Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Seabird Monitoring and Research in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska, 2016, 15684-15694 [2016-06673]

Download as PDF 15684 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 57 / Thursday, March 24, 2016 / Notices ensures that the overall monkfish RSA allocation will not be exceeded. If approved, the applicants may request minor modifications and extensions to the EFP throughout the year. EFP modifications and extensions may be granted without further notice if they are deemed essential to facilitate completion of the proposed research and have minimal impacts that do not change the scope of the initially approved EFP request. Any fishing activity conducted outside the scope of the exempted fishing activity would be prohibited. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Written comments on this application should be submitted to the Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, at the address listed above. Comments may also be submitted by facsimile to (301) 713–0376, or by email to NMFS.Pr1Comments@noaa.gov. Please include the File No. in the subject line of the email comment. Those individuals requesting a public hearing should submit a written request to the Chief, Permits and Conservation Division at the address listed above. The request should set forth the specific reasons why a hearing on this application would be appropriate. Dated: March 21, 2016. Emily H. Menashes, Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. Rosa ´ L. Gonzalez or Amy Hapeman, (301) 427–8401. [FR Doc. 2016–06687 Filed 3–23–16; 8:45 am] SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XE517 Endangered Species; File No. 19697 National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; receipt of application. AGENCY: Notice is hereby given that Carlos E. Diez, Departamento de Recursos Naturales y Ambientales de Puerto Rico, Programa de Especies Protegidas, P.O. Box 366147, San Juan, Puerto Rico, 00936, has applied in due form for a permit to take green (Chelonia mydas) and hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) sea turtles for purposes of scientific research. DATES: Written, telefaxed, or email comments must be received on or before April 25, 2016. ADDRESSES: The application and related documents are available for review by selecting ‘‘Records Open for Public Comment’’ from the ‘‘Features’’ box on the Applications and Permits for Protected Species (APPS) home page, https://apps.nmfs.noaa.gov, and then selecting File No. 19697 from the list of available applications. These documents are also available upon written request or by appointment in the Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, 1315 East-West Highway, Room 13705, Silver Spring, MD 20910; phone (301) 427–8401; fax (301) 713–0376. asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:44 Mar 23, 2016 Jkt 238001 FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: The subject permit is requested under the authority of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA; 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) and the regulations governing the taking, importing, and exporting of endangered and threatened species (50 CFR parts 222–226). The applicant requests a five-year research permit to continue long-term projects studying green and hawksbill sea turtle aggregations in the coastal waters of Puerto Rico, including Mona, Monito, and Desecheo Islands, and Culebra Archipelago. Proposed research would involve vessel surveys for abundance counts and capture by hand or tangle nets to assess the population structure, trends in relative abundance, habitat utilization, genetics, zoogeography, and epidemiology of sea turtles in their foraging habitats. Annually, up to 150 green and 150 hawksbill sea turtles would be captured. Each turtle would be flipper and passive integrated transponder tagged, measured, weighed, photographed/ videoed, and may be blood and tissue sampled. A subset of up to 10 sea turtles annually of each species may also be outfitted with satellite transmitters to track movements post-release. Another subset of up to 10 green sea turtles would also be authorized for ultrasound and tumor removal surgery in a local facility. Dated: March 18, 2016. Julia Harrison, Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2016–06682 Filed 3–23–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P PO 00000 Frm 00008 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XE503 Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Seabird Monitoring and Research in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska, 2016 National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; proposed incidental harassment authorization; request for comments. AGENCY: NMFS (hereinafter, ‘‘we’’ or ‘‘our’’) received an application from Glacier Bay National Park (Glacier Bay NP) requesting an Incidental Harassment Authorization (Authorization) to take marine mammals, by harassment, incidental to conducting proposed seabird monitoring and research activities within Glacier Bay National Park from May through September, 2016. 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, one species of marine mammal, the harbor seal (Phoca vitulina) during the specified activity. DATES: NMFS must receive comments and information no later than April 25, 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–XE503 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 SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\24MRN1.SGM 24MRN1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 57 / Thursday, March 24, 2016 / Notices business information or otherwise sensitive or protected information. To obtain an electronic copy of the renewal request, application, our 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 Glacier Bay NP’s application, NMFS’ EA, and this notice collectively provide the environmental information related to proposed issuance of the Authorization for public review and comment. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Robert Pauline, NMFS, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS (301) 427– 8401. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES 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.’’ VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:44 Mar 23, 2016 Jkt 238001 Summary of Request On January 12, 2016, NMFS received an application from Glacier Bay NP requesting taking by harassment of marine mammals, incidental to conducting monitoring and research studies on glaucus-winged gulls (Larus glaucescens) within Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Alaska. We considered the renewal request for the 2016 activities as adequate and complete on February 25, 2016. NMFS previously issued two Authorizations to Glacier Bay NP for the same activities in 2014 and 2015 (79 FR 56065, September 18, 2014 and 80 FR 28229, May 18, 2015). For the 2016 research season, Glacier Bay NP again proposes to conduct ground-based and vessel-based surveys to collect data on the number and distribution of nesting gulls within five study sites in Glacier Bay, AK. The proposed activities would occur over the course of five months, from May through September, 2016. The following aspects of the proposed seabird research activities have the potential to take marine mammals: Acoustic stimuli from noise generated by motorboat approaches and departures; noise generated by researchers while conducting ground surveys; and human presence during the monitoring and research activities. Harbor seals hauled out in the five research areas may flush into the water or exhibit temporary modification in behavior and/or low-level physiological effects (Level B harassment). Thus, Glacier Bay NP has requested an authorization to take 500 harbor seals by Level B harassment only. Although Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) may be present in the action area, Glacier Bay NP has proposed to avoid any site used by Steller sea lions. To date, we have issued two, fivemonth Authorizations to Glacier Bay NP for the conduct of the same activities in 2014 and 2015 (79 FR 56065, September 18, 2014 and 80 FR 28229, May 18, 2015). This is Glacier Bay NP’s third request for an Authorization. Their 2015 Authorization expired on September 30, 2015 and the monitoring report associated with the 2015 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. PO 00000 Frm 00009 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 15685 Description of the Specified Activity Overview Glacier Bay NP proposes to identify the onset of gull nesting; conduct midseason surveys of adult gulls, and locate and document gull nest sites within the following study areas: Boulder, Lone, and Flapjack Islands, and Geikie Rock. Each of these study sites contains harbor seal haulout sites and Glacier Bay NP proposes to visit each study site up to five times during the research season. Glacier Bay NP must conduct the gull monitoring studies to meet the requirements of a 2010 Record of Decision for a Legislative Environmental Impact Statement (NPS, 2010) which states that Glacier Bay NP must initiate a monitoring program for the gulls to inform future native egg harvests by the Hoonah Tlingit in Glacier Bay, AK. Glacier Bay NP actively monitors harbor seals at breeding and molting sites to assess population trends over time (e.g., Mathews & Pendleton, 2006; Womble et al., 2010). Glacier Bay NP also coordinates pinniped monitoring programs with NMFS’ National Marine Mammal Laboratory and the Alaska Department of Fish & Game and plans to continue these collaborations and sharing of monitoring data and observations in the future. Dates and Duration Glacier Bay NP proposes to conduct the proposed activities from the period of May through September, 2016. Glacier Bay NP proposes to conduct a maximum of three ground-based surveys per each study site and a maximum of two vessel-based surveys per each study site. Thus, the proposed Authorization, if issued, would be effective from May 1, 2016 through September 30, 2016. NMFS refers the reader to the Detailed Description of Activities section later in this notice for more information on the scope of the proposed activities. Specified Geographic Region The proposed study sites would occur in the vicinity of the following locations: Boulder, Lone, and Flapjack Islands, and Geikie Rock in Glacier Bay, Alaska. Glacier Bay NP will also conduct studies at Tlingit Point Islet located at 58°45′16.86″ N.; 136°10′41.74″ W.; however, there are no reported pinniped haulout sites at that location. E:\FR\FM\24MRN1.SGM 24MRN1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 57 / Thursday, March 24, 2016 / Notices asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Detailed Description of Activities Glacier Bay NP proposes to conduct: (1) Ground-based surveys at a maximum frequency of three visits per site; and (2) vessel-based surveys at a maximum frequency of two visits per site from the period of May 1 through September 30, 2016. Ground-Based Surveys: These surveys involve two trained observers visiting the largest gull colony on each island to: (1) Obtain information on the numbers of nests, their location, and contents (i.e., eggs or chicks); (2) determine the onset of laying, distribution, abundance, and predation of gull nests and eggs; VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:44 Mar 23, 2016 Jkt 238001 and (3) record the proximity of other species relative to colony locations. The observers would access each island using a kayak, a 32.8 to 39.4-foot (ft) (10 to 12 meter (m)) motorboat, or a 12 ft (4 m) inflatable rowing dinghy. The landing craft’s transit speed would not exceed 4 knots (4.6 miles per hour (mph). Ground surveys generally last from 30 minutes to up to two hours depending on the size of the island and the number of nesting gulls. Glacier Bay NP will discontinue ground surveys after they detect the first hatchling to minimize disturbance to the gull colonies. PO 00000 Frm 00010 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Vessel-Based Surveys: These surveys involve two trained observers observing and counting the number of adult and fledgling gulls from the deck of a motorized vessel which would transit around each island at a distance of approximately 328 ft (100 m) to avoid flushing the birds from the colonies. Vessel-based surveys generally last from 30 minutes to up to two hours depending on the size of the island and the number of nesting gulls. Description of Marine Mammals in the Area of the Specified Activity The marine mammals most likely to be harassed incidental to conducting the E:\FR\FM\24MRN1.SGM 24MRN1 EN24MR16.011</GPH> 15686 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 57 / Thursday, March 24, 2016 / Notices proposed seabird research activities within the research areas are primarily harbor seals. Table 1 in this notice provides the following information: All marine mammal species with possible or confirmed occurrence in the proposed survey areas on land; information on those species’ regulatory status under the MMPA and the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 15687 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.); abundance; occurrence and seasonality in the activity area. TABLE 1—GENERAL INFORMATION ON MARINE MAMMALS THAT COULD POTENTIALLY HAUL OUT IN THE PROPOSED STUDY AREAS IN MAY THROUGH SEPTEMBER 2016 Species Stock name Regulatory status 1 2 Stock/species abundance 3 Occurrence and range Harbor seal (Phoca vitulina) ................. Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus) ... Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus) ... Glacier Bay/Icy Strait Eastern U.S .............. Western U.S ............. MMPA–NC, ESA–NL MMPA–D, S, ESA–NL MMPA–D, S, ESA–T 7,210 60,131–74,448 49,497 common coastal ...... uncommon coastal .. rare coastal .............. Season year-round. year-round. unknown. 1 MMPA: D = Depleted, S = Strategic, NC = Not Classified. EN = Endangered, T = Threatened, DL = Delisted, NL = Not listed. 3 2015 NMFS Draft Stock Assessment Report (Muto and Angliss, 2015). 2 ESA: NMFS refers the public to 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. Other Marine Mammals in the Proposed Action Area Northern sea otters (Enhydra lutris kenyoni) and polar bears (Ursis maritimus) listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act could occur in the proposed area. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages these species and NMFS does not consider them further in this notice. asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Potential Effects of the Specified Activities on Marine Mammals 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 Glacier Bay NP 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 VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:28 Mar 23, 2016 Jkt 238001 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 Boulder, Lone, and Flapjack Islands, and Geikie Rock. 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). PO 00000 Frm 00011 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 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 Trites, 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 E:\FR\FM\24MRN1.SGM 24MRN1 asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES 15688 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 57 / Thursday, March 24, 2016 / Notices 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 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 VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:44 Mar 23, 2016 Jkt 238001 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 Glacier Bay NP, 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 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. There are three ways in which disturbance, as described previously, could result in more than Level B harassment of marine mammals. All three are most likely to be consequences of stampeding, a potentially dangerous occurrence in which large numbers of animals succumb to mass panic and rush away from a stimulus. The three situations are: (1) Falling when entering the water at high-relief locations; (2) extended separation of mothers and pups; and (3) crushing of pups by large males during a stampede. However, NMFS does not expect any of these scenarios to occur at the proposed survey sites. Because hauled-out animals may move towards the water when disturbed, there is the risk of injury if animals stampede towards shorelines with precipitous relief (e.g., cliffs). However, while high-elevation sites exist on the islands, the haulout sites consist of ridges with unimpeded and non-obstructive access to the water. If disturbed, the small number of hauledout adult animals may move toward the water without risk of encountering barriers or hazards that would otherwise prevent them from leaving the area. The probability of vessel and marine mammal interactions (i.e., motorboat strike) occurring during the proposed research activities is unlikely due to the motorboat’s slow operational speed, which is typically 2 to 3 knots (2.3 to 3.4 mph) and the researchers PO 00000 Frm 00012 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 continually scanning the water for marine mammals presence during transit to the islands. Thus, NMFS does not anticipate that strikes or collisions would result from the movement of the motorboat. 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 would not occur in pupping/breeding areas or if pups are present in the research 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 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. 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. Glacier Bay NP has based the mitigation measures which they will E:\FR\FM\24MRN1.SGM 24MRN1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 57 / Thursday, March 24, 2016 / Notices implement during the proposed research, on the following: (1) Protocols used during previous seabird research activities as required by our previous authorizations for these activities; and (2) Recommended best practices in Womble et al. (2013); Richardson et al. (1995); Pierson et al. (1998); and Weir and Dolman (2007). To reduce the potential for disturbance from acoustic and visual stimuli associated with the activities Glacier Bay NP and/or its designees has proposed to implement the following mitigation measures for marine mammals: • Perform pre-survey monitoring before deciding to access a study site; • Avoid accessing a site based on a pre-determined threshold number of animals present; sites used by pinnipeds for pupping; or sites used by Steller sea lions; • Perform controlled and slow ingress to the study site to prevent a stampede and select a pathway of approach to minimize the number of marine mammals harassed; • Monitor for offshore predators at study sites. Avoid approaching the study site if killer whales (Orcinus orca) are present. If Glacier Bay NP and/or its designees see predators in the area, they must not disturb the pinnipeds until the area is free of predators. • Maintain a quiet research atmosphere in the visual presence of pinnipeds. asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Pre-Survey Monitoring Prior to deciding to land onshore to conduct the study, the researchers would use high-powered image stabilizing binoculars from the watercraft to document the number, species, and location of hauled out marine mammals at each island. The vessels would maintain a distance of 328 to 1,640 ft (100 to 500 m) from the shoreline to allow the researchers to conduct pre-survey monitoring. During every visit, the researchers will examine each study site closely using high powered image stabilizing binoculars before approaching at distances of greater than 500 m (1,640 ft) to determine and document the number, species, and location of hauled out marine mammals. Site Avoidance Researchers would decide whether or not to approach the island based on the species present, number of individuals, and the presence of pups. If there are high numbers (more than 25) harbor seals hauled out (with or without young pups present), any time pups are present, or any time that Steller sea VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:44 Mar 23, 2016 Jkt 238001 lions are present, the researchers would not approach the island and would not conduct gull monitoring research. Controlled Landings The researchers would determine whether to approach the island based on the number and type of animals present. If the island has 25 or fewer individuals without pups, the researchers would approach the island by motorboat at a speed of approximately 2 to 3 knots (2.3 to 3.4 mph). This would provide enough time for any marine mammals present to slowly enter the water without panic or stampede. The researchers would also select a pathway of approach farthest from the hauled out harbor seals to minimize disturbance. Minimize Predator Interactions: If the researchers visually observe marine predators (i.e. killer whales) present in the vicinity of hauled out marine mammals, the researchers would not approach the study site. Noise Reduction Protocols: While onshore at study sites, the researchers would remain vigilant for hauled out marine mammals. If marine mammals are present, the researchers would move slowly and use quiet voices to minimize disturbance to the animals present. Mitigation Conclusions We have carefully evaluated Glacier Bay NP’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 PO 00000 Frm 00013 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 15689 to result in incidental take (this goal may contribute to 1, above, or to 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 the evaluation of Glacier Bay NP’s proposed measures, as well as other measures that may be relevant to the specified activity, we have preliminarily determined that the proposed mitigation measures provide the means of effecting the least practicable impact on marine mammal species or stocks and their habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance. 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. Glacier Bay NP submitted a marine mammal monitoring plan in section 13 of their Authorization application. We E:\FR\FM\24MRN1.SGM 24MRN1 15690 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 57 / Thursday, March 24, 2016 / Notices 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) 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 application, Glacier Bay NP 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 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. The method for recording disturbances follows those in Mortenson (1996). Glacier Bay NP would record disturbances on a three-point scale that represents an increasing seal response to the disturbance (Table 2). Glacier Bay will record the time, source, and duration of the disturbance, as well as an estimated distance between the source and haul-out. We note that we would consider only responses falling into Mortenson’s Levels 2 and 3 as harassment under the MMPA, under the terms of this proposed Authorization. TABLE 2—SEAL RESPONSE TO DISTURBANCE Type of response Definition 1 .......................... Alert ............................................... 2 .......................... Movement ...................................... 3 .......................... asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Level Flight .............................................. Seal head orientation in response to disturbance. This may include turning head towards the disturbance, craning head and neck while holding the body rigid in a ushaped position, or changing from a lying to a sitting position. Movements away from the source of disturbance, ranging from short withdrawals over short distances to hurried retreats many meters in length. All retreats (flushes) to the water, another group of seals, or over the beach. Glacier Bay NP has complied with the monitoring requirements under the previous authorizations. We have posted the 2015 l report on our Web site at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/ permits/incidental/research.htm and the results from the previous Glacier Bay NP monitoring reports support our findings that the proposed mitigation measures required under the 2014 and 2015 Authorizations, provide the means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact on the species or stock. Glacier Bay NP can add to the knowledge of pinnipeds in the proposed action area by noting observations of: (1) Unusual behaviors, numbers, or distributions of pinnipeds, such that any potential follow-up research can be conducted by the appropriate personnel; (2) tag-bearing carcasses of pinnipeds, allowing transmittal of the information to appropriate agencies and personnel; and (3) rare or unusual species of marine mammals for agency follow-up. Encouraging and Coordinating Research Glacier Bay NP actively monitors harbor seals at breeding and molting haul out locations to assess trends over time (e.g., Mathews & Pendleton, 2006; Womble et al. 2010, Womble and VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:44 Mar 23, 2016 Jkt 238001 Gende, 2013b). This monitoring program involves collaborations with biologists from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and the National Marine Mammal Laboratory. Glacier Bay NP will continue these collaborations and encourage continued or renewed monitoring of marine mammal species. Additionally, they would report vesselbased counts of marine mammals, branded, or injured animals, and all observed disturbances to the appropriate state and federal agencies. Proposed Reporting Glacier Bay NP will submit a draft monitoring report to us no later than 90 days after the expiration of the Incidental Harassment Authorization, if issued. The report will include a summary of the information gathered pursuant to the monitoring requirements set forth in the Authorization. Glacier Bay NP will submit a final report to the NMFS Director, Office of Protected Resources within 30 days after receiving comments from NMFS on the draft report. If Glacier Bay NP receives no comments from NMFS on the report, NMFS will consider the draft report to be the final report. PO 00000 Frm 00014 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 The report will describe the operations conducted and sightings of marine mammals near the proposed project. The report will provide full documentation of methods, results, and interpretation pertaining to all monitoring. The report will provide: 1. A summary and table of the dates, times, and weather during all research activities. 2. Species, number, location, and behavior of any marine mammals observed throughout all monitoring activities. 3. An estimate of the number (by species) of marine mammals exposed to acoustic or visual stimuli associated with the research activities. 4. A description of the implementation and effectiveness of the monitoring and mitigation measures of the Authorization and full documentation of methods, results, and interpretation pertaining to all monitoring. In the unanticipated event that the specified activity clearly causes the take of a marine mammal in a manner prohibited by the authorization, such as an injury (Level A harassment), serious injury, or mortality (e.g., vessel-strike, stampede, etc.), Glacier Bay NP shall immediately cease the specified E:\FR\FM\24MRN1.SGM 24MRN1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 57 / Thursday, March 24, 2016 / Notices activities and immediately report the incident to the Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS and the Alaska Regional Stranding Coordinator. The report must include the following information: • Time, date, and location (latitude/ longitude) of the incident; • Description and location of the incident (including water depth, if applicable); • Environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, Beaufort sea state, cloud cover, and visibility); • Description of all marine mammal observations in the 24 hours preceding the incident; • Species identification or description of the animal(s) involved; • Fate of the animal(s); and • Photographs or video footage of the animal(s) (if equipment is available). Glacier Bay NP shall not resume its activities until NMFS is able to review the circumstances of the prohibited take. We will work with Glacier Bay to determine what is necessary to minimize the likelihood of further prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. Glacier Bay NP may not resume their activities until notified by us via letter, email, or telephone. In the event that Glacier Bay NP 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 we describe in the next paragraph), Glacier Bay NP will immediately report the incident to the Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS and the Alaska 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. We will work with Glacier Bay NP to determine whether modifications in the activities are appropriate. In the event that Glacier Bay NP discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the lead visual observer determines that the injury or death is not associated with or related to the authorized activities (e.g., previously wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced decomposition, or scavenger damage), Glacier Bay will report the incident to the incident to the Division Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, at 301– 427–8401 and the Alaska Regional Stranding Coordinator at (907) 586– 7248 within 24 hours of the discovery. Glacier Bay NP researchers will provide photographs or video footage (if available) or other documentation of the stranded animal sighting to us. Glacier Bay NP can continue their research activities. Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, the MMPA defines ‘‘harassment’’ as: Any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance which (i) has the potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild [Level A harassment]; or (ii) has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral 15691 patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering [Level B harassment]. All anticipated takes would be by Level B harassment, involving temporary changes in behavior. NMFS expects that the proposed mitigation and monitoring measures would minimize the possibility of injurious or lethal takes. NMFS considers the potential for take by injury, serious injury, or mortality as remote. NMFS expects that the presence of Glacier Bay NP personnel could disturb animals hauled out and that the animals may alter their behavior or attempt to move away from the researchers. As discussed earlier, NMFS considers an animal to have been harassed if it moved greater than 1 m (3.3 ft) in response to the surveyors’ presence or if the animal was already moving and changed direction and/or speed, or if the animal flushed into the water. NMFS does not consider animals that became alert without such movements as harassed. Based on pinniped survey counts conducted by Glacier Bay NP (e.g., Mathews & Pendleton, 2006; Womble et al., 2010), NMFS estimates that the research activities could potentially affect by Level B behavioral harassment 500 harbor seals over the course of the Authorization (Table 3). This estimate represents 6.9 percent of the Glacier Bay/Icy Strait stock of harbor seals and accounts for a maximum disturbance of 25 harbor seals each per visit at Boulder, Lone, and Flapjack Islands, and Geikie Rock, Alaska over a maximum level of five visits. TABLE 3—ESTIMATES OF THE POSSIBLE NUMBERS OF MARINE MAMMALS EXPOSED TO ACOUSTIC AND VISUAL STIMULI DURING THE PROPOSED RESEARCH ACTIVITIES ON BOULDER, LONE, AND FLAPJACK ISLANDS, AND GEIKIE ROCK, ALASKA, MAY THROUGH SEPTEMBER, 2015. Est. number of individuals exposed Species Harbor seal ..................................................... Steller sea lion ................................................ Proposed take authorization 500 0 500 0 Percent of species or stock 1 9.9 0 Population trend 2 Declining. Increasing. 1 Table asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES 2 The 1 in this notice lists the stock species abundance estimates that NMFS used to calculate the percentage of species/stock. population trend information is from Muto and Angliss, 2015. Harbor seals tend to haul out in small numbers (on average, less than 50 animals) at most sites with the exception of Flapjack Island (Womble, Pers. Comm.). Animals on Flapjack Boulder Islands generally haul out on the south side of the Islands and are not located near the research sites located on the northern side of the Islands. Aerial survey maximum counts show VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:44 Mar 23, 2016 Jkt 238001 that harbor seals sometimes haul out in large numbers at all four locations (see Table 2 in Glacier Bays NP’s application), and sometimes individuals and mother/pup pairs occupy different terrestrial locations than the main haulout (J. Womble, personal observation). Considering the conservation status for the Western stock of the Steller sea PO 00000 Frm 00015 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 lion, the Glacier Bay NP researchers would not conduct ground-based or vessel-based surveys if they observe Steller sea lions before accessing Boulder, Lone, and Flapjack Islands, and Geikie Rock. Thus, NMFS expects no takes to occur for this species during the proposed activities. NMFS does not propose to authorize any injury, serious injury, or mortality. E:\FR\FM\24MRN1.SGM 24MRN1 15692 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 57 / Thursday, March 24, 2016 / Notices asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES NMFS expect all potential takes to fall under the category of Level B harassment only. 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 four species discussed 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 Glacier Bay NP’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 research VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:44 Mar 23, 2016 Jkt 238001 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. Anecdotal observations and results from previous monitoring reports also show that the pinnipeds returned to the various sites and did not permanently abandon haulout sites after Glacier Bay NP conducted their research activities. 3. There is no potential for large-scale movements leading to injury, serious injury, or mortality because the researchers would delay ingress into the landing areas only after the pinnipeds have slowly entered the water. 4. Glacier Bay NP would limit access to Boulder, Lone, and Flapjack Islands, and Geikie Rock when there are high numbers (more than 25) harbor seals hauled out (with or without young pups present), any time pups are present, or any time that Steller sea lions are present, the researchers would not approach the island and would not conduct gull monitoring research. We do not anticipate that any injuries, serious injuries, or mortalities would occur as a result of Glacier Bay NP’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, we do not expect the activities to impact annual rates of recruitment or survival. NMFS does not expect pinnipeds to permanently abandon any area surveyed by researchers, as is evidenced by continued presence of pinnipeds at the sites during annual seabird monitoring. In summary, NMFS anticipates that impacts to hauled-out harbor seals during Glacier Bay NP’s research activities would be behavioral harassment of limited duration (i.e., up to two hours per visit) and limited intensity (i.e., temporary flushing at PO 00000 Frm 00016 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 most). NMFS does not expect stampeding, and therefore injury or mortality, to occur (see ‘‘Mitigation’’ for more details). Based on the analysis contained herein of the likely effects of the specified activity on marine mammals and their habitat, and taking into consideration the implementation of the proposed mitigation and monitoring measures, NMFS preliminarily finds that the total marine mammal take from Glacier Bay NP’s proposed 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. Small Numbers As mentioned previously, NMFS estimates that Glacier Bay NP’s activities could potentially affect, by Level B harassment only, one species of marine mammal under our jurisdiction. For harbor seals, this estimate is small (6.9 percent) relative to the population size. 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. Glacier Bay National Park prohibits subsistence harvest of harbor seals within the Park (Catton, 1995). 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 (ESA) NMFS does not expect that Glacier Bay NP’s proposed research activities (which include mitigation measures to avoid harassment of Steller sea lions) would affect any species listed under the ESA. Therefore, NMFS has determined that a section 7 consultation under the ESA is not required. National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) In 2014, NMFS prepared an Environmental Assessment (EA) analyzing the potential effects to the human environment from NMFS’ issuance of an Authorization to Glacier Bay NP for their seabird research activities. In September 2014, NMFS issued a Finding of No Significant Impact E:\FR\FM\24MRN1.SGM 24MRN1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 57 / Thursday, March 24, 2016 / Notices 500 Pacific harbor seals (Phoca vitulina). 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 Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS. Proposed Authorization asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES (FONSI) on the issuance of an Authorization for Point Blue’s research activities in accordance with section 6.01 of the NOAA Administrative Order 216–6 (Environmental Review Procedures for Implementing the National Environmental Policy Act, May 20, 1999). Glacier Bay NP’s proposed activities and impacts for 2015 are within the scope of the 2014 EA and FONSI. NMFS provided relevant environmental information to the public through a previous notice for the proposed Authorization (79 FR 32226, June 4, 2014) and considered public comments received in response prior to finalizing the 2014 EA and deciding whether or not to issue a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI). NMFS has reviewed the 2014 EA and determined that there are no new direct, indirect, or cumulative impacts to the human and natural environment associated with the Authorization requiring evaluation in a supplemental EA and NMFS, 5. Mitigation Measures The Holder of this Authorization is required to implement the following mitigation measures: a. Conduct pre-survey monitoring before deciding to access a study site. Prior to deciding to land onshore of Boulder, Lone, or Flapjack Island or Geikie Rock, the Holder of this Authorization will use high-powered image stabilizing binoculars before approaching at distances of greater than 500 m (1,640 ft) to determine and document the number, species, and location of hauled out marine mammals. The vessels will maintain a distance of 328 to 1,640 ft (100 to 500 m) from the shoreline. i. If the Holder of the Authorization determines that there are 25 or more harbor seals (with or without young pups present) hauled out on the shoreline, the holder will not access the island and will not conduct the study at that time. ii. If the Holder of the Authorization determines that any Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) are present at the study site, the Holder will not access the island and will not conduct the study at that time. iii. If the Holder of the Authorization determines that there are any pups hauled out on the shoreline and vulnerable to being separated from their mothers, the Holder will not access the island and will not conduct the study at that time. b. Minimize the potential for disturbance by: (1) Performing controlled and slow ingress to the study site to prevent a stampede; and (2) selecting a pathway of approach farthest As a result of these preliminary determinations, NMFS proposes to authorize the take of marine mammals incidental to Glacier Bay NP’s seabird research activities, provided the previously mentioned mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements are incorporated. The next section provides the proposed Authorization language which we propose for inclusion in the Authorization (if issued). Glacier Bay National Park, P.O. Box 140, Gustavus, Alaska 99826 and/or its designees (holders of the Authorization) are hereby authorized under section 101(a)(5)(D) of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (16 U.S.C. 1371(a)(5)(D)) to harass small numbers of marine mammals incidental to conducting monitoring and research studies on glaucus-winged gulls (Larus glaucescens) within Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Alaska. 1. This Authorization is valid from May 1 through September 30, 2016. 2. This Authorization is valid only for research activities that occur in the following specified geographic areas: Boulder (58°33′18.08″ N; 136°1′13.36″ W); Lone (58°43′17.67″ N; 136°17′41.32″ W), and Flapjack (58°35′10.19″ N; 135°58′50.78″ W) Islands, and Geikie Rock (58°41′39.75″ N; 136°18′39.06″ W); and Tlingit Point Islet (58°45′16.86″ N; 136°10′41.74″ W) in Glacier Bay, Alaska. 3. Species Authorized and Level of Takes a. The taking, by Level B harassment only, is limited to the following species: VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:44 Mar 23, 2016 Jkt 238001 4. General Conditions A copy of this Authorization must be in the possession of Glacier Bay National Park, its designees, and field crew personnel (including research collaborators) operating under the authority of this Authorization at all times. PO 00000 Frm 00017 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 15693 from the hauled out harbor seals to minimize disturbance. c. Monitor for offshore predators at the study sites and avoid research activities when predators area present. Avoid approaching the study site if killer whales (Orcinus orca) are present. If the Holder of this Authorization observes predators in the area, they must not disturb the pinnipeds until the area is free of predators. d. Maintain a quiet working atmosphere, avoid loud noises, and use hushed voices in the presence of hauled out pinnipeds. 6. Monitoring Glacier Bay NP is required to record the following: a. BLM and/or its designees shall record the following: i. Species counts (with numbers of adults/juveniles); and: ii. Numbers of disturbances, by species and age, according to a threepoint scale of intensity including: (1) Head orientation in response to disturbance, which may include turning head towards the disturbance, craning head and neck while holding the body rigid in a u-shaped position, or changing from a lying to a sitting position and/or slight movement of less than 1 meter; ‘‘alert’’ (2) Movements in response to or away from disturbance, typically over short distances (1–3 meters) and including dramatic changes in direction or speed of locomotion for animals already in motion; ‘‘movement’’ and (3) All flushes to the water as well as lengthier retreats (≤3 meters); ‘‘flight’’. iii. Information on the weather, including the tidal state and horizontal visibility. b. If applicable, the observer shall note observations of marked or tagbearing pinnipeds or carcasses, as well as any rare or unusual species of marine mammal. c. If applicable, the observer shall note the presence of any offshore predators (date, time, number, and species). 7. Reporting The holder of this Authorization is required to: a. Draft Report: Submit a draft monitoring report to the Division Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service within 90 days after the Authorization expires. NMFS will review the Draft Report which is subject to review and comment by NMFS. Glacier Bay NP must address any recommendations made by NMFS in the Final Report prior to submission to NMFS. If NMFS decides that the draft E:\FR\FM\24MRN1.SGM 24MRN1 15694 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 57 / Thursday, March 24, 2016 / Notices asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES final report needs no comments, NMFS will consider the draft report as the Final Report. b. Final Report: Glacier Bay shall prepare and submit a Final Report to NMFS within 30 days following resolution of any comments on the draft report from NMFS. 8. Reporting Injured or Dead Marine Mammals In the unanticipated event that the specified activity clearly causes the take of a marine mammal in a manner prohibited by the authorization, such as an injury (Level A harassment), serious injury, or mortality (e.g., vessel-strike, stampede, etc.), BLM and/or its designees shall immediately cease the specified activities and immediately report the incident to the Division Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the Alaska Regional Stranding Coordinator. The report must include the following information: • Time, date, and location (latitude/ longitude) of the incident; • Description and location of the incident (including water depth, if applicable); • Environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, Beaufort sea state, cloud cover, and visibility); • Description of all marine mammal observations in the 24 hours preceding the incident; • Species identification or description of the animal(s) involved; • Fate of the animal(s); and • Photographs or video footage of the animal(s) (if equipment is available). Glacier Bay NP shall not resume its activities until NMFS is able to review the circumstances of the prohibited take. NMFS will work with Glacier Bay NP to determine what is necessary to minimize the likelihood of further prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. Glacier Bay NP may not resume their activities until notified by us via letter, email, or telephone. In the event that Glacier Bay NP discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the marine mammal observer determines that the cause of the injury or death is unknown and the death is relatively recent (i.e., in less than a moderate state of decomposition as we describe in the next paragraph), Glacier Bay NP will immediately report the incident to the Division Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the Alaska Regional Stranding Coordinator. The report must include the same information identified in the paragraph above this section. Activities may continue while NMFS reviews the VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:44 Mar 23, 2016 Jkt 238001 circumstances of the incident. NMFS would work with Glacier Bay NP to determine whether modifications in the activities are appropriate. In the event that Glacier Bay NP discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the lead visual observer determines that the injury or death is not associated with or related to the authorized activities (e.g., previously wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced decomposition, or scavenger damage), Glacier Bay NP will report the incident to the Division Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the Alaska Regional Stranding Coordinator within 24 hours of the discovery. Glacier Bay NP personnel will provide photographs or video footage (if available) or other documentation of the stranded animal sighting to us. Glacier Bay NP can continue their survey activities while NMFS reviews the circumstances of the incident. 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 Glacier Bay NP’s activities. Please include any supporting data or literature citations with your comments to help inform our final decision on Glacier Bay NP’s request for an Authorization. Dated: March 18, 2016. Perry F. Gayaldo, Deputy Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2016–06673 Filed 3–23–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE Patent and Trademark Office [Docket No.: PTO–P–2016–0008] Request for Information Related to Intellectual Property, Genetic Resources and Associated Traditional Knowledge United States Patent and Trademark Office, Commerce. ACTION: Request for Comments. AGENCY: The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is requesting information from its stakeholders regarding issues to be discussed in upcoming World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) meetings related to intellectual property, genetic resources, and associated traditional knowledge. SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00018 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Submission Deadline Date: To be ensured of consideration, submissions must be received on or before May 23, 2016. ADDRESSES: Written submissions should be sent by electronic mail over the Internet addressed to: InfoForWIPOIGC@uspto.gov. Submissions may also be submitted by postal mail addressed to: Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, P.O. Box 1450, Alexandria, VA 22313–1450, marked to the attention of Karin Ferriter, Office of Policy and International Affairs. Although submissions may be sent by postal mail, the USPTO prefers to receive submissions by electronic mail message over the Internet because sharing submissions with the public is more easily accomplished. Electronic submissions are preferred to be formatted in plain text, but also may be submitted in ADOBE® portable document format or MICROSOFT WORD® format. Submissions not sent electronically should be on paper in a format that facilitates convenient digital scanning into ADOBE® portable document format. Timely filed submissions will be available for public inspection at the Office of Policy and International Affairs, currently located in Madison West, Tenth Floor, 600 Dulany Street, Alexandria, Virginia 22314. Submissions also will be available for viewing via the USPTO’s Internet Web site (http://www.uspto.gov/patentsgetting-started/international-protection/ patent-policy). Because submissions will be made available for public inspection, information that the submitter does not desire to make public, such as an address or phone number, should not be included. It would be helpful to the USPTO if written submissions include the following information: (1) The name and affiliation of the individual responding; and (2) an indication of whether submissions offered represent the views of the respondent’s organization or are the respondent’s personal views. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Karin Ferriter, Attorney-Advisor (telephone (571) 272–9300; electronic mail message Karin.Ferriter@uspto.gov) or Dominic Keating, Director, ´ Intellectual Property Attache Program (telephone (571) 272–9300; electronic mail message Dominic.Keating@ uspto.gov), of the Office of Policy and International Affairs. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO) Intergovernmental Committee DATES: E:\FR\FM\24MRN1.SGM 24MRN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 57 (Thursday, March 24, 2016)]
[Notices]
[Pages 15684-15694]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-06673]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XE503


Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; 
Seabird Monitoring and Research in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska, 
2016

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

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

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SUMMARY: NMFS (hereinafter, ``we'' or ``our'') received an application 
from Glacier Bay National Park (Glacier Bay NP) requesting an 
Incidental Harassment Authorization (Authorization) to take marine 
mammals, by harassment, incidental to conducting proposed seabird 
monitoring and research activities within Glacier Bay National Park 
from May through September, 2016. 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, one species of 
marine mammal, the harbor seal (Phoca vitulina) during the specified 
activity.

DATES: NMFS must receive comments and information no later than April 
25, 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-XE503 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

[[Page 15685]]

business information or otherwise sensitive or protected information.
    To obtain an electronic copy of the renewal request, application, 
our 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 Glacier Bay NP's application, NMFS' EA, and this 
notice collectively provide the environmental information related to 
proposed issuance of the Authorization for public review and comment.

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

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    Sections 101(a)(5)(A) and (D) of the Marine Mammal Protection Act 
of 1972, as amended (MMPA; 16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) direct the Secretary 
of Commerce to allow, upon request, the incidental, but not 
intentional, taking of small numbers of marine mammals of a species or 
population stock, by U.S. citizens who engage in a specified activity 
(other than commercial fishing) within a specified geographical region 
if, after NMFS provides a notice of a proposed authorization to the 
public for review and comment: (1) NMFS makes certain findings; and (2) 
the taking is limited to harassment.
    An Authorization for incidental takings for marine mammals shall be 
granted if NMFS finds that the taking will have a negligible impact on 
the species or stock(s), will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on 
the availability of the species or stock(s) for subsistence uses (where 
relevant), and if the permissible methods of taking and requirements 
pertaining to the mitigation, monitoring, and reporting of such taking 
are set forth. NMFS has defined ``negligible impact'' in 50 CFR 216.103 
as ``an impact resulting from the specified activity that cannot be 
reasonably expected to, and is not reasonably likely to, adversely 
affect the species or stock through effects on annual rates of 
recruitment or survival.''

Summary of Request

    On January 12, 2016, NMFS received an application from Glacier Bay 
NP requesting taking by harassment of marine mammals, incidental to 
conducting monitoring and research studies on glaucus-winged gulls 
(Larus glaucescens) within Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in 
Alaska. We considered the renewal request for the 2016 activities as 
adequate and complete on February 25, 2016. NMFS previously issued two 
Authorizations to Glacier Bay NP for the same activities in 2014 and 
2015 (79 FR 56065, September 18, 2014 and 80 FR 28229, May 18, 2015).
    For the 2016 research season, Glacier Bay NP again proposes to 
conduct ground-based and vessel-based surveys to collect data on the 
number and distribution of nesting gulls within five study sites in 
Glacier Bay, AK. The proposed activities would occur over the course of 
five months, from May through September, 2016.
    The following aspects of the proposed seabird research activities 
have the potential to take marine mammals: Acoustic stimuli from noise 
generated by motorboat approaches and departures; noise generated by 
researchers while conducting ground surveys; and human presence during 
the monitoring and research activities. Harbor seals hauled out in the 
five research areas may flush into the water or exhibit temporary 
modification in behavior and/or low-level physiological effects (Level 
B harassment). Thus, Glacier Bay NP has requested an authorization to 
take 500 harbor seals by Level B harassment only. Although Steller sea 
lions (Eumetopias jubatus) may be present in the action area, Glacier 
Bay NP has proposed to avoid any site used by Steller sea lions.
    To date, we have issued two, five-month Authorizations to Glacier 
Bay NP for the conduct of the same activities in 2014 and 2015 (79 FR 
56065, September 18, 2014 and 80 FR 28229, May 18, 2015). This is 
Glacier Bay NP's third request for an Authorization. Their 2015 
Authorization expired on September 30, 2015 and the monitoring report 
associated with the 2015 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

    Glacier Bay NP proposes to identify the onset of gull nesting; 
conduct mid-season surveys of adult gulls, and locate and document gull 
nest sites within the following study areas: Boulder, Lone, and 
Flapjack Islands, and Geikie Rock. Each of these study sites contains 
harbor seal haulout sites and Glacier Bay NP proposes to visit each 
study site up to five times during the research season.
    Glacier Bay NP must conduct the gull monitoring studies to meet the 
requirements of a 2010 Record of Decision for a Legislative 
Environmental Impact Statement (NPS, 2010) which states that Glacier 
Bay NP must initiate a monitoring program for the gulls to inform 
future native egg harvests by the Hoonah Tlingit in Glacier Bay, AK. 
Glacier Bay NP actively monitors harbor seals at breeding and molting 
sites to assess population trends over time (e.g., Mathews & Pendleton, 
2006; Womble et al., 2010). Glacier Bay NP also coordinates pinniped 
monitoring programs with NMFS' National Marine Mammal Laboratory and 
the Alaska Department of Fish & Game and plans to continue these 
collaborations and sharing of monitoring data and observations in the 
future.

Dates and Duration

    Glacier Bay NP proposes to conduct the proposed activities from the 
period of May through September, 2016. Glacier Bay NP proposes to 
conduct a maximum of three ground-based surveys per each study site and 
a maximum of two vessel-based surveys per each study site.
    Thus, the proposed Authorization, if issued, would be effective 
from May 1, 2016 through September 30, 2016. NMFS refers the reader to 
the Detailed Description of Activities section later in this notice for 
more information on the scope of the proposed activities.

Specified Geographic Region

    The proposed study sites would occur in the vicinity of the 
following locations: Boulder, Lone, and Flapjack Islands, and Geikie 
Rock in Glacier Bay, Alaska. Glacier Bay NP will also conduct studies 
at Tlingit Point Islet located at 58[deg]45'16.86'' N.; 
136[deg]10'41.74'' W.; however, there are no reported pinniped haulout 
sites at that location.

[[Page 15686]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TN24MR16.011

Detailed Description of Activities

    Glacier Bay NP proposes to conduct: (1) Ground-based surveys at a 
maximum frequency of three visits per site; and (2) vessel-based 
surveys at a maximum frequency of two visits per site from the period 
of May 1 through September 30, 2016.
    Ground-Based Surveys: These surveys involve two trained observers 
visiting the largest gull colony on each island to: (1) Obtain 
information on the numbers of nests, their location, and contents 
(i.e., eggs or chicks); (2) determine the onset of laying, 
distribution, abundance, and predation of gull nests and eggs; and (3) 
record the proximity of other species relative to colony locations.
    The observers would access each island using a kayak, a 32.8 to 
39.4-foot (ft) (10 to 12 meter (m)) motorboat, or a 12 ft (4 m) 
inflatable rowing dinghy. The landing craft's transit speed would not 
exceed 4 knots (4.6 miles per hour (mph). Ground surveys generally last 
from 30 minutes to up to two hours depending on the size of the island 
and the number of nesting gulls. Glacier Bay NP will discontinue ground 
surveys after they detect the first hatchling to minimize disturbance 
to the gull colonies.
    Vessel-Based Surveys: These surveys involve two trained observers 
observing and counting the number of adult and fledgling gulls from the 
deck of a motorized vessel which would transit around each island at a 
distance of approximately 328 ft (100 m) to avoid flushing the birds 
from the colonies. Vessel-based surveys generally last from 30 minutes 
to up to two hours depending on the size of the island and the number 
of nesting gulls.

Description of Marine Mammals in the Area of the Specified Activity

    The marine mammals most likely to be harassed incidental to 
conducting the

[[Page 15687]]

proposed seabird research activities within the research areas are 
primarily harbor seals. Table 1 in this notice provides the following 
information: All marine mammal species with possible or confirmed 
occurrence in the proposed survey areas on land; information on those 
species' regulatory status under the MMPA and the Endangered Species 
Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.); abundance; occurrence and 
seasonality in the activity area.

        Table 1--General Information on Marine Mammals That Could Potentially Haul Out in the Proposed Study Areas in May Through September 2016
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                        Stock/species
             Species                   Stock name           Regulatory status 1 2       abundance \3\      Occurrence and range             Season
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Harbor seal (Phoca vitulina)....  Glacier Bay/Icy      MMPA-NC, ESA-NL                          7,210  common coastal..............  year-round.
                                   Strait.
Steller sea lion (Eumetopias      Eastern U.S........  MMPA-D, S, ESA-NL                60,131-74,448  uncommon coastal............  year-round.
 jubatus).
Steller sea lion (Eumetopias      Western U.S........  MMPA-D, S, ESA-T                        49,497  rare coastal................  unknown.
 jubatus).
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ MMPA: D = Depleted, S = Strategic, NC = Not Classified.
\2\ ESA: EN = Endangered, T = Threatened, DL = Delisted, NL = Not listed.
\3\ 2015 NMFS Draft Stock Assessment Report (Muto and Angliss, 2015).

    NMFS refers the public to 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.

Other Marine Mammals in the Proposed Action Area

    Northern sea otters (Enhydra lutris kenyoni) and polar bears (Ursis 
maritimus) listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act could 
occur in the proposed area. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages 
these species and NMFS does not consider them further in this notice.

Potential Effects of the Specified Activities on Marine Mammals

    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 Glacier Bay NP 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 Boulder, Lone, and Flapjack Islands, and 
Geikie Rock. 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 
Trites, 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

[[Page 15688]]

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 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 Glacier Bay NP, 
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 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.
    There are three ways in which disturbance, as described previously, 
could result in more than Level B harassment of marine mammals. All 
three are most likely to be consequences of stampeding, a potentially 
dangerous occurrence in which large numbers of animals succumb to mass 
panic and rush away from a stimulus. The three situations are: (1) 
Falling when entering the water at high-relief locations; (2) extended 
separation of mothers and pups; and (3) crushing of pups by large males 
during a stampede. However, NMFS does not expect any of these scenarios 
to occur at the proposed survey sites.
    Because hauled-out animals may move towards the water when 
disturbed, there is the risk of injury if animals stampede towards 
shorelines with precipitous relief (e.g., cliffs). However, while high-
elevation sites exist on the islands, the haulout sites consist of 
ridges with unimpeded and non-obstructive access to the water. If 
disturbed, the small number of hauled-out adult animals may move toward 
the water without risk of encountering barriers or hazards that would 
otherwise prevent them from leaving the area.
    The probability of vessel and marine mammal interactions (i.e., 
motorboat strike) occurring during the proposed research activities is 
unlikely due to the motorboat's slow operational speed, which is 
typically 2 to 3 knots (2.3 to 3.4 mph) and the researchers continually 
scanning the water for marine mammals presence during transit to the 
islands. Thus, NMFS does not anticipate that strikes or collisions 
would result from the movement of the motorboat.
    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 would not occur in pupping/breeding 
areas or if pups are present in the research 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.
    Glacier Bay NP has based the mitigation measures which they will

[[Page 15689]]

implement during the proposed research, on the following: (1) Protocols 
used during previous seabird research activities as required by our 
previous authorizations for these activities; and (2) Recommended best 
practices in Womble et al. (2013); Richardson et al. (1995); Pierson et 
al. (1998); and Weir and Dolman (2007).
    To reduce the potential for disturbance from acoustic and visual 
stimuli associated with the activities Glacier Bay NP and/or its 
designees has proposed to implement the following mitigation measures 
for marine mammals:
     Perform pre-survey monitoring before deciding to access a 
study site;
     Avoid accessing a site based on a pre-determined threshold 
number of animals present; sites used by pinnipeds for pupping; or 
sites used by Steller sea lions;
     Perform controlled and slow ingress to the study site to 
prevent a stampede and select a pathway of approach to minimize the 
number of marine mammals harassed;
     Monitor for offshore predators at study sites. Avoid 
approaching the study site if killer whales (Orcinus orca) are present. 
If Glacier Bay NP and/or its designees see predators in the area, they 
must not disturb the pinnipeds until the area is free of predators.
     Maintain a quiet research atmosphere in the visual 
presence of pinnipeds.

Pre-Survey Monitoring

    Prior to deciding to land onshore to conduct the study, the 
researchers would use high-powered image stabilizing binoculars from 
the watercraft to document the number, species, and location of hauled 
out marine mammals at each island. The vessels would maintain a 
distance of 328 to 1,640 ft (100 to 500 m) from the shoreline to allow 
the researchers to conduct pre-survey monitoring. During every visit, 
the researchers will examine each study site closely using high powered 
image stabilizing binoculars before approaching at distances of greater 
than 500 m (1,640 ft) to determine and document the number, species, 
and location of hauled out marine mammals.

Site Avoidance

    Researchers would decide whether or not to approach the island 
based on the species present, number of individuals, and the presence 
of pups. If there are high numbers (more than 25) harbor seals hauled 
out (with or without young pups present), any time pups are present, or 
any time that Steller sea lions are present, the researchers would not 
approach the island and would not conduct gull monitoring research.

Controlled Landings

    The researchers would determine whether to approach the island 
based on the number and type of animals present. If the island has 25 
or fewer individuals without pups, the researchers would approach the 
island by motorboat at a speed of approximately 2 to 3 knots (2.3 to 
3.4 mph). This would provide enough time for any marine mammals present 
to slowly enter the water without panic or stampede. The researchers 
would also select a pathway of approach farthest from the hauled out 
harbor seals to minimize disturbance.
    Minimize Predator Interactions: If the researchers visually observe 
marine predators (i.e. killer whales) present in the vicinity of hauled 
out marine mammals, the researchers would not approach the study site.
    Noise Reduction Protocols: While onshore at study sites, the 
researchers would remain vigilant for hauled out marine mammals. If 
marine mammals are present, the researchers would move slowly and use 
quiet voices to minimize disturbance to the animals present.

Mitigation Conclusions

    We have carefully evaluated Glacier Bay NP'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 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 the evaluation of Glacier Bay NP's proposed measures, as 
well as other measures that may be relevant to the specified activity, 
we have preliminarily determined that the proposed mitigation measures 
provide the means of effecting the least practicable impact on marine 
mammal species or stocks and their habitat, paying particular attention 
to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance.

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.
    Glacier Bay NP submitted a marine mammal monitoring plan in section 
13 of their Authorization application. We

[[Page 15690]]

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 application, Glacier Bay NP 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 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.
    The method for recording disturbances follows those in Mortenson 
(1996). Glacier Bay NP would record disturbances on a three-point scale 
that represents an increasing seal response to the disturbance (Table 
2). Glacier Bay will record the time, source, and duration of the 
disturbance, as well as an estimated distance between the source and 
haul-out. We note that we would consider only responses falling into 
Mortenson's Levels 2 and 3 as harassment under the MMPA, under the 
terms of this proposed Authorization.

                  Table 2--Seal Response to Disturbance
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                  Type of
            Level                 response             Definition
------------------------------------------------------------------------
1...........................  Alert..........  Seal head orientation in
                                                response to disturbance.
                                                This may include turning
                                                head towards the
                                                disturbance, craning
                                                head and neck while
                                                holding the body rigid
                                                in a u-shaped position,
                                                or changing from a lying
                                                to a sitting position.
2...........................  Movement.......  Movements away from the
                                                source of disturbance,
                                                ranging from short
                                                withdrawals over short
                                                distances to hurried
                                                retreats many meters in
                                                length.
3...........................  Flight.........  All retreats (flushes) to
                                                the water, another group
                                                of seals, or over the
                                                beach.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Glacier Bay NP has complied with the monitoring requirements under 
the previous authorizations. We have posted the 2015 l report on our 
Web site at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental/research.htm 
and the results from the previous Glacier Bay NP monitoring reports 
support our findings that the proposed mitigation measures required 
under the 2014 and 2015 Authorizations, provide the means of effecting 
the least practicable adverse impact on the species or stock.
    Glacier Bay NP can add to the knowledge of pinnipeds in the 
proposed action area by noting observations of: (1) Unusual behaviors, 
numbers, or distributions of pinnipeds, such that any potential follow-
up research can be conducted by the appropriate personnel; (2) tag-
bearing carcasses of pinnipeds, allowing transmittal of the information 
to appropriate agencies and personnel; and (3) rare or unusual species 
of marine mammals for agency follow-up.

Encouraging and Coordinating Research

    Glacier Bay NP actively monitors harbor seals at breeding and 
molting haul out locations to assess trends over time (e.g., Mathews & 
Pendleton, 2006; Womble et al. 2010, Womble and Gende, 2013b). This 
monitoring program involves collaborations with biologists from the 
Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and the National Marine Mammal 
Laboratory. Glacier Bay NP will continue these collaborations and 
encourage continued or renewed monitoring of marine mammal species. 
Additionally, they would report vessel-based counts of marine mammals, 
branded, or injured animals, and all observed disturbances to the 
appropriate state and federal agencies.

Proposed Reporting

    Glacier Bay NP will submit a draft monitoring report to us no later 
than 90 days after the expiration of the Incidental Harassment 
Authorization, if issued. The report will include a summary of the 
information gathered pursuant to the monitoring requirements set forth 
in the Authorization. Glacier Bay NP will submit a final report to the 
NMFS Director, Office of Protected Resources within 30 days after 
receiving comments from NMFS on the draft report. If Glacier Bay NP 
receives no comments from NMFS on the report, NMFS will consider the 
draft report to be the final report.
    The report will describe the operations conducted and sightings of 
marine mammals near the proposed project. The report will provide full 
documentation of methods, results, and interpretation pertaining to all 
monitoring. The report will provide:
    1. A summary and table of the dates, times, and weather during all 
research activities.
    2. Species, number, location, and behavior of any marine mammals 
observed throughout all monitoring activities.
    3. An estimate of the number (by species) of marine mammals exposed 
to acoustic or visual stimuli associated with the research activities.
    4. A description of the implementation and effectiveness of the 
monitoring and mitigation measures of the Authorization and full 
documentation of methods, results, and interpretation pertaining to all 
monitoring.
    In the unanticipated event that the specified activity clearly 
causes the take of a marine mammal in a manner prohibited by the 
authorization, such as an injury (Level A harassment), serious injury, 
or mortality (e.g., vessel-strike, stampede, etc.), Glacier Bay NP 
shall immediately cease the specified

[[Page 15691]]

activities and immediately report the incident to the Chief, Permits 
and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS and the 
Alaska Regional Stranding Coordinator. The report must include the 
following information:
     Time, date, and location (latitude/longitude) of the 
incident;
     Description and location of the incident (including water 
depth, if applicable);
     Environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, 
Beaufort sea state, cloud cover, and visibility);
     Description of all marine mammal observations in the 24 
hours preceding the incident;
     Species identification or description of the animal(s) 
involved;
     Fate of the animal(s); and
     Photographs or video footage of the animal(s) (if 
equipment is available).
    Glacier Bay NP shall not resume its activities until NMFS is able 
to review the circumstances of the prohibited take. We will work with 
Glacier Bay to determine what is necessary to minimize the likelihood 
of further prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. Glacier Bay NP 
may not resume their activities until notified by us via letter, email, 
or telephone.
    In the event that Glacier Bay NP 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 we describe in the next 
paragraph), Glacier Bay NP will immediately report the incident to the 
Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected 
Resources, NMFS and the Alaska 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. We will work with Glacier Bay NP to 
determine whether modifications in the activities are appropriate.
    In the event that Glacier Bay NP discovers an injured or dead 
marine mammal, and the lead visual observer determines that the injury 
or death is not associated with or related to the authorized activities 
(e.g., previously wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced 
decomposition, or scavenger damage), Glacier Bay will report the 
incident to the incident to the Division Chief, Permits and 
Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, at 301-427-
8401 and the Alaska Regional Stranding Coordinator at (907) 586-7248 
within 24 hours of the discovery. Glacier Bay NP researchers will 
provide photographs or video footage (if available) or other 
documentation of the stranded animal sighting to us. Glacier Bay NP can 
continue their research activities.

Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment

    Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, the 
MMPA defines ``harassment'' as: Any act of pursuit, torment, or 
annoyance which (i) has the potential to injure a marine mammal or 
marine mammal stock in the wild [Level A harassment]; or (ii) has the 
potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild 
by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not 
limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or 
sheltering [Level B harassment].
    All anticipated takes would be by Level B harassment, involving 
temporary changes in behavior. NMFS expects that the proposed 
mitigation and monitoring measures would minimize the possibility of 
injurious or lethal takes. NMFS considers the potential for take by 
injury, serious injury, or mortality as remote. NMFS expects that the 
presence of Glacier Bay NP personnel could disturb animals hauled out 
and that the animals may alter their behavior or attempt to move away 
from the researchers.
    As discussed earlier, NMFS considers an animal to have been 
harassed if it moved greater than 1 m (3.3 ft) in response to the 
surveyors' presence or if the animal was already moving and changed 
direction and/or speed, or if the animal flushed into the water. NMFS 
does not consider animals that became alert without such movements as 
harassed.
    Based on pinniped survey counts conducted by Glacier Bay NP (e.g., 
Mathews & Pendleton, 2006; Womble et al., 2010), NMFS estimates that 
the research activities could potentially affect by Level B behavioral 
harassment 500 harbor seals over the course of the Authorization (Table 
3). This estimate represents 6.9 percent of the Glacier Bay/Icy Strait 
stock of harbor seals and accounts for a maximum disturbance of 25 
harbor seals each per visit at Boulder, Lone, and Flapjack Islands, and 
Geikie Rock, Alaska over a maximum level of five visits.

 Table 3--Estimates of the Possible Numbers of Marine Mammals Exposed to Acoustic and Visual Stimuli During the
    Proposed Research Activities on Boulder, Lone, and Flapjack Islands, and Geikie Rock, Alaska, May Through
                                                September, 2015.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                        Est. number of                    Percent of
                Species                   individuals    Proposed take    species or      Population trend \2\
                                            exposed      authorization     stock \1\
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Harbor seal...........................             500             500             9.9  Declining.
Steller sea lion......................               0               0               0  Increasing.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ Table 1 in this notice lists the stock species abundance estimates that NMFS used to calculate the
  percentage of species/stock.
\2\ The population trend information is from Muto and Angliss, 2015.

    Harbor seals tend to haul out in small numbers (on average, less 
than 50 animals) at most sites with the exception of Flapjack Island 
(Womble, Pers. Comm.). Animals on Flapjack Boulder Islands generally 
haul out on the south side of the Islands and are not located near the 
research sites located on the northern side of the Islands. Aerial 
survey maximum counts show that harbor seals sometimes haul out in 
large numbers at all four locations (see Table 2 in Glacier Bays NP's 
application), and sometimes individuals and mother/pup pairs occupy 
different terrestrial locations than the main haulout (J. Womble, 
personal observation).
    Considering the conservation status for the Western stock of the 
Steller sea lion, the Glacier Bay NP researchers would not conduct 
ground-based or vessel-based surveys if they observe Steller sea lions 
before accessing Boulder, Lone, and Flapjack Islands, and Geikie Rock. 
Thus, NMFS expects no takes to occur for this species during the 
proposed activities.
    NMFS does not propose to authorize any injury, serious injury, or 
mortality.

[[Page 15692]]

NMFS expect all potential takes to fall under the category of Level B 
harassment only.

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 four 
species discussed 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 Glacier Bay NP'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 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. Anecdotal observations and results from previous monitoring 
reports also show that the pinnipeds returned to the various sites and 
did not permanently abandon haul-out sites after Glacier Bay NP 
conducted their research activities.
    3. There is no potential for large-scale movements leading to 
injury, serious injury, or mortality because the researchers would 
delay ingress into the landing areas only after the pinnipeds have 
slowly entered the water.
    4. Glacier Bay NP would limit access to Boulder, Lone, and Flapjack 
Islands, and Geikie Rock when there are high numbers (more than 25) 
harbor seals hauled out (with or without young pups present), any time 
pups are present, or any time that Steller sea lions are present, the 
researchers would not approach the island and would not conduct gull 
monitoring research.
    We do not anticipate that any injuries, serious injuries, or 
mortalities would occur as a result of Glacier Bay NP'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, we do not expect the activities to impact annual rates of 
recruitment or survival.
    NMFS does not expect pinnipeds to permanently abandon any area 
surveyed by researchers, as is evidenced by continued presence of 
pinnipeds at the sites during annual seabird monitoring. In summary, 
NMFS anticipates that impacts to hauled-out harbor seals during Glacier 
Bay NP's research activities would be behavioral harassment of limited 
duration (i.e., up to two hours per visit) and limited intensity (i.e., 
temporary flushing at most). NMFS does not expect stampeding, and 
therefore injury or mortality, to occur (see ``Mitigation'' for more 
details).
    Based on the analysis contained herein of the likely effects of the 
specified activity on marine mammals and their habitat, and taking into 
consideration the implementation of the proposed mitigation and 
monitoring measures, NMFS preliminarily finds that the total marine 
mammal take from Glacier Bay NP's proposed 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.

Small Numbers

    As mentioned previously, NMFS estimates that Glacier Bay NP's 
activities could potentially affect, by Level B harassment only, one 
species of marine mammal under our jurisdiction. For harbor seals, this 
estimate is small (6.9 percent) relative to the population size.

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. Glacier Bay National Park prohibits subsistence harvest of 
harbor seals within the Park (Catton, 1995). 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 (ESA)

    NMFS does not expect that Glacier Bay NP's proposed research 
activities (which include mitigation measures to avoid harassment of 
Steller sea lions) would affect any species listed under the ESA. 
Therefore, NMFS has determined that a section 7 consultation under the 
ESA is not required.

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

    In 2014, NMFS prepared an Environmental Assessment (EA) analyzing 
the potential effects to the human environment from NMFS' issuance of 
an Authorization to Glacier Bay NP for their seabird research 
activities.
    In September 2014, NMFS issued a Finding of No Significant Impact

[[Page 15693]]

(FONSI) on the issuance of an Authorization for Point Blue's research 
activities in accordance with section 6.01 of the NOAA Administrative 
Order 216-6 (Environmental Review Procedures for Implementing the 
National Environmental Policy Act, May 20, 1999). Glacier Bay NP's 
proposed activities and impacts for 2015 are within the scope of the 
2014 EA and FONSI. NMFS provided relevant environmental information to 
the public through a previous notice for the proposed Authorization (79 
FR 32226, June 4, 2014) and considered public comments received in 
response prior to finalizing the 2014 EA and deciding whether or not to 
issue a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI). NMFS has reviewed the 
2014 EA and determined that there are no new direct, indirect, or 
cumulative impacts to the human and natural environment associated with 
the Authorization requiring evaluation in a supplemental EA and NMFS,

Proposed Authorization

    As a result of these preliminary determinations, NMFS proposes to 
authorize the take of marine mammals incidental to Glacier Bay NP's 
seabird research activities, provided the previously mentioned 
mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements are incorporated. 
The next section provides the proposed Authorization language which we 
propose for inclusion in the Authorization (if issued).
    Glacier Bay National Park, P.O. Box 140, Gustavus, Alaska 99826 
and/or its designees (holders of the Authorization) are hereby 
authorized under section 101(a)(5)(D) of the Marine Mammal Protection 
Act (16 U.S.C. 1371(a)(5)(D)) to harass small numbers of marine mammals 
incidental to conducting monitoring and research studies on glaucus-
winged gulls (Larus glaucescens) within Glacier Bay National Park and 
Preserve in Alaska.
    1. This Authorization is valid from May 1 through September 30, 
2016.
    2. This Authorization is valid only for research activities that 
occur in the following specified geographic areas: Boulder 
(58[deg]33'18.08'' N; 136[deg]1'13.36'' W); Lone (58[deg]43'17.67'' N; 
136[deg]17'41.32'' W), and Flapjack (58[deg]35'10.19'' N; 
135[deg]58'50.78'' W) Islands, and Geikie Rock (58[deg]41'39.75'' N; 
136[deg]18'39.06'' W); and Tlingit Point Islet (58[deg]45'16.86'' N; 
136[deg]10'41.74'' W) in Glacier Bay, Alaska.
3. Species Authorized and Level of Takes
    a. The taking, by Level B harassment only, is limited to the 
following species: 500 Pacific harbor seals (Phoca vitulina).
    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 Chief, Permits 
and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS.
4. General Conditions
    A copy of this Authorization must be in the possession of Glacier 
Bay National Park, its designees, and field crew personnel (including 
research collaborators) operating under the authority of this 
Authorization at all times.
5. Mitigation Measures
    The Holder of this Authorization is required to implement the 
following mitigation measures:
    a. Conduct pre-survey monitoring before deciding to access a study 
site. Prior to deciding to land onshore of Boulder, Lone, or Flapjack 
Island or Geikie Rock, the Holder of this Authorization will use high-
powered image stabilizing binoculars before approaching at distances of 
greater than 500 m (1,640 ft) to determine and document the number, 
species, and location of hauled out marine mammals. The vessels will 
maintain a distance of 328 to 1,640 ft (100 to 500 m) from the 
shoreline.
    i. If the Holder of the Authorization determines that there are 25 
or more harbor seals (with or without young pups present) hauled out on 
the shoreline, the holder will not access the island and will not 
conduct the study at that time.
    ii. If the Holder of the Authorization determines that any Steller 
sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) are present at the study site, the 
Holder will not access the island and will not conduct the study at 
that time.
    iii. If the Holder of the Authorization determines that there are 
any pups hauled out on the shoreline and vulnerable to being separated 
from their mothers, the Holder will not access the island and will not 
conduct the study at that time.
    b. Minimize the potential for disturbance by: (1) Performing 
controlled and slow ingress to the study site to prevent a stampede; 
and (2) selecting a pathway of approach farthest from the hauled out 
harbor seals to minimize disturbance.
    c. Monitor for offshore predators at the study sites and avoid 
research activities when predators area present. Avoid approaching the 
study site if killer whales (Orcinus orca) are present. If the Holder 
of this Authorization observes predators in the area, they must not 
disturb the pinnipeds until the area is free of predators.
    d. Maintain a quiet working atmosphere, avoid loud noises, and use 
hushed voices in the presence of hauled out pinnipeds.
6. Monitoring
    Glacier Bay NP is required to record the following:
    a. BLM and/or its designees shall record the following:
    i. Species counts (with numbers of adults/juveniles); and:
    ii. Numbers of disturbances, by species and age, according to a 
three-point scale of intensity including: (1) Head orientation in 
response to disturbance, which may include turning head towards the 
disturbance, craning head and neck while holding the body rigid in a u-
shaped position, or changing from a lying to a sitting position and/or 
slight movement of less than 1 meter; ``alert'' (2) Movements in 
response to or away from disturbance, typically over short distances 
(1-3 meters) and including dramatic changes in direction or speed of 
locomotion for animals already in motion; ``movement'' and (3) All 
flushes to the water as well as lengthier retreats (>3 meters); 
``flight''.
    iii. Information on the weather, including the tidal state and 
horizontal visibility.
    b. If applicable, the observer shall note observations of marked or 
tag-bearing pinnipeds or carcasses, as well as any rare or unusual 
species of marine mammal.
    c. If applicable, the observer shall note the presence of any 
offshore predators (date, time, number, and species).
7. Reporting
    The holder of this Authorization is required to:
    a. Draft Report: Submit a draft monitoring report to the Division 
Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected 
Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service within 90 days after the 
Authorization expires. NMFS will review the Draft Report which is 
subject to review and comment by NMFS. Glacier Bay NP must address any 
recommendations made by NMFS in the Final Report prior to submission to 
NMFS. If NMFS decides that the draft

[[Page 15694]]

final report needs no comments, NMFS will consider the draft report as 
the Final Report.
    b. Final Report: Glacier Bay shall prepare and submit a Final 
Report to NMFS within 30 days following resolution of any comments on 
the draft report from NMFS.
8. Reporting Injured or Dead Marine Mammals
    In the unanticipated event that the specified activity clearly 
causes the take of a marine mammal in a manner prohibited by the 
authorization, such as an injury (Level A harassment), serious injury, 
or mortality (e.g., vessel-strike, stampede, etc.), BLM and/or its 
designees shall immediately cease the specified activities and 
immediately report the incident to the Division Chief, Permits and 
Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the 
Alaska Regional Stranding Coordinator. The report must include the 
following information:
     Time, date, and location (latitude/longitude) of the 
incident;
     Description and location of the incident (including water 
depth, if applicable);
     Environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, 
Beaufort sea state, cloud cover, and visibility);
     Description of all marine mammal observations in the 24 
hours preceding the incident;
     Species identification or description of the animal(s) 
involved;
     Fate of the animal(s); and
     Photographs or video footage of the animal(s) (if 
equipment is available).
    Glacier Bay NP shall not resume its activities until NMFS is able 
to review the circumstances of the prohibited take. NMFS will work with 
Glacier Bay NP to determine what is necessary to minimize the 
likelihood of further prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. 
Glacier Bay NP may not resume their activities until notified by us via 
letter, email, or telephone.
    In the event that Glacier Bay NP discovers an injured or dead 
marine mammal, and the marine mammal observer determines that the cause 
of the injury or death is unknown and the death is relatively recent 
(i.e., in less than a moderate state of decomposition as we describe in 
the next paragraph), Glacier Bay NP will immediately report the 
incident to the Division Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, 
Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the Alaska Regional Stranding 
Coordinator. The report must include the same information identified in 
the paragraph above this section. Activities may continue while NMFS 
reviews the circumstances of the incident. NMFS would work with Glacier 
Bay NP to determine whether modifications in the activities are 
appropriate.
    In the event that Glacier Bay NP discovers an injured or dead 
marine mammal, and the lead visual observer determines that the injury 
or death is not associated with or related to the authorized activities 
(e.g., previously wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced 
decomposition, or scavenger damage), Glacier Bay NP will report the 
incident to the Division Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, 
Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the Alaska Regional Stranding 
Coordinator within 24 hours of the discovery. Glacier Bay NP personnel 
will provide photographs or video footage (if available) or other 
documentation of the stranded animal sighting to us. Glacier Bay NP can 
continue their survey activities while NMFS reviews the circumstances 
of the incident.

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 Glacier Bay NP's activities.
    Please include any supporting data or literature citations with 
your comments to help inform our final decision on Glacier Bay NP's 
request for an Authorization.

    Dated: March 18, 2016.
Perry F. Gayaldo,
Deputy Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2016-06673 Filed 3-23-16; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P