Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; St. George Reef Light Station Restoration and Maintenance at Northwest Seal Rock, Del Norte County, California, 9440-9446 [2016-03999]

Download as PDF 9440 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 37 / Thursday, February 25, 2016 / Notices accompanied by other parts, e.g., a wheel, rim, axle parts, bolts, nuts, etc. Truck and bus tires that enter attached to a vehicle are not covered by the scope. Specifically excluded from the scope of this investigation are the following types of tires: (1) Pneumatic tires, of rubber, that are not new, including recycled and retreaded tires; and (2) non-pneumatic tires, such as solid rubber tires. The subject merchandise is currently classifiable under Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) subheadings: 4011.20.1015 and 4011.20.5020. Tires meeting the scope description may also enter under the following HTSUS subheadings: 4011.99.4520, 4011.99.4590, 4011.99.8520, 4011.99.8590, 8708.70.4530, 8708.70.6030, and 8708.70.6060. While HTSUS subheadings are provided for convenience and for customs purposes, the written description of the subject merchandise is dispositive. Agenda Agenda items to be discussed at the SSC meeting include: Review fishery performance reports and multi-year ABC specifications for Golden Tilefish; discuss MAFMC risk policy and assignment of CVs for Mid-Atlantic assessments; discuss SSC membership needs; receive a report from the Black Sea Bass Review Subgroup on specification of spatial structure within the BSB assessment; review Blueline Tilefish fishery information and discuss ABC specifications. This meeting is physically accessible to people with disabilities. Requests for sign language interpretation or other auxiliary aid should be directed to M. Jan Saunders, (302) 526–5251, at least 5 days prior to the meeting date. [FR Doc. 2016–04060 Filed 2–24–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–DS–P Dated: February 22, 2016. Tracey L. Thompson, Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE [FR Doc. 2016–04007 Filed 2–24–16; 8:45 am] Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. BILLING CODE 3510–22–P National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE RIN 0648–XE465 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC); Meeting RIN 0648–XE233 National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. AGENCY: ACTION: Notice of a public meeting. The Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) of the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) will hold a meeting. SUMMARY: The meeting will be held on Tuesday and Wednesday, March 15–16, 2016, beginning at 10 a.m. on March 15 and conclude by 3 p.m. on March 16. For agenda details, see SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION. DATES: The meeting will at the Royal Sonesta Harbor Court, 550 Light Street, Baltimore, MD 21202; telephone: 410–234–0550. Council address: Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, 800 N. State Street, Suite 201, Dover, DE 19901; telephone: (302) 674–2331 or on their Web site at www.mafmc.org. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES ADDRESSES: FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Christopher M. Moore, Ph.D., Executive Director, Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, telephone: (302) 526–5255. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:07 Feb 24, 2016 Jkt 238001 Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; St. George Reef Light Station Restoration and Maintenance at Northwest Seal Rock, Del Norte County, California National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; issuance of an incidental harassment authorization. AGENCY: In accordance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) implementing regulations, NMFS, we, hereby give notice that we have issued an Incidental Harassment Authorization (Authorization) to the St. George Reef Lighthouse Preservation Society (Society) to take four species of marine mammals, by harassment incidental to conducting aircraft operations, lighthouse renovation, and light maintenance activities on the St. George Reef Light Station on Northwest Seal Rock in the northeast Pacific Ocean from February 19, 2016 through February 18, 2017. DATES: Effective February 19, 2016, through February 18, 2017. ADDRESSES: An electronic copy of the final Authorization, the Society’s SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00022 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 application, and NMFS’ environmental assessment are available by writing to Jolie Harrison, Division 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. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jeannine Cody, NMFS, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS (301) 427– 8401. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background Sections 101(a)(5)(A) and (D) of the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, as amended (MMPA; 16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) direct the Secretary of Commerce to allow, upon request, the incidental, but not intentional, taking of small numbers of marine mammals 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 for incidental takings for marine mammals shall be granted if NMFS finds that the taking will have a negligible impact on the species or stock(s), will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of the species or stock(s) for subsistence uses (where relevant), and if the permissible methods of taking and requirements pertaining to the mitigation, monitoring, and reporting of such taking are set forth. NMFS has defined ‘‘negligible impact’’ in 50 CFR 216.103 as ‘‘an impact resulting from the specified activity that cannot be reasonably expected to, and is not reasonably likely to, adversely affect the species or stock through effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival.’’ Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, the MMPA defines ‘‘harassment’’ as: Any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance which (i) has the potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild [Level A harassment]; or (ii) has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering [Level B harassment]. E:\FR\FM\25FEN1.SGM 25FEN1 9441 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 37 / Thursday, February 25, 2016 / Notices Summary of Request On October 1, 2015, the Society requested that we issue an Authorization for the take of marine mammals, incidental to conducting restoration activities on the St. George Reef Light Station (Station) located on Northwest Seal Rock offshore of Crescent City, California in the northeast Pacific Ocean. NMFS determined the application complete and adequate on October 7, 2015 and published a notice of proposed Authorization on October 26, 2015 (80 FR 65201). The notice afforded the public a 30-day comment period on the proposed MMPA Authorization. The Society proposes to conduct aircraft operations, lighthouse renovation, and periodic maintenance on the Station’s optical light system on a monthly basis. The proposed activity would occur on a monthly basis over one weekend, February 2016 through February 2017. The Society would not conduct the proposed activities between May 1 and October 31, 2016. The following specific aspects of the proposed activities would likely to result in the take of marine mammals: (1) Helicopter landings/takeoffs; (2) noise generated during restoration activities (e.g., painting, plastering, welding, and glazing); (3) maintenance activities (e.g., bulb replacement and automation of the light system); and (4) human presence. Thus, NMFS anticipates that take, by Level B harassment only, of California sea lions (Zalophus californianus); Pacific harbor seals (Phoca vitulina); Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) of the eastern U.S. Stock; and northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus) could result from the specified activity. Description of the Specified Activity Overview To date, NMFS has issued four Authorizations to the Society for the conduct of the same activities from 2010 to 2015 (75 FR 4774, January 29, 2010; 76 FR 10564, February 25, 2011; 77 FR 8811, February 15, 2012; and 79 FR 6179, February 3, 2014). This is the Society’s fifth request for an annual Authorization as their last Authorization expired on April 10, 2015. The Station, listed in the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places, is located on Northwest Seal Rock offshore of Crescent City, California in the northeast Pacific Ocean. The Station, built in 1892, rises 45.7 meters (m) (150 feet (ft)) above sea level. The structure consists of hundreds of granite blocks topped with a cast iron lantern room and covers much of the surface of the islet. The purpose of the project is to restore the lighthouse and to conduct annual and emergency maintenance on the Station’s optical light system. Dates and Duration The Society proposes to conduct the activities (aircraft operations, lighthouse restoration, and maintenance activities) at a maximum frequency of one session per month. The proposed duration for each session would last no more than three days (e.g., Friday, Saturday, and Sunday). The Authorization would be effective from February 19, 2016 through February 17, 2017 with restrictions on the Society conducting activities from May 1, 2016 to October 31, 2016. Specified Geographic Region The Station is located on Northwest Seal Rock, a small rocky islet (41°50′24″ N., 124°22′06″ W.) approximately nine kilometers (km) (6.0 miles (mi)) in the northeast Pacific Ocean, offshore of Crescent City, California (Latitude: 41°46′48″ N.; Longitude: 124°14′11″ W.). Northwest Seal Rock is approximately 91.4 m (300 ft) in diameter that peaks at 5.18 m (17 ft) above mean sea level. Description of Activities We outlined the purpose of the Society’s activities in a previous notice for the proposed Authorization (80 FR 65201, October 26, 2015). The proposed activities have not changed between the notice for the proposed Authorization and this notice announcing the issuance of the Authorization. For a more detailed description of the authorized action, we refer the reader to the Detailed Description of Activities section in the notice for the proposed Authorization (80 FR 65201, October 26, 2015). Comments and Responses A notice of receipt of the Society’s application and NMFS’ proposal to issue an Authorization to the Society published in the Federal Register on October 26, 2015 (80 FR 65201). During the 30-day public comment period, we received one comment from the Marine Mammal Commission (Commission) which recommended that we issue the requested Authorization, provided that the Society carries out the required monitoring and mitigation measures as described in the notice for the proposed Authorization (80 FR 65201, October 26, 2015) and the application. We have included all measures described in the notice for the proposed Authorization (80 FR 65201, October 26, 2015) in the issued Authorization. Description of Marine Mammals in the Area of the Specified Activity The marine mammals most likely to be harassed incidental to the Society’s helicopter operations, lighthouse restoration, and lighthouse maintenance on Northwest Seal Rock are primarily Steller and California sea lions and to a lesser extent the Pacific harbor seal and the eastern Pacific stock of northern fur seal. Table 1 provides the following information: 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; occurrence and seasonality in the activity area. TABLE 1—GENERAL INFORMATION ON MARINE MAMMALS THAT COULD POTENTIALLY HAUL OUT ON NORTHWEST SEAL ROCK mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Species Stock Regulatory status 1 2 California sea lion (Zalophus californianus) ..................... U.S. .................................... Northern fur seal (Callorhinus ursinus) ............................ California Breeding ............. Pacific harbor seal (Phoca vitulina) ................................. California ............................ MMPA—NC, ESA—NL MMPA—D, ESA—NL MMPA—NC, ESA—NL VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:07 Feb 24, 2016 Jkt 238001 PO 00000 Frm 00023 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 E:\FR\FM\25FEN1.SGM Stock abundance 3 296,750 Occurrence and seasonality Year-round presence. 14,050 30,968 25FEN1 Rare. Occasional, spring. 9442 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 37 / Thursday, February 25, 2016 / Notices TABLE 1—GENERAL INFORMATION ON MARINE MAMMALS THAT COULD POTENTIALLY HAUL OUT ON NORTHWEST SEAL ROCK—Continued Regulatory status 1 2 Species Stock Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus) .............................. Eastern Distinct Population Segment. MMPA—D, ESA—DL Stock abundance 3 Occurrence and seasonality 60,131–74,448 Year-round presence. 1 MMPA: D = Depleted, S = Strategic, NC = Not Classified. EN = Endangered, T = Threatened, DL = Delisted, NL = Not listed. 3 2015 draft NMFS Stock Assessment Reports: Carretta et al. (2015) and Muto and Angliss (2015). 2 ESA: NMFS refers the public to the 2015 draft NMFS Marine Mammal Stock Assessment Report available online at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/sars/ for general information on the biology and distribution of these species which we presented in the notice of the proposed Authorization (80 FR 65201, October 26, 2015). Other Marine Mammals in the Proposed Action Area California (southern) sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis), listed as threatened under the ESA and categorized as depleted under the MMPA, usually range in coastal waters within two km (1.2 mi) of the mainland shoreline. Neither CCR nor the Society has encountered California sea otters on Northwest Seal Rock during the course of the four-year wildlife study (CCR, 2001; SGRLPS, 2010; 2011; 2012)) nor has the Society encountered this species during the course of the previously issued Authorizations for the same activities. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages the sea otter and NMFS will not consider this species further in this notice. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Potential Effects of the Specified Activities on Marine Mammals and Their Habitat This section of the notice for the proposed Authorization (80 FR 65201, October 26, 2015) included a summary and discussion of the ways that components of the specified activity (e.g., visual and acoustic disturbance) may impact marine mammals and their habitat. The ‘‘Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment’’ section later in this document will include a quantitative analysis of the number of individuals that NMFS expects the Society to take during this activity. The ‘‘Negligible Impact Analysis’’ section will include the analysis of how this specific activity would impact marine mammals. NMFS will consider the content of the following sections: ‘‘Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment,’’ ‘‘Mitigation,’’ and ‘‘Anticipated Effects on Marine Mammal Habitat,’’ to draw conclusions regarding VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:07 Feb 24, 2016 Jkt 238001 the likely impacts of this activity on the reproductive success or survivorship of individuals—and from that consideration—the likely impacts of this activity on the affected marine mammal populations or stocks. Acoustic and visual stimuli generated by: (1) Helicopter landings/takeoffs; (2) noise generated during restoration activities (e.g., painting, plastering, welding, and glazing); and (3) maintenance activities (e.g., bulb replacement and automation of the light system) may have the potential to cause the following: Temporary or permanent hearing impairment and/or behavioral disturbance. We provided detailed information on these potential effects notice for the proposed Authorization (80 FR 65201, October 26, 2015). The information presented in that notice has not changed. Anticipated Effects on Marine Mammal Habitat The only habitat modification associated with the proposed activity is the restoration of a light station which would occur on the upper levels of Northwest Seal Rock which are not used by marine mammals. Thus, NMFS does not expect that the authorized activity would have any effect on marine mammal habitat and NMFS expects that there will be no long- or short-term physical impacts to pinniped habitat on Northwest Seal Rock. The Society would remove all waste, discarded materials and equipment from the island after each visit. The proposed activities will not result in any permanent impact on habitats used by marine mammals, including prey species and foraging habitat. The main impact associated with the proposed activity will be temporarily elevated noise levels and the associated direct effects on marine mammals (i.e., the potential for temporary abandonment of the site), previously discussed in this notice. Based on the preceding discussion, NMFS does not anticipate that the proposed activity would have any habitat-related effects that could cause significant or long-term PO 00000 Frm 00024 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 consequences for individual marine mammals or their populations. Mitigation In order to issue an incidental take 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). Time and Frequency: The Society would conduct restoration activities at maximum of once per month between February 19, 2016, through February 18, 2017. Each restoration session would last no more than three days. Maintenance of the light beacon would occur only in conjunction with restoration activities. The Society would not conduct restoration activities between the period of May 1, 2016, and October 31, 2016. Helicopter Approach and Timing Techniques: The Society would ensure that its helicopter approach patterns to the Station and timing techniques do not disturb marine mammals as most practicable. To the extent possible, the helicopter should approach Northwest Seal Rock when the tide is too high for the marine mammals to haul-out on Northwest Seal Rock. Since the most severe impacts (stampede) precede rapid and direct helicopter approaches, the Society’s initial approach to the Station must be offshore from the island at a relatively high altitude (e.g., 800–1,000 ft, or 244– 305 m). Before the final approach, the helicopter shall circle lower, and approach from area with the lowest pinniped density. If for any safety reasons (e.g., wind condition) the Society cannot conduct these types of helicopter approach and timing techniques, they must postpone the restoration and maintenance activities for that day. E:\FR\FM\25FEN1.SGM 25FEN1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 37 / Thursday, February 25, 2016 / Notices Avoidance of Visual and Acoustic Contact with People on Island: The Society would instruct its members and restoration crews to avoid making unnecessary noise and not expose themselves visually to pinnipeds around the base of the Station. The door to the lower platform (which pinnipeds occasionally use at times) shall remain closed and barricaded to all tourists and other personnel. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Mitigation Conclusions NMFS has carefully evaluated the Society’s proposed mitigation measures in the context of ensuring that we prescribe the means of affecting the least practicable impact on the affected marine mammal species and stocks and their habitat. The 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 vessel or visual presence that NMFS expects 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 exposed to vessel or visual presence that NMFS expects 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 vessel or visual presence that NMFS expects to result in the take of marine mammals (this goal may contribute to a, above, or to reducing the severity of harassment takes only). VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:07 Feb 24, 2016 Jkt 238001 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 the Society’s proposed measures, NMFS has determined that the mitigation measures provide the means of effecting the least practicable impact on marine mammal species or stocks and their habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance. Monitoring In order to issue an incidental take 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 NMFS expects to be present in the proposed action area. 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 within the mitigation zone (thus allowing for more effective implementation of the mitigation) in order to generate more data to contribute to the analyses mentioned later; 2. An increase in our understanding of the nature, scope, or context of the likely exposure of marine mammal species to any of the potential stressor(s) associated with the action (e.g., sound or visual stimuli) 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 PO 00000 Frm 00025 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 9443 (specifically through effects on annual 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; b. Physiological measurements in the presence of stimuli compared to observations in the absence of stimuli; 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. The Society proposes to sponsor marine mammal monitoring in order to implement the mitigation measures that require real-time monitoring and to satisfy the monitoring requirements of the Authorization. These include: At least once during the period between February 19, 2016, and February 18, 2017, a qualified biologist shall be present during all three workdays at the Station. The qualified biologist hired will be subject to approval by us and they shall document use of the island by the pinnipeds, frequency, (i.e., dates, time, tidal height, species, numbers present, and any disturbances), and note any responses to potential disturbances. Aerial photographic surveys may provide the most accurate means of documenting species composition, age and sex class of pinnipeds using the project site during human activity periods. The Society should complete aerial photo coverage of Northwest Seal Rock from the same helicopter used to transport the Society’s personnel during restoration trips. The Society would take photographs of all hauled out marine mammals at an altitude greater than 300 m (984 ft) by a skilled photographer, prior to the first landing on each visit included in the monitoring program. Photographic documentation of marine mammals present at the end of each three-day work session shall also be made for a before and after comparison. These photographs will be forwarded to a biologist capable of discerning marine mammal species. Data shall be provided to us in the form of a report with a data table, any other significant observations related to marine mammals, and a report of restoration activities (see Reporting). The original photographs can be made available to us or other marine mammal experts for inspection and further analysis. The monitoring requirements in relation to the Society’s proposed E:\FR\FM\25FEN1.SGM 25FEN1 9444 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 37 / Thursday, February 25, 2016 / Notices activities would include species counts, numbers of observed disturbances, and descriptions of the disturbance behaviors during the restoration activities, including location, date, and time of the event. In addition, the Society would record observations regarding the number and species of any marine mammals either observed in the water or hauled out. The Society can add to the knowledge of pinnipeds in the proposed action area by noting observations of: (1) Unusual behaviors, numbers, or distributions of pinnipeds, such that any potential follow-up research can be conducted by the appropriate personnel; (2) tagbearing carcasses of pinnipeds, allowing transmittal of the information to appropriate agencies and personnel; and (3) rare or unusual species of marine mammals for agency follow-up. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Summary of Previous Monitoring The Society complied with the mitigation and monitoring required under the previous authorizations (2010–2014). They did not conduct any operations for the 2013 or 2014 season. However, in compliance with the 2012 Authorization, the Society submitted a final report on the activities at the Station, covering the period of February 15, 2012 through April 30, 2012. During the effective dates of the 2012 Authorization, the Society conducted one work session in March, 2012. The Society’s aircraft operations and restoration activities on Northwest Seal Rock did not exceed the activity levels analyzed under the 2012 Authorization. During the March 2012 work session, the Society observed two harbor seals hauled out on Northwest Seal Rock. Both animals (a juvenile and an adult) departed the rock, entered the water, and did not return to the Station during the duration of the activities. Reporting The Society would submit a draft report to NMFS’ Office of Protected Resources no later than 90 days after the expiration of the Authorization. The report will include a summary of the information gathered pursuant to the monitoring requirements set forth in the Authorization. The Society will submit a final report to the NMFS Director, Office of Protected Resources within 30 days after receiving comments from NMFS on the draft report. If the Society receives no comments from NMFS on the report, NMFS will consider the draft report to be the final report. The report will describe the operations conducted and sightings of marine mammals near the proposed project. The report will provide full VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:07 Feb 24, 2016 Jkt 238001 documentation of methods, results, and interpretation pertaining to all monitoring. The report will provide: 1. A summary and table of the dates, times, and weather during all research activities. 2. Species, number, location, and behavior of any marine mammals observed throughout all monitoring activities. 3. An estimate of the number (by species) of marine mammals exposed to human presence associated with the Society’s activities. 4. A description of the implementation and effectiveness of the monitoring and mitigation measures of the Authorization and full documentation of methods, results, and interpretation pertaining to all monitoring. In the unanticipated event that the specified activity clearly causes the take of a marine mammal in a manner prohibited by the authorization, such as an injury (Level A harassment), serious injury, or mortality (e.g., stampede), Society personnel shall immediately cease the specified activities and immediately report the incident to the Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, at 301–427–8401 and the Assistant Western Regional Stranding Coordinator at (562) 980–3264. The report must include the following information: • Time, date, and location (latitude/ longitude) of the incident; • Description and location of the incident (including water depth, if applicable); • 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). The Society shall not resume its activities until NMFS is able to review the circumstances of the prohibited take. We will work with the Society to determine what is necessary to minimize the likelihood of further prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. The Society may not resume their activities until notified by us via letter, email, or telephone. In the event that the Society discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the marine mammal observer determines that the cause of the injury or death is unknown and the death is relatively recent (i.e., in less than a PO 00000 Frm 00026 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 moderate state of decomposition as we describe in the next paragraph), the Society will immediately report the incident to the Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, at 301– 427–8401 and the Assistant Western Regional Stranding Coordinator at (562) 980–3264. 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 the Society to determine whether modifications in the activities are appropriate. In the event that the Society 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), the Society will report the incident to the Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, at 301– 427–8401 and the Assistant Western Regional Stranding Coordinator at (562) 980–3264 within 24 hours of the discovery. Society personnel will provide photographs or video footage (if available) or other documentation of the stranded animal sighting to us. The Society can continue their survey activities while NMFS reviews the circumstances of the incident. Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, the MMPA defines ‘‘harassment’’ as: any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance which (i) has the potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild [Level A harassment]; or (ii) has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering [Level B harassment]. All anticipated takes would be by Level B harassment, involving temporary changes in behavior. NMFS expects that the mitigation and monitoring measures would minimize the possibility of injurious or lethal takes. NMFS considers the potential for take by injury, serious injury, or mortality as remote. NMFS expects that the presence of Society personnel could disturb of animals hauled out on Northwest Seal Rock and that the animals may alter their behavior or E:\FR\FM\25FEN1.SGM 25FEN1 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 37 / Thursday, February 25, 2016 / Notices attempt to move away from the Society’s personnel. As discussed earlier, NMFS considers an animal to have been harassed if it moved greater than 1 m (3.3 ft) in response to the Society’s presence or if the animal was already moving and changed direction and/or speed, or if the animal flushed into the water. NMFS does not consider animals that became alert without such movements as harassed. Based on the Society’s previous monitoring reports, NMFS estimates that approximately 1,120 California sea lions (calculated by multiplying the maximum number of California sea lions observed on Northwest Seal Rock [160] by 7 months: February–April, November–February) of the restoration and maintenance activities), 1,085 Steller sea lions (calculated by multiplying the maximum number of Steller sea lions observed on Northwest Seal Rock [155] by 7 months, 42 Pacific harbor seals (calculated by multiplying the maximum number of harbor seals observed on Northwest Seal Rock [6] by 7 months), and 7 northern fur seals (calculated by multiplying the maximum number of northern fur seals observed on Northwest Seal Rock [1] by 7 months) could be potentially affected by Level B behavioral harassment over the course of the Authorization. NMFS bases these estimates of the numbers of marine mammals that might be affected on consideration of the number of marine mammals that could be disturbed appreciably by approximately 51 hours of aircraft operations during the course of the activity. These incidental harassment take numbers represent approximately 0.38 percent of the U.S. stock of California sea lion, 1.80 percent of the eastern U.S. stock of Steller sea lion, 0.14 percent of the California stock of Pacific harbor seals, and 0.05 percent of the San Miguel Island stock of northern fur seal. However, actual take may be slightly less if animals decide to haul out at a different location for the day or if animals are foraging at locations away from Northwest Seal Rock at the time of the Societies proposed activities. Because of the required mitigation measures and the likelihood that some pinnipeds will avoid the area, NMFS does not expect any injury or mortality to pinnipeds to occur and NMFS has not authorized take by Level A harassment for this proposed activity. Encouraging and Coordinating Research The Society would share observations and counts of marine mammals and all observed disturbances to the VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:07 Feb 24, 2016 Jkt 238001 appropriate state and federal agencies at the conclusion of the activities. Analysis and Preliminary 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 Level B harassment 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; • 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 1, given that NMFS expects the anticipated effects of the Society’s activities to be similar in nature. Although the Society’s survey activities may disturb a small number of marine mammals hauled out on Northwest Seal Rock, NMFS expects those impacts to occur to a small, localized group of animals for a limited duration (e.g., six hours in one day). PO 00000 Frm 00027 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 9445 Marine mammals would likely become alert or, at most, flush into the water in reaction to the presence of the Society’s personnel during the proposed activities. Disturbance will be limited to a short duration, allowing marine mammals to reoccupy Northwest Seal Rock within a short amount of time. Thus, the proposed action is unlikely to result in long-term impacts such as permanent abandonment of the area because of the availability of alternate areas for pinnipeds to avoid the resultant acoustic and visual disturbances from the restoration activities and helicopter operations. Results from previous monitoring reports also show that the pinnipeds returned Northwest Seal Rock and did not permanently abandon haul-out sites after the Society conducted their activities. The Society’s activities would occur during the least sensitive time (e.g., November through April, outside of the pupping season) for hauled out pinnipeds on Northwest Seal Rock. Thus, pups or breeding adults would not be present during the proposed activity periods. Moreover, the Society’s mitigation measures regarding helicopter approaches and restoration site ingress and egress would minimize the potential for stampedes and large-scale movements. Thus, the potential for large-scale movements and stampede leading to injury, serious injury, or mortality is low. Any noise attributed to the Society’s proposed helicopter operations on Northwest Seal Rock would be shortterm (approximately 5 minutes per trip). We would expect the ambient noise levels to return to a baseline state when helicopter operations have ceased for the day. As the helicopter landings take place 15 m (48 ft) above the surface of the rocks on Northwest Seal Rock, NMFS presumes that the received sound levels would increase above 81–81.9 dB re: 20 mPa (A-weighted) at the landing pad. However, we do not expect that the increased received levels of sound from the helicopter would cause threshold shifts in hearing because the pinnipeds would flush before the helicopter approached Northwest Seal Rock; thus increasing the distance between the pinnipeds and the received sound levels on Northwest Seal Rock during the proposed action. If pinnipeds are present on Northwest Seal Rock, Level B behavioral harassment of pinnipeds may occur during helicopter landing and takeoff from Northwest Seal Rock due to the pinnipeds temporarily moving from the rocks and lower structure of the Station E:\FR\FM\25FEN1.SGM 25FEN1 9446 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 37 / Thursday, February 25, 2016 / Notices mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES into the sea due to the noise and appearance of helicopter during approaches and departures. It is expected that all or a portion of the marine mammals hauled out on the island will depart the rock and slowly move into the water upon initial helicopter approaches. The movement to the water would be gradual due to the required controlled helicopter approaches (see ‘‘Mitigation’’ for more details), the small size of the aircraft, the use of noise-attenuating blade tip caps on the rotors, and behavioral habituation on the part of the animals as helicopter trips continue throughout the day. During the sessions of helicopter activity, if present on Northwest Seal Rock, some animals may be temporarily displaced from the island and either raft in the water or relocate to other haulouts. Sea lions have shown habituation to helicopter flights within a day at the project site and most animals are expected to return soon after helicopter activities cease for that day. By clustering helicopter arrival/departures within a short time period, we expect animals present to show less response to subsequent landings. NMFS anticipates no impact on the population size or breeding stock of Steller sea lions, California sea lions, Pacific harbor seals, or northern fur seals. In summary, NMFS anticipates that impacts to hauled-out pinnipeds during the Society’s proposed helicopter operations and restoration/maintenance activities would be behavioral harassment of limited duration (i.e., less than three days a month) and limited intensity (i.e., temporary flushing at most). NMFS does not expect stampeding, and therefore injury or mortality to occur (see ‘‘Mitigation’’ for more details). Based on the analysis contained herein of the likely effects of the specified activity on marine mammals and their habitat, and taking into consideration the implementation of the proposed monitoring and mitigation measures, NMFS finds that the total marine mammal take from the Society’s proposed survey activities will have a negligible impact on the affected marine mammal species or stocks. Small Numbers As mentioned previously, NMFS estimates that the Society’s proposed activities could potentially affect, by Level B harassment only, four species of marine mammal under our jurisdiction. For each species, these estimates are small numbers (each, less than or equal to one percent) relative to the population size. These incidental harassment take numbers represent VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:07 Feb 24, 2016 Jkt 238001 approximately 0.32 percent of the U.S. stock of California sea lion, 0.42 percent of the eastern U.S. stock of Steller sea lion, 0.11 percent of the California stock of Pacific harbor seals, and 0.05 percent of the San Miguel Island stock of northern fur seal. Based on the analysis contained in this notice of the likely effects of the specified activity on marine mammals and their habitat, and taking into consideration the implementation of the mitigation and monitoring measures, NMFS finds that the Society’s proposed activities would be limited to small numbers of marine mammals relative to the populations of 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. Therefore, NMFS has determined that the total taking of affected species or stocks would not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of such species or stocks for taking for subsistence purposes. Endangered Species Act (ESA) NMFS does not expect that the Society’s proposed helicopter operations and restoration/maintenance activities would affect any species listed under the ESA. Therefore, NMFS has determined that a section 7 consultation under the ESA is not required. National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) To meet our NEPA requirements for the issuance of an Authorization to the Society, NMFS has prepared an Environmental Assessment (EA) in 2010 that was specific to conducting aircraft operations and restoration and maintenance work on the St. George Reef Light Station. The EA, titled ‘‘Issuance of an Incidental Harassment Authorization to Take Marine Mammals by Harassment Incidental to Conducting Aircraft Operations, Lighthouse Restoration and Maintenance Activities on St. George Reef Lighthouse Station in Del Norte County, California,’’ evaluated the impacts on the human environment of our authorization of incidental Level B harassment resulting from the specified activity in the specified geographic region. At that time, NMFS concluded that issuance of an annual Authorization would not significantly affect the quality of the human environment and issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the 2010 EA regarding the Society’s activities. In conjunction with the Society’s 2015 PO 00000 Frm 00028 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 application, NMFS has again reviewed the 2010 EA and determined that there are no new direct, indirect, or cumulative impacts to the human and natural environment associated with the Authorization requiring evaluation in a supplemental EA and NMFS, therefore, reaffirms the 2010 FONSI. An electronic copy of the EA and the FONSI for this activity is available upon request (see ADDRESSES). Authorization NMFS has issued an Incidental Harassment Authorization to the St. George Reef Lighthouse Preservation Society for conducting helicopter operations and restoration activities on the St. George Light Station in the northeast Pacific Ocean, February 19, 2016, through February 18, 2017, provided they incorporate the previously mentioned mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements. Dated: February 19, 2016. Perry F. Gayaldo, Deputy Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2016–03999 Filed 2–24–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Sea Grant Advisory Board National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Commerce. ACTION: Notice of solicitation for nominations for the National Sea Grant Advisory Board (NSGAB) and notice of public meeting. AGENCY: This notice also sets forth the schedule and proposed agenda of a forthcoming meeting of the NSGAB. NSGAB members will discuss and provide advice on the National Sea Grant College Program (NSGCP)in the areas of program evaluation, strategic planning, education and extension, science and technology programs, and other matters as described in the agenda found on the NSGCP Web site at http://seagrant.noaa.gov/WhoWeAre/ Leadership/NationalSeaGrantAdvisory Board/UpcomingAdvisoryBoard Meetings.aspx. DATES: The announced meeting is scheduled for Monday, March 7, 2016 from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EDT and Tuesday, March 8, 2016, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. EDT. ADDRESSES: The meeting will be held at the Washington Plaza Hotel, 10 Thomas SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\25FEN1.SGM 25FEN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 37 (Thursday, February 25, 2016)]
[Notices]
[Pages 9440-9446]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-03999]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XE233


Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; St. 
George Reef Light Station Restoration and Maintenance at Northwest Seal 
Rock, Del Norte County, California

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

ACTION: Notice; issuance of an incidental harassment authorization.

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

SUMMARY: In accordance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) 
implementing regulations, NMFS, we, hereby give notice that we have 
issued an Incidental Harassment Authorization (Authorization) to the 
St. George Reef Lighthouse Preservation Society (Society) to take four 
species of marine mammals, by harassment incidental to conducting 
aircraft operations, lighthouse renovation, and light maintenance 
activities on the St. George Reef Light Station on Northwest Seal Rock 
in the northeast Pacific Ocean from February 19, 2016 through February 
18, 2017.

DATES: Effective February 19, 2016, through February 18, 2017.

ADDRESSES: An electronic copy of the final Authorization, the Society's 
application, and NMFS' environmental assessment are available by 
writing to Jolie Harrison, Division 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.

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

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    Sections 101(a)(5)(A) and (D) of the Marine Mammal Protection Act 
of 1972, as amended (MMPA; 16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) direct the Secretary 
of Commerce to allow, upon request, the incidental, but not 
intentional, taking of small numbers of marine mammals 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 for incidental takings for marine mammals shall be 
granted if NMFS finds that the taking will have a negligible impact on 
the species or stock(s), will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on 
the availability of the species or stock(s) for subsistence uses (where 
relevant), and if the permissible methods of taking and requirements 
pertaining to the mitigation, monitoring, and reporting of such taking 
are set forth. NMFS has defined ``negligible impact'' in 50 CFR 216.103 
as ``an impact resulting from the specified activity that cannot be 
reasonably expected to, and is not reasonably likely to, adversely 
affect the species or stock through effects on annual rates of 
recruitment or survival.'' Except with respect to certain activities 
not pertinent here, the MMPA defines ``harassment'' as: Any act of 
pursuit, torment, or annoyance which (i) has the potential to injure a 
marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild [Level A harassment]; 
or (ii) has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal 
stock in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, 
including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, 
feeding, or sheltering [Level B harassment].

[[Page 9441]]

Summary of Request

    On October 1, 2015, the Society requested that we issue an 
Authorization for the take of marine mammals, incidental to conducting 
restoration activities on the St. George Reef Light Station (Station) 
located on Northwest Seal Rock offshore of Crescent City, California in 
the northeast Pacific Ocean. NMFS determined the application complete 
and adequate on October 7, 2015 and published a notice of proposed 
Authorization on October 26, 2015 (80 FR 65201). The notice afforded 
the public a 30-day comment period on the proposed MMPA Authorization.
    The Society proposes to conduct aircraft operations, lighthouse 
renovation, and periodic maintenance on the Station's optical light 
system on a monthly basis. The proposed activity would occur on a 
monthly basis over one weekend, February 2016 through February 2017. 
The Society would not conduct the proposed activities between May 1 and 
October 31, 2016. The following specific aspects of the proposed 
activities would likely to result in the take of marine mammals: (1) 
Helicopter landings/takeoffs; (2) noise generated during restoration 
activities (e.g., painting, plastering, welding, and glazing); (3) 
maintenance activities (e.g., bulb replacement and automation of the 
light system); and (4) human presence. Thus, NMFS anticipates that 
take, by Level B harassment only, of California sea lions (Zalophus 
californianus); Pacific harbor seals (Phoca vitulina); Steller sea 
lions (Eumetopias jubatus) of the eastern U.S. Stock; and northern fur 
seals (Callorhinus ursinus) could result from the specified activity.

Description of the Specified Activity

Overview

    To date, NMFS has issued four Authorizations to the Society for the 
conduct of the same activities from 2010 to 2015 (75 FR 4774, January 
29, 2010; 76 FR 10564, February 25, 2011; 77 FR 8811, February 15, 
2012; and 79 FR 6179, February 3, 2014). This is the Society's fifth 
request for an annual Authorization as their last Authorization expired 
on April 10, 2015.
    The Station, listed in the National Park Service's National 
Register of Historic Places, is located on Northwest Seal Rock offshore 
of Crescent City, California in the northeast Pacific Ocean. The 
Station, built in 1892, rises 45.7 meters (m) (150 feet (ft)) above sea 
level. The structure consists of hundreds of granite blocks topped with 
a cast iron lantern room and covers much of the surface of the islet. 
The purpose of the project is to restore the lighthouse and to conduct 
annual and emergency maintenance on the Station's optical light system.

Dates and Duration

    The Society proposes to conduct the activities (aircraft 
operations, lighthouse restoration, and maintenance activities) at a 
maximum frequency of one session per month. The proposed duration for 
each session would last no more than three days (e.g., Friday, 
Saturday, and Sunday). The Authorization would be effective from 
February 19, 2016 through February 17, 2017 with restrictions on the 
Society conducting activities from May 1, 2016 to October 31, 2016.

Specified Geographic Region

    The Station is located on Northwest Seal Rock, a small rocky islet 
(41[deg]50'24'' N., 124[deg]22'06'' W.) approximately nine kilometers 
(km) (6.0 miles (mi)) in the northeast Pacific Ocean, offshore of 
Crescent City, California (Latitude: 41[deg]46'48'' N.; Longitude: 
124[deg]14'11'' W.). Northwest Seal Rock is approximately 91.4 m (300 
ft) in diameter that peaks at 5.18 m (17 ft) above mean sea level.

Description of Activities

    We outlined the purpose of the Society's activities in a previous 
notice for the proposed Authorization (80 FR 65201, October 26, 2015). 
The proposed activities have not changed between the notice for the 
proposed Authorization and this notice announcing the issuance of the 
Authorization. For a more detailed description of the authorized 
action, we refer the reader to the Detailed Description of Activities 
section in the notice for the proposed Authorization (80 FR 65201, 
October 26, 2015).

Comments and Responses

    A notice of receipt of the Society's application and NMFS' proposal 
to issue an Authorization to the Society published in the Federal 
Register on October 26, 2015 (80 FR 65201). During the 30-day public 
comment period, we received one comment from the Marine Mammal 
Commission (Commission) which recommended that we issue the requested 
Authorization, provided that the Society carries out the required 
monitoring and mitigation measures as described in the notice for the 
proposed Authorization (80 FR 65201, October 26, 2015) and the 
application. We have included all measures described in the notice for 
the proposed Authorization (80 FR 65201, October 26, 2015) in the 
issued Authorization.

Description of Marine Mammals in the Area of the Specified Activity

    The marine mammals most likely to be harassed incidental to the 
Society's helicopter operations, lighthouse restoration, and lighthouse 
maintenance on Northwest Seal Rock are primarily Steller and California 
sea lions and to a lesser extent the Pacific harbor seal and the 
eastern Pacific stock of northern fur seal.
    Table 1 provides the following information: 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; occurrence and seasonality in the activity area.

      Table 1--General Information on Marine Mammals That Could Potentially Haul Out on Northwest Seal Rock
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                  Regulatory status       Stock
            Species                   Stock              1 2          abundance \3\   Occurrence and seasonality
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
California sea lion (Zalophus   U.S.............  MMPA--NC, ESA--NL         296,750  Year-round presence.
 californianus).
Northern fur seal (Callorhinus  California        MMPA--D, ESA--NL           14,050  Rare.
 ursinus).                       Breeding.
Pacific harbor seal (Phoca      California......  MMPA--NC, ESA--NL          30,968  Occasional, spring.
 vitulina).

[[Page 9442]]

 
Steller sea lion (Eumetopias    Eastern Distinct  MMPA--D, ESA--DL    60,131-74,448  Year-round presence.
 jubatus).                       Population
                                 Segment.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ MMPA: D = Depleted, S = Strategic, NC = Not Classified.
\2\ ESA: EN = Endangered, T = Threatened, DL = Delisted, NL = Not listed.
\3\ 2015 draft NMFS Stock Assessment Reports: Carretta et al. (2015) and Muto and Angliss (2015).

    NMFS refers the public to the 2015 draft NMFS Marine Mammal Stock 
Assessment Report available online at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/sars/ for general information on the biology and distribution of these 
species which we presented in the notice of the proposed Authorization 
(80 FR 65201, October 26, 2015).

Other Marine Mammals in the Proposed Action Area

    California (southern) sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis), listed as 
threatened under the ESA and categorized as depleted under the MMPA, 
usually range in coastal waters within two km (1.2 mi) of the mainland 
shoreline. Neither CCR nor the Society has encountered California sea 
otters on Northwest Seal Rock during the course of the four-year 
wildlife study (CCR, 2001; SGRLPS, 2010; 2011; 2012)) nor has the 
Society encountered this species during the course of the previously 
issued Authorizations for the same activities. The U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service manages the sea otter and NMFS will not consider this 
species further in this notice.

Potential Effects of the Specified Activities on Marine Mammals and 
Their Habitat

    This section of the notice for the proposed Authorization (80 FR 
65201, October 26, 2015) included a summary and discussion of the ways 
that components of the specified activity (e.g., visual and acoustic 
disturbance) may impact marine mammals and their habitat. The 
``Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment'' section later in this 
document will include a quantitative analysis of the number of 
individuals that NMFS expects the Society to take during this activity. 
The ``Negligible Impact Analysis'' section will include the analysis of 
how this specific activity would impact marine mammals. NMFS will 
consider the content of the following sections: ``Estimated Take by 
Incidental Harassment,'' ``Mitigation,'' and ``Anticipated Effects on 
Marine Mammal Habitat,'' to draw conclusions regarding the likely 
impacts of this activity on the reproductive success or survivorship of 
individuals--and from that consideration--the likely impacts of this 
activity on the affected marine mammal populations or stocks.
    Acoustic and visual stimuli generated by: (1) Helicopter landings/
takeoffs; (2) noise generated during restoration activities (e.g., 
painting, plastering, welding, and glazing); and (3) maintenance 
activities (e.g., bulb replacement and automation of the light system) 
may have the potential to cause the following: Temporary or permanent 
hearing impairment and/or behavioral disturbance.
    We provided detailed information on these potential effects notice 
for the proposed Authorization (80 FR 65201, October 26, 2015). The 
information presented in that notice has not changed.

Anticipated Effects on Marine Mammal Habitat

    The only habitat modification associated with the proposed activity 
is the restoration of a light station which would occur on the upper 
levels of Northwest Seal Rock which are not used by marine mammals. 
Thus, NMFS does not expect that the authorized activity would have any 
effect on marine mammal habitat and NMFS expects that there will be no 
long- or short-term physical impacts to pinniped habitat on Northwest 
Seal Rock.
    The Society would remove all waste, discarded materials and 
equipment from the island after each visit. The proposed activities 
will not result in any permanent impact on habitats used by marine 
mammals, including prey species and foraging habitat. The main impact 
associated with the proposed activity will be temporarily elevated 
noise levels and the associated direct effects on marine mammals (i.e., 
the potential for temporary abandonment of the site), previously 
discussed in this notice. Based on the preceding discussion, NMFS does 
not anticipate that the proposed activity would have any habitat-
related effects that could cause significant or long-term consequences 
for individual marine mammals or their populations.

Mitigation

    In order to issue an incidental take 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).
    Time and Frequency: The Society would conduct restoration 
activities at maximum of once per month between February 19, 2016, 
through February 18, 2017. Each restoration session would last no more 
than three days. Maintenance of the light beacon would occur only in 
conjunction with restoration activities. The Society would not conduct 
restoration activities between the period of May 1, 2016, and October 
31, 2016.
    Helicopter Approach and Timing Techniques: The Society would ensure 
that its helicopter approach patterns to the Station and timing 
techniques do not disturb marine mammals as most practicable. To the 
extent possible, the helicopter should approach Northwest Seal Rock 
when the tide is too high for the marine mammals to haul-out on 
Northwest Seal Rock.
    Since the most severe impacts (stampede) precede rapid and direct 
helicopter approaches, the Society's initial approach to the Station 
must be offshore from the island at a relatively high altitude (e.g., 
800-1,000 ft, or 244-305 m). Before the final approach, the helicopter 
shall circle lower, and approach from area with the lowest pinniped 
density. If for any safety reasons (e.g., wind condition) the Society 
cannot conduct these types of helicopter approach and timing 
techniques, they must postpone the restoration and maintenance 
activities for that day.

[[Page 9443]]

    Avoidance of Visual and Acoustic Contact with People on Island: The 
Society would instruct its members and restoration crews to avoid 
making unnecessary noise and not expose themselves visually to 
pinnipeds around the base of the Station. The door to the lower 
platform (which pinnipeds occasionally use at times) shall remain 
closed and barricaded to all tourists and other personnel.

Mitigation Conclusions

    NMFS has carefully evaluated the Society's proposed mitigation 
measures in the context of ensuring that we prescribe the means of 
affecting the least practicable impact on the affected marine mammal 
species and stocks and their habitat. The 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 vessel or 
visual presence that NMFS expects 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 exposed to vessel 
or visual presence that NMFS expects 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 vessel or 
visual presence that NMFS expects to result in the take of marine 
mammals (this goal may contribute to a, 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 the Society's proposed measures, NMFS 
has determined that the mitigation measures provide the means of 
effecting the least practicable impact on marine mammal species or 
stocks and their habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, 
mating grounds, and areas of similar significance.

Monitoring

    In order to issue an incidental take 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 NMFS expects to be 
present in the proposed action area.
    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 
within the mitigation zone (thus allowing for more effective 
implementation of the mitigation) in order to generate more data to 
contribute to the analyses mentioned later;
    2. An increase in our understanding of the nature, scope, or 
context of the likely exposure of marine mammal species to any of the 
potential stressor(s) associated with the action (e.g., sound or visual 
stimuli) 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 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;
    b. Physiological measurements in the presence of stimuli compared 
to observations in the absence of stimuli;
    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.
    The Society proposes to sponsor marine mammal monitoring in order 
to implement the mitigation measures that require real-time monitoring 
and to satisfy the monitoring requirements of the Authorization. These 
include:
    At least once during the period between February 19, 2016, and 
February 18, 2017, a qualified biologist shall be present during all 
three workdays at the Station. The qualified biologist hired will be 
subject to approval by us and they shall document use of the island by 
the pinnipeds, frequency, (i.e., dates, time, tidal height, species, 
numbers present, and any disturbances), and note any responses to 
potential disturbances.
    Aerial photographic surveys may provide the most accurate means of 
documenting species composition, age and sex class of pinnipeds using 
the project site during human activity periods. The Society should 
complete aerial photo coverage of Northwest Seal Rock from the same 
helicopter used to transport the Society's personnel during restoration 
trips. The Society would take photographs of all hauled out marine 
mammals at an altitude greater than 300 m (984 ft) by a skilled 
photographer, prior to the first landing on each visit included in the 
monitoring program. Photographic documentation of marine mammals 
present at the end of each three-day work session shall also be made 
for a before and after comparison. These photographs will be forwarded 
to a biologist capable of discerning marine mammal species. Data shall 
be provided to us in the form of a report with a data table, any other 
significant observations related to marine mammals, and a report of 
restoration activities (see Reporting). The original photographs can be 
made available to us or other marine mammal experts for inspection and 
further analysis.
    The monitoring requirements in relation to the Society's proposed

[[Page 9444]]

activities would include species counts, numbers of observed 
disturbances, and descriptions of the disturbance behaviors during the 
restoration activities, including location, date, and time of the 
event. In addition, the Society would record observations regarding the 
number and species of any marine mammals either observed in the water 
or hauled out.
    The Society can add to the knowledge of pinnipeds in the proposed 
action area by noting observations of: (1) Unusual behaviors, numbers, 
or distributions of pinnipeds, such that any potential follow-up 
research can be conducted by the appropriate personnel; (2) tag-bearing 
carcasses of pinnipeds, allowing transmittal of the information to 
appropriate agencies and personnel; and (3) rare or unusual species of 
marine mammals for agency follow-up.

Summary of Previous Monitoring

    The Society complied with the mitigation and monitoring required 
under the previous authorizations (2010-2014). They did not conduct any 
operations for the 2013 or 2014 season. However, in compliance with the 
2012 Authorization, the Society submitted a final report on the 
activities at the Station, covering the period of February 15, 2012 
through April 30, 2012. During the effective dates of the 2012 
Authorization, the Society conducted one work session in March, 2012. 
The Society's aircraft operations and restoration activities on 
Northwest Seal Rock did not exceed the activity levels analyzed under 
the 2012 Authorization. During the March 2012 work session, the Society 
observed two harbor seals hauled out on Northwest Seal Rock. Both 
animals (a juvenile and an adult) departed the rock, entered the water, 
and did not return to the Station during the duration of the 
activities.

Reporting

    The Society would submit a draft report to NMFS' Office of 
Protected Resources no later than 90 days after the expiration of the 
Authorization. The report will include a summary of the information 
gathered pursuant to the monitoring requirements set forth in the 
Authorization. The Society will submit a final report to the NMFS 
Director, Office of Protected Resources within 30 days after receiving 
comments from NMFS on the draft report. If the Society receives no 
comments from NMFS on the report, NMFS will consider the draft report 
to be the final report.
    The report will describe the operations conducted and sightings of 
marine mammals near the proposed project. The report will provide full 
documentation of methods, results, and interpretation pertaining to all 
monitoring. The report will provide:
    1. A summary and table of the dates, times, and weather during all 
research activities.
    2. Species, number, location, and behavior of any marine mammals 
observed throughout all monitoring activities.
    3. An estimate of the number (by species) of marine mammals exposed 
to human presence associated with the Society's activities.
    4. A description of the implementation and effectiveness of the 
monitoring and mitigation measures of the Authorization and full 
documentation of methods, results, and interpretation pertaining to all 
monitoring.
    In the unanticipated event that the specified activity clearly 
causes the take of a marine mammal in a manner prohibited by the 
authorization, such as an injury (Level A harassment), serious injury, 
or mortality (e.g., stampede), Society personnel shall immediately 
cease the specified activities and immediately report the incident to 
the Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected 
Resources, NMFS, at 301-427-8401 and the Assistant Western Regional 
Stranding Coordinator at (562) 980-3264. The report must include the 
following information:
     Time, date, and location (latitude/longitude) of the 
incident;
     Description and location of the incident (including water 
depth, if applicable);
     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).
    The Society shall not resume its activities until NMFS is able to 
review the circumstances of the prohibited take. We will work with the 
Society to determine what is necessary to minimize the likelihood of 
further prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. The Society may not 
resume their activities until notified by us via letter, email, or 
telephone.
    In the event that the Society discovers an injured or dead marine 
mammal, and the marine mammal 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), the Society will immediately report the incident to the 
Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected 
Resources, NMFS, at 301-427-8401 and the Assistant Western Regional 
Stranding Coordinator at (562) 980-3264. 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 the Society to determine whether 
modifications in the activities are appropriate.
    In the event that the Society 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), the Society will report the 
incident to the Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of 
Protected Resources, NMFS, at 301-427-8401 and the Assistant Western 
Regional Stranding Coordinator at (562) 980-3264 within 24 hours of the 
discovery. Society personnel will provide photographs or video footage 
(if available) or other documentation of the stranded animal sighting 
to us. The Society can continue their survey activities while NMFS 
reviews the circumstances of the incident.

Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment

    Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, the 
MMPA defines ``harassment'' as: any act of pursuit, torment, or 
annoyance which (i) has the potential to injure a marine mammal or 
marine mammal stock in the wild [Level A harassment]; or (ii) has the 
potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild 
by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not 
limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or 
sheltering [Level B harassment].
    All anticipated takes would be by Level B harassment, involving 
temporary changes in behavior. NMFS expects that the mitigation and 
monitoring measures would minimize the possibility of injurious or 
lethal takes. NMFS considers the potential for take by injury, serious 
injury, or mortality as remote. NMFS expects that the presence of 
Society personnel could disturb of animals hauled out on Northwest Seal 
Rock and that the animals may alter their behavior or

[[Page 9445]]

attempt to move away from the Society's personnel.
    As discussed earlier, NMFS considers an animal to have been 
harassed if it moved greater than 1 m (3.3 ft) in response to the 
Society's presence or if the animal was already moving and changed 
direction and/or speed, or if the animal flushed into the water. NMFS 
does not consider animals that became alert without such movements as 
harassed.
    Based on the Society's previous monitoring reports, NMFS estimates 
that approximately 1,120 California sea lions (calculated by 
multiplying the maximum number of California sea lions observed on 
Northwest Seal Rock [160] by 7 months: February-April, November-
February) of the restoration and maintenance activities), 1,085 Steller 
sea lions (calculated by multiplying the maximum number of Steller sea 
lions observed on Northwest Seal Rock [155] by 7 months, 42 Pacific 
harbor seals (calculated by multiplying the maximum number of harbor 
seals observed on Northwest Seal Rock [6] by 7 months), and 7 northern 
fur seals (calculated by multiplying the maximum number of northern fur 
seals observed on Northwest Seal Rock [1] by 7 months) could be 
potentially affected by Level B behavioral harassment over the course 
of the Authorization. NMFS bases these estimates of the numbers of 
marine mammals that might be affected on consideration of the number of 
marine mammals that could be disturbed appreciably by approximately 51 
hours of aircraft operations during the course of the activity. These 
incidental harassment take numbers represent approximately 0.38 percent 
of the U.S. stock of California sea lion, 1.80 percent of the eastern 
U.S. stock of Steller sea lion, 0.14 percent of the California stock of 
Pacific harbor seals, and 0.05 percent of the San Miguel Island stock 
of northern fur seal. However, actual take may be slightly less if 
animals decide to haul out at a different location for the day or if 
animals are foraging at locations away from Northwest Seal Rock at the 
time of the Societies proposed activities.
    Because of the required mitigation measures and the likelihood that 
some pinnipeds will avoid the area, NMFS does not expect any injury or 
mortality to pinnipeds to occur and NMFS has not authorized take by 
Level A harassment for this proposed activity.

Encouraging and Coordinating Research

    The Society would share observations and counts of marine mammals 
and all observed disturbances to the appropriate state and federal 
agencies at the conclusion of the activities.

Analysis and Preliminary 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 Level B harassment 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;
     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 1, given that NMFS expects the anticipated effects of the 
Society's activities to be similar in nature.
    Although the Society's survey activities may disturb a small number 
of marine mammals hauled out on Northwest Seal Rock, NMFS expects those 
impacts to occur to a small, localized group of animals for a limited 
duration (e.g., six hours in one day). Marine mammals would likely 
become alert or, at most, flush into the water in reaction to the 
presence of the Society's personnel during the proposed activities. 
Disturbance will be limited to a short duration, allowing marine 
mammals to reoccupy Northwest Seal Rock within a short amount of time. 
Thus, the proposed action is unlikely to result in long-term impacts 
such as permanent abandonment of the area because of the availability 
of alternate areas for pinnipeds to avoid the resultant acoustic and 
visual disturbances from the restoration activities and helicopter 
operations. Results from previous monitoring reports also show that the 
pinnipeds returned Northwest Seal Rock and did not permanently abandon 
haul-out sites after the Society conducted their activities.
    The Society's activities would occur during the least sensitive 
time (e.g., November through April, outside of the pupping season) for 
hauled out pinnipeds on Northwest Seal Rock. Thus, pups or breeding 
adults would not be present during the proposed activity periods.
    Moreover, the Society's mitigation measures regarding helicopter 
approaches and restoration site ingress and egress would minimize the 
potential for stampedes and large-scale movements. Thus, the potential 
for large-scale movements and stampede leading to injury, serious 
injury, or mortality is low.
    Any noise attributed to the Society's proposed helicopter 
operations on Northwest Seal Rock would be short-term (approximately 5 
minutes per trip). We would expect the ambient noise levels to return 
to a baseline state when helicopter operations have ceased for the day. 
As the helicopter landings take place 15 m (48 ft) above the surface of 
the rocks on Northwest Seal Rock, NMFS presumes that the received sound 
levels would increase above 81-81.9 dB re: 20 [mu]Pa (A-weighted) at 
the landing pad. However, we do not expect that the increased received 
levels of sound from the helicopter would cause threshold shifts in 
hearing because the pinnipeds would flush before the helicopter 
approached Northwest Seal Rock; thus increasing the distance between 
the pinnipeds and the received sound levels on Northwest Seal Rock 
during the proposed action.
    If pinnipeds are present on Northwest Seal Rock, Level B behavioral 
harassment of pinnipeds may occur during helicopter landing and takeoff 
from Northwest Seal Rock due to the pinnipeds temporarily moving from 
the rocks and lower structure of the Station

[[Page 9446]]

into the sea due to the noise and appearance of helicopter during 
approaches and departures. It is expected that all or a portion of the 
marine mammals hauled out on the island will depart the rock and slowly 
move into the water upon initial helicopter approaches. The movement to 
the water would be gradual due to the required controlled helicopter 
approaches (see ``Mitigation'' for more details), the small size of the 
aircraft, the use of noise-attenuating blade tip caps on the rotors, 
and behavioral habituation on the part of the animals as helicopter 
trips continue throughout the day. During the sessions of helicopter 
activity, if present on Northwest Seal Rock, some animals may be 
temporarily displaced from the island and either raft in the water or 
relocate to other haul-outs.
    Sea lions have shown habituation to helicopter flights within a day 
at the project site and most animals are expected to return soon after 
helicopter activities cease for that day. By clustering helicopter 
arrival/departures within a short time period, we expect animals 
present to show less response to subsequent landings. NMFS anticipates 
no impact on the population size or breeding stock of Steller sea 
lions, California sea lions, Pacific harbor seals, or northern fur 
seals.
    In summary, NMFS anticipates that impacts to hauled-out pinnipeds 
during the Society's proposed helicopter operations and restoration/
maintenance activities would be behavioral harassment of limited 
duration (i.e., less than three days a month) and limited intensity 
(i.e., temporary flushing at most). NMFS does not expect stampeding, 
and therefore injury or mortality to occur (see ``Mitigation'' for more 
details). Based on the analysis contained herein of the likely effects 
of the specified activity on marine mammals and their habitat, and 
taking into consideration the implementation of the proposed monitoring 
and mitigation measures, NMFS finds that the total marine mammal take 
from the Society's proposed survey activities will have a negligible 
impact on the affected marine mammal species or stocks.

Small Numbers

    As mentioned previously, NMFS estimates that the Society's proposed 
activities could potentially affect, by Level B harassment only, four 
species of marine mammal under our jurisdiction. For each species, 
these estimates are small numbers (each, less than or equal to one 
percent) relative to the population size. These incidental harassment 
take numbers represent approximately 0.32 percent of the U.S. stock of 
California sea lion, 0.42 percent of the eastern U.S. stock of Steller 
sea lion, 0.11 percent of the California stock of Pacific harbor seals, 
and 0.05 percent of the San Miguel Island stock of northern fur seal.
    Based on the analysis contained in this notice of the likely 
effects of the specified activity on marine mammals and their habitat, 
and taking into consideration the implementation of the mitigation and 
monitoring measures, NMFS finds that the Society's proposed activities 
would be limited to small numbers of marine mammals relative to the 
populations of 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. Therefore, NMFS has determined that the total taking of 
affected species or stocks would not have an unmitigable adverse impact 
on the availability of such species or stocks for taking for 
subsistence purposes.

Endangered Species Act (ESA)

    NMFS does not expect that the Society's proposed helicopter 
operations and restoration/maintenance activities would affect any 
species listed under the ESA. Therefore, NMFS has determined that a 
section 7 consultation under the ESA is not required.

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

    To meet our NEPA requirements for the issuance of an Authorization 
to the Society, NMFS has prepared an Environmental Assessment (EA) in 
2010 that was specific to conducting aircraft operations and 
restoration and maintenance work on the St. George Reef Light Station. 
The EA, titled ``Issuance of an Incidental Harassment Authorization to 
Take Marine Mammals by Harassment Incidental to Conducting Aircraft 
Operations, Lighthouse Restoration and Maintenance Activities on St. 
George Reef Lighthouse Station in Del Norte County, California,'' 
evaluated the impacts on the human environment of our authorization of 
incidental Level B harassment resulting from the specified activity in 
the specified geographic region. At that time, NMFS concluded that 
issuance of an annual Authorization would not significantly affect the 
quality of the human environment and issued a Finding of No Significant 
Impact (FONSI) for the 2010 EA regarding the Society's activities. In 
conjunction with the Society's 2015 application, NMFS has again 
reviewed the 2010 EA and determined that there are no new direct, 
indirect, or cumulative impacts to the human and natural environment 
associated with the Authorization requiring evaluation in a 
supplemental EA and NMFS, therefore, reaffirms the 2010 FONSI. An 
electronic copy of the EA and the FONSI for this activity is available 
upon request (see ADDRESSES).

Authorization

    NMFS has issued an Incidental Harassment Authorization to the St. 
George Reef Lighthouse Preservation Society for conducting helicopter 
operations and restoration activities on the St. George Light Station 
in the northeast Pacific Ocean, February 19, 2016, through February 18, 
2017, provided they incorporate the previously mentioned mitigation, 
monitoring, and reporting requirements.

    Dated: February 19, 2016.
Perry F. Gayaldo,
Deputy Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2016-03999 Filed 2-24-16; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P