Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Seabird Research Activities in Central California, 2016-2017, 15249-15260 [2016-06317]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 55 / Tuesday, March 22, 2016 / Notices challenges, and successful approaches for the effective implementation of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act Essential Fish Habitat authorities. Registration is required, and participation may be limited. See http://www.fisheriesforum.org/ourwork/special-projects/efh-summit for more information and to register. DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE The meeting will begin Tuesday, May 17, 2016, at 8:30 a.m. and will end on Thursday, May 19, 2016, at 3 p.m. AGENCY: DATES: The meeting will be held at the Westin Annapolis, 100 Westgate Circle, Annapolis, MD 21401, telephone: 410–972–4300. ADDRESSES: Terra Lederhouse at (301) 427–8639 or terra.lederhouse@noaa.gov. The Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) Summit is a collaborative effort between the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Regional Fishery Management Councils, and the Fisheries Leadership and Sustainability Forum. The final agenda will be responsive to the interests, questions, and areas of expertise among participating National Marine Fisheries Service and Regional Fishery Management Council representatives, and may include discussions on EFH conservation roles, responsibilities, and process, the use of habitat science for management decisions, EFH and the changing marine environment, and the future of EFH conservation. A copy of the final agenda will be available at http://www.fisheriesforum.org/ourwork/special-projects/efh-summit. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Special Accommodations asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES The meeting location is physically accessible to people with disabilities. Requests for sign language interpretation or other auxiliary aids should be directed to Terra Lederhouse at (301) 427–8639 at least 5 days prior to the meeting date. [FR Doc. 2016–06414 Filed 3–21–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:34 Mar 21, 2016 Jkt 238001 RIN 0648–XE468 Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Seabird Research Activities in Central California, 2016– 2017 National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; proposed incidental harassment authorization; request for comments. NMFS (hereinafter, ‘‘we’’ or ‘‘our’’) received an application from Point Blue Conservation Science (Point Blue) requesting an Incidental Harassment Authorization (Authorization) to take marine mammals, by harassment, incidental to conducting proposed seabird research activities on Southeast Farallon Island, ˜ Ano Nuevo Island, and Point Reyes National Seashore in central California from May 2016 through May 2017. Per the Marine Mammal Protection Act, we request comments on our proposal to issue an Authorization to Point Blue to incidentally take, by Level B harassment only, five species [i.e., California sea lion (Zalophus californianus), Pacific harbor seal (Phoca vitulina), northern elephant seal (Mirounga angustirostris), northern fur seal (Callorhinus ursinus), and Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus)] of marine mammals during the specified activity. DATES: NMFS must receive comments and information no later than April 21, 2016. ADDRESSES: Address comments on the application to Jolie Harrison, Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 EastWest Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910. The mailbox address for providing email comments is ITP.Pauline@noaa.gov. You must include 0648–XE468 in the subject line. We are not responsible for email comments sent to addresses other than the one provided here. Comments sent via email, including all attachments, must not exceed a 25-megabyte file size. NMFS is not responsible for email comments sent to addresses other than the one provided here. Instructions: All submitted comments are a part of the public record and NMFS will post them to http://www. nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental/ SUMMARY: FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dated: March 17, 2016. Carrie Selberg, Deputy Director, Office of Habitat Conservation, National Marine Fisheries Service. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration PO 00000 Frm 00030 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 15249 research.htm without change. All Personal Identifying Information (for example, name, address, etc.) voluntarily submitted by the commenter may be publicly accessible. Do not submit confidential business information or otherwise sensitive or protected information. To obtain an electronic copy of the 2016 renewal request, the 2015 application, our draft Environmental Assessment (EA), or a list of the references, write to the previously mentioned address, telephone the contact listed here (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT), or visit the Internet at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/ pr/permits/incidental/research.htm. Information in Point Blue’s application, our draft EA and this notice collectively provide the environmental information related to the proposed issuance of the Authorization for public review and comment. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Robt Pauline, 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.’’ Summary of Request On September 29, 2015, NMFS received an application from Point Blue E:\FR\FM\22MRN1.SGM 22MRN1 asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES 15250 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 55 / Tuesday, March 22, 2016 / Notices requesting the taking by harassment of marine mammals incidental to conducting seabird research activities ˜ on Southeast Farallon Island, Ano Nuevo Island, and Point Reyes National Seashore in central California. Point Blue, along with partners Oikonos Ecosystem Knowledge and Point Reyes National Seashore, plan to conduct the proposed activities for one year. These partners are conducting this research under cooperative agreements with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in consultation with the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. Following the initial application submission, Point Blue submitted an updated version of their application on February 23, 2016. We considered the revised renewal request for 2016–2017 activities as adequate and complete on February 25, 2016. On December 24, 2015 (80 FR 80321), we published a Federal Register notice announcing our issuance of a revised Authorization (effective through January 30, 2016) to Point Blue to take marine mammals by harassment, incidental to conducting the same activities presented in this notice of proposed Authorization. The revised Authorization increased the number of authorized take for California sea lions from approximately 9,871 to 44,871 due to Point Blue encountering unprecedented numbers of California sea lions hauled out in survey areas due to warming environmental conditions in the Pacific Ocean offshore California— which researchers have attributed to a current El Nino event. For the 2016–2017 research seasons, Point Blue again proposes to monitor and census seabird colonies; observe seabird nesting habitat; restore nesting burrows; and resupply a field station. The proposed activities would occur over the course of one year between May 2016 and May 2017. The following aspects of the proposed seabird research activities have the potential to take marine mammals: (1) Acoustic stimuli from noise generated by motorboat approaches and departures; (2) noise generated during the resupplying of the field station; and (3) visual stimuli from human presence during seabird research activities. California sea lions, Pacific harbor seals, northern elephant seals, northern fur seals, and Steller sea lions hauled out in ˜ areas on Southeast Farallon Island, Ano Nuevo Island, or within Point Reyes National Seashore may flush into the water or exhibit temporary modification in behavior and/or low-level physiological effects (Level B harassment). Thus, Point Blue has requested an Authorization to take VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:34 Mar 21, 2016 Jkt 238001 44,871 California sea lions, 343 harbor seals, 196 northern elephant seals, and 106 Steller sea lions by Level B harassment only. Point Blue did not request take for northern fur seals in their application. However, as explained later in this document, we have considered the potential for Point Blue’s activities to take a small number of this species. To date, we have issued seven, oneyear Authorizations (and one revised Authorization) to Point Blue for the conduct of the same activities from 2007 to 2016 (72 FR 71121, December 14, 2007; 73 FR 77011, December 18, 2008; 75 FR 8677, February 19, 2010; 77 FR 73989, December 7, 2012; 78 FR 66686, November 6, 2013; and 80 FR 10066, February 25, 2015, 80 FR 80321, December 24, 2015). This is Point Blue’s eighth request for an Authorization. Their current Authorization expired on January 30, 2016 and the monitoring report associated with the 2015–2016 Authorization is available at www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/ incidental/research.htm. The report provides additional environmental information related to proposed issuance of this Authorization for public review and comment. Description of the Specified Activity Overview Seabird Research on Southeast Farallon Island Point Blue proposes to conduct: (1) daily observations of seabird colonies at a maximum frequency of three 15minute visits per day; and (2) conduct daily observations of breeding common murres (Uria aalge) at a maximum frequency of one, five-hour visit per day in September. These activities usually involve one or two observers conducting daily censuses of seabirds or conducting mark/recapture studies of breeding seabirds on Southeast Farallon Island. The researchers plan to access the island’s two landing areas, the North Landing and the East Landing, by 14 to 18 feet (ft) (4.3 to 5.5 meters [m]) open motorboats which are hoisted onto the island using a derrick system and then travel by foot to coastal areas of the island to view breeding seabirds from behind an observation blind. The potential for incidental take related to the mark/recapture studies is very low as these activities are conducted within the interior of the island away from the intertidal areas where the pinnipeds haul out. Most potential for incidental take would occur when the researchers approach or depart the intertidal area by motorboat or when the researchers walk within 50 PO 00000 Frm 00031 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 ft (15.2 m) of the haul-out areas to enter the observation blinds to observe shorebirds. Field Station Resupply on Southeast Farallon Island Point Blue proposes to resupply the field station once every two weeks at a maximum frequency of 26 visits. Resupply activities involve personnel approaching either the North Landing or East Landing by motorboat. At East Landing—the primary landing site—all personnel assisting with the landing would stay on the loading platform approximately 30 ft (9.1 m) above the water. At North Landing, loading operations would occur at the water level in the intertidal areas. Most potential for incidental take would occur when the researchers approach the area by motorboat or when the researchers load or unload supplies onshore. ˜ Seabird Research on Ano Nuevo Island Point Blue and its partners propose to monitor seabird burrow nesting habitat quality and to conduct habitat restoration at a maximum frequency of 20 visits per year. This activity involves two to three researchers accessing the north side of the island by a 12 ft (3.7 m) Zodiac boat. Once onshore, the researchers will check subterranean nest boxes and restore any nesting habitat for approximately 15 minutes. Most potential for incidental take would occur at the landing beach on the north side of the island when the researchers arrive and depart to check the boxes. Non-breeding pinnipeds may occasionally be present, including California sea lions that may be hauled out near a small group of subterranean seabird nest boxes on the island terrace. In both locations researchers will be more than 50 ft (15.2 m) away from any potentially hauled out pinnipeds. Seabird Research on Point Reyes National Seashore The National Park Service in collaboration with Point Blue monitors seabird breeding and roosting colonies; conducts habitat restoration; removes non-native plants; monitors intertidal areas; and maintains coastal dune habitat. Seabird monitoring usually involves one or two observers conducting the survey by small boats (12 to 22 ft; 3.6 to 6.7 m) along the Point Reyes National Seashore shoreline. Researchers would visit the site at a maximum frequency of 20 times per year, with an emphasis on increasing monitoring during the nesting season. Researchers would conduct occasional, intermittent visits during the rest of the E:\FR\FM\22MRN1.SGM 22MRN1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 55 / Tuesday, March 22, 2016 / Notices year. A majority of the research occurs in areas where marine mammals are not present. However, the potential for incidental harassment will occur at the landing beaches along Point Reyes Headland, boat ramps, or parking lots where northern elephant seals, harbor seals, or California sea lions may be hauled out in the vicinity. Dates and Duration Point Blue proposes to conduct the seabird research activities over the course of one year. The proposed Authorization, if issued, would be effective from May 1, 2016, through April 30, 2017. asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Description of the Specified Geographic Region The proposed activities would occur in the vicinity of pinniped haul-out sites located on Southeast Farallon Island ˜ (37°41′54.32″ N.; 123°0′8.33″ W.), Ano Nuevo Island (37°6′29.25″ N.; VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:34 Mar 21, 2016 Jkt 238001 122°20′12.20″ W.), or within Point Reyes National Seashore (37°59′38.61″ N.; 122°58′24.90″ W.) in central California. The proposed action area consists of the following three locations in the northeast Pacific Ocean: South Farallones Islands The South Farallon Islands consist of Southeast Farallon Island located at 37°41′54.32″ N.; 123°0′8.33″ W. and West End Island. These two islands are directly adjacent to each other and separated by only a 30-foot (ft) (9.1 meter (m)) channel. The South Farallon Islands have a land area of approximately 120 acres (0.49 square kilometers (km)) and are part of the Farallon National Wildlife Refuge. The islands are located near the edge of the continental shelf 28 miles (mi) (45.1 km) west of San Francisco, CA, and lie within the waters of the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. PO 00000 Frm 00032 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 15251 ˜ Ano Nuevo Island ˜ Ano Nuevo Island located at 37°6′29.25″ N.; 122°20′12.20″ W. is one˜ quarter mile (402 m) offshore of Ano Nuevo Point in San Mateo County, CA. This small 25-acre (0.1 square km) ˜ island is part of the Ano Nuevo State Reserve, all of which is owned and operated by California State Parks. The Island lies within the Monterey Bay ˜ National Marine Sanctuary and the Ano Nuevo State Marine Conservation Area. Point Reyes National Seashore Point Reyes National Seashore located is approximately 40 miles (64.3 km) north of San Francisco Bay and also lies within the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. The proposed research areas (Life Boat Station, Drakes Beach, and Point Bonita) are within the headland coastal areas of the National Park. BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\22MRN1.SGM 22MRN1 15252 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 55 / Tuesday, March 22, 2016 / Notices VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:34 Mar 21, 2016 Jkt 238001 PO 00000 Frm 00033 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 E:\FR\FM\22MRN1.SGM 22MRN1 EN22MR16.000</GPH> asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Figure 1 - Location of pinniped haul-out sites on Southeast Farallon Island. Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 55 / Tuesday, March 22, 2016 / Notices BILLING CODE 3510–22–C asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Description of the Marine Mammals in the Area of the Proposed Specified Activity The marine mammals most likely to be harassed incidental to conducting seabird research at the proposed research areas on Southeast Farallon ˜ Island, Ano Nuevo Island, and Point Reyes National Seashore are primarily California sea lions, northern elephant seals, Pacific harbor seals, and to a lesser extent the eastern distinct population segment (DPS) of the Steller sea lion. NMFS presents general information on these species in the next section. NMFS refers the public to Carretta et al. (2015) and Muto and Angliss (2015) for additional information on the status, distribution, seasonal distribution, and life history of these species. The publications are available on the Internet at http://www. nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/sars/draft.htm. Northern Elephant Seal Northern elephant seals are not listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act, nor are they categorized as depleted under the MMPA. The estimated population of the California Breeding Stock is approximately 179,000 animals and the current population trend is increasing at 3.8 percent annually (Carretta et al., 2015). Northern elephant seals range in the eastern and central North Pacific Ocean, from as far north as Alaska and as far south as Mexico. Northern elephant seals spend much of the year, generally about nine months, in the ocean. They are usually underwater, diving to depths of about 1,000 to 2,500 ft (330–800 m) for 20- to 30-minute intervals with only short breaks at the surface. They are rarely seen out at sea for this reason. While on land, they prefer sandy beaches. Northern elephant seals breed and give birth in California (U.S.) and Baja California (Mexico), primarily on offshore islands (Stewart et al., 1994), from December to March (Stewart and Huber, 1993). Males feed near the eastern Aleutian Islands and in the Gulf of Alaska, and females feed farther south, south of 45 °N. (Stewart and Huber, 1993; Le Boeuf et al., 1993). Adults return to land between March and August to molt, with males returning later than females. Adults return to their feeding areas again between their spring/summer molting and their winter breeding seasons. At Point Reyes, the population ranges from 1,500 and 2,000 animals (NPS, 2013a). Adult northern elephant seals VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:34 Mar 21, 2016 Jkt 238001 visit Point Reyes twice a year (NPS, 2013a). They arrive in early winter from their feeding grounds off Alaska and the largest congregations occur in the winter, when the females arrive to deliver their pups and nurse them, and in spring when immature seals and adult females return to molt. During the time they are onshore they are fasting (NPS, 2013b). At Southeast Farallon, the population consists of approximately 500 animals (FNMS, 2013). Northern elephant seals began recolonizing the South Farallon Islands in the early 1970s (Stewart et al., 1994) at which time the colony grew rapidly. In 1983 a record 475 pups were born on the South Farallones (Stewart et al., 1994). Since then, the size of the South Farallones colony has declined, stabilizing in the early 2000s and then declining further over the past six years (USFWS, 2013). In 2012, a total of 90 cows were counted on the South Farallones, and 60 pups were weaned (USFWS, 2013). Point Blue’s average monthly counts from 2000 to 2009 ranged from 20 individuals in July to nearly 500 individuals in November (USFWS, 2013). Northern elephant seals are present on the islands and in the waters surrounding the South Farallones yearround for either breeding or molting; however, they are more abundant during breeding and peak molting seasons (Le Boeuf and Laws, 1994; Sydeman and Allen, 1997). They live and feed in deep, offshore waters the remainder of the year. In mid-December, adult males begin arriving on the South Farallones, closely followed by pregnant females on the verge of giving birth. Females give birth to a single pup, generally in late December or January (Le Boeuf and Laws, 1994) and nurse their pups for approximately four weeks (Reiter et al., 1978). Upon pup weaning, females mate with an adult male and then depart the islands. The last adult breeders depart the islands in mid-March. The spring peak of elephant seals on the rookery occurs in April, when females and immature seals (approximately one to four years old) arrive at the colony to molt (a one month process) (USFWS, 2013). The year’s new pups remain on the island throughout both of these peaks, generally leaving by the end of April (USFWS, 2013). The lowest numbers of elephant seals present on the rookery occurs during June, July, and August, when sub-adult and adult males molt. Another peak of young seals return to the rookery for a haul-out period in October, and at that time some individuals undergo partial ˜ molt (Le Boeuf and Laws, 1994). At Ano PO 00000 Frm 00034 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 15253 Nuevo Island the population ranges from 900 to 1,000 adults. Observers first sighted elephant seals ˜ on Ano Nuevo Island in 1955 and today the population ranges from 900 to 1,000 adults (M. Lowry, unpubl. data). Males began to haul out on the mainland in 1965. California State Park reports that by 1988/1989, approximately 2,000 ˜ elephant seals came ashore to Ano Nuevo (CSP, 2012). California Sea Lion The estimated population of the U.S. stock of California sea lion is approximately 296,750 animals and the current maximum population growth rate is 12 percent (Carretta et al., 2015). California sea lions are not listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act, nor are they categorized as depleted under the MMPA. The California sea lion is now a full species, separated from the Galapagos sea lion (Z. wollebaeki) and the extinct Japanese sea lion (Z. japonicus) (Brunner, 2003, Wolf et al., 2007, Schramm et al., 2009). California sea lion breeding areas are on islands located in southern California, in western Baja California, Mexico, and the Gulf of California. During the breeding season, most California sea lions inhabit southern California and Mexico. Rookery sites in southern California are limited to the San Miguel Islands and the southerly Channel Islands of San Nicolas, Santa Barbara, and San Clemente (Carretta et al., 2015). Males establish breeding territories during May through July on both land and in the water. Females come ashore in mid-May and June where they give birth to a single pup approximately four to five days after arrival and will nurse pups for about a week before going on their first feeding trip. Females will alternate feeding trips with nursing bouts until the pup is weaned between four and 10 months of age (NMML, 2010). Adult and juvenile males will migrate as far north as British Columbia, Canada while females and pups remain in southern California waters in the nonbreeding season. In warm water (El ˜ Nino) years, some females are found as far north as Washington and Oregon, presumably following prey. The U.S. stock of California sea lion is the only stock present in the proposed research area and in recent years, California sea lions have begun to breed annually in small numbers at Southeast ˜ Farallon and Ano Nuevo Islands. On the Farallon Islands, California sea lions haul out in many intertidal areas year round, fluctuating from several hundred to several thousand animals. E:\FR\FM\22MRN1.SGM 22MRN1 15254 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 55 / Tuesday, March 22, 2016 / Notices asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES California sea lions at Point Reyes National Seashore haul out at only a few locations, but will occur on human structures such as boat ramps. The annual population averages around 300 to 500 during the fall through spring months, although on occasion, several thousand sea lions can arrive depending upon local prey resources (S. Allen, ˜ unpublished data). On Ano Nuevo Island, California sea lions may haul out at one of eight beach areas on the perimeter of the island (see Point Blue’s Application). The island’s average population ranges from 4,000 to 9,500 animals (M. Lowry, unpublished data). Pacific Harbor Seal Pacific harbor seals are not listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act, nor are they categorized as depleted under the MMPA. The estimated population of the California stock of harbor seals is 30,196 animals (Carretta et al., 2015). The animals inhabit near-shore coastal and estuarine areas from Baja California, Mexico, to the Pribilof Islands in Alaska. Pacific harbor seals are divided into two subspecies: P. v. stejnegeri in the western North Pacific, near Japan, and P. v. richardsi in the northeast Pacific Ocean. The latter subspecies, recognized as three separate stocks, inhabits the west coast of the continental United States, including: The outer coastal waters of Oregon and Washington states; Washington state inland waters; and Alaska coastal and inland waters. In California, over 500 harbor seal haul-out sites are widely distributed along the mainland and offshore islands, and include rocky shores, beaches and intertidal sandbars (Lowry et al., 2005). Harbor seals mate at sea and females give birth during the spring and summer, although, the pupping season varies with latitude. Pups are nursed for an average of 24 days and are ready to swim minutes after being born. Harbor seal pupping takes place at many locations and rookery size varies from a few pups to many hundreds of pups. In California, over 500 harbor seal haul-out sites are widely distributed along the mainland and offshore islands, and include rocky shores, beaches and intertidal sandbars (Lowry et al., 2005). On the Farallon Islands, approximately 40 to 120 Pacific harbor seals haul out in the intertidal areas (Point Blue unpublished data). Harbor seals at Point Reyes National Seashore haul out at nine locations with an annual population of up to 4,000 animals (M. Lowry, unpublished data). ˜ On Ano Nuevo Island, harbor seals may haul out at one of eight beach areas on VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:34 Mar 21, 2016 Jkt 238001 the perimeter of the island (see Figure 2 in Point Blue’s Application) and the island’s average population ranges from 100 to 150 animals (M. Lowry, unpublished data). Northern Fur Seal Northern fur seals occur from southern California north to the Bering Sea and west to the Sea of Okhotsk and Honshu Island of Japan. NMFS recognizes two separate stocks of northern fur seals within U.S. waters: An Eastern Pacific stock distributed among sites in Alaska, British Columbia; and a California stock distributed along the west coast of the continental U.S. The estimated population of the California stock is 14,050 animals with a maximum population growth rate of 12 percent (Carretta et al., 2015). Northern fur seals may temporarily haul out on land at other sites in Alaska, British Columbia, and on islets along the west coast of the continental United States, but generally this occurs outside of the breeding season (Fiscus, 1983). Northern fur seals breed in Alaska and migrate along the west coast during fall and winter. Due to their pelagic habitat, they are rarely seen from shore in the continental U.S., but individuals occasionally come ashore on islands well offshore (i.e., Farallon Islands and Channel Islands in California). During the breeding season, approximately 74 percent of the worldwide population inhabits the Pribilof Islands in Alaska, with the remaining animals spread throughout the North Pacific Ocean (Lander and Kajimura, 1982). Steller Sea Lion Steller sea lions consist of two distinct population segments: The western and eastern distinct population segments (DPS) divided at 144 °West longitude (Cape Suckling, Alaska). The western segment of Steller sea lions inhabit central and western Gulf of Alaska, Aleutian Islands, as well as coastal waters and breed in Asia (e.g., Japan and Russia). The eastern segment includes sea lions living in southeast Alaska, British Columbia, California, and Oregon. The eastern DPS includes animals born east of Cape Suckling, AK (144 °W.) and the latest abundance estimate for the stock is 60,131 to 74,448 animals (Muto and Angliss, 2015). The eastern DPS of Steller sea lion is not listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act, but is categorized as depleted under the MMPA. Steller sea lions range along the North Pacific Rim from northern Japan to California (Loughlin et al., 1984), with centers of abundance and distribution in PO 00000 Frm 00035 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 the Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian Islands, respectively. The species is not known to migrate, but individuals disperse widely outside of the breeding season (late May through early July), thus potentially intermixing with animals from other areas. The eastern distinct population segment of Steller sea lions breeds on rookeries located in southeast Alaska, British Columbia, Oregon, and California. There are no rookeries located in Washington. Steller sea lions give birth in May through July and breeding commences a couple of weeks after birth. Pups are weaned during the winter and spring of the following year. Despite the wide-ranging movements of juveniles and adult males in particular, exchange between rookeries by breeding adult females and males (other than between adjoining rookeries) appears low, although males have a higher tendency to disperse than females (NMFS, 1995; Trujillo et al., 2004; Hoffman et al., 2006). A northward shift in the overall breeding distribution has occurred, with a contraction of the range in southern California and new rookeries established in southeastern Alaska (Pitcher et al., 2007). The current population of Steller sea lions in the proposed research area is estimated to number between 50 and 750 animals. Overall, counts of nonpups at trend sites in California and Oregon have been relatively stable or increasing slowly since the 1980s (Muto and Angliss, 2015). Point Blue estimates that between 50 and 150 Steller sea lions live on the Farallon Islands. On Southeast Farallon Island, the abundance of females declined an average of 3.6 percent per year from 1974 to 1997 (Sydeman and Allen, 1999). The National Marine Fisheries Service’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center estimates between 400 and 600 ˜ live on Ano Nuevo Island (Point Blue unpublished data, 2008; Southwest Fisheries Science Center unpublished ˜ data, 2008). At Ano Nuevo Island off central California, a steady decline in ground counts started around 1970, and there was an 85 percent reduction in the breeding population by 1987 (LeBoeuf ˜ et al., 1991). Pup counts at Ano Nuevo Island declined five percent annually through the 1990s (NOAA Stock Assessment, 2003), and have apparently stabilized between 2001 and 2005 (M. Lowry, SWFSC unpublished data). In 2000, the combined pup estimate for both islands was 349. In 2005, the pup estimate was 204 on the Island. Pup counts on the Farallon Islands have generally varied from five to 15 E:\FR\FM\22MRN1.SGM 22MRN1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 55 / Tuesday, March 22, 2016 / Notices (Hastings and Sydeman, 2002; Point Blue unpublished data). Pups have not been born at Point Reyes Headland since the 1970s and Steller sea lions are seen in very low numbers there currently (S. Allen, unpublished data). Other Marine Mammals in the Proposed Action Area California (southern) sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis), listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and categorized as depleted under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, usually range in coastal waters within two km of shore. Point Blue has not encountered California sea otters on ˜ Southeast Farallon Island, Ano Nuevo Island, or Point Reyes National Seashore during the course of seabird or pinniped research activities over the past five years. This species is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and is not considered further in this notice. asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Potential Effects of the Specified Activities on Marine Mammals and Their Habitat This section includes a summary and discussion of the ways that components of the specified activity (e.g., exposure to vessel noise and approaches and human presence), including mitigation, may impact marine mammals. The ‘‘Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment’’ section later in this document will include a quantitative analysis of the number of individuals that we expect Point Blue to take during this activity. The ‘‘Negligible Impact Analysis’’ section will include the analysis of how this specific activity would impact marine mammals. We will consider the content of the following sections: ‘‘Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment’’ and ‘‘Proposed Mitigation’’ to draw conclusions regarding the likely impacts of these activities 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. In the following discussion, we provide general background information on sound and marine mammal hearing. Acoustic and visual stimuli generated by: (1) Motorboat operations; and (2) the appearance of researchers may have the potential to cause Level B harassment of any pinnipeds hauled out on Southeast ˜ Farallon Island, Ano Nuevo Island, or Point Reyes National Seashore. The effects of sounds from motorboat operations and the appearance of researchers might include hearing impairment or behavioral disturbance (Southall, et al., 2007). VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:34 Mar 21, 2016 Jkt 238001 Hearing Impairment Marine mammals produce sounds in various important contexts—social interactions, foraging, navigating, and responding to predators. The best available science suggests that pinnipeds have a functional aerial hearing sensitivity between 75 hertz (Hz) and 75 kilohertz (kHz) and can produce a diversity of sounds, though generally from 100 Hz to several tens of kHz (Southall, et al., 2007). Exposure to high intensity sound for a sufficient duration may result in auditory effects such as a noise-induced threshold shift—an increase in the auditory threshold after exposure to noise (Finneran, Carder, Schlundt, and Ridgway, 2005). Factors that influence the amount of threshold shift include the amplitude, duration, frequency content, temporal pattern, and energy distribution of noise exposure. The magnitude of hearing threshold shift normally decreases over time following cessation of the noise exposure. The amount of threshold shift just after exposure is called the initial threshold shift. If the threshold shift eventually returns to zero (i.e., the threshold returns to the pre-exposure value), it is called temporary threshold shift (Southall et al., 2007). Pinnipeds have the potential to be disturbed by airborne and underwater noise generated by the small boats equipped with outboard engines (Richardson, Greene, Malme, and Thomson, 1995). However, there is a dearth of information on acoustic effects of motorboats on pinniped hearing and communication and to our knowledge there has been no specific documentation of hearing impairment in free-ranging pinnipeds exposed to small motorboats during realistic field conditions. Behavioral Disturbance Disturbances resulting from human activity can impact short- and long-term pinniped haul out behavior (Renouf et al., 1981; Schneider and Payne, 1983; Terhune and Almon, 1983; Allen et al., 1984; Stewart, 1984; Suryan and Harvey, 1999; Mortenson et al., 2000; and Kucey and Tri.e., 2006). Disturbance includes a variety of effects, including subtle to conspicuous changes in behavior, movement, and displacement. Reactions to sound, if any, depend on species, state of maturity, experience, current activity, reproductive state, time of day, and many other factors (Richardson et al., 1995; Wartzok et al., 2004; Southall et al., 2007; Weilgart, 2007). If a sound source displaces marine mammals from PO 00000 Frm 00036 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 15255 an important feeding or breeding area for a prolonged period, impacts on individuals and populations could be significant (e.g., Lusseau and Bejder, 2007; Weilgart, 2007). Numerous studies have shown that human activity can flush pinnipeds off haul-out sites and beaches (Kenyon, 1972; Allen et al., 1984; Calambokidis et al., 1991; Suryan and Harvey, 1999; and Mortenson et al., 2000). And in one case, human disturbance appeared to cause Steller sea lions to desert a breeding area at Northeast Point on St. Paul Island, Alaska (Kenyon, 1962). In 1997, Henry and Hammil (2001) conducted a study to measure the impacts of small boats (i.e., kayaks, canoes, motorboats and sailboats) on ´ harbor seal haul-out behavior in Metis Bay, Quebec, Canada. During that study, the authors noted that the most frequent disturbances (n=73) were caused by lower speed, lingering kayaks and canoes (33.3 percent) as opposed to motorboats (27.8 percent) conducting high speed passes. The seal’s flight reactions could be linked to a surprise factor by kayaks-canoes which approach slowly, quietly and low on water making them look like predators. However, the authors note that once the animals were disturbed, there did not appear to be any significant lingering effect on the recovery of numbers to their pre-disturbance levels. In conclusion, the study showed that boat traffic at current levels has only a temporary effect on the haul-out ´ behavior of harbor seals in the Metis Bay area. In 2004, Johnson and AcevedoGutierrez (2007) evaluated the efficacy of buffer zones for watercraft around harbor seal haul-out sites on Yellow Island, Washington state. The authors estimated the minimum distance between the vessels and the haul-out sites; categorized the vessel types; and evaluated seal responses to the disturbances. During the course of the seven-weekend study, the authors recorded 14 human-related disturbances which were associated with stopped powerboats and kayaks. During these events, hauled out seals became noticeably active and moved into the water. The flushing occurred when stopped kayaks and powerboats were at distances as far as 453 and 1,217 ft (138 and 371 m) respectively. The authors note that the seals were unaffected by passing powerboats, even those approaching as close as 128 ft (39 m), possibly indicating that the animals had become tolerant of the brief presence of the vessels and ignored them. The authors reported that on average, the seals quickly recovered from the E:\FR\FM\22MRN1.SGM 22MRN1 asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES 15256 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 55 / Tuesday, March 22, 2016 / Notices disturbances and returned to the haulout site in less than or equal to 60 minutes. Seal numbers did not return to pre-disturbance levels within 180 minutes of the disturbance less than one quarter of the time observed. The study concluded that the return of seal numbers to pre-disturbance levels and the relatively regular seasonal cycle in abundance throughout the area counter the idea that disturbances from powerboats may result in site abandonment (Johnson and AcevedoGutierrez, 2007). As a general statement from the available information, pinnipeds exposed to intense (approximately 110 to 120 decibels re: 20 mPa) non-pulse sounds often leave haul-out areas and seek refuge temporarily (minutes to a few hours) in the water (Southall et al., 2007). Based on the available data, previous monitoring reports from Point Blue, and studies described here, we anticipate that any pinnipeds found in the vicinity of the proposed project could have short-term behavioral reactions to the noise attributed to Point Blue’s motorboat operations and human presence related to the seabird research activities. We would expect the pinnipeds to return to a haul-out site within 60 minutes of the disturbance (Allen et al., 1985). The effects to pinnipeds appear at the most, to displace the animals temporarily from their haul-out sites and we do not expect that the pinnipeds would permanently abandon a haul-out site during the conduct of the proposed research. The maximum disturbance to Steller sea lions would result in the animals slowly flushing into the water in response to presence of the researchers. No research activities would occur on pinniped rookeries. Breeding animals are concentrated in areas where researchers would not visit. Therefore, NMFS does not expect mother and pup separation or crushing of pups during flushing. In summary, NMFS does not anticipate that the proposed activities would result in the injury, serious injury, or mortality of pinnipeds because the timing of research visits would preclude separation of mothers and pups, as activities occur outside of the pupping/breeding areas. The potential effects to marine mammals described in this section of the document do not take into consideration the proposed monitoring and mitigation measures described later in this document (see the ‘‘Proposed Mitigation’’ and ‘‘Proposed Monitoring and Reporting’’ sections). VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:34 Mar 21, 2016 Jkt 238001 Proposed Mitigation (4) Monitor for offshore predators and do not approach hauled-out pinnipeds if great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) or killer whales (Orcinus orca) are present. If Point Blue and/or its designees see predators in the area, they must not disturb the animals until the area is free of predators. (5) Keep voices hushed and bodies low to the ground in the visual presence of pinnipeds. (6) Conduct seabird observations at North Landing on Southeast Farallon Island in an observation blind, shielded from the view of hauled-out pinnipeds. (7) Crawl slowly to access seabird nest ˜ boxes on Ano Nuevo Island if pinnipeds are within view. (8) Coordinate research visits to intertidal areas of Southeast Farallon Island (to reduce potential take) and ˜ coordinate research goals for Ano Nuevo Island to minimize the number of trips to the island. (9) Coordinate monitoring schedules ˜ on Ano Nuevo Island, so that areas near any pinnipeds would be accessed only once per visit. (10) Have the lead biologist serve as an observer to evaluate incidental take. In order to issue an incidental take authorization under section 101(a)(5)(D) of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, we 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 the availability of such species or stock for taking for certain subsistence uses. Point Blue has based the mitigation measures which they will implement during the proposed research, on the following: (1) Protocols used during previous Point Blue seabird research activities as required by our previous authorizations for these activities; and (2) recommended best practices in Richardson et al. (1995). To reduce the potential for disturbance from acoustic and visual stimuli associated with the activities Point Blue and/or its designees has proposed to implement the following mitigation measures for marine mammals: ˜ (1) Postpone beach landings on Ano Nuevo Island until pinnipeds that may be present on the beach have slowly entered the water. (2) Select a pathway of approach to research sites that minimizes the number of marine mammals harassed. (3) Avoid visits to sites used by pinnipeds for pupping. Mitigation Conclusions We have carefully evaluated Point Blue’s proposed mitigation measures in the context of ensuring that we prescribe the means of effecting the least practicable impact on the affected marine mammal species and stocks and their habitat. Our evaluation of potential measures included consideration of the following factors in relation to one another: • The manner in which, and the degree to which, the successful implementation of the measure is expected to minimize adverse impacts to marine mammals; • The proven or likely efficacy of the specific measure to minimize adverse impacts as planned; and • The practicability of the measure for applicant implementation. Any mitigation measure(s) prescribed by us 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 stimuli expected to result in incidental take (this goal may contribute to 1, above, or to Anticipated Effects on Marine Mammal Habitat NMFS does not expect the proposed research activities to have any habitatrelated effects, including to marine mammal prey species, which could cause significant or long-term consequences for individual marine mammals or their populations. NMFS anticipates that the specified activity may result in marine mammals avoiding certain areas due to noise generated by: (1) Motorboat approaches and departures; (2) human presence during restoration activities and loading operations while resupplying the field station; and (3) human presence during seabird and pinniped research activities. NMFS considers this impact to habitat as temporary and reversible and considered this aspect in more detail earlier in this document, as behavioral modification. The main impact associated with the proposed activity will be temporarily elevated noise levels and the associated direct effects on marine mammals, previously discussed in this notice. PO 00000 Frm 00037 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 E:\FR\FM\22MRN1.SGM 22MRN1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 55 / Tuesday, March 22, 2016 / Notices asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES reducing takes by behavioral harassment only). 3. A reduction in the number of times (total number or number at biologically important time or location) individuals would be exposed to stimuli that we expect to result in the take of marine mammals (this goal may contribute to 1, above, or to reducing harassment takes only). 4. A reduction in the intensity of exposures (either total number or number at biologically important time or location) to training exercises that we expect to result in the take of marine mammals (this goal may contribute to 1, above, or to reducing the severity of harassment takes only). 5. Avoidance or minimization of adverse effects to marine mammal habitat, paying special attention to the food base, activities that block or limit passage to or from biologically important areas, permanent destruction of habitat, or temporary destruction/ disturbance of habitat during a biologically important time. 6. For monitoring directly related to mitigation—an increase in the probability of detecting marine mammals, thus allowing for more effective implementation of the mitigation. Based on our evaluation of Point Blue’s proposed measures, as well as other measures that may be relevant to the specified activity, we have preliminarily 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. Proposed Monitoring In order to issue an incidental take authorization for an activity, section 101(a)(5)(D) of the Marine Mammal Protection Act states that we must set forth ‘‘requirements pertaining to the monitoring and reporting of such taking.’’ The Act’s implementing regulations at 50 CFR 216.104(a)(13) indicate that requests for an incidental take authorization must include the suggested means of accomplishing the necessary monitoring and reporting that will result in increased knowledge of the species and our expectations of the level of taking or impacts on populations of marine mammals present in the action area. Point Blue submitted a marine mammal monitoring plan in their Authorization application. We may modify or supplement the plan based on comments or new information received from the public during the public VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:34 Mar 21, 2016 Jkt 238001 comment period. Any monitoring requirement we prescribe should improve our understanding of one or more of the following: • Occurrence of marine mammal species in action area (e.g., presence, abundance, distribution, density). • Nature, scope, or context of likely marine mammal exposure to potential stressors/impacts (individual or cumulative, acute or chronic), through better understanding of: (1) Action or environment (e.g., source characterization, propagation, ambient noise); (2) Affected species (e.g., life history, dive patterns); (3) Cooccurrence of marine mammal species with the action; or (4) Biological or behavioral context of exposure (e.g., age, calving or feeding areas). • Individual responses to acute stressors, or impacts of chronic exposures (behavioral or physiological). • How anticipated responses to stressors impact either: (1) Long-term fitness and survival of an individual; or (2) Population, species, or stock. • Effects on marine mammal habitat and resultant impacts to marine mammals. • Mitigation and monitoring effectiveness. As part of its 2016–2017 application, Point Blue proposes to sponsor marine mammal monitoring during the present project, in order to implement the mitigation measures that require realtime monitoring, and to satisfy the monitoring requirements of the incidental harassment authorization. The Point Blue researchers will monitor the area for pinnipeds during all research activities. Monitoring activities will consist of conducting and recording observations on pinnipeds within the vicinity of the proposed research areas. The monitoring notes would provide dates, location, species, the researcher’s activity, behavioral state, numbers of animals that were alert or moved greater than one meter, and numbers of pinnipeds that flushed into the water. Point Blue has complied with the monitoring requirements under the previous authorizations for the 2007 through 2016 seasons. The results from previous Point Blue’s monitoring reports support our findings that the proposed mitigation measures, which we also required under the 2007–2016 Authorizations provide the means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact on the species or stock. Point Blue has submitted a draft monitoring report on the 2015–2016 research periods on February 17, 2016. Upon final review, we will post this annual report on our Web site at PO 00000 Frm 00038 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 15257 http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/ incidental/research.htm. Proposed Reporting Point Blue must submit a draft final report to NMFS’ Office of Protected Resources within 60 days after the conclusion of the 2016–2017 field seasons. The report will include a summary of the information gathered pursuant to the monitoring requirements set forth in the Authorization. Point Blue will submit a final report to the Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, within 30 days after receiving comments from NMFS on the draft final report. If Point Blue does not receive any comments from NMFS on the draft report, NMFS and Point Blue will consider the draft final report to be the final report. Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, the Marine Mammal Protection Act 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]. NMFS proposes to authorize take by Level B harassment only for the proposed seabird research activities on ˜ Southeast Farallon Island, Ano Nuevo Island, and Point Reyes National Seashore. Acoustic (i.e., increased sound) and visual stimuli generated during these proposed activities may have the potential to cause marine mammals in the harbor area to experience temporary, short-term changes in behavior. Based on Point Blue’s previous research experiences, with the same activities conducted in the proposed research area, and on marine mammal research activities in these areas, we estimate that approximately 53,538 California sea lions, 485 harbor seals, 221 northern elephant seals, five northern fur seals, and 38 Steller sea lions could be affected by Level B behavioral harassment over the course of the effective period of the proposed Authorization. The authorized take differs from Point Blue’s original request for California sea lions (44,871), harbor seals (343), northern elephant seals (196), and E:\FR\FM\22MRN1.SGM 22MRN1 15258 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 55 / Tuesday, March 22, 2016 / Notices Steller sea lions (106). NMFS bases these new estimates on historical data from previous monitoring reports and anecdotal data for the same activities conducted in the proposed research areas. In brief, for four species (i.e., California sea lions, harbor seals, northern elephant seals, and Steller sea lions), we created a statistical model to derive an estimate of the average annual increase of reported take based on a best fit regression analysis (i.e., linear or polynomial regression) of reported take from 2007 to 2016. Next, we added the predicted annual increase in take for each species to the baseline reported take for the 2015–2016 seasons to project the estimated take for each species for the 2016–2017 proposed Authorization. We carried through the same predicted annual increase in take for future Authorizations (2017–2019) to obtain a mean projected take for each species. Last, we analyzed the reported take for each activity by calculating the upper bound of the 95 percent confidence interval of the mean reported take (2007–2016) and mean projected take (2017–2019) for each species. Our use of the upper confidence interval represents the best available information that supports our precautionary deliberation of how much take could occur annually. Although Point Blue has not reported encountering northern fur seals during the course of their previously authorized activities, NMFS has included take (5) for northern fur seals based on recent stranding information in the area for that species. There is no evidence that Point Blue’s planned activities could result in injury, serious injury, or mortality within the action area. Moreover, the required mitigation and monitoring measures will minimize further any potential risk for injury, serious injury, or mortality. Thus, we do not propose to authorize any injury, serious injury or mortality. We expect all potential takes to fall under the category of Level B harassment only. asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Encouraging and Coordinating Research Point Blue will continue to coordinate monitoring of pinnipeds during the research activities occurring on ˜ Southeast Farallon Island, Ano Nuevo Island, and Point Reyes National Seashore. Point Blue conducts bone fide research on marine mammals, the results of which may contribute to the basic knowledge of marine mammal biology or ecology, or are likely to identify, evaluate, or resolve conservation problems. VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:34 Mar 21, 2016 Jkt 238001 Negligible Impact Analysis and Preliminary Determinations NMFS has defined ‘‘negligible impact’’ in 50 CFR 216.103 as ‘‘ . . . an impact resulting from the specified activity that cannot be reasonably expected to, and is not reasonably likely to, adversely affect the species or stock through effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival.’’ A negligible impact finding is based on the lack of likely adverse effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival (i.e., populationlevel effects). 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, we consider other factors, such as the likely nature of any responses (e.g., intensity, duration), the context of any responses (e.g., critical reproductive time or location, migration), as well as the number and nature of estimated Level A harassment takes, the number of estimated mortalities, and effects on habitat. To avoid repetition, the discussion below applies to all five species discussed earlier in this notice. In making a negligible impact determination, we consider: • The number of anticipated injuries, serious injuries, or mortalities; • The number, nature, and intensity, and duration of Level B 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 take. For reasons stated previously in this document and based on the following factors, NMFS does not expect Point Blue’s specified activities to cause longterm behavioral disturbance, abandonment of the haul-out area, injury, serious injury, or mortality: (1) The takes from Level B harassment would be due to potential behavioral disturbance. The effects of the seabird research activities would be limited to short-term startle responses and localized behavioral changes due to the PO 00000 Frm 00039 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 short and sporadic duration of the research activities. Minor and brief responses, such as short-duration startle or alert reactions, are not likely to constitute disruption of behavioral patterns, such as migration, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering. (2) The availability of alternate areas for pinnipeds to avoid the resultant acoustic and visual disturbances from the research operations. Results from previous monitoring reports also show that the pinnipeds returned to the various sites and did not permanently abandon haul-out sites after Point Blue conducted their pinniped and research activities. (3) There is no potential for largescale movements leading to injury, serious injury, or mortality because the researchers must delay ingress into the landing areas until after the pinnipeds present have slowly entered the water. (4) The limited access of Point Blue’s researchers to Southeast Farallon Island, ˜ Ano Nuevo Island, and Point Reyes National Seashore during the pupping season. We do not anticipate that any injuries, serious injuries, or mortalities would occur as a result of Point Blue’s proposed activities, and we do not propose to authorize injury, serious injury or mortality. These species may exhibit behavioral modifications, including temporarily vacating the area during the proposed seabird and pinniped research activities to avoid the resultant acoustic and visual disturbances. Further, these proposed activities would not take place in areas of significance for marine mammal feeding, resting, breeding, or calving and would not adversely impact marine mammal habitat. Due to the nature, degree, and context of the behavioral harassment anticipated, the activities are not expected to impact annual rates of recruitment or survival. NMFS does not expect pinnipeds to permanently abandon any area that is surveyed by researchers, as is evidenced by continued presence of pinnipeds at the sites during annual monitoring counts. 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 mitigation and monitoring measures, NMFS preliminarily finds that the total marine mammal take from Point Blue’s seabird research activities will not adversely affect annual rates of recruitment or survival and therefore will have a negligible impact on the affected species or stocks. E:\FR\FM\22MRN1.SGM 22MRN1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 55 / Tuesday, March 22, 2016 / Notices Small Numbers As mentioned previously, NMFS estimates that four species of marine mammals could be potentially affected by Level B harassment over the course of the proposed Authorization. For each species, these numbers are small relative to the population size. These incidental harassment numbers represent approximately 18.04 percent of the U.S. stock of California sea lion, 1.61 percent of the California stock of Pacific harbor seal, 0.12 percent of the California breeding stock of northern elephant seal, 0.04 percent of the California stock of northern fur seals, and 0.06 percent of the eastern distinct population segment of Steller sea lion. Because these are maximum estimates, actual take numbers are likely to be lower, as some animals may select other haul-out sites the day the researchers are present. Impact on Availability of Affected Species or Stock for Taking for Subsistence Uses Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA also requires us to determine that the taking will not have an unmitigable adverse effect on the availability of marine mammal species or stocks for subsistence use. There are no relevant subsistence uses of marine mammals implicated by this action. Thus, 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. asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Endangered Species Act No marine mammal species listed under the ESA are anticipated to occur in the action area. Therefore, NMFS has determined that a section 7 consultation under the ESA is not required. National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) We have prepared a draft Environmental Assessment (EA) analyzing the potential effects to the human environment from our proposed issuance of an Authorization to Point Blue for their seabird research activities. The draft EA titled, Proposed Issuance of an Incidental Harassment Authorization to Point Blue Conservation Science and Partners to Take Marine Mammals by Harassment Incidental to Seabird Research Conducted in Central California is posted on our Web site at www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/ incidental/research.htm. Information in Point Blue’s application, NMFS’ DEA and this notice collectively provide the environmental information related to VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:34 Mar 21, 2016 Jkt 238001 proposed issuance of an Authorization for public review and comment. NMFS will review all comments submitted in response to this notice as we complete the NEPA process, including a decision of whether to sign a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), prior to a final decision on the proposed Authorization request. Proposed Authorization As a result of these preliminary determinations, NMFS proposes to authorize the take of marine mammals incidental to Point Blue’s seabird research activities, provided the previously mentioned mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements are incorporated. The next section provides the proposed IHA language and contains a draft of the Authorization. The wording within this section is proposed for inclusion in the Authorization (if issued). 1. This Authorization is valid from May 2016 through April 2017. 2. This Authorization is valid only for specified activities associated with seabird research activities in the vicinity of pinniped haul-out sites located on Southeast Farallon Island (37°41′54.32″ ˜ N., 123°0′8.33″ W.), Ano Nuevo Island (37°6′29.25″ N., 122°20′12.20″ W.), within Point Reyes National Seashore (37°59′38.61″ N., 122°58′24.90″ W.), San Francisco Bay, or the Russian River in Sonoma County. 3. Species Authorized and Level of Takes a. The taking, by Level B harassment only, is limited to the following species: 53,538 California sea lions (Zalophus californianus), 485 Pacific harbor seals (Phoca vitulina), 221 northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris), five northern fur seals, and 38 Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus). b. The taking by injury (Level A harassment), serious injury or death of any of the species listed in Condition 3(a) or the taking of any kind of any other species of marine mammal is prohibited and may result in the modification, suspension or revocation of this Authorization. c. The taking of any marine mammal in a manner prohibited under this Authorization must be reported immediately to the West Coast Regional Administrator, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and to the Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS. 4. General Conditions a. A copy of this Authorization must be in the possession of Point Blue, its PO 00000 Frm 00040 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 15259 designees, and field crew personnel (including research collaborators from Point Reyes National Seashore and Oikonos—Ecosystem Knowledge) operating under the authority of this Authorization. b. The holder must notify the Assistant Regional Administrator for Protected Resources, West Coast Region at least 24 hours prior to starting seabird research activities (unless constrained by the date of issuance of this Authorization). 5. Mitigation Measures In order to ensure the least practicable impact on the species listed in condition 3(a), the holder of this Authorization is required to: a. Minimize the potential for disturbance (to the lowest level practicable near known pinniped haulouts by boat travel and pedestrian approach during seabird research operations). Point Blue and its designees must: • Postpone beach landings until pinnipeds that may be present in the access areas have entered the water. • Select a pathway of approach to research sites that minimizes the number of marine mammals harassed. • Avoid visits to sites used by pinnipeds for pupping. • Monitor for offshore predators and not approach hauled-out pinnipeds if great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) or killer whales (Orcinus orca) are in the area. If Point Blue and/ or its designees see predators in the area, they must not disturb the animals until the area is free of predators. • Keep voices hushed and bodies low to the ground in the visual presence of pinnipeds. • Conduct seabird observations at North Landing on Southeast Farallon Island in an observation blind, shielded from the view of hauled-out pinnipeds. • Crawl slowly to access seabird nest ˜ boxes on Ano Nuevo Island if pinnipeds are within view. • Coordinate research visits to intertidal areas of Southeast Farallon Island (to reduce potential take) and ˜ coordinate research goals for Ano Nuevo Island to minimize the number of trips to the island. • Coordinate monitoring schedules ˜ on Ano Nuevo Island, so that areas near any pinnipeds would be accessed only once per visit. • Have the lead biologist serve as an observer to evaluate incidental take. 6. Monitoring The holder of this Authorization is required to: E:\FR\FM\22MRN1.SGM 22MRN1 15260 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 55 / Tuesday, March 22, 2016 / Notices a. Record the date, time, and location (or closest point of ingress) of each visit to the research site. b. Collect the following information for each visit: Composition of the marine mammals sighted, such as species, gender and life history. asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES 7. Reporting The holder of this Authorization is required to: a. Report observations of unusual behaviors of pinnipeds to West Coast Region fishery biologist so that the appropriate personnel in the Regional Office may conduct any potential follow-up observations. b. Draft Report: Submit a draft final report to the Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, Headquarters, NMFS within 60 days after the expiration of the Authorization. The report will include the information gathered pursuant to the monitoring requirements listed in item 6, along with an executive summary. c. The Draft Report shall be subject to review and comment by NMFS. Any recommendations made by NMFS must be addressed in the Final Report prior to submission to NMFS. If we decide that the draft final report needs no comments, the draft final report will be considered to be the final report. d. Final Report: Submit a final report to the Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, Headquarters, NMFS within 30 days after receiving comments from us on the draft final report. 8. Reporting Prohibited Take In the unanticipated event that Point Blue’s activities cause any taking of a marine mammal in a manner prohibited by the Authorization, such as an injury (Level A harassment), serious injury or mortality (e.g., vessel-strike), Point Blue shall immediately cease the specified activities and immediately report the incident to the Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, and the Assistant West Coast Regional Stranding Coordinator. The report must include the following information: Time, date, and location (latitude/ longitude) of the incident; the name and type of vessel involved; the vessel’s speed during and leading up to the incident; description of the incident; water depth; environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, Beaufort sea state, cloud cover, and visibility); description of marine mammal observations in the 24 hours preceding the incident; species identification or description of the animal(s) involved; VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:34 Mar 21, 2016 Jkt 238001 the fate of the animal(s); and photographs or video footage of the animal (if equipment is available). Point Blue shall not resume its activities until NMFS is able to review the circumstances of the prohibited take. NMFS will work with Point Blue to determine what is necessary to minimize the likelihood of further prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. Point Blue may not resume their activities until notified by NMFS in writing via a letter or email or via the telephone. 9. Reporting an Injured or Dead Marine Mammal With an Unknown Cause of Death In the event that Point Blue discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the lead researcher 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 described in the next paragraph), Point Blue will immediately report the incident to the Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources and the Assistant West Coast Regional Stranding Coordinator. The report must include the same information identified in the paragraph above this section. Activities may continue while we review the circumstances of the incident. NMFS will work with Point Blue to determine whether modifications to the activities are appropriate. 10. Reporting an Injured or Dead Marine Mammal Not Related to Point Blue’s Activities In the event that Point Blue discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the lead researcher determines that the injury or death is not associated with or related to the activities authorized in the Authorization (e.g., previously wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced decomposition, or scavenger damage), Point Blue will report the incident to the Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources and the Assistant West Coast Regional Stranding Coordinator within 24 hours of the discovery. Point Blue will provide photographs or video footage (if available) or other documentation of the stranded animal sighting to us and the Marine Mammal Stranding Network. Point Blue can continue their research activities. 11. A copy of this Authorization must be in the possession of Point Blue and its designees (including contractors and marine mammal monitors) operating under the authority of this Incidental Harassment Authorization at all times. PO 00000 Frm 00041 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Request for Public Comments NMFS requests comment on the analyses, the draft Authorization, and any other aspect of the Notice of Proposed Incidental Harassment Authorization for Point Blue’s seabird research activities. Please include any supporting data or literature citations with your comments to help inform our final decision on Point Blue’s request for an Authorization. Dated: March 16, 2016. Perry F. Gayaldo, Deputy Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2016–06317 Filed 3–21–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P COMMODITY FUTURES TRADING COMMISSION Comparability Determination for the European Union: Dually-Registered Derivatives Clearing Organizations and Central Counterparties Commodity Futures Trading Commission. ACTION: Notice of Comparability Determination for Certain Requirements Under the European Market Infrastructure Regulation. AGENCY: The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (the ‘‘Commission’’ or ‘‘CFTC’’) has determined that certain laws and regulations applicable in the European Union (‘‘EU’’) provide a sufficient basis for an affirmative finding of comparability with respect to certain regulatory obligations applicable to derivatives clearing organizations (‘‘DCOs’’) that are registered with the Commission and are authorized to operate as central counterparties (‘‘CCPs’’) in the EU. The Commission’s determination provides for substituted compliance with respect to requirements for financial resources, risk management, settlement procedures, and default rules and procedures. DATES: This determination will become effective upon publication in the Federal Register. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jeffrey M. Bandman, Acting Director, 202–418–5044, jbandman@cftc.gov; Robert B. Wasserman, Chief Counsel, 202–418–5092, rwasserman@cftc.gov; Tracey Wingate, Special Counsel, 202– 418–5319, twingate@cftc.gov, in each case at the Division of Clearing and Risk, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Three Lafayette Centre, 1155 21st Street NW., Washington, DC SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\22MRN1.SGM 22MRN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 55 (Tuesday, March 22, 2016)]
[Notices]
[Pages 15249-15260]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-06317]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XE468


Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; 
Seabird Research Activities in Central California, 2016-2017

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

ACTION: Notice; proposed incidental harassment authorization; request 
for comments.

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

SUMMARY: NMFS (hereinafter, ``we'' or ``our'') received an application 
from Point Blue Conservation Science (Point Blue) requesting an 
Incidental Harassment Authorization (Authorization) to take marine 
mammals, by harassment, incidental to conducting proposed seabird 
research activities on Southeast Farallon Island, A[ntilde]o Nuevo 
Island, and Point Reyes National Seashore in central California from 
May 2016 through May 2017. Per the Marine Mammal Protection Act, we 
request comments on our proposal to issue an Authorization to Point 
Blue to incidentally take, by Level B harassment only, five species 
[i.e., California sea lion (Zalophus californianus), Pacific harbor 
seal (Phoca vitulina), northern elephant seal (Mirounga 
angustirostris), northern fur seal (Callorhinus ursinus), and Steller 
sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus)] of marine mammals during the specified 
activity.

DATES: NMFS must receive comments and information no later than April 
21, 2016.

ADDRESSES: Address comments on the application to Jolie Harrison, 
Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected 
Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, 
Silver Spring, MD 20910. The mailbox address for providing email 
comments is ITP.Pauline@noaa.gov. You must include 0648-XE468 in the 
subject line. We are not responsible for email comments sent to 
addresses other than the one provided here. Comments sent via email, 
including all attachments, must not exceed a 25-megabyte file size. 
NMFS is not responsible for email comments sent to addresses other than 
the one provided here.
    Instructions: All submitted comments are a part of the public 
record and NMFS will post them to http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental/research.htm without change. All Personal Identifying 
Information (for example, name, address, etc.) voluntarily submitted by 
the commenter may be publicly accessible. Do not submit confidential 
business information or otherwise sensitive or protected information.
    To obtain an electronic copy of the 2016 renewal request, the 2015 
application, our draft Environmental Assessment (EA), or a list of the 
references, write to the previously mentioned address, telephone the 
contact listed here (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT), or visit the 
Internet at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental/research.htm.
    Information in Point Blue's application, our draft EA and this 
notice collectively provide the environmental information related to 
the proposed issuance of the Authorization for public review and 
comment.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Robt Pauline, 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.''

Summary of Request

    On September 29, 2015, NMFS received an application from Point Blue

[[Page 15250]]

requesting the taking by harassment of marine mammals incidental to 
conducting seabird research activities on Southeast Farallon Island, 
A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island, and Point Reyes National Seashore in central 
California. Point Blue, along with partners Oikonos Ecosystem Knowledge 
and Point Reyes National Seashore, plan to conduct the proposed 
activities for one year. These partners are conducting this research 
under cooperative agreements with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 
consultation with the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. 
Following the initial application submission, Point Blue submitted an 
updated version of their application on February 23, 2016. We 
considered the revised renewal request for 2016-2017 activities as 
adequate and complete on February 25, 2016.
    On December 24, 2015 (80 FR 80321), we published a Federal Register 
notice announcing our issuance of a revised Authorization (effective 
through January 30, 2016) to Point Blue to take marine mammals by 
harassment, incidental to conducting the same activities presented in 
this notice of proposed Authorization. The revised Authorization 
increased the number of authorized take for California sea lions from 
approximately 9,871 to 44,871 due to Point Blue encountering 
unprecedented numbers of California sea lions hauled out in survey 
areas due to warming environmental conditions in the Pacific Ocean 
offshore California--which researchers have attributed to a current El 
Nino event.
    For the 2016-2017 research seasons, Point Blue again proposes to 
monitor and census seabird colonies; observe seabird nesting habitat; 
restore nesting burrows; and resupply a field station. The proposed 
activities would occur over the course of one year between May 2016 and 
May 2017.
    The following aspects of the proposed seabird research activities 
have the potential to take marine mammals: (1) Acoustic stimuli from 
noise generated by motorboat approaches and departures; (2) noise 
generated during the resupplying of the field station; and (3) visual 
stimuli from human presence during seabird research activities. 
California sea lions, Pacific harbor seals, northern elephant seals, 
northern fur seals, and Steller sea lions hauled out in areas on 
Southeast Farallon Island, A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island, or within Point 
Reyes National Seashore may flush into the water or exhibit temporary 
modification in behavior and/or low-level physiological effects (Level 
B harassment). Thus, Point Blue has requested an Authorization to take 
44,871 California sea lions, 343 harbor seals, 196 northern elephant 
seals, and 106 Steller sea lions by Level B harassment only. Point Blue 
did not request take for northern fur seals in their application. 
However, as explained later in this document, we have considered the 
potential for Point Blue's activities to take a small number of this 
species.
    To date, we have issued seven, one-year Authorizations (and one 
revised Authorization) to Point Blue for the conduct of the same 
activities from 2007 to 2016 (72 FR 71121, December 14, 2007; 73 FR 
77011, December 18, 2008; 75 FR 8677, February 19, 2010; 77 FR 73989, 
December 7, 2012; 78 FR 66686, November 6, 2013; and 80 FR 10066, 
February 25, 2015, 80 FR 80321, December 24, 2015). This is Point 
Blue's eighth request for an Authorization. Their current Authorization 
expired on January 30, 2016 and the monitoring report associated with 
the 2015-2016 Authorization is available at www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental/research.htm. The report provides additional 
environmental information related to proposed issuance of this 
Authorization for public review and comment.

Description of the Specified Activity

Overview

Seabird Research on Southeast Farallon Island
    Point Blue proposes to conduct: (1) daily observations of seabird 
colonies at a maximum frequency of three 15-minute visits per day; and 
(2) conduct daily observations of breeding common murres (Uria aalge) 
at a maximum frequency of one, five-hour visit per day in September. 
These activities usually involve one or two observers conducting daily 
censuses of seabirds or conducting mark/recapture studies of breeding 
seabirds on Southeast Farallon Island. The researchers plan to access 
the island's two landing areas, the North Landing and the East Landing, 
by 14 to 18 feet (ft) (4.3 to 5.5 meters [m]) open motorboats which are 
hoisted onto the island using a derrick system and then travel by foot 
to coastal areas of the island to view breeding seabirds from behind an 
observation blind.
    The potential for incidental take related to the mark/recapture 
studies is very low as these activities are conducted within the 
interior of the island away from the intertidal areas where the 
pinnipeds haul out. Most potential for incidental take would occur when 
the researchers approach or depart the intertidal area by motorboat or 
when the researchers walk within 50 ft (15.2 m) of the haul-out areas 
to enter the observation blinds to observe shorebirds.
Field Station Resupply on Southeast Farallon Island
    Point Blue proposes to resupply the field station once every two 
weeks at a maximum frequency of 26 visits. Resupply activities involve 
personnel approaching either the North Landing or East Landing by 
motorboat. At East Landing--the primary landing site--all personnel 
assisting with the landing would stay on the loading platform 
approximately 30 ft (9.1 m) above the water. At North Landing, loading 
operations would occur at the water level in the intertidal areas. Most 
potential for incidental take would occur when the researchers approach 
the area by motorboat or when the researchers load or unload supplies 
onshore.
Seabird Research on A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island
    Point Blue and its partners propose to monitor seabird burrow 
nesting habitat quality and to conduct habitat restoration at a maximum 
frequency of 20 visits per year. This activity involves two to three 
researchers accessing the north side of the island by a 12 ft (3.7 m) 
Zodiac boat. Once onshore, the researchers will check subterranean nest 
boxes and restore any nesting habitat for approximately 15 minutes.
    Most potential for incidental take would occur at the landing beach 
on the north side of the island when the researchers arrive and depart 
to check the boxes. Non-breeding pinnipeds may occasionally be present, 
including California sea lions that may be hauled out near a small 
group of subterranean seabird nest boxes on the island terrace. In both 
locations researchers will be more than 50 ft (15.2 m) away from any 
potentially hauled out pinnipeds.
Seabird Research on Point Reyes National Seashore
    The National Park Service in collaboration with Point Blue monitors 
seabird breeding and roosting colonies; conducts habitat restoration; 
removes non-native plants; monitors intertidal areas; and maintains 
coastal dune habitat. Seabird monitoring usually involves one or two 
observers conducting the survey by small boats (12 to 22 ft; 3.6 to 6.7 
m) along the Point Reyes National Seashore shoreline. Researchers would 
visit the site at a maximum frequency of 20 times per year, with an 
emphasis on increasing monitoring during the nesting season. 
Researchers would conduct occasional, intermittent visits during the 
rest of the

[[Page 15251]]

year. A majority of the research occurs in areas where marine mammals 
are not present. However, the potential for incidental harassment will 
occur at the landing beaches along Point Reyes Headland, boat ramps, or 
parking lots where northern elephant seals, harbor seals, or California 
sea lions may be hauled out in the vicinity.

Dates and Duration

    Point Blue proposes to conduct the seabird research activities over 
the course of one year. The proposed Authorization, if issued, would be 
effective from May 1, 2016, through April 30, 2017.

Description of the Specified Geographic Region

    The proposed activities would occur in the vicinity of pinniped 
haul-out sites located on Southeast Farallon Island (37[deg]41'54.32'' 
N.; 123[deg]0'8.33'' W.), A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island (37[deg]6'29.25'' N.; 
122[deg]20'12.20'' W.), or within Point Reyes National Seashore 
(37[deg]59'38.61'' N.; 122[deg]58'24.90'' W.) in central California. 
The proposed action area consists of the following three locations in 
the northeast Pacific Ocean:

South Farallones Islands

    The South Farallon Islands consist of Southeast Farallon Island 
located at 37[deg]41'54.32'' N.; 123[deg]0'8.33'' W. and West End 
Island. These two islands are directly adjacent to each other and 
separated by only a 30-foot (ft) (9.1 meter (m)) channel. The South 
Farallon Islands have a land area of approximately 120 acres (0.49 
square kilometers (km)) and are part of the Farallon National Wildlife 
Refuge. The islands are located near the edge of the continental shelf 
28 miles (mi) (45.1 km) west of San Francisco, CA, and lie within the 
waters of the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary.

A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island

    A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island located at 37[deg]6'29.25'' N.; 
122[deg]20'12.20'' W. is one-quarter mile (402 m) offshore of 
A[ntilde]o Nuevo Point in San Mateo County, CA. This small 25-acre (0.1 
square km) island is part of the A[ntilde]o Nuevo State Reserve, all of 
which is owned and operated by California State Parks. The Island lies 
within the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and the A[ntilde]o 
Nuevo State Marine Conservation Area.

Point Reyes National Seashore

    Point Reyes National Seashore located is approximately 40 miles 
(64.3 km) north of San Francisco Bay and also lies within the Gulf of 
the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. The proposed research areas 
(Life Boat Station, Drakes Beach, and Point Bonita) are within the 
headland coastal areas of the National Park.
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P

[[Page 15252]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TN22MR16.000


[[Page 15253]]


BILLING CODE 3510-22-C

Description of the Marine Mammals in the Area of the Proposed Specified 
Activity

    The marine mammals most likely to be harassed incidental to 
conducting seabird research at the proposed research areas on Southeast 
Farallon Island, A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island, and Point Reyes National 
Seashore are primarily California sea lions, northern elephant seals, 
Pacific harbor seals, and to a lesser extent the eastern distinct 
population segment (DPS) of the Steller sea lion. NMFS presents general 
information on these species in the next section. NMFS refers the 
public to Carretta et al. (2015) and Muto and Angliss (2015) for 
additional information on the status, distribution, seasonal 
distribution, and life history of these species. The publications are 
available on the Internet at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/sars/draft.htm.

Northern Elephant Seal

    Northern elephant seals are not listed as threatened or endangered 
under the Endangered Species Act, nor are they categorized as depleted 
under the MMPA. The estimated population of the California Breeding 
Stock is approximately 179,000 animals and the current population trend 
is increasing at 3.8 percent annually (Carretta et al., 2015).
    Northern elephant seals range in the eastern and central North 
Pacific Ocean, from as far north as Alaska and as far south as Mexico. 
Northern elephant seals spend much of the year, generally about nine 
months, in the ocean. They are usually underwater, diving to depths of 
about 1,000 to 2,500 ft (330-800 m) for 20- to 30-minute intervals with 
only short breaks at the surface. They are rarely seen out at sea for 
this reason. While on land, they prefer sandy beaches.
    Northern elephant seals breed and give birth in California (U.S.) 
and Baja California (Mexico), primarily on offshore islands (Stewart et 
al., 1994), from December to March (Stewart and Huber, 1993). Males 
feed near the eastern Aleutian Islands and in the Gulf of Alaska, and 
females feed farther south, south of 45 [deg]N. (Stewart and Huber, 
1993; Le Boeuf et al., 1993). Adults return to land between March and 
August to molt, with males returning later than females. Adults return 
to their feeding areas again between their spring/summer molting and 
their winter breeding seasons.
    At Point Reyes, the population ranges from 1,500 and 2,000 animals 
(NPS, 2013a). Adult northern elephant seals visit Point Reyes twice a 
year (NPS, 2013a). They arrive in early winter from their feeding 
grounds off Alaska and the largest congregations occur in the winter, 
when the females arrive to deliver their pups and nurse them, and in 
spring when immature seals and adult females return to molt. During the 
time they are onshore they are fasting (NPS, 2013b).
    At Southeast Farallon, the population consists of approximately 500 
animals (FNMS, 2013). Northern elephant seals began recolonizing the 
South Farallon Islands in the early 1970s (Stewart et al., 1994) at 
which time the colony grew rapidly. In 1983 a record 475 pups were born 
on the South Farallones (Stewart et al., 1994). Since then, the size of 
the South Farallones colony has declined, stabilizing in the early 
2000s and then declining further over the past six years (USFWS, 2013). 
In 2012, a total of 90 cows were counted on the South Farallones, and 
60 pups were weaned (USFWS, 2013). Point Blue's average monthly counts 
from 2000 to 2009 ranged from 20 individuals in July to nearly 500 
individuals in November (USFWS, 2013).
    Northern elephant seals are present on the islands and in the 
waters surrounding the South Farallones year-round for either breeding 
or molting; however, they are more abundant during breeding and peak 
molting seasons (Le Boeuf and Laws, 1994; Sydeman and Allen, 1997). 
They live and feed in deep, offshore waters the remainder of the year.
    In mid-December, adult males begin arriving on the South 
Farallones, closely followed by pregnant females on the verge of giving 
birth. Females give birth to a single pup, generally in late December 
or January (Le Boeuf and Laws, 1994) and nurse their pups for 
approximately four weeks (Reiter et al., 1978). Upon pup weaning, 
females mate with an adult male and then depart the islands. The last 
adult breeders depart the islands in mid-March. The spring peak of 
elephant seals on the rookery occurs in April, when females and 
immature seals (approximately one to four years old) arrive at the 
colony to molt (a one month process) (USFWS, 2013). The year's new pups 
remain on the island throughout both of these peaks, generally leaving 
by the end of April (USFWS, 2013).
    The lowest numbers of elephant seals present on the rookery occurs 
during June, July, and August, when sub-adult and adult males molt. 
Another peak of young seals return to the rookery for a haul-out period 
in October, and at that time some individuals undergo partial molt (Le 
Boeuf and Laws, 1994). At A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island the population ranges 
from 900 to 1,000 adults.
    Observers first sighted elephant seals on A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island 
in 1955 and today the population ranges from 900 to 1,000 adults (M. 
Lowry, unpubl. data). Males began to haul out on the mainland in 1965. 
California State Park reports that by 1988/1989, approximately 2,000 
elephant seals came ashore to A[ntilde]o Nuevo (CSP, 2012).

California Sea Lion

    The estimated population of the U.S. stock of California sea lion 
is approximately 296,750 animals and the current maximum population 
growth rate is 12 percent (Carretta et al., 2015). California sea lions 
are not listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species 
Act, nor are they categorized as depleted under the MMPA. The 
California sea lion is now a full species, separated from the Galapagos 
sea lion (Z. wollebaeki) and the extinct Japanese sea lion (Z. 
japonicus) (Brunner, 2003, Wolf et al., 2007, Schramm et al., 2009).
    California sea lion breeding areas are on islands located in 
southern California, in western Baja California, Mexico, and the Gulf 
of California. During the breeding season, most California sea lions 
inhabit southern California and Mexico. Rookery sites in southern 
California are limited to the San Miguel Islands and the southerly 
Channel Islands of San Nicolas, Santa Barbara, and San Clemente 
(Carretta et al., 2015). Males establish breeding territories during 
May through July on both land and in the water. Females come ashore in 
mid-May and June where they give birth to a single pup approximately 
four to five days after arrival and will nurse pups for about a week 
before going on their first feeding trip. Females will alternate 
feeding trips with nursing bouts until the pup is weaned between four 
and 10 months of age (NMML, 2010).
    Adult and juvenile males will migrate as far north as British 
Columbia, Canada while females and pups remain in southern California 
waters in the non-breeding season. In warm water (El Ni[ntilde]o) 
years, some females are found as far north as Washington and Oregon, 
presumably following prey.
    The U.S. stock of California sea lion is the only stock present in 
the proposed research area and in recent years, California sea lions 
have begun to breed annually in small numbers at Southeast Farallon and 
A[ntilde]o Nuevo Islands.
    On the Farallon Islands, California sea lions haul out in many 
intertidal areas year round, fluctuating from several hundred to 
several thousand animals.

[[Page 15254]]

California sea lions at Point Reyes National Seashore haul out at only 
a few locations, but will occur on human structures such as boat ramps. 
The annual population averages around 300 to 500 during the fall 
through spring months, although on occasion, several thousand sea lions 
can arrive depending upon local prey resources (S. Allen, unpublished 
data). On A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island, California sea lions may haul out at 
one of eight beach areas on the perimeter of the island (see Point 
Blue's Application). The island's average population ranges from 4,000 
to 9,500 animals (M. Lowry, unpublished data).

Pacific Harbor Seal

    Pacific harbor seals are not listed as threatened or endangered 
under the Endangered Species Act, nor are they categorized as depleted 
under the MMPA. The estimated population of the California stock of 
harbor seals is 30,196 animals (Carretta et al., 2015).
    The animals inhabit near-shore coastal and estuarine areas from 
Baja California, Mexico, to the Pribilof Islands in Alaska. Pacific 
harbor seals are divided into two subspecies: P. v. stejnegeri in the 
western North Pacific, near Japan, and P. v. richardsi in the northeast 
Pacific Ocean. The latter subspecies, recognized as three separate 
stocks, inhabits the west coast of the continental United States, 
including: The outer coastal waters of Oregon and Washington states; 
Washington state inland waters; and Alaska coastal and inland waters.
    In California, over 500 harbor seal haul-out sites are widely 
distributed along the mainland and offshore islands, and include rocky 
shores, beaches and intertidal sandbars (Lowry et al., 2005). Harbor 
seals mate at sea and females give birth during the spring and summer, 
although, the pupping season varies with latitude. Pups are nursed for 
an average of 24 days and are ready to swim minutes after being born. 
Harbor seal pupping takes place at many locations and rookery size 
varies from a few pups to many hundreds of pups.
    In California, over 500 harbor seal haul-out sites are widely 
distributed along the mainland and offshore islands, and include rocky 
shores, beaches and intertidal sandbars (Lowry et al., 2005). On the 
Farallon Islands, approximately 40 to 120 Pacific harbor seals haul out 
in the intertidal areas (Point Blue unpublished data). Harbor seals at 
Point Reyes National Seashore haul out at nine locations with an annual 
population of up to 4,000 animals (M. Lowry, unpublished data). On 
A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island, harbor seals may haul out at one of eight 
beach areas on the perimeter of the island (see Figure 2 in Point 
Blue's Application) and the island's average population ranges from 100 
to 150 animals (M. Lowry, unpublished data).

Northern Fur Seal

    Northern fur seals occur from southern California north to the 
Bering Sea and west to the Sea of Okhotsk and Honshu Island of Japan. 
NMFS recognizes two separate stocks of northern fur seals within U.S. 
waters: An Eastern Pacific stock distributed among sites in Alaska, 
British Columbia; and a California stock distributed along the west 
coast of the continental U.S. The estimated population of the 
California stock is 14,050 animals with a maximum population growth 
rate of 12 percent (Carretta et al., 2015).
    Northern fur seals may temporarily haul out on land at other sites 
in Alaska, British Columbia, and on islets along the west coast of the 
continental United States, but generally this occurs outside of the 
breeding season (Fiscus, 1983).
    Northern fur seals breed in Alaska and migrate along the west coast 
during fall and winter. Due to their pelagic habitat, they are rarely 
seen from shore in the continental U.S., but individuals occasionally 
come ashore on islands well offshore (i.e., Farallon Islands and 
Channel Islands in California). During the breeding season, 
approximately 74 percent of the worldwide population inhabits the 
Pribilof Islands in Alaska, with the remaining animals spread 
throughout the North Pacific Ocean (Lander and Kajimura, 1982).

Steller Sea Lion

    Steller sea lions consist of two distinct population segments: The 
western and eastern distinct population segments (DPS) divided at 144 
[deg]West longitude (Cape Suckling, Alaska). The western segment of 
Steller sea lions inhabit central and western Gulf of Alaska, Aleutian 
Islands, as well as coastal waters and breed in Asia (e.g., Japan and 
Russia). The eastern segment includes sea lions living in southeast 
Alaska, British Columbia, California, and Oregon. The eastern DPS 
includes animals born east of Cape Suckling, AK (144 [deg]W.) and the 
latest abundance estimate for the stock is 60,131 to 74,448 animals 
(Muto and Angliss, 2015). The eastern DPS of Steller sea lion is not 
listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act, 
but is categorized as depleted under the MMPA.
    Steller sea lions range along the North Pacific Rim from northern 
Japan to California (Loughlin et al., 1984), with centers of abundance 
and distribution in the Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian Islands, 
respectively. The species is not known to migrate, but individuals 
disperse widely outside of the breeding season (late May through early 
July), thus potentially intermixing with animals from other areas.
    The eastern distinct population segment of Steller sea lions breeds 
on rookeries located in southeast Alaska, British Columbia, Oregon, and 
California. There are no rookeries located in Washington. Steller sea 
lions give birth in May through July and breeding commences a couple of 
weeks after birth. Pups are weaned during the winter and spring of the 
following year.
    Despite the wide-ranging movements of juveniles and adult males in 
particular, exchange between rookeries by breeding adult females and 
males (other than between adjoining rookeries) appears low, although 
males have a higher tendency to disperse than females (NMFS, 1995; 
Trujillo et al., 2004; Hoffman et al., 2006). A northward shift in the 
overall breeding distribution has occurred, with a contraction of the 
range in southern California and new rookeries established in 
southeastern Alaska (Pitcher et al., 2007).
    The current population of Steller sea lions in the proposed 
research area is estimated to number between 50 and 750 animals. 
Overall, counts of non-pups at trend sites in California and Oregon 
have been relatively stable or increasing slowly since the 1980s (Muto 
and Angliss, 2015).
    Point Blue estimates that between 50 and 150 Steller sea lions live 
on the Farallon Islands. On Southeast Farallon Island, the abundance of 
females declined an average of 3.6 percent per year from 1974 to 1997 
(Sydeman and Allen, 1999).
    The National Marine Fisheries Service's Southwest Fisheries Science 
Center estimates between 400 and 600 live on A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island 
(Point Blue unpublished data, 2008; Southwest Fisheries Science Center 
unpublished data, 2008). At A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island off central 
California, a steady decline in ground counts started around 1970, and 
there was an 85 percent reduction in the breeding population by 1987 
(LeBoeuf et al., 1991). Pup counts at A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island declined 
five percent annually through the 1990s (NOAA Stock Assessment, 2003), 
and have apparently stabilized between 2001 and 2005 (M. Lowry, SWFSC 
unpublished data). In 2000, the combined pup estimate for both islands 
was 349. In 2005, the pup estimate was 204 on the Island. Pup counts on 
the Farallon Islands have generally varied from five to 15

[[Page 15255]]

(Hastings and Sydeman, 2002; Point Blue unpublished data). Pups have 
not been born at Point Reyes Headland since the 1970s and Steller sea 
lions are seen in very low numbers there currently (S. Allen, 
unpublished data).

Other Marine Mammals in the Proposed Action Area

    California (southern) sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis), listed as 
threatened under the Endangered Species Act and categorized as depleted 
under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, usually range in coastal waters 
within two km of shore. Point Blue has not encountered California sea 
otters on Southeast Farallon Island, A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island, or Point 
Reyes National Seashore during the course of seabird or pinniped 
research activities over the past five years. This species is managed 
by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and is not considered further in 
this notice.

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

    This section includes a summary and discussion of the ways that 
components of the specified activity (e.g., exposure to vessel noise 
and approaches and human presence), including mitigation, may impact 
marine mammals. The ``Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment'' section 
later in this document will include a quantitative analysis of the 
number of individuals that we expect Point Blue to take during this 
activity. The ``Negligible Impact Analysis'' section will include the 
analysis of how this specific activity would impact marine mammals. We 
will consider the content of the following sections: ``Estimated Take 
by Incidental Harassment'' and ``Proposed Mitigation'' to draw 
conclusions regarding the likely impacts of these activities 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.
    In the following discussion, we provide general background 
information on sound and marine mammal hearing. Acoustic and visual 
stimuli generated by: (1) Motorboat operations; and (2) the appearance 
of researchers may have the potential to cause Level B harassment of 
any pinnipeds hauled out on Southeast Farallon Island, A[ntilde]o Nuevo 
Island, or Point Reyes National Seashore. The effects of sounds from 
motorboat operations and the appearance of researchers might include 
hearing impairment or behavioral disturbance (Southall, et al., 2007).

Hearing Impairment

    Marine mammals produce sounds in various important contexts--social 
interactions, foraging, navigating, and responding to predators. The 
best available science suggests that pinnipeds have a functional aerial 
hearing sensitivity between 75 hertz (Hz) and 75 kilohertz (kHz) and 
can produce a diversity of sounds, though generally from 100 Hz to 
several tens of kHz (Southall, et al., 2007).
    Exposure to high intensity sound for a sufficient duration may 
result in auditory effects such as a noise-induced threshold shift--an 
increase in the auditory threshold after exposure to noise (Finneran, 
Carder, Schlundt, and Ridgway, 2005). Factors that influence the amount 
of threshold shift include the amplitude, duration, frequency content, 
temporal pattern, and energy distribution of noise exposure. The 
magnitude of hearing threshold shift normally decreases over time 
following cessation of the noise exposure. The amount of threshold 
shift just after exposure is called the initial threshold shift. If the 
threshold shift eventually returns to zero (i.e., the threshold returns 
to the pre-exposure value), it is called temporary threshold shift 
(Southall et al., 2007).
    Pinnipeds have the potential to be disturbed by airborne and 
underwater noise generated by the small boats equipped with outboard 
engines (Richardson, Greene, Malme, and Thomson, 1995). However, there 
is a dearth of information on acoustic effects of motorboats on 
pinniped hearing and communication and to our knowledge there has been 
no specific documentation of hearing impairment in free-ranging 
pinnipeds exposed to small motorboats during realistic field 
conditions.

Behavioral Disturbance

    Disturbances resulting from human activity can impact short- and 
long-term pinniped haul out behavior (Renouf et al., 1981; Schneider 
and Payne, 1983; Terhune and Almon, 1983; Allen et al., 1984; Stewart, 
1984; Suryan and Harvey, 1999; Mortenson et al., 2000; and Kucey and 
Tri.e., 2006). Disturbance includes a variety of effects, including 
subtle to conspicuous changes in behavior, movement, and displacement. 
Reactions to sound, if any, depend on species, state of maturity, 
experience, current activity, reproductive state, time of day, and many 
other factors (Richardson et al., 1995; Wartzok et al., 2004; Southall 
et al., 2007; Weilgart, 2007). If a sound source displaces marine 
mammals from an important feeding or breeding area for a prolonged 
period, impacts on individuals and populations could be significant 
(e.g., Lusseau and Bejder, 2007; Weilgart, 2007).
    Numerous studies have shown that human activity can flush pinnipeds 
off haul-out sites and beaches (Kenyon, 1972; Allen et al., 1984; 
Calambokidis et al., 1991; Suryan and Harvey, 1999; and Mortenson et 
al., 2000). And in one case, human disturbance appeared to cause 
Steller sea lions to desert a breeding area at Northeast Point on St. 
Paul Island, Alaska (Kenyon, 1962).
    In 1997, Henry and Hammil (2001) conducted a study to measure the 
impacts of small boats (i.e., kayaks, canoes, motorboats and sailboats) 
on harbor seal haul-out behavior in M[eacute]tis Bay, Quebec, Canada. 
During that study, the authors noted that the most frequent 
disturbances (n=73) were caused by lower speed, lingering kayaks and 
canoes (33.3 percent) as opposed to motorboats (27.8 percent) 
conducting high speed passes. The seal's flight reactions could be 
linked to a surprise factor by kayaks-canoes which approach slowly, 
quietly and low on water making them look like predators. However, the 
authors note that once the animals were disturbed, there did not appear 
to be any significant lingering effect on the recovery of numbers to 
their pre-disturbance levels. In conclusion, the study showed that boat 
traffic at current levels has only a temporary effect on the haul-out 
behavior of harbor seals in the M[eacute]tis Bay area.
    In 2004, Johnson and Acevedo-Gutierrez (2007) evaluated the 
efficacy of buffer zones for watercraft around harbor seal haul-out 
sites on Yellow Island, Washington state. The authors estimated the 
minimum distance between the vessels and the haul-out sites; 
categorized the vessel types; and evaluated seal responses to the 
disturbances. During the course of the seven-weekend study, the authors 
recorded 14 human-related disturbances which were associated with 
stopped powerboats and kayaks. During these events, hauled out seals 
became noticeably active and moved into the water. The flushing 
occurred when stopped kayaks and powerboats were at distances as far as 
453 and 1,217 ft (138 and 371 m) respectively. The authors note that 
the seals were unaffected by passing powerboats, even those approaching 
as close as 128 ft (39 m), possibly indicating that the animals had 
become tolerant of the brief presence of the vessels and ignored them. 
The authors reported that on average, the seals quickly recovered from 
the

[[Page 15256]]

disturbances and returned to the haul-out site in less than or equal to 
60 minutes. Seal numbers did not return to pre-disturbance levels 
within 180 minutes of the disturbance less than one quarter of the time 
observed. The study concluded that the return of seal numbers to pre-
disturbance levels and the relatively regular seasonal cycle in 
abundance throughout the area counter the idea that disturbances from 
powerboats may result in site abandonment (Johnson and Acevedo-
Gutierrez, 2007).
    As a general statement from the available information, pinnipeds 
exposed to intense (approximately 110 to 120 decibels re: 20 [mu]Pa) 
non-pulse sounds often leave haul-out areas and seek refuge temporarily 
(minutes to a few hours) in the water (Southall et al., 2007). Based on 
the available data, previous monitoring reports from Point Blue, and 
studies described here, we anticipate that any pinnipeds found in the 
vicinity of the proposed project could have short-term behavioral 
reactions to the noise attributed to Point Blue's motorboat operations 
and human presence related to the seabird research activities. We would 
expect the pinnipeds to return to a haul-out site within 60 minutes of 
the disturbance (Allen et al., 1985). The effects to pinnipeds appear 
at the most, to displace the animals temporarily from their haul-out 
sites and we do not expect that the pinnipeds would permanently abandon 
a haul-out site during the conduct of the proposed research. The 
maximum disturbance to Steller sea lions would result in the animals 
slowly flushing into the water in response to presence of the 
researchers.
    No research activities would occur on pinniped rookeries. Breeding 
animals are concentrated in areas where researchers would not visit. 
Therefore, NMFS does not expect mother and pup separation or crushing 
of pups during flushing. In summary, NMFS does not anticipate that the 
proposed activities would result in the injury, serious injury, or 
mortality of pinnipeds because the timing of research visits would 
preclude separation of mothers and pups, as activities occur outside of 
the pupping/breeding areas. The potential effects to marine mammals 
described in this section of the document do not take into 
consideration the proposed monitoring and mitigation measures described 
later in this document (see the ``Proposed Mitigation'' and ``Proposed 
Monitoring and Reporting'' sections).

Anticipated Effects on Marine Mammal Habitat

    NMFS does not expect the proposed research activities to have any 
habitat-related effects, including to marine mammal prey species, which 
could cause significant or long-term consequences for individual marine 
mammals or their populations. NMFS anticipates that the specified 
activity may result in marine mammals avoiding certain areas due to 
noise generated by: (1) Motorboat approaches and departures; (2) human 
presence during restoration activities and loading operations while 
resupplying the field station; and (3) human presence during seabird 
and pinniped research activities. NMFS considers this impact to habitat 
as temporary and reversible and considered this aspect in more detail 
earlier in this document, as behavioral modification. The main impact 
associated with the proposed activity will be temporarily elevated 
noise levels and the associated direct effects on marine mammals, 
previously discussed in this notice.

Proposed Mitigation

    In order to issue an incidental take authorization under section 
101(a)(5)(D) of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, we 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 the availability 
of such species or stock for taking for certain subsistence uses.
    Point Blue has based the mitigation measures which they will 
implement during the proposed research, on the following: (1) Protocols 
used during previous Point Blue seabird research activities as required 
by our previous authorizations for these activities; and (2) 
recommended best practices in Richardson et al. (1995).
    To reduce the potential for disturbance from acoustic and visual 
stimuli associated with the activities Point Blue and/or its designees 
has proposed to implement the following mitigation measures for marine 
mammals:
    (1) Postpone beach landings on A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island until 
pinnipeds that may be present on the beach have slowly entered the 
water.
    (2) Select a pathway of approach to research sites that minimizes 
the number of marine mammals harassed.
    (3) Avoid visits to sites used by pinnipeds for pupping.
    (4) Monitor for offshore predators and do not approach hauled-out 
pinnipeds if great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) or killer 
whales (Orcinus orca) are present. If Point Blue and/or its designees 
see predators in the area, they must not disturb the animals until the 
area is free of predators.
    (5) Keep voices hushed and bodies low to the ground in the visual 
presence of pinnipeds.
    (6) Conduct seabird observations at North Landing on Southeast 
Farallon Island in an observation blind, shielded from the view of 
hauled-out pinnipeds.
    (7) Crawl slowly to access seabird nest boxes on A[ntilde]o Nuevo 
Island if pinnipeds are within view.
    (8) Coordinate research visits to intertidal areas of Southeast 
Farallon Island (to reduce potential take) and coordinate research 
goals for A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island to minimize the number of trips to 
the island.
    (9) Coordinate monitoring schedules on A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island, so 
that areas near any pinnipeds would be accessed only once per visit.
    (10) Have the lead biologist serve as an observer to evaluate 
incidental take.

Mitigation Conclusions

    We have carefully evaluated Point Blue's proposed mitigation 
measures in the context of ensuring that we prescribe the means of 
effecting the least practicable impact on the affected marine mammal 
species and stocks and their habitat. Our evaluation of potential 
measures included consideration of the following factors in relation to 
one another:
     The manner in which, and the degree to which, the 
successful implementation of the measure is expected to minimize 
adverse impacts to marine mammals;
     The proven or likely efficacy of the specific measure to 
minimize adverse impacts as planned; and
     The practicability of the measure for applicant 
implementation.
    Any mitigation measure(s) prescribed by us 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 stimuli 
expected to result in incidental take (this goal may contribute to 1, 
above, or to

[[Page 15257]]

reducing takes by behavioral harassment only).
    3. A reduction in the number of times (total number or number at 
biologically important time or location) individuals would be exposed 
to stimuli that we expect to result in the take of marine mammals (this 
goal may contribute to 1, above, or to reducing harassment takes only).
    4. A reduction in the intensity of exposures (either total number 
or number at biologically important time or location) to training 
exercises that we expect to result in the take of marine mammals (this 
goal may contribute to 1, above, or to reducing the severity of 
harassment takes only).
    5. Avoidance or minimization of adverse effects to marine mammal 
habitat, paying special attention to the food base, activities that 
block or limit passage to or from biologically important areas, 
permanent destruction of habitat, or temporary destruction/disturbance 
of habitat during a biologically important time.
    6. For monitoring directly related to mitigation--an increase in 
the probability of detecting marine mammals, thus allowing for more 
effective implementation of the mitigation.
    Based on our evaluation of Point Blue's proposed measures, as well 
as other measures that may be relevant to the specified activity, we 
have preliminarily 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.

Proposed Monitoring

    In order to issue an incidental take authorization for an activity, 
section 101(a)(5)(D) of the Marine Mammal Protection Act states that we 
must set forth ``requirements pertaining to the monitoring and 
reporting of such taking.'' The Act's implementing regulations at 50 
CFR 216.104(a)(13) indicate that requests for an incidental take 
authorization must include the suggested means of accomplishing the 
necessary monitoring and reporting that will result in increased 
knowledge of the species and our expectations of the level of taking or 
impacts on populations of marine mammals present in the action area.
    Point Blue submitted a marine mammal monitoring plan in their 
Authorization application. We may modify or supplement the plan based 
on comments or new information received from the public during the 
public comment period. Any monitoring requirement we prescribe should 
improve our understanding of one or more of the following:
     Occurrence of marine mammal species in action area (e.g., 
presence, abundance, distribution, density).
     Nature, scope, or context of likely marine mammal exposure 
to potential stressors/impacts (individual or cumulative, acute or 
chronic), through better understanding of: (1) Action or environment 
(e.g., source characterization, propagation, ambient noise); (2) 
Affected species (e.g., life history, dive patterns); (3) Co-occurrence 
of marine mammal species with the action; or (4) Biological or 
behavioral context of exposure (e.g., age, calving or feeding areas).
     Individual responses to acute stressors, or impacts of 
chronic exposures (behavioral or physiological).
     How anticipated responses to stressors impact either: (1) 
Long-term fitness and survival of an individual; or (2) Population, 
species, or stock.
     Effects on marine mammal habitat and resultant impacts to 
marine mammals.
     Mitigation and monitoring effectiveness.
    As part of its 2016-2017 application, Point Blue proposes to 
sponsor marine mammal monitoring during the present project, in order 
to implement the mitigation measures that require real-time monitoring, 
and to satisfy the monitoring requirements of the incidental harassment 
authorization. The Point Blue researchers will monitor the area for 
pinnipeds during all research activities. Monitoring activities will 
consist of conducting and recording observations on pinnipeds within 
the vicinity of the proposed research areas. The monitoring notes would 
provide dates, location, species, the researcher's activity, behavioral 
state, numbers of animals that were alert or moved greater than one 
meter, and numbers of pinnipeds that flushed into the water.
    Point Blue has complied with the monitoring requirements under the 
previous authorizations for the 2007 through 2016 seasons. The results 
from previous Point Blue's monitoring reports support our findings that 
the proposed mitigation measures, which we also required under the 
2007-2016 Authorizations provide the means of effecting the least 
practicable adverse impact on the species or stock.
    Point Blue has submitted a draft monitoring report on the 2015-2016 
research periods on February 17, 2016. Upon final review, we will post 
this annual report on our Web site at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental/research.htm.

Proposed Reporting

    Point Blue must submit a draft final report to NMFS' Office of 
Protected Resources within 60 days after the conclusion of the 2016-
2017 field seasons. The report will include a summary of the 
information gathered pursuant to the monitoring requirements set forth 
in the Authorization.
    Point Blue will submit a final report to the Chief, Permits and 
Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, within 30 days 
after receiving comments from NMFS on the draft final report. If Point 
Blue does not receive any comments from NMFS on the draft report, NMFS 
and Point Blue will consider the draft final report to be the final 
report.

Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment

    Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, the 
Marine Mammal Protection Act 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].
    NMFS proposes to authorize take by Level B harassment only for the 
proposed seabird research activities on Southeast Farallon Island, 
A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island, and Point Reyes National Seashore. Acoustic 
(i.e., increased sound) and visual stimuli generated during these 
proposed activities may have the potential to cause marine mammals in 
the harbor area to experience temporary, short-term changes in 
behavior.
    Based on Point Blue's previous research experiences, with the same 
activities conducted in the proposed research area, and on marine 
mammal research activities in these areas, we estimate that 
approximately 53,538 California sea lions, 485 harbor seals, 221 
northern elephant seals, five northern fur seals, and 38 Steller sea 
lions could be affected by Level B behavioral harassment over the 
course of the effective period of the proposed Authorization.
    The authorized take differs from Point Blue's original request for 
California sea lions (44,871), harbor seals (343), northern elephant 
seals (196), and

[[Page 15258]]

Steller sea lions (106). NMFS bases these new estimates on historical 
data from previous monitoring reports and anecdotal data for the same 
activities conducted in the proposed research areas. In brief, for four 
species (i.e., California sea lions, harbor seals, northern elephant 
seals, and Steller sea lions), we created a statistical model to derive 
an estimate of the average annual increase of reported take based on a 
best fit regression analysis (i.e., linear or polynomial regression) of 
reported take from 2007 to 2016. Next, we added the predicted annual 
increase in take for each species to the baseline reported take for the 
2015-2016 seasons to project the estimated take for each species for 
the 2016-2017 proposed Authorization. We carried through the same 
predicted annual increase in take for future Authorizations (2017-2019) 
to obtain a mean projected take for each species. Last, we analyzed the 
reported take for each activity by calculating the upper bound of the 
95 percent confidence interval of the mean reported take (2007-2016) 
and mean projected take (2017-2019) for each species. Our use of the 
upper confidence interval represents the best available information 
that supports our precautionary deliberation of how much take could 
occur annually.
    Although Point Blue has not reported encountering northern fur 
seals during the course of their previously authorized activities, NMFS 
has included take (5) for northern fur seals based on recent stranding 
information in the area for that species.
    There is no evidence that Point Blue's planned activities could 
result in injury, serious injury, or mortality within the action area. 
Moreover, the required mitigation and monitoring measures will minimize 
further any potential risk for injury, serious injury, or mortality. 
Thus, we do not propose to authorize any injury, serious injury or 
mortality. We expect all potential takes to fall under the category of 
Level B harassment only.

Encouraging and Coordinating Research

    Point Blue will continue to coordinate monitoring of pinnipeds 
during the research activities occurring on Southeast Farallon Island, 
A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island, and Point Reyes National Seashore. Point Blue 
conducts bone fide research on marine mammals, the results of which may 
contribute to the basic knowledge of marine mammal biology or ecology, 
or are likely to identify, evaluate, or resolve conservation problems.

Negligible Impact Analysis and Preliminary Determinations

    NMFS has defined ``negligible impact'' in 50 CFR 216.103 as `` . . 
. an impact resulting from the specified activity that cannot be 
reasonably expected to, and is not reasonably likely to, adversely 
affect the species or stock through effects on annual rates of 
recruitment or survival.'' A negligible impact finding is based on the 
lack of likely adverse effects on annual rates of recruitment or 
survival (i.e., population-level effects). 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, we consider other factors, such as the likely nature of any 
responses (e.g., intensity, duration), the context of any responses 
(e.g., critical reproductive time or location, migration), as well as 
the number and nature of estimated Level A harassment takes, the number 
of estimated mortalities, and effects on habitat.
    To avoid repetition, the discussion below applies to all five 
species discussed earlier in this notice. In making a negligible impact 
determination, we consider:
     The number of anticipated injuries, serious injuries, or 
mortalities;
     The number, nature, and intensity, and duration of Level B 
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 take.
    For reasons stated previously in this document and based on the 
following factors, NMFS does not expect Point Blue's specified 
activities to cause long-term behavioral disturbance, abandonment of 
the haul-out area, injury, serious injury, or mortality:
    (1) The takes from Level B harassment would be due to potential 
behavioral disturbance. The effects of the seabird research activities 
would be limited to short-term startle responses and localized 
behavioral changes due to the short and sporadic duration of the 
research activities. Minor and brief responses, such as short-duration 
startle or alert reactions, are not likely to constitute disruption of 
behavioral patterns, such as migration, nursing, breeding, feeding, or 
sheltering.
    (2) The availability of alternate areas for pinnipeds to avoid the 
resultant acoustic and visual disturbances from the research 
operations. Results from previous monitoring reports also show that the 
pinnipeds returned to the various sites and did not permanently abandon 
haul-out sites after Point Blue conducted their pinniped and research 
activities.
    (3) There is no potential for large-scale movements leading to 
injury, serious injury, or mortality because the researchers must delay 
ingress into the landing areas until after the pinnipeds present have 
slowly entered the water.
    (4) The limited access of Point Blue's researchers to Southeast 
Farallon Island, A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island, and Point Reyes National 
Seashore during the pupping season.
    We do not anticipate that any injuries, serious injuries, or 
mortalities would occur as a result of Point Blue's proposed 
activities, and we do not propose to authorize injury, serious injury 
or mortality. These species may exhibit behavioral modifications, 
including temporarily vacating the area during the proposed seabird and 
pinniped research activities to avoid the resultant acoustic and visual 
disturbances. Further, these proposed activities would not take place 
in areas of significance for marine mammal feeding, resting, breeding, 
or calving and would not adversely impact marine mammal habitat. Due to 
the nature, degree, and context of the behavioral harassment 
anticipated, the activities are not expected to impact annual rates of 
recruitment or survival.
    NMFS does not expect pinnipeds to permanently abandon any area that 
is surveyed by researchers, as is evidenced by continued presence of 
pinnipeds at the sites during annual monitoring counts. 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 mitigation and 
monitoring measures, NMFS preliminarily finds that the total marine 
mammal take from Point Blue's seabird research activities will not 
adversely affect annual rates of recruitment or survival and therefore 
will have a negligible impact on the affected species or stocks.

[[Page 15259]]

Small Numbers

    As mentioned previously, NMFS estimates that four species of marine 
mammals could be potentially affected by Level B harassment over the 
course of the proposed Authorization. For each species, these numbers 
are small relative to the population size. These incidental harassment 
numbers represent approximately 18.04 percent of the U.S. stock of 
California sea lion, 1.61 percent of the California stock of Pacific 
harbor seal, 0.12 percent of the California breeding stock of northern 
elephant seal, 0.04 percent of the California stock of northern fur 
seals, and 0.06 percent of the eastern distinct population segment of 
Steller sea lion.
    Because these are maximum estimates, actual take numbers are likely 
to be lower, as some animals may select other haul-out sites the day 
the researchers are present.

Impact on Availability of Affected Species or Stock for Taking for 
Subsistence Uses

    Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA also requires us to determine that 
the taking will not have an unmitigable adverse effect on the 
availability of marine mammal species or stocks for subsistence use. 
There are no relevant subsistence uses of marine mammals implicated by 
this action. Thus, 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

    No marine mammal species listed under the ESA are anticipated to 
occur in the action area. Therefore, NMFS has determined that a section 
7 consultation under the ESA is not required.

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

    We have prepared a draft Environmental Assessment (EA) analyzing 
the potential effects to the human environment from our proposed 
issuance of an Authorization to Point Blue for their seabird research 
activities. The draft EA titled, Proposed Issuance of an Incidental 
Harassment Authorization to Point Blue Conservation Science and 
Partners to Take Marine Mammals by Harassment Incidental to Seabird 
Research Conducted in Central California is posted on our Web site at 
www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental/research.htm. Information in 
Point Blue's application, NMFS' DEA and this notice collectively 
provide the environmental information related to proposed issuance of 
an Authorization for public review and comment. NMFS will review all 
comments submitted in response to this notice as we complete the NEPA 
process, including a decision of whether to sign a Finding of No 
Significant Impact (FONSI), prior to a final decision on the proposed 
Authorization request.

Proposed Authorization

    As a result of these preliminary determinations, NMFS proposes to 
authorize the take of marine mammals incidental to Point Blue's seabird 
research activities, provided the previously mentioned mitigation, 
monitoring, and reporting requirements are incorporated. The next 
section provides the proposed IHA language and contains a draft of the 
Authorization. The wording within this section is proposed for 
inclusion in the Authorization (if issued).
    1. This Authorization is valid from May 2016 through April 2017.
    2. This Authorization is valid only for specified activities 
associated with seabird research activities in the vicinity of pinniped 
haul-out sites located on Southeast Farallon Island (37[deg]41'54.32'' 
N., 123[deg]0'8.33'' W.), A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island (37[deg]6'29.25'' N., 
122[deg]20'12.20'' W.), within Point Reyes National Seashore 
(37[deg]59'38.61'' N., 122[deg]58'24.90'' W.), San Francisco Bay, or 
the Russian River in Sonoma County.

3. Species Authorized and Level of Takes

    a. The taking, by Level B harassment only, is limited to the 
following species: 53,538 California sea lions (Zalophus 
californianus), 485 Pacific harbor seals (Phoca vitulina), 221 northern 
elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris), five northern fur seals, and 
38 Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus).
    b. The taking by injury (Level A harassment), serious injury or 
death of any of the species listed in Condition 3(a) or the taking of 
any kind of any other species of marine mammal is prohibited and may 
result in the modification, suspension or revocation of this 
Authorization.
    c. The taking of any marine mammal in a manner prohibited under 
this Authorization must be reported immediately to the West Coast 
Regional Administrator, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and to 
the Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected 
Resources, NMFS.

4. General Conditions

    a. A copy of this Authorization must be in the possession of Point 
Blue, its designees, and field crew personnel (including research 
collaborators from Point Reyes National Seashore and Oikonos--Ecosystem 
Knowledge) operating under the authority of this Authorization.
    b. The holder must notify the Assistant Regional Administrator for 
Protected Resources, West Coast Region at least 24 hours prior to 
starting seabird research activities (unless constrained by the date of 
issuance of this Authorization).

5. Mitigation Measures

    In order to ensure the least practicable impact on the species 
listed in condition 3(a), the holder of this Authorization is required 
to:
    a. Minimize the potential for disturbance (to the lowest level 
practicable near known pinniped haul-outs by boat travel and pedestrian 
approach during seabird research operations). Point Blue and its 
designees must:
     Postpone beach landings until pinnipeds that may be 
present in the access areas have entered the water.
     Select a pathway of approach to research sites that 
minimizes the number of marine mammals harassed.
     Avoid visits to sites used by pinnipeds for pupping.
     Monitor for offshore predators and not approach hauled-out 
pinnipeds if great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) or killer 
whales (Orcinus orca) are in the area. If Point Blue and/or its 
designees see predators in the area, they must not disturb the animals 
until the area is free of predators.
     Keep voices hushed and bodies low to the ground in the 
visual presence of pinnipeds.
     Conduct seabird observations at North Landing on Southeast 
Farallon Island in an observation blind, shielded from the view of 
hauled-out pinnipeds.
     Crawl slowly to access seabird nest boxes on A[ntilde]o 
Nuevo Island if pinnipeds are within view.
     Coordinate research visits to intertidal areas of 
Southeast Farallon Island (to reduce potential take) and coordinate 
research goals for A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island to minimize the number of 
trips to the island.
     Coordinate monitoring schedules on A[ntilde]o Nuevo 
Island, so that areas near any pinnipeds would be accessed only once 
per visit.
     Have the lead biologist serve as an observer to evaluate 
incidental take.

6. Monitoring

    The holder of this Authorization is required to:

[[Page 15260]]

    a. Record the date, time, and location (or closest point of 
ingress) of each visit to the research site.
    b. Collect the following information for each visit: Composition of 
the marine mammals sighted, such as species, gender and life history.

7. Reporting

    The holder of this Authorization is required to:
    a. Report observations of unusual behaviors of pinnipeds to West 
Coast Region fishery biologist so that the appropriate personnel in the 
Regional Office may conduct any potential follow-up observations.
    b. Draft Report: Submit a draft final report to the Chief, Permits 
and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, Headquarters, 
NMFS within 60 days after the expiration of the Authorization. The 
report will include the information gathered pursuant to the monitoring 
requirements listed in item 6, along with an executive summary.
    c. The Draft Report shall be subject to review and comment by NMFS. 
Any recommendations made by NMFS must be addressed in the Final Report 
prior to submission to NMFS. If we decide that the draft final report 
needs no comments, the draft final report will be considered to be the 
final report.
    d. Final Report: Submit a final report to the Chief, Permits and 
Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, Headquarters, 
NMFS within 30 days after receiving comments from us on the draft final 
report.

8. Reporting Prohibited Take

    In the unanticipated event that Point Blue's activities cause any 
taking of a marine mammal in a manner prohibited by the Authorization, 
such as an injury (Level A harassment), serious injury or mortality 
(e.g., vessel-strike), Point Blue shall immediately cease the specified 
activities and immediately report the incident to the Chief, Permits 
and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, and the 
Assistant West Coast Regional Stranding Coordinator. The report must 
include the following information:
    Time, date, and location (latitude/longitude) of the incident; the 
name and type of vessel involved; the vessel's speed during and leading 
up to the incident; description of the incident; water depth; 
environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, Beaufort sea 
state, cloud cover, and visibility); description of marine mammal 
observations in the 24 hours preceding the incident; species 
identification or description of the animal(s) involved; the fate of 
the animal(s); and photographs or video footage of the animal (if 
equipment is available).
    Point Blue shall not resume its activities until NMFS is able to 
review the circumstances of the prohibited take. NMFS will work with 
Point Blue to determine what is necessary to minimize the likelihood of 
further prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. Point Blue may not 
resume their activities until notified by NMFS in writing via a letter 
or email or via the telephone.

9. Reporting an Injured or Dead Marine Mammal With an Unknown Cause of 
Death

    In the event that Point Blue discovers an injured or dead marine 
mammal, and the lead researcher 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 described in the next 
paragraph), Point Blue will immediately report the incident to the 
Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources 
and the Assistant West Coast Regional Stranding Coordinator. The report 
must include the same information identified in the paragraph above 
this section. Activities may continue while we review the circumstances 
of the incident. NMFS will work with Point Blue to determine whether 
modifications to the activities are appropriate.

10. Reporting an Injured or Dead Marine Mammal Not Related to Point 
Blue's Activities

    In the event that Point Blue discovers an injured or dead marine 
mammal, and the lead researcher determines that the injury or death is 
not associated with or related to the activities authorized in the 
Authorization (e.g., previously wounded animal, carcass with moderate 
to advanced decomposition, or scavenger damage), Point Blue will report 
the incident to the Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of 
Protected Resources and the Assistant West Coast Regional Stranding 
Coordinator within 24 hours of the discovery. Point Blue will provide 
photographs or video footage (if available) or other documentation of 
the stranded animal sighting to us and the Marine Mammal Stranding 
Network. Point Blue can continue their research activities.
    11. A copy of this Authorization must be in the possession of Point 
Blue and its designees (including contractors and marine mammal 
monitors) operating under the authority of this Incidental Harassment 
Authorization at all times.

Request for Public Comments

    NMFS requests comment on the analyses, the draft Authorization, and 
any other aspect of the Notice of Proposed Incidental Harassment 
Authorization for Point Blue's seabird research activities. Please 
include any supporting data or literature citations with your comments 
to help inform our final decision on Point Blue's request for an 
Authorization.

    Dated: March 16, 2016.
Perry F. Gayaldo,
Deputy Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2016-06317 Filed 3-21-16; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P