Listing Endangered or Threatened Species; 90-Day Finding on a Petition To List the Pacific Bluefin Tuna as Threatened or Endangered Under the Endangered Species Act, 70074-70080 [2016-24477]

Download as PDF 70074 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 196 / Tuesday, October 11, 2016 / Proposed Rules 2 CFR part 200, subpart F, Audit Requirements. Audits must be made by an independent auditor in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards covering financial and compliance audits. The Associate Administrator or a designee of the Associate Administrator may audit a recipient at any time. ■ 10. Revise § 110.80 to read as follows: § 110.80 Procurement. Recipients must use procurement procedures and practices that adhere to applicable State laws and regulations and Federal requirements as specified in the procurement standards of 2 CFR part 200, as well as the Department of Transportation exception outlined at 2 CFR 1201.317, as applicable. ■ 11. Revise § 110.90 to read as follows: ehiers on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS § 110.90 Grant monitoring, reports, and records retention. (a) Grant monitoring. Project managers are responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of grant, subgrant, and contract-supported activities. Project managers must monitor the performance of supported activities to assure compliance with applicable Federal requirements and achievement of performance goals. Monitoring must cover each program, function, activity, or task covered by the grant. (b) Reports. (1) The recipient must submit financial and performance reports as required in the terms and conditions of the grant award. The final financial and performance reports are due 90 days after the expiration or termination of the grant. (2) All required performance reports will be listed in the terms and conditions of the Notice of Grant Award. (3) Financial reporting must be supplied using Standard Form 425 Federal Financial Report and submitted in accordance with the terms and conditions of the grant award. (c) Records retention. In accordance with 2 CFR part 200, all financial and programmatic records, supporting documents, statistical records, training materials, and other documents generated under a grant must be maintained by the project manager for three years from the date the project manager submits the final financial report. The project manager must designate a repository and single-point of contact for these purposes. If any litigation, claim, negotiation, audit or another action involving the records has been started before the expiration of the 3-year period, the records must be retained until the action and resolution VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:38 Oct 07, 2016 Jkt 241001 of all issues that arise from it are completed, or until the end of the regular 3-year period, whichever is later. ■ 12. Revise § 110.100 to read as follows: § 110.100 Enforcement. If a recipient fails to comply with any term of an award (whether stated in a Federal statute or regulation, an assurance, a State plan or application, a notice of award, or elsewhere) a noncompliance action may be taken as specified in 2 CFR 200.338 through 200.342. The recipient will have the opportunity to object and provide information and documentation challenging the suspension or termination action, in accordance with 2 CFR 200.341. Costs incurred by the recipient agency during a suspension or after termination of an award are not allowable unless the Associate Administrator authorizes it in writing. Grant awards may also be terminated in whole or in part with the consent of the recipient at any agreed upon effective date, or by the recipient upon written notification. ■ 13. Revise § 110.110 to read as follows: § 110.110 After-grant requirements. The Associate Administrator will close out the award upon determination that all applicable administrative actions and all required work of the grant are complete in accordance with 2 CFR part 200. The project manager must submit all financial, performance, and other reports required as a condition of the grant, within 90 days after the expiration or termination of the grant. This time frame may be extended by the Associate Administrator for cause. ■ 14. Revise § 110.120 to read as follows: § 110.120 Deviation from this part. Recipient agencies may request a deviation from the non-statutory provisions of this part. The Associate Administrator will respond to such requests in writing. If appropriate, the decision will be included in the grant agreement. Request for deviations from this part 110 must be submitted to: the Grants Chief at HMEP.Grants@dot.gov. ■ 15. Revise § 110.130 to read as follows: § 110.130 Disputes. Disputes should be resolved at the lowest level possible, beginning with the Grants Specialist, the Grants Team Lead, and the Grants Chief. If an agreement cannot be reached, the Associate Administrator will serve as the dispute resolution official, whose decision will be final. PO 00000 Frm 00015 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Issued in Washington, DC, on October 4, 2016, under authority delegated in 49 CFR 1.97. William Schoonover, Acting Associate Administrator for Hazardous Materials Safety, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. [FR Doc. 2016–24418 Filed 10–7–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4910–60–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Parts 223 and 224 [Docket No. 160719634–6838–01] RIN 0648–XE756 Listing Endangered or Threatened Species; 90-Day Finding on a Petition To List the Pacific Bluefin Tuna as Threatened or Endangered Under the Endangered Species Act National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: 90-day petition finding, request for information, and initiation of status review. AGENCY: We, NMFS, announce a 90day finding on a petition to list the Pacific bluefin tuna (Thunnus orientalis) as a threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and to designate critical habitat concurrently with the listing. We find that the petition presents substantial scientific information indicating the petitioned action may be warranted. We will conduct a status review of the Pacific bluefin tuna to determine whether the petitioned action is warranted. To ensure that the status review is comprehensive, we are soliciting scientific and commercial information pertaining to this species. DATES: Scientific and commercial information pertinent to the petitioned action must be received by December 12, 2016. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by ‘‘Pacific Bluefin Tuna Petition (NOAA–NMFS– 2016–0100),’’ by either of the following methods: • Federal eRulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D= NOAA-NMFS-2016-0100, click the ‘‘Comment Now’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. • Mail or hand-delivery: Protected Resources Division, West Coast Region, SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\11OCP1.SGM 11OCP1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 196 / Tuesday, October 11, 2016 / Proposed Rules NMFS, 1201 NE Lloyd Blvd., Suite #1100, Portland, OR 97232. Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on http://www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. We will accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/A’’ in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Electronic copies of the petition and other materials are available on the NMFS West Coast Region Web site at www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov. Please direct other inquiries to Scott Rumsey, NMFS West Coast Region at scott.rumsey@noaa.gov, (503) 872–2791; or Marta Nammack, NMFS Office of Protected Resources at marta.nammack@noaa.gov, (301) 427– 8469. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: ehiers on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Background On June 20, 2016, we received a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), on behalf of 13 other co-petitioners, to list the Pacific bluefin tuna as threatened or endangered under the ESA and to designate critical habitat concurrently with its listing. The petition includes general biological information about Pacific bluefin tuna including its taxonomy, range and distribution, the physical and biological characteristics of its habitat, population status and trends, and factors contributing to the species’ decline. CBD contends that ‘‘Pacific bluefin tuna are severely overfished, and overfishing continues, making extinction a very real risk.’’ The petitioner presents information in the petition on the abundance of the species relative to unfished levels and the fishing rates from 2011–2013 which ‘‘were up to three times higher than commonly used reference point for overfishing.’’ The petitioner also presents information on the level of harvest of juvenile Pacific bluefin tuna and what it characterizes as a species in which ‘‘reproduction is currently supported by just a few adult age classes that will soon disappear due to old age.’’ Copies of the petition are available upon request (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:38 Oct 07, 2016 Jkt 241001 ESA Statutory, Regulatory, Policy Provisions, and Evaluation Framework Section 4(b)(3)(A) of the ESA of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), requires, to the maximum extent practicable, that within 90 days of receipt of a petition to list a species as threatened or endangered, the Secretary of Commerce make a finding on whether that petition presents substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted, and to promptly publish such finding in the Federal Register (16 U.S.C. 1533(b)(3)(A)). When it is found that substantial scientific or commercial information in a petition indicates the petitioned action may be warranted (a ‘‘positive 90-day finding’’), we are required to promptly commence a review of the status of the species concerned during which we will conduct a comprehensive review of the best available scientific and commercial information. In such cases, we conclude the review with a finding as to whether, in fact, the petitioned action is warranted within 12 months of receipt of the petition. Because the finding at the 12-month stage is based on a more thorough review of the available information, as compared to the narrow scope of review at the 90-day stage, a positive 90-day finding does not prejudge the outcome of the status review. Under the ESA, a listing determination may address a species, which is defined to also include subspecies and, for any vertebrate species, any DPS that interbreeds when mature (16 U.S.C. 1532(16)). A joint NMFS–U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) (jointly, ‘‘the Services’’) policy clarifies the agencies’ interpretation of the phrase ‘‘distinct population segment’’ for the purposes of listing, delisting, and reclassifying a species under the ESA (61 FR 4722; February 7, 1996). A species, subspecies, or DPS is ‘‘endangered’’ if it is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range, and ‘‘threatened’’ if it is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range (ESA sections 3(6) and 3(20), respectively, 16 U.S.C. 1532(6) and (20)). Pursuant to the ESA and our implementing regulations, we determine whether species are threatened or endangered based on any one or a combination of the following five section 4(a)(1) factors: (A) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of habitat or range; (B) overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes; (C) disease or PO 00000 Frm 00016 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 70075 predation; (D) inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; and (E) any other natural or manmade factors affecting the species’ existence (16 U.S.C. 1533(a)(1), 50 CFR 424.11(c)). ESA-implementing regulations issued jointly by the Services (50 CFR 424.14(b)) define ‘‘substantial information’’ in the context of reviewing a petition to list, delist, or reclassify a species as the amount of information that would lead a reasonable person to believe that the measure proposed in the petition may be warranted. In evaluating whether substantial information is contained in a petition, the Secretary must consider whether the petition: (1) Clearly indicates the administrative measure recommended and gives the scientific and any common name of the species involved; (2) contains detailed narrative justification for the recommended measure, describing, based on available information, past and present numbers and distribution of the species involved and any threats faced by the species; (3) provides information regarding the status of the species over all or a significant portion of its range; and (4) is accompanied by the appropriate supporting documentation in the form of bibliographic references, reprints of pertinent publications, copies of reports or letters from authorities, and maps (50 CFR 424.14(b)(2)). At the 90-day finding stage, we evaluate the petitioners’ request based upon the information in the petition including its references and the information readily available in our files. We do not conduct additional research, and we do not solicit information from parties outside the agency to help us in evaluating the petition. We will accept the petitioners’ sources and characterizations of the information presented if they appear to be based on accepted scientific principles, unless we have specific information in our files that indicates the petition’s information is incorrect, unreliable, obsolete, or otherwise irrelevant to the requested action. Information that is susceptible to more than one interpretation or that is contradicted by other available information will not be dismissed at the 90-day finding stage, so long as it is reliable and a reasonable person would conclude it supports the petitioners’ assertions. In other words, conclusive information indicating the species may meet the ESA’s requirements for listing is not required to make a positive 90day finding. We will not conclude that a lack of specific information alone necessitates a negative 90-day finding if a reasonable person would conclude E:\FR\FM\11OCP1.SGM 11OCP1 ehiers on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS 70076 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 196 / Tuesday, October 11, 2016 / Proposed Rules that the unknown information itself suggests the species may be in danger of extinction or likely to become so within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range. To make a 90-day finding on a petition to list a species, we evaluate whether the petition presents substantial scientific or commercial information indicating the subject species may be either threatened or endangered, as defined by the ESA. First, we evaluate whether the information presented in the petition, along with the information readily available in our files, indicates that the petitioned entity constitutes a ‘‘species’’ eligible for listing under the ESA. Next, we evaluate whether the information indicates that the species faces an extinction risk that is cause for concern; this may be indicated in information expressly discussing the species’ status and trends, or in information describing impacts and threats to the species. We evaluate any information on specific demographic factors pertinent to evaluating extinction risk for the species (e.g., population abundance and trends, productivity, population spatial structure and connectivity, age structure, sex ratio, diversity, current and historical range), and the potential contribution of identified demographic risks to extinction risk for the species. We then evaluate the potential links between these demographic risks and the causative impacts and threats identified in section 4(a)(1). Information presented on impacts or threats should be specific to the species and should reasonably suggest that one or more of these factors may be operative threats that act or have acted on the species to the point that it may warrant protection under the ESA. Broad statements about generalized threats to the species, or identification of factors that could negatively impact a species, do not constitute substantial information indicating that listing may be warranted. We look for information indicating that not only is the particular species exposed to a factor, but that the species may be responding in a negative fashion. We then assess the potential significance of that negative response. Many petitions identify risk classifications made by nongovernmental organizations, such as the International Union on the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the American Fisheries Society, or NatureServe, as evidence of extinction risk for a species. Risk classifications by such organizations or made under other Federal or state statutes may be informative, but such classification alone will not alone provide sufficient VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:38 Oct 07, 2016 Jkt 241001 basis for a positive 90-day finding under the ESA. For example, as explained by NatureServe, their assessments of a species’ conservation status do ‘‘not constitute a recommendation by NatureServe for listing under the U.S. Endangered Species Act’’ because NatureServe assessments ‘‘have different criteria, evidence requirements, purposes and taxonomic coverage than government lists of endangered and threatened species, and therefore these two types of lists should not be expected to coincide’’ (http:// www.natureserve.org/prodServices/pdf/ NatureServeStatusAssessmentsListingDec%202008.pdf). Additionally, species classifications under IUCN and the ESA are not equivalent; data standards, criteria used to evaluate species, and treatment of uncertainty are not necessarily the same. Thus, when a petition cites such classifications, we will evaluate the source of information that the classification is based upon in light of the ESA’s standards on extinction risk and threats discussed above. Distribution and Life History of the Pacific Bluefin Tuna Pacific bluefin tuna are a pelagic, highly migratory species occupying coastal and open ocean areas up to depths of 200 meters (m). They are primarily found in subtropical and temperate waters of the North Pacific Ocean, ranging from East Asia to the west coast of North America. In the western Pacific they are most abundant between Sakhalin Island and the Philippines, but have been reported as far south as Australia and New Zealand. In the central part of the Pacific Ocean, Pacific bluefin tuna have been caught in fisheries both north and south of the equator (Bayliff 1994). In the eastern Pacific, they have been documented from Alaska to South America, but they typically range from the southern tip of Baja California, Mexico, and Point Conception, California (Bayliff 1994). Of the bony fishes, tuna are unique for their high metabolic rate and in their ability to maintain body temperatures several degrees higher than the surrounding water (Collette & Nauen 1983). The Atlantic and Pacific bluefin tuna were once considered to be subspecies of the Northern bluefin tuna, but are now considered separate species on the basis of genetic and morphological differences (Collette 1999). Pacific bluefin tuna are one of the cold-water group of tunas which have been able to extend their feeding ranges into the colder ocean waters of the temperate zone (Collette 1999). PO 00000 Frm 00017 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Pacific bluefin tuna spawning occurs in two areas of the western Pacific. They spawn between the Philippines and the Ryukyu Islands in April, May, and June, and in Japanese coastal waters of the Sea of Japan in July and August (Schaefer 2001; Tanaka et al., 2007). Pacific bluefin tuna are iteroparous spawners, meaning they may spawn more than once in their lifetime. They reach sexual maturity between the ages of 3 and 5, and can live to be at least 20 years old. Research indicates that fish spawning between Japan and the Philippines are primarily 5 year olds, while fish spawning in the Sea of Japan are mostly 3 year olds (ISC 2014). Pacific bluefin tuna tend to migrate north along the Japanese and Korean coasts in the summer, and south in the winter (Inagake et al., 2001; Itoh et al., 2003; Yoon et al., 2012). A variable but small portion of the age 1–3 Pacific bluefin tuna migrate eastward across the North Pacific Ocean each year, spending up to several years as juveniles off the coast of North America before returning to the western Pacific Ocean to spawn (Inagake et al., 2001). The trans-Pacific migration is believed to take 1.5–2.0 months (Baumann et al., 2015) and their migration route tends to be within the subtropical zone (Whitlock et al., 2012). In the eastern Pacific they are found primarily off the coast of Mexico, California, and Oregon (Domeier et al., 2005). While in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, Pacific bluefin tuna exhibit a seasonal pattern of northerly migrations in the summer and fall, returning to Baja California in the winter months (Kitagawa et al., 2007). Pacific bluefin tuna fisheries in the eastern Pacific are managed by the InterAmerican Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC), and fisheries in the western and central Pacific are managed by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). Five countries harvest these fish but Japan catches the majority of Pacific bluefin tuna, followed by Mexico, the United States, Korea and Chinese Taipei (ISC 2014). Based on genetic information and spawning distribution, the Pacific bluefin tuna is managed as a single stock. Research surveys have caught larval, postlarval, and early juvenile Pacific bluefin tuna in the western Pacific Ocean, but not in the eastern Pacific Ocean, leading to the conclusion that there is a single stock of Pacific bluefin tuna in the North Pacific Ocean (IATTC 2014). Analysis of Petition and Information Readily Available in NMFS Files The petition contains information on the species, including the taxonomy, E:\FR\FM\11OCP1.SGM 11OCP1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 196 / Tuesday, October 11, 2016 / Proposed Rules ehiers on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS species description, geographic distribution, habitat, population status and trends, and factors contributing to the species’ decline. According to the petition, four of the five causal factors in section 4(a)(1) of the ESA are adversely affecting the continued existence of the Pacific bluefin tuna: (A) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range; (B) overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes; (D) inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; and (E) other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence. In the following sections, we evaluate the information provided in the petition, as well as other pertinent information readily available in our files, to determine if the petition presents substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that an endangered or threatened listing may be warranted as a result of any of the ESA section 4(a)(1) factors. If it does, then we will make a positive finding on the petition and conduct a review of the species range-wide. Below, we summarize the information presented in the petition and in our files on the status of the species and the ESA section 4(a)(1) factors that may be affecting the species’ risk of extinction, and determine whether a reasonable person would conclude that an endangered or threatened listing may be warranted as a result of any of these factors. Pacific Bluefin Tuna Status and Trends The International Scientific Committee (ISC), the scientific body that informs the Northern Committee to the WCPFC, uses fishery-specific catch-andeffort data from Japanese and Taiwanese fisheries to derive estimates of abundance for Pacific bluefin tuna. The ISC models generate annual estimates of total biomass, spawning stock biomass, and recruitment for each year beginning with 1952. Although there have been fisheries for Pacific bluefin tuna since at least the beginning of the 20th century in the eastern Pacific Ocean, and for several centuries in the western Pacific Ocean, the data prior to 1952, especially from the western Pacific Ocean, are of relatively poor quality (ISC 2016). For this reason, abundance estimates for Pacific bluefin tuna begin with the 1952 fishing season. The ISC uses an age-structured model, based on catch, size-composition, and catch-per-unit of effort data, to derive estimates of biomass. Catch of Pacific bluefin tuna is recorded as metric tons of fish and biomass is likewise expressed in metric tons. The ISC model VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:38 Oct 07, 2016 Jkt 241001 indicates that although the total biomass fluctuated throughout the assessment period (1952 through 2014), it began to steadily decline in 1996, leveling off in 2010 (ISC 2016). During the stock assessment period, the total biomass reached a peak of 209,075 metric tons in 1960 and a low of 29,347 in 1983. The estimated total biomass of Pacific bluefin tuna for 2014 is 35,817 metric tons. The petition and the information in our files indicate that the abundance of Pacific bluefin tuna which are old enough to spawn (spawning stock biomass) has diminished to just 2.6 percent of its unfished biomass and less than one-third of what it was 20 years ago (ISC 2016). The unfished spawning stock biomass can roughly be defined as the theoretical spawning stock biomass without fishing and assuming no environmental or density-dependent effects. The ISC estimated the spawning stock biomass for the year 2014 was 16,557 metric tons and the unfished biomass to be approximately 636,807. The ISC also estimates the productivity to be relatively stable throughout the modeling period. Recruitment estimates for the most recent years can be highly uncertain due to limited information on the cohorts. However, the ISC (2016) estimated that recruitment in 2014 was relatively low and the average for the last 5 years appears to be below the long-term average. The petitioners assert that 97.6 percent of all Pacific bluefin tuna caught are between 0 and 2 years of age and that the population is supported by just a few adult age classes. The petitioners further assert that along with the dwindling number of adults, in 2014, the Pacific bluefin tuna population produced the second lowest number of juvenile fish since 1952. Analysis of ESA Section 4(a)(1) Factors The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range The petitioners contend that Pacific bluefin tuna are at risk of extinction throughout their range due to water pollution, marine debris, oil and gas development, wind energy development, and prey depletion. The petitioners assert that Pacific bluefin tuna habitat is threatened by pollution in the form of mercury, persistent organic pollutants, plastics, radiation nuclides from Fukushima, oil spills, oil and gas development related waste products, and waste from aquaculture projects. The petitioners note that a recent study by Lowenstein et al., (2010) found mercury levels of bluefin tuna PO 00000 Frm 00018 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 70077 samples collected from restaurants and supermarkets exceed those permitted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2000), Health Canada (2007) and the European Commission (2008). Bluefin tuna samples in the cited study were from Atlantic, Pacific, and Southern bluefin tuna, with over half of the samples from Atlantic bluefin tuna. The petition concludes that because of the relatively high mercury content compared to other fish species, Pacific bluefin tuna are likely susceptible to physiological impacts. Petitioners also raised concerns about persistent organic pollutants. Persistent organic pollutants are absorbed by organisms at the base of the food chain and accumulated in the fatty tissues of consumers, becoming more concentrated as they work their way up the food chain. This process is known as biomagnification and can pose risks to predators, like bluefin tuna, which are at the top of the food chain. The petitioners cite various examples of studies that have documented biomagnification in similar species and the risks to the health of the organism. As an example, studies of Atlantic bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean found unusually high levels of female proteins in males of the species (Storelli et al., 2008). Researchers believe polychlorinated biphenyls and organochlorine pesticides can mimic endogenous hormones, disrupt reproductive functions and cause developmental abnormalities (such as intersexes) in fish (De Metrio et al., 2003). The petitioners also raise concerns about pollution from aquaculture projects, calling attention to a proposed project off the coast of San Diego, California. Waste from aquaculture operations can include excess fish feed, dead fish, fish feces, and chemicals used to control disease and parasites (e.g. antibiotics and pesticides). Excessive fish feed, dead fish, and fish feces can lead to elevated levels of nitrogen and phosphorous which in turn can cause oxygen depletion and harmful algal blooms in nearby waters. The petitioners do not provide details about how the chemicals used in aquaculture may affect the health of Pacific bluefin tuna in the wild. The petitioners assert that Pacific bluefin tuna may be susceptible to entanglement by marine debris and ingestion of plastic particles. Most of the reports of fish entangled in marine debris are from lost fishing gear (NOAA 2014). The petitioners note that because of the properties of plastic, small plastic pellets tend to accumulate persistent organic pollutants and contribute to the E:\FR\FM\11OCP1.SGM 11OCP1 ehiers on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS 70078 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 196 / Tuesday, October 11, 2016 / Proposed Rules biomagnification of these pollutants in the pelagic food web. Oil and gas development can affect water quality through acute and chronic spills and discharge of produced water and drilling muds. The petitioners assert that the direct impacts of oil spills include behavioral alteration, suppressed growth, induced or inhibited enzyme systems and other molecular effects, physiological responses, reduced immunity to disease and parasites, histopathological lesions and other cellular effects, tainted flesh, and mortality (Holdway 2002). The petitioners further assert that oil spills can exert indirect effects on wildlife through reduction of key prey species, impacting wildlife species and ecosystems for decades (Peterson et al., 2003). The petitioners assert that produced water and drilling muds contain toxic pollutants such as mercury, lead, chromium, barium, arsenic, cadmium, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (MMS 2007). Furthermore, the petitioners note that some of the chemicals added to fracking fluids can have adverse effects on aquatic species and other wildlife (Colborn et al., 2011). In addition to water quality concerns, the petitioner asserts that oil and gas exploration and development activities produce underwater noise which degrades Pacific bluefin tuna habitat. These activities include seismic surveying, drilling, offshore structure emplacement, offshore structure removal, and production related activities, including ship and helicopter activity for providing supplies to the drilling rigs and platforms. The petitioners briefly describe the potential harm from wind-energy development, citing interference with migration, feeding, and collisions or entanglements during construction and operation as the primary issues. The final issue raised by the petitioners related to Pacific bluefin tuna habitat is prey depletion. The petitioners assert that commercial fisheries for forage fish and squid have diminished the quality of Pacific bluefin tuna habitat in the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem. The petitioners further note that the fishery for market squid has increased five-fold in the last three decades (Vojkovich 1998; CDFW 2014) and the fishery for sardines was recently closed because of a 91 percent decline in abundance since 2007 (Hill et al., 2015). Research results on Pacific bluefin tuna foraging ecology demonstrate that their diet varies across years (PFMC 2016). VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:38 Oct 07, 2016 Jkt 241001 Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or Educational Purposes The petitioners assert that the primary threat to the Pacific bluefin tuna is from overutilization by commercial and recreational fisheries. A common practice in fisheries management is to define biological reference points for abundance of adult fish and limit harvest levels to maintain the stock at or above the biological reference points. The fisheries commissions have not established biological reference points for Pacific bluefin tuna. However, the ISC compared the 2011–2013 estimated fisheries mortalities to standard reference points (targets for fishing effort and abundance of the population) and found that if those points were used to manage Pacific bluefin tuna, overfishing would be occurring or just at the threshold and the stock would be considered overfished (ISC 2016). The management implications of the most recent stock assessment are that the stock is at very low levels and the fishing mortality is higher than any reasonable reference point (Maunder 2016). The petitioners assert that the vast majority of the Pacific bluefin tuna catch are juvenile fish and the population is supported by a dwindling number of adult tuna. According to the petitioners, nearly 98 percent of all Pacific bluefin tuna caught are between 0 and 2 years of age and the population is supported by just a few adult age classes. Furthermore, the majority of Pacific bluefin tuna landed in the Western Pacific are juveniles caught in or around their nursery grounds. In the Eastern Pacific, 90 percent of the catch is estimated to be 1 to 3 years of age (IATTC 2014). The petitioners also assert that industrial fishing fleets are targeting adult Pacific bluefin on their spawning grounds, and that this is widely recognized as an unsustainable practice. In support of this assertion, the petitioners provide information about fisheries management for Atlantic bluefin tuna. The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas established regulations in 1982 which prohibit directed fishing on bluefin tuna in their Gulf of Mexico spawning grounds. The petitioners assert that along with the dwindling number of adults, in 2014, the Pacific bluefin tuna population produced the second lowest number of juvenile fish since 1952. The ISC (2016) estimated that recruitment in 2014 was relatively low and the average for the last 5 years appears to be below PO 00000 Frm 00019 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 the long-term average. Two out of the last three recruitments are the lowest levels observed since 1980 (Maunder 2016). Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms The petitioners assert that the existing international, regional, and national regulations do not adequately protect the Pacific bluefin tuna. The regional fisheries management organizations, the IATTC and the WCPFC have adopted management measures for Pacific bluefin tuna, but these measures may not be adequate to end overfishing. The petitioner’s primary concern with the existing regulatory mechanisms is the absence of science-based biological reference points and a mandatory limit on the aggregate international catch of Pacific bluefin tuna. As noted above, the petitioners contend that Pacific bluefin tuna are at or below what should be considered a threshold for overfished. The IATTC staff recommended that commercial catches in 2014 be limited to an amount below 3,154 metric tons, which was the estimated commercial catch in the Eastern Pacific in 2013, and that the noncommercial catches in 2014 be limited below 221 metric tons, which is based on the same method that was applied to commercial catch to determine that recommended limit (IATTC 2014a). The petitioners note that instead of using common scientific reference points, the IATTC staff recommended catch limits based on the previous year’s total catch. The petitioners also note that despite recommendations from staff, the IATTC decided to set total commercial catches for 2015 and 2016 at 6,600 metric tons, for an effective annual catch of 3,300 metric tons in each year. In 2014, WCPFC adopted a rebuilding plan designed to rebuild the stock to the historical median of 42,592 metric tons within 10 years (WCPFC 2014a). Estimated catches of Pacific bluefin tuna were high from 1929 to 1940 with a peak catch of approximately 47,635 metric tons in 1935 (ISC 2014). However, the WCPFC uses the year 1952 as the first year in its calculations for the historical median. The petitioners argue that the chosen historical median equates to just 6.4 percent of the historical unfished level, well below the commonly recommended rebuilding target of 20–40 percent of unfished levels for species such as bluefin tuna (Restrepo et al., 1998). The petitioners assert that U.S. regulations for domestic Pacific bluefin tuna fisheries are not adequate to prevent extinction. They argue that the United States has not taken adequate E:\FR\FM\11OCP1.SGM 11OCP1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 196 / Tuesday, October 11, 2016 / Proposed Rules ehiers on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS steps to prevent overfishing and to rebuild Pacific bluefin tuna. The petitioners note that for the 2012 and 2013 fishing seasons, NMFS implemented IATTC recommendations for commercial fisheries capping Pacific bluefin tuna annual catch at 500 metric tons—an amount above any U.S. catches since 2000. The petitioners also note that the annual catch limit for 2015 and 2016, a combined limit of 600 metric tons for both years, is more than the U.S. commercial fleet has caught in any 2-year period since 2002. Since 2010, U.S. recreational catch has been significantly higher than U.S. commercial catch in all but one year, and accounts for the majority of the U.S. landings. In recent years, NMFS reduced the bag limit for recreational fisheries from 10 to 2 fish per day. The petitioners argue that the bag limit does not provide an absolute limit on recreational catch because (1) the fishery is open access, meaning there is no limit on the number of fishermen who can participate in the fishery, and (2) there is no limit on the number of trips each fisherman can take. Therefore, they feel the bag limits do not provide a reliable mechanism for limiting recreational catch and preventing overfishing. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence The petition contends that climate change and its associated ocean impacts threaten the continued existence of Pacific bluefin tuna. Climate change is increasing ocean temperatures and surface ocean acidity, and decreasing dissolved oxygen levels. Water temperature is believed to be one of the factors which influence spawning success of Pacific bluefin tuna. The petitioners assert that climate change and its associated influence on the distribution of ocean temperatures may disrupt both migration and spawning success for Pacific bluefin tuna. The success of Pacific bluefin tuna spawning and hatching, as well as larval survival, are believed to be closely linked to water temperature. The petitioners note that Kimura et al. (2010) found the optimal temperature range for Pacific bluefin tuna larval survival to be 24 to 28 degrees Celsius, and an increase of just 3 degrees above this range to result in an immediate rise in mortality rate. The petitioners also assert that climate change may also reduce prey availability for Pacific bluefin tuna, noting that climate-associated ecosystem changes have reduced productivity in the last half-century in the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem (Black et al., 2014). VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:38 Oct 07, 2016 Jkt 241001 The petitioners assert that although research on ocean acidification’s direct effects on tuna is in its infancy, preliminary experiments hatching yellowfin tuna eggs in ocean water of varying pH, including current and predicted near future ocean pH (6.9, 7.3, 7.7, and 8.1), showed that decreasing pH (i.e., acidification) significantly increased hours until complete hatching (Bromhead et al., 2013; Frommel et al., 2016). The petitioners also cite research on other species which indicate that decreasing pH can lead to loss of the senses of sight, smell, and touch in fishes. The petitioners assert that climate change will decrease dissolved oxygen levels in the ocean and influence the range of suitable habitat for Pacific bluefin tuna. The petitioners also assert that scientists have already documented reduced oxygen levels in Pacific bluefin tuna habitat—in waters off Japan, and the California Current (Bograd et al., 2008; Emerson et al., 2004; McClatchie et al., 2010). Petition Finding After reviewing the information contained in the petition, as well as information readily available in our files, and based on the above analysis, we conclude the petition presents substantial scientific information indicating the petitioned action of listing the Pacific bluefin tuna as threatened or endangered may be warranted. Therefore, in accordance with section 4(b)(3)(B) of the ESA and NMFS’ implementing regulations (50 CFR 424.14(b)(2)), we will commence a status review of the species. During our status review, we will first determine whether the species is in danger of extinction (endangered) or likely to become so (threatened) throughout all or a significant portion of its range. Within 12 months of the receipt of the petition (June 20, 2017), we will make a finding as to whether listing the species as endangered or threatened is warranted as required by section 4(b)(3)(B) of the ESA. Information Solicited As a result of this 90-day finding, we commence a status review of the Pacific bluefin tuna to determine whether listing the species is warranted. To ensure that our review of Pacific bluefin tuna is informed by the best available scientific and commercial information, we are opening a 60-day public comment period to solicit information to support our status review and 12month finding. Specifically, we request information regarding: (1) Species abundance; (2) PO 00000 Frm 00020 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 70079 species productivity; (3) species distribution or population spatial structure; (4) patterns of phenotypic, genotypic, and life history diversity; (5) habitat conditions and associated limiting factors and threats; (6) ongoing or planned efforts to protect and restore the species and their habitats; (7) information on the adequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms, whether protections are being implemented and whether they are proving effective in conserving the species; (8) data concerning the status and trends of identified limiting factors or threats; (9) information on targeted harvest (commercial and recreational) and bycatch of the species; (10) other new information, data, or corrections including, but not limited to, taxonomic or nomenclatural changes and improved analytical methods for evaluating extinction risk; and (11) information concerning the impacts of environmental variability and climate change on survival, recruitment, distribution, and/or extinction risk. In addition to the above requested information, we are interested in any information concerning protective efforts that have not yet been fully implemented or demonstrated effectiveness. Our consideration of conservation measures, regulatory mechanisms, and other protective efforts will be guided by the Services ‘‘Policy for Evaluation of Conservation Efforts When Making Listing Decisions’’ (PECE Policy; 68 FR 15100; March 28, 2003). The PECE Policy establishes criteria to ensure the consistent and adequate evaluation of formalized conservation efforts when making listing decisions under the ESA. This policy may also guide the development of conservation efforts that sufficiently improve a species’ status so as to make listing the species as threatened or endangered unnecessary. Under the PECE Policy the adequacy of conservation efforts is evaluated in terms of the certainty of their implementation, and the certainty of their effectiveness. Criteria for evaluating the certainty of implementation include whether: The necessary resources available; the necessary authority is in place; an agreement formalized (i.e., are regulatory and procedural mechanisms in place); there is a schedule for completion and evaluation; for voluntary measures, incentives to ensure necessary participation are in place; and there is agreement of all necessary parties to the measure or plan. Criteria for evaluating the certainty of effectiveness include whether the E:\FR\FM\11OCP1.SGM 11OCP1 70080 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 196 / Tuesday, October 11, 2016 / Proposed Rules measure or plan: includes a clear description of the factors for decline to be addressed and how they will be reduced; establishes specific conservation objectives; identifies necessary steps to reduce threats; includes quantifiable performance measures for monitoring compliance and effectiveness; employs principles of adaptive management; and is certain to improve the species’ status at the time of listing determination. We request that any information submitted with respect to conservation measures, regulatory mechanisms, or other protective efforts, that have yet to be implemented or show effectiveness, explicitly address the criteria in the PECE policy. We request that all information be accompanied by: (1) Supporting documentation such as maps, bibliographic references, or reprints of pertinent publications; and (2) the submitter’s name, address, and any association, institution, or business that the person represents. References Cited The complete citations for the references used in this document can be obtained by contacting NMFS (See FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT) or on our Web page at: www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov. Authority: The authority for this action is the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16. U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). Dated: September 29, 2016. Samuel D. Rauch, III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2016–24477 Filed 10–7–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 300 [Docket No. 160801681–6857–01] ehiers on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS RIN 0648–BG22 International Fisheries; Tuna and Tuna-Like Species in the Eastern Pacific Ocean; Silky Shark Fishing Restrictions and Fish Aggregating Device Data Collection and Identification National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments. AGENCY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:38 Oct 07, 2016 Jkt 241001 NMFS proposes regulations under the Tuna Conventions Act to implement provisions of two Resolutions adopted by the InterAmerican Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) in 2016: Resolution C–16–01 (Collection and Analyses of Data On Fish-Aggregating Devices) and Resolution C–16–06 (Conservation Measures for Shark Species, with Special Emphasis on the Silky Shark (Carcharhinus Falciformis) for the Years 2017, 2018, and 2019). Per Resolution C–16–01, these regulations would require the owner or operator of a U.S. purse seine vessel to ensure characters of a unique code be marked indelibly on each fish aggregating device (FAD) deployed or modified on or after January 1, 2017, in the IATTC Convention Area. The vessel owner or operator would also be required to record and submit information about the FAD, as described in Annex I of the Resolution C–16–01. Per Resolution C– 16–06, these regulations would prohibit the owner or operator of a U.S. purse seine vessel from retaining on board, transshipping, landing, or storing, in part or whole, carcasses of silky sharks caught by purse-seine vessels in the IATTC Convention Area. These regulations would also provide limits on the retained catch of silky sharks caught in the IATTC Convention Area. This proposed rule is necessary for the United States to satisfy its obligations as a member of the IATTC. DATES: Comments on the proposed rule and supporting documents must be submitted in writing by November 10, 2016. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA– NMFS–2016–0106, by any of the following methods: • Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to http://www.regulations.gov/ #!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-20160106, click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. • Mail: Submit written comments to Rachael Wadsworth, NMFS West Coast Region Long Beach Office, 501 W. Ocean Blvd., Suite 4200, Long Beach, CA 90802. Include the identifier ‘‘NOAA–NMFS–2016–0106’’ in the comments. Instructions: Comments must be submitted by one of the above methods to ensure they are received, documented, and considered by NMFS. Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00021 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 period, may not be considered. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.) submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. Do not submit confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive or protected information. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/A’’ in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). Copies of the draft Regulatory Impact Review and other supporting documents are available via the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http:// www.regulations.gov, docket NOAA– NMFS–2016–0106 or by contacting the Regional Administrator, William W. Stelle, Jr., NMFS West Coast Region, 7600 Sand Point Way, NE., Bldg 1, Seattle, WA 98115–0070, or RegionalAdministrator.WCRHMS@ noaa.gov. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Rachael Wadsworth, NMFS, West Coast Region, 562–980–4036. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background on the IATTC The United States is a member of the IATTC, which was established under the 1949 Convention for the Establishment of an Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission. In 2003, the IATTC adopted the Convention for the Strengthening of the IATTC Established by the 1949 Convention between the United States of America and the Republic of Costa Rica (Antigua Convention). The Antigua Convention entered into force in 2010. The United States acceded to the Antigua Convention on February 24, 2016. The full text of the Antigua Convention is available at: https://www.iattc.org/ PDFFiles2/Antigua_Convention_Jun_ 2003.pdf. The IATTC consists of 21 member nations and four cooperating nonmember nations and facilitates scientific research into, as well as the conservation and management of, tuna and tuna-like species in the IATTC Convention Area. The IATTC Convention Area is defined as waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean (EPO) within the area bounded by the west coast of the Americas and by 50° N. latitude, 150° W. longitude, and 50° S. latitude. The IATTC maintains a scientific research and fishery monitoring program and regularly assesses the status of tuna, sharks, and billfish stocks in the EPO to determine appropriate E:\FR\FM\11OCP1.SGM 11OCP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 196 (Tuesday, October 11, 2016)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 70074-70080]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-24477]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Parts 223 and 224

[Docket No. 160719634-6838-01]
RIN 0648-XE756


Listing Endangered or Threatened Species; 90-Day Finding on a 
Petition To List the Pacific Bluefin Tuna as Threatened or Endangered 
Under the Endangered Species Act

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

ACTION: 90-day petition finding, request for information, and 
initiation of status review.

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

SUMMARY: We, NMFS, announce a 90-day finding on a petition to list the 
Pacific bluefin tuna (Thunnus orientalis) as a threatened or endangered 
species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and to designate 
critical habitat concurrently with the listing. We find that the 
petition presents substantial scientific information indicating the 
petitioned action may be warranted. We will conduct a status review of 
the Pacific bluefin tuna to determine whether the petitioned action is 
warranted. To ensure that the status review is comprehensive, we are 
soliciting scientific and commercial information pertaining to this 
species.

DATES: Scientific and commercial information pertinent to the 
petitioned action must be received by December 12, 2016.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by 
``Pacific Bluefin Tuna Petition (NOAA-NMFS-2016-0100),'' by either of 
the following methods:
     Federal eRulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D= NOAA-NMFS-2016-0100, click the ``Comment Now'' icon, 
complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.
     Mail or hand-delivery: Protected Resources Division, West 
Coast Region,

[[Page 70075]]

NMFS, 1201 NE Lloyd Blvd., Suite #1100, Portland, OR 97232.
    Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other 
address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, 
may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the 
public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on http://www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business 
information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily 
by the sender will be publicly accessible. We will accept anonymous 
comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you wish to remain 
anonymous).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Electronic copies of the petition and 
other materials are available on the NMFS West Coast Region Web site at 
www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov. Please direct other inquiries to 
Scott Rumsey, NMFS West Coast Region at scott.rumsey@noaa.gov, (503) 
872-2791; or Marta Nammack, NMFS Office of Protected Resources at 
marta.nammack@noaa.gov, (301) 427-8469.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    On June 20, 2016, we received a petition from the Center for 
Biological Diversity (CBD), on behalf of 13 other co-petitioners, to 
list the Pacific bluefin tuna as threatened or endangered under the ESA 
and to designate critical habitat concurrently with its listing. The 
petition includes general biological information about Pacific bluefin 
tuna including its taxonomy, range and distribution, the physical and 
biological characteristics of its habitat, population status and 
trends, and factors contributing to the species' decline. CBD contends 
that ``Pacific bluefin tuna are severely overfished, and overfishing 
continues, making extinction a very real risk.'' The petitioner 
presents information in the petition on the abundance of the species 
relative to unfished levels and the fishing rates from 2011-2013 which 
``were up to three times higher than commonly used reference point for 
overfishing.'' The petitioner also presents information on the level of 
harvest of juvenile Pacific bluefin tuna and what it characterizes as a 
species in which ``reproduction is currently supported by just a few 
adult age classes that will soon disappear due to old age.'' Copies of 
the petition are available upon request (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION 
CONTACT).

ESA Statutory, Regulatory, Policy Provisions, and Evaluation Framework

    Section 4(b)(3)(A) of the ESA of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 
et seq.), requires, to the maximum extent practicable, that within 90 
days of receipt of a petition to list a species as threatened or 
endangered, the Secretary of Commerce make a finding on whether that 
petition presents substantial scientific or commercial information 
indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted, and to promptly 
publish such finding in the Federal Register (16 U.S.C. 1533(b)(3)(A)). 
When it is found that substantial scientific or commercial information 
in a petition indicates the petitioned action may be warranted (a 
``positive 90-day finding''), we are required to promptly commence a 
review of the status of the species concerned during which we will 
conduct a comprehensive review of the best available scientific and 
commercial information. In such cases, we conclude the review with a 
finding as to whether, in fact, the petitioned action is warranted 
within 12 months of receipt of the petition. Because the finding at the 
12-month stage is based on a more thorough review of the available 
information, as compared to the narrow scope of review at the 90-day 
stage, a positive 90-day finding does not prejudge the outcome of the 
status review.
    Under the ESA, a listing determination may address a species, which 
is defined to also include subspecies and, for any vertebrate species, 
any DPS that interbreeds when mature (16 U.S.C. 1532(16)). A joint 
NMFS-U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) (jointly, ``the Services'') 
policy clarifies the agencies' interpretation of the phrase ``distinct 
population segment'' for the purposes of listing, delisting, and 
reclassifying a species under the ESA (61 FR 4722; February 7, 1996). A 
species, subspecies, or DPS is ``endangered'' if it is in danger of 
extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range, and 
``threatened'' if it is likely to become endangered within the 
foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range 
(ESA sections 3(6) and 3(20), respectively, 16 U.S.C. 1532(6) and 
(20)). Pursuant to the ESA and our implementing regulations, we 
determine whether species are threatened or endangered based on any one 
or a combination of the following five section 4(a)(1) factors: (A) The 
present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of 
habitat or range; (B) overutilization for commercial, recreational, 
scientific, or educational purposes; (C) disease or predation; (D) 
inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; and (E) any other natural 
or manmade factors affecting the species' existence (16 U.S.C. 
1533(a)(1), 50 CFR 424.11(c)).
    ESA-implementing regulations issued jointly by the Services (50 CFR 
424.14(b)) define ``substantial information'' in the context of 
reviewing a petition to list, delist, or reclassify a species as the 
amount of information that would lead a reasonable person to believe 
that the measure proposed in the petition may be warranted. In 
evaluating whether substantial information is contained in a petition, 
the Secretary must consider whether the petition: (1) Clearly indicates 
the administrative measure recommended and gives the scientific and any 
common name of the species involved; (2) contains detailed narrative 
justification for the recommended measure, describing, based on 
available information, past and present numbers and distribution of the 
species involved and any threats faced by the species; (3) provides 
information regarding the status of the species over all or a 
significant portion of its range; and (4) is accompanied by the 
appropriate supporting documentation in the form of bibliographic 
references, reprints of pertinent publications, copies of reports or 
letters from authorities, and maps (50 CFR 424.14(b)(2)).
    At the 90-day finding stage, we evaluate the petitioners' request 
based upon the information in the petition including its references and 
the information readily available in our files. We do not conduct 
additional research, and we do not solicit information from parties 
outside the agency to help us in evaluating the petition. We will 
accept the petitioners' sources and characterizations of the 
information presented if they appear to be based on accepted scientific 
principles, unless we have specific information in our files that 
indicates the petition's information is incorrect, unreliable, 
obsolete, or otherwise irrelevant to the requested action. Information 
that is susceptible to more than one interpretation or that is 
contradicted by other available information will not be dismissed at 
the 90-day finding stage, so long as it is reliable and a reasonable 
person would conclude it supports the petitioners' assertions. In other 
words, conclusive information indicating the species may meet the ESA's 
requirements for listing is not required to make a positive 90- day 
finding. We will not conclude that a lack of specific information alone 
necessitates a negative 90-day finding if a reasonable person would 
conclude

[[Page 70076]]

that the unknown information itself suggests the species may be in 
danger of extinction or likely to become so within the foreseeable 
future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.
    To make a 90-day finding on a petition to list a species, we 
evaluate whether the petition presents substantial scientific or 
commercial information indicating the subject species may be either 
threatened or endangered, as defined by the ESA. First, we evaluate 
whether the information presented in the petition, along with the 
information readily available in our files, indicates that the 
petitioned entity constitutes a ``species'' eligible for listing under 
the ESA. Next, we evaluate whether the information indicates that the 
species faces an extinction risk that is cause for concern; this may be 
indicated in information expressly discussing the species' status and 
trends, or in information describing impacts and threats to the 
species. We evaluate any information on specific demographic factors 
pertinent to evaluating extinction risk for the species (e.g., 
population abundance and trends, productivity, population spatial 
structure and connectivity, age structure, sex ratio, diversity, 
current and historical range), and the potential contribution of 
identified demographic risks to extinction risk for the species. We 
then evaluate the potential links between these demographic risks and 
the causative impacts and threats identified in section 4(a)(1).
    Information presented on impacts or threats should be specific to 
the species and should reasonably suggest that one or more of these 
factors may be operative threats that act or have acted on the species 
to the point that it may warrant protection under the ESA. Broad 
statements about generalized threats to the species, or identification 
of factors that could negatively impact a species, do not constitute 
substantial information indicating that listing may be warranted. We 
look for information indicating that not only is the particular species 
exposed to a factor, but that the species may be responding in a 
negative fashion. We then assess the potential significance of that 
negative response.
    Many petitions identify risk classifications made by 
nongovernmental organizations, such as the International Union on the 
Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the American Fisheries Society, or 
NatureServe, as evidence of extinction risk for a species. Risk 
classifications by such organizations or made under other Federal or 
state statutes may be informative, but such classification alone will 
not alone provide sufficient basis for a positive 90-day finding under 
the ESA. For example, as explained by NatureServe, their assessments of 
a species' conservation status do ``not constitute a recommendation by 
NatureServe for listing under the U.S. Endangered Species Act'' because 
NatureServe assessments ``have different criteria, evidence 
requirements, purposes and taxonomic coverage than government lists of 
endangered and threatened species, and therefore these two types of 
lists should not be expected to coincide'' (http://www.natureserve.org/prodServices/pdf/NatureServeStatusAssessmentsListing-Dec%202008.pdf). 
Additionally, species classifications under IUCN and the ESA are not 
equivalent; data standards, criteria used to evaluate species, and 
treatment of uncertainty are not necessarily the same. Thus, when a 
petition cites such classifications, we will evaluate the source of 
information that the classification is based upon in light of the ESA's 
standards on extinction risk and threats discussed above.

Distribution and Life History of the Pacific Bluefin Tuna

    Pacific bluefin tuna are a pelagic, highly migratory species 
occupying coastal and open ocean areas up to depths of 200 meters (m). 
They are primarily found in subtropical and temperate waters of the 
North Pacific Ocean, ranging from East Asia to the west coast of North 
America. In the western Pacific they are most abundant between Sakhalin 
Island and the Philippines, but have been reported as far south as 
Australia and New Zealand. In the central part of the Pacific Ocean, 
Pacific bluefin tuna have been caught in fisheries both north and south 
of the equator (Bayliff 1994). In the eastern Pacific, they have been 
documented from Alaska to South America, but they typically range from 
the southern tip of Baja California, Mexico, and Point Conception, 
California (Bayliff 1994).
    Of the bony fishes, tuna are unique for their high metabolic rate 
and in their ability to maintain body temperatures several degrees 
higher than the surrounding water (Collette & Nauen 1983). The Atlantic 
and Pacific bluefin tuna were once considered to be subspecies of the 
Northern bluefin tuna, but are now considered separate species on the 
basis of genetic and morphological differences (Collette 1999). Pacific 
bluefin tuna are one of the cold-water group of tunas which have been 
able to extend their feeding ranges into the colder ocean waters of the 
temperate zone (Collette 1999).
    Pacific bluefin tuna spawning occurs in two areas of the western 
Pacific. They spawn between the Philippines and the Ryukyu Islands in 
April, May, and June, and in Japanese coastal waters of the Sea of 
Japan in July and August (Schaefer 2001; Tanaka et al., 2007). Pacific 
bluefin tuna are iteroparous spawners, meaning they may spawn more than 
once in their lifetime. They reach sexual maturity between the ages of 
3 and 5, and can live to be at least 20 years old. Research indicates 
that fish spawning between Japan and the Philippines are primarily 5 
year olds, while fish spawning in the Sea of Japan are mostly 3 year 
olds (ISC 2014).
    Pacific bluefin tuna tend to migrate north along the Japanese and 
Korean coasts in the summer, and south in the winter (Inagake et al., 
2001; Itoh et al., 2003; Yoon et al., 2012). A variable but small 
portion of the age 1-3 Pacific bluefin tuna migrate eastward across the 
North Pacific Ocean each year, spending up to several years as 
juveniles off the coast of North America before returning to the 
western Pacific Ocean to spawn (Inagake et al., 2001). The trans-
Pacific migration is believed to take 1.5-2.0 months (Baumann et al., 
2015) and their migration route tends to be within the subtropical zone 
(Whitlock et al., 2012). In the eastern Pacific they are found 
primarily off the coast of Mexico, California, and Oregon (Domeier et 
al., 2005). While in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, Pacific bluefin tuna 
exhibit a seasonal pattern of northerly migrations in the summer and 
fall, returning to Baja California in the winter months (Kitagawa et 
al., 2007).
    Pacific bluefin tuna fisheries in the eastern Pacific are managed 
by the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC), and fisheries 
in the western and central Pacific are managed by the Western and 
Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). Five countries harvest 
these fish but Japan catches the majority of Pacific bluefin tuna, 
followed by Mexico, the United States, Korea and Chinese Taipei (ISC 
2014). Based on genetic information and spawning distribution, the 
Pacific bluefin tuna is managed as a single stock. Research surveys 
have caught larval, postlarval, and early juvenile Pacific bluefin tuna 
in the western Pacific Ocean, but not in the eastern Pacific Ocean, 
leading to the conclusion that there is a single stock of Pacific 
bluefin tuna in the North Pacific Ocean (IATTC 2014).

Analysis of Petition and Information Readily Available in NMFS Files

    The petition contains information on the species, including the 
taxonomy,

[[Page 70077]]

species description, geographic distribution, habitat, population 
status and trends, and factors contributing to the species' decline. 
According to the petition, four of the five causal factors in section 
4(a)(1) of the ESA are adversely affecting the continued existence of 
the Pacific bluefin tuna: (A) The present or threatened destruction, 
modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range; (B) 
overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes; (D) inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; 
and (E) other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued 
existence.
    In the following sections, we evaluate the information provided in 
the petition, as well as other pertinent information readily available 
in our files, to determine if the petition presents substantial 
scientific or commercial information indicating that an endangered or 
threatened listing may be warranted as a result of any of the ESA 
section 4(a)(1) factors. If it does, then we will make a positive 
finding on the petition and conduct a review of the species range-wide. 
Below, we summarize the information presented in the petition and in 
our files on the status of the species and the ESA section 4(a)(1) 
factors that may be affecting the species' risk of extinction, and 
determine whether a reasonable person would conclude that an endangered 
or threatened listing may be warranted as a result of any of these 
factors.

Pacific Bluefin Tuna Status and Trends

    The International Scientific Committee (ISC), the scientific body 
that informs the Northern Committee to the WCPFC, uses fishery-specific 
catch-and-effort data from Japanese and Taiwanese fisheries to derive 
estimates of abundance for Pacific bluefin tuna. The ISC models 
generate annual estimates of total biomass, spawning stock biomass, and 
recruitment for each year beginning with 1952. Although there have been 
fisheries for Pacific bluefin tuna since at least the beginning of the 
20th century in the eastern Pacific Ocean, and for several centuries in 
the western Pacific Ocean, the data prior to 1952, especially from the 
western Pacific Ocean, are of relatively poor quality (ISC 2016). For 
this reason, abundance estimates for Pacific bluefin tuna begin with 
the 1952 fishing season.
    The ISC uses an age-structured model, based on catch, size-
composition, and catch-per-unit of effort data, to derive estimates of 
biomass. Catch of Pacific bluefin tuna is recorded as metric tons of 
fish and biomass is likewise expressed in metric tons. The ISC model 
indicates that although the total biomass fluctuated throughout the 
assessment period (1952 through 2014), it began to steadily decline in 
1996, leveling off in 2010 (ISC 2016). During the stock assessment 
period, the total biomass reached a peak of 209,075 metric tons in 1960 
and a low of 29,347 in 1983. The estimated total biomass of Pacific 
bluefin tuna for 2014 is 35,817 metric tons.
    The petition and the information in our files indicate that the 
abundance of Pacific bluefin tuna which are old enough to spawn 
(spawning stock biomass) has diminished to just 2.6 percent of its 
unfished biomass and less than one-third of what it was 20 years ago 
(ISC 2016). The unfished spawning stock biomass can roughly be defined 
as the theoretical spawning stock biomass without fishing and assuming 
no environmental or density-dependent effects. The ISC estimated the 
spawning stock biomass for the year 2014 was 16,557 metric tons and the 
unfished biomass to be approximately 636,807.
    The ISC also estimates the productivity to be relatively stable 
throughout the modeling period. Recruitment estimates for the most 
recent years can be highly uncertain due to limited information on the 
cohorts. However, the ISC (2016) estimated that recruitment in 2014 was 
relatively low and the average for the last 5 years appears to be below 
the long-term average. The petitioners assert that 97.6 percent of all 
Pacific bluefin tuna caught are between 0 and 2 years of age and that 
the population is supported by just a few adult age classes. The 
petitioners further assert that along with the dwindling number of 
adults, in 2014, the Pacific bluefin tuna population produced the 
second lowest number of juvenile fish since 1952.

Analysis of ESA Section 4(a)(1) Factors

The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment of 
Its Habitat or Range

    The petitioners contend that Pacific bluefin tuna are at risk of 
extinction throughout their range due to water pollution, marine 
debris, oil and gas development, wind energy development, and prey 
depletion. The petitioners assert that Pacific bluefin tuna habitat is 
threatened by pollution in the form of mercury, persistent organic 
pollutants, plastics, radiation nuclides from Fukushima, oil spills, 
oil and gas development related waste products, and waste from 
aquaculture projects. The petitioners note that a recent study by 
Lowenstein et al., (2010) found mercury levels of bluefin tuna samples 
collected from restaurants and supermarkets exceed those permitted by 
the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2000), Health Canada (2007) and 
the European Commission (2008). Bluefin tuna samples in the cited study 
were from Atlantic, Pacific, and Southern bluefin tuna, with over half 
of the samples from Atlantic bluefin tuna. The petition concludes that 
because of the relatively high mercury content compared to other fish 
species, Pacific bluefin tuna are likely susceptible to physiological 
impacts.
    Petitioners also raised concerns about persistent organic 
pollutants. Persistent organic pollutants are absorbed by organisms at 
the base of the food chain and accumulated in the fatty tissues of 
consumers, becoming more concentrated as they work their way up the 
food chain. This process is known as biomagnification and can pose 
risks to predators, like bluefin tuna, which are at the top of the food 
chain. The petitioners cite various examples of studies that have 
documented biomagnification in similar species and the risks to the 
health of the organism. As an example, studies of Atlantic bluefin tuna 
in the Mediterranean found unusually high levels of female proteins in 
males of the species (Storelli et al., 2008). Researchers believe 
polychlorinated biphenyls and organochlorine pesticides can mimic 
endogenous hormones, disrupt reproductive functions and cause 
developmental abnormalities (such as intersexes) in fish (De Metrio et 
al., 2003).
    The petitioners also raise concerns about pollution from 
aquaculture projects, calling attention to a proposed project off the 
coast of San Diego, California. Waste from aquaculture operations can 
include excess fish feed, dead fish, fish feces, and chemicals used to 
control disease and parasites (e.g. antibiotics and pesticides). 
Excessive fish feed, dead fish, and fish feces can lead to elevated 
levels of nitrogen and phosphorous which in turn can cause oxygen 
depletion and harmful algal blooms in nearby waters. The petitioners do 
not provide details about how the chemicals used in aquaculture may 
affect the health of Pacific bluefin tuna in the wild.
    The petitioners assert that Pacific bluefin tuna may be susceptible 
to entanglement by marine debris and ingestion of plastic particles. 
Most of the reports of fish entangled in marine debris are from lost 
fishing gear (NOAA 2014). The petitioners note that because of the 
properties of plastic, small plastic pellets tend to accumulate 
persistent organic pollutants and contribute to the

[[Page 70078]]

biomagnification of these pollutants in the pelagic food web.
    Oil and gas development can affect water quality through acute and 
chronic spills and discharge of produced water and drilling muds. The 
petitioners assert that the direct impacts of oil spills include 
behavioral alteration, suppressed growth, induced or inhibited enzyme 
systems and other molecular effects, physiological responses, reduced 
immunity to disease and parasites, histopathological lesions and other 
cellular effects, tainted flesh, and mortality (Holdway 2002). The 
petitioners further assert that oil spills can exert indirect effects 
on wildlife through reduction of key prey species, impacting wildlife 
species and ecosystems for decades (Peterson et al., 2003). The 
petitioners assert that produced water and drilling muds contain toxic 
pollutants such as mercury, lead, chromium, barium, arsenic, cadmium, 
and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (MMS 2007). Furthermore, the 
petitioners note that some of the chemicals added to fracking fluids 
can have adverse effects on aquatic species and other wildlife (Colborn 
et al., 2011). In addition to water quality concerns, the petitioner 
asserts that oil and gas exploration and development activities produce 
underwater noise which degrades Pacific bluefin tuna habitat. These 
activities include seismic surveying, drilling, offshore structure 
emplacement, offshore structure removal, and production related 
activities, including ship and helicopter activity for providing 
supplies to the drilling rigs and platforms.
    The petitioners briefly describe the potential harm from wind-
energy development, citing interference with migration, feeding, and 
collisions or entanglements during construction and operation as the 
primary issues.
    The final issue raised by the petitioners related to Pacific 
bluefin tuna habitat is prey depletion. The petitioners assert that 
commercial fisheries for forage fish and squid have diminished the 
quality of Pacific bluefin tuna habitat in the California Current Large 
Marine Ecosystem. The petitioners further note that the fishery for 
market squid has increased five-fold in the last three decades 
(Vojkovich 1998; CDFW 2014) and the fishery for sardines was recently 
closed because of a 91 percent decline in abundance since 2007 (Hill et 
al., 2015). Research results on Pacific bluefin tuna foraging ecology 
demonstrate that their diet varies across years (PFMC 2016).

Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or 
Educational Purposes

    The petitioners assert that the primary threat to the Pacific 
bluefin tuna is from overutilization by commercial and recreational 
fisheries. A common practice in fisheries management is to define 
biological reference points for abundance of adult fish and limit 
harvest levels to maintain the stock at or above the biological 
reference points. The fisheries commissions have not established 
biological reference points for Pacific bluefin tuna. However, the ISC 
compared the 2011-2013 estimated fisheries mortalities to standard 
reference points (targets for fishing effort and abundance of the 
population) and found that if those points were used to manage Pacific 
bluefin tuna, overfishing would be occurring or just at the threshold 
and the stock would be considered overfished (ISC 2016). The management 
implications of the most recent stock assessment are that the stock is 
at very low levels and the fishing mortality is higher than any 
reasonable reference point (Maunder 2016).
    The petitioners assert that the vast majority of the Pacific 
bluefin tuna catch are juvenile fish and the population is supported by 
a dwindling number of adult tuna. According to the petitioners, nearly 
98 percent of all Pacific bluefin tuna caught are between 0 and 2 years 
of age and the population is supported by just a few adult age classes. 
Furthermore, the majority of Pacific bluefin tuna landed in the Western 
Pacific are juveniles caught in or around their nursery grounds. In the 
Eastern Pacific, 90 percent of the catch is estimated to be 1 to 3 
years of age (IATTC 2014).
    The petitioners also assert that industrial fishing fleets are 
targeting adult Pacific bluefin on their spawning grounds, and that 
this is widely recognized as an unsustainable practice. In support of 
this assertion, the petitioners provide information about fisheries 
management for Atlantic bluefin tuna. The International Commission for 
the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas established regulations in 1982 
which prohibit directed fishing on bluefin tuna in their Gulf of Mexico 
spawning grounds.
    The petitioners assert that along with the dwindling number of 
adults, in 2014, the Pacific bluefin tuna population produced the 
second lowest number of juvenile fish since 1952. The ISC (2016) 
estimated that recruitment in 2014 was relatively low and the average 
for the last 5 years appears to be below the long-term average. Two out 
of the last three recruitments are the lowest levels observed since 
1980 (Maunder 2016).

Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

    The petitioners assert that the existing international, regional, 
and national regulations do not adequately protect the Pacific bluefin 
tuna. The regional fisheries management organizations, the IATTC and 
the WCPFC have adopted management measures for Pacific bluefin tuna, 
but these measures may not be adequate to end overfishing. The 
petitioner's primary concern with the existing regulatory mechanisms is 
the absence of science-based biological reference points and a 
mandatory limit on the aggregate international catch of Pacific bluefin 
tuna. As noted above, the petitioners contend that Pacific bluefin tuna 
are at or below what should be considered a threshold for overfished.
    The IATTC staff recommended that commercial catches in 2014 be 
limited to an amount below 3,154 metric tons, which was the estimated 
commercial catch in the Eastern Pacific in 2013, and that the 
noncommercial catches in 2014 be limited below 221 metric tons, which 
is based on the same method that was applied to commercial catch to 
determine that recommended limit (IATTC 2014a). The petitioners note 
that instead of using common scientific reference points, the IATTC 
staff recommended catch limits based on the previous year's total 
catch. The petitioners also note that despite recommendations from 
staff, the IATTC decided to set total commercial catches for 2015 and 
2016 at 6,600 metric tons, for an effective annual catch of 3,300 
metric tons in each year.
    In 2014, WCPFC adopted a rebuilding plan designed to rebuild the 
stock to the historical median of 42,592 metric tons within 10 years 
(WCPFC 2014a). Estimated catches of Pacific bluefin tuna were high from 
1929 to 1940 with a peak catch of approximately 47,635 metric tons in 
1935 (ISC 2014). However, the WCPFC uses the year 1952 as the first 
year in its calculations for the historical median. The petitioners 
argue that the chosen historical median equates to just 6.4 percent of 
the historical unfished level, well below the commonly recommended 
rebuilding target of 20-40 percent of unfished levels for species such 
as bluefin tuna (Restrepo et al., 1998).
    The petitioners assert that U.S. regulations for domestic Pacific 
bluefin tuna fisheries are not adequate to prevent extinction. They 
argue that the United States has not taken adequate

[[Page 70079]]

steps to prevent overfishing and to rebuild Pacific bluefin tuna. The 
petitioners note that for the 2012 and 2013 fishing seasons, NMFS 
implemented IATTC recommendations for commercial fisheries capping 
Pacific bluefin tuna annual catch at 500 metric tons--an amount above 
any U.S. catches since 2000. The petitioners also note that the annual 
catch limit for 2015 and 2016, a combined limit of 600 metric tons for 
both years, is more than the U.S. commercial fleet has caught in any 2-
year period since 2002.
    Since 2010, U.S. recreational catch has been significantly higher 
than U.S. commercial catch in all but one year, and accounts for the 
majority of the U.S. landings. In recent years, NMFS reduced the bag 
limit for recreational fisheries from 10 to 2 fish per day. The 
petitioners argue that the bag limit does not provide an absolute limit 
on recreational catch because (1) the fishery is open access, meaning 
there is no limit on the number of fishermen who can participate in the 
fishery, and (2) there is no limit on the number of trips each 
fisherman can take. Therefore, they feel the bag limits do not provide 
a reliable mechanism for limiting recreational catch and preventing 
overfishing.

Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence

    The petition contends that climate change and its associated ocean 
impacts threaten the continued existence of Pacific bluefin tuna. 
Climate change is increasing ocean temperatures and surface ocean 
acidity, and decreasing dissolved oxygen levels. Water temperature is 
believed to be one of the factors which influence spawning success of 
Pacific bluefin tuna. The petitioners assert that climate change and 
its associated influence on the distribution of ocean temperatures may 
disrupt both migration and spawning success for Pacific bluefin tuna. 
The success of Pacific bluefin tuna spawning and hatching, as well as 
larval survival, are believed to be closely linked to water 
temperature. The petitioners note that Kimura et al. (2010) found the 
optimal temperature range for Pacific bluefin tuna larval survival to 
be 24 to 28 degrees Celsius, and an increase of just 3 degrees above 
this range to result in an immediate rise in mortality rate. The 
petitioners also assert that climate change may also reduce prey 
availability for Pacific bluefin tuna, noting that climate-associated 
ecosystem changes have reduced productivity in the last half-century in 
the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem (Black et al., 2014).
    The petitioners assert that although research on ocean 
acidification's direct effects on tuna is in its infancy, preliminary 
experiments hatching yellowfin tuna eggs in ocean water of varying pH, 
including current and predicted near future ocean pH (6.9, 7.3, 7.7, 
and 8.1), showed that decreasing pH (i.e., acidification) significantly 
increased hours until complete hatching (Bromhead et al., 2013; Frommel 
et al., 2016). The petitioners also cite research on other species 
which indicate that decreasing pH can lead to loss of the senses of 
sight, smell, and touch in fishes.
    The petitioners assert that climate change will decrease dissolved 
oxygen levels in the ocean and influence the range of suitable habitat 
for Pacific bluefin tuna. The petitioners also assert that scientists 
have already documented reduced oxygen levels in Pacific bluefin tuna 
habitat--in waters off Japan, and the California Current (Bograd et 
al., 2008; Emerson et al., 2004; McClatchie et al., 2010).

Petition Finding

    After reviewing the information contained in the petition, as well 
as information readily available in our files, and based on the above 
analysis, we conclude the petition presents substantial scientific 
information indicating the petitioned action of listing the Pacific 
bluefin tuna as threatened or endangered may be warranted. Therefore, 
in accordance with section 4(b)(3)(B) of the ESA and NMFS' implementing 
regulations (50 CFR 424.14(b)(2)), we will commence a status review of 
the species. During our status review, we will first determine whether 
the species is in danger of extinction (endangered) or likely to become 
so (threatened) throughout all or a significant portion of its range. 
Within 12 months of the receipt of the petition (June 20, 2017), we 
will make a finding as to whether listing the species as endangered or 
threatened is warranted as required by section 4(b)(3)(B) of the ESA.

Information Solicited

    As a result of this 90-day finding, we commence a status review of 
the Pacific bluefin tuna to determine whether listing the species is 
warranted. To ensure that our review of Pacific bluefin tuna is 
informed by the best available scientific and commercial information, 
we are opening a 60-day public comment period to solicit information to 
support our status review and 12-month finding.
    Specifically, we request information regarding: (1) Species 
abundance; (2) species productivity; (3) species distribution or 
population spatial structure; (4) patterns of phenotypic, genotypic, 
and life history diversity; (5) habitat conditions and associated 
limiting factors and threats; (6) ongoing or planned efforts to protect 
and restore the species and their habitats; (7) information on the 
adequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms, whether protections are 
being implemented and whether they are proving effective in conserving 
the species; (8) data concerning the status and trends of identified 
limiting factors or threats; (9) information on targeted harvest 
(commercial and recreational) and bycatch of the species; (10) other 
new information, data, or corrections including, but not limited to, 
taxonomic or nomenclatural changes and improved analytical methods for 
evaluating extinction risk; and (11) information concerning the impacts 
of environmental variability and climate change on survival, 
recruitment, distribution, and/or extinction risk.
    In addition to the above requested information, we are interested 
in any information concerning protective efforts that have not yet been 
fully implemented or demonstrated effectiveness. Our consideration of 
conservation measures, regulatory mechanisms, and other protective 
efforts will be guided by the Services ``Policy for Evaluation of 
Conservation Efforts When Making Listing Decisions'' (PECE Policy; 68 
FR 15100; March 28, 2003). The PECE Policy establishes criteria to 
ensure the consistent and adequate evaluation of formalized 
conservation efforts when making listing decisions under the ESA. This 
policy may also guide the development of conservation efforts that 
sufficiently improve a species' status so as to make listing the 
species as threatened or endangered unnecessary. Under the PECE Policy 
the adequacy of conservation efforts is evaluated in terms of the 
certainty of their implementation, and the certainty of their 
effectiveness. Criteria for evaluating the certainty of implementation 
include whether: The necessary resources available; the necessary 
authority is in place; an agreement formalized (i.e., are regulatory 
and procedural mechanisms in place); there is a schedule for completion 
and evaluation; for voluntary measures, incentives to ensure necessary 
participation are in place; and there is agreement of all necessary 
parties to the measure or plan. Criteria for evaluating the certainty 
of effectiveness include whether the

[[Page 70080]]

measure or plan: includes a clear description of the factors for 
decline to be addressed and how they will be reduced; establishes 
specific conservation objectives; identifies necessary steps to reduce 
threats; includes quantifiable performance measures for monitoring 
compliance and effectiveness; employs principles of adaptive 
management; and is certain to improve the species' status at the time 
of listing determination. We request that any information submitted 
with respect to conservation measures, regulatory mechanisms, or other 
protective efforts, that have yet to be implemented or show 
effectiveness, explicitly address the criteria in the PECE policy.
    We request that all information be accompanied by: (1) Supporting 
documentation such as maps, bibliographic references, or reprints of 
pertinent publications; and (2) the submitter's name, address, and any 
association, institution, or business that the person represents.

References Cited

    The complete citations for the references used in this document can 
be obtained by contacting NMFS (See FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT) or 
on our Web page at: www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov.

    Authority: The authority for this action is the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973, as amended (16. U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

    Dated: September 29, 2016.
Samuel D. Rauch, III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2016-24477 Filed 10-7-16; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P