Marine Mammals; Pinniped Removal Authority, 52038-52040 [2017-24352]

Download as PDF 52038 Notices Federal Register Vol. 82, No. 216 Thursday, November 9, 2017 This section of the FEDERAL REGISTER contains documents other than rules or proposed rules that are applicable to the public. Notices of hearings and investigations, committee meetings, agency decisions and rulings, delegations of authority, filing of petitions and applications and agency statements of organization and functions are examples of documents appearing in this section. DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with NOTICES Submission for OMB Review; Comment Request The Department of Commerce will submit to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for clearance the following proposal for collection of information under the provisions of the Paperwork Reduction Act. Agency: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Title: Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Individual Bluefin Quota (IBQ) Tracking. OMB Control Number: 0648–0677. Form Number(s): None. Type of Request: Regular (revision and extension of a currently approved information collection). Number of Respondents: 220. Average Hours per Response: 10 minutes for initial application for IBQ account; 15 minutes per IBQ allocation lease. Burden Hours: 54. Needs and Uses: Amendment 7 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS Fishery Management Plan (79 FR 71510, December 2, 2014) implemented individual bluefin tuna quota (IBQ) shares and allocations for vessels permitted in the Atlantic Tunas Longline Category and Atlantic Tunas Purse Seine Category. IBQs are intended to fairly and effectively allocate limited quota for incidental capture of bluefin tuna among vessels in the Longline category, while minimizing dead discards and discouraging interactions with bluefin tuna, and better utilizing the Purse seine category quota. An online system developed by the NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) tracks allocations and allocation leases, and reconciles leases with bluefin tuna catches for quota monitoring. The extension of this VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:32 Nov 08, 2017 Jkt 244001 collection of information will allow NMFS to continue to account for the reporting burden associated with allocation and lease tracking. There are no new requirements. Renewals of account requests are no longer required, and appeals are no longer applicable. Affected Public: Business or other forprofit organizations. Frequency: On occasion. Respondent’s Obligation: Mandatory. This information collection request may be viewed at reginfo.gov. Follow the instructions to view Department of Commerce collections currently under review by OMB. Written comments and recommendations for the proposed information collection should be sent within 30 days of publication of this notice to OIRA_Submission@ omb.eop.gov or fax to (202) 395–5806. Dated: November 6, 2017. Sarah Brabson, NOAA PRA Clearance Officer. [FR Doc. 2017–24426 Filed 11–8–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [XRIN 0648–XF763] Marine Mammals; Pinniped Removal Authority National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; request for comments. AGENCY: On October 6, 2017, NMFS received an application under section 120 of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) from the state of Oregon (state) requesting authorization to intentionally take, by lethal methods, individually identifiable California sea lions (CSLs; Zalophus califorianus) in the Willamette River that are having a significant negative impact on the recovery of Upper Willamette River (UWR) steelhead and UWR Chinook salmon (Onchorhynchus spp.). Both of these salmonid fishery stocks are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973. This authorization is requested as part of a larger effort to protect and recover SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00001 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 listed salmonid stocks in the Willamette River basin. NMFS has determined that the application contains sufficient information to warrant establishing a Pinniped-Fishery Interaction Task Force (Task Force), which will be established after the closing of a public comment period. NMFS solicits public comments on the state’s application, other relevant information related to pinniped predation on salmonids in the Willamette River, and nominations for potential members of a Task Force. DATES: Comments must be received by January 8, 2018. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by NOAA–NMFS–2017–0126, by any of the following methods: • Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal http:// www.regulations.gov. Go to https:// www.regulations.gov/docket?D=NOAANMFS-2017-0126, click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. • Mail: Comments on the application should be addressed to: National Marine Fisheries Service, 1201 NE Lloyd Blvd., Suite 1100, Portland, OR 97232; ATTN: Protect Resources Division, Portland Branch Chief, NOAA–NMFS–2017– 0126. Instructions: All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted to http:// www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.) voluntarily submitted by the commenter may be publically accessible. Do not submit Confidential Business Information or otherwise sensitive or protected information. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/A’’ in the required fields, if you wish to remain anonymous). FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Robert Anderson, NMFS, West Coast Region (503) 231–2226. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Electronic Access The state’s application is available via the Internet at the following address: http:// www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/ protected_species/marine_mammals/ fisheries_interactions.html. E:\FR\FM\09NON1.SGM 09NON1 sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 216 / Thursday, November 9, 2017 / Notices Statutory Authority Section 120 of the MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1361, et seq.) allows the Secretary of Commerce, acting through the Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, and the West Coast Regional Administrator of NMFS, to authorize the intentional lethal taking of individually identifiable pinnipeds that are having a significant negative impact on the decline or recovery of salmonid fishery stocks which have been listed as threatened or endangered species under the ESA, are approaching threatened species or endangered species status (as those terms are defined in that Act), or migrate through the Ballard Locks at Seattle, Washington. The authorization applies only to pinnipeds that are not listed under the ESA, or designated as a depleted or strategic stock under the MMPA. California sea lions are neither listed under the ESA nor have they been designated as a depleted or strategic stock under the MMPA. Pursuant to section 120(b) and (c) of the MMPA, a state may request authorization to lethally remove pinnipeds, and the Regional Administrator is required to: (1) Review the application to determine whether the applicant has produced sufficient evidence to warrant establishing a Task Force to address the situation described in the application; (2) publish a notice in the Federal Register requesting public comment on the application, if sufficient evidence has been produced; (3) establish and convene a Task Force; (4) consider any recommendations made by the Task Force in making a determination whether to approve or deny the application; and (5) if approved, immediately take steps to implement the intentional lethal taking, which shall be performed by Federal or state agencies, or qualified individuals under contract to such agencies. The MMPA requires the Task Force be composed of the following: (1) NMFS/ NOAA staff, (2) scientists who are knowledgeable about the pinniped interaction, (3) representatives of affected conservation and fishing community organizations, (4) Indian Treaty tribes, (5) the state, and (6) such other organizations as NMFS deems appropriate. The Task Force reviews the state’s application, the factors contained in section 120(d), and public comments and, as required by section 120, recommends to NMFS whether to approve or deny the application. The Task Force is also required to submit with its recommendation a description of the specific pinniped individual or individuals; the proposed location, time, and method of such taking; criteria VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:32 Nov 08, 2017 Jkt 244001 for evaluating the success of the action; the duration of the intentional lethal taking authority; and a suggestion for non-lethal alternatives, if available and practicable, including a recommended course of action. Background On October 6, 2017, NMFS received an application signed by the director of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) on the state’s behalf, requesting authorization under section 120 of the MMPA to intentionally take, by lethal methods, individually identifiable CSLs in the vicinity of Willamette Falls, which are having a significant negative impact on the decline or recovery of salmonid fishery stocks listed as threatened under the ESA. According to the state’s application, impacted salmon and steelhead include UWR steelhead (threatened) and UWR Chinook salmon (threatened). On October 10, 2017, NMFS provided the director of the ODFW a letter acknowledging receipt of the application and a determining that the application produced sufficient evidence of the problem interaction to warrant establishing a Task Force. The state’s application provides information on studies conducted by the state that document when pinniped predation occurs in the vicinity of Willamette Falls, numbers of pinnipeds present, numbers of individual sea lions observed, numbers of salmonids consumed, the proportion of all salmonids passing Willamette Falls that are taken by pinnipeds in the vicinity of Willamette Falls, and a population viability analysis that predicts the extinction risks to UWR steelhead due to pinniped predation. The state began a pinniped predation monitoring program at Willamette Falls in 1995 followed by a CSL branding program in Astoria, Oregon, in 1997 to monitor foraging behavior throughout the Columbia River basin. The trend in CSL abundance at the Willamette Falls over this period has been steadily upward, with single-day maximum counts increasing each year as follows: 27 (2014), 32 (2015), 35 (2016), and at least 40 (2017). The state’s application indicates that pinniped predation on wild UWR steelhead and wild UWR Chinook salmon in 2014 was estimated at 780 (12 percent of the total return) and 496 (7 percent of the total return) fish, respectively. In 2015 pinniped predation on wild UWR steelhead and wild UWR Chinook salmon was estimated at 577 (11 percent of the total return) and 899 (9 percent of the total return) fish, respectively. In 2016 PO 00000 Frm 00002 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 52039 pinniped predation on wild UWR steelhead and wild UWR Chinook salmon was estimated at 915 (14 percent of the total return) and 650 (9 percent of the total return) fish, respectively. In 2017 pinniped predation on wild UWR steelhead and wild UWR Chinook salmon was estimated at 270 (25 percent of the total return) and 399 (6 percent of the total return) fish, respectively. Pinniped predation estimates at Willamette Falls represent a minimum of the total river-wide predation because they apply only to the area immediately in the vicinity of Willamette Falls, apply only to the sampling period, and CSLs have been documented feeding on salmonids throughout the Columbia River estuary. The state initiated non-lethal deterrence methods to deter CSLs at Willamette Falls starting in 2010, with the goal to move CSLs down river and away from Willamette Falls to reduce predation on salmon and steelhead stocks. However, these efforts, like the non-lethal deterrence efforts at Ballard Locks and Bonneville Dam, have been largely unsuccessful. Over time, nonlethal deterrence methods have done little to eliminate or reduce predation of salmon and steelhead at Ballard Locks, Bonneville Dam, and Willamette Falls. Despite more than 35 years of exhaustive efforts to find an effective, long-term, non-lethal solution to eliminating or reducing predation on salmonids, such efforts have proven to be unsuccessful. With this in mind, the state, as stated in their application, proposes not to conduct non-lethal hazing concurrent with the lethal removal as efforts to non-lethally deter CLSs have proven ineffective at reducing or eliminating the problem interaction. The state proposes to lethally remove a limited number of CSLs in the vicinity of Willamette Falls. In addition to animals located in the vicinity of Willamette Falls, all individually identifiable CSLs that have been documented feeding on salmonids, and have been approved for lethal removal by NMFS, would be candidates for removal without restriction to time or location. Annual removals under the proposed action are expected to be less than 0.5 percent of the Potential Biological Removal (PBR) level for CSLs (current PBR level is 9,200 animals out of an estimated population of 296,740). Individual CSLs would be lethally removed by humane methods following recommendations of a Safety and Animal Care committee convened by the state. The proposed action to address pinniped predation is part of a E:\FR\FM\09NON1.SGM 09NON1 sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with NOTICES 52040 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 216 / Thursday, November 9, 2017 / Notices comprehensive salmon and steelhead recovery strategy. As reported in the application, significant actions to address the decline of salmon and steelhead stocks in the Willamette River basin have been underway for several decades, and are progressing each year as a result of the implementation of ESA recovery plans throughout the Willamette River basin. These actions include harvest reductions, hydroelectric system mitigation, habitat restoration, predation management, and hatchery reforms. In their application, the state asserts that taking no action or continued use of only non-lethal methods will likely result in an expansion of the problem interaction by allowing CSLs to become recruited into the pool of nuisance animals. The expected benefit of permanent removal of the animals in question will be to reduce a significant source of mortality that has jeopardized state, Federal, and non-governmental efforts to recover ESA-listed salmon and steelhead stocks in the Willamette River basin. The state’s population viability analysis predicts that elimination of the problem interaction will reduce the probability of extinction of the three independent UWR steelhead populations from 20–64 percent to <5 percent. In considering whether the application should be approved or denied, the MMPA requires that the Task Force and NMFS consider: (1) Population trends, feeding habits, the location of the pinniped interaction, how and when the interaction occurs, involved; (2) past efforts to deter such pinnipeds, and whether the applicant has demonstrated that no feasible and prudent alternatives exist and that the applicant has taken all reasonable nonlethal steps without success; (3) the extent to which such pinnipeds are causing undue injury impact to, or imbalance with, other species in the ecosystem, including fish populations; and (4) the extent to which such pinnipeds are exhibiting behavior that presents an ongoing threat to public safety. The NMFS West Coast Regional Administrator has considered the state’s application and determined that it provides sufficient evidence to warrant establishing a Task Force. The application describes the means of identifying individual pinnipeds, includes a detailed description of the problem interaction between pinnipeds and listed salmonids in the vicinity of Willamette Falls, and describes the expected benefits of potential taking of pinnipeds. The application also documents the state’s past non-lethal VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:32 Nov 08, 2017 Jkt 244001 efforts to deter pinnipeds in the vicinity of Willamette Falls. Request for Comments and Other Information NMFS solicits public comments on the state’s application and any additional information that should be considered by the Task Force in making its recommendation, or by NMFS in making its determination whether to approve or deny the application. NMFS is interested in receiving additional information related to the factors that must be considered in determining whether to approve or deny the application (see Background), and on the impact of sea lion predation in the vicinity of Willamette Falls on the affected salmonid stocks. NMFS requests that comments be specific. In particular, we request information regarding: (1) Observations of pinnipeds (number, species and predation on salmonids) in the Willamette River; (2) Information on areas where numbers of pinnipeds are concentrated in the Willamette River, including resting/haul out sites and locations where pinnipeds have been repeatedly observed taking salmonids; and (3) Dates when pinnipeds have been observed in the Willamette River. NMFS also solicits the names and affiliations of experts from the academic and scientific community, tribes, Federal and state agencies, and the private sector for consideration as potential Task Force members. A Task Force, established under section 120(c) of the MMPA must, to the maximum extent practicable, consist of an equitable balance among representatives of resource users and non-users as outlined above. The state’s application included a list of suggested agencies and organizations for inclusion in the Task Force (see Electronic Access). Nominations for Task Force membership must include sufficient background information (e.g., 1–page resume) on the candidate to allow us to judge their expertise and should indicate the prospective candidate’s willingness to serve without compensation. Dated: November 3, 2017. Donna S. Wieting, Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2017–24352 Filed 11–8–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P PO 00000 Frm 00003 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Proposed Information Collection; Comment Request; West Coast Region Groundfish Trawl Fishery Monitoring and Catch Accounting Program National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice. AGENCY: The Department of Commerce, as part of its continuing effort to reduce paperwork and respondent burden, invites the general public and other Federal agencies to take this opportunity to comment on proposed and/or continuing information collections, as required by the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995. DATES: Written comments must be submitted on or before January 8, 2018. ADDRESSES: Direct all written comments to Jennifer Jessup, Departmental Paperwork Clearance Officer, Department of Commerce, Room 6616, 14th and Constitution Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20230 (or via the Internet at pracomments@doc.gov). FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Requests for additional information or copies of the information collection instrument and instructions should be directed to the West Coast Regional Office—7600 Sand Point Way NE., Seattle, WA 98115, Keeley Kent, telephone number ((206) 526–4655), or keeley.kent@noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: SUMMARY: I. Abstract This request is for extension of a currently approved information collection. In January 2011, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) implemented a trawl rationalization program, a catch share program, for the Pacific coast groundfish fishery’s trawl fleet. The program was developed through Amendment 20 to the Groundfish Fishery Management Plan (FMP), under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.) and consists of an individual fishing quota (IFQ) program for the shorebased trawl fleet (including whiting and non-whiting fisheries); and cooperative (coop) programs for the atsea mothership (MS) and catcher/ processor (C/P) trawl fleets (whiting only). Fixed allocations to the limited entry trawl fleet were developed E:\FR\FM\09NON1.SGM 09NON1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 216 (Thursday, November 9, 2017)]
[Notices]
[Pages 52038-52040]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-24352]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

[XRIN 0648-XF763]


Marine Mammals; Pinniped Removal Authority

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

ACTION: Notice; request for comments.

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

SUMMARY: On October 6, 2017, NMFS received an application under section 
120 of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) from the state of Oregon 
(state) requesting authorization to intentionally take, by lethal 
methods, individually identifiable California sea lions (CSLs; Zalophus 
califorianus) in the Willamette River that are having a significant 
negative impact on the recovery of Upper Willamette River (UWR) 
steelhead and UWR Chinook salmon (Onchorhynchus spp.). Both of these 
salmonid fishery stocks are listed as threatened under the Endangered 
Species Act (ESA) of 1973.
    This authorization is requested as part of a larger effort to 
protect and recover listed salmonid stocks in the Willamette River 
basin. NMFS has determined that the application contains sufficient 
information to warrant establishing a Pinniped-Fishery Interaction Task 
Force (Task Force), which will be established after the closing of a 
public comment period. NMFS solicits public comments on the state's 
application, other relevant information related to pinniped predation 
on salmonids in the Willamette River, and nominations for potential 
members of a Task Force.

DATES: Comments must be received by January 8, 2018.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by NOAA-NMFS-2017-0126, 
by any of the following methods:
     Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal http://www.regulations.gov. 
Go to https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=NOAA-NMFS-2017-0126, click 
the ``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     Mail: Comments on the application should be addressed to: 
National Marine Fisheries Service, 1201 NE Lloyd Blvd., Suite 1100, 
Portland, OR 97232; ATTN: Protect Resources Division, Portland Branch 
Chief, NOAA-NMFS-2017-0126.
    Instructions: All comments received are a part of the public record 
and will generally be posted to http://www.regulations.gov without 
change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, 
etc.) voluntarily submitted by the commenter may be publically 
accessible. Do not submit Confidential Business Information or 
otherwise sensitive or protected information.
    NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required 
fields, if you wish to remain anonymous).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Robert Anderson, NMFS, West Coast 
Region (503) 231-2226.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Electronic Access

    The state's application is available via the Internet at the 
following address: http://www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/protected_species/marine_mammals/fisheries_interactions.html.

[[Page 52039]]

Statutory Authority

    Section 120 of the MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1361, et seq.) allows the 
Secretary of Commerce, acting through the Assistant Administrator for 
Fisheries, and the West Coast Regional Administrator of NMFS, to 
authorize the intentional lethal taking of individually identifiable 
pinnipeds that are having a significant negative impact on the decline 
or recovery of salmonid fishery stocks which have been listed as 
threatened or endangered species under the ESA, are approaching 
threatened species or endangered species status (as those terms are 
defined in that Act), or migrate through the Ballard Locks at Seattle, 
Washington. The authorization applies only to pinnipeds that are not 
listed under the ESA, or designated as a depleted or strategic stock 
under the MMPA. California sea lions are neither listed under the ESA 
nor have they been designated as a depleted or strategic stock under 
the MMPA. Pursuant to section 120(b) and (c) of the MMPA, a state may 
request authorization to lethally remove pinnipeds, and the Regional 
Administrator is required to: (1) Review the application to determine 
whether the applicant has produced sufficient evidence to warrant 
establishing a Task Force to address the situation described in the 
application; (2) publish a notice in the Federal Register requesting 
public comment on the application, if sufficient evidence has been 
produced; (3) establish and convene a Task Force; (4) consider any 
recommendations made by the Task Force in making a determination 
whether to approve or deny the application; and (5) if approved, 
immediately take steps to implement the intentional lethal taking, 
which shall be performed by Federal or state agencies, or qualified 
individuals under contract to such agencies.
    The MMPA requires the Task Force be composed of the following: (1) 
NMFS/NOAA staff, (2) scientists who are knowledgeable about the 
pinniped interaction, (3) representatives of affected conservation and 
fishing community organizations, (4) Indian Treaty tribes, (5) the 
state, and (6) such other organizations as NMFS deems appropriate. The 
Task Force reviews the state's application, the factors contained in 
section 120(d), and public comments and, as required by section 120, 
recommends to NMFS whether to approve or deny the application. The Task 
Force is also required to submit with its recommendation a description 
of the specific pinniped individual or individuals; the proposed 
location, time, and method of such taking; criteria for evaluating the 
success of the action; the duration of the intentional lethal taking 
authority; and a suggestion for non-lethal alternatives, if available 
and practicable, including a recommended course of action.

Background

    On October 6, 2017, NMFS received an application signed by the 
director of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) on the 
state's behalf, requesting authorization under section 120 of the MMPA 
to intentionally take, by lethal methods, individually identifiable 
CSLs in the vicinity of Willamette Falls, which are having a 
significant negative impact on the decline or recovery of salmonid 
fishery stocks listed as threatened under the ESA. According to the 
state's application, impacted salmon and steelhead include UWR 
steelhead (threatened) and UWR Chinook salmon (threatened).
    On October 10, 2017, NMFS provided the director of the ODFW a 
letter acknowledging receipt of the application and a determining that 
the application produced sufficient evidence of the problem interaction 
to warrant establishing a Task Force.
    The state's application provides information on studies conducted 
by the state that document when pinniped predation occurs in the 
vicinity of Willamette Falls, numbers of pinnipeds present, numbers of 
individual sea lions observed, numbers of salmonids consumed, the 
proportion of all salmonids passing Willamette Falls that are taken by 
pinnipeds in the vicinity of Willamette Falls, and a population 
viability analysis that predicts the extinction risks to UWR steelhead 
due to pinniped predation.
    The state began a pinniped predation monitoring program at 
Willamette Falls in 1995 followed by a CSL branding program in Astoria, 
Oregon, in 1997 to monitor foraging behavior throughout the Columbia 
River basin. The trend in CSL abundance at the Willamette Falls over 
this period has been steadily upward, with single-day maximum counts 
increasing each year as follows: 27 (2014), 32 (2015), 35 (2016), and 
at least 40 (2017). The state's application indicates that pinniped 
predation on wild UWR steelhead and wild UWR Chinook salmon in 2014 was 
estimated at 780 (12 percent of the total return) and 496 (7 percent of 
the total return) fish, respectively. In 2015 pinniped predation on 
wild UWR steelhead and wild UWR Chinook salmon was estimated at 577 (11 
percent of the total return) and 899 (9 percent of the total return) 
fish, respectively. In 2016 pinniped predation on wild UWR steelhead 
and wild UWR Chinook salmon was estimated at 915 (14 percent of the 
total return) and 650 (9 percent of the total return) fish, 
respectively. In 2017 pinniped predation on wild UWR steelhead and wild 
UWR Chinook salmon was estimated at 270 (25 percent of the total 
return) and 399 (6 percent of the total return) fish, respectively. 
Pinniped predation estimates at Willamette Falls represent a minimum of 
the total river-wide predation because they apply only to the area 
immediately in the vicinity of Willamette Falls, apply only to the 
sampling period, and CSLs have been documented feeding on salmonids 
throughout the Columbia River estuary.
    The state initiated non-lethal deterrence methods to deter CSLs at 
Willamette Falls starting in 2010, with the goal to move CSLs down 
river and away from Willamette Falls to reduce predation on salmon and 
steelhead stocks. However, these efforts, like the non-lethal 
deterrence efforts at Ballard Locks and Bonneville Dam, have been 
largely unsuccessful. Over time, non-lethal deterrence methods have 
done little to eliminate or reduce predation of salmon and steelhead at 
Ballard Locks, Bonneville Dam, and Willamette Falls. Despite more than 
35 years of exhaustive efforts to find an effective, long-term, non-
lethal solution to eliminating or reducing predation on salmonids, such 
efforts have proven to be unsuccessful. With this in mind, the state, 
as stated in their application, proposes not to conduct non-lethal 
hazing concurrent with the lethal removal as efforts to non-lethally 
deter CLSs have proven ineffective at reducing or eliminating the 
problem interaction.
    The state proposes to lethally remove a limited number of CSLs in 
the vicinity of Willamette Falls. In addition to animals located in the 
vicinity of Willamette Falls, all individually identifiable CSLs that 
have been documented feeding on salmonids, and have been approved for 
lethal removal by NMFS, would be candidates for removal without 
restriction to time or location. Annual removals under the proposed 
action are expected to be less than 0.5 percent of the Potential 
Biological Removal (PBR) level for CSLs (current PBR level is 9,200 
animals out of an estimated population of 296,740). Individual CSLs 
would be lethally removed by humane methods following recommendations 
of a Safety and Animal Care committee convened by the state.
    The proposed action to address pinniped predation is part of a

[[Page 52040]]

comprehensive salmon and steelhead recovery strategy. As reported in 
the application, significant actions to address the decline of salmon 
and steelhead stocks in the Willamette River basin have been underway 
for several decades, and are progressing each year as a result of the 
implementation of ESA recovery plans throughout the Willamette River 
basin. These actions include harvest reductions, hydroelectric system 
mitigation, habitat restoration, predation management, and hatchery 
reforms.
    In their application, the state asserts that taking no action or 
continued use of only non-lethal methods will likely result in an 
expansion of the problem interaction by allowing CSLs to become 
recruited into the pool of nuisance animals. The expected benefit of 
permanent removal of the animals in question will be to reduce a 
significant source of mortality that has jeopardized state, Federal, 
and non-governmental efforts to recover ESA-listed salmon and steelhead 
stocks in the Willamette River basin. The state's population viability 
analysis predicts that elimination of the problem interaction will 
reduce the probability of extinction of the three independent UWR 
steelhead populations from 20-64 percent to <5 percent.
    In considering whether the application should be approved or 
denied, the MMPA requires that the Task Force and NMFS consider: (1) 
Population trends, feeding habits, the location of the pinniped 
interaction, how and when the interaction occurs, involved; (2) past 
efforts to deter such pinnipeds, and whether the applicant has 
demonstrated that no feasible and prudent alternatives exist and that 
the applicant has taken all reasonable nonlethal steps without success; 
(3) the extent to which such pinnipeds are causing undue injury impact 
to, or imbalance with, other species in the ecosystem, including fish 
populations; and (4) the extent to which such pinnipeds are exhibiting 
behavior that presents an ongoing threat to public safety. The NMFS 
West Coast Regional Administrator has considered the state's 
application and determined that it provides sufficient evidence to 
warrant establishing a Task Force. The application describes the means 
of identifying individual pinnipeds, includes a detailed description of 
the problem interaction between pinnipeds and listed salmonids in the 
vicinity of Willamette Falls, and describes the expected benefits of 
potential taking of pinnipeds. The application also documents the 
state's past non-lethal efforts to deter pinnipeds in the vicinity of 
Willamette Falls.

Request for Comments and Other Information

    NMFS solicits public comments on the state's application and any 
additional information that should be considered by the Task Force in 
making its recommendation, or by NMFS in making its determination 
whether to approve or deny the application. NMFS is interested in 
receiving additional information related to the factors that must be 
considered in determining whether to approve or deny the application 
(see Background), and on the impact of sea lion predation in the 
vicinity of Willamette Falls on the affected salmonid stocks.
    NMFS requests that comments be specific. In particular, we request 
information regarding: (1) Observations of pinnipeds (number, species 
and predation on salmonids) in the Willamette River;
    (2) Information on areas where numbers of pinnipeds are 
concentrated in the Willamette River, including resting/haul out sites 
and locations where pinnipeds have been repeatedly observed taking 
salmonids; and
    (3) Dates when pinnipeds have been observed in the Willamette 
River.
    NMFS also solicits the names and affiliations of experts from the 
academic and scientific community, tribes, Federal and state agencies, 
and the private sector for consideration as potential Task Force 
members. A Task Force, established under section 120(c) of the MMPA 
must, to the maximum extent practicable, consist of an equitable 
balance among representatives of resource users and non-users as 
outlined above. The state's application included a list of suggested 
agencies and organizations for inclusion in the Task Force (see 
Electronic Access). Nominations for Task Force membership must include 
sufficient background information (e.g., 1-page resume) on the 
candidate to allow us to judge their expertise and should indicate the 
prospective candidate's willingness to serve without compensation.

    Dated: November 3, 2017.
Donna S. Wieting,
Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
[FR Doc. 2017-24352 Filed 11-8-17; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P