Draft 2021 Marine Mammal Stock Assessment Reports, 58887-58890 [2021-23225]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 203 / Monday, October 25, 2021 / Notices Surfside, Florida; finalize the Committee’s annual report to Congress; and provide an overview of event scoring and readiness of teams. The agenda may change to accommodate Committee business. The final agenda will be posted on the NIST website at https://www.nist.gov/topics/disasterfailure-studies/national-constructionsafety-team-ncst/advisory-committeemeetings. Individuals and representatives of organizations who would like to offer comments and suggestions related to items on the Committee’s agenda for this meeting are invited to request a place on the agenda. Approximately thirty minutes will be reserved for public comments and speaking times will be assigned on a first-come, firstserved basis. Public comments can be provided via email or by web conference attendance. The amount of time per speaker will be determined by the number of requests received. Questions from the public will not be considered during this period. All those wishing to speak must submit their request by email to the attention of Peter Gale at Peter.Gale@nist.gov by 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Wednesday, November 3, 2021. Speakers who wish to expand upon their oral statements, those who wish to speak but cannot be accommodated on the agenda, and those who are unable to attend are invited to submit written statements electronically by email to disaster@nist.gov. Anyone wishing to attend this meeting via web conference must register by 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Wednesday, November 3, 2021, to attend. Please submit your full name, email address, and phone number to Peter Gale at Peter.Gale@nist.gov. Alicia Chambers, NIST Executive Secretariat. [FR Doc. 2021–23198 Filed 10–22–21; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–13–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [RTID 0648–XB302] Draft 2021 Marine Mammal Stock Assessment Reports National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; request for comments and new information. jspears on DSK121TN23PROD with NOTICES1 AGENCY: NMFS reviewed the Alaska, Atlantic, and Pacific regional marine SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:00 Oct 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 mammal stock assessment reports (SARs) in accordance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). SARs for marine mammals in the Alaska, Atlantic, and Pacific regions were revised according to new information. NMFS solicits public comments on the draft 2021 SARs. NMFS is also requesting new information for strategic stocks that were not updated in 2021. DATES: Comments must be received by January 24, 2022. ADDRESSES: The 2021 draft SARs are available in electronic form via the internet at https://www.fisheries. noaa.gov/national/marine-mammalprotection/draft-marine-mammal-stockassessment-reports. Copies of the Alaska Regional SARs may be requested from Marcia Muto, Alaska Fisheries Science Center; copies of the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean Regional SARs may be requested from Elizabeth Josephson, Northeast Fisheries Science Center; and copies of the Pacific Regional SARs may be requested from Jim Carretta, Southwest Fisheries Science Center (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT below). You may submit comments or new information, identified by NOAA– NMFS–2021–0130, through the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to https://www.regulations.gov and enter NOAA–NMFS–2021–0130 in the Search box. Click on the ‘‘Comment’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. Instructions: NMFS may not consider comments if they are sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period. Due to delays in processing mail related to COVID–19 and health and safety concerns, no mail, courier, or hand deliveries will be accepted. All comments 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). FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Zachary Schakner, Office of Science and Technology, 301–427–8106, Zachary.Schakner@noaa.gov; Marcia Muto, 206–526–4026, Marcia.Muto@ PO 00000 Frm 00029 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 58887 noaa.gov, regarding Alaska regional stock assessments; Elizabeth Josephson, 508–495–2362, Elizabeth.Josephson@ noaa.gov, regarding Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean regional stock assessments; or Jim Carretta, 858–546– 7171, Jim.Carretta@noaa.gov, regarding Pacific regional stock assessments. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background Section 117 of the MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) requires NMFS and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to prepare stock assessments for each stock of marine mammals occurring in waters under the jurisdiction of the United States, including the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). These stock assessment reports (SARs) must contain information regarding the distribution and abundance of the stock, population growth rates and trends, estimates of annual human-caused mortality and serious injury (M/SI) from all sources, descriptions of the fisheries with which the stock interacts, and the status of the stock. Initial SARs were completed in 1995. The MMPA requires NMFS and FWS to review the SARs at least annually for strategic stocks and stocks for which significant new information is available, and at least once every three years for non-strategic stocks. The term ‘‘strategic stock’’ means a marine mammal stock: (A) For which the level of direct humancaused mortality exceeds the potential biological removal level or PBR (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); (B) which, based on the best available scientific information, is declining and is likely to be listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) within the foreseeable future; or (C) which is listed as a threatened species or endangered species under the ESA or is designated as depleted under the MMPA. NMFS and FWS are required to revise a SAR if the status of the stock has changed or can be more accurately determined. In order to ensure that marine mammal SARs constitute the best scientific information available, the updated SARs under NMFS’s jurisdiction are peer-reviewed within NOAA Fisheries Science Centers and by members of three regional independent Scientific Review Groups, established under the MMPA to independently advise NMFS. As a result of the review, revision, and assessment of available data, the period covered by the 2021 E:\FR\FM\25OCN1.SGM 25OCN1 58888 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 203 / Monday, October 25, 2021 / Notices draft SARs is 2015 through 2019. While this results in a time lag, the extensive peer review process ensures the best scientific information is available in the SARs. NMFS reviewed the status of all marine mammal strategic stocks as required and considered whether significant new information was available for all other stocks under NMFS’s jurisdiction. As a result of this review, NMFS revised a total of 50 SARs in the Alaska, Atlantic, and Pacific regions to incorporate new information. The 2021 revisions to the SARs consist primarily of updated or revised humancaused M/SI estimates and updated abundance estimates. No stocks changed in status from ‘‘non-strategic’’ to ‘‘strategic.’’ Three stocks changed in status from ‘‘strategic’’ to ‘‘nonstrategic.’’ Highlights of the draft 2021 SAR revisions are discussed below. NMFS solicits public comments on the draft 2021 SARs. To ensure NMFS is aware of new information relevant to all strategic stocks, NMFS also requests new information for strategic stocks that were not updated in 2021. Specifically, new relevant information could include peer-reviewed information on humancaused M/SI, fishery interactions, abundance, distribution, stock structure, habitat concerns, and other information on emerging concerns for strategic stocks that could be incorporated into the SARs. Alaska Reports In 2021, NMFS reviewed new information for 19 stocks in the Alaska Region and revised five SARs under NMFS’s jurisdiction: Four strategic stocks and one non-strategic stock. A list of the revised SARs in 2021 for the Alaska region is presented in Table 1. Information on the remaining Alaska region stocks can be found in the final 2020 SARs (Muto et al. 2021). TABLE 1—LIST OF MARINE MAMMAL STOCKS IN THE ALASKA REGION REVISED IN 2021 Strategic stocks • • • • Non-strategic stocks • Dall’s porpoise, Alaska.* Northern fur seal, Eastern Pacific.* Beluga whale, Cook Inlet. Harbor porpoise, Southeast Alaska.* Bowhead whale, Western Arctic. * Includes updated abundance estimates. Northern Fur Seal, Eastern Pacific The updated abundance estimate for the Eastern Pacific stock of northern fur seals is 626,618 northern fur seals, based on pup production estimates on Sea Lion Rock (2014), on St. Paul and St. George Islands (mean of 2014, 2016, and 2018), and on Bogoslof Island (mean of 2015 and 2019). This is an increase from the previous estimate of 608,143 northern fur seals. The methods for estimating the population size are the same as previous years (the population size is estimated as the number of pups born at rookeries in the eastern Bering Sea multiplied by a series of expansion factors determined from a previous life table analysis). The updated minimum population estimate is 530,376 northern fur seals. The Eastern Pacific stock of northern fur seals remains classified as a strategic stock because it is designated as depleted under the MMPA. Harbor Porpoise, Southeast Alaska The updated best estimate of abundance (uncorrected for animals missed on the trackline), derived from a vessel survey in 2019, is 1,302 harbor porpoise. This estimate is not statistically different from the previous (uncorrected) estimate of 975 in 2010– 2012. However, the estimates for both 2010–2012 and 2019 are for the inland waters of Southeast Alaska, which is only a portion of the range of this stock. The updated minimum population estimate for this stock is 1,057 porpoise. Beluga Whale, Eastern Bering Sea NMFS has temporarily withdrawn the final 2020 Eastern Bering Sea Beluga whale stock assessment report from the NMFS website in order to consult with the Alaska Beluga Whale Committee (ABWC) on the change in the stock’s status from non-strategic to strategic, as is outlined in the NMFS–ABWC comanagement agreement. This has been noted on the NOAA Fisheries website: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/ national/marine-mammal-protection/ marine-mammal-stock-assessmentreports-species-stock#cetaceans---smallwhales. NMFS is providing this information for awareness only and is not seeking public comment on the NMFS–ABWC co-management agreement, nor the final 2020 Eastern Bering Sea Beluga whale stock assessment report. Atlantic Reports In 2021, NMFS reviewed all 116 stocks in the Atlantic region for new information (including the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. territories in the Caribbean). This year, NMFS revised 23 SARs in the Atlantic region (Table 2). No stocks changed in status from ‘‘non-strategic’’ to ‘‘strategic.’’ Three Northern Gulf of Mexico bay, sound and estuary stocks of common bottlenose dolphin changed from strategic to non-strategic (Galveston Bay, East Bay, Trinity Bay; Mississippi River Delta; and Sabine Lake). Previously, information for the Galveston Bay, East Bay, Trinity Bay stock of common bottlenose dolphins was contained within the report ‘‘Common Bottlenose Dolphin, Northern Gulf of Mexico Bay, Sound, and Estuary Stocks.’’ This stock now has its own report. A list of the revised SARs in the Atlantic region for 2021 is presented in Table 2. Information on the remaining Atlantic region stocks can be found in the final 2020 SARs (Hayes et al. 2021). jspears on DSK121TN23PROD with NOTICES1 TABLE 2—LIST OF MARINE MAMMAL SARS IN THE ATLANTIC REGION REVISED IN 2021 Strategic stocks Non-strategic stocks • • • • North Atlantic right whale, Western North Atlantic (WNA).* Fin whale, WNA. Sei whale, Nova Scotia. Common bottlenose dolphin, Mississippi Sound, Lake Borgne, Bay Boudreau.* • Common bottlenose dolphin, Barataria Bay Estuarine System.* VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:00 Oct 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 PO 00000 Frm 00030 Fmt 4703 • • • • Common Common Common Common Shelf.* • Common Sfmt 4703 bottlenose bottlenose bottlenose bottlenose dolphin, dolphin, dolphin, dolphin, Gulf of Mexico Eastern Coastal.* Gulf of Mexico Western Coastal.* Gulf of Mexico Northern Coastal.* Northern Gulf of Mexico Continental bottlenose dolphin, West Bay.* E:\FR\FM\25OCN1.SGM 25OCN1 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 203 / Monday, October 25, 2021 / Notices 58889 TABLE 2—LIST OF MARINE MAMMAL SARS IN THE ATLANTIC REGION REVISED IN 2021—Continued Strategic stocks Non-strategic stocks • Common bottlenose dolphin, Northern Gulf of Mexico Bay, Sound, and Estuary Stocks.** • Common bottlenose dolphin, Galveston Bay, East Bay, Trinity Bay. • • • • • • • • • • • Atlantic white-sided dolphin, WNA. Atlantic spotted dolphin, Northern Gulf of Mexico.* Long-finned pilot whale, WNA. Harp seal, WNA.* Short-finned pilot whale, WNA. Common Minke whale, Canadian East Coast. Common dolphin, WNA. Harbor porpoise, Gulf of Maine/Bay of Fundy. Harbor seal, WNA.* Gray seal, WNA.* Risso’s dolphin, WNA. * Includes updated abundance estimates. ** Excluding the Sabine Lake, Mississippi River Delta, and Sarasota Bay/Little Sarasota Bay stocks. North Atlantic Right Whale, Western North Atlantic The new abundance estimate calculated for the western North Atlantic right whale stock is 368 individuals, which is a decrease from the previous estimate of 412 individuals contained in the 2020 report. This updated estimate is based on a published state-space model of the sighting histories of individual whales identified using photo-identification techniques (Pace et al. 2017, Pace 2021) and reflects the impacts of the ongoing Unusual Mortality Event declared in 2017 for the species (NMFS 2021). Harp Seal, Western Atlantic Pacific Reports Per recommendations by the Atlantic Scientific Review Group, a PBR was calculated for harp seal based on the minimum estimate of abundance in Canadian waters because there is no known resident population in U.S. waters. PBR for the western North Atlantic harp seal is 426,000; previously the PBR was reported as unknown. The best estimate of abundance for western North Atlantic harp seals, based on the last 2017 survey, is 7.6 million (95 percent Confidence Intervals 6.5–8.8 million; DFO 2020). In 2021, NMFS reviewed all 85 stocks in the Pacific region (waters along the west coast of the United States, within waters surrounding the main and Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, and within waters surrounding U.S. territories in the Western Pacific) for new information, and revised SARs for 22 stocks (6 strategic and 16 nonstrategic). A list of revised SARs in 2021 for the Pacific region is presented in Table 3. Information on the remaining Pacific region stocks can be found in the final 2020 SARs (Carretta et al. 2021). TABLE 3—LIST OF MARINE MAMMAL SARS IN THE PACIFIC REGION REVISED IN 2021 Strategic stocks Non-strategic stocks • False killer whale, Main Hawaiian Islands Insular. • Hawaiian monk seal.* • • • • • Baird’s beaked whale, California/Oregon/Washington. • Common Bottlenose dolphin, California/Oregon/Washington Offshore.* • Short-beaked common dolphin, California/Oregon/Washington.* • Long-beaked common dolphin, California/Oregon/Washington.* Killer whale, Eastern North Pacific Southern Resident.* Humpback whale, California/Oregon/Washington. Fin whale, California/Oregon/Washington. Blue whale, Eastern North Pacific. • • • • Dall’s porpoise, California/Oregon/Washington. Harbor porpoise, Monterey Bay.* Harbor porpoise, Morro Bay.* Harbor porpoise, Northern California Southern Oregon.* • • • • • • • • Harbor porpoise, San Francisco Russian River.* Minke whale, California/Oregon/Washington. Northern Elephant seal, California breeding. Northern right whale dolphin, California/Oregon/Washington.* Pacific White-sided dolphin, California/Oregon/Washington.* Striped dolphin, California/Oregon/Washington.* False killer whale, Northwest Hawaiian Islands.* False killer whale, Hawaii Pelagic.* jspears on DSK121TN23PROD with NOTICES1 * Includes updated abundance estimates. Updated Abundance Estimates for California Current Stocks The majority of the revised Pacific SARs contain new abundance estimates from the California Current Ecosystem Survey using a consistent analysis approach. Given the heterogeneity of the VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:00 Oct 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 2018 survey coverage in the California Coastal Ecosystem study area, Species Distribution Models were used to estimate abundance for numerous U.S. West Coast marine mammal stocks rather than using design-based analytical approaches. The use of PO 00000 Frm 00031 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 species distribution models for density and abundance estimation is wellestablished for this region and models incorporate changes in species abundance and habitat shifts over time. E:\FR\FM\25OCN1.SGM 25OCN1 58890 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 203 / Monday, October 25, 2021 / Notices References Carretta et al. 2021. U.S. Pacific Marine Mammal Stock Assessments: 2020, U.S. Department of Commerce, NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS– SWFSC–646. DFO 2020. 2019 status of Northwest Atlantic harp seals, (Pagophilus groenlandicus). Department of Fisheries and Oceans. DFO Can. Sci. Advis. Sec. Sci. Rep. 2020/020. 14 pp. Hayes, S.A., E. Josephson, K. Maze-Foley, P.E. Rosel, and J. Turek. 2021. US Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico marine mammal stock assessments 2020. NOAA Tech Memo NMFS–NE–271. 403 pp. Muto, M. M., V. T. Helker, B. J. Delean, N. C. Young, J. C. Freed, R. P. Angliss, N. A. Friday, P. L. Boveng, J. M. Breiwick, B. M. Brost, M. F. Cameron, P. J. Clapham, J. L. Crance, S. P. Dahle, M. E. Dahlheim, B. S. Fadely, M. C. Ferguson, L. W. Fritz, K. T. Goetz, R. C. Hobbs, Y. V. Ivashchenko, A. S. Kennedy, J. M. London, S. A. Mizroch, R. R. Ream, E. L. Richmond, K. E. W. Shelden, K. L. Sweeney, R. G. Towell, P. R. Wade, J. M. Waite, and A. N. Zerbini. 2021. Alaska marine mammal stock assessments, 2020. U.S. Dep. Commer., NOAA Tech. Memo. NMFS–AFSC–421, 398 p. NMFS. 2021, August 11. 2017–2021 North Atlantic Right Whale Unusual Mortality Event. https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/ national/marine-life-distress/2017-2021north-atlantic-right-whale-unusualmortality-event. Pace, R.M. 2021. Revisions and further evaluations of the right whale abundance model: improvements for hypothesis testing. NOAA Tech Memo NMFS–NE 269. 54 pp. Pace, R.M., III, P.J. Corkeron and S.D. Kraus. 2017. State-space mark-recapture estimates reveal a recent decline in abundance of North Atlantic right whales. Ecol. and Evol. 7:8730–8741. DOI: 10.1002/ece3.3406 Dated: October 19, 2021. Evan Howell, Director, Office of Science and Technology, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2021–23225 Filed 10–22–21; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration jspears on DSK121TN23PROD with NOTICES1 U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS®) Advisory Committee Public Meeting U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS®), National Ocean Service (NOS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Department of Commerce (DOC). ACTION: Notice of open meeting. AGENCY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 Notice is hereby given of a virtual meeting of the U. S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS®) Advisory Committee (Committee). The meeting is open to the public and an opportunity for oral and written comments will be provided. DATES: The meeting will be held November 29, 2021, and December 06, 2021. The times and the agenda topics described below are subject to change. ADDRESSES: The meeting will be held virtually. To register for the meeting and/or submit public comments, use this link https://forms.gle/qrem9uwCcy jB1vHEA or email Laura.Gewain@ noaa.gov. Refer to the U.S. IOOS Advisory Committee website at https:// ioos.noaa.gov/community/u-s-ioosadvisory-committee/ for the most up-todate information including the agenda and dial-in information. Instructions: The meeting will be open to public participation each day (check agenda on website to confirm times). The Committee expects that public statements presented at its meetings will not be repetitive of previously submitted verbal or written statements. In general, each individual or group making a verbal presentation will be limited to a total time of three (3) minutes. Written comments should be received by the Designated Federal Official by November 22, 2021, to provide sufficient time for Committee review. Written comments received after November 22, 2021, will be distributed to the Committee, but may not be reviewed prior to the meeting date. To submit written comments, please fill out the brief form at https://forms.gle/ qrem9uwCcyjB1vHEA or email your comments, your name as it appears on your driver’s license, and the organization/company affiliation you represent to Laura Gewain, Laura. Gewain@noaa.gov. Special Accomodations: These meetings are physically accessible to people with disabilities. Requests for sign language interpretation or other auxiliary aids should be directed to Krisa Arzayus, Designated Federal Official by phone (240–533–9455) or email (Krisa.Arzayus@noaa.gov) or email Laura Gewain (Laura.Gewain@ noaa.gov) by November 15, 2021. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Krisa Arzayus, Designated Federal Official, U.S. IOOS Advisory Committee, U.S. IOOS Program, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910; Phone 240–533–9455; Fax 301– 713–3281; email krisa.arzayus@ noaa.gov or visit the U.S. IOOS Advisory Committee website at https:// SUMMARY: 18:00 Oct 22, 2021 Jkt 256001 PO 00000 Frm 00032 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 ioos.noaa.gov/community/u-s-ioosadvisory-committee/. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Committee was established by the NOAA Administrator as directed by Section 12304 of the Integrated Coastal and Ocean Observation System Act, part of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 (Pub. L. 111– 11), and reauthorized under the Coordinated Ocean Observations and Research Act of 2020 (Pub. L. No: 116– 271). The Committee advises the NOAA Administrator and the Interagency Ocean Observation Committee (IOOC) on matters related to the responsibilities and authorities set forth in section 12302 of the Integrated Coastal and Ocean Observation System Act of 2009 and other appropriate matters as the Under Secretary refers to the Committee for review and advice. The Committee will provide advice on: (a) Administration, operation, management, and maintenance of the Integrated Coastal and Ocean Observation System (the System); (b) expansion and periodic modernization and upgrade of technology components of the System; (c) identification of end-user communities, their needs for information provided by the System, and the System’s effectiveness in disseminating information to end-user communities and to the general public; and (d) additional priorities, including— (1) a national surface current mapping network designed to improve fine scale sea surface mapping using high frequency radar technology and other emerging technologies to address national priorities, including Coast Guard search and rescue operation planning and harmful algal bloom forecasting and detection that— (i) is comprised of existing high frequency radar and other sea surface current mapping infrastructure operated by national programs and regional coastal observing systems; (ii) incorporates new high frequency radar assets or other fine scale sea surface mapping technology assets, and other assets needed to fill gaps in coverage on United States coastlines; and (iii) follows a deployment plan that prioritizes closing gaps in high frequency radar infrastructure in the United States, starting with areas demonstrating significant sea surface current data needs, especially in areas where additional data will improve Coast Guard search and rescue models; (2) fleet acquisition for unmanned maritime systems for deployment and E:\FR\FM\25OCN1.SGM 25OCN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 86, Number 203 (Monday, October 25, 2021)]
[Notices]
[Pages 58887-58890]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2021-23225]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

[RTID 0648-XB302]


Draft 2021 Marine Mammal Stock Assessment Reports

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

ACTION: Notice; request for comments and new information.

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

SUMMARY: NMFS reviewed the Alaska, Atlantic, and Pacific regional 
marine mammal stock assessment reports (SARs) in accordance with the 
Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). SARs for marine mammals in the 
Alaska, Atlantic, and Pacific regions were revised according to new 
information. NMFS solicits public comments on the draft 2021 SARs. NMFS 
is also requesting new information for strategic stocks that were not 
updated in 2021.

DATES: Comments must be received by January 24, 2022.

ADDRESSES: The 2021 draft SARs are available in electronic form via the 
internet at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/draft-marine-mammal-stock-assessment-reports.
    Copies of the Alaska Regional SARs may be requested from Marcia 
Muto, Alaska Fisheries Science Center; copies of the Atlantic, Gulf of 
Mexico, and Caribbean Regional SARs may be requested from Elizabeth 
Josephson, Northeast Fisheries Science Center; and copies of the 
Pacific Regional SARs may be requested from Jim Carretta, Southwest 
Fisheries Science Center (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT below).
    You may submit comments or new information, identified by NOAA-
NMFS-2021-0130, through the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal:
    Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via 
the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to https://www.regulations.gov and 
enter NOAA-NMFS-2021-0130 in the Search box. Click on the ``Comment'' 
icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.
    Instructions: NMFS may not consider comments if they are sent by 
any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after 
the end of the comment period. Due to delays in processing mail related 
to COVID-19 and health and safety concerns, no mail, courier, or hand 
deliveries will be accepted. All comments 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).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Zachary Schakner, Office of Science 
and Technology, 301-427-8106, [email protected]; Marcia Muto, 
206-526-4026, [email protected], regarding Alaska regional stock 
assessments; Elizabeth Josephson, 508-495-2362, 
[email protected], regarding Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and 
Caribbean regional stock assessments; or Jim Carretta, 858-546-7171, 
[email protected], regarding Pacific regional stock assessments.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    Section 117 of the MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) requires NMFS and 
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to prepare stock assessments 
for each stock of marine mammals occurring in waters under the 
jurisdiction of the United States, including the U.S. Exclusive 
Economic Zone (EEZ). These stock assessment reports (SARs) must contain 
information regarding the distribution and abundance of the stock, 
population growth rates and trends, estimates of annual human-caused 
mortality and serious injury (M/SI) from all sources, descriptions of 
the fisheries with which the stock interacts, and the status of the 
stock. Initial SARs were completed in 1995.
    The MMPA requires NMFS and FWS to review the SARs at least annually 
for strategic stocks and stocks for which significant new information 
is available, and at least once every three years for non-strategic 
stocks. The term ``strategic stock'' means a marine mammal stock: (A) 
For which the level of direct human-caused mortality exceeds the 
potential biological removal level or PBR (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); (B) which, based 
on the best available scientific information, is declining and is 
likely to be listed as a threatened species under the Endangered 
Species Act (ESA) within the foreseeable future; or (C) which is listed 
as a threatened species or endangered species under the ESA or is 
designated as depleted under the MMPA. NMFS and FWS are required to 
revise a SAR if the status of the stock has changed or can be more 
accurately determined.
    In order to ensure that marine mammal SARs constitute the best 
scientific information available, the updated SARs under NMFS's 
jurisdiction are peer-reviewed within NOAA Fisheries Science Centers 
and by members of three regional independent Scientific Review Groups, 
established under the MMPA to independently advise NMFS. As a result of 
the review, revision, and assessment of available data, the period 
covered by the 2021

[[Page 58888]]

draft SARs is 2015 through 2019. While this results in a time lag, the 
extensive peer review process ensures the best scientific information 
is available in the SARs.
    NMFS reviewed the status of all marine mammal strategic stocks as 
required and considered whether significant new information was 
available for all other stocks under NMFS's jurisdiction. As a result 
of this review, NMFS revised a total of 50 SARs in the Alaska, 
Atlantic, and Pacific regions to incorporate new information. The 2021 
revisions to the SARs consist primarily of updated or revised human-
caused M/SI estimates and updated abundance estimates. No stocks 
changed in status from ``non-strategic'' to ``strategic.'' Three stocks 
changed in status from ``strategic'' to ``non-strategic.'' Highlights 
of the draft 2021 SAR revisions are discussed below.
    NMFS solicits public comments on the draft 2021 SARs. To ensure 
NMFS is aware of new information relevant to all strategic stocks, NMFS 
also requests new information for strategic stocks that were not 
updated in 2021. Specifically, new relevant information could include 
peer-reviewed information on human-caused M/SI, fishery interactions, 
abundance, distribution, stock structure, habitat concerns, and other 
information on emerging concerns for strategic stocks that could be 
incorporated into the SARs.

Alaska Reports

    In 2021, NMFS reviewed new information for 19 stocks in the Alaska 
Region and revised five SARs under NMFS's jurisdiction: Four strategic 
stocks and one non-strategic stock. A list of the revised SARs in 2021 
for the Alaska region is presented in Table 1. Information on the 
remaining Alaska region stocks can be found in the final 2020 SARs 
(Muto et al. 2021).

  Table 1--List of Marine Mammal Stocks in the Alaska Region Revised in
                                  2021
------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Strategic stocks                   Non-strategic stocks
------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Northern fur seal, Eastern          Dall's porpoise,
 Pacific.*                                   Alaska.*
 Beluga whale, Cook Inlet.
 Harbor porpoise, Southeast
 Alaska.*
 Bowhead whale, Western Arctic.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
* Includes updated abundance estimates.

Northern Fur Seal, Eastern Pacific

    The updated abundance estimate for the Eastern Pacific stock of 
northern fur seals is 626,618 northern fur seals, based on pup 
production estimates on Sea Lion Rock (2014), on St. Paul and St. 
George Islands (mean of 2014, 2016, and 2018), and on Bogoslof Island 
(mean of 2015 and 2019). This is an increase from the previous estimate 
of 608,143 northern fur seals. The methods for estimating the 
population size are the same as previous years (the population size is 
estimated as the number of pups born at rookeries in the eastern Bering 
Sea multiplied by a series of expansion factors determined from a 
previous life table analysis). The updated minimum population estimate 
is 530,376 northern fur seals. The Eastern Pacific stock of northern 
fur seals remains classified as a strategic stock because it is 
designated as depleted under the MMPA.

Harbor Porpoise, Southeast Alaska

    The updated best estimate of abundance (uncorrected for animals 
missed on the trackline), derived from a vessel survey in 2019, is 
1,302 harbor porpoise. This estimate is not statistically different 
from the previous (uncorrected) estimate of 975 in 2010-2012. However, 
the estimates for both 2010-2012 and 2019 are for the inland waters of 
Southeast Alaska, which is only a portion of the range of this stock. 
The updated minimum population estimate for this stock is 1,057 
porpoise.

Beluga Whale, Eastern Bering Sea

    NMFS has temporarily withdrawn the final 2020 Eastern Bering Sea 
Beluga whale stock assessment report from the NMFS website in order to 
consult with the Alaska Beluga Whale Committee (ABWC) on the change in 
the stock's status from non-strategic to strategic, as is outlined in 
the NMFS-ABWC co-management agreement. This has been noted on the NOAA 
Fisheries website: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/marine-mammal-stock-assessment-reports-species-stock#cetaceans---small-whales.
    NMFS is providing this information for awareness only and is not 
seeking public comment on the NMFS-ABWC co-management agreement, nor 
the final 2020 Eastern Bering Sea Beluga whale stock assessment report.

Atlantic Reports

    In 2021, NMFS reviewed all 116 stocks in the Atlantic region for 
new information (including the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. 
territories in the Caribbean). This year, NMFS revised 23 SARs in the 
Atlantic region (Table 2). No stocks changed in status from ``non-
strategic'' to ``strategic.'' Three Northern Gulf of Mexico bay, sound 
and estuary stocks of common bottlenose dolphin changed from strategic 
to non-strategic (Galveston Bay, East Bay, Trinity Bay; Mississippi 
River Delta; and Sabine Lake). Previously, information for the 
Galveston Bay, East Bay, Trinity Bay stock of common bottlenose 
dolphins was contained within the report ``Common Bottlenose Dolphin, 
Northern Gulf of Mexico Bay, Sound, and Estuary Stocks.'' This stock 
now has its own report. A list of the revised SARs in the Atlantic 
region for 2021 is presented in Table 2. Information on the remaining 
Atlantic region stocks can be found in the final 2020 SARs (Hayes et 
al. 2021).

  Table 2--List of Marine Mammal SARs in the Atlantic Region Revised in
                                  2021
------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Strategic stocks                   Non-strategic stocks
------------------------------------------------------------------------
 North Atlantic right whale,         Common bottlenose
 Western North Atlantic (WNA).*              dolphin, Gulf of Mexico
                                             Eastern Coastal.*
 Fin whale, WNA.                     Common bottlenose
                                             dolphin, Gulf of Mexico
                                             Western Coastal.*
 Sei whale, Nova Scotia.             Common bottlenose
                                             dolphin, Gulf of Mexico
                                             Northern Coastal.*
 Common bottlenose dolphin,          Common bottlenose
 Mississippi Sound, Lake Borgne, Bay         dolphin, Northern Gulf of
 Boudreau.*                                  Mexico Continental Shelf.*
 Common bottlenose dolphin,          Common bottlenose
 Barataria Bay Estuarine System.*            dolphin, West Bay.*

[[Page 58889]]

 
 Common bottlenose dolphin,          Common bottlenose
 Northern Gulf of Mexico Bay, Sound, and     dolphin, Galveston Bay,
 Estuary Stocks.**                           East Bay, Trinity Bay.
                                             Atlantic white-
                                             sided dolphin, WNA.
                                             Atlantic spotted
                                             dolphin, Northern Gulf of
                                             Mexico.*
                                             Long-finned pilot
                                             whale, WNA.
                                             Harp seal, WNA.*
                                             Short-finned pilot
                                             whale, WNA.
                                             Common Minke whale,
                                             Canadian East Coast.
                                             Common dolphin,
                                             WNA.
                                             Harbor porpoise,
                                             Gulf of Maine/Bay of Fundy.
                                             Harbor seal, WNA.*
                                             Gray seal, WNA.*
                                             Risso's dolphin,
                                             WNA.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
* Includes updated abundance estimates.
** Excluding the Sabine Lake, Mississippi River Delta, and Sarasota Bay/
  Little Sarasota Bay stocks.

North Atlantic Right Whale, Western North Atlantic

    The new abundance estimate calculated for the western North 
Atlantic right whale stock is 368 individuals, which is a decrease from 
the previous estimate of 412 individuals contained in the 2020 report. 
This updated estimate is based on a published state-space model of the 
sighting histories of individual whales identified using photo-
identification techniques (Pace et al. 2017, Pace 2021) and reflects 
the impacts of the ongoing Unusual Mortality Event declared in 2017 for 
the species (NMFS 2021).

Harp Seal, Western Atlantic

    Per recommendations by the Atlantic Scientific Review Group, a PBR 
was calculated for harp seal based on the minimum estimate of abundance 
in Canadian waters because there is no known resident population in 
U.S. waters. PBR for the western North Atlantic harp seal is 426,000; 
previously the PBR was reported as unknown. The best estimate of 
abundance for western North Atlantic harp seals, based on the last 2017 
survey, is 7.6 million (95 percent Confidence Intervals 6.5-8.8 
million; DFO 2020).

Pacific Reports

    In 2021, NMFS reviewed all 85 stocks in the Pacific region (waters 
along the west coast of the United States, within waters surrounding 
the main and Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, and within waters 
surrounding U.S. territories in the Western Pacific) for new 
information, and revised SARs for 22 stocks (6 strategic and 16 non-
strategic). A list of revised SARs in 2021 for the Pacific region is 
presented in Table 3. Information on the remaining Pacific region 
stocks can be found in the final 2020 SARs (Carretta et al. 2021).

  Table 3--List of Marine Mammal SARs in the Pacific Region Revised in
                                  2021
------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Strategic stocks                   Non-strategic stocks
------------------------------------------------------------------------
 False killer whale, Main Hawaiian   Baird's beaked
 Islands Insular.                            whale, California/Oregon/
                                             Washington.
 Hawaiian monk seal.*                Common Bottlenose
                                             dolphin, California/Oregon/
                                             Washington Offshore.*
 Killer whale, Eastern North         Short-beaked common
 Pacific Southern Resident.*                 dolphin, California/Oregon/
                                             Washington.*
 Humpback whale, California/Oregon/  Long-beaked common
 Washington.                                 dolphin, California/Oregon/
                                             Washington.*
 Fin whale, California/Oregon/
 Washington.
 Blue whale, Eastern North           Dall's porpoise,
 Pacific.                                    California/Oregon/
                                             Washington.
                                             Harbor porpoise,
                                             Monterey Bay.*
                                             Harbor porpoise,
                                             Morro Bay.*
                                             Harbor porpoise,
                                             Northern California
                                             Southern Oregon.*
                                            ............................
                                             Harbor porpoise,
                                             San Francisco Russian
                                             River.*
                                             Minke whale,
                                             California/Oregon/
                                             Washington.
                                             Northern Elephant
                                             seal, California breeding.
                                             Northern right
                                             whale dolphin, California/
                                             Oregon/Washington.*
                                             Pacific White-sided
                                             dolphin, California/Oregon/
                                             Washington.*
                                             Striped dolphin,
                                             California/Oregon/
                                             Washington.*
                                             False killer whale,
                                             Northwest Hawaiian
                                             Islands.*
                                             False killer whale,
                                             Hawaii Pelagic.*
------------------------------------------------------------------------
* Includes updated abundance estimates.

Updated Abundance Estimates for California Current Stocks

    The majority of the revised Pacific SARs contain new abundance 
estimates from the California Current Ecosystem Survey using a 
consistent analysis approach. Given the heterogeneity of the 2018 
survey coverage in the California Coastal Ecosystem study area, Species 
Distribution Models were used to estimate abundance for numerous U.S. 
West Coast marine mammal stocks rather than using design-based 
analytical approaches. The use of species distribution models for 
density and abundance estimation is well-established for this region 
and models incorporate changes in species abundance and habitat shifts 
over time.

[[Page 58890]]

References

Carretta et al. 2021. U.S. Pacific Marine Mammal Stock Assessments: 
2020, U.S. Department of Commerce, NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-
SWFSC-646.
DFO 2020. 2019 status of Northwest Atlantic harp seals, (Pagophilus 
groenlandicus). Department of Fisheries and Oceans. DFO Can. Sci. 
Advis. Sec. Sci. Rep. 2020/020. 14 pp.
Hayes, S.A., E. Josephson, K. Maze-Foley, P.E. Rosel, and J. Turek. 
2021. US Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico marine mammal stock assessments 
2020. NOAA Tech Memo NMFS-NE-271. 403 pp.
Muto, M. M., V. T. Helker, B. J. Delean, N. C. Young, J. C. Freed, 
R. P. Angliss, N. A. Friday, P. L. Boveng, J. M. Breiwick, B. M. 
Brost, M. F. Cameron, P. J. Clapham, J. L. Crance, S. P. Dahle, M. 
E. Dahlheim, B. S. Fadely, M. C. Ferguson, L. W. Fritz, K. T. Goetz, 
R. C. Hobbs, Y. V. Ivashchenko, A. S. Kennedy, J. M. London, S. A. 
Mizroch, R. R. Ream, E. L. Richmond, K. E. W. Shelden, K. L. 
Sweeney, R. G. Towell, P. R. Wade, J. M. Waite, and A. N. Zerbini. 
2021. Alaska marine mammal stock assessments, 2020. U.S. Dep. 
Commer., NOAA Tech. Memo. NMFS-AFSC-421, 398 p.
NMFS. 2021, August 11. 2017-2021 North Atlantic Right Whale Unusual 
Mortality Event. https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-life-distress/2017-2021-north-atlantic-right-whale-unusual-mortality-event.
Pace, R.M. 2021. Revisions and further evaluations of the right 
whale abundance model: improvements for hypothesis testing. NOAA 
Tech Memo NMFS-NE 269. 54 pp.
Pace, R.M., III, P.J. Corkeron and S.D. Kraus. 2017. State-space 
mark-recapture estimates reveal a recent decline in abundance of 
North Atlantic right whales. Ecol. and Evol. 7:8730-8741. DOI: 
10.1002/ece3.3406

    Dated: October 19, 2021.
Evan Howell,
Director, Office of Science and Technology, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
[FR Doc. 2021-23225 Filed 10-22-21; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P