Endangered and Threatened Species; Recovery Plan for the Blue Whale and Notice of Initiation of a 5-year Review, 51665-51666 [2018-22218]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 198 / Friday, October 12, 2018 / Notices provide sufficient time for SAB review. Written comments received by the SAB Executive Director after October 25, 2018, will be distributed to the SAB, but may not be reviewed prior to the meeting date. Seating at the meeting will be available on a first-come, firstserved basis. Special accommodations: These meetings are physically accessible to people with disabilities. Requests for special accommodations may be directed no later than 12:00 p.m. on October 25, 2018, to Dr. Cynthia Decker, SAB Executive Director, SSMC3, Room 11230, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MC 20910; Email: Cynthia.Decker@noaa.gov. Dated: September 24, 2018. David Holst, Chief Financial Officer/Administrative Officer, Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. [FR Doc. 2018–22245 Filed 10–11–18; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–KD–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XG532 Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee Meeting Matters To Be Considered This meeting time and agenda are subject to change. The meeting is convened to hear presentations and updates and to discuss policies and guidance on the following topics: Building consumer confidence and support for U.S. seafood; recreational fisheries and fishing effort surveys; Saltonstall Kennedy grant objectives and processes; Columbia Basin Partnership Task Force efforts on the conservation and restoration of salmon and steelhead; aquaculture; and the budget outlook for FY2019. MAFAC will discuss various administrative and organizational matters, and meetings of subcommittees and working groups will be convened. Special Accommodations The meeting is physically accessible to people with disabilities. Requests for sign language interpretation or other auxiliary aids should be directed to Heidi Lovett; 301–427–8034 by October 26, 2018. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice of open public meeting. Dated: October 9, 2018. Jennifer Lukens, Director for the Office of Policy, National Marine Fisheries Service. This notice sets forth the proposed schedule and agenda of a forthcoming meeting of the Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee (MAFAC). The members will discuss and provide advice on issues outlined under SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION below. DATES: The meeting will be held November 6 and 7, 2018, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and November 8, from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. ADDRESSES: The meeting will be held at the Sheraton Silver Spring Hotel, 8777 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring, MD 20910; 301–589–0800. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Heidi Lovett, MAFAC Assistant Director; 301–427–8034; email: Heidi.Lovett@noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: As required by section 10(a)(2) of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, 5 U.S.C. App. 2, notice is hereby given of a meeting of MAFAC. The MAFAC was BILLING CODE 3510–22–P AGENCY: SUMMARY: khammond on DSK30JT082PROD with NOTICES established by the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary), and, since 1971, advises the Secretary on all living marine resource matters that are the responsibility of the Department of Commerce. The complete charter and summaries of prior meetings are located online at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/ ocs/mafac/. VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:19 Oct 11, 2018 Jkt 247001 [FR Doc. 2018–22251 Filed 10–11–18; 8:45 am] DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XF520 Endangered and Threatened Species; Recovery Plan for the Blue Whale and Notice of Initiation of a 5-year Review National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice of availability of draft recovery plan; request for comments; notice of initiation of a 5-year review; request for information. AGENCY: We, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), announce the availability of the Draft Revised Recovery Plan (Draft Plan) for the Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus) for SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00006 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 51665 public review. We are soliciting review and comment from the public and all interested parties on the Draft Plan, and will consider all substantive comments received during the review period before submitting the Plan for final approval. We also are initiating a 5-year review of the blue whale and are requesting new information on its status. DATES: Comments on the Draft Plan and information for the 5-year review must be received by December 11, 2018. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on the Draft Plan and information for the 5-year review, identified by NOAA– NMFS–2017–0078, by either of the following methods: • Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments on the Draft Plan and information for the 5-year review via the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/ #!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-20170078. Click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. • Mail: Submit written comments on the Draft Plan or information for the 5year review to Chris Yates, Assistant Regional Administrator, Protected Resources Division, NMFS, West Coast Regional Office, Attn: Nancy Young, 7600 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115. Instructions: Comments or information sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered by NMFS. All comments and information received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/A’’ in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous. The Draft Plan is available online at www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D= NOAA-NMFS-2017-0078 or upon request from the NMFS West Coast Region, Protected Resources Division. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Nancy Young, (206) 526–6550, nancy.young@noaa.gov; or Therese Conant, (916) 930–3627, therese.conant@noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), requires that NMFS develop and implement recovery plans for the E:\FR\FM\12OCN1.SGM 12OCN1 khammond on DSK30JT082PROD with NOTICES 51666 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 198 / Friday, October 12, 2018 / Notices conservation and survival of threatened and endangered species under its jurisdiction, unless it is determined that such plans would not promote the conservation of the species. Section 4(f)(1) of the ESA requires that recovery plans incorporate: (1) Objective, measurable criteria which, when met, would result in a determination that the species is no longer threatened or endangered; (2) site-specific management actions necessary to achieve the plan’s goals; and (3) estimates of the time required and costs to implement recovery actions. The blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) was listed as endangered throughout its range under the precursor to the ESA, the Endangered Species Conservation Act of 1969, and remained on the list of threatened and endangered species after the passage of the ESA in 1973 (35 FR 8491; June 2, 1970). We prepared a recovery plan for the blue whale that was released for public comment and review on August 1, 1997 (62 FR 41367) and finalized on October 23, 1998 (63 FR 56911). On April 17, 2012, we announced our intent to update the blue whale recovery plan and requested relevant information from the public (77 FR 22760). NMFS received eight comments in response to the 2012 request for information, three of which contained substantive information on blue whale distribution and habitat use, abundance, and potential threats or limiting factors such as prey competition, noise and disturbance, climate change and ocean acidification, hunting, and ship strikes. Information provided by commenters has been considered and incorporated into the revised Draft Plan where appropriate. In addition, one commenter recommended that NMFS convene a recovery team and revise, rather than update the Plan. The commenter also recommended that the revised Plan address blue whales globally, rather than just the North Atlantic and North Pacific populations; establish recovery criteria; and provide sufficient direction to adequately identify and address threats, particularly ship strikes, noise pollution, climate change and ocean acidification. The Draft Plan now available for public review and comment is a revision to the 1998 Plan, rather than an update, because of the extent of the changes. Similar to other, recent recovery plans for large whales (i.e., fin whale, sei whale, sperm whale, North Pacific right whale), the revision was drafted by NMFS without a recovery team. The Draft Plan expands the geographical extent of the 1998 Plan by addressing blue whales worldwide; VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:19 Oct 11, 2018 Jkt 247001 summarizes new information on blue whale natural history, population status, and potential threats; establishes new demographic and threat-based recovery criteria; and outlines a revised set of recovery actions, priority numbers, and estimated blue whale recovery program cost over an initial 5-year period. Commercial whaling was the main cause of blue whales’ historical decline, and is not a current operative threat only because an international moratorium on commercial whaling remains in place. Therefore, a primary strategy of the Draft Plan is to maintain the international ban on commercial hunting that was instituted in 1986. The Draft Plan also provides a strategy to improve our understanding of how potential threats may be limiting blue whale recovery. Finally, the Draft Plan provides a research strategy to obtain data necessary to determine blue whale taxonomy, population structure, distribution, and habitat, which can then inform estimation of population abundance and trends. After the populations and their potential threats are more fully understood, NMFS will modify the Plan to more specifically include actions to minimize any threats that are determined to be limiting recovery. The total time and cost to recovery are not possible to predict with the current information, particularly given the uncertainty in the significance of potential threats and any actions that might be required to address them. Thus, an estimate of the time required and the cost to carry out those recovery actions needed to achieve the Plan’s goal and to achieve intermediate steps (beyond five years) is not practicable. Conducting research necessary to evaluate the impact of the potential threats to blue whales, and developing, implementing, and evaluating the effectiveness of recovery actions to reduce threats or potential threats may take decades. The minimum data needed to satisfy the demographic (abundance and trend) criteria for downlisting or delisting are population structure studies and abundance surveys, which will also take decades, given the species’ global distribution and the need to evaluate the abundance trend across a minimum of 30 years (as required by the trend criterion). If the necessary research is undertaken and demonstrates that the abundance and trend criteria have been met, and potential threats are evaluated and, as necessary, minimized or eliminated, it might be feasible to downlist or delist blue whales in 30 years. However, the time to recovery is likely greater, given the available information on abundance PO 00000 Frm 00007 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 9990 of some populations relative to the downlisting and delisting abundance criteria. In the future, as more information is obtained, it may be possible to develop estimates for the full time to recovery and its expense. NMFS is seeking peer review of the Draft Plan concurrent with public review. NMFS will consider all substantive comments and information provided during the public comment period and by peer reviewers as we finalize this Plan. NMFS is also seeking input on the format of the final Plan and will consider approaches such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service threepart framework for recovery planning and implementation (https:// www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/ pdf/RPI-Feb2017.pdf). NMFS is also seeking input on the format of the final Plan and will consider approaches such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service three-part framework for recovery planning and implementation. Once finalized, the Plan will be used to guide U.S. activities and to encourage international cooperation to promote the recovery of this endangered species. NMFS’ goal is to restore endangered blue whales to the point where they no longer need the protections of the ESA. In addition, the ESA requires that we conduct a review of listed species at least once every five years. On the basis of such review under section 4(c)(2)(B), we determine whether any species should be removed from the list (i.e., delisted) or reclassified from endangered to threatened or from threatened to endangered (16 U.S.C. 1533(c)(2)(B)). Any change in Federal classification would require a separate rulemaking process. The regulations in 50 CFR 424.21 require that we publish a notice in the Federal Register announcing those species currently under active review. This notice announces our active review of the blue whale listed as endangered (35 FR 18319; December 2, 1970), as well as announcing the availability of the Draft Plan. Comments and information submitted will be considered in finalizing the Plan and under the 5-year review as applicable. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq. Dated: October 5, 2018. Angela Somma, Chief, Endangered Species Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2018–22218 Filed 10–11–18; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\12OCN1.SGM 12OCN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 83, Number 198 (Friday, October 12, 2018)]
[Notices]
[Pages 51665-51666]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2018-22218]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XF520


Endangered and Threatened Species; Recovery Plan for the Blue 
Whale and Notice of Initiation of a 5-year Review

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

ACTION: Notice of availability of draft recovery plan; request for 
comments; notice of initiation of a 5-year review; request for 
information.

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

SUMMARY: We, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), announce the 
availability of the Draft Revised Recovery Plan (Draft Plan) for the 
Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus) for public review. We are soliciting 
review and comment from the public and all interested parties on the 
Draft Plan, and will consider all substantive comments received during 
the review period before submitting the Plan for final approval. We 
also are initiating a 5-year review of the blue whale and are 
requesting new information on its status.

DATES: Comments on the Draft Plan and information for the 5-year review 
must be received by December 11, 2018.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on the Draft Plan and information 
for the 5-year review, identified by NOAA-NMFS-2017-0078, by either of 
the following methods:
     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public 
comments on the Draft Plan and information for the 5-year review via 
the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2017-0078. Click the ``Comment Now!'' icon, 
complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit written comments on the Draft Plan or 
information for the 5-year review to Chris Yates, Assistant Regional 
Administrator, Protected Resources Division, NMFS, West Coast Regional 
Office, Attn: Nancy Young, 7600 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115.
    Instructions: Comments or information sent by any other method, to 
any other address or individual, or received after the end of the 
comment period, may not be considered by NMFS. All comments and 
information received are a part of the public record and will generally 
be posted for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All 
personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.), 
confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information 
submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS 
will accept anonymous comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if 
you wish to remain anonymous.
    The Draft Plan is available online at www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D= NOAA-NMFS-2017-0078 or upon request from the NMFS 
West Coast Region, Protected Resources Division.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Nancy Young, (206) 526-6550, 
[email protected]; or Therese Conant, (916) 930-3627, 
[email protected].

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973, as 
amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), requires that NMFS develop and 
implement recovery plans for the

[[Page 51666]]

conservation and survival of threatened and endangered species under 
its jurisdiction, unless it is determined that such plans would not 
promote the conservation of the species. Section 4(f)(1) of the ESA 
requires that recovery plans incorporate: (1) Objective, measurable 
criteria which, when met, would result in a determination that the 
species is no longer threatened or endangered; (2) site-specific 
management actions necessary to achieve the plan's goals; and (3) 
estimates of the time required and costs to implement recovery actions.
    The blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) was listed as endangered 
throughout its range under the precursor to the ESA, the Endangered 
Species Conservation Act of 1969, and remained on the list of 
threatened and endangered species after the passage of the ESA in 1973 
(35 FR 8491; June 2, 1970). We prepared a recovery plan for the blue 
whale that was released for public comment and review on August 1, 1997 
(62 FR 41367) and finalized on October 23, 1998 (63 FR 56911). On April 
17, 2012, we announced our intent to update the blue whale recovery 
plan and requested relevant information from the public (77 FR 22760).
    NMFS received eight comments in response to the 2012 request for 
information, three of which contained substantive information on blue 
whale distribution and habitat use, abundance, and potential threats or 
limiting factors such as prey competition, noise and disturbance, 
climate change and ocean acidification, hunting, and ship strikes. 
Information provided by commenters has been considered and incorporated 
into the revised Draft Plan where appropriate. In addition, one 
commenter recommended that NMFS convene a recovery team and revise, 
rather than update the Plan. The commenter also recommended that the 
revised Plan address blue whales globally, rather than just the North 
Atlantic and North Pacific populations; establish recovery criteria; 
and provide sufficient direction to adequately identify and address 
threats, particularly ship strikes, noise pollution, climate change and 
ocean acidification.
    The Draft Plan now available for public review and comment is a 
revision to the 1998 Plan, rather than an update, because of the extent 
of the changes. Similar to other, recent recovery plans for large 
whales (i.e., fin whale, sei whale, sperm whale, North Pacific right 
whale), the revision was drafted by NMFS without a recovery team. The 
Draft Plan expands the geographical extent of the 1998 Plan by 
addressing blue whales worldwide; summarizes new information on blue 
whale natural history, population status, and potential threats; 
establishes new demographic and threat-based recovery criteria; and 
outlines a revised set of recovery actions, priority numbers, and 
estimated blue whale recovery program cost over an initial 5-year 
period.
    Commercial whaling was the main cause of blue whales' historical 
decline, and is not a current operative threat only because an 
international moratorium on commercial whaling remains in place. 
Therefore, a primary strategy of the Draft Plan is to maintain the 
international ban on commercial hunting that was instituted in 1986. 
The Draft Plan also provides a strategy to improve our understanding of 
how potential threats may be limiting blue whale recovery. Finally, the 
Draft Plan provides a research strategy to obtain data necessary to 
determine blue whale taxonomy, population structure, distribution, and 
habitat, which can then inform estimation of population abundance and 
trends. After the populations and their potential threats are more 
fully understood, NMFS will modify the Plan to more specifically 
include actions to minimize any threats that are determined to be 
limiting recovery.
    The total time and cost to recovery are not possible to predict 
with the current information, particularly given the uncertainty in the 
significance of potential threats and any actions that might be 
required to address them. Thus, an estimate of the time required and 
the cost to carry out those recovery actions needed to achieve the 
Plan's goal and to achieve intermediate steps (beyond five years) is 
not practicable. Conducting research necessary to evaluate the impact 
of the potential threats to blue whales, and developing, implementing, 
and evaluating the effectiveness of recovery actions to reduce threats 
or potential threats may take decades. The minimum data needed to 
satisfy the demographic (abundance and trend) criteria for downlisting 
or delisting are population structure studies and abundance surveys, 
which will also take decades, given the species' global distribution 
and the need to evaluate the abundance trend across a minimum of 30 
years (as required by the trend criterion). If the necessary research 
is undertaken and demonstrates that the abundance and trend criteria 
have been met, and potential threats are evaluated and, as necessary, 
minimized or eliminated, it might be feasible to downlist or delist 
blue whales in 30 years. However, the time to recovery is likely 
greater, given the available information on abundance of some 
populations relative to the downlisting and delisting abundance 
criteria. In the future, as more information is obtained, it may be 
possible to develop estimates for the full time to recovery and its 
expense.
    NMFS is seeking peer review of the Draft Plan concurrent with 
public review. NMFS will consider all substantive comments and 
information provided during the public comment period and by peer 
reviewers as we finalize this Plan. NMFS is also seeking input on the 
format of the final Plan and will consider approaches such as the U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service three-part framework for recovery planning 
and implementation (https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/RPI-Feb2017.pdf). NMFS is also seeking input on the format of the final 
Plan and will consider approaches such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service three-part framework for recovery planning and implementation. 
Once finalized, the Plan will be used to guide U.S. activities and to 
encourage international cooperation to promote the recovery of this 
endangered species. NMFS' goal is to restore endangered blue whales to 
the point where they no longer need the protections of the ESA.
    In addition, the ESA requires that we conduct a review of listed 
species at least once every five years. On the basis of such review 
under section 4(c)(2)(B), we determine whether any species should be 
removed from the list (i.e., delisted) or reclassified from endangered 
to threatened or from threatened to endangered (16 U.S.C. 
1533(c)(2)(B)). Any change in Federal classification would require a 
separate rulemaking process. The regulations in 50 CFR 424.21 require 
that we publish a notice in the Federal Register announcing those 
species currently under active review. This notice announces our active 
review of the blue whale listed as endangered (35 FR 18319; December 2, 
1970), as well as announcing the availability of the Draft Plan. 
Comments and information submitted will be considered in finalizing the 
Plan and under the 5-year review as applicable.

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.

    Dated: October 5, 2018.
Angela Somma,
Chief, Endangered Species Conservation Division, Office of Protected 
Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2018-22218 Filed 10-11-18; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P