Permit 16274 to the Mendocino Redwood Company (MRC); Permit 17063 to the United States Forest Service (USFS), Redwood Sciences Laboratory; Permit 17077–2R to Dr. Peter Moyle, with the University of California at Davis, Department of Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology; Permit 17219 and Permit 19320 to the NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC), Fisheries Ecology Division; Permit 17272 to the USFWS, Arcata Fish and Wildlife Office Fisheries Program (AFWO); Permit 17351 to the Green Diamond Resource Company (GDRC); Permit 17396 to the mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:01 Jan 14, 2016 Jkt 238001 USFWS, Anadromous Fish Restoration Program (AFRP); Permit 17867 to the Humboldt Redwood Company (HRC); Permit 17877 to the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR); Permit 17916 to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Arcata Field Office; Permit 18012 to the CDFW, Bay Delta Region; Permit 18712 to H.T. Harvey & Associates; Permit 18937 to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, California Sea Grant College Program (CSGCP); Permit 19121 to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), California Water Survey; and Permit 19400 to ICF consulting. ADDRESSES: The approved application for each permit is available on the Applications and Permits for Protected Species (APPS), https:// apps.nmfs.noaa.gov Web site by searching the permit number within the Search Database page. The applications, issued permits and supporting documents are also available upon written request or by appointment: Protected Resources Division, NMFS, 777 Sonoma Avenue, Room 325, Santa Rosa, CA 95404 ph: (707) 575–6080, fax: (707) 578–3435). FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jeff Abrams, Santa Rosa, CA (ph.: 707–575– 6080), Fax: 707–578–3435, email: Jeff.Abrams@noaa.gov). SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The issuance of permits and permit modifications, as required by the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. 1531–1543) (ESA), is based on a finding that such permits/modifications: (1) Are applied for in good faith; (2) would not operate to the disadvantage of the listed species which are the subject of the permits; and (3) are consistent with the purposes and policies set forth in section 2 of the ESA. Authority to take listed species is subject to conditions set forth in the permits. Permits and modifications are issued in accordance with and are subject to the ESA and NMFS regulations (50 CFR parts 222–226) governing listed fish and wildlife permits. Species Covered in This Notice The following listed species are covered in this notice: Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha): Threatened Snake River spring/summer-run (SR spr/sum); threatened Lower Columbia River (LCR);threatened California Coastal (CC); threatened Central Valley springrun (CVSR); endangered Sacramento River winter-run (SRWR). Coho salmon (O. kisutch): Threatened Southern Oregon/Northern California PO 00000 Frm 00030 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 2189 Coast (SONCC); endangered Central California Coast (CCC). Steelhead (O. mykiss): Threatened Northern California (NC); threatened CCC; threatened California Central Valley (CCV); threatened South-Central California Coast (S–CCC); endangered Southern California (SC). North American green sturgeon (Acipenser medisrostris): Threatened southern distinct population segment (sDPS). Eulachon (Thaleichthys pacificus): threatened sDPS. Permits Issued Permit 1440–2R A notice of receipt of an application for scientific research permit renewal (1440–2R) was published in the Federal Register on July 29, 2015 (80 FR 45197). Permit 1440–2R was issued to IEP on December 23, 2015 and expires on December 31, 2020. Permit 1440–2R authorizes IEP to take CVSR Chinook salmon, SRWR Chinook salmon, CCV steelhead, CCC steelhead and sDPS green sturgeon while conducting 11 surveys in the San Francisco Bay-Delta region. The studies examine the abundance, and temporal and spatial distribution of various life stages of pelagic fishes of management concern, including listed species, and their food (e.g., zooplankton) resources, along with environmental conditions. These IEP studies are intended to monitor/inform the effectiveness of water operations, aquatic habitat restoration, and fish management practices, thereby providing a benefit to listed fish. The 11 studies included are: (1) Adult Striped Bass, a striped bass population study; (2) Fall Midwater Trawl, which monitors the relative abundance of native and introduced fish species; (3) Sturgeon Tagging, a white sturgeon tagging program; (4) Summer Townet, which targets delta smelt and young-of-the-year striped bass; (5) Estuarine and Marine Fish, a San Francisco Bay trawl study; (6) 20mm Survey, a study to monitor juvenile delta smelt distribution and relative abundance; (7) Yolo Bypass, a research effort to understand fish and invertebrate use of the Yolo Bypass seasonal floodplain; (8) Upper Estuary Zooplankton, which targets multiple zooplankters; (9) Spring Kodiak Trawl, which determines the relative abundance and distribution of spawning delta smelt; (10) Suisun Marsh Survey, monitoring to determine the effects of the Suisun Marsh Salinity Control Gates operation on fish, including listed salmonids; and (11) Smelt Larva Survey, which provides distribution data for E:\FR\FM\15JAN1.SGM 15JAN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 10 (Friday, January 15, 2016)]
[Notices]
[Pages 2174-2189]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-00660]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XE291


Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; 
Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to a Marine Geophysical Survey in the 
South Atlantic Ocean, January to March 2016

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

ACTION: Notice; issuance of an incidental harassment authorization.

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SUMMARY: In accordance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) 
implementing regulations, we hereby give notice that we have issued an 
Incidental Harassment Authorization (Authorization) to Lamont-Doherty 
Earth Observatory (Lamont-Doherty), a component of Columbia University, 
in collaboration with the National Science Foundation (NSF), to take 
marine mammals, by harassment, in the South Atlantic Ocean, January 
through March 2016.

DATES: Effective January 4 through March 31, 2016.

ADDRESSES: A copy of the final Authorization and application and other 
supporting documents are available by writing to Jolie Harrison, Chief, 
Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, 
National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver 
Spring, MD 20910, by telephoning the contacts listed here, or by 
visiting the internet at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental/research.htm.
    The NSF prepared a draft Environmental Analysis in accordance with 
Executive Order 12114, ``Environmental Effects Abroad of Major Federal 
Actions'' for their proposed federal action. The environmental analysis 
titled ``Environmental Analysis of a Marine Geophysical Survey by the 
R/V Marcus G. Langseth in the South Atlantic Ocean, Austral Summer 
2016,'' prepared by LGL, Ltd. environmental research associates, on 
behalf of NSF and Lamont-Doherty is available at the same internet 
address.
    NMFS prepared an Environmental Assessment (EA) titled, ``Proposed 
Issuance of an Incidental Harassment Authorization to Lamont-Doherty 
Earth Observatory to Take Marine Mammals by Harassment Incidental to a 
Marine Geophysical Survey in the South Atlantic Ocean, January-March 
2016,'' in accordance with NEPA and NOAA Administrative Order 216-6. To 
obtain an electronic copy of these documents, write to the previously 
mentioned address, telephone the contact listed here (see FOR FURTHER 
INFORMATION CONTACT), or download the files at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental/research.htm.
    NMFS also issued a Biological Opinion under section 7 of the 
Endangered Species Act (ESA) to evaluate the effects of the survey and 
Authorization on marine species listed as threatened and endangered. 
The Biological Opinion is available online at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/consultations/opinions.htm.

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

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, 
as amended (MMPA; 16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) directs the Secretary of 
Commerce to allow, upon request, the incidental, but not intentional, 
taking of small numbers of marine mammals of a species or population 
stock, by U.S. citizens who engage in a specified activity (other than 
commercial fishing) within a specified geographical region if, after 
NMFS provides a notice of a proposed authorization to the public for 
review and comment: (1) NMFS makes certain findings; and (2) the taking 
is limited to harassment.
    An Authorization shall be granted for the incidental taking of 
small numbers of marine mammals if NMFS finds that the taking will have 
a negligible impact on the species or stock(s), and will not have an 
unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of the species or 
stock(s) for subsistence uses (where relevant). The Authorization must 
also set forth the permissible methods of taking; other means of 
effecting the least practicable adverse impact on the species or stock 
and its habitat (i.e., mitigation); and requirements pertaining to the 
monitoring and reporting of such taking. 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.''
    Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, the 
MMPA at 16 U.S.C. 1362(18)(A) defines ``harassment'' as: Any act of 
pursuit, torment, or annoyance which (i) has the

[[Page 2175]]

potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild 
[Level A harassment]; or (ii) has the potential to disturb a marine 
mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of 
behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, 
breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering [Level B 
harassment].

Summary of Request

    On July 29, 2015, NMFS received an application from Lamont-Doherty 
requesting that NMFS issue an Authorization for the take of marine 
mammals, incidental to Texas A&M University and the University of Texas 
conducting a seismic survey in the South Atlantic Ocean, January 
through March 2016. Following the initial application submission, 
Lamont-Doherty submitted a revised application with revised take 
estimates. NMFS considered the revised application adequate and 
complete on October 30, 2015.
    Lamont-Doherty proposes to conduct a two-dimensional (2-D), seismic 
survey on the R/V Marcus G. Langseth (Langseth), a vessel owned by NSF 
and operated on its behalf by Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty in 
international waters in the South Atlantic Ocean approximately 1,938 
kilometers (km) (1,232 miles [mi]) southeast of the west coast of 
Brazil for approximately 22 days. The following specific aspect of the 
proposed activity has the potential to take marine mammals: Increased 
underwater sound generated during the operation of the seismic airgun 
array. We anticipate that take, by Level B harassment, of 38 species of 
marine mammals could result from the specified activity. Although 
unlikely, NMFS also anticipates that a small level of take by Level A 
harassment of 16 species of marine mammals could occur during the 
proposed survey.

Description of the Specified Activity

Overview

    Lamont-Doherty plans to use one source vessel, the Langseth, an 
array of 36 airguns as the energy source, a receiving system of seven 
ocean bottom seismometers (OBS), and a single 8-kilometer (km) 
hydrophone streamer. In addition to the operations of the airguns, 
Lamont-Doherty intends to operate a multibeam echosounder and a sub-
bottom profiler continuously throughout the proposed survey. However, 
Lamont-Doherty will not operate the multibeam echosounder and sub-
bottom profiler during transits to and from the survey area and in 
between transits to each of the five OBS tracklines (i.e., when the 
airguns are not operating).
    The purpose of the survey is to collect and analyze seismic 
refraction data from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge westward to the Rio Grande 
Rise to study the evolution of the South Atlantic Ocean crust on 
million-year timescales and the evolution and stability of low-
spreading ridges over time. NMFS refers the public to Lamont-Doherty's 
application (see page 3) for more detailed information on the proposed 
research objectives.

Dates and Duration

    Lamont-Doherty proposes to conduct the seismic survey for 
approximately 42 days, which includes approximately 22 days of seismic 
surveying with 10 days of OBS deployment and retrieval. The proposed 
study (e.g., equipment testing, startup, line changes, repeat coverage 
of any areas, and equipment recovery) would include approximately 528 
hours of airgun operations (i.e., 22 days over 24 hours). Some minor 
deviation from Lamont-Doherty's requested dates of January through 
March 2016 is possible, depending on logistics, weather conditions, and 
the need to repeat some lines if data quality is substandard. Thus, the 
proposed Authorization, if issued, would be effective from early 
January through March 31, 2016.

Specified Geographic Region

    Lamont-Doherty proposes to conduct the proposed seismic survey in 
the South Atlantic Ocean, located approximately between 10-35[deg] W, 
27-33[deg] S (see Figure 1). Water depths in the survey area range from 
approximately 1,150 to 4,800 meters (m) (3,773 feet [ft] to 2.98 miles 
[mi]).

Principal and Collaborating Investigators

    The proposed survey's principal investigators are Drs. R. Reece and 
R. Carlson (Texas A&M University) and Dr. G. Christeson (University of 
Texas at Austin).

Detailed Description of the Specified Activities

Transit Activities

    The Langseth would depart and return from Cape Verde and transit to 
the survey area. Some minor deviations with the transit schedule and 
port locations are possible depending on logistics and weather.

Vessel Specifications

    NMFS outlined the vessel's specifications in the notice of proposed 
Authorization (80 FR 75355, December 1, 2015). NMFS does not repeat the 
information here as the vessel's specifications have not changed 
between the notice of proposed Authorization and this notice of an 
issued Authorization.

Data Acquisition Activities

    NMFS outlined the details regarding Lamont-Doherty's data 
acquisition activities using the airguns, multibeam echosounder, and 
the sub-bottom profiler in the notice of proposed Authorization (80 FR 
75355, December 1, 2015). NMFS does not repeat the information here as 
the data acquisition activities have not changed between the notice of 
proposed Authorization and this notice of an issued Authorization.
    For a more detailed description of the authorized action (i.e., 
vessel and acoustic source specifications, metrics, characteristics of 
airgun pulses, predicted sound levels of airguns, etc.,) please see the 
notice of proposed Authorization (80 FR 75355, December 1, 2015) and 
associated documents referenced above this section.

Comments and Responses

    NMFS published a notice of receipt of Lamont-Doherty's application 
and proposed Authorization in the Federal Register on December 1, 2015 
(80 FR 75355). During the 30-day public comment period, NMFS received 
comments from the Marine Mammal Commission (Commission). NMFS has 
posted the comments online at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental/research.htm.
    NMFS addresses any comments specific to Lamont-Doherty's 
application related to the statutory and regulatory requirements or 
findings that NMFS must make under the MMPA in order to issue an 
Authorization. The following is a summary of the public comments and 
NMFS' responses.

Modeling Exclusion and Buffer Zones

    Comment 1: The Commission expressed concerns regarding Lamont-
Doherty's method to estimate exclusion and buffer zones. It stated that 
the model is not the best available science because it assumes the 
following: Spherical spreading, constant sound speed, and no bottom 
interactions. In light of their concerns, the Commission recommended 
that NMFS require Lamont-Doherty to re-estimate the proposed exclusion 
and buffer zones incorporating site-specific environmental and 
operational parameters (e.g., sound speed profiles, refraction, 
bathymetry/water depth, sediment properties/bottom loss, or absorption 
coefficients) into their model.

[[Page 2176]]

    Response: NMFS acknowledges the Commission's concerns about Lamont-
Doherty's current modeling approach for estimating exclusion and buffer 
zones and also acknowledges that Lamont-Doherty did not incorporate 
site-specific sound speed profiles, bathymetry, and sediment 
characteristics of the research area in the current approach to 
estimate those zones for this proposed seismic survey.
    Lamont-Doherty's application (LGL, 2015) and the NSF's draft 
environmental analyses (NSF, 2015) describe the approach to 
establishing mitigation exclusion and buffer zones. In summary, Lamont-
Doherty acquired field measurements for several array configurations at 
shallow- and deep-water depths during acoustic verification studies 
conducted in the northern Gulf of Mexico in 2003 (Tolstoy et al., 2004) 
and in 2007 and 2008 (Tolstoy et al., 2009). Based on the empirical 
data from those studies, Lamont-Doherty developed a sound propagation 
modeling approach that predicts received sound levels as a function of 
distance from a particular airgun array configuration in deep water. 
For this proposed survey, Lamont-Doherty developed the exclusion and 
buffer zones for the airgun array based on the empirically-derived 
measurements from the Gulf of Mexico calibration survey (Fig. 5a in 
Appendix H of the NSF's 2011 PEIS). Based upon the best available 
information (i.e., the three data points, two of which are peer-
reviewed, discussed in this response), NMFS finds that the exclusion 
and buffer zone calculations are appropriate for use in this particular 
survey.
    In 2015, Lamont-Doherty explored solutions to this issue (i.e., the 
question of whether the Gulf of Mexico calibration data adequately 
informs the model to predict exclusion isopleths in other areas) by 
conducting a retrospective sound power analysis of one of the lines 
acquired during Lamont-Doherty's seismic survey offshore New Jersey in 
2014 (Crone, 2015). NMFS presented a comparison of the predicted radii 
(i.e., modeled exclusion zones) with radii based on in situ 
measurements (i.e., the upper bound [95th percentile] of the cross-line 
prediction) in a previous notice of issued Authorization (see Table 1, 
80 FR 27635, May 14, 2015) for Lamont-Doherty.
    Briefly, Crone's (2015) preliminary analysis, specific to the 
proposed survey site offshore New Jersey, confirmed that in-situ, site 
specific measurements and estimates of the 160- and 180-decibel (dB) 
isopleths collected by the Langseth's hydrophone streamer in shallow 
water were smaller than the modeled (i.e., predicted) exclusion and 
buffer zones proposed for use in two seismic surveys conducted offshore 
New Jersey in shallow water in 2014 and 2015. In that particular case, 
Crone's (2015) results show that Lamont-Doherty's modeled exclusion 
(180-dB) and buffer (160-dB) zones were approximately 28 and 33 percent 
smaller than the in situ, site-specific measurements confirming that 
Lamont-Doherty's model was conservative in that case, as emphasized by 
Lamont-Doherty in its application and in supporting environmental 
documentation. The following is a summary of two additional analyses of 
in-situ data that support Lamont-Doherty's use of the modeled exclusion 
and buffer zones in this particular case.
    In 2010, Lamont-Doherty assessed the accuracy of their modeling 
approach by comparing the sound levels of the field measurements 
acquired in the Gulf of Mexico study to their model predictions 
(Diebold et al., 2010). They reported that the observed sound levels 
from the field measurements fell almost entirely below the predicted 
mitigation radii curve for deep water (greater than 1,000 meters [m]; 
3280.8 feet [ft]) (Diebold et al., 2010).
    In 2012, Lamont-Doherty used a similar process to model exclusion 
and buffer zones for a shallow-water seismic survey in the northeast 
Pacific Ocean offshore Washington in 2012. Lamont-Doherty conducted the 
shallow-water survey using the same airgun configuration proposed for 
this seismic survey (i.e., 6,600 cubic inches [in\3\]) and recorded the 
received sound levels on the shelf and slope off Washington State using 
the Langseth's 8-kilometer (km) hydrophone streamer. Crone et al. 
(2014) analyzed those received sound levels from the 2012 survey and 
confirmed that in-situ, site specific measurements and estimates of the 
160- and 180-dB isopleths collected by the Langseth's hydrophone 
streamer in shallow water were two to three times smaller than what 
Lamont-Doherty's modeling approach predicted. While the results confirm 
bathymetry's role in sound propagation, Crone et al. (2014) were able 
to confirm that the empirical measurements from the Gulf of Mexico 
calibration survey (the same measurements used to inform Lamont-
Doherty's modeling approach for this seismic survey in the South 
Atlantic Ocean) overestimated the size of the exclusion and buffer 
zones for the shallow-water 2012 survey off Washington and were thus 
precautionary, in that particular case.
    The model Lamont-Doherty currently uses does not allow for the 
consideration of environmental and site-specific parameters as 
requested by the Commission. NMFS continues to work with Lamont-Doherty 
and the NSF to address the issue of incorporating site-specific 
information to further inform the analysis and development of 
mitigation measures in oceanic and coastal areas for future seismic 
surveys with Lamont-Doherty. However, Lamont-Doherty's current modeling 
approach (supported by the three data points discussed previously) 
represents the best available information for NMFS to reach 
determinations for the Authorization. As described earlier, the 
comparisons of Lamont-Doherty's model results and the field data 
collected in the Gulf of Mexico, offshore Washington, and offshore New 
Jersey illustrate a degree of conservativeness built into Lamont-
Doherty's model for deep water, which NMFS expects to offset some of 
the limitations of the model to capture the variability resulting from 
site-specific factors.
    Lamont-Doherty has conveyed to NMFS that additional modeling 
efforts to refine the process and conduct comparative analysis may be 
possible with the availability of research funds and other resources. 
Obtaining research funds is typically through a competitive process, 
including those submitted to U.S. Federal agencies. The use of models 
for calculating buffer and exclusion zone radii and for developing take 
estimates is not a requirement of the MMPA incidental take 
authorization process. Furthermore, NMFS does not provide specific 
guidance on model parameters nor prescribe a specific model for 
applicants as part of the MMPA incidental take authorization process at 
this time. There is a level of variability not only with parameters in 
the models, but also the uncertainty associated with data used in 
models, and therefore, the quality of the model results submitted by 
applicants. NMFS considers this variability when evaluating 
applications and the take estimates and mitigation that the model 
informs. NMFS takes into consideration the model used and its results 
in determining the potential impacts to marine mammals; however, it is 
just one component of the analysis during the MMPA consultation process 
as NMFS also takes into consideration other factors associated with the 
proposed action, (e.g., geographic location, duration of activities, 
context, intensity, etc.).

[[Page 2177]]

Monitoring and Reporting

    Comment 2: The Commission has indicated that monitoring and 
reporting requirements should provide a reasonably accurate assessment 
of the types of taking and the numbers of animals taken by the proposed 
activity. They recommend that NMFS and Lamont-Doherty incorporate an 
accounting for animals at the surface but not detected [i.e., g(0) 
values] and for animals present but underwater and not available for 
sighting [i.e., f(0) values] into monitoring efforts. In light of the 
Commission's previous comments, they recommend that NMFS consult with 
the funding agency (i.e., the NSF) and individual applicants (e.g., 
Lamont-Doherty and other related entities) to develop, validate, and 
implement a monitoring program that provides a scientifically sound, 
reasonably accurate assessment of the types of marine mammal takes and 
the actual numbers of marine mammals taken, accounting for applicable 
g(0) and f(0) values. They also recommend that Lamont-Doherty and other 
relevant entities continue to collect appropriate sightings data in the 
field which NMFS can then pool to determine g(0) and f(0) values 
relevant to the various geophysical survey types.
    Response: NMFS agrees with the Commission's recommendation to 
improve the post-survey reporting requirements for NSF and Lamont-
Doherty by accounting for takes using applicable g(0) and f(0) values. 
In December 2015, NMFS met with Commission representatives to discuss 
ways to develop and validate a monitoring program that provides a 
scientifically sound, reasonably accurate assessment of the types of 
marine mammal takes and the actual numbers of marine mammals taken, 
accounting for applicable g(0) and f(0) values. We will work with NSF 
to develop ways to improve their post-survey take estimates and have 
included a requirement in the South Atlantic Authorization for them to 
do so in collaboration with us and the Commission.

Description of Marine Mammals in the Area of the Specified Activity

    Table 1 in this notice provides the following: All marine mammal 
species with possible or confirmed occurrence in the proposed activity 
area; information on those species' regulatory status under the MMPA 
and the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.); 
abundance; and occurrence and seasonality in the proposed activity 
area. Based on the best available information, NMFS expects that there 
may be a potential for certain cetacean and pinniped species to occur 
within the survey area (i.e., potentially be taken) and have included 
additional information for these species in Table 1 of this notice. 
NMFS will carry forward analyses on the species listed in Table 1 later 
in this document.

 Table 1--General Information on Marine Mammals That Could Potentially Occur in the Proposed Survey Areas Within
                                            the South Atlantic Ocean
                                          [January through March 2016]
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                   Regulatory  status   Species  abundance   Local occurrence
             Species                      1 2                  \3\             and range \4\       Season \5\
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Antarctic minke whale             MMPA--NC, ESA--NL..  \6\ 515,000........  Uncommon shelf,     Winter.
 (Balaenoptera bonaerensis).                                                 pelagic.
Blue whale (B. musculus)........  MMPA--D............  \7\ 2,300..........  Rare coastal,       Winter.
                                  ESA--EN............                        slope, pelagic.
Bryde's whale (B. edeni)........  MMPA--NC, ESA--NL..  \8\ 43,633.........  Rare coastal,       Winter.
                                                                             pelagic.
Common (dwarf) minke whale (B.    MMPA--NC, ESA--NL..  \6\ 515,000........  Uncommon shelf,     Winter.
 acutorostrata).                                                             pelagic.
Fin whale (B. physalus).........  MMPA--D, ESA--EN...  \9\ 22,000.........  Uncommon Coastal,   Fall.
                                                                             pelagic.
Humpback whale (Megaptera         MMPA--D, ESA--EN...  \10\ 42,000........  Uncommon Coastal,   Winter.
 novaeangliae).                                                              shelf, pelagic.
Sei whale (B. borealis).........  MMPA--D, ESA--EN...  \11\ 10,000........  Uncommon Shelf      Winter.
                                                                             edges, pelagic.
Southern right whale (Eubalaena   MMPA--D, ESA--EN...  \12\ 12,000........  Uncommon Coastal,   Winter.
 australis).                                                                 shelf.
Sperm whale (Physeter             MMPA--D, ESA--EN...  \13\ 355,000.......  Uncommon Slope,     Winter.
 macrocephalus).                                                             pelagic.
Dwarf sperm whale (Kogia sima)..  MMPA--NC, ESA--NL..  3,785..............  Rare Shelf, slope,  Winter.
                                                                             pelagic.
Pygmy sperm whale (K. breviceps)  MMPA--NC, ESA--NL..  3,785..............  Rare Shelf, slope,  Winter.
                                                                             pelagic.
Cuvier's beaked whale (Ziphius    MMPA--NC, ESA--NL..  \14\ 599,300.......  Uncommon Slope....  Winter.
 cavirostris).
Andrew's beaked whale             MMPA--NC, ESA--NL..  \14\ 599,300.......  Rare Pelagic......  Winter.
 (Mesoplodon bowdoini).
Arnoux's beaked whale (Berardius  MMPA--NC, ESA--NL..  \14\ 599,300.......  Rare Pelagic......  Winter.
 arnuxii).
Blainville's beaked whale         MMPA--NC, ESA--NL..  \14\ 599,300.......  Rare Slope,         Winter.
 (M.densirostris).                                                           pelagic.
Gervais' beaked whale (M.         MMPA--NC, ESA--NL..  \14\ 599,300.......  Rare pelagic......  Winter.
 europaeus).
Gray's beaked whale (M. grayi)..  MMPA--NC, ESA--NL..  \14\ 599,300.......  Rare Pelagic......  Winter.
Hector's beaked whale (M.         MMPA--NC, ESA--NL..  \14\ 599,300.......  Rare pelagic......  Winter.
 hectori).
Shepherd's beaked whale           MMPA--NC, ESA--NL..  \14\ 599,300.......  Rare pelagic......  Winter.
 (Tasmacetus shepherdi).
Strap-toothed beaked whale (M.    MMPA--NC, ESA--NL..  \14\ 599,300.......  Rare pelagic......  Winter.
 layardii).
True's beaked whale (M. mirus)..  MMPA--NC, ESA--NL..  7,092..............  Rare pelagic......  Winter.
Southern bottlenose whale         MMPA--NC, ESA--NL..  \14\ 599,300.......  Rare Coastal,       Winter.
 (Hyperoodon planifrons).                                                    shelf, pelagic.
Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops      MMPA--NC, ESA--NL..  \15\ 600,000.......  Uncommon Coastal,   Winter.
 truncatus).                                                                 pelagic.

[[Page 2178]]

 
Rough-toothed dolphin (Steno      MMPA--NC, ESA--NL..  271................  Uncommon shelf,     Winter.
 bredanensis).                                                               pelagic.
Pantropical spotted dolphin       MMPA--NC, ESA--NL..  3,333..............  Uncommon Coastal,   Winter.
 (Stenella attennuata).                                                      slope, pelagic.
Striped dolphin (S.               MMPA--NC, ESA--NL..  54,807.............  Rare Pelagic......  Winter.
 coeruleoalba).
Fraser's dolphin (Lagenodelphis   MMPA--NC, ESA--NL..  \16\ 289,000.......  Uncommon Pelagic..  Winter.
 hosei).
Spinner dolphin (Stenella         MMPA--NC, ESA--NL..  \16\ 1,200,000.....  Rare Pelagic......  Winter.
 longirostris).
Atlantic spotted dolphin (S.      MMPA--NC, ESA--NL..  44,715.............  Uncommon Pelagic..  Winter.
 frontalis).
Clymene dolphin (S. clymene)....  MMPA--NC, ESA--NL..  6,215..............  Rare Pelagic......  Winter.
Risso's dolphin (Grampus          MMPA--NC, ESA--NL..  20,692.............  Uncommon Pelagic..  Winter.
 griseus).
Long-beaked common dolphin        MMPA--NC, ESA--NL..  \17\ 20,000........  Rare Coastal......  Winter.
 (Delphinus capensis).
Short-beaked common dolphin       MMPA--NC, ESA--NL..  173,486............  Uncommon Coastal,   Winter.
 (Delphinus delphis).                                                        shelf.
Southern right whale dolphin      MMPA--NC, ESA--NL..  Unknown............  Uncommon Coastal,   Winter.
 (Lissodelphis peronii).                                                     shelf.
Melon-headed whale                MMPA--NC, ESA--NL..  \18\ 50,000........  Uncommon Coastal,   Winter.
 (Peponocephala electra).                                                    shelf, pelagic.
Pygmy killer whale (Feresa        MMPA--NC, ESA--NL..  3,585..............  Uncommon Coastal,   Winter.
 attenuate).                                                                 shelf, pelagic.
False killer whale (Pseudorca     MMPA--NC, ESA--NL..  442................  Rare Pelagic......  Winter.
 crassidens).
Killer whale (Orcinus orca).....  MMPA--NC, ESA--NL..  \19\ 50,000........  Uncommon Coastal,   Winter.
                                                                             pelagic.
Long-finned pilot whale           MMPA--NC, ESA--NL..  \14\ 200,000.......  Uncommon Pelagic..  Winter.
 (Globicephala melas).
Short-finned pilot whale          MMPA--NC, ESA--NL..  \14\ 200,000.......  Uncommon Pelagic..  Winter.
 (Globicephala macrorhynchus).
Southern Elephant Seal (Mirounga  MMPA--NC, ESA--NL..  \20\ 650,000.......  Rare Coastal......  Winter.
 leonina).
Subantarctic fur seal             MMPA--NC, ESA--NL..  \21\ 310,000.......  Uncommon Pelagic..  Winter.
 (Arctocephalus tropicalis).
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\2\ MMPA: NC= Not classified; D= Depleted; ESA: EN = Endangered, T = Threatened, DL = Delisted, NL = Not listed.
\3\ Except where noted abundance information obtained from NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-NE-231, U.S. Atlantic
  and Gulf of Mexico Marine Mammal Stock Assessments-2014 (Waring et al., 2015) and the Draft 2015 U.S. Atlantic
  and Gulf of Mexico Marine Mammal Stock Assessments (in review, 2015). NA = Not available.
\4\ Occurrence and range information available from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature
  (IUCN).
\5\ NA= Not available due to limited information on that species' seasonal occurrence in the proposed area.
\6\ Best estimate from the International Whaling Commission's (IWC) estimate for the minke whale population
  (Southern Hemisphere, 2004).
\7\ Best estimate from the IWC's estimate for the blue whale population (Southern Hemisphere, 1998).
\8\ Estimate from IUCN Web page for Bryde's whales. Southern Hemisphere: Southern Indian Ocean (13,854); western
  South Pacific (16,585); and eastern South Pacific (13,194) (IWC, 1981).
\9\ Best estimate from the IWC's estimate for the fin whale population (East Greenland to Faroes, 2007).
\10\ Best estimate from the IWC's estimate for the humpback whale population (Southern Hemisphere, partial
  coverage of Antarctic feeding grounds, 2007).
\11\ Estimate from the IUCN Web page for sei whales (IWC, 1996).
\12\ Best estimate from the IWC's estimate for the southern right whale population (Southern Hemisphere, 2009).
\13\ Whitehead, (2002).
\14\ Abundance estimates for beaked, southern bottlenose, and pilot whales south of the Antarctic Convergence in
  January (Kasamatsu and Joyce, 1995).
\15\ Wells and Scott, (2009).
\16\ Jefferson et al., (2008).
\17\ Cockcroft and Peddemors, (1990).
\18\ Estimate from the IUCN Web page for melon-headed whales (IUCN, 2015).
\19\ Estimate from the IUCN Web page for killer whales (IUCN, 2015).
\20\ Estimate from the IUCN Web page for southern elephant seals (IUCN, 2015).
\21\ Arnoud, (2009).

    NMFS refers the public to Lamont-Doherty's application, NSF's draft 
environmental analysis (see ADDRESSES), NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-
NE-231, U.S. Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico Marine Mammal Stock 
Assessments-2014 (Waring et al., 2015); and the Draft 2015 U.S. 
Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico Marine Mammal Stock Assessments (in review, 
2015) available online at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/sars/species.htm 
for further information on the biology and local distribution of these 
species.

Potential Effects of the Specified Activities on Marine Mammals

    NMFS provided a summary and discussion of the ways that the types 
of stressors associated with the specified activity (e.g., seismic 
airgun operations, vessel movement, and entanglement) impact marine 
mammals (via observations or scientific studies) in the notice of 
proposed Authorization (80 FR 75355, December 1, 2015).
    The ``Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment'' section later in 
this document will include a quantitative discussion of the number of 
marine

[[Page 2179]]

mammals anticipated to be taken by this activity. The ``Negligible 
Impact Analysis'' section will include the analysis of how this 
specific proposed activity would impact marine mammals and will 
consider the content of this section, the ``Estimated Take by 
Incidental Harassment'' section, the ``Mitigation'' section, and the 
``Anticipated Effects on Marine Mammal Habitat'' section to draw 
conclusions regarding the likely impacts of this activity on the 
reproductive success or survivorship of individuals and from that on 
the affected marine mammal populations or stocks.
    NMFS provided a background of potential effects of Lamont-Doherty's 
activities in the notice of proposed Authorization (80 FR 75355, 
December 1, 2015). Operating active acoustic sources, such as airgun 
arrays, has the potential for adverse effects on marine mammals. The 
majority of anticipated impacts would be from the use of acoustic 
sources. The effects of sounds from airgun pulses might include one or 
more of the following: Tolerance, masking of natural sounds, behavioral 
disturbance, and temporary or permanent hearing impairment or non-
auditory effects (Richardson et al., 1995). However, for reasons 
discussed in the notice of proposed Authorization (80 FR 75355, 
December 1, 2015), it is unlikely that there would be any cases of 
temporary or permanent hearing impairment resulting from Lamont-
Doherty's activities. NMFS' predicted estimates for Level A harassment 
take for some species are likely overestimates of the injury that will 
occur. NMFS expects that successful implementation of the required 
visual and acoustic mitigation measures would avoid Level A take in 
some instances.
    As outlined in previous NMFS documents, the effects of noise on 
marine mammals are highly variable, often depending on species and 
contextual factors (based on Richardson et al., 1995).
    In the Potential Effects of the Specified Activity on Marine 
Mammals section (80 FR 75355, December 1, 2015); NMFS included a 
qualitative discussion of the different ways that Lamont-Doherty's 
seismic survey may potentially affect marine mammals.
    Behavior: Marine mammals may behaviorally react to sound when 
exposed to anthropogenic noise. These behavioral reactions are often 
shown as: Changing durations of surfacing and dives, number of blows 
per surfacing, or moving direction and/or speed; reduced/increased 
vocal activities; changing/cessation of certain behavioral activities 
(such as socializing or feeding); visible startle response or 
aggressive behavior (such as tail/fluke slapping or jaw clapping); 
avoidance of areas where noise sources are located; and/or flight 
responses (e.g., pinnipeds flushing into water from haulouts or 
rookeries).
    Masking: Marine mammals use acoustic signals for a variety of 
purposes, which differ among species, but include communication between 
individuals, navigation, foraging, reproduction, avoiding predators, 
and learning about their environment (Erbe and Farmer, 2000; Tyack, 
2000). Introduced underwater sound may through masking reduce the 
effective communication distance of a marine mammal species if the 
frequency of the source is close to that of a signal that needs to be 
detected by the marine mammal, and if the anthropogenic sound is 
present for a significant fraction of the time (Richardson et al., 
1995). For the airgun sound generated from Lamont-Doherty's seismic 
survey, sound will consist of low frequency (under 500 Hz) pulses with 
extremely short durations (less than one second). Masking from airguns 
is more likely in low-frequency marine mammals like mysticetes. There 
is little concern that masking would occur near the sound source due to 
the brief duration of these pulses and relative silence between air gun 
shots (approximately 22 to 170 seconds). The sounds important to small 
odontocete communication are predominantly at much higher frequencies 
than the dominant components of airgun sounds, thus limiting the 
potential for masking in those species.
    Hearing Impairment: Hearing impairment (either temporary or 
permanent) is also unlikely. Given the higher level of sound necessary 
to cause permanent threshold shift as compared with temporary threshold 
shift, it is considerably less likely that permanent threshold shift 
would occur during the seismic survey. Cetaceans generally avoid the 
immediate area around operating seismic vessels, as do some other 
marine mammals. Some pinnipeds show avoidance reactions to airguns, but 
their avoidance reactions are generally not as strong or consistent 
compared to cetacean reactions. Also, NMFS expects that some 
individuals would avoid the source at levels expected to result in 
injury. Nonetheless, although NMFS expects that Level A harassment is 
unlikely to occur, we have conservatively authorized and analyzed a low 
level of permanent threshold shift occurrences for certain species. We 
acknowledge that it is difficult to quantify the degree to which the 
mitigation and avoidance will reduce the number of animals that might 
incur permanent threshold shift; however, we are proposing to authorize 
the modeled number of Level A takes, which does not take the mitigation 
or avoidance into consideration.
    Vessel Movement and Entanglement: The Langseth will operate at a 
relatively slow speed (typically 4.6 knots [8.5 km/h; 5.3 mph]) when 
conducting the survey. Protected species observers would monitor for 
marine mammals, which would trigger mitigation measures, including 
vessel avoidance where safe. Therefore, NMFS does not anticipate nor do 
we authorize takes of marine mammals from vessel strike or 
entanglement.
    NMFS refers the reader to Lamont-Doherty's application and the 
NSF's environmental analysis for additional information on the 
behavioral reactions (or lack thereof) by all types of marine mammals 
to seismic vessels. NMFS has reviewed these data and based our decision 
on the relevant information.

Anticipated Effects on Marine Mammal Habitat

    NMFS included a detailed discussion of the potential effects of 
this action on marine mammal habitat, including physiological and 
behavioral effects on marine mammal prey items (e.g., fish and 
invertebrates) in the notice of proposed Authorization (80 FR 75355, 
December 1, 2015). While NMFS anticipates that the specified activity 
may result in marine mammals avoiding certain areas due to temporary 
ensonification, the impact to habitat is temporary and reversible. 
Further, NMFS also considered these impacts to marine mammals in detail 
in the notice of proposed Authorization as behavioral modification. The 
main impact associated with the activity would be temporarily elevated 
noise levels and the associated direct effects on marine mammals.

Mitigation

    In order to issue an Incidental Harassment Authorization under 
section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA, NMFS must set forth the permissible 
methods of taking pursuant to such activity, and other means of 
effecting the least practicable adverse impact on such species or stock 
and its habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating 
grounds, and areas of similar significance, and on the availability of 
such species or stock for taking for certain subsistence uses (where 
relevant).
    Lamont-Doherty has reviewed the following source documents and has

[[Page 2180]]

incorporated a suite of proposed mitigation measures into their project 
description.
    (1) Protocols used during previous Lamont-Doherty and NSF-funded 
seismic research cruises as approved by us and detailed in the NSF's 
2011 PEIS and 2015 draft environmental analysis;
    (2) Previous incidental harassment authorizations applications and 
authorizations that NMFS has approved and authorized; and
    (3) Recommended best practices in Richardson et al. (1995), Pierson 
et al. (1998), and Weir and Dolman, (2007).
    To reduce the potential for disturbance from acoustic stimuli 
associated with the activities, Lamont-Doherty, and/or its designees 
have proposed to implement the following mitigation measures for marine 
mammals:
    (1) Vessel-based visual mitigation monitoring;
    (2) Proposed exclusion zones;
    (3) Power down procedures;
    (4) Shutdown procedures;
    (5) Ramp-up procedures; and
    (6) Speed and course alterations.
    NMFS reviewed Lamont-Doherty's proposed mitigation measures and has 
proposed an additional measure to effect the least practicable adverse 
impact on marine mammals. They are:
    (1) Expanded power down procedures for concentrations of six or 
more whales that do not appear to be traveling (e.g., feeding, 
socializing, etc.).

Vessel-Based Visual Mitigation Monitoring

    Lamont-Doherty would position observers aboard the seismic source 
vessel to watch for marine mammals near the vessel during daytime 
airgun operations and during any start-ups at night. Observers would 
also watch for marine mammals near the seismic vessel for at least 30 
minutes prior to the start of airgun operations after an extended 
shutdown (i.e., greater than approximately eight minutes for this 
proposed cruise). When feasible, the observers would conduct 
observations during daytime periods when the seismic system is not 
operating for comparison of sighting rates and behavior with and 
without airgun operations and between acquisition periods. Based on the 
observations, the Langseth would power down or shutdown the airguns 
when marine mammals are observed within or about to enter a designated 
exclusion zone for cetaceans or pinnipeds.
    During seismic operations, at least four protected species 
observers would be aboard the Langseth. Lamont-Doherty would appoint 
the observers with NMFS concurrence, and they would conduct 
observations during ongoing daytime operations and nighttime ramp-ups 
of the airgun array. During the majority of seismic operations, two 
observers would be on duty from the observation tower to monitor marine 
mammals near the seismic vessel. Using two observers would increase the 
effectiveness of detecting animals near the source vessel. However, 
during mealtimes and bathroom breaks, it is sometimes difficult to have 
two observers on effort, but at least one observer would be on watch 
during bathroom breaks and mealtimes. Observers would be on duty in 
shifts of no longer than four hours in duration.
    Two observers on the Langseth would also be on visual watch during 
all nighttime ramp-ups of the seismic airguns. A third observer would 
monitor the passive acoustic monitoring equipment 24 hours a day to 
detect vocalizing marine mammals present in the action area. In 
summary, a typical daytime cruise would have scheduled two observers 
(visual) on duty from the observation tower, and an observer (acoustic) 
on the passive acoustic monitoring system. Before the start of the 
seismic survey, Lamont-Doherty would instruct the vessel's crew to 
assist in detecting marine mammals and implementing mitigation 
requirements.
    The Langseth is a suitable platform for marine mammal observations. 
When stationed on the observation platform, the eye level would be 
approximately 21.5 m (70.5 ft) above sea level, and the observer would 
have a good view around the entire vessel. During daytime, the 
observers would scan the area around the vessel systematically with 
reticle binoculars (e.g., 7 x 50 Fujinon), Big-eye binoculars (25 x 
150), and with the naked eye. During darkness, night vision devices 
would be available (ITT F500 Series Generation 3 binocular-image 
intensifier or equivalent), when required. Laser range-finding 
binoculars (Leica LRF 1200 laser rangefinder or equivalent) would be 
available to assist with distance estimation. They are useful in 
training observers to estimate distances visually, but are generally 
not useful in measuring distances to animals directly. The user 
measures distances to animals with the reticles in the binoculars.
    Lamont-Doherty would immediately power down or shutdown the airguns 
when observers see marine mammals within or about to enter the 
designated exclusion zone. The observer(s) would continue to maintain 
watch to determine when the animal(s) are outside the exclusion zone by 
visual confirmation. Airgun operations would not resume until the 
observer has confirmed that the animal has left the zone, or if not 
observed after 15 minutes for species with shorter dive durations 
(small odontocetes and pinnipeds) or 30 minutes for species with longer 
dive durations (mysticetes and large odontocetes, including sperm, 
pygmy sperm, dwarf sperm, killer, and beaked whales).
    Lamont-Doherty would use safety radii to designate exclusion zones 
and to estimate take for marine mammals. Table 2 shows the distances at 
which one would expect to receive sound levels (160-, 180-, and 190-
dB,) from the airgun array and a single airgun. If the protected 
species visual observer detects marine mammal(s) within or about to 
enter the appropriate exclusion zone, the Langseth crew would 
immediately power down the airgun array, or perform a shutdown if 
necessary (see Shut-down Procedures).

    Table 2--Predicted Distances to Which Sound Levels Greater Than or Equal to 160 Re: 1 [micro]Pa Could Be
                    Received During the Proposed Survey Areas Within the South Atlantic Ocean
                                          [January through March, 2016]
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                         Predicted RMS distances \1\  (m)
   Source and volume  (in\3\)     Tow depth  (m)    Water depth  -----------------------------------------------
                                                        (m)           190 dB          180 dB          160 dB
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Single Bolt airgun (40 in\3\)...               9          >1,000             100             100             388
36-Airgun Array (6,600 in\3\)...               9          >1,000             286             927           5,780
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ Predicted distances based on information presented in Lamont-Doherty's application.


[[Page 2181]]

    The 180- or 190-dB level shutdown criteria are applicable to 
cetaceans and pinnipeds respectively as specified by NMFS (2000). 
Lamont-Doherty used these levels to establish the exclusion zones as 
presented in their application.

Power Down Procedures

    A power down involves decreasing the number of airguns in use such 
that the radius of the 180-dB or 190-dB exclusion zone is smaller to 
the extent that marine mammals are no longer within or about to enter 
the exclusion zone. A power down of the airgun array can also occur 
when the vessel is moving from one seismic line to another. During a 
power down for mitigation, the Langseth would operate one airgun (40 
in\3\). The continued operation of one airgun would alert marine 
mammals to the presence of the seismic vessel in the area. A shutdown 
occurs when the Langseth suspends all airgun activity.
    If the observer detects a marine mammal outside the exclusion zone 
and the animal is likely to enter the zone, the crew would power down 
the airguns to reduce the size of the 180-dB or 190-dB exclusion zone 
before the animal enters that zone. Likewise, if a mammal is already 
within the zone after detection, the crew would power-down the airguns 
immediately. During a power down of the airgun array, the crew would 
operate a single 40-in\3\ airgun which has a smaller exclusion zone. If 
the observer detects a marine mammal within or near the smaller 
exclusion zone around the airgun (Table 3), the crew would shut down 
the single airgun (see next section).

Resuming Airgun Operations After a Power Down

    Following a power-down, the Langseth crew would not resume full 
airgun activity until the marine mammal has cleared the 180-dB or 190-
dB exclusion zone. The observers would consider the animal to have 
cleared the exclusion zone if:
     The observer has visually observed the animal leave the 
exclusion zone; or
     An observer has not sighted the animal within the 
exclusion zone for 15 minutes for species with shorter dive durations 
(i.e., small odontocetes or pinnipeds), or 30 minutes for species with 
longer dive durations (i.e., mysticetes and large odontocetes, 
including sperm, pygmy sperm, dwarf sperm, and beaked whales); or
    The Langseth crew would resume operating the airguns at full power 
after 15 minutes of sighting any species with short dive durations 
(i.e., small odontocetes or pinnipeds). Likewise, the crew would resume 
airgun operations at full power after 30 minutes of sighting any 
species with longer dive durations (i.e., mysticetes and large 
odontocetes, including sperm, pygmy sperm, dwarf sperm, and beaked 
whales).
    NMFS estimates that the Langseth would transit outside the original 
180-dB or 190-dB exclusion zone after an 8-minute wait period. This 
period is based on the average speed of the Langseth while operating 
the airguns (8.5 km/h; 5.3 mph). Because the vessel has transited away 
from the vicinity of the original sighting during the 8-minute period, 
implementing ramp-up procedures for the full array after an extended 
power down (i.e., transiting for an additional 35 minutes from the 
location of initial sighting) would not meaningfully increase the 
effectiveness of observing marine mammals approaching or entering the 
exclusion zone for the full source level and would not further minimize 
the potential for take. The Langseth's observers are continually 
monitoring the exclusion zone for the full source level while the 
mitigation airgun is firing. On average, observers can observe to the 
horizon (10 km; 6.2 mi) from the height of the Langseth's observation 
deck and should be able to say with a reasonable degree of confidence 
whether a marine mammal would be encountered within this distance 
before resuming airgun operations at full power.

Shutdown Procedures

    The Langseth crew would shut down the operating airgun(s) if they 
see a marine mammal within or approaching the exclusion zone for the 
single airgun. The crew would implement a shutdown:
    (1) If an animal enters the exclusion zone of the single airgun 
after the crew has initiated a power down; or
    (2) If an observer sees the animal is initially within the 
exclusion zone of the single airgun when more than one airgun 
(typically the full airgun array) is operating.
    Resuming Airgun Operations After a Shutdown: Following a shutdown 
in excess of eight minutes, the Langseth crew would initiate a ramp-up 
with the smallest airgun in the array (40-in\3\). The crew would turn 
on additional airguns in a sequence such that the source level of the 
array would increase in steps not exceeding 6 dB per five-minute period 
over a total duration of approximately 30 minutes. During ramp-up, the 
observers would monitor the exclusion zone, and if he/she sees a marine 
mammal, the Langseth crew would implement a power down or shutdown as 
though the full airgun array were operational.
    During periods of active seismic operations, there are occasions 
when the Langseth crew would need to temporarily shut down the airguns 
due to equipment failure or for maintenance. In this case, if the 
airguns are inactive longer than eight minutes, the crew would follow 
ramp-up procedures for a shutdown described earlier and the observers 
would monitor the full exclusion zone and would implement a power down 
or shutdown if necessary.
    If the full exclusion zone is not visible to the observer for at 
least 30 minutes prior to the start of operations in either daylight or 
nighttime, the Langseth crew would not commence ramp-up unless at least 
one airgun (40-in\3\ or similar) has been operating during the 
interruption of seismic survey operations. Given these provisions, it 
is likely that the vessel's crew would not ramp up the airgun array 
from a complete shutdown at night or in thick fog, because the outer 
part of the zone for that array would not be visible during those 
conditions.
    If one airgun has operated during a power down period, ramp-up to 
full power would be permissible at night or in poor visibility, on the 
assumption that marine mammals would be alerted to the approaching 
seismic vessel by the sounds from the single airgun and could move 
away. The vessel's crew would not initiate a ramp-up of the airguns if 
an observer sees the marine mammal within or near the applicable 
exclusion zones during the day or close to the vessel at night.

Ramp-Up Procedures

    Ramp-up of an airgun array provides a gradual increase in sound 
levels, and involves a step-wise increase in the number and total 
volume of airguns firing until the full volume of the airgun array is 
achieved. The purpose of a ramp-up is to ``warn'' marine mammals in the 
vicinity of the airguns, and to provide the time for them to leave the 
area and thus avoid any potential injury or impairment of their hearing 
abilities. Lamont-Doherty would follow a ramp-up procedure when the 
airgun array begins operating after an 8 minute period without airgun 
operations or when shut down has exceeded that period. Lamont-Doherty 
has used similar waiting periods (approximately eight to 10 minutes) 
during previous seismic surveys.
    Ramp-up would begin with the smallest airgun in the array (40 
in\3\). The crew would add airguns in a sequence such that the source 
level of the array would increase in steps not exceeding

[[Page 2182]]

six dB per five minute period over a total duration of approximately 30 
to 35 minutes. During ramp-up, the observers would monitor the 
exclusion zone, and if marine mammals are sighted, Lamont-Doherty would 
implement a power-down or shut-down as though the full airgun array 
were operational.
    If the complete exclusion zone has not been visible for at least 30 
minutes prior to the start of operations in either daylight or 
nighttime, Lamont-Doherty would not commence the ramp-up unless at 
least one airgun (40 in\3\ or similar) has been operating during the 
interruption of seismic survey operations. Given these provisions, it 
is likely that the crew would not ramp up the airgun array from a 
complete shut-down at night or in thick fog, because the outer part of 
the exclusion zone for that array would not be visible during those 
conditions. If one airgun has operated during a power-down period, 
ramp-up to full power would be permissible at night or in poor 
visibility, on the assumption that marine mammals would be alerted to 
the approaching seismic vessel by the sounds from the single airgun and 
could move away. Lamont-Doherty would not initiate a ramp-up of the 
airguns if an observer sights a marine mammal within or near the 
applicable exclusion zones.

Special Procedures for Concentrations of Large Whales

    The Langseth would avoid exposing concentrations of large whales to 
sounds greater than 160 dB re: 1 [micro]Pa within the 160-dB zone and 
would power down the array, if necessary. For purposes of this proposed 
survey, a concentration or group of whales would consist of six or more 
individuals visually sighted that do not appear to be traveling (e.g., 
feeding, socializing, etc.).

Speed and Course Alterations

    If during seismic data collection, Lamont-Doherty detects marine 
mammals outside the exclusion zone and, based on the animal's position 
and direction of travel, is likely to enter the exclusion zone, the 
Langseth would change speed and/or direction if this does not 
compromise operational safety. Due to the limited maneuverability of 
the primary survey vessel, altering speed, and/or course can result in 
an extended period of time to realign the Langseth to the transect 
line. However, if the animal(s) appear likely to enter the exclusion 
zone, the Langseth would undertake further mitigation actions, 
including a power down or shut down of the airguns.

Mitigation Conclusions

    NMFS has carefully evaluated Lamont-Doherty's proposed mitigation 
measures in the context of ensuring that we prescribe 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.
    Any mitigation measure(s) prescribed by NMFS should be able to 
accomplish, have a reasonable likelihood of accomplishing (based on 
current science), or contribute to the accomplishment of one or more of 
the general goals listed here:
    1. Avoidance or minimization of injury or death of marine mammals 
wherever possible (goals 2, 3, and 4 may contribute to this goal).
    2. A reduction in the numbers of marine mammals (total number or 
number at biologically important time or location) exposed to airgun 
operations that we expect to result in the take of marine mammals (this 
goal may contribute to 1, above, or to reducing harassment takes only).
    3. A reduction in the number of times (total number or number at 
biologically important time or location) individuals would be exposed 
to airgun operations that we expect to result in the take of marine 
mammals (this goal may contribute to 1, above, or to reducing 
harassment takes only).
    4. A reduction in the intensity of exposures (either total number 
or number at biologically important time or location) to airgun 
operations that we expect to result in the take of marine mammals (this 
goal may contribute to 1, above, or to reducing the severity of 
harassment takes only).
    5. Avoidance or minimization of adverse effects to marine mammal 
habitat, paying special attention to the food base, activities that 
block or limit passage to or from biologically important areas, 
permanent destruction of habitat, or temporary destruction/disturbance 
of habitat during a biologically important time.
    6. For monitoring directly related to mitigation--an increase in 
the probability of detecting marine mammals, thus allowing for more 
effective implementation of the mitigation.
    Based on the evaluation of Lamont-Doherty's proposed measures, as 
well as other measures proposed by NMFS (i.e., special procedures for 
concentrations of large whales), NMFS has determined that the proposed 
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

    In order to issue an Incidental Harassment Authorization for an 
activity, section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA states that NMFS must 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 Authorizations 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 we expect to be 
present in the proposed action area.
    Lamont-Doherty submitted a marine mammal monitoring plan in section 
XIII of the Authorization application. NMFS, NSF, or Lamont-Doherty may 
modify or supplement the plan based on comments or new information 
received from the public during the public comment period.
    Monitoring measures prescribed by NMFS should accomplish one or 
more of the following general goals:
    1. An increase in the probability of detecting marine mammals, both 
within the mitigation zone (thus allowing for more effective 
implementation of the mitigation) and during other times and locations, 
in order to generate more data to contribute to the analyses mentioned 
later;
    2. An increase in our understanding of how many marine mammals 
would be affected by seismic airguns and other active acoustic sources 
and the likelihood of associating those exposures with specific adverse 
effects, such as behavioral harassment, temporary or permanent 
threshold shift;
    3. An increase in our understanding of how marine mammals respond 
to stimuli that we expect to result in take and how those anticipated 
adverse effects on individuals (in different ways and to varying 
degrees) may impact the population, species, or stock (specifically 
through effects on annual

[[Page 2183]]

rates of recruitment or survival) through any of the following methods:
    a. Behavioral observations in the presence of stimuli compared to 
observations in the absence of stimuli (i.e., to be able to accurately 
predict received level, distance from source, and other pertinent 
information);
    b. Physiological measurements in the presence of stimuli compared 
to observations in the absence of stimuli (i.e., to be able to 
accurately predict received level, distance from source, and other 
pertinent information);
    c. Distribution and/or abundance comparisons in times or areas with 
concentrated stimuli versus times or areas without stimuli;
    4. An increased knowledge of the affected species; and
    5. An increase in our understanding of the effectiveness of certain 
mitigation and monitoring measures.

Monitoring Measures

    Lamont-Doherty proposes to sponsor marine mammal monitoring during 
the present project to supplement the mitigation measures that require 
real-time monitoring, and to satisfy the monitoring requirements of the 
Authorization. Lamont-Doherty understands that NMFS would review the 
monitoring plan and may require refinements to the plan. Lamont-Doherty 
planned the monitoring work as a self-contained project independent of 
any other related monitoring projects that may occur in the same 
regions at the same time. Further, Lamont-Doherty is prepared to 
discuss coordination of its monitoring program with any other related 
work that might be conducted by other groups working insofar as it is 
practical for Lamont-Doherty.

Vessel-Based Passive Acoustic Monitoring

    Passive acoustic monitoring would complement the visual mitigation 
monitoring program, when practicable. Visual monitoring typically is 
not effective during periods of poor visibility or at night, and even 
with good visibility, is unable to detect marine mammals when they are 
below the surface or beyond visual range. Passive acoustic monitoring 
can improve detection, identification, and localization of cetaceans 
when used in conjunction with visual observations. The passive acoustic 
monitoring would serve to alert visual observers (if on duty) when 
vocalizing cetaceans are detected. It is only useful when marine 
mammals call, but it can be effective either by day or by night, and 
does not depend on good visibility. The acoustic observer would monitor 
the system in real time so that he/she can advise the visual observers 
if they acoustically detect cetaceans.
    The passive acoustic monitoring system consists of hardware (i.e., 
hydrophones) and software. The ``wet end'' of the system consists of a 
towed hydrophone array connected to the vessel by a tow cable. The tow 
cable is 250 m (820.2 ft) long and the hydrophones are fitted in the 
last 10 m (32.8 ft) of cable. A depth gauge, attached to the free end 
of the cable, typically is towed at depths less than 20 m (65.6 ft). 
The Langseth crew would deploy the array from a winch located on the 
back deck. A deck cable would connect the tow cable to the electronics 
unit in the main computer lab where the acoustic station, signal 
conditioning, and processing system would be located. The Pamguard 
software amplifies, digitizes, and then processes the acoustic signals 
received by the hydrophones. The system can detect marine mammal 
vocalizations at frequencies up to 250 kHz.
    One acoustic observer, an expert bioacoustician with primary 
responsibility for the passive acoustic monitoring system would be 
aboard the Langseth in addition to the other visual observers who would 
rotate monitoring duties. The acoustic observer would monitor the towed 
hydrophones 24 hours per day during airgun operations and during most 
periods when the Langseth is underway while the airguns are not 
operating. However, passive acoustic monitoring may not be possible if 
damage occurs to both the primary and back-up hydrophone arrays during 
operations. The primary passive acoustic monitoring streamer on the 
Langseth is a digital hydrophone streamer. Should the digital streamer 
fail, back-up systems should include an analog spare streamer and a 
hull-mounted hydrophone.
    One acoustic observer would monitor the acoustic detection system 
by listening to the signals from two channels via headphones and/or 
speakers and watching the real-time spectrographic display for 
frequency ranges produced by cetaceans. The observer monitoring the 
acoustical data would be on shift for one to six hours at a time. The 
other observers would rotate as an acoustic observer, although the 
expert acoustician would be on passive acoustic monitoring duty more 
frequently.
    When the acoustic observer detects a vocalization while visual 
observations are in progress, the acoustic observer on duty would 
contact the visual observer immediately, to alert him/her to the 
presence of cetaceans (if they have not already been seen), so that the 
vessel's crew can initiate a power down or shutdown, if required. The 
observer would enter the information regarding the call into a 
database. Data entry would include an acoustic encounter identification 
number, whether it was linked with a visual sighting, date, time when 
first and last heard and whenever any additional information was 
recorded, position and water depth when first detected, bearing if 
determinable, species or species group (e.g., unidentified dolphin, 
sperm whale), types and nature of sounds heard (e.g., clicks, 
continuous, sporadic, whistles, creaks, burst pulses, strength of 
signal, etc.), and any other notable information. Acousticians record 
the acoustic detection for further analysis.

Observer Data and Documentation

    Observers would record data to estimate the numbers of marine 
mammals exposed to various received sound levels and to document 
apparent disturbance reactions or lack thereof. They would use the data 
to help better understand the impacts of the activity on marine mammals 
and to estimate numbers of animals potentially `taken' by harassment 
(as defined in the MMPA). They will also provide information needed to 
order a power down or shut down of the airguns when a marine mammal is 
within or near the exclusion zone.
    When an observer makes a sighting, they will record the following 
information:
    1. Species, group size, age/size/sex categories (if determinable), 
behavior when first sighted and after initial sighting, heading (if 
consistent), bearing and distance from seismic vessel, sighting cue, 
apparent reaction to the airguns or vessel (e.g., none, avoidance, 
approach, paralleling, etc.), and behavioral pace.
    2. Time, location, heading, speed, activity of the vessel, sea 
state, visibility, and sun glare.
    The observer will record the data listed under (2) at the start and 
end of each observation watch, and during a watch whenever there is a 
change in one or more of the variables.
    Observers will record all observations and power downs or shutdowns 
in a standardized format and will enter data into an electronic 
database. The observers will verify the accuracy of the data entry by 
computerized data validity checks during data entry and by subsequent 
manual checking of the database. These procedures will allow the 
preparation of initial summaries of data during and shortly after the 
field program, and will facilitate transfer of

[[Page 2184]]

the data to statistical, graphical, and other programs for further 
processing and archiving.
    Results from the vessel-based observations will provide:
    1. The basis for real-time mitigation (airgun power down or 
shutdown).
    2. Information needed to estimate the number of marine mammals 
potentially taken by harassment, which Lamont-Doherty must report to 
the Office of Protected Resources.
    3. Data on the occurrence, distribution, and activities of marine 
mammals and turtles in the area where Lamont-Doherty would conduct the 
seismic study.
    4. Information to compare the distance and distribution of marine 
mammals and turtles relative to the source vessel at times with and 
without seismic activity.
    5. Data on the behavior and movement patterns of marine mammals 
detected during non-active and active seismic operations.

Reporting

    Lamont-Doherty would submit a report to us and to NSF within 90 
days after the end of the cruise. The report would describe the 
operations conducted and sightings of marine mammals near the 
operations. The report would provide full documentation of methods, 
results, and interpretation pertaining to all monitoring. The 90-day 
report would summarize the dates and locations of seismic operations, 
and all marine mammal sightings (dates, times, locations, activities, 
associated seismic survey activities). The report would also include 
estimates of the number and nature of exposures that occurred above the 
harassment threshold based on the observations. The report would 
consider both published literature and previous monitoring results that 
could inform the detectability of different species and how that 
information affects post survey exposure estimates.
    In the unanticipated event that the specified activity clearly 
causes the take of a marine mammal in a manner not permitted by the 
authorization (if issued), such as an injury, serious injury, or 
mortality (e.g., ship-strike, gear interaction, and/or entanglement), 
Lamont-Doherty shall immediately cease the specified activities and 
immediately report the take to the Division Chief, Permits and 
Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS. The report 
must include the following information:
     Time, date, and location (latitude/longitude) of the 
incident;
     Name and type of vessel involved;
     Vessel's speed during and leading up to the incident;
     Description of the incident;
     Status of all sound source use in the 24 hours preceding 
the incident;
     Water depth;
     Environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, 
Beaufort sea state, cloud cover, and visibility);
     Description of all marine mammal observations in the 24 
hours preceding the incident;
     Species identification or description of the animal(s) 
involved;
     Fate of the animal(s); and
     Photographs or video footage of the animal(s) (if 
equipment is available).
    Lamont-Doherty shall not resume its activities until we are able to 
review the circumstances of the prohibited take. We shall work with 
Lamont-Doherty to determine what is necessary to minimize the 
likelihood of further prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. 
Lamont-Doherty may not resume their activities until notified by us via 
letter, email, or telephone.
    In the event that Lamont-Doherty discovers an injured or dead 
marine mammal, and the lead visual observer determines that the cause 
of the injury or death is unknown and the death is relatively recent 
(i.e., in less than a moderate state of decomposition as we describe in 
the next paragraph), Lamont-Doherty will immediately report the 
incident to the Division Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, 
Office of Protected Resources, NMFS. The report must include the same 
information identified in the paragraph above this section. Activities 
may continue while NMFS reviews the circumstances of the incident. NMFS 
would work with Lamont-Doherty to determine whether modifications in 
the activities are appropriate.
    In the event that Lamont-Doherty discovers an injured or dead 
marine mammal, and the lead visual observer determines that the injury 
or death is not associated with or related to the authorized activities 
(e.g., previously wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced 
decomposition, or scavenger damage), Lamont-Doherty would report the 
incident to the Chief Permits and Conservation Division, Office of 
Protected Resources, NMFS, within 24 hours of the discovery. Lamont-
Doherty would provide photographs or video footage (if available) or 
other documentation of the stranded animal sighting to NMFS.

Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment

    Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, 
section 3(18) of 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].
    Acoustic stimuli (i.e., increased underwater sound) generated 
during the operation of the airgun array may have the potential to 
result in the behavioral disturbance of some marine mammals and may 
have an even smaller potential to result in permanent threshold shift 
(non-lethal injury) of some marine mammals. NMFS expects that the 
proposed mitigation and monitoring measures would minimize the 
possibility of injurious or lethal takes. However, NMFS cannot discount 
the possibility (albeit small) that exposure to energy from the 
proposed survey could result in non-lethal injury (Level A harassment). 
Thus, NMFS proposes to authorize take by Level B harassment and Level A 
harassment resulting from the operation of the sound sources for the 
proposed seismic survey based upon the current acoustic exposure 
criteria shown in Table 3 subject to the limitations in take described 
in Table 5 later in this notice.

            Table 3--NMFS' Current Acoustic Exposure Criteria
------------------------------------------------------------------------
          Criterion           Criterion definition        Threshold
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Level A Harassment (Injury).  Permanent Threshold   180 dB re 1 microPa-
                               Shift (PTS).          m (cetaceans)/190
                              (Any level above       dB re 1 microPa-m
                               that which is known   (pinnipeds) root
                               to cause TTS).        mean square (rms).
Level B Harassment..........  Behavioral            160 dB re 1 microPa-
                               Disruption (for       m (rms).
                               impulse noises).
------------------------------------------------------------------------


[[Page 2185]]

    NMFS' practice is to apply the 160 dB re: 1 [mu]Pa received level 
threshold for underwater impulse sound levels to predict whether 
behavioral disturbance that rises to the level of Level B harassment is 
likely to occur. NMFS' practice is to apply the 180 dB or 190 dB re: 1 
[mu]Pa received level threshold for underwater impulse sound levels to 
predict whether permanent threshold shift (auditory injury), which we 
consider as Level A harassment is likely to occur.

Acknowledging Uncertainties in Estimating Take

    Given the many uncertainties in predicting the quantity and types 
of impacts of sound on marine mammals, it is common practice to 
estimate how many animals are likely to be present within a particular 
distance of a given activity, or exposed to a particular level of 
sound, and use that information to predict how many animals are taken. 
In practice, depending on the amount of information available to 
characterize daily and seasonal movement and distribution of affected 
marine mammals, distinguishing between the numbers of individuals 
harassed and the instances of harassment can be difficult to parse. 
Moreover, when one considers the duration of the activity, in the 
absence of information to predict the degree to which individual 
animals are likely exposed repeatedly on subsequent days, the simple 
assumption is that entirely new animals are exposed every day, which 
results in a take estimate that in some circumstances overestimates the 
number of individuals harassed.
    The following sections describe NMFS' methods to estimate take by 
incidental harassment. We base these estimates on the number of marine 
mammals that could be potentially harassed by seismic operations with 
the airgun array during approximately 3,236 km (2,028 mi) of transect 
lines in the South Atlantic Ocean.
    Modeled Number of Instances of Exposures: Lamont-Doherty would 
conduct the proposed seismic survey within the high seas in the South 
Atlantic Ocean. NMFS presents estimates of the anticipated numbers of 
instances that marine mammals could be exposed to sound levels greater 
than or equal to 160, 180, and 190 dB re: 1 [mu]Pa during the proposed 
seismic survey. Table 5 represents the numbers of instances of take 
that NMFS proposes to authorize for this survey within the South 
Atlantic Ocean.
    NMFS' Take Estimate Method for Species with Density Information: In 
order to estimate the potential number of instances that marine mammals 
could be exposed to airgun sounds above the 160-dB Level B harassment 
threshold and the 180-dB Level A harassment thresholds, NMFS used the 
following approach for species with density estimates derived from the 
Navy's Atlantic Fleet Training and Testing Navy Marine Species Density 
Database (NMSDD) maps for the survey area in the Southern Atlantic 
Ocean. NMFS used the highest density range for each species within the 
survey area.
    (1) Calculate the total area that the Langseth would ensonify above 
the 160-dB Level B harassment threshold and above the 180-dB Level A 
harassment threshold for cetaceans within a 24-hour period. This 
calculation includes a daily ensonified area of approximately 1,377 
square kilometers (km\2\) (532 square miles [mi\2\]) for the five OBS 
tracklines and 1,839 km\2\ (710 mi\2\) for the MCS trackline based on 
the Langseth traveling approximately 150 km [93 mi] in one day). 
Generally, the Langseth travels approximately 137 km (85 mi) in one day 
while conducting a seismic survey; thus, NMFS' estimate of a daily 
ensonified area based on 150 km is an estimation of the theoretical 
maximum that the Langseth could travel within 24 hours.
    (2) Multiply each daily ensonified area above the 160-dB Level B 
harassment threshold by the species' density (animals/km\2\) to derive 
the predicted number of instances of exposures to received levels 
greater than or equal to 160-dB re: 1 [mu]Pa on a given day;
    (3) Multiply each product (i.e., the expected number of instances 
of exposures within a day) by the number of survey days that includes a 
25 percent contingency (i.e., a total of six days for the five OBS 
tracklines and a total of 22 days for the MCS trackline) to derive the 
predicted number of instances of exposures above 160 dB over the 
duration of the survey;
    (4) Multiply the daily ensonified area by each species-specific 
density to derive the predicted number of instances of exposures to 
received levels greater than or equal to 180-dB re: 1 [mu]Pa for 
cetaceans on a given day (i.e., Level A takes). This calculation 
includes a daily ensonified area of approximately 207 km\2\ (80 mi\2\) 
for the five OBS tracklines and 281 km\2\ (108 mi\2\) for the MCS 
trackline.
    (5) Multiply each product by the number of survey days that 
includes a 25 percent contingency (i.e., a total of six days for the 
five OBS tracklines and a total of 22 days for the MCS trackline). 
Subtract that product from the predicted number of instances of 
exposures to received levels greater than or equal to 160-dB re: 1 
[mu]Pa on a given day to derive the number of instances of exposures 
estimated to occur between 160 and 180-dB threshold (i.e., Level B 
takes).
    In many cases, this estimate of instances of exposures is likely an 
overestimate of the number of individuals that are taken, because it 
assumes 100 percent turnover in the area every day, (i.e., that each 
new day results in takes of entirely new individuals with no repeat 
takes of the same individuals over the 22-day period (28 days with 
contingency). It is difficult to quantify to what degree this method 
overestimates the number of individuals potentially taken. Except as 
described later for a few specific species, NMFS uses this number of 
instances as the estimate of individuals (and authorized take) even 
though NMFS is aware that the number may be somewhat high due to the 
use of the maximum density estimate from the NMSDD.
    Take Estimates for Species with Less than One Instance of Exposure: 
Using the approach described earlier, the model generated instances of 
take for some species that were less than one over the 28-day duration. 
Those species include the humpback, blue, Bryde's, pygmy sperm, and 
dwarf sperm whale. NMFS used data based on dedicated survey sighting 
information from the Atlantic Marine Assessment Program for Protected 
Species (AMAPPS) surveys in 2010, 2011, and 2013 (AMAPPS, 2010, 2011, 
2013) to estimate take and assumed that Lamont-Doherty could 
potentially encounter one group of each species during the proposed 
seismic survey. NMFS believes it is reasonable to use the average 
(mean) group size (weighted by effort and rounded up) from the AMMAPS 
surveys for humpback whale (3), blue whale (2), Bryde's whale (2), 
pygmy sperm whale (2), and dwarf sperm whale (2) to derive a reasonable 
estimate of take for eruptive occurrences.
    Take Estimates for Species with No Density Information: Density 
information for the Southern right whale, southern elephant seal, and 
Subantarctic fur seal in the South Atlantic Ocean is data poor or non-
existent. When density estimates were not available, NMFS used data 
based on dedicated survey sighting information from the Atlantic Marine 
Assessment Program for Protected Species (AMAPPS) surveys in 2010, 
2011, and 2013 (AMAPPS, 2010, 2011, 2013) to estimate take for the 
three species. NMFS assumed that Lamont-Doherty could potentially 
encounter one group

[[Page 2186]]

of each species during the seismic survey. NMFS believes it is 
reasonable to use the average (mean) group size (weighted by effort and 
rounded up) for North Atlantic right whales (3) from the AMMAPS surveys 
for the Southern right whale and the mean group size for unidentified 
seals (2) from the AMMAPS surveys for southern elephant and 
Subantarctic fur seals multiplied by 28 days to derive an estimate of 
take from a potential encounter.
    NMFS used sighting information from a survey off Namibia, Africa 
(Rose and Payne, 1991) to estimate a mean group size for southern right 
whale dolphins (58) and also multiplied that estimate by 28 days to 
derive an estimate of take from a potential encounter with that 
species.

  Table 4--Densities and/or Mean Group Size, and Estimates of the Possible Numbers of Marine Mammals and Population Percentages Exposed to Sound Levels
         Greater Than or Equal to 160, 180, and 190 dB re: 1 [mu]Pa Over 28 Days During the Proposed Seismic Survey in the South Atlantic Ocean
                                                              [January through March, 2016]
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                           Modeled number of
                                                              instances of
                                                Density       exposures to      Proposed     Proposed     Percent of
                   Species                      estimate      sound levels      Level A      Level B    population \4\        Population trend \5\
                                                  \1\       >=160, 180, and     take \3\     take \3\
                                                               190 dB \2\
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Antarctic minke whale.......................     0.054983      2,276, 396, -          396        2,276           0.519  Unknown.
Blue whale..................................     0.000032            2, 0, -            0            2           0.074  Unknown.
Bryde's whale...............................     0.000262            2, 0, -            0            2           0.005  Unknown.
Common minke whale..........................     0.054983      2,276, 396, -          396        2,276           0.519  Unknown.
Fin whale...................................     0.002888         106, 28, -           28          106           0.609  Unknown.
Humpback whale..............................     0.000078            3, 0, -            0            3           0.200  [uarr].
Sei whale...................................     0.002688         106, 28, -           28          106           1.340  Unknown.
Southern right whale........................           NA           18, 0, -            0           18           0.150  Unknown.
Sperm whale.................................     0.001214           50, 0, -            0           50           0.014  Unknown.
Dwarf sperm whale...........................     0.000041            2, 0, -            0            2           0.053  Unknown.
Pygmy sperm whale...........................     0.000021            2, 0, -            0            2           0.053  Unknown.
Cuvier's beaked whale.......................     0.003831         156, 28, -           28          156           0.031  Unknown.
Andrew's beaked whale.......................     0.000511           28, 0, -            0           28           0.005  Unknown.
Arnoux's beaked whale.......................     0.000956           28, 0, -            0           28           0.005  Unknown.
Blainville's beaked whale...................     0.000663           28, 0, -            0           28           0.005  Unknown.
Gervais' beaked whale.......................     0.001334           56, 0, -            0           56           0.009  Unknown.
Gray's beaked whale.........................     0.000944           28, 0, -            0           28           0.005  Unknown.
Hector's beaked whale.......................     0.000246            0, 0, -            0            0           0.000  Unknown.
Shepherd's beaked whale.....................     0.000816           28, 0, -            0           28           0.005  Unknown.
Strap-toothed beaked whale..................     0.000638           28, 0, -            0           28           0.005  Unknown.
True's beaked whale.........................     0.000876           28, 0, -            0           28           0.005  Unknown.
Southern bottlenose whale...................     0.000917           28, 0, -            0           28           0.005  Unknown.
Bottlenose dolphin..........................     0.020744        848, 156, -          156          848           0.167  Unknown.
Rough-toothed dolphin.......................     0.000418           22, 0, -            0           22           8.118  Unknown.
Pantropical spotted dolphin.................     0.003674         156, 28, -           28          156           5.521  Unknown.
Striped dolphin.............................     0.174771    7,208, 1,294, -        1,294        7,208          15.513  Unknown.
Fraser's dolphin............................     0.001568           56, 0, -            0           56           0.019  Unknown.
Spinner dolphin.............................     0.006255         262, 50, -           50          262           0.026  Unknown.
Atlantic spotted dolphin....................     0.077173      3,180, 580, -          580        3,180           8.409  Unknown.
Clymene dolphin.............................     0.000258            0, 0, -            0            0           0.000  Unknown.
Risso's dolphin.............................     0.037399      1,540, 290, -          290        1,540           8.844  Unknown.
Long-beaked common dolphin..................     0.000105            0, 0, -            0            0           0.000  Unknown.
Short-beaked common dolphin.................     0.129873      5,356, 954, -          954        5,356           3.637  Unknown.
Southern right whale dolphin................           NA        1,624, 0, -            0        1,624         Unknown  Unknown.
Melon-headed whale..........................     0.006285         262, 50, -           50          262           0.624  Unknown.
Pygmy killer whale..........................     0.001039           50, 0, -            0           50           1.395  Unknown.
False killer whale..........................     0.000158            0, 0, -            0            0           0.000  Unknown.
Killer whale................................     0.003312         134, 28, -           28          134           0.324  Unknown.
Long-finned pilot whale.....................     0.007614         318, 56, -           56          318           0.187  Unknown.
Short-finned pilot whale....................     0.015616        636, 106, -          106          636           0.371  Unknown.
Southern Elephant Seal......................           NA           56, 0, 0            0           56           0.009  Unknown.
Subantarctic fur seal.......................           NA           56, 0, 0            0           56           0.018  Unknown.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ Densities (where available) are expressed as number of individuals per km\2\. Densities estimated from the Navy's Atlantic Fleet Training and
  Testing Navy Marine Species Density Database maps for the survey area in the Southern Atlantic Ocean. NA = Not available.
\2\ See preceding text for information on NMFS' take estimate calculations. NA = Not applicable.
\3\ Modeled instances of exposures include adjustments for species with no density information. The Level A estimates are overestimates of predicted
  impacts to marine mammals as the estimates do not take into consideration the required mitigation measures for shutdowns or power downs if a marine
  mammal is likely to enter the 180 dB exclusion zone while the airguns are active.
\4\ Table 2 in this notice lists the stock species abundance estimates used in calculating the percentage of the population.
\5\ Population trend information from Waring et al., 2015. [uarr]= Increasing. [darr] = Decreasing. Unknown = Insufficient data.

    Lamont-Doherty did not estimate any additional take from sound 
sources other than airguns. NMFS does not expect the sound levels 
produced by the echosounder and sub-bottom profiler to exceed the sound 
levels produced by

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the airguns. Lamont-Doherty will not operate the multibeam echosounder 
and sub-bottom profiler during transits to and from the survey area, 
(i.e., when the airguns are not operating) and in between transits to 
each of the five OBS tracklines, and, therefore, NMFS does not 
anticipate additional takes from these sources in this particular case.
    NMFS considers the probability for entanglement of marine mammals 
as low because of the vessel speed and the monitoring efforts onboard 
the survey vessel. Therefore, NMFS does not believe it is necessary to 
authorize additional takes for entanglement at this time.
    The Langseth will operate at a relatively slow speed (typically 4.6 
knots [8.5 km/h; 5.3 mph]) when conducting the survey. Protected 
species observers would monitor for marine mammals, which would trigger 
mitigation measures, including vessel avoidance where safe. Therefore, 
NMFS does not anticipate nor do we authorize takes of marine mammals 
from vessel strike.
    There is no evidence that the planned survey activities could 
result in serious injury or mortality within the specified geographic 
area for the requested proposed Authorization. The required mitigation 
and monitoring measures would minimize any potential risk for serious 
injury or mortality.

Analysis and Determinations

Negligible Impact

    Negligible impact is ``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'' (50 CFR 216.103). The lack of 
likely adverse effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival 
(i.e., population level effects) forms the basis of a negligible impact 
finding. Thus, an estimate of the number of takes, alone, is not enough 
information on which to base an impact determination. In addition to 
considering estimates of the number of marine mammals that might be 
``taken'' through behavioral harassment, NMFS must consider other 
factors, such as the likely nature of any responses (their intensity, 
duration, etc.), the context of any responses (critical reproductive 
time or location, migration, etc.), as well as the number and nature of 
estimated Level A harassment takes, the number of estimated 
mortalities, effects on habitat, and the status of the species.
    In making a negligible impact determination, NMFS considers:
     The number of anticipated injuries, serious injuries, or 
mortalities;
     The number, nature, and intensity, and duration of 
harassment; and
     The context in which the takes occur (e.g., impacts to 
areas of significance, impacts to local populations, and cumulative 
impacts when taking into account successive/contemporaneous actions 
when added to baseline data);
     The status of stock or species of marine mammals (i.e., 
depleted, not depleted, decreasing, increasing, stable, impact relative 
to the size of the population);
     Impacts on habitat affecting rates of recruitment/
survival; and
     The effectiveness of monitoring and mitigation measures to 
reduce the number or severity of incidental takes.
    To avoid repetition, our analysis applies to all the species listed 
in Table 5, given that NMFS expects the anticipated effects of the 
seismic airguns to be similar in nature. Where there are meaningful 
differences between species or stocks, or groups of species, in 
anticipated individual responses to activities, impact of expected take 
on the population due to differences in population status, or impacts 
on habitat, NMFS has identified species-specific factors to inform the 
analysis.
    Given the required mitigation and related monitoring, NMFS does not 
anticipate that serious injury or mortality would occur as a result of 
Lamont-Doherty's proposed seismic survey in the South Atlantic Ocean. 
Thus the proposed authorization does not authorize any mortality.
    NMFS' predicted estimates for Level A harassment take for some 
species are likely overestimates of the injury that will occur. NMFS 
expects that successful implementation of the required visual and 
acoustic mitigation measures would avoid Level A take in some 
instances. Also, NMFS expects that some individuals would avoid the 
source at levels expected to result in injury. Nonetheless, although 
NMFS expects that Level A harassment is unlikely to occur at the 
numbers proposed to be authorized, because it is difficult to quantify 
the degree to which the mitigation and avoidance will reduce the number 
of animals that might incur PTS, we are proposing to authorize, and 
have included in our analyses, the modeled number of Level A takes, 
which does not take the mitigation or avoidance into consideration. 
However, because of the constant movement of the Langseth and the 
animals, as well as the fact that the boat is not staying in any one 
area in which individuals would be expected to concentrate for any long 
amount of time (i.e., since the duration of exposure to loud sounds 
will be relatively short), we anticipate that any PTS incurred would be 
in the form of only a small degree of permanent threshold shift and not 
total deafness.
    Of the marine mammal species under our jurisdiction that are known 
to occur or likely to occur in the study area, the following species 
are listed as endangered under the ESA: Blue, fin, humpback, sei, 
Southern right whale, and sperm whales. The western north Atlantic 
population of humpback whales is known to be increasing. The other 
marine mammal species that may be taken by harassment during Lamont-
Doherty's seismic survey program are not listed as threatened or 
endangered under the ESA.
    Cetaceans. Odontocete reactions to seismic energy pulses are 
usually thought to be limited to shorter distances from the airgun(s) 
than are those of mysticetes, in part because odontocete low-frequency 
hearing is assumed to be less sensitive than that of mysticetes. Given 
sufficient notice through relatively slow ship speed, NMFS generally 
expects marine mammals to move away from a noise source that is 
annoying prior to becoming potentially injurious, although Level A 
takes for a small group of species are proposed for authorization here.
    Potential impacts to marine mammal habitat were discussed 
previously in this document (see the ``Anticipated Effects on Habitat'' 
section). Although some disturbance is possible to food sources of 
marine mammals, the impacts are anticipated to be minor enough as to 
not affect annual rates of recruitment or survival of marine mammals in 
the area. Based on the size of the South Atlantic Ocean where feeding 
by marine mammals occurs versus the localized area of the marine survey 
activities, any missed feeding opportunities in the direct project area 
will be minor based on the fact that other feeding areas exist 
elsewhere. Taking into account the planned mitigation measures, effects 
on cetaceans are generally expected to be restricted to avoidance of a 
limited area around the survey operation and short-term changes in 
behavior, falling within the MMPA definition of ``Level B harassment.'' 
Animals are not expected to permanently abandon any area that is 
surveyed, and any behaviors that are interrupted during the activity 
are expected to resume once the activity ceases. Only a small portion 
of marine mammal habitat will be affected at any time, and other areas 
within the South

[[Page 2188]]

Atlantic Ocean would be available for necessary biological functions.
    Pinnipeds. During foraging trips, extralimital pinnipeds may not 
react at all to the sound from the proposed survey, ignore the 
stimulus, change their behavior, or avoid the immediate area by 
swimming away or diving. Behavioral responses can range from a mild 
orienting response, or a shifting of attention, to flight and panic. 
Research and observations show that pinnipeds in the water are tolerant 
of anthropogenic noise and activity. They may react in a number of ways 
depending on their experience with the sound source and what activity 
they are engaged in at the time of the exposure. Significant behavioral 
effects are more likely at higher received levels within a few 
kilometers of the source and activities involving sound from the 
proposed survey would not occur near any haulout areas where resting 
behaviors occur.
    Many animals perform vital functions, such as feeding, resting, 
traveling, and socializing, on a diel cycle (i.e., 24 hour cycle). 
Behavioral reactions to noise exposure (such as disruption of critical 
life functions, displacement, or avoidance of important habitat) are 
more likely to be significant if they last more than one diel cycle or 
recur on subsequent days (Southall et al., 2007). While NMFS 
anticipates that the seismic operations would occur on consecutive days 
and the duration of the survey would last no more than 28 days, the 
seismic operations would increase sound levels in the marine 
environment in a relatively small area surrounding the vessel (compared 
to the range of most of the marine mammals within the proposed survey 
area), which is constantly travelling over distances, and some animals 
may only be exposed to and harassed by sound for less than a day.
    For reasons stated previously in this document and based on the 
following factors, Lamont-Doherty's specified activities are not likely 
to cause long-term behavioral disturbance, serious injury, or death, or 
other effects that would be expected to adversely affect reproduction 
or survival of any individuals. They include:
     The anticipated impacts of Lamont-Doherty's survey 
activities on marine mammals are temporary behavioral changes due, 
primarily, to avoidance of the area;
     The likelihood that, given the constant movement of boat 
and animals and the nature of the survey design (not concentrated in 
areas of high marine mammal concentration), PTS incurred would be of a 
low level;
     The availability of alternate areas of similar habitat 
value for marine mammals to temporarily vacate the survey area during 
the operation of the airgun(s) to avoid acoustic harassment;
     The expectation that the seismic survey would have no more 
than a temporary and minimal adverse effect on any fish or invertebrate 
species that serve as prey species for marine mammals, and therefore 
consider the potential impacts to marine mammal habitat minimal; and
     The knowledge that the survey is taking place in the open 
ocean and not located within an area of biological importance for 
breeding, calving, or foraging for marine mammals.
    Table 4 in this document outlines the number of requested Level A 
and Level B harassment takes that we anticipate as a result of these 
activities.
    Required mitigation measures, such as special shutdowns for large 
whales, vessel speed, course alteration, and visual monitoring would be 
implemented to help reduce impacts to marine mammals. Based on the 
analysis herein of the likely effects of the specified activity on 
marine mammals and their habitat, and taking into consideration the 
implementation of the proposed monitoring and mitigation measures, NMFS 
finds that Lamont-Doherty's proposed seismic survey would have a 
negligible impact on the affected marine mammal species or stocks.

Small Numbers

    As mentioned previously, NMFS estimates that Lamont-Doherty's 
activities could potentially affect, by Level B harassment, 38 species 
of marine mammals under our jurisdiction. NMFS estimates that Lamont-
Doherty's activities could potentially affect, by Level A harassment, 
up to 16 species of marine mammals under our jurisdiction.
    For each species, the numbers of take being proposed for 
authorization are small numbers relative to the population sizes: Less 
than 16 percent for striped dolphins, less than 8 percent of Risso's 
dolphins, less than 6 percent for pantropical spotted dolphins, and 
less than 4 percent for all other species. NMFS has provided the 
regional population and take estimates for the marine mammal species 
that may be taken by Level A and Level B harassment in Table 4 in this 
notice. NMFS finds that the proposed incidental take described in Table 
4 for the proposed activity would be limited to small numbers relative 
to the affected species or stocks.

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.

Endangered Species Act (ESA)

    There are six marine mammal species listed as endangered under the 
Endangered Species Act that may occur in the proposed survey area. 
Under section 7 of the ESA, NSF initiated formal consultation with NMFS 
on the proposed seismic survey. NMFS (i.e., National Marine Fisheries 
Service, Office of Protected Resources, Permits and Conservation 
Division) also consulted internally with NMFS on the proposed issuance 
of an Authorization under section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA.
    In January, 2016, the Endangered Species Act Interagency 
Cooperation Division issued a Biological Opinion with an Incidental 
Take Statement to us and to the NSF, which concluded that the issuance 
of the Authorization and the conduct of the seismic survey were not 
likely to jeopardize the continued existence of blue, fin, humpback, 
sei, South Atlantic right and sperm whales. The Biological Opinion also 
concluded that the issuance of the Authorization and the conduct of the 
seismic survey would not affect designated critical habitat for these 
species.

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

    NSF has prepared an environmental analysis titled ``Environmental 
Analysis of a Marine Geophysical Survey by the R/V Marcus G. Langseth 
in South Atlantic Ocean, Austral Summer 2016.'' NMFS has also prepared 
an environmental assessment (EA) titled, ``Proposed Issuance of an 
Incidental Harassment Authorization to Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory 
to Take Marine Mammals by Harassment Incidental to a Marine Geophysical 
Survey in the South Atlantic Ocean, January-March 2016,'' which tiers 
off of NSF's environmental analysis. NMFS and NSF provided relevant 
environmental information to the public through the notice of proposed 
Authorization (80 FR 75355, December 1, 2015) and considered public 
comments received prior to finalizing our EA and deciding whether or 
not to issue a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI). NMFS concluded 
that issuance of an Incidental Harassment Authorization to Lamont-
Doherty would not significantly affect the quality of the human 
environment and prepared and

[[Page 2189]]

issued a FONSI in accordance with NEPA and NOAA Administrative Order 
216-6. NMFS' EA and FONSI for this activity are available upon request 
(see ADDRESSES).

Authorization

    NMFS has issued an Incidental Harassment Authorization to Lamont-
Doherty for the take of marine mammals, incidental to conducting a 
marine seismic survey in the South Atlantic Ocean January through March 
2016.

    Dated: January 11, 2016.
Perry F. Gayaldo,
Deputy Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2016-00660 Filed 1-14-16; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P