Taking and Importing Marine Mammals; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Geophysical Surveys in the Gulf of Mexico, 92788-92789 [2016-30492]

Download as PDF 92788 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 244 / Tuesday, December 20, 2016 / Notices federal sensitive (unclassified) information systems are undertaken pursuant to specific responsibilities assigned to NIST by Section 20 of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Act (15 U.S.C. 278g–3), as amended. Kevin Kimball, NIST Chief of Staff. [FR Doc. 2016–30615 Filed 12–19–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XF065 Taking and Importing Marine Mammals; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Geophysical Surveys in the Gulf of Mexico National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; receipt of revised application for marine mammal incidental take regulations (ITRs); request for comments and information; extension of public comment period. AGENCY: NMFS has received a revised application for ITRs from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), on behalf of oil and gas industry operators. The specified activity considered in the application is geophysical survey activity conducted in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM), over the course of five years from the date of issuance. Pursuant to regulations implementing the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), NMFS is announcing receipt of BOEM’s request for the development of regulations governing the incidental taking of marine mammals. NMFS invites the public to provide information, suggestions, and comments on BOEM’s application. The original notice announcing receipt of the revised application (81 FR 88664; December 8, 2016) indicated that comments and information must be received no later than January 9, 2017, which allowed 30 days for public input. We subsequently received a request to extend the comment period by a period of 14 days and have granted that request. mstockstill on DSK3G9T082PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: Comments and information must be received no later than January 23, 2017. DATES: Comments on the application should be addressed to Jolie Harrison, Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of ADDRESSES: VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:36 Dec 19, 2016 Jkt 241001 Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. Physical comments should be sent to 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910 and electronic comments should be sent to ITP.Laws@noaa.gov. Instructions: NMFS is not responsible for comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period. Comments received electronically, including all attachments, must not exceed a 25megabyte file size. Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word or Excel or Adobe PDF file formats only. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted online at www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/ incidental/oilgas.htm without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address) voluntarily submitted by the commenter may be publicly accessible. Do not submit confidential business information or otherwise sensitive or protected information. Ben Laws, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, (301) 427–8401. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Availability Electronic copies of the application and supporting documents may be obtained online at: www.nmfs.noaa.gov/ pr/permits/incidental/oilgas.htm. BOEM has separately released a draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for public review (September 30, 2016; 81 FR 67380). This draft EIS was prepared in order to evaluate the potential significant effects of multiple geological and geophysical activities on the GOM Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act. The document is available online at: www.boem.gov/GOM-G-G-PEIS/. Background Section 101(a)(5)(A) of the MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) directs the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) to allow, upon request, the incidental, but not intentional, taking of small numbers of marine mammals by U.S. citizens who engage in a specified activity (other than commercial fishing) if certain findings are made and regulations are issued. Incidental taking shall be allowed if NMFS finds that the taking will have a negligible impact on the species or stock(s) affected and will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of the species or stock(s) for taking for subsistence uses, and if the PO 00000 Frm 00019 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 permissible methods of taking and requirements pertaining to the mitigation, monitoring and reporting of such taking are set forth. NMFS has defined ‘‘negligible impact’’ in 50 CFR 216.103 as ‘‘an impact resulting from the specified activity that cannot be reasonably expected to, and is not reasonably likely to, adversely affect the species or stock through effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival.’’ Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, the MMPA defines ‘‘harassment’’ as: ‘‘any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance which (i) has the potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild (Level A harassment); or (ii) has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering (Level B harassment).’’ The use of sound sources such as those described in the application (e.g., airgun arrays) may result in the disturbance of marine mammals through disruption of behavioral patterns or may cause auditory injury of marine mammals. Therefore, incidental take authorization under the MMPA is warranted. Summary BOEM was formerly known as the Minerals Management Service (MMS) and, later, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement (BOEMRE). On December 20, 2002, MMS petitioned NMFS for rulemaking under Section 101(a)(5)(A) of the MMPA to authorize take of sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) incidental to conducting geophysical surveys during oil and gas exploration activities in the GOM. On March 3, 2003, NMFS published a notice of receipt of MMS’s application and requested comments and information from the public (68 FR 9991). This comment period was later extended to April 16, 2003 (68 FR 16263). MMS subsequently submitted a revised petition on September 30, 2004, to include a request for incidental take authorization of additional species of marine mammals. On April 18, 2011, BOEMRE submitted a revision to the petition, which incorporated updated information and analyses. NMFS published a notice of receipt of this revised petition on June 14, 2011 (76 FR 34656). In order to incorporate the best available information, BOEM submitted another revision to the petition on March 28, 2016, which was followed on E:\FR\FM\20DEN1.SGM 20DEN1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 244 / Tuesday, December 20, 2016 / Notices October 17, 2016, by a revised version that we have deemed adequate and complete based on our implementing regulations at 50 CFR 216.104. The requested regulations would establish a framework for authorization of incidental take by Level A and Level B harassment through Letters of Authorization (LOAs). Following development of the ITRs, implementation could occur via issuance of LOAs upon request from individual industry applicants planning specific geophysical survey activities. Specified Activities The application describes geophysical survey activity, conducted by industry operators in OCS waters of the GOM within BOEM’s GOM planning areas (i.e., the Western, Central, and Eastern Planning Areas). Geophysical surveys are conducted by industry operators to characterize the shallow and deep structure of the OCS, including the shelf, slope, and deepwater ocean environment, in order to obtain data for hydrocarbon exploration and production, aid in siting oil and gas structures and facilities, identify possible seafloor or shallow-depth geologic hazards, and locate potential archaeological resources and benthic habitats that should be avoided. Deep penetration seismic surveys, used largely for oil and gas exploration and development and involving a vessel or vessels towing an airgun or array of airguns that emit acoustic energy pulses through the overlying water and into the seafloor, are one of the most extensive survey types and are expected to carry the greatest potential for effects to marine mammals. Non-airgun high resolution geophysical surveys are used to detect and monitor geohazards, archaeological resources, and certain types of benthic communities. mstockstill on DSK3G9T082PROD with NOTICES Information Solicited Interested persons may submit information, suggestions, and comments concerning BOEM’s request (see ADDRESSES). NMFS will consider all relevant information, suggestions, and comments related to the request during the development of proposed regulations governing the incidental taking of marine mammals, as appropriate. Dated: December 14, 2016. Donna S. Wieting, Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2016–30492 Filed 12–19–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:36 Dec 19, 2016 Jkt 241001 DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Proposed Information Collection; Comment Request; Southeast Region Permit Family of Forms National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice. AGENCY: The Department of Commerce, as part of its continuing effort to reduce paperwork and respondent burden, invites the general public and other Federal agencies to take this opportunity to comment on proposed and/or continuing information collections, as required by the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) of 1995. SUMMARY: Written comments must be submitted on or before February 21, 2017. DATES: Direct all written comments to Jennifer Jessup, Departmental Paperwork Clearance Officer, Department of Commerce, Room 6616, 14th and Constitution Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20230 (or via the Internet at JJessup@doc.gov). FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Requests for additional information or copies of the information collection instrument and instructions should be directed to Adam Bailey, NMFS Southeast Regional Office (SERO), 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701, phone: 727–824–5305, or email: adam.bailey@noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: ADDRESSES: I. Abstract This request is for a renewal with revisions to the existing reporting requirements approved under the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) Control Number 0648–0205, Southeast Region Permit Family of Forms. The SERO Permits Office administers Federal fishing permits in the United States (U.S.) exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico (Gulf), and South Atlantic under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), 16 U.S.C. 1801. The SERO Permits Office also proposes to revise parts of the current collection-of-information approved under OMB Control Number 0648–0205. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Southeast Region manages the U.S. Federal fisheries in the Caribbean, PO 00000 Frm 00020 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 92789 Gulf, and South Atlantic under the fishery management plans (FMPs) for each region. The regional fishery management councils prepared the FMPs pursuant to the MagnusonStevens Act. The regulations implementing the FMPs, including those that have reporting requirements, are at 50 CFR part 622. The recordkeeping and reporting requirements at 50 CFR part 622 form the basis for this collection of information. The NMFS Southeast Region requests information from fishery participants. This information, upon receipt, results in an increasingly more efficient and accurate database for management and monitoring of the Federal fisheries in the Caribbean, Gulf, and South Atlantic. The SERO Permits Office proposes to revise the collection-of-information approved under OMB Control Number 0648–0205. NMFS proposes to revise the Federal permit applications for Vessels Fishing in the EEZ (Vessel EEZ), Harvest of Aquacultured Live Rock in the EEZ, Vessels Fishing for Wreckfish in the South Atlantic States (Wreckfish), and the Annual Dealer permit. The purpose of revising certain Southeast Region permit application forms is to better comply with National Standard 4 (NS4) of the MagnusonStevens Act, the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) and the Small Business Administration’s regulations implementing the RFA, Executive Order 12898, and the ‘‘fairness and equitable distribution’’ provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, including NS4 and section 303(b)(6). The SERO Permits Office also proposes to split the single application form, Federal Permit Application for the Harvest of Aquacultured Live Rock, into two application forms, Federal Permit Application for New Permit for the Harvest of Aquacultured Live Rock (Aquacultured Live Rock New Permit) and Federal Permit Application to Renew Permit for the Harvest of Aquacultured Live Rock (Aquacultured Live Rock Permit Renewal). The Aquacultured Live Rock New Permit includes the collection of data previously collected via a separate form, Aquaculture Site Evaluation Report, among other revisions. The proposed revisions to establish the Aquacultured Live Rock New Permit application do not affect the time burden for applicants for new sites or new permit holders, but should clarify the application process for most applicants of new sites. The application form for the Aquacultured Live Rock Permit Renewal does not include the Aquaculture Site Evaluation Report; however, the Aquacultured Live E:\FR\FM\20DEN1.SGM 20DEN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 244 (Tuesday, December 20, 2016)]
[Notices]
[Pages 92788-92789]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-30492]


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

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XF065


Taking and Importing Marine Mammals; Taking Marine Mammals 
Incidental to Geophysical Surveys in the Gulf of Mexico

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

ACTION: Notice; receipt of revised application for marine mammal 
incidental take regulations (ITRs); request for comments and 
information; extension of public comment period.

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

SUMMARY: NMFS has received a revised application for ITRs from the 
Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), on behalf of oil and gas 
industry operators. The specified activity considered in the 
application is geophysical survey activity conducted in the Gulf of 
Mexico (GOM), over the course of five years from the date of issuance. 
Pursuant to regulations implementing the Marine Mammal Protection Act 
(MMPA), NMFS is announcing receipt of BOEM's request for the 
development of regulations governing the incidental taking of marine 
mammals. NMFS invites the public to provide information, suggestions, 
and comments on BOEM's application.
    The original notice announcing receipt of the revised application 
(81 FR 88664; December 8, 2016) indicated that comments and information 
must be received no later than January 9, 2017, which allowed 30 days 
for public input. We subsequently received a request to extend the 
comment period by a period of 14 days and have granted that request.

DATES: Comments and information must be received no later than January 
23, 2017.

ADDRESSES: Comments on the application should be addressed to Jolie 
Harrison, Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected 
Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. Physical comments should 
be sent to 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910 and 
electronic comments should be sent to ITP.Laws@noaa.gov.
    Instructions: NMFS is not responsible for comments sent by any 
other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the 
end of the comment period. Comments received electronically, including 
all attachments, must not exceed a 25-megabyte file size. Attachments 
to electronic comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word or Excel or 
Adobe PDF file formats only. All comments received are a part of the 
public record and will generally be posted online at www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental/oilgas.htm without change. All personal 
identifying information (e.g., name, address) voluntarily submitted by 
the commenter may be publicly accessible. Do not submit confidential 
business information or otherwise sensitive or protected information.

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

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Availability

    Electronic copies of the application and supporting documents may 
be obtained online at: www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental/oilgas.htm. BOEM has separately released a draft Programmatic 
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for public review (September 30, 
2016; 81 FR 67380). This draft EIS was prepared in order to evaluate 
the potential significant effects of multiple geological and 
geophysical activities on the GOM Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) 
pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act. The document is 
available online at: www.boem.gov/GOM-G-G-PEIS/.

Background

    Section 101(a)(5)(A) of the MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) directs 
the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) to allow, upon request, the 
incidental, but not intentional, taking of small numbers of marine 
mammals by U.S. citizens who engage in a specified activity (other than 
commercial fishing) if certain findings are made and regulations are 
issued.
    Incidental taking shall be allowed if NMFS finds that the taking 
will have a negligible impact on the species or stock(s) affected and 
will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of the 
species or stock(s) for taking for subsistence uses, and if the 
permissible methods of taking and requirements pertaining to the 
mitigation, monitoring and reporting of such taking are set forth.
    NMFS has defined ``negligible impact'' in 50 CFR 216.103 as ``an 
impact resulting from the specified activity that cannot be reasonably 
expected to, and is not reasonably likely to, adversely affect the 
species or stock through effects on annual rates of recruitment or 
survival.''
    Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, the 
MMPA defines ``harassment'' as: ``any act of pursuit, torment, or 
annoyance which (i) has the potential to injure a marine mammal or 
marine mammal stock in the wild (Level A harassment); or (ii) has the 
potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild 
by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not 
limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or 
sheltering (Level B harassment).''
    The use of sound sources such as those described in the application 
(e.g., airgun arrays) may result in the disturbance of marine mammals 
through disruption of behavioral patterns or may cause auditory injury 
of marine mammals. Therefore, incidental take authorization under the 
MMPA is warranted.

Summary

    BOEM was formerly known as the Minerals Management Service (MMS) 
and, later, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and 
Enforcement (BOEMRE). On December 20, 2002, MMS petitioned NMFS for 
rulemaking under Section 101(a)(5)(A) of the MMPA to authorize take of 
sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) incidental to conducting 
geophysical surveys during oil and gas exploration activities in the 
GOM. On March 3, 2003, NMFS published a notice of receipt of MMS's 
application and requested comments and information from the public (68 
FR 9991). This comment period was later extended to April 16, 2003 (68 
FR 16263). MMS subsequently submitted a revised petition on September 
30, 2004, to include a request for incidental take authorization of 
additional species of marine mammals. On April 18, 2011, BOEMRE 
submitted a revision to the petition, which incorporated updated 
information and analyses. NMFS published a notice of receipt of this 
revised petition on June 14, 2011 (76 FR 34656). In order to 
incorporate the best available information, BOEM submitted another 
revision to the petition on March 28, 2016, which was followed on

[[Page 92789]]

October 17, 2016, by a revised version that we have deemed adequate and 
complete based on our implementing regulations at 50 CFR 216.104.
    The requested regulations would establish a framework for 
authorization of incidental take by Level A and Level B harassment 
through Letters of Authorization (LOAs). Following development of the 
ITRs, implementation could occur via issuance of LOAs upon request from 
individual industry applicants planning specific geophysical survey 
activities.

Specified Activities

    The application describes geophysical survey activity, conducted by 
industry operators in OCS waters of the GOM within BOEM's GOM planning 
areas (i.e., the Western, Central, and Eastern Planning Areas). 
Geophysical surveys are conducted by industry operators to characterize 
the shallow and deep structure of the OCS, including the shelf, slope, 
and deepwater ocean environment, in order to obtain data for 
hydrocarbon exploration and production, aid in siting oil and gas 
structures and facilities, identify possible seafloor or shallow-depth 
geologic hazards, and locate potential archaeological resources and 
benthic habitats that should be avoided.
    Deep penetration seismic surveys, used largely for oil and gas 
exploration and development and involving a vessel or vessels towing an 
airgun or array of airguns that emit acoustic energy pulses through the 
overlying water and into the seafloor, are one of the most extensive 
survey types and are expected to carry the greatest potential for 
effects to marine mammals. Non-airgun high resolution geophysical 
surveys are used to detect and monitor geohazards, archaeological 
resources, and certain types of benthic communities.

Information Solicited

    Interested persons may submit information, suggestions, and 
comments concerning BOEM's request (see ADDRESSES). NMFS will consider 
all relevant information, suggestions, and comments related to the 
request during the development of proposed regulations governing the 
incidental taking of marine mammals, as appropriate.

    Dated: December 14, 2016.
Donna S. Wieting,
Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
[FR Doc. 2016-30492 Filed 12-19-16; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P