Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Rocky Intertidal Monitoring Surveys Along the Oregon and California Coasts, 12568-12575 [2017-04194]

Download as PDF 12568 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 42 / Monday, March 6, 2017 / Notices amendment considers actions to improve program compliance, address non-activated accounts, and authority to retain annual allocation before a quota reduction. Staff will then open the meeting for questions and public comments. The schedule is as follows: Wednesday, March 22, 2017, Webinar at 6 p.m. EST: Public Hearing: Reef Fish Amendment 36A—Modifications to Commercial IFQ Programs https:// attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/ 8308877810229905155. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar. Copies of the public hearing documents can be obtained by calling (813) 348–1630 or visiting www.GulfCouncil.org. Special Accommodations This meeting is physically accessible to people with disabilities. Requests for sign language interpretation or other auxiliary aids should be directed to Kathy Pereira (see ADDRESSES), at least 5 working days prior to the meeting date. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: March 1, 2017. Tracey L. Thompson, Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2017–04295 Filed 3–3–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XF264 Fisheries of the South Atlantic; Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review (SEDAR); Pre-Assessment Webinar for Atlantic Blueline Tilefish; Public Meeting National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice of SEDAR 50 PreAssessment webinar. AGENCY: The SEDAR 50 assessment of the Atlantic stock of Blueline Tilefish will consist of a series of workshops and webinars: Stock ID Work Group Meeting; Data Workshop; Assessment Workshop and Webinars; and a Review Workshop. See SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION. DATES: The SEDAR 50 Pre-Assessment webinar will be held on Friday, March 31, 2017, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:24 Mar 03, 2017 Jkt 241001 ADDRESSES: Meeting address: The meeting will be held via webinar. The webinar is open to members of the public. Those interested in participating should contact Julia Byrd at SEDAR (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT) to request an invitation providing webinar access information. Please request webinar invitations at least 24 hours in advance of each webinar. SEDAR address: South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, 4055 Faber Place Drive, Suite 201, N. Charleston, SC 29405; www.sedarweb.org. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Julia Byrd, SEDAR Coordinator, 4055 Faber Place Drive, Suite 201, North Charleston, SC 29405; phone (843) 571– 4366; email: julia.byrd@safmc.net. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Gulf of Mexico, South Atlantic, and Caribbean Fishery Management Councils, in conjunction with NOAA Fisheries and the Atlantic and Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commissions, have implemented the Southeast Data, Assessment and Review (SEDAR) process, a multi-step method for determining the status of fish stocks in the Southeast Region. SEDAR is a threestep process including: (1) Data Workshop; (2) Assessment Process utilizing a workshop and/or webinars; and (3) Review Workshop. The product of the Data Workshop is a data report which compiles and evaluates potential datasets and recommends which datasets are appropriate for assessment analyses. The product of the Assessment Process is a stock assessment report which describes the fisheries, evaluates the status of the stock, estimates biological benchmarks, projects future population conditions, and recommends research and monitoring needs. The assessment is independently peer reviewed at the Review Workshop. The product of the Review Workshop is a summary documenting panel opinions regarding the strengths and weaknesses of the stock assessment and input data. Participants for SEDAR Workshops are appointed by the Gulf of Mexico, South Atlantic, and Caribbean Fishery Management Councils and NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Office, Highly Migratory Species Management Division, and Southeast Fisheries Science Center. Participants include: data collectors and database managers; stock assessment scientists, biologists, and researchers; constituency representatives including fishermen, environmentalists, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); international experts; and staff of PO 00000 Frm 00036 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Councils, Commissions, and state and federal agencies. The items of discussion at the PreAssessment webinar are as follows: Participants will finalize data recommendations from the Data Workshop and provide early modeling advice. Although non-emergency issues not contained in this agenda may come before this group for discussion, those issues may not be the subject of formal action during this meeting. Action will be restricted to those issues specifically identified in this notice and any issues arising after publication of this notice that require emergency action under section 305(c) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, provided the public has been notified of the intent to take final action to address the emergency. Special Accommodations This meeting is accessible to people with disabilities. Requests for auxiliary aids should be directed to the SAFMC office (see ADDRESSES) at least 10 business days prior to the meeting. Note: The times and sequence specified in this agenda are subject to change. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: March 1, 2017. Tracey L. Thompson, Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2017–04293 Filed 3–3–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XF084 Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Rocky Intertidal Monitoring Surveys Along the Oregon and California Coasts National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; issuance of an incidental harassment authorization. AGENCY: In accordance with the regulations implementing the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) as amended, notification is hereby given that NMFS has issued an incidental harassment authorization (IHA) to the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Study of Coastal Oceans (PISCO) at the University of California Santa Cruz SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\06MRN1.SGM 06MRN1 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 42 / Monday, March 6, 2017 / Notices asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES (UCSC) to incidentally harass, by Level B harassment only, marine mammals during rocky intertidal monitoring surveys. DATES: This Authorization is effective from February 21, 2017 through February 20, 2018. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Robert Pauline, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, (301) 427–8401. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background Sections 101(a)(5)(A) and (D) of the MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) direct the Secretary of Commerce to allow, upon request, the incidental, but not intentional, taking of small numbers of marine mammals by U.S. citizens who engage in a specified activity (other than commercial fishing) within a specified geographical region if certain findings are made and either regulations are issued or, if the taking is limited to harassment, a notice of a proposed authorization is provided to the public for review. Authorization for incidental takings shall be granted if NMFS finds that the taking will have a negligible impact on the species or stock(s), will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of the species or stock(s) for subsistence uses (where relevant), and if the permissible methods of taking, other means of effecting the least practicable impact on the species or stock and its habitat, and requirements pertaining to the mitigation, monitoring and reporting of such takings 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).’’ Summary of Request On September 23, 2016 NMFS received an application from PISCO for the taking of marine mammals incidental to rocky intertidal monitoring surveys along the Oregon and California VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:24 Mar 03, 2017 Jkt 241001 coasts. NMFS determined that the application was adequate and complete on October 9, 2016. NMFS has previously issued four IHAs for this ongoing project (77 FR 72327, December 5, 2012; 78 FR 79403, December 30, 2013; 79 FR 73048, December 9, 2014; 81 FR 7319, February 2, 2016). The research group at UC Santa Cruz operates in collaboration with two largescale marine research programs: PISCO and the Multi-agency Rocky Intertidal Network (MARINe). The research group at UC Santa Cruz (PISCO) is responsible for many of the ongoing rocky intertidal monitoring programs along the Pacific coast. Monitoring occurs at rocky intertidal sites, often large bedrock benches, from the high intertidal to the water’s edge. Long-term monitoring projects include Community Structure Monitoring, Intertidal Biodiversity Surveys, Marine Protected Area Baseline Monitoring, Intertidal Recruitment Monitoring, and Ocean Acidification. Research is conducted throughout the year along the California and Oregon coasts and will continue indefinitely. Most sites are sampled one to two times per year over a 4–6 hour period during a negative low tide series. This IHA is effective for a 12-month period. The following specific aspects of the proposed activities are likely to result in the take of marine mammals: Presence of survey personnel near pinniped haulout sites and unintentional approach of survey personnel towards hauled out pinnipeds. Take, by Level B harassment only, of individuals of California sea lions (Zalophus californianus), harbor seals (Phoca vitulina richardii), and northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris) is anticipated to result from the specified activity. Description of the Specified Activity Overview PISCO requested an IHA to continue rocky intertidal monitoring work that has been ongoing for 20 years. PISCO focuses on understanding the nearshore ecosystems of the U.S. west coast through a number of interdisciplinary collaborations. The program integrates long-term monitoring of ecological and oceanographic processes at dozens of sites with experimental work in the lab and field. A short description of project components is found below. A detailed description of the planned intertidal monitoring project was provided in the Federal Register notice for the proposed IHA (82 FR 3727; January 12, 2017). Since that time, no changes have been made to the planned monitoring activities. Therefore, a detailed PO 00000 Frm 00037 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 12569 description is not provided here. Please refer to that Federal Register notice for the description of the specific activity. Dates and Duration PISCO’s research is conducted throughout the year, but will begin no sooner than February 21, 2017 and end on February 20, 2018. Most sites are sampled one to two times per year over a 1-day period (4–6 hours per site) during a negative low tide series. Due to the large number of research sites, scheduling constraints, the necessity for negative low tides and favorable weather/ocean conditions, exact survey dates are variable and difficult to predict. Some sampling may occur in all months. Specified Geographic Region Sampling sites occur along the California and Oregon coasts. Community Structure Monitoring sites range from Ecola State Park near Cannon Beach, Oregon to Government Point located northwest of Santa Barbara, California. Biodiversity Survey sites extend from Ecola State Park south to Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego County, California. Exact locations of sampling sites can be found in Tables 1 and 2 of PISCO’s application which may be found on our Web site at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/ incidental/research.htm. Detailed Description of Activities Community Structure Monitoring involves the use of permanent photoplot quadrats, which target specific algal and invertebrate assemblages (e.g., mussels, rockweeds, barnacles). Each photoplot is photographed and scored for percent cover. The Community Structure Monitoring approach is based largely on surveys that quantify the percent cover and distribution of algae and invertebrates that constitute these communities. This approach allows researchers to quantify both the patterns of abundance of targeted species, as well as characterize changes in the communities in which they reside. Such information provides managers with insight into the causes and consequences of changes in species abundance. There are 47 Community Structure sites, each of which is surveyed over a 1-day period during a low tide series one to two times a year. Biodiversity Surveys are part of a long-term monitoring project and are conducted every 3–5 years across 140 established sites. Note that many, but not all, of the 47 Community Structure sites are also Biodiversity Survey sites. Thirty-eight of the Community Structure sites are utilized for Biodiversity E:\FR\FM\06MRN1.SGM 06MRN1 12570 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 42 / Monday, March 6, 2017 / Notices Surveys, leaving nine sites that are only Biodiversity Survey locations. These Biodiversity Surveys involve point contact identification along permanent transects, mobile invertebrate quadrat counts, sea star band counts, and tidal height topographic measurements. Sixteen Biodiversity Survey sites will be visited as part of this proposed IHA. Four of the Biodiversity Survey sites are also Community Structure sites, leaving 12 sites that are only Biodiversity Survey sites. As such, a total of 59 sites will be visited under the proposed IHA. The intertidal zones where PISCO conducts intertidal monitoring are also areas where pinnipeds can be found hauled out on the shore at or adjacent to some research sites. Pinnipeds are likely to be observed at 17 out of the 59 survey sites. Accessing portions of the intertidal habitat at these locations may cause incidental Level B (behavioral) harassment of pinnipeds through some unavoidable approaches if pinnipeds are hauled out directly in the study plots or while biologists walk from one location to another. No motorized equipment is involved in conducting these surveys. Comments and Responses A notice of NMFS’ proposal to issue an IHA was published in the Federal Register on January 12, 2017 (82 FR 3727). During the 30-day public comment period, the Marine Mammal Commission (Commission) submitted a letter on January 18, 2017. The letter is available on the Internet at www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/ incidental/research.htm. The Commission had no formal comments and concurred with NMFS’s preliminary finding that recommended that NMFS issue an IHA to PISCO, subject to the inclusion of the mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures. Description of Marine Mammals in the Area of the Specified Activity Several pinniped species can be found along the California and Oregon coasts. The three that are most likely to occur at some of the research sites are California sea lion, harbor seal, and northern elephant seal. PISCO researchers have seen very small numbers (i.e., five or fewer) of Steller sea lions at one of the sampling sites. However, these sightings are extremely rare. Species that may be found around monitoring locations are shown in Table 1. A detailed description of the of the species likely to be affected by the monitoring project, including brief introductions to the species and relevant stocks as well as available information regarding population trends and threats, and information regarding local occurrence, were provided in the Federal Register notice for the proposed IHA (82 FR 3727; January 12, 2017). Since that time, we are not aware of any changes in the status of these species and stocks; therefore, detailed descriptions are not provided here. Please refer to that Federal Register notice for these descriptions. Please also refer to NMFS’ Web site (www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/ mammals/) for generalized species accounts. TABLE 1—MARINE MAMMALS POTENTIALLY PRESENT IN THE VICINITY OF STUDY AREAS Species Scientific name Stock California sea lion ...... Steller sea lion ........... Harbor seal ................ Zalophus californianus ................ Eumetopias jubatus .................... Phoca vitulina richardii ............... Northern elephant seal. Mirounga angustirostris .............. U.S ............................ Eastern U.S .............. California/Oregon/ Washington. California breeding stock. ESA/MMPA status; strategic (Y/N) 1 Stock abundance (CV, Nmin, most recent abundance survey) 2 —; N ............. D; Y .............. —; N ............. —; N ............. 296,750 (n/a; 153,337; 2011). 60,131–74,448 (n/a; 36,551; 2013). 30,968 (0.157; 27,348; 2012 [CA])/ 24,732 (n/a; n/a [OR/WA] 3. 179,000 (n/a; 81,368; 2010). 1 ESA status: Endangered (E), Threatened (T)/MMPA status: Depleted (D). A dash (—) indicates that the species is not listed under the ESA or designated as depleted under the MMPA. 2 CV is coefficient of variation; N min is the minimum estimate of stock abundance. In some cases, CV is not applicable. For certain stocks of pinnipeds, abundance estimates are based upon observations of animals (often pups) ashore multiplied by some correction factor derived from knowledge of the specie’s (or similar species’) life history to arrive at a best abundance estimate; therefore, there is no associated CV. In these cases, the minimum abundance may represent actual counts of all animals ashore. 3 The most recent abundance estimate is >8 years old, there is no current estimate of abundance available for this stock. asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Potential Effects of the Specified Activity on Marine Mammals The effect of stressors associated with the specified activity (e.g., pedestrian researchers) has the potential to result in behavioral harassment of marine mammals in the vicinity of the action areas. The Federal Register notice for the proposed IHA (82 FR 3727; January 12, 2017) included a discussion of the effects of such disturbance on marine mammals, therefore that information is not repeated here. Anticipated Effects on Marine Mammal Habitat NMFS described potential impacts to marine mammal habitat in detail in our Federal Register notice of proposed VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:24 Mar 03, 2017 Jkt 241001 authorization (82 FR 3727; January 12, 2017). In summary, the project activities would not modify existing marine mammal habitat. Because of the short duration of the activities and the relatively small area of the habitat that may be affected, the impacts to marine mammal habitat are not expected to cause significant or long-term negative consequences for individual marine mammals or their populations Mitigation In order to issue an IHA under section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA, NMFS must, where applicable, set forth the permissible methods of taking pursuant to such activity, and other means of effecting the least practicable impact on PO 00000 Frm 00038 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 such species or stock and its habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance, and on the availability of such species or stock for taking for certain subsistence uses (where relevant). Mitigation Measures PISCO will implement several mitigation measures to reduce potential take by Level B (behavioral disturbance) harassment. Measures include the following: • When possible, researchers will observe a site from a distance with binoculars to detect any marine mammals prior to approaching the site. Researchers will approach a site with E:\FR\FM\06MRN1.SGM 06MRN1 asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 42 / Monday, March 6, 2017 / Notices caution (slowly and quietly) to avoid surprising any hauled-out individuals and to reduce stampeding of individuals towards the water. • If possible, researchers will avoid pinnipeds along access ways to sites by locating and taking a different access way. Researchers will keep a safe distance from and not approach any marine mammal while conducting research, unless it is absolutely necessary to flush a marine mammal in order to continue conducting research (i.e., if a site cannot be accessed or sampled due to the presence of pinnipeds). • Researchers will avoid making loud noises (i.e., using hushed voices) and keep bodies low to the ground in the visual presence of pinnipeds. • Researches will monitor the offshore area for predators (such as killer whales and white sharks) and avoid flushing of pinnipeds when predators are observed in nearshore waters. Note that PISCO has never observed an offshore predator while researchers were present at any of the survey sites. • Intentional flushing will be avoided if pups are present and nursing pups will not be disturbed. • To avoid take of Steller sea lions, any site where they are present will not be approached and will be sampled at a later date. Note that observation of sea lions at survey sites is extremely rare. • Researchers will promptly vacate sites at the conclusion of sampling. The methodologies and actions noted in this section will be included as mitigation measures in the IHA to ensure that impacts to marine mammals are mitigated to the lowest level practicable. The primary method of mitigating the risk of disturbance to pinnipeds, which will be in use at all times, is the selection of judicious routes of approach to study sites, avoiding close contact with pinnipeds hauled out on shore, and the use of extreme caution upon approach. Each visit to a given study site will last for approximately 4–6 hours, after which the site is vacated and can be reoccupied by any marine mammals that may have been disturbed by the presence of researchers. By arriving before low tide, worker presence will tend to encourage pinnipeds to move to other areas for the day before they haul out and settle onto rocks at low tide. Mitigation Conclusions NMFS has carefully reviewed mitigation measures to ensure these measures would have the least practicable impact on the affected marine mammal species and stocks and VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:24 Mar 03, 2017 Jkt 241001 their habitat. Our evaluation of potential measures included consideration of the following factors in relation to one another: • The manner in which, and the degree to which, the successful implementation of the measure is expected to minimize adverse impacts to marine mammals; • The proven or likely efficacy of the specific measure to minimize adverse impacts as planned; and • The practicability of the measure for applicant implementation. Any mitigation measure(s) prescribed by NMFS should be able to accomplish, have a reasonable likelihood of accomplishing (based on current science), or contribute to the accomplishment of one or more of the general goals listed below: 1. Avoidance or minimization of injury or death of marine mammals wherever possible (goals 2, 3, and 4 may contribute to this goal). 2. A reduction in the numbers of marine mammals (total number or number at biologically important time or location) exposed to activities expected to result in the take of marine mammals (this goal may contribute to 1, above, or to reducing harassment takes only). 3. A reduction in the number of times (total number or number at biologically important time or location) individuals would be exposed to activities expected to result in the take of marine mammals (this goal may contribute to 1, above, or to reducing harassment takes only). 4. A reduction in the intensity of exposures (either total number or number at biologically important time or location) to activities expected to result in the take of marine mammals (this goal may contribute to 1, above, or to reducing the severity of harassment takes only). 5. Avoidance or minimization of adverse effects to marine mammal habitat, paying special attention to the food base, activities that block or limit passage to or from biologically important areas, permanent destruction of habitat, or temporary destruction/ disturbance of habitat during a biologically important time. 6. For monitoring directly related to mitigation—an increase in the probability of detecting marine mammals, thus allowing for more effective implementation of the mitigation. Based on our evaluation of the applicant’s proposed measures, NMFS has determined that the mitigation measures provide the means of effecting the least practicable impact on marine mammal species or stocks and their PO 00000 Frm 00039 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 12571 habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance. Monitoring and Reporting In order to issue an ITA for an activity, section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA states that NMFS must, where applicable, set forth ‘‘requirements pertaining to the monitoring and reporting of such taking.’’ The MMPA implementing regulations at 50 CFR 216.104 (a)(13) indicate that requests for ITAs must include the suggested means of accomplishing the necessary monitoring and reporting that will result in increased knowledge of the species and of the level of taking or impacts on populations of marine mammals that are expected to be present in the proposed action area. PISCO has described their long-standing monitoring actions in Section 13 of the Application. Monitoring measures prescribed by NMFS should accomplish one or more of the following general goals: 1. An increase in our understanding of the likely occurrence of marine mammal species in the vicinity of the action, i.e., presence, abundance, distribution, and/or density of species. 2. An increase in our understanding of how many marine mammals are likely to be exposed to levels of disturbance that we associate with specific adverse effects, such as behavioral harassment; 3. An increase in our understanding of how marine mammals respond to stimuli expected to result in take and how anticipated adverse effects on individuals (in different ways and to varying degrees) may impact the population, species, or stock (specifically through effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival) through any of the following methods: D Behavioral observations in the presence of stimuli compared to observations in the absence of stimuli (need to be able to accurately predict received level, distance from source, and other pertinent information); D Physiological measurements in the presence of stimuli compared to observations in the absence of stimuli (need to be able to accurately predict received level, distance from source, and other pertinent information); D Distribution and/or abundance comparisons in times or areas with concentrated stimuli versus times or areas without stimuli; 4. An increased knowledge of the affected species; and 5. An increase in our understanding of the effectiveness of certain mitigation and monitoring measures. E:\FR\FM\06MRN1.SGM 06MRN1 12572 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 42 / Monday, March 6, 2017 / Notices PISCO will contribute to the knowledge of pinnipeds in California and Oregon by noting observations of: (1) Unusual behaviors, numbers, or distributions of pinnipeds, such that any potential follow-up research can be conducted by the appropriate personnel; (2) tag-bearing carcasses of pinnipeds, allowing transmittal of the information to appropriate agencies and personnel; and (3) rare or unusual species of marine mammals for agency follow-up. Monitoring requirements in relation to PISCO’s rocky intertidal monitoring will include observations made by the applicant. Information recorded will include species counts (with numbers of pups/juveniles when possible) of animals present before approaching, numbers of observed disturbances, and descriptions of the disturbance behaviors during the monitoring surveys, including location, date, and time of the event. For consistency, any reactions by pinnipeds to researchers will be recorded according to a threepoint scale shown in Table 2. Note that only observations of disturbance Levels 2 and 3 should be recorded as takes. TABLE 2—LEVELS OF PINNIPED BEHAVIORAL DISTURBANCE Type of response Definition 1 ............. Alert .............. 2 ............. Movement .... 3 ............. asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Level Flush ............ Seal head orientation or brief movement in response to disturbance, which may include turning head towards the disturbance, craning head and neck while holding the body rigid in a u-shaped position, changing from a lying to a sitting position, or brief movement of less than twice the animal’s body length. Movements in response to the source of disturbance, ranging from short withdrawals at least twice the animal’s body length to longer retreats over the beach, or if already moving a change of direction of greater than 90 degrees. All retreats (flushes) to the water. In addition, observations regarding the number and species of any marine mammals observed, either in the water or hauled-out, at or adjacent to a site, are recorded as part of field observations during research activities. Information regarding physical and biological conditions pertaining to a site, as well as the date and time that research was conducted are also noted. This information will be incorporated into a monitoring report for NMFS. PISCO will also report observations of unusual behaviors, numbers, or distributions of pinnipeds, or of tag-bearing carcasses, to NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC). If at any time the specified activity clearly causes the take of a marine mammal in a manner prohibited by this IHA, such as an injury (Level A harassment), serious injury, or mortality, PISCO shall immediately cease the specified activities and report the incident to the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the Southwest Regional Stranding Coordinator, NMFS. The report must include the following information: (1) Time and date of the incident; (2) Description of the incident; (3) Environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, Beaufort sea state, cloud cover, and visibility); (4) Description of all marine mammal observations in the 24 hours preceding the incident; (5) Species identification or description of the animal(s) involved; (6) Fate of the animal(s); and (7) Photographs or video footage of the animal(s). Activities shall not resume until NMFS is able to review the circumstances of the prohibited take. VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:24 Mar 03, 2017 Jkt 241001 NMFS will work with PISCO to determine what measures are necessary to minimize the likelihood of further prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. PISCO may not resume the activities until notified by NMFS. In the event that an injured or dead marine mammal is discovered and it is determined that the cause of the injury or death is unknown and the death is relatively recent (e.g., in less than a moderate state of decomposition), PISCO shall immediately report the incident to the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the West Coast Regional Stranding Coordinator, NMFS. The report must include the same information identified in the paragraph above IHA. Activities may continue while NMFS reviews the circumstances of the incident. NMFS will work with PISCO to determine whether additional mitigation measures or modifications to the activities are appropriate. In the event that an injured or dead marine mammal is discovered and it is determined that the injury or death is not associated with or related to the activities authorized in the IHA (e.g., previously wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced decomposition, or scavenger damage), PISCO shall report the incident to the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the West Coast Regional Stranding Coordinator, NMFS, within 24 hours of the discovery. PISCO shall provide photographs or video footage or other documentation of the stranded animal sighting to NMFS. Activities may continue while NMFS reviews the circumstances of the incident. A draft final report must be submitted to NMFS Office of Protected Resources within 60 days after the conclusion of PO 00000 Frm 00040 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 the 2016–2017 field season or 60 days prior to the start of the next field season if a new IHA will be requested. The report will include a summary of the information gathered pursuant to the monitoring requirements set forth in the IHA. A final report must be submitted to the Director of the NMFS Office of Protected Resources and to the NMFS West Coast Regional Administrator within 30 days after receiving comments from NMFS on the draft final report. If no comments are received from NMFS, the draft final report will be considered to be the final report. Monitoring Results From Previously Authorized Activities PISCO complied with the mitigation and monitoring that were required under the IHA issued in December 2014. In compliance with the IHA, PISCO submitted a report detailing the activities and marine mammal monitoring they conducted. The IHA required PISCO to conduct counts of pinnipeds present at study sites prior to approaching the sites and to record species counts and any observed reactions to the presence of the researchers. From December 17, 2014, through December 16, 2015, PISCO researchers conducted rocky intertidal sampling at numerous sites in California and Oregon (see Table 1 and 2 in PISCO’s 2014– 2015 monitoring report). During this time no injured, stranded, or dead pinnipeds were observed. Tables 7, 8, and 9 in PISCO’s monitoring report outline marine mammal observations and reactions. During this period there were 44 takes of harbor seals, 19 takes of California sea lions, and 4 takes of northern elephant seals. NMFS had E:\FR\FM\06MRN1.SGM 06MRN1 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 42 / Monday, March 6, 2017 / Notices asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES authorized the take of 183 harbor seals, 60 California sea lions, and 30 Northern Elephant seals under the IHA. Based on the results from the monitoring report, we conclude that these results support our original findings that the mitigation measures set forth in the 2014–2015 IHA effected the least practicable impact on the species or stocks. There were no stampede events this year and most disturbances were Level 1 and 2 from the disturbance scale (Table 2)—meaning the animal did not fully flush but observed or moved slightly in response to researchers. Those that did fully flush to the water did so slowly. Most of these animals tended to observe researchers from the water and then re-haulout farther upcoast or downcoast of the site within approximately 30 minutes of the disturbance. Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, the MMPA defines ‘‘harassment’’ as: Any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance which (i) has the potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild (Level A harassment); or (ii) has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering (Level B harassment). All anticipated takes would be by Level B harassment, involving temporary changes in behavior. The mitigation and monitoring measures are expected to minimize the possibility of injurious or lethal takes such that take by injury, serious injury, or mortality is considered remote. Animals hauled out close to the actual survey sites may be disturbed by the presence of researchers and may alter their behavior or attempt to move away from the researchers. As discussed earlier, NMFS considers an animal to have been harassed if it moved greater than two times its body length in response to the researcher’s presence or if the animal was already moving and changed direction and/or speed, or if the animal flushed into the water. Animals that became alert without such movements were not considered harassed. For the purpose of the issued IHA, only the Oregon and California sites that are frequently sampled and have a marine mammal presence during sampling were included in calculating take estimates. Sites where only Biodiversity Surveys are conducted did not provide enough data to confidently VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:24 Mar 03, 2017 Jkt 241001 estimate takes since they are sampled infrequently (once every 3–5 years). A small number of harbor seal, northern elephant seal and California sea lion pup takes are anticipated as pups may be present at several sites during spring and summer sampling. Take estimates are based on marine mammal observations from each site. Marine mammals are observed as part of PISCO site observations, which include taking notes on physical and biological conditions at the site. The maximum number of marine mammals, by species, seen at any given time throughout the sampling day is recorded at the conclusion of sampling. A marine mammal is counted if it is seen on access ways to the site, at the site, or immediately up-coast or down-coast of the site. Marine mammals in the water immediately offshore are also recorded. Any other relevant information, including the location of a marine mammal relevant to the site, any unusual behavior, and the presence of pups is also noted. These observations formed the basis from which researchers with extensive knowledge and experience at each site estimated the actual number of marine mammals that may be subject to take. Take estimates for each species for which take would be authorized were based on the following equation: Take estimate per survey site = (number of expected animals per survey site * number of survey days per survey site) Individual species’ totals for each survey site were summed to arrive at a total estimated take. In most cases the number of takes is based on the maximum number of marine mammals that have been observed at a site throughout the history of the site (1–3 observation per year for 5–10 years or more) with additional input provided by the researchers with site-specific knowledge and experience. Section 6 in PISCO’s application outlines the number of visits per year for each sampling site and the potential number of pinnipeds anticipated to be encountered at each site. Tables 3, 4, 5 in PISCO’s application outlines the number of potential takes per site (see ADDRESSES). Harbor seals are expected to occur at 16 locations in numbers ranging from 5 to 30 per visit (Table 3 in PISCO’s application). It is anticipated that there will be 220 takes of adult harbor seals and 13 takes of weaned pups. Therefore, NMFS authorizes the take of up to 233 harbor seals. California sea lions are expected to be present at five sites. Eighty-five adult PO 00000 Frm 00041 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 12573 and five pups are expected to be taken. Therefore, NMFS authorizes the take of 90 California sea lions. Northern elephant seals are only expected to occur at one site this year, Piedras Blancs, which will experience two separate visits. Up to 20 adult and 40 pup takes are anticipated. Therefore, NMFS authorizes the take of up to 60 northern elephant seals. PISCO researchers report that they have very rarely observed Steller sea lions at any research sites and none have been observed over the last several years. Therefore, PISCO has not requested, and NMFS did not authorize take of any Steller sea lions. NMFS has authorized the take, by Level B harassment only, of 233 harbor seals, 90 California sea lions, and 60 northern elephant seals. These numbers are considered to be maximum take estimates. Therefore, actual take may be less if animals decide to haul out at a different location for the day or animals are out foraging at the time of the survey activities. Analysis and Determinations Negligible Impact Analysis Negligible impact is ‘‘an impact resulting from the specified activity that cannot be reasonably expected to, and is not reasonably likely to, adversely affect the species or stock through effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival’’ (50 CFR 216.103). A negligible impact finding is based on the lack of likely adverse effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival (i.e., populationlevel effects). An estimate of the number of Level B harassment takes, alone, is not enough information on which to base an impact determination. In addition to considering estimates of the number of marine mammals that might be ‘‘taken’’ through behavioral harassment, NMFS must consider other factors, such as the likely nature of any responses (their intensity, duration, etc.), the context of any responses (critical reproductive time or location, feeding, migration, etc.), as well as the number and nature of estimated Level A harassment takes, the number of estimated mortalities, effects on habitat, and the status of the species. To avoid repetition, the discussion of our analyses applies generally to the three species for which take is authorized, given that the anticipated effects of these surveys on marine mammals are expected to be relatively similar in nature. Where there are species-specific factors that have been considered, they are identified below. No injuries or mortalities are anticipated to occur as a result of E:\FR\FM\06MRN1.SGM 06MRN1 12574 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 42 / Monday, March 6, 2017 / Notices PISCO’s rocky intertidal monitoring surveys and none are proposed to be authorized. The risk of marine mammal injury, serious injury, or mortality associated with rocky intertidal monitoring increases somewhat if disturbances occur during breeding season. These situations present increased potential for mothers and dependent pups to become separated and, if separated pairs do not quickly reunite, the risk of mortality to pups (e.g., through starvation) may increase. Separately, adult male elephant seals may trample elephant seal pups if disturbed, which could potentially result in the injury, serious injury, or mortality of the pups. The risk of either of these situations is greater in the event of a stampede; however, as described previously, stampede is not considered likely to occur. Very few pups are anticipated to be encountered during the proposed monitoring surveys. However, a small number of harbor seal, northern elephant seal, and California sea lion pups have been observed at several of the proposed monitoring sites during past years. Harbor seals are very precocious with only a short period of time in which separation of a mother from a pup could occur. Although elephant seal pups are occasionally present when researchers visit survey sites, risk of pup mortalities is very low because elephant seals are far less reactive to researcher presence compared to the other two species. Further, elephant seal pups are typically found on sand beaches, while study sites are located in the rocky intertidal zone, meaning that there is typically a buffer between researchers and pups. Finally, the caution used by researchers in approaching sites generally precludes the possibility of behavior, such as stampeding, that could result in extended separation of mothers and dependent pups or trampling of pups. No research would occur where separation of mother and her nursing pup or crushing of pups can become a concern. Typically, even those reactions constituting Level B harassment would result at most in temporary, short-term disturbance. In any given study season, researchers will visit sites one to two times per year for a total of 4–6 hours per visit. Therefore, disturbance of pinnipeds resulting from the presence of researchers lasts only for short periods of time and is separated by significant amounts of time in which no disturbance occurs. Some of the pinniped species may use some of the sites during certain times of year to conduct pupping and/or breeding. However, some of these species prefer to use offshore islands for these activities. At the sites where pups may be present, PISCO has proposed to implement certain mitigation measures, such as no intentional flushing if dependent pups are present, which will avoid mother/pup separation and trampling of pups. Of the marine mammal species anticipated to occur in the proposed activity areas, none are listed under the ESA. Taking into account the planned mitigation measures, effects to marine mammals are generally expected to be restricted to short-term changes in behavior or temporary abandonment of haulout sites, pinnipeds are not expected to permanently abandon any area that is surveyed by researchers, as is evidenced by continued presence of pinnipeds at the sites during annual monitoring counts. Based on the analysis contained herein of the likely effects of the specified activity on marine mammals and their habitat, and taking into consideration the implementation of the proposed mitigation and monitoring measures, NMFS finds that the total marine mammal take from PISCO’s rocky intertidal monitoring program will not adversely affect annual rates of recruitment or survival and, therefore, will have a negligible impact on the affected species or stocks. Small Numbers Table 3 presents the abundance of each species or stock, the proposed take estimates, and the percentage of the affected populations or stocks that may be taken by Level B harassment. The numbers of animals authorized to be taken would be considered small relative to the relevant stocks or populations (0.75–0.94 percent for harbor seals, and <0.01 percent for California sea lions and northern elephant seals). Because these are maximum estimates, actual take numbers are likely to be lower, as some animals may not be present on survey days. Based on the analysis contained herein of the likely effects of the specified activity on marine mammals and their habitat, and taking into consideration the implementation of the mitigation and monitoring measures, we find that small numbers of marine mammals will be taken relative to the populations of the affected species or stocks. TABLE 3—POPULATION ABUNDANCE ESTIMATES, TOTAL PROPOSED LEVEL B TAKE, AND PERCENTAGE OF POPULATION THAT MAY BE TAKEN FOR THE POTENTIALLY AFFECTED SPECIES DURING THE PROPOSED ROCKY INTERTIDAL MONITORING PROGRAM Species Abundance * Harbor seal .................................................................................................................................. Total proposed Level B take Percentage of stock or population 233 <0.75–0.94 90 60 <0.01 <0.01 1 30,968 2 24,732 California sea lion ........................................................................................................................ Northern elephant seal ................................................................................................................ 296,750 179,000 asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES * Abundance estimates are taken from the 2015 U.S. Pacific Marine Mammal Stock Assessments (Carretta et al., 2016). 1 California stock abundance estimate; 2 Oregon/Washington stock abundance estimate from 1999–Most recent surveys. Impact on Availability of Affected Species or Stock for Taking for Subsistence Uses There are no relevant subsistence uses of marine mammals implicated by this action. Therefore, NMFS has VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:24 Mar 03, 2017 Jkt 241001 determined that the total taking of affected species or stocks would not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of such species or stocks for taking for subsistence purposes. PO 00000 Frm 00042 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Endangered Species Act No species listed under the ESA are expected to be affected by these activities. Therefore, NMFS has determined that a section 7 consultation under the ESA is not required. E:\FR\FM\06MRN1.SGM 06MRN1 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 42 / Monday, March 6, 2017 / Notices National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for the National Security Education Board (‘‘the Board’’). In 2012, NMFS prepared an EA analyzing the potential effects to the human environment from conducting rocky intertidal surveys along the California and Oregon coasts and issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) on November 26, 2012 on the issuance of an IHA for PISCO’s rocky intertidal surveys in accordance with section 6.01 of the NOAA Administrative Order 216–6 (Environmental Review Procedures for Implementing the National Environmental Policy Act, May 20, 1999). We have reviewed the application for a renewed IHA for ongoing monitoring activities for 2017– 18 as well as results from the 2014–15 monitoring report. Based on that review, we have determined that the action is very similar to that considered in the previous IHA. We conducted an environmental review and found no significant new circumstances or information relevant to environmental concerns have been identified. Thus, we have determined that the preparation of a new or supplemental NEPA document is not necessary. The 2012 NEPA documents are available for review at www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/ incidental/research.htm. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Authorization As a result of these determinations, we have issued an IHA to PISCO for conducting the described activities related to rocky intertidal monitoring surveys along the Oregon and Washington coasts from February 21, 2017 through February 20, 2018 provided the previously described mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements are incorporated. Dated: February 28, 2017. Donna S. Wieting, Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2017–04194 Filed 3–3–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Office of the Secretary Charter Renewal of Department of Defense Federal Advisory Committee Department of Defense. Renewal of Federal Advisory Committee. AGENCY: ACTION: The Department of Defense (DoD) is publishing this notice to announce that it is renewing the charter SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:24 Mar 03, 2017 Jkt 241001 DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE Jim Freeman, Advisory Committee Management Officer for the Department of Defense, 703–692–5952. The Board’s charter is being renewed under the provisions of 50 U.S.C. 1903 and in accordance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) of 1972 (5 U.S.C., Appendix, as amended) and 41 CFR 102–3.50(a). The Board’s charter and contact information for the Board’s Designated Federal Officer (DFO) can be found at http://www.facadatabase.gov/. The Board shall consult on the National Security Scholarship, Fellowships, and Grants Program as described in more detail in 50 U.S.C. Ch. 37. The Secretary of Defense, pursuant to 50 U.S.C. 1906, shall submit to the President and to the Congressional Intelligence committees an annual report of the conduct of the Program required by 50 U.S.C. Ch. 37. In preparation of this annual report, the Secretary of Defense shall consult with the members of the Board, who shall each submit to the Secretary an assessment of their hiring needs in the areas of language and area studies and a projection of the deficiencies in such areas. The Secretary shall include all assessments in the annual report. The Board consists of 14 members. All members of the Board are appointed to provide advice on behalf of the Government on the basis of their best judgment without representing any particular point of view and in a manner that is free from conflict of interest. All members are entitled to reimbursement for official Board-related travel and per diem. The public or interested organizations may submit written statements to the Board membership about the Board’s mission and functions. Written statements may be submitted at any time or in response to the stated agenda of planned meeting of the Board. All written statements shall be submitted to the DFO for the Board, and this individual will ensure that the written statements are provided to the membership for their consideration. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Dated: February 28, 2017. Aaron Siegel, Alternate OSD Federal Register Liaison Officer, Department of Defense. [FR Doc. 2017–04195 Filed 3–3–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 5001–06–P PO 00000 Frm 00043 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 12575 Office of the Secretary [Docket ID DOD–2017–OS–0010] Proposed Collection; Comment Request National GeospatialIntelligence Agency, DoD. ACTION: Notice. AGENCY: In compliance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, and as part of a Federal Government-wide effort to streamline the process to seek feedback from the public on service delivery, the National GeospatialIntelligence Agency announces a proposed generic information collection and seeks public comment on the provisions thereof. Comments are invited on: Whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the agency, including whether the information shall have practical utility; the accuracy of the agency’s estimate of the burden of the proposed information collection; ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and ways to minimize the burden of the information collection on respondents, including through the use of automated collection techniques or other forms of information technology. DATES: Consideration will be given to all comments received by May 5, 2017. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by docket number and title, by any of the following methods: • Federal eRulemaking Portal: http:// www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments. • Mail: Department of Defense, Office of the Deputy Chief Management Officer, Directorate for Oversight and Compliance, Regulatory & Advisory Committee Division, 4800 Mark Center Drive, Mailbox #24, Suite 08D09B, Alexandria, VA 22350–1700. Instructions: All submissions received must include the agency name, docket number and title for this Federal Register document. The general policy for comments and other submissions from members of the public is to make these submissions available for public viewing on the Internet at http:// www.regulations.gov as they are received without change, including any personal identifiers or contact information. Any associated form(s) for this collection may be located within this same electronic docket and downloaded for review/testing. Follow the SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\06MRN1.SGM 06MRN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 42 (Monday, March 6, 2017)]
[Notices]
[Pages 12568-12575]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-04194]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XF084


Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; 
Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Rocky Intertidal Monitoring Surveys 
Along the Oregon and California Coasts

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

ACTION: Notice; issuance of an incidental harassment authorization.

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

SUMMARY: In accordance with the regulations implementing the Marine 
Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) as amended, notification is hereby given 
that NMFS has issued an incidental harassment authorization (IHA) to 
the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Study of Coastal Oceans (PISCO) 
at the University of California Santa Cruz

[[Page 12569]]

(UCSC) to incidentally harass, by Level B harassment only, marine 
mammals during rocky intertidal monitoring surveys.

DATES: This Authorization is effective from February 21, 2017 through 
February 20, 2018.

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

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    Sections 101(a)(5)(A) and (D) of the MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) 
direct the Secretary of Commerce to allow, upon request, the 
incidental, but not intentional, taking of small numbers of marine 
mammals by U.S. citizens who engage in a specified activity (other than 
commercial fishing) within a specified geographical region if certain 
findings are made and either regulations are issued or, if the taking 
is limited to harassment, a notice of a proposed authorization is 
provided to the public for review.
    Authorization for incidental takings shall be granted if NMFS finds 
that the taking will have a negligible impact on the species or 
stock(s), will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the 
availability of the species or stock(s) for subsistence uses (where 
relevant), and if the permissible methods of taking, other means of 
effecting the least practicable impact on the species or stock and its 
habitat, and requirements pertaining to the mitigation, monitoring and 
reporting of such takings 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).''

Summary of Request

    On September 23, 2016 NMFS received an application from PISCO for 
the taking of marine mammals incidental to rocky intertidal monitoring 
surveys along the Oregon and California coasts. NMFS determined that 
the application was adequate and complete on October 9, 2016. NMFS has 
previously issued four IHAs for this ongoing project (77 FR 72327, 
December 5, 2012; 78 FR 79403, December 30, 2013; 79 FR 73048, December 
9, 2014; 81 FR 7319, February 2, 2016).
    The research group at UC Santa Cruz operates in collaboration with 
two large-scale marine research programs: PISCO and the Multi-agency 
Rocky Intertidal Network (MARINe). The research group at UC Santa Cruz 
(PISCO) is responsible for many of the ongoing rocky intertidal 
monitoring programs along the Pacific coast. Monitoring occurs at rocky 
intertidal sites, often large bedrock benches, from the high intertidal 
to the water's edge. Long-term monitoring projects include Community 
Structure Monitoring, Intertidal Biodiversity Surveys, Marine Protected 
Area Baseline Monitoring, Intertidal Recruitment Monitoring, and Ocean 
Acidification. Research is conducted throughout the year along the 
California and Oregon coasts and will continue indefinitely. Most sites 
are sampled one to two times per year over a 4-6 hour period during a 
negative low tide series. This IHA is effective for a 12-month period. 
The following specific aspects of the proposed activities are likely to 
result in the take of marine mammals: Presence of survey personnel near 
pinniped haulout sites and unintentional approach of survey personnel 
towards hauled out pinnipeds. Take, by Level B harassment only, of 
individuals of California sea lions (Zalophus californianus), harbor 
seals (Phoca vitulina richardii), and northern elephant seals (Mirounga 
angustirostris) is anticipated to result from the specified activity.

Description of the Specified Activity

Overview

    PISCO requested an IHA to continue rocky intertidal monitoring work 
that has been ongoing for 20 years. PISCO focuses on understanding the 
nearshore ecosystems of the U.S. west coast through a number of 
interdisciplinary collaborations. The program integrates long-term 
monitoring of ecological and oceanographic processes at dozens of sites 
with experimental work in the lab and field. A short description of 
project components is found below. A detailed description of the 
planned intertidal monitoring project was provided in the Federal 
Register notice for the proposed IHA (82 FR 3727; January 12, 2017). 
Since that time, no changes have been made to the planned monitoring 
activities. Therefore, a detailed description is not provided here. 
Please refer to that Federal Register notice for the description of the 
specific activity.

Dates and Duration

    PISCO's research is conducted throughout the year, but will begin 
no sooner than February 21, 2017 and end on February 20, 2018. Most 
sites are sampled one to two times per year over a 1-day period (4-6 
hours per site) during a negative low tide series. Due to the large 
number of research sites, scheduling constraints, the necessity for 
negative low tides and favorable weather/ocean conditions, exact survey 
dates are variable and difficult to predict. Some sampling may occur in 
all months.

Specified Geographic Region

    Sampling sites occur along the California and Oregon coasts. 
Community Structure Monitoring sites range from Ecola State Park near 
Cannon Beach, Oregon to Government Point located northwest of Santa 
Barbara, California. Biodiversity Survey sites extend from Ecola State 
Park south to Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego County, 
California. Exact locations of sampling sites can be found in Tables 1 
and 2 of PISCO's application which may be found on our Web site at 
http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental/research.htm.

Detailed Description of Activities

    Community Structure Monitoring involves the use of permanent 
photoplot quadrats, which target specific algal and invertebrate 
assemblages (e.g., mussels, rockweeds, barnacles). Each photoplot is 
photographed and scored for percent cover. The Community Structure 
Monitoring approach is based largely on surveys that quantify the 
percent cover and distribution of algae and invertebrates that 
constitute these communities. This approach allows researchers to 
quantify both the patterns of abundance of targeted species, as well as 
characterize changes in the communities in which they reside. Such 
information provides managers with insight into the causes and 
consequences of changes in species abundance. There are 47 Community 
Structure sites, each of which is surveyed over a 1-day period during a 
low tide series one to two times a year.
    Biodiversity Surveys are part of a long-term monitoring project and 
are conducted every 3-5 years across 140 established sites. Note that 
many, but not all, of the 47 Community Structure sites are also 
Biodiversity Survey sites. Thirty-eight of the Community Structure 
sites are utilized for Biodiversity

[[Page 12570]]

Surveys, leaving nine sites that are only Biodiversity Survey 
locations. These Biodiversity Surveys involve point contact 
identification along permanent transects, mobile invertebrate quadrat 
counts, sea star band counts, and tidal height topographic 
measurements.
    Sixteen Biodiversity Survey sites will be visited as part of this 
proposed IHA. Four of the Biodiversity Survey sites are also Community 
Structure sites, leaving 12 sites that are only Biodiversity Survey 
sites. As such, a total of 59 sites will be visited under the proposed 
IHA.
    The intertidal zones where PISCO conducts intertidal monitoring are 
also areas where pinnipeds can be found hauled out on the shore at or 
adjacent to some research sites. Pinnipeds are likely to be observed at 
17 out of the 59 survey sites. Accessing portions of the intertidal 
habitat at these locations may cause incidental Level B (behavioral) 
harassment of pinnipeds through some unavoidable approaches if 
pinnipeds are hauled out directly in the study plots or while 
biologists walk from one location to another. No motorized equipment is 
involved in conducting these surveys.

Comments and Responses

    A notice of NMFS' proposal to issue an IHA was published in the 
Federal Register on January 12, 2017 (82 FR 3727). During the 30-day 
public comment period, the Marine Mammal Commission (Commission) 
submitted a letter on January 18, 2017. The letter is available on the 
Internet at www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental/research.htm. The 
Commission had no formal comments and concurred with NMFS's preliminary 
finding that recommended that NMFS issue an IHA to PISCO, subject to 
the inclusion of the mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures.

Description of Marine Mammals in the Area of the Specified Activity

    Several pinniped species can be found along the California and 
Oregon coasts. The three that are most likely to occur at some of the 
research sites are California sea lion, harbor seal, and northern 
elephant seal. PISCO researchers have seen very small numbers (i.e., 
five or fewer) of Steller sea lions at one of the sampling sites. 
However, these sightings are extremely rare. Species that may be found 
around monitoring locations are shown in Table 1.
    A detailed description of the of the species likely to be affected 
by the monitoring project, including brief introductions to the species 
and relevant stocks as well as available information regarding 
population trends and threats, and information regarding local 
occurrence, were provided in the Federal Register notice for the 
proposed IHA (82 FR 3727; January 12, 2017). Since that time, we are 
not aware of any changes in the status of these species and stocks; 
therefore, detailed descriptions are not provided here. Please refer to 
that Federal Register notice for these descriptions. Please also refer 
to NMFS' Web site (www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/mammals/) for 
generalized species accounts.

                   Table 1--Marine Mammals Potentially Present in the Vicinity of Study Areas
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                       ESA/MMPA status;    Stock abundance  (CV,
            Species              Scientific name         Stock         strategic  (Y/N)      Nmin, most recent
                                                                              \1\          abundance survey) \2\
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
California sea lion...........  Zalophus           U.S..............  --; N.............  296,750 (n/a; 153,337;
                                 californianus.                                            2011).
Steller sea lion..............  Eumetopias         Eastern U.S......  D; Y..............  60,131-74,448 (n/a;
                                 jubatus.                                                  36,551; 2013).
Harbor seal...................  Phoca vitulina     California/Oregon/ --; N.............  30,968 (0.157; 27,348;
                                 richardii.         Washington.                            2012 [CA])/
                                                                                          24,732 (n/a; n/a [OR/
                                                                                           WA] \3\.
Northern elephant seal........  Mirounga           California         --; N.............  179,000 (n/a; 81,368;
                                 angustirostris.    breeding stock.                        2010).
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ ESA status: Endangered (E), Threatened (T)/MMPA status: Depleted (D). A dash (--) indicates that the species
  is not listed under the ESA or designated as depleted under the MMPA.
\2\ CV is coefficient of variation; Nmin is the minimum estimate of stock abundance. In some cases, CV is not
  applicable. For certain stocks of pinnipeds, abundance estimates are based upon observations of animals (often
  pups) ashore multiplied by some correction factor derived from knowledge of the specie's (or similar species')
  life history to arrive at a best abundance estimate; therefore, there is no associated CV. In these cases, the
  minimum abundance may represent actual counts of all animals ashore.
\3\ The most recent abundance estimate is >8 years old, there is no current estimate of abundance available for
  this stock.

Potential Effects of the Specified Activity on Marine Mammals

    The effect of stressors associated with the specified activity 
(e.g., pedestrian researchers) has the potential to result in 
behavioral harassment of marine mammals in the vicinity of the action 
areas. The Federal Register notice for the proposed IHA (82 FR 3727; 
January 12, 2017) included a discussion of the effects of such 
disturbance on marine mammals, therefore that information is not 
repeated here.

Anticipated Effects on Marine Mammal Habitat

    NMFS described potential impacts to marine mammal habitat in detail 
in our Federal Register notice of proposed authorization (82 FR 3727; 
January 12, 2017). In summary, the project activities would not modify 
existing marine mammal habitat. Because of the short duration of the 
activities and the relatively small area of the habitat that may be 
affected, the impacts to marine mammal habitat are not expected to 
cause significant or long-term negative consequences for individual 
marine mammals or their populations

Mitigation

    In order to issue an IHA under section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA, 
NMFS must, where applicable, set forth the permissible methods of 
taking pursuant to such activity, and other means of effecting the 
least practicable impact on such species or stock and its habitat, 
paying particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of 
similar significance, and on the availability of such species or stock 
for taking for certain subsistence uses (where relevant).

Mitigation Measures

    PISCO will implement several mitigation measures to reduce 
potential take by Level B (behavioral disturbance) harassment. Measures 
include the following:
     When possible, researchers will observe a site from a 
distance with binoculars to detect any marine mammals prior to 
approaching the site. Researchers will approach a site with

[[Page 12571]]

caution (slowly and quietly) to avoid surprising any hauled-out 
individuals and to reduce stampeding of individuals towards the water.
     If possible, researchers will avoid pinnipeds along access 
ways to sites by locating and taking a different access way. 
Researchers will keep a safe distance from and not approach any marine 
mammal while conducting research, unless it is absolutely necessary to 
flush a marine mammal in order to continue conducting research (i.e., 
if a site cannot be accessed or sampled due to the presence of 
pinnipeds).
     Researchers will avoid making loud noises (i.e., using 
hushed voices) and keep bodies low to the ground in the visual presence 
of pinnipeds.
     Researches will monitor the offshore area for predators 
(such as killer whales and white sharks) and avoid flushing of 
pinnipeds when predators are observed in nearshore waters. Note that 
PISCO has never observed an offshore predator while researchers were 
present at any of the survey sites.
     Intentional flushing will be avoided if pups are present 
and nursing pups will not be disturbed.
     To avoid take of Steller sea lions, any site where they 
are present will not be approached and will be sampled at a later date. 
Note that observation of sea lions at survey sites is extremely rare.
     Researchers will promptly vacate sites at the conclusion 
of sampling.
    The methodologies and actions noted in this section will be 
included as mitigation measures in the IHA to ensure that impacts to 
marine mammals are mitigated to the lowest level practicable. The 
primary method of mitigating the risk of disturbance to pinnipeds, 
which will be in use at all times, is the selection of judicious routes 
of approach to study sites, avoiding close contact with pinnipeds 
hauled out on shore, and the use of extreme caution upon approach. Each 
visit to a given study site will last for approximately 4-6 hours, 
after which the site is vacated and can be re-occupied by any marine 
mammals that may have been disturbed by the presence of researchers. By 
arriving before low tide, worker presence will tend to encourage 
pinnipeds to move to other areas for the day before they haul out and 
settle onto rocks at low tide.

Mitigation Conclusions

    NMFS has carefully reviewed mitigation measures to ensure these 
measures would have the least practicable impact on the affected marine 
mammal species and stocks and their habitat. Our evaluation of 
potential measures included consideration of the following factors in 
relation to one another:
     The manner in which, and the degree to which, the 
successful implementation of the measure is expected to minimize 
adverse impacts to marine mammals;
     The proven or likely efficacy of the specific measure to 
minimize adverse impacts as planned; and
     The practicability of the measure for applicant 
implementation.
    Any mitigation measure(s) prescribed by NMFS should be able to 
accomplish, have a reasonable likelihood of accomplishing (based on 
current science), or contribute to the accomplishment of one or more of 
the general goals listed below:
    1. Avoidance or minimization of injury or death of marine mammals 
wherever possible (goals 2, 3, and 4 may contribute to this goal).
    2. A reduction in the numbers of marine mammals (total number or 
number at biologically important time or location) exposed to 
activities expected to result in the take of marine mammals (this goal 
may contribute to 1, above, or to reducing harassment takes only).
    3. A reduction in the number of times (total number or number at 
biologically important time or location) individuals would be exposed 
to activities expected to result in the take of marine mammals (this 
goal may contribute to 1, above, or to reducing harassment takes only).
    4. A reduction in the intensity of exposures (either total number 
or number at biologically important time or location) to activities 
expected to result in the take of marine mammals (this goal may 
contribute to 1, above, or to reducing the severity of harassment takes 
only).
    5. Avoidance or minimization of adverse effects to marine mammal 
habitat, paying special attention to the food base, activities that 
block or limit passage to or from biologically important areas, 
permanent destruction of habitat, or temporary destruction/disturbance 
of habitat during a biologically important time.
    6. For monitoring directly related to mitigation--an increase in 
the probability of detecting marine mammals, thus allowing for more 
effective implementation of the mitigation.
    Based on our evaluation of the applicant's proposed measures, NMFS 
has determined that the mitigation measures provide the means of 
effecting the least practicable impact on marine mammal species or 
stocks and their habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, 
mating grounds, and areas of similar significance.

Monitoring and Reporting

    In order to issue an ITA for an activity, section 101(a)(5)(D) of 
the MMPA states that NMFS must, where applicable, set forth 
``requirements pertaining to the monitoring and reporting of such 
taking.'' The MMPA implementing regulations at 50 CFR 216.104 (a)(13) 
indicate that requests for ITAs must include the suggested means of 
accomplishing the necessary monitoring and reporting that will result 
in increased knowledge of the species and of the level of taking or 
impacts on populations of marine mammals that are expected to be 
present in the proposed action area. PISCO has described their long-
standing monitoring actions in Section 13 of the Application.
    Monitoring measures prescribed by NMFS should accomplish one or 
more of the following general goals:
    1. An increase in our understanding of the likely occurrence of 
marine mammal species in the vicinity of the action, i.e., presence, 
abundance, distribution, and/or density of species.
    2. An increase in our understanding of how many marine mammals are 
likely to be exposed to levels of disturbance that we associate with 
specific adverse effects, such as behavioral harassment;
    3. An increase in our understanding of how marine mammals respond 
to stimuli expected to result in take and how anticipated adverse 
effects on individuals (in different ways and to varying degrees) may 
impact the population, species, or stock (specifically through effects 
on annual rates of recruitment or survival) through any of the 
following methods:
    [ssquf] Behavioral observations in the presence of stimuli compared 
to observations in the absence of stimuli (need to be able to 
accurately predict received level, distance from source, and other 
pertinent information);
    [ssquf] Physiological measurements in the presence of stimuli 
compared to observations in the absence of stimuli (need to be able to 
accurately predict received level, distance from source, and other 
pertinent information);
    [ssquf] Distribution and/or abundance comparisons in times or areas 
with concentrated stimuli versus times or areas without stimuli;
    4. An increased knowledge of the affected species; and
    5. An increase in our understanding of the effectiveness of certain 
mitigation and monitoring measures.

[[Page 12572]]

    PISCO will contribute to the knowledge of pinnipeds in California 
and Oregon by noting observations of: (1) Unusual behaviors, numbers, 
or distributions of pinnipeds, such that any potential follow-up 
research can be conducted by the appropriate personnel; (2) tag-bearing 
carcasses of pinnipeds, allowing transmittal of the information to 
appropriate agencies and personnel; and (3) rare or unusual species of 
marine mammals for agency follow-up.
    Monitoring requirements in relation to PISCO's rocky intertidal 
monitoring will include observations made by the applicant. Information 
recorded will include species counts (with numbers of pups/juveniles 
when possible) of animals present before approaching, numbers of 
observed disturbances, and descriptions of the disturbance behaviors 
during the monitoring surveys, including location, date, and time of 
the event. For consistency, any reactions by pinnipeds to researchers 
will be recorded according to a three-point scale shown in Table 2. 
Note that only observations of disturbance Levels 2 and 3 should be 
recorded as takes.

           Table 2--Levels of Pinniped Behavioral Disturbance
------------------------------------------------------------------------
       Level           Type of  response              Definition
------------------------------------------------------------------------
1.................  Alert..................  Seal head orientation or
                                              brief movement in response
                                              to disturbance, which may
                                              include turning head
                                              towards the disturbance,
                                              craning head and neck
                                              while holding the body
                                              rigid in a u-shaped
                                              position, changing from a
                                              lying to a sitting
                                              position, or brief
                                              movement of less than
                                              twice the animal's body
                                              length.
2.................  Movement...............  Movements in response to
                                              the source of disturbance,
                                              ranging from short
                                              withdrawals at least twice
                                              the animal's body length
                                              to longer retreats over
                                              the beach, or if already
                                              moving a change of
                                              direction of greater than
                                              90 degrees.
3.................  Flush..................  All retreats (flushes) to
                                              the water.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In addition, observations regarding the number and species of any 
marine mammals observed, either in the water or hauled-out, at or 
adjacent to a site, are recorded as part of field observations during 
research activities. Information regarding physical and biological 
conditions pertaining to a site, as well as the date and time that 
research was conducted are also noted. This information will be 
incorporated into a monitoring report for NMFS. PISCO will also report 
observations of unusual behaviors, numbers, or distributions of 
pinnipeds, or of tag-bearing carcasses, to NMFS Southwest Fisheries 
Science Center (SWFSC).
    If at any time the specified activity clearly causes the take of a 
marine mammal in a manner prohibited by this IHA, such as an injury 
(Level A harassment), serious injury, or mortality, PISCO shall 
immediately cease the specified activities and report the incident to 
the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the Southwest Regional 
Stranding Coordinator, NMFS. The report must include the following 
information:
    (1) Time and date of the incident;
    (2) Description of the incident;
    (3) Environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, 
Beaufort sea state, cloud cover, and visibility);
    (4) Description of all marine mammal observations in the 24 hours 
preceding the incident;
    (5) Species identification or description of the animal(s) 
involved;
    (6) Fate of the animal(s); and
    (7) Photographs or video footage of the animal(s).
    Activities shall not resume until NMFS is able to review the 
circumstances of the prohibited take. NMFS will work with PISCO to 
determine what measures are necessary to minimize the likelihood of 
further prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. PISCO may not 
resume the activities until notified by NMFS.
    In the event that an injured or dead marine mammal is discovered 
and it is determined that the cause of the injury or death is unknown 
and the death is relatively recent (e.g., in less than a moderate state 
of decomposition), PISCO shall immediately report the incident to the 
Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the West Coast Regional 
Stranding Coordinator, NMFS. The report must include the same 
information identified in the paragraph above IHA. Activities may 
continue while NMFS reviews the circumstances of the incident. NMFS 
will work with PISCO to determine whether additional mitigation 
measures or modifications to the activities are appropriate.
    In the event that an injured or dead marine mammal is discovered 
and it is determined that the injury or death is not associated with or 
related to the activities authorized in the IHA (e.g., previously 
wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced decomposition, or 
scavenger damage), PISCO shall report the incident to the Office of 
Protected Resources, NMFS, and the West Coast Regional Stranding 
Coordinator, NMFS, within 24 hours of the discovery. PISCO shall 
provide photographs or video footage or other documentation of the 
stranded animal sighting to NMFS. Activities may continue while NMFS 
reviews the circumstances of the incident.
    A draft final report must be submitted to NMFS Office of Protected 
Resources within 60 days after the conclusion of the 2016-2017 field 
season or 60 days prior to the start of the next field season if a new 
IHA will be requested. The report will include a summary of the 
information gathered pursuant to the monitoring requirements set forth 
in the IHA. A final report must be submitted to the Director of the 
NMFS Office of Protected Resources and to the NMFS West Coast Regional 
Administrator within 30 days after receiving comments from NMFS on the 
draft final report. If no comments are received from NMFS, the draft 
final report will be considered to be the final report.

Monitoring Results From Previously Authorized Activities

    PISCO complied with the mitigation and monitoring that were 
required under the IHA issued in December 2014. In compliance with the 
IHA, PISCO submitted a report detailing the activities and marine 
mammal monitoring they conducted. The IHA required PISCO to conduct 
counts of pinnipeds present at study sites prior to approaching the 
sites and to record species counts and any observed reactions to the 
presence of the researchers.
    From December 17, 2014, through December 16, 2015, PISCO 
researchers conducted rocky intertidal sampling at numerous sites in 
California and Oregon (see Table 1 and 2 in PISCO's 2014-2015 
monitoring report). During this time no injured, stranded, or dead 
pinnipeds were observed. Tables 7, 8, and 9 in PISCO's monitoring 
report outline marine mammal observations and reactions. During this 
period there were 44 takes of harbor seals, 19 takes of California sea 
lions, and 4 takes of northern elephant seals. NMFS had

[[Page 12573]]

authorized the take of 183 harbor seals, 60 California sea lions, and 
30 Northern Elephant seals under the IHA.
    Based on the results from the monitoring report, we conclude that 
these results support our original findings that the mitigation 
measures set forth in the 2014-2015 IHA effected the least practicable 
impact on the species or stocks. There were no stampede events this 
year and most disturbances were Level 1 and 2 from the disturbance 
scale (Table 2)--meaning the animal did not fully flush but observed or 
moved slightly in response to researchers. Those that did fully flush 
to the water did so slowly. Most of these animals tended to observe 
researchers from the water and then re-haulout farther upcoast or 
downcoast of the site within approximately 30 minutes of the 
disturbance.

Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment

    Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, the 
MMPA defines ``harassment'' as: Any act of pursuit, torment, or 
annoyance which (i) has the potential to injure a marine mammal or 
marine mammal stock in the wild (Level A harassment); or (ii) has the 
potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild 
by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not 
limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or 
sheltering (Level B harassment).
    All anticipated takes would be by Level B harassment, involving 
temporary changes in behavior. The mitigation and monitoring measures 
are expected to minimize the possibility of injurious or lethal takes 
such that take by injury, serious injury, or mortality is considered 
remote. Animals hauled out close to the actual survey sites may be 
disturbed by the presence of researchers and may alter their behavior 
or attempt to move away from the researchers.
    As discussed earlier, NMFS considers an animal to have been 
harassed if it moved greater than two times its body length in response 
to the researcher's presence or if the animal was already moving and 
changed direction and/or speed, or if the animal flushed into the 
water. Animals that became alert without such movements were not 
considered harassed.
    For the purpose of the issued IHA, only the Oregon and California 
sites that are frequently sampled and have a marine mammal presence 
during sampling were included in calculating take estimates. Sites 
where only Biodiversity Surveys are conducted did not provide enough 
data to confidently estimate takes since they are sampled infrequently 
(once every 3-5 years). A small number of harbor seal, northern 
elephant seal and California sea lion pup takes are anticipated as pups 
may be present at several sites during spring and summer sampling.
    Take estimates are based on marine mammal observations from each 
site. Marine mammals are observed as part of PISCO site observations, 
which include taking notes on physical and biological conditions at the 
site. The maximum number of marine mammals, by species, seen at any 
given time throughout the sampling day is recorded at the conclusion of 
sampling. A marine mammal is counted if it is seen on access ways to 
the site, at the site, or immediately up-coast or down-coast of the 
site. Marine mammals in the water immediately offshore are also 
recorded. Any other relevant information, including the location of a 
marine mammal relevant to the site, any unusual behavior, and the 
presence of pups is also noted.
    These observations formed the basis from which researchers with 
extensive knowledge and experience at each site estimated the actual 
number of marine mammals that may be subject to take. Take estimates 
for each species for which take would be authorized were based on the 
following equation:

Take estimate per survey site = (number of expected animals per survey 
site * number of survey days per survey site)

    Individual species' totals for each survey site were summed to 
arrive at a total estimated take. In most cases the number of takes is 
based on the maximum number of marine mammals that have been observed 
at a site throughout the history of the site (1-3 observation per year 
for 5-10 years or more) with additional input provided by the 
researchers with site-specific knowledge and experience. Section 6 in 
PISCO's application outlines the number of visits per year for each 
sampling site and the potential number of pinnipeds anticipated to be 
encountered at each site. Tables 3, 4, 5 in PISCO's application 
outlines the number of potential takes per site (see ADDRESSES).
    Harbor seals are expected to occur at 16 locations in numbers 
ranging from 5 to 30 per visit (Table 3 in PISCO's application). It is 
anticipated that there will be 220 takes of adult harbor seals and 13 
takes of weaned pups. Therefore, NMFS authorizes the take of up to 233 
harbor seals.
    California sea lions are expected to be present at five sites. 
Eighty-five adult and five pups are expected to be taken. Therefore, 
NMFS authorizes the take of 90 California sea lions.
    Northern elephant seals are only expected to occur at one site this 
year, Piedras Blancs, which will experience two separate visits. Up to 
20 adult and 40 pup takes are anticipated. Therefore, NMFS authorizes 
the take of up to 60 northern elephant seals.
    PISCO researchers report that they have very rarely observed 
Steller sea lions at any research sites and none have been observed 
over the last several years. Therefore, PISCO has not requested, and 
NMFS did not authorize take of any Steller sea lions.
    NMFS has authorized the take, by Level B harassment only, of 233 
harbor seals, 90 California sea lions, and 60 northern elephant seals. 
These numbers are considered to be maximum take estimates. Therefore, 
actual take may be less if animals decide to haul out at a different 
location for the day or animals are out foraging at the time of the 
survey activities.

Analysis and Determinations

Negligible Impact Analysis

    Negligible impact is ``an impact resulting from the specified 
activity that cannot be reasonably expected to, and is not reasonably 
likely to, adversely affect the species or stock through effects on 
annual rates of recruitment or survival'' (50 CFR 216.103). A 
negligible impact finding is based on the lack of likely adverse 
effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival (i.e., population-
level effects). An estimate of the number of Level B harassment takes, 
alone, is not enough information on which to base an impact 
determination. In addition to considering estimates of the number of 
marine mammals that might be ``taken'' through behavioral harassment, 
NMFS must consider other factors, such as the likely nature of any 
responses (their intensity, duration, etc.), the context of any 
responses (critical reproductive time or location, feeding, migration, 
etc.), as well as the number and nature of estimated Level A harassment 
takes, the number of estimated mortalities, effects on habitat, and the 
status of the species.
    To avoid repetition, the discussion of our analyses applies 
generally to the three species for which take is authorized, given that 
the anticipated effects of these surveys on marine mammals are expected 
to be relatively similar in nature. Where there are species-specific 
factors that have been considered, they are identified below.
    No injuries or mortalities are anticipated to occur as a result of

[[Page 12574]]

PISCO's rocky intertidal monitoring surveys and none are proposed to be 
authorized. The risk of marine mammal injury, serious injury, or 
mortality associated with rocky intertidal monitoring increases 
somewhat if disturbances occur during breeding season. These situations 
present increased potential for mothers and dependent pups to become 
separated and, if separated pairs do not quickly reunite, the risk of 
mortality to pups (e.g., through starvation) may increase. Separately, 
adult male elephant seals may trample elephant seal pups if disturbed, 
which could potentially result in the injury, serious injury, or 
mortality of the pups. The risk of either of these situations is 
greater in the event of a stampede; however, as described previously, 
stampede is not considered likely to occur.
    Very few pups are anticipated to be encountered during the proposed 
monitoring surveys. However, a small number of harbor seal, northern 
elephant seal, and California sea lion pups have been observed at 
several of the proposed monitoring sites during past years. Harbor 
seals are very precocious with only a short period of time in which 
separation of a mother from a pup could occur. Although elephant seal 
pups are occasionally present when researchers visit survey sites, risk 
of pup mortalities is very low because elephant seals are far less 
reactive to researcher presence compared to the other two species. 
Further, elephant seal pups are typically found on sand beaches, while 
study sites are located in the rocky intertidal zone, meaning that 
there is typically a buffer between researchers and pups. Finally, the 
caution used by researchers in approaching sites generally precludes 
the possibility of behavior, such as stampeding, that could result in 
extended separation of mothers and dependent pups or trampling of pups. 
No research would occur where separation of mother and her nursing pup 
or crushing of pups can become a concern.
    Typically, even those reactions constituting Level B harassment 
would result at most in temporary, short-term disturbance. In any given 
study season, researchers will visit sites one to two times per year 
for a total of 4-6 hours per visit. Therefore, disturbance of pinnipeds 
resulting from the presence of researchers lasts only for short periods 
of time and is separated by significant amounts of time in which no 
disturbance occurs.
    Some of the pinniped species may use some of the sites during 
certain times of year to conduct pupping and/or breeding. However, some 
of these species prefer to use offshore islands for these activities. 
At the sites where pups may be present, PISCO has proposed to implement 
certain mitigation measures, such as no intentional flushing if 
dependent pups are present, which will avoid mother/pup separation and 
trampling of pups.
    Of the marine mammal species anticipated to occur in the proposed 
activity areas, none are listed under the ESA. Taking into account the 
planned mitigation measures, effects to marine mammals are generally 
expected to be restricted to short-term changes in behavior or 
temporary abandonment of haulout sites, pinnipeds are not expected to 
permanently abandon any area that is surveyed by researchers, as is 
evidenced by continued presence of pinnipeds at the sites during annual 
monitoring counts. Based on the analysis contained herein of the likely 
effects of the specified activity on marine mammals and their habitat, 
and taking into consideration the implementation of the proposed 
mitigation and monitoring measures, NMFS finds that the total marine 
mammal take from PISCO's rocky intertidal monitoring program will not 
adversely affect annual rates of recruitment or survival and, 
therefore, will have a negligible impact on the affected species or 
stocks.

Small Numbers

    Table 3 presents the abundance of each species or stock, the 
proposed take estimates, and the percentage of the affected populations 
or stocks that may be taken by Level B harassment. The numbers of 
animals authorized to be taken would be considered small relative to 
the relevant stocks or populations (0.75-0.94 percent for harbor seals, 
and <0.01 percent for California sea lions and northern elephant 
seals). Because these are maximum estimates, actual take numbers are 
likely to be lower, as some animals may not be present on survey days.
    Based on the analysis contained herein of the likely effects of the 
specified activity on marine mammals and their habitat, and taking into 
consideration the implementation of the mitigation and monitoring 
measures, we find that small numbers of marine mammals will be taken 
relative to the populations of the affected species or stocks.

 Table 3--Population Abundance Estimates, Total Proposed Level B Take, and Percentage of Population That May Be
       Taken for the Potentially Affected Species During the Proposed Rocky Intertidal Monitoring Program
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                   Percentage of
                             Species                                Abundance *   Total proposed     stock or
                                                                                   Level B take     population
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Harbor seal.....................................................      \1\ 30,968             233      <0.75-0.94
                                                                      \2\ 24,732
California sea lion.............................................         296,750              90           <0.01
Northern elephant seal..........................................         179,000              60           <0.01
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
* Abundance estimates are taken from the 2015 U.S. Pacific Marine Mammal Stock Assessments (Carretta et al.,
  2016).
\1\ California stock abundance estimate;
\2\ Oregon/Washington stock abundance estimate from 1999-Most recent surveys.

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

    There are no relevant subsistence uses of marine mammals implicated 
by this action. Therefore, NMFS has determined that the total taking of 
affected species or stocks would not have an unmitigable adverse impact 
on the availability of such species or stocks for taking for 
subsistence purposes.

Endangered Species Act

    No species listed under the ESA are expected to be affected by 
these activities. Therefore, NMFS has determined that a section 7 
consultation under the ESA is not required.

[[Page 12575]]

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

    In 2012, NMFS prepared an EA analyzing the potential effects to the 
human environment from conducting rocky intertidal surveys along the 
California and Oregon coasts and issued a Finding of No Significant 
Impact (FONSI) on November 26, 2012 on the issuance of an IHA for 
PISCO's rocky intertidal surveys in accordance with section 6.01 of the 
NOAA Administrative Order 216-6 (Environmental Review Procedures for 
Implementing the National Environmental Policy Act, May 20, 1999). We 
have reviewed the application for a renewed IHA for ongoing monitoring 
activities for 2017-18 as well as results from the 2014-15 monitoring 
report. Based on that review, we have determined that the action is 
very similar to that considered in the previous IHA. We conducted an 
environmental review and found no significant new circumstances or 
information relevant to environmental concerns have been identified. 
Thus, we have determined that the preparation of a new or supplemental 
NEPA document is not necessary. The 2012 NEPA documents are available 
for review at www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental/research.htm.

Authorization

    As a result of these determinations, we have issued an IHA to PISCO 
for conducting the described activities related to rocky intertidal 
monitoring surveys along the Oregon and Washington coasts from February 
21, 2017 through February 20, 2018 provided the previously described 
mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements are incorporated.

    Dated: February 28, 2017.
Donna S. Wieting,
Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
[FR Doc. 2017-04194 Filed 3-3-17; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P