Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Gull Monitoring and Research in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska, 2017, 24681-24688 [2017-11036]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 102 / Tuesday, May 30, 2017 / Notices remains in conformance with the conditions of the regulations and the LOA, including the mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements described in 50 CFR part 218, subpart P and the LOA. Dated: May 23, 2017. Donna S. Wieting, Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2017–11037 Filed 5–26–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XF118 Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Gull Monitoring and Research in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska, 2017 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 the NMFS has issued an incidental harassment authorization (IHA) to the National Park Service (NPS) to incidentally harass, by Level B harassment only, marine mammals during gull monitoring and research activities in Glacier Bay National Park (Glacier Bay NP) from May through September, 2017. DATES: This Authorization is effective from May 1, 2017 through September 30, 2017. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Stephanie Egger, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, (301) 427–8401. Electronic copies of the application and supporting documents, as well as a list of the references cited in this document, may be obtained online at http:// www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/ incidental/research.htm. In case of problems accessing these documents, please call the contact listed above. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: Background Sections 101(a)(5)(A) and (D) of the MMPA direct the Secretary of Commerce to allow, upon request by U.S. citizens who engage in a specified activity (other than commercial fishing) within a specified area, the incidental, VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:59 May 26, 2017 Jkt 241001 but not intentional, taking of small numbers of marine mammals, provided that certain findings are made and the necessary prescriptions are established. The incidental taking of small numbers of marine mammals shall be allowed if NMFS (through authority delegated by the Secretary) finds that the total taking by the specified activity during the specified time period will (i) have a negligible impact on the species or stock(s) and (ii) not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of the species or stock(s) for subsistence uses (where relevant). Further, the permissible methods of taking, as well as the other means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact on the species or stock and its habitat (i.e., mitigation) must be prescribed. Last, requirements pertaining to the monitoring and reporting of such taking must be set forth. Where there is the potential for serious injury or death, the allowance of incidental taking requires promulgation of regulations under section 101(a)(5)(A). Subsequently, a Letter (or Letters) of Authorization may be issued as governed by the prescriptions established in such regulations, provided that the level of taking will be consistent with the findings made for the total taking allowable under the specific regulations. Under section 101(a)(5)(D), NMFS may authorize incidental taking by harassment only (i.e., no serious injury or mortality), for periods of not more than one year, pursuant to requirements and conditions contained within an IHA. The promulgation of regulations or issuance of IHAs (with their associated prescripted mitigation, monitoring, and reporting) requires notice and opportunity for public comment. 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.’’ NMFS has defined ‘‘unmitigable adverse impact’’ in 50 CFR 216.103 as ‘‘. . . an impact resulting from the specified activity: (1) That is likely to reduce the availability of the species to a level insufficient for a harvest to meet subsistence needs by: (i) Causing the marine mammals to abandon or avoid hunting areas; (ii) directly displacing subsistence users; or (iii) placing physical barriers between the marine mammals and the subsistence hunters; and PO 00000 Frm 00023 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 24681 (2) That cannot be sufficiently mitigated by other measures to increase the availability of marine mammals to allow subsistence needs to be met. Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, section 3(18) of 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 November 22, 2016, NMFS received an application from Glacier Bay NP requesting taking by harassment of marine mammals, incidental to conducting monitoring and research studies on glaucous-winged gulls (Larus glaucescens) within Glacier Bay NP, Alaska. The application was considered adequate and complete on February 10, 2017. NMFS previously issued three IHAs to Glacier Bay NP for the same activities from 2014 to 2016 (79 FR 56065, September 18, 2014; 80 FR 28229, May 18, 2015; 81 FR 34994, May 16, 2016). For the 2017 research season, Glacier Bay NP plans to conduct ground-based and vessel-based surveys to collect data on the number and distribution of nesting gulls within six study sites in Glacier Bay, Alaska. Marine mammals have only been observed at four of the six study sites. The planned activities would occur over the course of five months, from May through September 2017. The following aspects of the planned gull research activities have the potential to take marine mammals: Noise generated by motorboat approaches and departures; noise generated by researchers while conducting ground surveys; and human presence (visual disturbance) during the monitoring and research activities. Harbor seals hauled out at the study sites may flush into the water or exhibit temporary modification in behavior (Level B harassment). Thus, Glacier Bay NP has requested an authorization to take harbor seals by Level B harassment only. Although Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) may be present in the action area, Glacier Bay NP will avoid any site used by Steller sea lions. Description of the Specified Activity Glacier Bay NP plans to identify the onset of gull nesting; conduct mid- E:\FR\FM\30MYN1.SGM 30MYN1 24682 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 102 / Tuesday, May 30, 2017 / Notices season surveys of adult gulls, and locate and document gull nest sites within the following study areas: Boulder, Lone, and Flapjack Islands, and Geikie Rock from May 1 through September 30, 2017. Glacier Bay NP plans to conduct a maximum of three ground-based surveys per each study site and a maximum of two vessel-based surveys per each study site. Duration of surveys would be 30 minutes (min) to two hours (hr) each. Each of these study sites contains harbor seal haulout sites and Glacier Bay NP plans to visit each study site up to five times during the research season. Glacier Bay NP also plans to conduct studies at South Marble Island and Tlingit Point Islet; however, there are no reported pinniped haulouts at those locations. Glacier Bay NP must conduct the gull monitoring studies to meet the requirements of a 2010 Record of Decision for a Legislative Environmental Impact Statement (LEIS) (NPS, 2010) which states that Glacier Bay NP must initiate a monitoring program for the gulls to inform future native egg harvests by the Hoonah Tlingit in Glacier Bay, AK. Glacier Bay NP also actively monitors harbor seals at breeding and molting sites to assess population trends over time (e.g., Mathews & Pendleton, 2006; Womble et al., 2010). Glacier Bay NP coordinates pinniped monitoring programs with NMFS’ Alaska Fisheries Science Center and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and plans to continue these collaborations and sharing of monitoring data and observations in the future. A detailed description of the planned Glacier Bay NP project is provided in the Federal Register notice for the proposed IHA (82 FR 12931; March 8, 2017). Since that time, no changes have been made to the planned activities. Therefore, a detailed description is not provided here. Please refer to that Federal Register notice for the description of the specific activity. arguments for taking different mathematical approaches in different situations, and for making qualitative adjustments in other situations. NMFS is currently engaged in developing a protocol to guide more consistent take calculation given certain circumstances. We believe, however, that the methodology for this action remains appropriate. Comments and Responses A notice of NMFS’s proposal to issue an IHA to the NPS at Glacier Bay NP was published in the Federal Register on March 8, 2017 (82 FR 12931). That notice described, in detail, Glacier Bay NP’s activity, the marine mammal species that may be affected by the activity, and the anticipated effects on marine mammals. During the 30-day public comment period, NMFS received only one pertinent comment letter, from the Marine Mammal Commission (Commission). Comment 1: NMFS received a comment from the Commission with the recommendation that NMFS follow its policy of a 24-hour reset for enumerating the number of harbor seals that could be taken during the planned activities by applying standard rounding rules before summing the numbers of estimated takes across survey sites and survey days. Response: Calculating predicted take is not an exact science and there are A detailed description of the of the species likely to be affected by the Glacier Bay NP 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 12931; March 8, 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 refer to additional species information available in the NMFS SARs for Alaska at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/sars/ region.htm. Marine mammals under NMFS’ jurisdiction that occur in the vicinity of the study sites in Glacier Bay NP include the harbor seal and Steller sea lion (Table 1). Description of Marine Mammals in the Area of the Specified Activity TABLE 1—GENERAL INFORMATION ON MARINE MAMMALS THAT COULD POTENTIALLY HAUL OUT IN THE STUDY AREAS IN GLACIER BAY, ALASKA, MAY THROUGH SEPTEMBER 2017 Species Scientific name Stock name Harbor seal ..................... (Phoca vitulina) ............... Glacier Bay/Icy Strait ...... Steller sea lion ................ (Eumetopias jubatus) ..... Eastern U.S. ................... Steller sea lion ................ (Eumetopias jubatus) ..... Western U.S. .................. Regulatory status 1 2 MMPA–NC ESA–NL MMPA–D, S ESA–DL MMPA–D, S ESA–E Occurrence and range Season common coastal ............. year-round. uncommon coastal ......... year-round. uncommon coastal ......... unknown. 1 MMPA: D = Depleted, S = Strategic, NC = Not Classified. E = Endangered, T = Threatened, DL = Delisted, NL = Not listed. 3 2015 NMFS Stock Assessment Report (Muto et al., 2016). sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with NOTICES 2 ESA: Both are protected under the MMPA and the Steller sea lion is listed as endangered (Western Distinct Population Segment) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). It was determined that take will not occur for Steller sea lions based on available VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:59 May 26, 2017 Jkt 241001 survey data and for the fact that NPS will not survey a site if Steller sea lions are present. Therefore, Steller sea lions are not discussed further in this authorization. Harbor seals of Glacier Bay are considered part of the Glacier Bay/Icy PO 00000 Frm 00024 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Strait stock (Table 2)—ranging from Cape Fairweather southeast to Column Point, extending inland to Glacier Bay, Icy Strait, and from Hanus Reef south to Tenakee Inlet (Muto et al., 2016). E:\FR\FM\30MYN1.SGM 30MYN1 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 102 / Tuesday, May 30, 2017 / Notices 24683 TABLE 2—HARBOR SEAL STATUS INFORMATION Species Harbor seal ES)/MMPA status; strategic (Y/N) 1 Stock Glacier Bay/Icy Strait (Alaska). Stock abundance (Nmin, most recent abundance survey) 2 —; N .............. 7,210 (5,647; 2011) Relative occurrence/ season of occurrence Annual M/SI 4 PBR 3 169 104 Harbor seals are yearround inhabitants of Glacier Bay, Alaska. 1 Endangered Species Act (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. Under the MMPA, a strategic stock is one for which the level of direct human-caused mortality exceeds PBR (see footnote 3) or which is determined to be declining and likely to be listed under the ESA within the foreseeable future. Any species or stock listed under the ESA is automatically designated under the MMPA as depleted and as a strategic stock. 2N min is the minimum estimate of stock abundance. The most recent abundance survey that is reflected in the abundance estimate is presented; there may be more recent surveys that have not yet been incorporated into the estimate. 3 Potential biological removal, defined by the MMPA as the maximum number of animals, not including natural mortalities, that may be removed from a marine mammal stock while allowing that stock to reach or maintain its optimum sustainable population size (OSP). 4 These values, found in NMFS’ SARs, represent annual levels of human-caused mortality plus serious injury from all sources combined (e.g., commercial fisheries, subsistence hunting, ship strike). Annual M/SI often cannot be determined precisely and is in some cases presented as a minimum value. All values presented here are from the final 2015 Harbor Seal, Alaska SAR. (http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/sars/pdf/stocks/alaska/ 2015/ak2015_sehr.pdf.) sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with NOTICES Potential Effects of the Specified Activities on Marine Mammals and Their Habitat The effects of noise and visual disturbance from the Glacier Bay NP activities for the gull monitoring and research project have the potential to result in behavioral harassment of marine mammals in the vicinity of the action area. The project would not result in permanent impacts to habitats used directly by marine mammals, such as haulout sites, nor impacts to food sources. The Federal Register notice for the proposed IHA (82 FR 12931; March 8, 2017) included a discussion of the effects of disturbance on marine mammals and their habitat, therefore that information is not repeated here; please refer to the Federal Register notice (82 FR 12931; March 8, 2017) for that information. Based on the available data, previous monitoring reports from Glacier Bay NP, and studies described in the proposed IHA, we anticipate that any pinnipeds found in the vicinity of the project could have short-term behavioral reactions (i.e., may result in marine mammals avoiding certain areas) due to noise and visual disturbance generated by: (1) Motorboat approaches and departures and (2) human presence during gull research activities. We would expect the pinnipeds to return to a haul-out site within minutes to hours of the stimulus based on previous research (Allen et al., 1985). Pinnipeds may be temporarily displaced from their haul-out sites, but we do not expect that the pinnipeds would permanently abandon a haul-out site during the conduct of the research as activities are short in duration (30 min to up to two hours), and previous surveys have demonstrated that seals have returned to VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:59 May 26, 2017 Jkt 241001 their haulout sites and have not permanently abandoned the sites. NMFS does not anticipate that the planned activities would result in the injury, serious injury, or mortality of pinnipeds. NMFS does not anticipate that strikes or collisions would result from the movement of the motorboat. The planned activities will not result in any permanent impact on habitats used by marine mammals, including prey species and foraging habitat. The potential effects to marine mammals described in this section of the document do not take into consideration the monitoring and mitigation measures described later in this document (see the ‘‘Mitigation’’ and ‘‘Monitoring and Reporting’’ sections). Estimated Take This section includes an estimate of the number of incidental ‘‘takes’’ for the authorization pursuant to this IHA, which informed both NMFS’ consideration of whether the number of takes is ‘‘small’’ and the negligible impact determination. Take in the form of harassment is expected to result from these activities. 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). As described previously in the Effects section, Level B Harassment is expected to occur and is authorized in the numbers identified below. Based on the PO 00000 Frm 00025 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 nature of the activity and the anticipated effectiveness of the mitigation measures, Level A Harassment is neither anticipated nor authorized. The death of a marine mammal is also a type of incidental take. However, as described previously, no mortality is anticipated or authorized from this activity. All anticipated takes would be by Level B harassment, involving temporary changes in behavior. NMFS expects that the presence of Glacier Bay NP personnel could disturb animals hauled out and that the animals may alter their behavior or attempt to move away from the researchers. Harbor seals may be disturbed when vessels approach or researchers go ashore for the purpose of monitoring gull colonies. Harbor seals tend to haul out in small numbers at study sites (2015–2016): Boulder Island—average 4.85 seals, Flapjack Island—average 11.22 seals, Geikie Rock—average 10.25 seals, and Lone Island average of 17.22 seals (see raw data from Tables 1 of the 2016 and 2015 Monitoring Report). Based on previous pinniped observations during gull monitoring (2015 and 2016) conducted by Glacier Bay NP, NMFS estimates that the research activities could potentially affect by Level B behavioral harassment 218 incidents of harassment to harbor seals over the course of the authorization. This number was calculated by multiplying the average number of seals observed at each site (2015–2016) by five visits per site for a total of 218 incidents of harassment (Table 3). The highest number of annual visits to each gull study site will be five, therefore it is expected that individual harbor seals at a given site will be disturbed no more than five times per year. E:\FR\FM\30MYN1.SGM 30MYN1 24684 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 102 / Tuesday, May 30, 2017 / Notices TABLE 3—LEVEL B TAKES BY HARASSMENT DURING NPS GULL SURVEYS Survey sites Average number of seals observed * Number of site visits Boulder Island .......................................... Flapjack Island ......................................... Geikie Rock ............................................. Lone Island .............................................. 4.85 seals ................................................ 11.22 seals .............................................. 10.25 seals .............................................. 17.22 seals .............................................. Total 43.5 (44 seals) ............................... 5 5 5 5 ........................ Incidents of harassments/Level B take 24.29. 56.11. 51.25. 86.1. Total: 218 incidents of harassment. * Data from 2016 and 2015 NPS gull surveys. There can be greater numbers of seals on the survey islands then what is detected by the NPS during the gull surveys. Aerial survey maximum counts show that harbor seals sometimes haul out in large numbers at all four locations (see Table 1 of the application). However, harbor seals hauled out at Flapjack Island are generally on the southern end whereas the gull colony is on the northern end. Similarly, harbor seals on Boulder Island tend to haul out on the southern end while the gull colony is located and can be accessed on the northern end without disturbance. Aerial survey counts for harbor seals are conducted during low tide while ground and vessel surveys are conducted during high tide, which along with greater visibility during aerial surveys, may also contribute to why there are greater numbers of seals observed during the aerial surveys. sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with NOTICES Effects of Specified Activities on Subsistence Uses of Marine Mammals Subsistence harvest of harbor seals by Alaska Natives is exempted from the MMPA’s take prohibition (16 U.S.C. 1371(b)(1)); however, subsistence harvest of harbor seals has not been permitted in Glacier Bay NP since 1974 (Catton, 1995). The extensive postbreeding seasonal distribution of seals from Glacier Bay (Womble and Gende, 2013) may expose seals to subsistence harvest outside of the park. Subsistence surveys and anthropological studies demonstrate that harbor seals may be harvested during all months; however, there are typically two distinct seasonal peaks for harvest of seals, which occur during spring and in autumn/early winter (de Laguna, 1972; Emmons, 1991). These time periods co-occur with the time period during which seals travel beyond the boundaries of Glacier Bay (Womble and Gende, 2013). The level of subsistence harvest on seals from Glacier Bay/Icy Strait stock has not been quantified; however, subsistence reports from nearby communities have documented subsistence harvest (e.g., Wolfe et al., 2009). Due to the prohibition of subsistence harvest at the gull study sites and the temporary VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:59 May 26, 2017 Jkt 241001 behavior disturbance of marine mammal disturbance caused by this project, we anticipate no impacts to subsistence harvest of marine mammals in the region. Mitigation In order to issue an incidental take authorization under section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA, we must set forth the permissible methods of taking pursuant to such activity, and other means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact on such species or stock and its habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance, and the availability of such species or stock for taking for certain subsistence uses. Glacier Bay NP has based the mitigation measures, which they will to implement during their research, on the following: (1) Protocols used during previous gull research activities as required by our previous authorizations for these activities; and (2) recommended best practices in Womble et al. (2010); Richardson et al. (1995); Pierson et al. (1998); and Weir and Dolman (2007). To reduce the potential for disturbance from acoustic and visual stimuli associated with the activities Glacier Bay NP and/or its designees will implement the following mitigation measures for marine mammals: • Perform pre-survey monitoring before deciding to access a study site; • Avoid accessing a site where Steller sea lions are present; • Perform controlled and slow ingress to the study site to prevent flushing harbor seals and select a pathway of approach to minimize the number of marine mammals harassed; • Monitor for offshore predators at study sites. Avoid approaching the study site if killer whales (Orcinus orca) are observed. If Glacier Bay NP and/or its designees see predators in the area, they must not disturb the pinnipeds until the area is free of predators; and • Maintain a quiet research atmosphere in the visual presence of pinnipeds. PO 00000 Frm 00026 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Pre-Survey Monitoring Prior to deciding to land onshore to conduct the study, the researchers will use high-powered image stabilizing binoculars from the watercraft to document the number, species, and location of hauled out marine mammals at each island. The vessels will maintain a distance of 100 to 500 meter (m) (328 to 1,640 feet) from the shoreline to allow the researchers to conduct pre-survey monitoring. Site Avoidance If there are Steller sea lions are present, the researchers will not approach the island and will not conduct gull monitoring and research. Controlled Landings The researchers will determine whether to approach the island based on type of animals present. Researchers will approach the island by motorboat at a speed of approximately 2 to 3 knots (2.3 to 3.4 miles per hour). This will provide enough time for any marine mammals present to slowly enter the water without panic (flushing). The researchers will also select a pathway of approach farthest from the hauled out harbor seals to minimize disturbance. Minimize Predator Interactions If the researchers visually observe marine predators (i.e., killer whales) present in the vicinity of hauled out marine mammals, the researchers will not approach the study site. Noise Reduction Protocols While onshore at study sites, the researchers will remain vigilant for hauled out marine mammals. If marine mammals are present, the researchers will move slowly and use quiet voices to minimize disturbance to the animals present. Mitigation Conclusions NMFS has carefully evaluated the applicant’s mitigation measures and considered a range of other measures in the context of ensuring that NMFS prescribes the means of affecting the least practicable impact on the affected E:\FR\FM\30MYN1.SGM 30MYN1 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 102 / Tuesday, May 30, 2017 / Notices 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 mammal species or stocks; • 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 received levels of pile driving, or other 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 received levels of pile driving, or other 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 received levels of pile driving, or other activities expected to result in the take of marine mammals (this goal may contribute to a, 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 measures, as well as other measures considered by NMFS, 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, areas of similar significance, and on the availability of such species or stock for subsistence uses. Monitoring and Reporting Monitoring In order to issue an incidental take authorization for an activity, section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA that we must set forth ‘‘requirements pertaining to the monitoring and reporting of such taking.’’ The Act’s implementing regulations at 50 CFR 216.104(a)(13) indicate that requests for an incidental take authorization must include the suggested means of accomplishing the necessary monitoring and reporting that will result in increased knowledge of the species and our expectations of the level of taking or impacts on populations of marine mammals present in the action area. Glacier Bay NP submitted a marine mammal monitoring plan in section 13 of their application. Monitoring requirement NMFS prescribes shall improve our understanding of one or more of the following: • Occurrence of marine mammal species in action area (e.g., presence, abundance, distribution, density); • Nature, scope, or context of likely marine mammal exposure to potential 24685 stressors/impacts (individual or cumulative, acute or chronic), through better understanding of: (1) Action or environment (e.g., source characterization, propagation, ambient noise); (2) Affected species (e.g., life history, dive patterns); (3) Cooccurrence of marine mammal species with the action; or (4) Biological or behavioral context of exposure (e.g., age, calving or feeding areas); • Individual responses to acute stressors, or impacts of chronic exposures (behavioral or physiological); • How anticipated responses to stressors impact either: (1) Long-term fitness and survival of an individual; or (2) Population, species, or stock; • Effects on marine mammal habitat and resultant impacts to marine mammals; and • Mitigation and monitoring effectiveness. Glacier Bay NP will conduct marine mammal monitoring during the project, in order to implement the mitigation measures that require real-time monitoring. The researchers will monitor the area for pinnipeds during all research activities. Monitoring activities will consist of conducting and recording observations on pinnipeds within the vicinity of the research areas. The monitoring notes will provide dates, location, species, the researcher’s activity, behavioral state, numbers of animals that were alert or moved greater than one meter, and numbers of pinnipeds that flushed into the water. The method for recording disturbances follows those in Mortenson (1996). Glacier Bay NP will record disturbances on a three-point scale that represents an increasing seal response to the disturbance (Table 4). Glacier Bay will record the time, source, and duration of the disturbance, as well as an estimated distance between the source and haul-out. NMFS consider only responses falling into Levels 2 and 3 as harassment under the MMPA, under the terms of this authorization. TABLE 4—SEAL RESPONSE TO DISTURBANCE Type of response Definition 1 ........... sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with NOTICES Level Alert .................................... 2 ........... Movement ........................... 3 ........... 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. Alerts would be recorded, but not counted as a ‘take’. 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. These movements would be recorded and counted as a ‘take’. All retreats (flushes) to the water. Flushing into the water would be recorded and counted as a ‘take’. VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:59 May 26, 2017 Jkt 241001 PO 00000 Frm 00027 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 E:\FR\FM\30MYN1.SGM 30MYN1 sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with NOTICES 24686 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 102 / Tuesday, May 30, 2017 / Notices Glacier Bay NP complied with the monitoring requirements under the previous authorizations. NMFS posted the 2016 report on our Web site at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/ incidental/research.htm and the results from the previous Glacier Bay NP monitoring reports support our findings that the mitigation measures required under the 2014–2016 Authorizations, provide the means of effecting the least practicable impact on the species or stock. During the last two years of this activity, approximately a third of all observed harbor seals have flushed in response to these activities (37 percent in 2015 and 36 percent in 2016). In 2016, of the 216 harbor seals that were observed: 77 flushed in to the water, 3 became alert but did not move >1 m, and 17 moved >1 m but did not flush into the water. On five occasions, harbor seals were flushed into the water when islands were accessed for gull surveys. In these instances, the vessel approached the island at very slow speed and most of the harbor seals flushed into the water at approximately 50–100 m. In 4 instances, fewer than 25 harbor seals were present, but in 1 instance, 41 harbor seals were observed flushing into the water when NPS first saw them as they rounded a point of land in kayaks accessing Flapjack Island. In 5 instances, harbor seals were observed hauled out and not disturbed due to their distance from the survey areas. In 2015, of the 156 harbor seals that were observed: 57 flushed in to the water, 25 became alert but did not move >1 m, and zero moved >1 m but did not flush into the water. No pups were observed. On two occasions, harbor seals were observed at the study sites in numbers <25 and the islands were accessed for gull surveys. In these instances, the vessel approached the island at very slow speed and most of the harbor seals flushed into water at approximately 200 m (Geikie 8/5/15) and 280 m (Lone, 8/5/15). In one instance, (Lone, 6/11/15) NPS counted 20 harbor seals hauled out during our initial vessel-based monitoring, but once on the island, NPS observed 33 hauled out seals. When NPS realized the number of seals present, they ceased the survey and left the area, flushing 13 seals into the water. Glacier Bay NP can add to the knowledge of pinnipeds in the action area by noting observations of: (1) Unusual behaviors, numbers, or distributions of pinnipeds, such that any potential follow-up research can be conducted by the appropriate personnel; (2) tag-bearing carcasses of pinnipeds, allowing transmittal of the information VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:59 May 26, 2017 Jkt 241001 to appropriate agencies and personnel; and (3) rare or unusual species of marine mammals for agency follow-up. Glacier Bay NP actively monitors harbor seals at breeding and molting haul out locations to assess trends over time (e.g., Mathews & Pendleton, 2006; Womble et al. 2010, Womble and Gende, 2013). This monitoring program involves collaborations with biologists from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and the Alaska Fisheries Science Center. Glacier Bay NP will continue these collaborations and encourage continued or renewed monitoring of marine mammal species. Additionally, Glacier Bay NP will report vessel-based counts of marine mammals, branded, or injured animals, and all observed disturbances to the appropriate state and federal agencies. Reporting Glacier Bay NP will submit a draft monitoring report to NMFS no later than 90 days after the expiration of the IHA. The report will include a summary of the information gathered pursuant to the monitoring requirements set forth in the Authorization. Glacier Bay NP will submit a final report to NMFS within 30 days after receiving comments on the draft report. If Glacier Bay NP receives no comments from NMFS on the report, NMFS will consider the draft report to be the final report. The report will describe the operations conducted and sightings of marine mammals near the project. The report will provide full documentation of methods, results, and interpretation pertaining to all monitoring. The report will provide: 1. A summary and table of the dates, times, and weather during all research activities. 2. Species, number, location, and behavior of any marine mammals observed throughout all monitoring activities. 3. An estimate of the number (by species) of marine mammals exposed to acoustic or visual stimuli associated with the research activities. 4. A description of the implementation and effectiveness of the monitoring and mitigation measures of the Authorization and full documentation of methods, results, and interpretation pertaining to all monitoring. In the unanticipated event that the specified activity clearly causes the take of a marine mammal in a manner prohibited by the authorization, such as an injury (Level A harassment), serious injury, or mortality (e.g., vessel-strike, stampede, etc.), Glacier Bay NP shall immediately cease the specified PO 00000 Frm 00028 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 activities and immediately report the incident to the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS and the Alaska Regional Stranding Coordinator. The report must include the following information: • Time, date, and location (latitude/ longitude) of the incident; • Description and location of the incident (including water depth, if applicable); • Environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, Beaufort sea state, cloud cover, and visibility); • Description of all marine mammal observations in the 24 hours preceding the incident; • Species identification or description of the animal(s) involved; • Fate of the animal(s); and • Photographs or video footage of the animal(s) (if equipment is available). Glacier Bay NP shall not resume its activities until NMFS is able to review the circumstances of the prohibited take. NMFS will work with Glacier Bay NP to determine what is necessary to minimize the likelihood of further prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. Glacier Bay NP may not resume their activities until notified by us via letter, email, or telephone. In the event that Glacier Bay NP discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the lead researcher determines that the cause of the injury or death is unknown and the death is relatively recent (i.e., in less than a moderate state of decomposition as we describe in the next paragraph), Glacier Bay NP will immediately report the incident to the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS and the Alaska Regional Stranding Coordinator. The report must include the same information identified in the paragraph above this section. Activities may continue while we review the circumstances of the incident. NMFS will work with Glacier Bay NP to determine whether modifications in the activities are appropriate. In the event that Glacier Bay NP discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the lead visual observer determines that the injury or death is not associated with or related to the authorized activities (e.g., previously wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced decomposition, or scavenger damage), Glacier Bay NP will report the incident to the incident to the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS and the Alaska Regional Stranding Coordinator within 24 hours of the discovery. Glacier Bay NP researchers will provide photographs or video footage (if available) or other documentation of the stranded animal E:\FR\FM\30MYN1.SGM 30MYN1 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 102 / Tuesday, May 30, 2017 / Notices sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with NOTICES sighting to us. Glacier Bay NP can continue their research activities. Negligible Impact Analysis and Determinations NMFS has defined negligible impact 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’’ (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 takes, alone, is not enough information on which to base an impact determination. In addition to considering the authorized number of marine mammals that might be ‘‘taken’’ through harassment, NMFS considers other factors, such as the likely nature of any responses (e.g., intensity, duration), the context of any responses (e.g., critical reproductive time or location, migration, etc.), as well as effects on habitat, the status of the affected stocks, and the likely effectiveness of the mitigation. Consistent with the 1989 preamble for NMFS’ implementing regulations (54 FR 40338; September 29, 1989), the impacts from other past and ongoing anthropogenic activities are incorporated into these analyses via their impacts on the environmental baseline (e.g., as reflected in the regulatory status of the species, population size and growth rate where known, ongoing sources of humancaused mortality, or ambient noise levels). In making a negligible impact determination, we consider: • The number of anticipated injuries, serious injuries, or mortalities; • The number, nature, and intensity, and duration of Level B harassment; • The context in which the takes occur (e.g., impacts to areas of significance, impacts to local populations, and cumulative impacts when taking into account successive/ contemporaneous actions when added to baseline data); • The status of stock or species of marine mammals (i.e., depleted, not depleted, decreasing, increasing, stable, impact relative to the size of the population); • Impacts on habitat affecting rates of recruitment/survival; and • The effectiveness of monitoring and mitigation measures to reduce the number or severity of incidental take. For reasons stated previously in this document and based on the following VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:59 May 26, 2017 Jkt 241001 factors, NMFS does not expect Glacier Bay NP’s specified activities to cause long-term behavioral disturbance, abandonment of the haul-out area, injury, serious injury, or mortality: 1. The takes from Level B harassment would be due to potential behavioral disturbance. The effects of the research activities would be limited to short-term startle responses and localized behavioral changes due to the short and sporadic duration of the research activities; 2. The availability of alternate areas for pinnipeds to avoid disturbances from research operations. Anecdotal observations and results from previous monitoring reports also show that the pinnipeds returned to the various sites and did not permanently abandon haulout sites after Glacier Bay NP conducted their research activities; and 3. There is little potential for stampeding events or large-scale flushing events leading to injury, serious injury, or mortality. Researchers will not access the survey sites if Steller sea lions are present. Harbor seals are a species that do not stampede, but flush, and injury or mortality is not anticipated from flushing events. Researchers will approach study sites slowly to provide enough time for any marine mammals present to slowly enter the water without panic. We do not anticipate that any injuries, serious injuries, or mortalities will occur as a result of Glacier Bay NP’s activities and we do not authorize injury, serious injury, or mortality. Harbor seals may exhibit behavioral modifications, including temporarily vacating the area during the gull research activities to avoid human disturbance. Further, these activities will not take place in areas of significance for marine mammal feeding, resting, breeding, or pupping and would not adversely impact marine mammal habitat. Due to the nature, degree, and context of the behavioral harassment anticipated, we do not expect the activities to impact annual rates of recruitment or survival. NMFS does not expect pinnipeds to permanently abandon any area surveyed by researchers, as is evidenced by continued presence of pinnipeds at the sites during annual gull monitoring. In summary, NMFS anticipates that impacts to hauled-out harbor seals during Glacier Bay NP’s research activities would be behavioral harassment of limited duration (i.e., up to two hours per visit) and limited intensity (i.e., temporary flushing at most). Based on the analysis contained herein of the likely effects of the PO 00000 Frm 00029 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 24687 specified activity on marine mammals and their habitat, and taking into consideration the implementation of the monitoring and mitigation measures, NMFS finds that the total marine mammal take from the planned activity will have a negligible impact on all affected marine mammal species or stocks. Small Numbers As noted above, only small numbers of incidental take may be authorized under section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA for specified activities other than military readiness activities. The MMPA does not define small numbers and so, in practice, NMFS compares the number of individuals taken to the most appropriate estimation of the relevant species or stock size in our determination of whether an authorization is limited to small numbers of marine mammals. As mentioned previously, NMFS estimates that Glacier Bay NP’s activities could potentially affect, by Level B harassment only, one species of marine mammal under our jurisdiction. For harbor seals, this estimate is small (three percent) relative of the Glacier Bay/Icy Strait stock of harbor seals (7,210 seals, see Table 2). Based on the analysis contained herein of the planned activity (including the mitigation and monitoring measures) and the anticipated take of marine mammals, NMFS finds that small numbers of marine mammals would be taken relative to the population size of the affected species or stocks. Impact on Availability of Affected Species or Stock for Taking for Subsistence Uses Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA also requires us to determine that the taking will not have an unmitigable adverse effect on the availability of marine mammal species or stocks for subsistence use. There are no relevant subsistence uses of marine mammals implicated by this action. Glacier Bay NP prohibits subsistence harvest of harbor seals within the Park (Catton, 1995). Thus, NMFS has determined that the total taking of affected species or stocks would not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of such species or stocks for taking for subsistence purposes. Endangered Species Act (ESA) Issuance of an MMPA authorization requires compliance with the ESA. No incidental take of ESA-listed species is authorized or expected to result from this activity. Therefore, NMFS has E:\FR\FM\30MYN1.SGM 30MYN1 24688 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 102 / Tuesday, May 30, 2017 / Notices determined that formal consultation under section 7 of the ESA is not required for this action. National Environmental Policy Act In compliance with NOAA policy, the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), and the Council on Environmental Quality Regulations (40 CFR parts 1500– 1508), NMFS determined the issuance of the IHA qualifies to be categorically excluded from further NEPA review. This action is consistent with categories of activities identified in CE B4 of the Companion Manual for NOAA Administrative Order 216–6A, which do not individually or cumulatively have the potential for significant impacts on the quality of the human environment and we have not identified any extraordinary circumstances that would preclude this categorical exclusion. Authorization NMFS has issued an IHA to the NPS at Glacier Bay NP for the harassment of small numbers of harbor seals incidental to conducting monitoring and research studies on glaucous-winged gulls within Glacier Bay NP, Alaska provided the previously mentioned mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements are incorporated. Dated: May 23, 2017. Donna S. Wieting, Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2017–11036 Filed 5–26–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P COMMODITY FUTURES TRADING COMMISSION Agency Information Collection Activities: Extension of Information Collections Under the Dodd-Frank Act Commodity Futures Trading Commission. ACTION: Notice. AGENCY: The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (‘‘Commission’’ or ‘‘CFTC’’) is announcing an opportunity for public comment on the extension of two information collections (ICs), one concerning the filing of an annual report provided for in the Derivatives Clearing Organization General Provisions and Core Principles regulations and the other concerning the filing of a Subpart C Election Form and other reporting and recordkeeping requirements provided for in subpart C, part 39 of the Commission Regulations. Under the Paperwork Reduction Act (‘‘PRA’’), Federal agencies are required to publish sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:59 May 26, 2017 Jkt 241001 notice in the Federal Register concerning each proposed collection of information, including each proposed extension of an existing collection, and to allow 60 days for public comment. DATES: Comments must be submitted on or before July 31, 2017. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by OMB Control No. 3038– 0081 by any of the following methods: • The Agency’s Web site, at http:// comments.cftc.gov/. Follow the instructions for submitting comments through the Web site. • Mail: Christopher Kirkpatrick, Secretary of the Commission, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Three Lafayette Centre, 1155 21st Street NW., Washington, DC 20581. • Hand Delivery/Courier: Same as Mail above. • Federal eRulemaking Portal: http:// www.regulations.gov/. Follow the instructions for submitting comments through the Portal. Please submit your comments using only one method. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Tracey Wingate, Special Counsel, Division of Clearing and Risk, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, (202) 418–5318; email: twingate@cftc.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Under the PRA, 44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq., Federal agencies must obtain approval from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for each collection of information they conduct or sponsor. ‘‘Collection of Information’’ is defined in 44 U.S.C. 3502(3) and 5 CFR 1320.3 and includes agency requests or requirements that members of the public submit reports, keep records, or provide information to a third party. Section 3506(c)(2)(A) of the PRA, 44 U.S.C. 3506(c)(2)(A), requires Federal agencies to provide a 60-day notice in the Federal Register concerning each proposed collection of information before submitting the collection to OMB for approval. To comply with this requirement, the CFTC is publishing notice of the proposed collection of information listed below. This notice solicits comments on two ICs contained in OMB Control No. 3038–0081: (A) The filing of an annual report provided for in Derivatives Clearing Organization General Provisions and Core Principles 1 (part 39 of the Commission Regulations); and, (B) filing of the Subpart C Election Form 1 OMB Control No. 3038–0081 is being retitled to more accurately reflect the information collections covered. PO 00000 Frm 00030 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 provided for in subpart C, part 39 of the Commission Regulations for DCOs that elect to be held to the same standards as systemically important DCOs (‘‘SIDCOs’’) regulatory requirements (‘‘Subpart C DCOs’’). These additional standards are mandatory for SIDCOs and optional for Subpart C DCOs. An agency may not conduct or sponsor, and a person is not required to respond to, an information collection unless it displays a valid OMB control number. An explanation of the ICs and the current burden estimates are provided for below: Title: Derivatives Clearing Organizations, General Regulations and International Standards; OMB Control No. 3038–0081. This is a request for extension of a currently approved OMB Control No. 3038–0081. Abstract: (A) Annual report provided for in Derivatives Clearing Organization General Provisions and Core Principles. Section 725(c) of the Dodd-Frank Act amended Section 5b(c)(2) of the CEA to allow the Commission to establish regulatory standards for compliance with the DCO core principles. Accordingly, the Commission adopted a final rule to set specific standards for compliance with DCO Core Principles.2 The DCO Final Rule requires the appointment of a CCO, the filing of an annual report and adherence to certain recordkeeping requirements.3 It also allows the Commission to collect information at other times as necessary. The information collected in the annual report pursuant to those regulations is necessary for the Commission to evaluate whether DCOs are complying with Commission regulations. (B) Subpart C Election Form and other reporting and recordkeeping requirements provided for in subpart C, part 39 of the Commission Regulations. In the Derivatives Clearing Organizations and International Standards final rule (SIDCO-Subpart C DCO Final Rule),4 the Commission adopted amendments to its regulations 2 See Derivatives Clearing Organization General Provisions and Core Principles, 76 FR 69334 (November 8, 2011) (DCO Final Rule). 3 These DCO recordkeeping requirements and associated costs are captured in separate proposed rulemakings under separate OMB Control Nos.; specifically, see Risk Management Requirements for Derivatives Clearing Organizations; 76 FR 3698 (Jan. 20, 2011) (OMB Control No. 3038–0076); Information Management Requirements for Derivatives Clearing Organizations, 75 FR 78185 (Dec. 15, 2010) (OMB Control No. 3038–0069); and Financial Resources requirements for Derivatives Clearing Organizations, 75 FR 63113 (Oct. 14, 2010) (OMB Control No. 3038–0066). 4 See Derivatives Clearing Organizations and International Standards, 78 FR 72476 (December 2, 2013) (SIDCO-Subpart C DCO Final Rule). E:\FR\FM\30MYN1.SGM 30MYN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 102 (Tuesday, May 30, 2017)]
[Notices]
[Pages 24681-24688]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-11036]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XF118


Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Gull 
Monitoring and Research in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska, 2017

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

ACTION: Notice; issuance of an incidental harassment authorization.

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SUMMARY: In accordance with the regulations implementing the Marine 
Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) as amended, notification is hereby given 
that the NMFS has issued an incidental harassment authorization (IHA) 
to the National Park Service (NPS) to incidentally harass, by Level B 
harassment only, marine mammals during gull monitoring and research 
activities in Glacier Bay National Park (Glacier Bay NP) from May 
through September, 2017.

DATES: This Authorization is effective from May 1, 2017 through 
September 30, 2017.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Stephanie Egger, Office of Protected 
Resources, NMFS, (301) 427-8401. Electronic copies of the application 
and supporting documents, as well as a list of the references cited in 
this document, may be obtained online at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental/research.htm. In case of problems accessing these 
documents, please call the contact listed above.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    Sections 101(a)(5)(A) and (D) of the MMPA direct the Secretary of 
Commerce to allow, upon request by U.S. citizens who engage in a 
specified activity (other than commercial fishing) within a specified 
area, the incidental, but not intentional, taking of small numbers of 
marine mammals, provided that certain findings are made and the 
necessary prescriptions are established.
    The incidental taking of small numbers of marine mammals shall be 
allowed if NMFS (through authority delegated by the Secretary) finds 
that the total taking by the specified activity during the specified 
time period will (i) have a negligible impact on the species or 
stock(s) and (ii) not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the 
availability of the species or stock(s) for subsistence uses (where 
relevant). Further, the permissible methods of taking, as well as the 
other means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact on the 
species or stock and its habitat (i.e., mitigation) must be prescribed. 
Last, requirements pertaining to the monitoring and reporting of such 
taking must be set forth.
    Where there is the potential for serious injury or death, the 
allowance of incidental taking requires promulgation of regulations 
under section 101(a)(5)(A). Subsequently, a Letter (or Letters) of 
Authorization may be issued as governed by the prescriptions 
established in such regulations, provided that the level of taking will 
be consistent with the findings made for the total taking allowable 
under the specific regulations. Under section 101(a)(5)(D), NMFS may 
authorize incidental taking by harassment only (i.e., no serious injury 
or mortality), for periods of not more than one year, pursuant to 
requirements and conditions contained within an IHA. The promulgation 
of regulations or issuance of IHAs (with their associated prescripted 
mitigation, monitoring, and reporting) requires notice and opportunity 
for public comment.
    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.''
    NMFS has defined ``unmitigable adverse impact'' in 50 CFR 216.103 
as ``. . . an impact resulting from the specified activity:
    (1) That is likely to reduce the availability of the species to a 
level insufficient for a harvest to meet subsistence needs by: (i) 
Causing the marine mammals to abandon or avoid hunting areas; (ii) 
directly displacing subsistence users; or (iii) placing physical 
barriers between the marine mammals and the subsistence hunters; and
    (2) That cannot be sufficiently mitigated by other measures to 
increase the availability of marine mammals to allow subsistence needs 
to be met.
    Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, 
section 3(18) of 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 November 22, 2016, NMFS received an application from Glacier Bay 
NP requesting taking by harassment of marine mammals, incidental to 
conducting monitoring and research studies on glaucous-winged gulls 
(Larus glaucescens) within Glacier Bay NP, Alaska. The application was 
considered adequate and complete on February 10, 2017. NMFS previously 
issued three IHAs to Glacier Bay NP for the same activities from 2014 
to 2016 (79 FR 56065, September 18, 2014; 80 FR 28229, May 18, 2015; 81 
FR 34994, May 16, 2016).
    For the 2017 research season, Glacier Bay NP plans to conduct 
ground-based and vessel-based surveys to collect data on the number and 
distribution of nesting gulls within six study sites in Glacier Bay, 
Alaska. Marine mammals have only been observed at four of the six study 
sites. The planned activities would occur over the course of five 
months, from May through September 2017.
    The following aspects of the planned gull research activities have 
the potential to take marine mammals: Noise generated by motorboat 
approaches and departures; noise generated by researchers while 
conducting ground surveys; and human presence (visual disturbance) 
during the monitoring and research activities. Harbor seals hauled out 
at the study sites may flush into the water or exhibit temporary 
modification in behavior (Level B harassment). Thus, Glacier Bay NP has 
requested an authorization to take harbor seals by Level B harassment 
only. Although Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) may be present in 
the action area, Glacier Bay NP will avoid any site used by Steller sea 
lions.

Description of the Specified Activity

    Glacier Bay NP plans to identify the onset of gull nesting; conduct 
mid-

[[Page 24682]]

season surveys of adult gulls, and locate and document gull nest sites 
within the following study areas: Boulder, Lone, and Flapjack Islands, 
and Geikie Rock from May 1 through September 30, 2017. Glacier Bay NP 
plans to conduct a maximum of three ground-based surveys per each study 
site and a maximum of two vessel-based surveys per each study site. 
Duration of surveys would be 30 minutes (min) to two hours (hr) each. 
Each of these study sites contains harbor seal haulout sites and 
Glacier Bay NP plans to visit each study site up to five times during 
the research season. Glacier Bay NP also plans to conduct studies at 
South Marble Island and Tlingit Point Islet; however, there are no 
reported pinniped haulouts at those locations.
    Glacier Bay NP must conduct the gull monitoring studies to meet the 
requirements of a 2010 Record of Decision for a Legislative 
Environmental Impact Statement (LEIS) (NPS, 2010) which states that 
Glacier Bay NP must initiate a monitoring program for the gulls to 
inform future native egg harvests by the Hoonah Tlingit in Glacier Bay, 
AK. Glacier Bay NP also actively monitors harbor seals at breeding and 
molting sites to assess population trends over time (e.g., Mathews & 
Pendleton, 2006; Womble et al., 2010). Glacier Bay NP coordinates 
pinniped monitoring programs with NMFS' Alaska Fisheries Science Center 
and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and plans to continue these 
collaborations and sharing of monitoring data and observations in the 
future.
    A detailed description of the planned Glacier Bay NP project is 
provided in the Federal Register notice for the proposed IHA (82 FR 
12931; March 8, 2017). Since that time, no changes have been made to 
the planned activities. Therefore, a detailed description is not 
provided here. Please refer to that Federal Register notice for the 
description of the specific activity.

Comments and Responses

    A notice of NMFS's proposal to issue an IHA to the NPS at Glacier 
Bay NP was published in the Federal Register on March 8, 2017 (82 FR 
12931). That notice described, in detail, Glacier Bay NP's activity, 
the marine mammal species that may be affected by the activity, and the 
anticipated effects on marine mammals. During the 30-day public comment 
period, NMFS received only one pertinent comment letter, from the 
Marine Mammal Commission (Commission).
    Comment 1: NMFS received a comment from the Commission with the 
recommendation that NMFS follow its policy of a 24-hour reset for 
enumerating the number of harbor seals that could be taken during the 
planned activities by applying standard rounding rules before summing 
the numbers of estimated takes across survey sites and survey days.
    Response: Calculating predicted take is not an exact science and 
there are arguments for taking different mathematical approaches in 
different situations, and for making qualitative adjustments in other 
situations. NMFS is currently engaged in developing a protocol to guide 
more consistent take calculation given certain circumstances. We 
believe, however, that the methodology for this action remains 
appropriate.

Description of Marine Mammals in the Area of the Specified Activity

    A detailed description of the of the species likely to be affected 
by the Glacier Bay NP 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 12931; March 8, 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 refer to 
additional species information available in the NMFS SARs for Alaska at 
http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/sars/region.htm.
    Marine mammals under NMFS' jurisdiction that occur in the vicinity 
of the study sites in Glacier Bay NP include the harbor seal and 
Steller sea lion (Table 1).

  Table 1--General Information on Marine Mammals That Could Potentially Haul Out in the Study Areas in Glacier Bay, Alaska, May Through September 2017
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                    Regulatory  status 1 2
              Species                  Scientific name           Stock name                                  Occurrence and range          Season
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Harbor seal.......................  (Phoca vitulina).....  Glacier Bay/Icy        MMPA-NC                    common coastal......  year-round.
                                                            Strait.               ESA-NL
Steller sea lion..................  (Eumetopias jubatus).  Eastern U.S..........  MMPA-D, S                  uncommon coastal....  year-round.
                                                                                  ESA-DL
Steller sea lion..................  (Eumetopias jubatus).  Western U.S..........  MMPA-D, S                  uncommon coastal....  unknown.
                                                                                  ESA-E
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ MMPA: D = Depleted, S = Strategic, NC = Not Classified.
\2\ ESA: E = Endangered, T = Threatened, DL = Delisted, NL = Not listed.
\3\ 2015 NMFS Stock Assessment Report (Muto et al., 2016).

    Both are protected under the MMPA and the Steller sea lion is 
listed as endangered (Western Distinct Population Segment) under the 
Endangered Species Act (ESA). It was determined that take will not 
occur for Steller sea lions based on available survey data and for the 
fact that NPS will not survey a site if Steller sea lions are present. 
Therefore, Steller sea lions are not discussed further in this 
authorization.
    Harbor seals of Glacier Bay are considered part of the Glacier Bay/
Icy Strait stock (Table 2)--ranging from Cape Fairweather southeast to 
Column Point, extending inland to Glacier Bay, Icy Strait, and from 
Hanus Reef south to Tenakee Inlet (Muto et al., 2016).

[[Page 24683]]



                                                         Table 2--Harbor Seal Status Information
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                  Stock abundance
                                                          ES)/MMPA status;      (Nmin, most recent                     Annual M/SI   Relative occurrence/
             Species                     Stock           strategic (Y/N) \1\     abundance survey)       PBR \3\           \4\             season of
                                                                                        \2\                                               occurrence
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Harbor seal.....................  Glacier Bay/Icy      --; N.................   7,210 (5,647; 2011)             169             104  Harbor seals are
                                   Strait (Alaska).                                                                                   year-round
                                                                                                                                      inhabitants of
                                                                                                                                      Glacier Bay,
                                                                                                                                      Alaska.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ Endangered Species Act (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. Under the MMPA, a strategic stock is one for which the level of direct human-caused mortality
  exceeds PBR (see footnote 3) or which is determined to be declining and likely to be listed under the ESA within the foreseeable future. Any species
  or stock listed under the ESA is automatically designated under the MMPA as depleted and as a strategic stock.
\2\ Nmin is the minimum estimate of stock abundance. The most recent abundance survey that is reflected in the abundance estimate is presented; there
  may be more recent surveys that have not yet been incorporated into the estimate.
\3\ Potential biological removal, defined by the MMPA as the maximum number of animals, not including natural mortalities, that may be removed from a
  marine mammal stock while allowing that stock to reach or maintain its optimum sustainable population size (OSP).
\4\ These values, found in NMFS' SARs, represent annual levels of human-caused mortality plus serious injury from all sources combined (e.g., commercial
  fisheries, subsistence hunting, ship strike). Annual M/SI often cannot be determined precisely and is in some cases presented as a minimum value. All
  values presented here are from the final 2015 Harbor Seal, Alaska SAR. (http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/sars/pdf/stocks/alaska/2015/ak2015_sehr.pdf.)

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

    The effects of noise and visual disturbance from the Glacier Bay NP 
activities for the gull monitoring and research project have the 
potential to result in behavioral harassment of marine mammals in the 
vicinity of the action area. The project would not result in permanent 
impacts to habitats used directly by marine mammals, such as haulout 
sites, nor impacts to food sources. The Federal Register notice for the 
proposed IHA (82 FR 12931; March 8, 2017) included a discussion of the 
effects of disturbance on marine mammals and their habitat, therefore 
that information is not repeated here; please refer to the Federal 
Register notice (82 FR 12931; March 8, 2017) for that information.
    Based on the available data, previous monitoring reports from 
Glacier Bay NP, and studies described in the proposed IHA, we 
anticipate that any pinnipeds found in the vicinity of the project 
could have short-term behavioral reactions (i.e., may result in marine 
mammals avoiding certain areas) due to noise and visual disturbance 
generated by: (1) Motorboat approaches and departures and (2) human 
presence during gull research activities. We would expect the pinnipeds 
to return to a haul-out site within minutes to hours of the stimulus 
based on previous research (Allen et al., 1985). Pinnipeds may be 
temporarily displaced from their haul-out sites, but we do not expect 
that the pinnipeds would permanently abandon a haul-out site during the 
conduct of the research as activities are short in duration (30 min to 
up to two hours), and previous surveys have demonstrated that seals 
have returned to their haulout sites and have not permanently abandoned 
the sites.
    NMFS does not anticipate that the planned activities would result 
in the injury, serious injury, or mortality of pinnipeds. NMFS does not 
anticipate that strikes or collisions would result from the movement of 
the motorboat. The planned activities will not result in any permanent 
impact on habitats used by marine mammals, including prey species and 
foraging habitat. The potential effects to marine mammals described in 
this section of the document do not take into consideration the 
monitoring and mitigation measures described later in this document 
(see the ``Mitigation'' and ``Monitoring and Reporting'' sections).

Estimated Take

    This section includes an estimate of the number of incidental 
``takes'' for the authorization pursuant to this IHA, which informed 
both NMFS' consideration of whether the number of takes is ``small'' 
and the negligible impact determination.
    Take in the form of harassment is expected to result from these 
activities. 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).
    As described previously in the Effects section, Level B Harassment 
is expected to occur and is authorized in the numbers identified below. 
Based on the nature of the activity and the anticipated effectiveness 
of the mitigation measures, Level A Harassment is neither anticipated 
nor authorized. The death of a marine mammal is also a type of 
incidental take. However, as described previously, no mortality is 
anticipated or authorized from this activity.
    All anticipated takes would be by Level B harassment, involving 
temporary changes in behavior. NMFS expects that the presence of 
Glacier Bay NP personnel could disturb animals hauled out and that the 
animals may alter their behavior or attempt to move away from the 
researchers.
    Harbor seals may be disturbed when vessels approach or researchers 
go ashore for the purpose of monitoring gull colonies. Harbor seals 
tend to haul out in small numbers at study sites (2015-2016): Boulder 
Island--average 4.85 seals, Flapjack Island--average 11.22 seals, 
Geikie Rock--average 10.25 seals, and Lone Island average of 17.22 
seals (see raw data from Tables 1 of the 2016 and 2015 Monitoring 
Report). Based on previous pinniped observations during gull monitoring 
(2015 and 2016) conducted by Glacier Bay NP, NMFS estimates that the 
research activities could potentially affect by Level B behavioral 
harassment 218 incidents of harassment to harbor seals over the course 
of the authorization. This number was calculated by multiplying the 
average number of seals observed at each site (2015-2016) by five 
visits per site for a total of 218 incidents of harassment (Table 3). 
The highest number of annual visits to each gull study site will be 
five, therefore it is expected that individual harbor seals at a given 
site will be disturbed no more than five times per year.

[[Page 24684]]



                          Table 3--Level B Takes by Harassment During NPS Gull Surveys
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                            Average number of seals   Number of site   Incidents of harassments/
              Survey sites                        observed *              visits             Level B take
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Boulder Island..........................  4.85 seals................               5  24.29.
Flapjack Island.........................  11.22 seals...............               5  56.11.
Geikie Rock.............................  10.25 seals...............               5  51.25.
Lone Island.............................  17.22 seals...............               5  86.1.
                                          Total 43.5 (44 seals).....  ..............  Total: 218 incidents of
                                                                                       harassment.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
* Data from 2016 and 2015 NPS gull surveys.

    There can be greater numbers of seals on the survey islands then 
what is detected by the NPS during the gull surveys. Aerial survey 
maximum counts show that harbor seals sometimes haul out in large 
numbers at all four locations (see Table 1 of the application). 
However, harbor seals hauled out at Flapjack Island are generally on 
the southern end whereas the gull colony is on the northern end. 
Similarly, harbor seals on Boulder Island tend to haul out on the 
southern end while the gull colony is located and can be accessed on 
the northern end without disturbance. Aerial survey counts for harbor 
seals are conducted during low tide while ground and vessel surveys are 
conducted during high tide, which along with greater visibility during 
aerial surveys, may also contribute to why there are greater numbers of 
seals observed during the aerial surveys.

Effects of Specified Activities on Subsistence Uses of Marine Mammals

    Subsistence harvest of harbor seals by Alaska Natives is exempted 
from the MMPA's take prohibition (16 U.S.C. 1371(b)(1)); however, 
subsistence harvest of harbor seals has not been permitted in Glacier 
Bay NP since 1974 (Catton, 1995). The extensive post-breeding seasonal 
distribution of seals from Glacier Bay (Womble and Gende, 2013) may 
expose seals to subsistence harvest outside of the park. Subsistence 
surveys and anthropological studies demonstrate that harbor seals may 
be harvested during all months; however, there are typically two 
distinct seasonal peaks for harvest of seals, which occur during spring 
and in autumn/early winter (de Laguna, 1972; Emmons, 1991). These time 
periods co-occur with the time period during which seals travel beyond 
the boundaries of Glacier Bay (Womble and Gende, 2013). The level of 
subsistence harvest on seals from Glacier Bay/Icy Strait stock has not 
been quantified; however, subsistence reports from nearby communities 
have documented subsistence harvest (e.g., Wolfe et al., 2009). Due to 
the prohibition of subsistence harvest at the gull study sites and the 
temporary behavior disturbance of marine mammal disturbance caused by 
this project, we anticipate no impacts to subsistence harvest of marine 
mammals in the region.

Mitigation

    In order to issue an incidental take authorization under section 
101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA, we must set forth the permissible methods of 
taking pursuant to such activity, and other means of effecting the 
least practicable adverse impact on such species or stock and its 
habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and 
areas of similar significance, and the availability of such species or 
stock for taking for certain subsistence uses.
    Glacier Bay NP has based the mitigation measures, which they will 
to implement during their research, on the following: (1) Protocols 
used during previous gull research activities as required by our 
previous authorizations for these activities; and (2) recommended best 
practices in Womble et al. (2010); Richardson et al. (1995); Pierson et 
al. (1998); and Weir and Dolman (2007).
    To reduce the potential for disturbance from acoustic and visual 
stimuli associated with the activities Glacier Bay NP and/or its 
designees will implement the following mitigation measures for marine 
mammals:
     Perform pre-survey monitoring before deciding to access a 
study site;
     Avoid accessing a site where Steller sea lions are 
present;
     Perform controlled and slow ingress to the study site to 
prevent flushing harbor seals and select a pathway of approach to 
minimize the number of marine mammals harassed;
     Monitor for offshore predators at study sites. Avoid 
approaching the study site if killer whales (Orcinus orca) are 
observed. If Glacier Bay NP and/or its designees see predators in the 
area, they must not disturb the pinnipeds until the area is free of 
predators; and
     Maintain a quiet research atmosphere in the visual 
presence of pinnipeds.

Pre-Survey Monitoring

    Prior to deciding to land onshore to conduct the study, the 
researchers will use high-powered image stabilizing binoculars from the 
watercraft to document the number, species, and location of hauled out 
marine mammals at each island. The vessels will maintain a distance of 
100 to 500 meter (m) (328 to 1,640 feet) from the shoreline to allow 
the researchers to conduct pre-survey monitoring.

Site Avoidance

    If there are Steller sea lions are present, the researchers will 
not approach the island and will not conduct gull monitoring and 
research.

Controlled Landings

    The researchers will determine whether to approach the island based 
on type of animals present. Researchers will approach the island by 
motorboat at a speed of approximately 2 to 3 knots (2.3 to 3.4 miles 
per hour). This will provide enough time for any marine mammals present 
to slowly enter the water without panic (flushing). The researchers 
will also select a pathway of approach farthest from the hauled out 
harbor seals to minimize disturbance.

Minimize Predator Interactions

    If the researchers visually observe marine predators (i.e., killer 
whales) present in the vicinity of hauled out marine mammals, the 
researchers will not approach the study site.

Noise Reduction Protocols

    While onshore at study sites, the researchers will remain vigilant 
for hauled out marine mammals. If marine mammals are present, the 
researchers will move slowly and use quiet voices to minimize 
disturbance to the animals present.

Mitigation Conclusions

    NMFS has carefully evaluated the applicant's mitigation measures 
and considered a range of other measures in the context of ensuring 
that NMFS prescribes the means of affecting the least practicable 
impact on the affected

[[Page 24685]]

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 mammal species or stocks;
     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 received 
levels of pile driving, or other 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 received levels of pile driving, or other 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 received 
levels of pile driving, or other activities expected to result in the 
take of marine mammals (this goal may contribute to a, 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 measures, as well as 
other measures considered by NMFS, 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, 
areas of similar significance, and on the availability of such species 
or stock for subsistence uses.

Monitoring and Reporting

Monitoring

    In order to issue an incidental take authorization for an activity, 
section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA that we must set forth ``requirements 
pertaining to the monitoring and reporting of such taking.'' The Act's 
implementing regulations at 50 CFR 216.104(a)(13) indicate that 
requests for an incidental take authorization must include the 
suggested means of accomplishing the necessary monitoring and reporting 
that will result in increased knowledge of the species and our 
expectations of the level of taking or impacts on populations of marine 
mammals present in the action area.
    Glacier Bay NP submitted a marine mammal monitoring plan in section 
13 of their application. Monitoring requirement NMFS prescribes shall 
improve our understanding of one or more of the following:
     Occurrence of marine mammal species in action area (e.g., 
presence, abundance, distribution, density);
     Nature, scope, or context of likely marine mammal exposure 
to potential stressors/impacts (individual or cumulative, acute or 
chronic), through better understanding of: (1) Action or environment 
(e.g., source characterization, propagation, ambient noise); (2) 
Affected species (e.g., life history, dive patterns); (3) Co-occurrence 
of marine mammal species with the action; or (4) Biological or 
behavioral context of exposure (e.g., age, calving or feeding areas);
     Individual responses to acute stressors, or impacts of 
chronic exposures (behavioral or physiological);
     How anticipated responses to stressors impact either: (1) 
Long-term fitness and survival of an individual; or (2) Population, 
species, or stock;
     Effects on marine mammal habitat and resultant impacts to 
marine mammals; and
     Mitigation and monitoring effectiveness.
    Glacier Bay NP will conduct marine mammal monitoring during the 
project, in order to implement the mitigation measures that require 
real-time monitoring. The researchers will monitor the area for 
pinnipeds during all research activities. Monitoring activities will 
consist of conducting and recording observations on pinnipeds within 
the vicinity of the research areas. The monitoring notes will provide 
dates, location, species, the researcher's activity, behavioral state, 
numbers of animals that were alert or moved greater than one meter, and 
numbers of pinnipeds that flushed into the water.
    The method for recording disturbances follows those in Mortenson 
(1996). Glacier Bay NP will record disturbances on a three-point scale 
that represents an increasing seal response to the disturbance (Table 
4). Glacier Bay will record the time, source, and duration of the 
disturbance, as well as an estimated distance between the source and 
haul-out. NMFS consider only responses falling into Levels 2 and 3 as 
harassment under the MMPA, under the terms of this authorization.

                  Table 4--Seal Response to 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. Alerts would
                                                    be recorded, but not
                                                    counted as a `take'.
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. These
                                                    movements would be
                                                    recorded and counted
                                                    as a `take'.
3...........  Flush..............................  All retreats
                                                    (flushes) to the
                                                    water. Flushing into
                                                    the water would be
                                                    recorded and counted
                                                    as a `take'.
------------------------------------------------------------------------


[[Page 24686]]

    Glacier Bay NP complied with the monitoring requirements under the 
previous authorizations. NMFS posted the 2016 report on our Web site at 
http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental/research.htm and the 
results from the previous Glacier Bay NP monitoring reports support our 
findings that the mitigation measures required under the 2014-2016 
Authorizations, provide the means of effecting the least practicable 
impact on the species or stock. During the last two years of this 
activity, approximately a third of all observed harbor seals have 
flushed in response to these activities (37 percent in 2015 and 36 
percent in 2016). In 2016, of the 216 harbor seals that were observed: 
77 flushed in to the water, 3 became alert but did not move >1 m, and 
17 moved >1 m but did not flush into the water. On five occasions, 
harbor seals were flushed into the water when islands were accessed for 
gull surveys. In these instances, the vessel approached the island at 
very slow speed and most of the harbor seals flushed into the water at 
approximately 50-100 m. In 4 instances, fewer than 25 harbor seals were 
present, but in 1 instance, 41 harbor seals were observed flushing into 
the water when NPS first saw them as they rounded a point of land in 
kayaks accessing Flapjack Island. In 5 instances, harbor seals were 
observed hauled out and not disturbed due to their distance from the 
survey areas. In 2015, of the 156 harbor seals that were observed: 57 
flushed in to the water, 25 became alert but did not move >1 m, and 
zero moved >1 m but did not flush into the water. No pups were 
observed. On two occasions, harbor seals were observed at the study 
sites in numbers <25 and the islands were accessed for gull surveys. In 
these instances, the vessel approached the island at very slow speed 
and most of the harbor seals flushed into water at approximately 200 m 
(Geikie 8/5/15) and 280 m (Lone, 8/5/15). In one instance, (Lone, 6/11/
15) NPS counted 20 harbor seals hauled out during our initial vessel-
based monitoring, but once on the island, NPS observed 33 hauled out 
seals. When NPS realized the number of seals present, they ceased the 
survey and left the area, flushing 13 seals into the water.
    Glacier Bay NP can add to the knowledge of pinnipeds in the action 
area by noting observations of: (1) Unusual behaviors, numbers, or 
distributions of pinnipeds, such that any potential follow-up research 
can be conducted by the appropriate personnel; (2) tag-bearing 
carcasses of pinnipeds, allowing transmittal of the information to 
appropriate agencies and personnel; and (3) rare or unusual species of 
marine mammals for agency follow-up. Glacier Bay NP actively monitors 
harbor seals at breeding and molting haul out locations to assess 
trends over time (e.g., Mathews & Pendleton, 2006; Womble et al. 2010, 
Womble and Gende, 2013). This monitoring program involves 
collaborations with biologists from the Alaska Department of Fish and 
Game, and the Alaska Fisheries Science Center. Glacier Bay NP will 
continue these collaborations and encourage continued or renewed 
monitoring of marine mammal species. Additionally, Glacier Bay NP will 
report vessel-based counts of marine mammals, branded, or injured 
animals, and all observed disturbances to the appropriate state and 
federal agencies.

Reporting

    Glacier Bay NP will submit a draft monitoring report to NMFS no 
later than 90 days after the expiration of the IHA. The report will 
include a summary of the information gathered pursuant to the 
monitoring requirements set forth in the Authorization. Glacier Bay NP 
will submit a final report to NMFS within 30 days after receiving 
comments on the draft report. If Glacier Bay NP receives no comments 
from NMFS on the report, NMFS will consider the draft report to be the 
final report.
    The report will describe the operations conducted and sightings of 
marine mammals near the project. The report will provide full 
documentation of methods, results, and interpretation pertaining to all 
monitoring. The report will provide:
    1. A summary and table of the dates, times, and weather during all 
research activities.
    2. Species, number, location, and behavior of any marine mammals 
observed throughout all monitoring activities.
    3. An estimate of the number (by species) of marine mammals exposed 
to acoustic or visual stimuli associated with the research activities.
    4. A description of the implementation and effectiveness of the 
monitoring and mitigation measures of the Authorization and full 
documentation of methods, results, and interpretation pertaining to all 
monitoring.
    In the unanticipated event that the specified activity clearly 
causes the take of a marine mammal in a manner prohibited by the 
authorization, such as an injury (Level A harassment), serious injury, 
or mortality (e.g., vessel-strike, stampede, etc.), Glacier Bay NP 
shall immediately cease the specified activities and immediately report 
the incident to the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS and the Alaska 
Regional Stranding Coordinator. The report must include the following 
information:
     Time, date, and location (latitude/longitude) of the 
incident;
     Description and location of the incident (including water 
depth, if applicable);
     Environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, 
Beaufort sea state, cloud cover, and visibility);
     Description of all marine mammal observations in the 24 
hours preceding the incident;
     Species identification or description of the animal(s) 
involved;
     Fate of the animal(s); and
     Photographs or video footage of the animal(s) (if 
equipment is available).
    Glacier Bay NP shall not resume its activities until NMFS is able 
to review the circumstances of the prohibited take. NMFS will work with 
Glacier Bay NP to determine what is necessary to minimize the 
likelihood of further prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. 
Glacier Bay NP may not resume their activities until notified by us via 
letter, email, or telephone.
    In the event that Glacier Bay NP discovers an injured or dead 
marine mammal, and the lead researcher determines that the cause of the 
injury or death is unknown and the death is relatively recent (i.e., in 
less than a moderate state of decomposition as we describe in the next 
paragraph), Glacier Bay NP will immediately report the incident to the 
Office of Protected Resources, NMFS and the Alaska Regional Stranding 
Coordinator. The report must include the same information identified in 
the paragraph above this section. Activities may continue while we 
review the circumstances of the incident. NMFS will work with Glacier 
Bay NP to determine whether modifications in the activities are 
appropriate.
    In the event that Glacier Bay NP discovers an injured or dead 
marine mammal, and the lead visual observer determines that the injury 
or death is not associated with or related to the authorized activities 
(e.g., previously wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced 
decomposition, or scavenger damage), Glacier Bay NP will report the 
incident to the incident to the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS and 
the Alaska Regional Stranding Coordinator within 24 hours of the 
discovery. Glacier Bay NP researchers will provide photographs or video 
footage (if available) or other documentation of the stranded animal

[[Page 24687]]

sighting to us. Glacier Bay NP can continue their research activities.

Negligible Impact Analysis and Determinations

    NMFS has defined negligible impact 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'' (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 takes, alone, is not 
enough information on which to base an impact determination. In 
addition to considering the authorized number of marine mammals that 
might be ``taken'' through harassment, NMFS considers other factors, 
such as the likely nature of any responses (e.g., intensity, duration), 
the context of any responses (e.g., critical reproductive time or 
location, migration, etc.), as well as effects on habitat, the status 
of the affected stocks, and the likely effectiveness of the mitigation. 
Consistent with the 1989 preamble for NMFS' implementing regulations 
(54 FR 40338; September 29, 1989), the impacts from other past and 
ongoing anthropogenic activities are incorporated into these analyses 
via their impacts on the environmental baseline (e.g., as reflected in 
the regulatory status of the species, population size and growth rate 
where known, ongoing sources of human-caused mortality, or ambient 
noise levels).
    In making a negligible impact determination, we consider:
     The number of anticipated injuries, serious injuries, or 
mortalities;
     The number, nature, and intensity, and duration of Level B 
harassment;
     The context in which the takes occur (e.g., impacts to 
areas of significance, impacts to local populations, and cumulative 
impacts when taking into account successive/contemporaneous actions 
when added to baseline data);
     The status of stock or species of marine mammals (i.e., 
depleted, not depleted, decreasing, increasing, stable, impact relative 
to the size of the population);
     Impacts on habitat affecting rates of recruitment/
survival; and
     The effectiveness of monitoring and mitigation measures to 
reduce the number or severity of incidental take.
    For reasons stated previously in this document and based on the 
following factors, NMFS does not expect Glacier Bay NP's specified 
activities to cause long-term behavioral disturbance, abandonment of 
the haul-out area, injury, serious injury, or mortality:
    1. The takes from Level B harassment would be due to potential 
behavioral disturbance. The effects of the research activities would be 
limited to short-term startle responses and localized behavioral 
changes due to the short and sporadic duration of the research 
activities;
    2. The availability of alternate areas for pinnipeds to avoid 
disturbances from research operations. Anecdotal observations and 
results from previous monitoring reports also show that the pinnipeds 
returned to the various sites and did not permanently abandon haul-out 
sites after Glacier Bay NP conducted their research activities; and
    3. There is little potential for stampeding events or large-scale 
flushing events leading to injury, serious injury, or mortality. 
Researchers will not access the survey sites if Steller sea lions are 
present. Harbor seals are a species that do not stampede, but flush, 
and injury or mortality is not anticipated from flushing events. 
Researchers will approach study sites slowly to provide enough time for 
any marine mammals present to slowly enter the water without panic.
    We do not anticipate that any injuries, serious injuries, or 
mortalities will occur as a result of Glacier Bay NP's activities and 
we do not authorize injury, serious injury, or mortality. Harbor seals 
may exhibit behavioral modifications, including temporarily vacating 
the area during the gull research activities to avoid human 
disturbance. Further, these activities will not take place in areas of 
significance for marine mammal feeding, resting, breeding, or pupping 
and would not adversely impact marine mammal habitat. Due to the 
nature, degree, and context of the behavioral harassment anticipated, 
we do not expect the activities to impact annual rates of recruitment 
or survival.
    NMFS does not expect pinnipeds to permanently abandon any area 
surveyed by researchers, as is evidenced by continued presence of 
pinnipeds at the sites during annual gull monitoring. In summary, NMFS 
anticipates that impacts to hauled-out harbor seals during Glacier Bay 
NP's research activities would be behavioral harassment of limited 
duration (i.e., up to two hours per visit) and limited intensity (i.e., 
temporary flushing at most).
    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 monitoring and mitigation 
measures, NMFS finds that the total marine mammal take from the planned 
activity will have a negligible impact on all affected marine mammal 
species or stocks.

Small Numbers

    As noted above, only small numbers of incidental take may be 
authorized under section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA for specified 
activities other than military readiness activities. The MMPA does not 
define small numbers and so, in practice, NMFS compares the number of 
individuals taken to the most appropriate estimation of the relevant 
species or stock size in our determination of whether an authorization 
is limited to small numbers of marine mammals.
    As mentioned previously, NMFS estimates that Glacier Bay NP's 
activities could potentially affect, by Level B harassment only, one 
species of marine mammal under our jurisdiction. For harbor seals, this 
estimate is small (three percent) relative of the Glacier Bay/Icy 
Strait stock of harbor seals (7,210 seals, see Table 2).
    Based on the analysis contained herein of the planned activity 
(including the mitigation and monitoring measures) and the anticipated 
take of marine mammals, NMFS finds that small numbers of marine mammals 
would be taken relative to the population size of the affected species 
or stocks.

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

    Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA also requires us to determine that 
the taking will not have an unmitigable adverse effect on the 
availability of marine mammal species or stocks for subsistence use. 
There are no relevant subsistence uses of marine mammals implicated by 
this action. Glacier Bay NP prohibits subsistence harvest of harbor 
seals within the Park (Catton, 1995). Thus, NMFS has determined that 
the total taking of affected species or stocks would not have an 
unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of such species or 
stocks for taking for subsistence purposes.

Endangered Species Act (ESA)

    Issuance of an MMPA authorization requires compliance with the ESA. 
No incidental take of ESA-listed species is authorized or expected to 
result from this activity. Therefore, NMFS has

[[Page 24688]]

determined that formal consultation under section 7 of the ESA is not 
required for this action.

National Environmental Policy Act

    In compliance with NOAA policy, the National Environmental Policy 
Act of 1969 (NEPA) (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), and the Council on 
Environmental Quality Regulations (40 CFR parts 1500-1508), NMFS 
determined the issuance of the IHA qualifies to be categorically 
excluded from further NEPA review. This action is consistent with 
categories of activities identified in CE B4 of the Companion Manual 
for NOAA Administrative Order 216-6A, which do not individually or 
cumulatively have the potential for significant impacts on the quality 
of the human environment and we have not identified any extraordinary 
circumstances that would preclude this categorical exclusion.

Authorization

    NMFS has issued an IHA to the NPS at Glacier Bay NP for the 
harassment of small numbers of harbor seals incidental to conducting 
monitoring and research studies on glaucous-winged gulls within Glacier 
Bay NP, Alaska provided the previously mentioned mitigation, 
monitoring, and reporting requirements are incorporated.

    Dated: May 23, 2017.
Donna S. Wieting,
Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
[FR Doc. 2017-11036 Filed 5-26-17; 8:45 am]
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