Taking of Threatened or Endangered Marine Mammals Incidental to Commercial Fishing Operations; Proposed Issuance of Permit, 71236-71239 [2021-27109]

Download as PDF 71236 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 238 / Wednesday, December 15, 2021 / Notices attacks and contacts during gear setting. After the vessel returns to port, the video recordings would be reviewed and seabird data would be verified using observer data. This would be a limited scale, pilot study to assess the potential risk to seabirds using alternative mitigation methods in place of already effective methods. The study would provide guidance on whether to pursue a fullscale study of tori lines in the shallowset fishery. At the completion of the test, findings would be presented to the Council and NMFS to inform whether additional research is warranted, and support future management decisions. NMFS seeks comments on the proposed experimental activity. We will consider comments received when deciding whether to approve the EFP and, if so, whether to attach any additional terms and conditions. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801, et seq. Dated: December 9, 2021. Ngagne Jafnar Gueye, Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2021–27083 Filed 12–14–21; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [RTID 0648–XB613] Taking of Threatened or Endangered Marine Mammals Incidental to Commercial Fishing Operations; Proposed Issuance of Permit National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; request for comments. AGENCY: The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is proposing to issue a permit to authorize the incidental, but not intentional, take of specific Endangered Species Act (ESA)listed marine mammal species or stocks under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), in the Alaska (AK) Bering Sea, Aleutian Islands (BSAI) Pacific cod pot fishery. DATES: Comments on this action and supporting documents must be received by December 30, 2021. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on the proposed permit and the preliminary determination supporting the permit, identified by NOAA–NMFS– 2021–0123, through the Federal eRulemaking Portal: khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:04 Dec 14, 2021 Jkt 256001 1. Go to https://www.regulations.gov and enter NOAA–NMFS–2021–0123 in the Search box. 2. Click the ‘‘Comment’’ icon, and complete the required fields. 3. 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). Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word, Excel, or Adobe PDF file formats only. The preliminary determination supporting the permit is available on the internet at https://www.regulations.gov/ docket/NOAA-NMFS-2021-0123. Other supporting information is available on the internet including: Recovery plans for the ESA-listed marine mammal species, https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/ national/endangered-speciesconservation/recovery-species-underendangered-species-act; 2021 MMPA List of Fisheries (LOF), https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/ marine-mammal-protection/listfisheries-summary-tables; the most recent Marine Mammal Stock Assessment Reports (SAR) by region, https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/ national/marine-mammal-protection/ marine-mammal-stock-assessmentreports-region, and stock, https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/ marine-mammal-protection/marinemammal-stock-assessment-reportsspecies-stock; and Take Reduction Teams and Plans, https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/ marine-mammal-protection/marinemammal-take-reduction-plans-andteams. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Suzie Teerlink, NMFS Alaska Region, 907–586–7240, Suzie.Teerlink@ noaa.gov; or Jaclyn Taylor, NMFS Office of Protected Resources, 301–427–8402, Jaclyn.Taylor@noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The MMPA requires NMFS to authorize the PO 00000 Frm 00011 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 incidental take of ESA-listed marine mammals in commercial fisheries provided it can make the following determinations: (1) The incidental mortality and serious injury (M/SI) from commercial fisheries will have a negligible impact on the affected species or stocks; (2) a recovery plan for all affected species or stocks of threatened or endangered marine mammals has been developed or is being developed; and (3) where required under MMPA section 118, a take reduction plan has been developed or is being developed, a monitoring program is implemented, and vessels participating in the fishery are registered (16 U.S.C. 1371(a)(5)(E)). We have made a preliminary determination that the AK BSAI Pacific cod pot fishery meets these three requirements and propose to issue a permit to the fishery to authorize the incidental take of ESA-listed marine mammal species or stocks (Central North Pacific and Western North Pacific stocks of humpback whale) under the MMPA for a period of three years. We solicit public comments on the proposed issuance of the permit and the underlying preliminary determination. Background The MMPA List of Fisheries (LOF) classifies each commercial fishery as a Category I, II, or III fishery based on the level of mortality and injury of marine mammals occurring incidental to each fishery as defined in 50 CFR 229.2. Category I and II fisheries must register with NMFS and are subsequently authorized to incidentally take marine mammals during commercial fishing operations. However, that authorization is limited to those marine mammals that are not listed as threatened or endangered under the ESA. Section 101(a)(5)(E) of the MMPA, 16 U.S.C. 1371, states that NMFS, as delegated by the Secretary of Commerce, for a period of up to three years shall allow the incidental, but not intentional, taking of marine mammal stocks designated as depleted because of their listing as an endangered species or threatened species under the ESA, 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq., by persons using vessels of the United States and those vessels which have valid fishing permits issued by the Secretary in accordance with section 204(b) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, 16 U.S.C. 1824(b), while engaging in commercial fishing operations, if NMFS makes certain determinations. NMFS must determine, after notice and opportunity for public comment, that: (1) Incidental M/SI from commercial fisheries will have a negligible impact on the affected species or stock; (2) a E:\FR\FM\15DEN1.SGM 15DEN1 khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 238 / Wednesday, December 15, 2021 / Notices recovery plan has been developed or is being developed for such species or stock under the ESA; and (3) where required under section 118 of the MMPA, a monitoring program has been established, vessels engaged in such fisheries are registered in accordance with section 118 of the MMPA, and a take reduction plan has been developed or is being developed for such species or stock. The LOF includes a list of marine mammal species or stocks incidentally killed or injured in each commercial fishery. We evaluated ESA-listed stocks or species included on the final 2021 MMPA LOF as killed or seriously injured following NMFS’ Procedural Directive 02–238 ‘‘Process for Distinguishing Serious from NonSerious Injury of Marine Mammals.’’ Based on this evaluation, we propose to issue a permit under MMPA section 101(a)(5)(E) to vessels registered in the Category II AK BSAI Pacific cod pot fishery, to incidentally kill or seriously injure individuals from the Central North Pacific and Western North Pacific stocks of humpback whale. NMFS will regularly evaluate other commercial fisheries for purposes of making a negligible impact determination (NID) and issuing section 101(a)(5)(E) authorizations with the annual LOF as new information becomes available. More information about the AK BSAI Pacific cod pot fishery is available in the 2021 MMPA LOF (86 FR 3028; January 14, 2021) and on the internet at: https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/ marine-mammal-protection/listfisheries-summary-tables. We reviewed the best available scientific information to determine if the fishery met the three requirements of MMPA section 101(a)(5)(E) for issuing a permit. This information is included in the 2021 MMPA LOF (86 FR 3028; January 14, 2021), the SARs for these species (available at: https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/ marine-mammal-protection/marinemammal-stock-assessment-reports), recovery plans for these species (available at: https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/ endangered-species-conservation/ recovery-species-under-endangeredspecies-act), and other relevant information, as detailed further in the document describing the preliminary determination supporting the permit (available at: https:// www.regulations.gov/docket/NOAANMFS-2021-0123). NMFS is in the process of revising humpback whale stock structure under the MMPA in light of the 14 Distinct VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:04 Dec 14, 2021 Jkt 256001 Population Segments (DPSs) established under the ESA (81 FR 62259, September 8, 2016), based on the recently finalized ‘‘Procedural Directive 02–204–03: Reviewing and Designating Stocks and Issuing Stock Assessment Reports under the Marine Mammal Protection Act’’ (NMFS 2019). The humpback whale DPSs that occur in waters under the jurisdiction of the United States do not align with the existing MMPA stocks. Some of the listed DPSs partially coincide with the currently defined stocks. Because we cannot manage one portion of an MMPA stock as ESA-listed and another portion of a stock as not ESA-listed, until such time as the MMPA stock designations are revised in light of the ESA-listed DPSs, NMFS continues to use the existing MMPA stock structure for MMPA management purposes (e.g., selection of a recovery factor, stock status) and treats such stocks as ESA-listed if a component of that stock is listed under the Act and overlaps with the analyzed commercial fishery. Therefore, for the purpose of this MMPA 101(a)(5)(E) authorization, we considered the Central North Pacific and Western North Pacific stocks of humpback whales to be ESA-listed as they overlap with the two ESA-listed DPSs: The threatened Mexico DPS and the endangered Western North Pacific DPS. Basis for Determining Negligible Impact Prior to issuing a MMPA 101(a)(5)(E) permit to take ESA-listed marine mammals incidental to commercial fishing, NMFS must determine if the M/ SI incidental to commercial fisheries will have a negligible impact on the affected marine mammal species or stocks. NMFS satisfies this requirement by making a NID. Although the MMPA does not define ‘‘negligible impact,’’ NMFS has issued regulations providing a qualitative definition of ‘‘negligible impact,’’ defined in 50 CFR 216.103 as an impact resulting from the specified activity that cannot be reasonably expected to, and is not reasonably likely to, adversely affect the species or stock through effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival. Criteria for Determining Negligible Impact NMFS relies on a quantitative approach for determining negligible impact detailed in NMFS Procedural Directive 02–204–02 (directive), ‘‘Criteria for Determining Negligible Impact under MMPA section 101(a)(5)(E),’’ which became effective on June 17, 2020 (NMFS 2020). The procedural directive is available online at: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/ PO 00000 Frm 00012 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 71237 national/laws-and-policies/protectedresources-policy-directives. The directive describes NMFS’ process for determining whether incidental M/SI from commercial fisheries will have a negligible impact on ESA-listed marine mammal species/stocks (the first requirement necessary for issuing a MMPA section 101(a)(5)(E) permit as noted above). The directive first describes the derivation of two Negligible Impact Thresholds (NIT), which represent levels of removal from a marine mammal species or stock. The first, Total Negligible Impact Threshold (NITt), represents the total amount of human-caused M/SI that NMFS considers negligible for a given stock. The second, lower threshold, Single NIT (NITs) represents the level of M/SI from a single commercial fishery that NMFS considers negligible for a stock. NITs was developed in recognition that some stocks may experience non-negligible levels of total human-caused M/SI but one or more individual fisheries may contribute a very small portion of that M/SI, and the effect of an individual fishery may be considered negligible. The directive describes a detailed process for using these NIT values to conduct a NID analysis for each fishery classified as a Category I or II fishery on the MMPA LOF. The NID process uses a two-tiered analysis. The Tier 1 analysis first compares the total humancaused M/SI for a particular stock to NITt. If NITt is not exceeded, then all commercial fisheries that kill or seriously injure the stock are determined to have a negligible impact on the particular stock. If NITt is exceeded, then the Tier 2 analysis compares each individual fishery’s M/SI for a particular stock to NITs. If NITs is not exceeded, then the commercial fishery is determined to have a negligible impact on that particular stock. For transboundary, migratory stocks, because of the uncertainty regarding the M/SI that occurs outside of U.S. waters, we assume that total M/ SI exceeds NITt and proceed directly to the Tier 2 NITs analysis. If a commercial fishery has a negligible impact across all ESA-listed stocks, then the first of 3 findings necessary for issuing a MMPA 101(a)(5)(E) permit to the commercial fishery has been met (i.e., a negligible impact determination). If a commercial fishery has a non-negligible impact on any ESA-listed stock, then NMFS cannot issue a MMPA 101(a)(5)(E) permit for the fishery to incidentally take ESA-listed marine mammals. These NID criteria rely on the best available scientific information, including estimates of a stock’s E:\FR\FM\15DEN1.SGM 15DEN1 71238 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 238 / Wednesday, December 15, 2021 / Notices khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with NOTICES minimum population size and humancaused M/SI levels, as published in the most recent SARs and other supporting documents, as appropriate. Using these inputs, the quantitative negligible impact thresholds allow for straightforward calculations that lead to clear negligible or non-negligible impact determinations for each commercial fishery analyzed. In rare cases, robust data may be unavailable for a straightforward calculation, and the directive provides instructions for completing alternative calculations or assessments where appropriate. Negligible Impact Determination NMFS evaluated the impact of the AK BSAI Pacific cod pot fishery using the process outlined in the directive, and, based on the best available scientific information, made a draft NID. The Central North Pacific and Western North Pacific stocks of humpback whales are transboundary stocks. As noted above, because of the uncertainty regarding M/SI that occurs outside of U.S. waters for transboundary stocks, we assumed that total M/SI exceeds NITt and proceeded directly to the Tier 2 NITs analysis The most recent (2020) final Central North Pacific and Western North Pacific humpback whale SARs documented M/SI of Central North Pacific and Western North Pacific stocks of humpback whale incidental to this fishery (Muto et al. 2021). The estimated annual M/SI of Central North Pacific humpback whales in the AK BSAI Pacific cod pot fishery is 0.2, based on Alaska Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program data. The estimated annual M/SI of 0.2 is based on an event that occurred in an area where the Central North Pacific and Western North Pacific stocks of humpback whales overlap. Therefore, the M/SI was assigned to both the Central North Pacific and Western North Pacific stocks (Muto et al. 2021). Since this M/SI (0.2) is less than NITs (3.59), NMFS determined that the AK BSAI Pacific cod pot fishery has a negligible impact on the Central North Pacific stock of humpback whales (see accompanying MMPA 101(a)(5)(E) determination document linked above for NIT calculations). The estimated annual M/SI of Western North Pacific humpback whales in the AK BSAI Pacific cod pot fishery is 0.2, based on Alaska Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program data. Since this M/SI (0.2) is less than NITs (0.39), NMFS determined that the AK BSAI Pacific cod pot fishery has a negligible impact on the Western North Pacific stock of humpback whales (see accompanying VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:04 Dec 14, 2021 Jkt 256001 MMPA 101(a)(5)(E) determination document linked above for NIT calculations). The 2020 SAR includes the mean annual total commercial fishery-related M/SI (9.8) for the Central North Pacific stock of humpback whale and (0.9) for the Western North Pacific stock of humpback whale. This comprises M/SI from all commercial fisheries, including the AK BSAI Pacific cod pot fishery, as well as fishery-related M/SI for the stock not assigned to a specific commercial fishery. The SARs for both stocks also include unattributed fishery-related M/ SI (7.9 for Central North Pacific, 0.4 for Western North Pacific), which is not assigned to a specific commercial fishery. This unattributed fisheryrelated M/SI could be from any number of commercial or recreational fisheries, including the AK BSAI Pacific cod pot fishery. Because data are not currently available to assign the unattributed fishery-related M/SI to a specific commercial fishery, we did not include unattributed mortality in the calculations for the NID Tier 2 analysis. In addition, because the Central North Pacific and Western North Pacific stocks of humpback whales are considered to be transboundary stocks, NMFS assumed NITt is exceeded and conducted the more conservative Tier 2 analysis with the lower NITs criterion. NMFS is actively monitoring the AK BSAI Pacific cod pot fishery through the North Pacific Fisheries Observer Program. Further, most of the information on large whale entanglements in Alaska is reported to and documented by the Alaska Large Whale Entanglement Response Program. If additional fishery-related M/SI of the Central North Pacific or Western North Pacific stock of humpback whale is documented through the observer program or the Alaska Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program that indicates additional M/SI of the Central North Pacific or Western North Pacific stock of humpback whale in the AK BSAI Pacific cod pot fishery, then NMFS will re-evaluate the NID and the proposed permit. The NID analysis is presented in an accompanying MMPA section 101(a)(5)(E) determination document that provides summaries of the information used to evaluate each ESAlisted stocks documented on the 2021 MMPA LOF as killed or injured incidental to the fishery (available at: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/action/ mmpa-list-fisheries-2021). The draft MMPA 101(a)(5)(E) determination document is available at: https:// www.regulations.gov/docket/NOAANMFS-2021-0123. Based on the criteria PO 00000 Frm 00013 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 outlined in the directive, the most recent SAR, and the best available scientific information, NMFS has determined that the M/SI incidental to the Category II AK BSAI Pacific cod pot fishery will have a negligible impact on the associated ESA-listed marine mammal stocks (Central North Pacific and Western North Pacific stocks of humpback whale). Accordingly, this MMPA 101(a)(5)(E) requirement is satisfied for the commercial fishery (see draft MMPA 101(a)(5)(E) determination document is available at: https:// www.regulations.gov/docket/NOAANMFS-2021-0123). Recovery Plan The humpback whale recovery plan has been completed (see https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/ endangered-species-conservation/ recovery-species-under-endangeredspecies-act). Accordingly, the requirement to have recovery plans in place or being developed is satisfied. Take Reduction Plan Subject to available funding, MMPA section 118 requires the development and implementation of a Take Reduction Plan (TRP) for each strategic stock that interacts with a Category I or II fishery. The stocks considered for this permit are designated as a strategic stock under the MMPA because the stocks, or a component of the stocks, are listed as threatened or endangered under the ESA (MMPA section 3(19)(C)). The short- and long-term goals of a TRP are to reduce M/SI of marine mammals incidental to commercial fishing to levels below the Potential Biological Removal (PBR) level for stocks and to an insignificant threshold, defined by NMFS as 10 percent of PBR, respectively. The obligations to develop and implement a TRP are subject to the availability of funding. MMPA section 118(f)(3) (16 U.S.C. 1387(f)(3)) contains specific priorities for developing TRPs when funding is insufficient. NMFS has insufficient funding available to simultaneously develop and implement TRPs for all strategic stocks that interact with Category I or Category II fisheries. As provided in MMPA section 118(f)(6)(A) and (f)(7), NMFS uses the most recent SAR and LOF as the basis to determine its priorities for establishing Take Reduction Teams (TRT) and developing TRPs. Information about NMFS’ marine mammal TRTs and TRPs may be found at: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/ national/marine-mammal-protection/ marine-mammal-take-reduction-plansand-teams. E:\FR\FM\15DEN1.SGM 15DEN1 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 238 / Wednesday, December 15, 2021 / Notices Based on NMFS’ priorities, implementation of a TRP for the AK BSAI Pacific cod pot fishery is currently deferred under MMPA section 118 as other stocks/fisheries are a higher priority for any available funding. Accordingly, the requirement under MMPA section 118 to have TRPs in place or in development is satisfied (see determination supporting the permit available on the internet at https:// www.regulations.gov/docket/NOAANMFS-2021-0123). Monitoring Program Under MMPA section 118(d), NMFS is to establish a program for monitoring incidental M/SI of marine mammals from commercial fishing operations. The AK BSAI Pacific cod pot is monitored under the partial coverage category through the North Pacific Fisheries Observer Program. Accordingly, the requirement under MMPA section 118 to have a monitoring program in place is satisfied. khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with NOTICES Vessel Registration MMPA section 118(c) requires that vessels participating in Category I and II fisheries register to obtain an authorization to take marine mammals incidental to fishing activities. NMFS has integrated the MMPA registration process, implemented through the Marine Mammal Authorization Program, with existing state and Federal fishery license, registration, or permit systems for Category I and II fisheries on the LOF. Therefore, the requirement for vessel registration is satisfied. Conclusions for Proposed Permit Based on the above evaluation for the AK BSAI Pacific cod pot fishery as it relates to the three requirements of MMPA section 101(a)(5)(E), we propose to issue a MMPA 101(a)(5)(E) permit to the commercial fishery to authorize the incidental take of ESA-listed species or stocks during commercial fishing operations. If, during the 3-year authorization, there is a significant change in the information or conditions used to support any of these determinations, NMFS will re-evaluate whether to amend or modify the authorization, after notice and opportunity for public comment. NMFS solicits public comments on the proposed permit and the preliminary determination supporting the permit. ESA Section 7 and National Environmental Policy Act Requirements ESA section 7(a)(2) requires federal agencies to ensure that actions they authorize, fund, or carry out do not VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:04 Dec 14, 2021 Jkt 256001 jeopardize the existence of any species listed under the ESA, or destroy or adversely modify designated critical habitat of any ESA-listed species. The effects of the AK BSAI Pacific cod pot fishery on ESA-listed marine mammals, were analyzed in the ESA section 7 Biological Opinion for the BSAI Groundfish Fishery Management Plan. Under section 7 of the ESA, Biological Opinions analyze the effects of the proposed action on ESA-listed species and their critical habitat and, where appropriate, exempt anticipated future take of ESA-listed species as specified in the incidental take statement. Under MMPA section 101(a)(5)(E), NMFS analyzes previously documented M/SI incidental to commercial fisheries through the negligible impact determination process, and when the necessary findings can be made, issues a MMPA section 101(a)(5)(E) permit that allows for an unspecified amount of incidental taking of specific ESA-listed marine mammal stocks while engaging in commercial fishing operations. Thus, the applicable standards and resulting analyses under the MMPA and ESA differ, and as such, may not always align. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires Federal agencies to evaluate the impacts of alternatives for their actions on the human environment. Because the proposed permit would not modify any fishery operation and the effects of the fishery operations have been evaluated in accordance with NEPA, no additional NEPA analysis beyond that conducted for the associated Fishery Management Plan is required for the permit. Issuing the proposed permit would have no additional impact on the human environment or effects on threatened or endangered species beyond those analyzed in these documents. References 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. Department of Commerce, NOAA Tech. Memo. NMFS– AFSC–421. 398 p. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). 2020. National Marine Fisheries Service Procedure 02–204–02: Criteria for Determining Negligible Impact under MMPA Section 101(a)(5)(E). 20 p. Available online: https:// PO 00000 Frm 00014 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 71239 www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/lawsand-policies/protected-resources-policydirectives. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). 2019. National Marine Fisheries Service Procedure 02–204–03: Reviewing and designating stocks and issuing Stock Assessment Reports under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. 9 p. Available online: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/ national/laws-and-policies/protectedresources-policy-directives National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). 2016. National Marine Fisheries Service Procedure 02–204–01: Guidelines for preparing stock assessment reports pursuant to the 1994 amendments to the Marine Mammal Protection Act. 23 p. Available online: https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/ marine-mammal-protection/guidelinesassessing-marine-mammal-stocks. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). 2014. National Marine Fisheries Service Procedure 02–238–01: Process for Distinguishing Serious from Non-Serious Injury of Marine Mammals. 42 p. Available online: https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/ marine-mammal-protection/marinemammal-protection-act-policiesguidance-and-regulations. Dated: December 9, 2021. Kimberly Damon-Randall, Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2021–27109 Filed 12–14–21; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [RTID 0648–XB609] Magnuson-Stevens Act Provisions; General Provisions for Domestic Fisheries; Application for Exempted Fishing Permits National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; request for comments. AGENCY: The Northeast Fisheries Science Center has requested a change to a previously issued exempted fishing permit which would result in new regulatory exemptions for participating vessels. The Assistant Regional Administrator for Sustainable Fisheries, Greater Atlantic Region, NMFS, has determined that this request is outside the scope of the initially approved exempted fishing permit. As a result, regulations under the MagnusonStevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act require publication of this notification to provide interested SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\15DEN1.SGM 15DEN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 86, Number 238 (Wednesday, December 15, 2021)]
[Notices]
[Pages 71236-71239]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2021-27109]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

[RTID 0648-XB613]


Taking of Threatened or Endangered Marine Mammals Incidental to 
Commercial Fishing Operations; Proposed Issuance of Permit

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

ACTION: Notice; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is proposing to 
issue a permit to authorize the incidental, but not intentional, take 
of specific Endangered Species Act (ESA)-listed marine mammal species 
or stocks under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), in the Alaska 
(AK) Bering Sea, Aleutian Islands (BSAI) Pacific cod pot fishery.

DATES: Comments on this action and supporting documents must be 
received by December 30, 2021.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on the proposed permit and the 
preliminary determination supporting the permit, identified by NOAA-
NMFS-2021-0123, through the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal:
    1. Go to https://www.regulations.gov and enter NOAA-NMFS-2021-0123 
in the Search box.
    2. Click the ``Comment'' icon, and complete the required fields.
    3. 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). Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in 
Microsoft Word, Excel, or Adobe PDF file formats only.
    The preliminary determination supporting the permit is available on 
the internet at https://www.regulations.gov/docket/NOAA-NMFS-2021-0123. 
Other supporting information is available on the internet including: 
Recovery plans for the ESA-listed marine mammal species, https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/endangered-species-conservation/recovery-species-under-endangered-species-act; 2021 MMPA List of 
Fisheries (LOF), https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/list-fisheries-summary-tables; the most recent Marine Mammal 
Stock Assessment Reports (SAR) by region, https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/marine-mammal-stock-assessment-reports-region, and stock, https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/marine-mammal-stock-assessment-reports-species-stock; and Take Reduction Teams and 
Plans, https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/marine-mammal-take-reduction-plans-and-teams.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Suzie Teerlink, NMFS Alaska Region, 
907-586-7240, [email protected]; or Jaclyn Taylor, NMFS Office of 
Protected Resources, 301-427-8402, [email protected].

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The MMPA requires NMFS to authorize the 
incidental take of ESA-listed marine mammals in commercial fisheries 
provided it can make the following determinations: (1) The incidental 
mortality and serious injury (M/SI) from commercial fisheries will have 
a negligible impact on the affected species or stocks; (2) a recovery 
plan for all affected species or stocks of threatened or endangered 
marine mammals has been developed or is being developed; and (3) where 
required under MMPA section 118, a take reduction plan has been 
developed or is being developed, a monitoring program is implemented, 
and vessels participating in the fishery are registered (16 U.S.C. 
1371(a)(5)(E)). We have made a preliminary determination that the AK 
BSAI Pacific cod pot fishery meets these three requirements and propose 
to issue a permit to the fishery to authorize the incidental take of 
ESA-listed marine mammal species or stocks (Central North Pacific and 
Western North Pacific stocks of humpback whale) under the MMPA for a 
period of three years. We solicit public comments on the proposed 
issuance of the permit and the underlying preliminary determination.

Background

    The MMPA List of Fisheries (LOF) classifies each commercial fishery 
as a Category I, II, or III fishery based on the level of mortality and 
injury of marine mammals occurring incidental to each fishery as 
defined in 50 CFR 229.2. Category I and II fisheries must register with 
NMFS and are subsequently authorized to incidentally take marine 
mammals during commercial fishing operations. However, that 
authorization is limited to those marine mammals that are not listed as 
threatened or endangered under the ESA. Section 101(a)(5)(E) of the 
MMPA, 16 U.S.C. 1371, states that NMFS, as delegated by the Secretary 
of Commerce, for a period of up to three years shall allow the 
incidental, but not intentional, taking of marine mammal stocks 
designated as depleted because of their listing as an endangered 
species or threatened species under the ESA, 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq., by 
persons using vessels of the United States and those vessels which have 
valid fishing permits issued by the Secretary in accordance with 
section 204(b) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and 
Management Act, 16 U.S.C. 1824(b), while engaging in commercial fishing 
operations, if NMFS makes certain determinations. NMFS must determine, 
after notice and opportunity for public comment, that: (1) Incidental 
M/SI from commercial fisheries will have a negligible impact on the 
affected species or stock; (2) a

[[Page 71237]]

recovery plan has been developed or is being developed for such species 
or stock under the ESA; and (3) where required under section 118 of the 
MMPA, a monitoring program has been established, vessels engaged in 
such fisheries are registered in accordance with section 118 of the 
MMPA, and a take reduction plan has been developed or is being 
developed for such species or stock.
    The LOF includes a list of marine mammal species or stocks 
incidentally killed or injured in each commercial fishery. We evaluated 
ESA-listed stocks or species included on the final 2021 MMPA LOF as 
killed or seriously injured following NMFS' Procedural Directive 02-238 
``Process for Distinguishing Serious from Non-Serious Injury of Marine 
Mammals.'' Based on this evaluation, we propose to issue a permit under 
MMPA section 101(a)(5)(E) to vessels registered in the Category II AK 
BSAI Pacific cod pot fishery, to incidentally kill or seriously injure 
individuals from the Central North Pacific and Western North Pacific 
stocks of humpback whale.
    NMFS will regularly evaluate other commercial fisheries for 
purposes of making a negligible impact determination (NID) and issuing 
section 101(a)(5)(E) authorizations with the annual LOF as new 
information becomes available. More information about the AK BSAI 
Pacific cod pot fishery is available in the 2021 MMPA LOF (86 FR 3028; 
January 14, 2021) and on the internet at: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/list-fisheries-summary-tables.
    We reviewed the best available scientific information to determine 
if the fishery met the three requirements of MMPA section 101(a)(5)(E) 
for issuing a permit. This information is included in the 2021 MMPA LOF 
(86 FR 3028; January 14, 2021), the SARs for these species (available 
at: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/marine-mammal-stock-assessment-reports), recovery plans for these 
species (available at: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/endangered-species-conservation/recovery-species-under-endangered-species-act), and other relevant information, as detailed further in 
the document describing the preliminary determination supporting the 
permit (available at: https://www.regulations.gov/docket/NOAA-NMFS-2021-0123).
    NMFS is in the process of revising humpback whale stock structure 
under the MMPA in light of the 14 Distinct Population Segments (DPSs) 
established under the ESA (81 FR 62259, September 8, 2016), based on 
the recently finalized ``Procedural Directive 02-204-03: Reviewing and 
Designating Stocks and Issuing Stock Assessment Reports under the 
Marine Mammal Protection Act'' (NMFS 2019). The humpback whale DPSs 
that occur in waters under the jurisdiction of the United States do not 
align with the existing MMPA stocks. Some of the listed DPSs partially 
coincide with the currently defined stocks. Because we cannot manage 
one portion of an MMPA stock as ESA-listed and another portion of a 
stock as not ESA-listed, until such time as the MMPA stock designations 
are revised in light of the ESA-listed DPSs, NMFS continues to use the 
existing MMPA stock structure for MMPA management purposes (e.g., 
selection of a recovery factor, stock status) and treats such stocks as 
ESA-listed if a component of that stock is listed under the Act and 
overlaps with the analyzed commercial fishery. Therefore, for the 
purpose of this MMPA 101(a)(5)(E) authorization, we considered the 
Central North Pacific and Western North Pacific stocks of humpback 
whales to be ESA-listed as they overlap with the two ESA-listed DPSs: 
The threatened Mexico DPS and the endangered Western North Pacific DPS.

Basis for Determining Negligible Impact

    Prior to issuing a MMPA 101(a)(5)(E) permit to take ESA-listed 
marine mammals incidental to commercial fishing, NMFS must determine if 
the M/SI incidental to commercial fisheries will have a negligible 
impact on the affected marine mammal species or stocks. NMFS satisfies 
this requirement by making a NID. Although the MMPA does not define 
``negligible impact,'' NMFS has issued regulations providing a 
qualitative definition of ``negligible impact,'' defined in 50 CFR 
216.103 as an impact resulting from the specified activity that cannot 
be reasonably expected to, and is not reasonably likely to, adversely 
affect the species or stock through effects on annual rates of 
recruitment or survival.

Criteria for Determining Negligible Impact

    NMFS relies on a quantitative approach for determining negligible 
impact detailed in NMFS Procedural Directive 02-204-02 (directive), 
``Criteria for Determining Negligible Impact under MMPA section 
101(a)(5)(E),'' which became effective on June 17, 2020 (NMFS 2020). 
The procedural directive is available online at: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/laws-and-policies/protected-resources-policy-directives. The directive describes NMFS' process for 
determining whether incidental M/SI from commercial fisheries will have 
a negligible impact on ESA-listed marine mammal species/stocks (the 
first requirement necessary for issuing a MMPA section 101(a)(5)(E) 
permit as noted above).
    The directive first describes the derivation of two Negligible 
Impact Thresholds (NIT), which represent levels of removal from a 
marine mammal species or stock. The first, Total Negligible Impact 
Threshold (NITt), represents the total amount of human-
caused M/SI that NMFS considers negligible for a given stock. The 
second, lower threshold, Single NIT (NITs) represents the 
level of M/SI from a single commercial fishery that NMFS considers 
negligible for a stock. NITs was developed in recognition 
that some stocks may experience non-negligible levels of total human-
caused M/SI but one or more individual fisheries may contribute a very 
small portion of that M/SI, and the effect of an individual fishery may 
be considered negligible.
    The directive describes a detailed process for using these NIT 
values to conduct a NID analysis for each fishery classified as a 
Category I or II fishery on the MMPA LOF. The NID process uses a two-
tiered analysis. The Tier 1 analysis first compares the total human-
caused M/SI for a particular stock to NITt. If 
NITt is not exceeded, then all commercial fisheries that 
kill or seriously injure the stock are determined to have a negligible 
impact on the particular stock. If NITt is exceeded, then 
the Tier 2 analysis compares each individual fishery's M/SI for a 
particular stock to NITs. If NITs is not 
exceeded, then the commercial fishery is determined to have a 
negligible impact on that particular stock. For transboundary, 
migratory stocks, because of the uncertainty regarding the M/SI that 
occurs outside of U.S. waters, we assume that total M/SI exceeds 
NITt and proceed directly to the Tier 2 NITs 
analysis. If a commercial fishery has a negligible impact across all 
ESA-listed stocks, then the first of 3 findings necessary for issuing a 
MMPA 101(a)(5)(E) permit to the commercial fishery has been met (i.e., 
a negligible impact determination). If a commercial fishery has a non-
negligible impact on any ESA-listed stock, then NMFS cannot issue a 
MMPA 101(a)(5)(E) permit for the fishery to incidentally take ESA-
listed marine mammals.
    These NID criteria rely on the best available scientific 
information, including estimates of a stock's

[[Page 71238]]

minimum population size and human-caused M/SI levels, as published in 
the most recent SARs and other supporting documents, as appropriate. 
Using these inputs, the quantitative negligible impact thresholds allow 
for straightforward calculations that lead to clear negligible or non-
negligible impact determinations for each commercial fishery analyzed. 
In rare cases, robust data may be unavailable for a straightforward 
calculation, and the directive provides instructions for completing 
alternative calculations or assessments where appropriate.

Negligible Impact Determination

    NMFS evaluated the impact of the AK BSAI Pacific cod pot fishery 
using the process outlined in the directive, and, based on the best 
available scientific information, made a draft NID.
    The Central North Pacific and Western North Pacific stocks of 
humpback whales are transboundary stocks. As noted above, because of 
the uncertainty regarding M/SI that occurs outside of U.S. waters for 
transboundary stocks, we assumed that total M/SI exceeds 
NITt and proceeded directly to the Tier 2 NITs 
analysis The most recent (2020) final Central North Pacific and Western 
North Pacific humpback whale SARs documented M/SI of Central North 
Pacific and Western North Pacific stocks of humpback whale incidental 
to this fishery (Muto et al. 2021).
    The estimated annual M/SI of Central North Pacific humpback whales 
in the AK BSAI Pacific cod pot fishery is 0.2, based on Alaska Marine 
Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program data. The estimated annual 
M/SI of 0.2 is based on an event that occurred in an area where the 
Central North Pacific and Western North Pacific stocks of humpback 
whales overlap. Therefore, the M/SI was assigned to both the Central 
North Pacific and Western North Pacific stocks (Muto et al. 2021). 
Since this M/SI (0.2) is less than NITs (3.59), NMFS 
determined that the AK BSAI Pacific cod pot fishery has a negligible 
impact on the Central North Pacific stock of humpback whales (see 
accompanying MMPA 101(a)(5)(E) determination document linked above for 
NIT calculations).
    The estimated annual M/SI of Western North Pacific humpback whales 
in the AK BSAI Pacific cod pot fishery is 0.2, based on Alaska Marine 
Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program data. Since this M/SI 
(0.2) is less than NITs (0.39), NMFS determined that the AK BSAI 
Pacific cod pot fishery has a negligible impact on the Western North 
Pacific stock of humpback whales (see accompanying MMPA 101(a)(5)(E) 
determination document linked above for NIT calculations).
    The 2020 SAR includes the mean annual total commercial fishery-
related M/SI (9.8) for the Central North Pacific stock of humpback 
whale and (0.9) for the Western North Pacific stock of humpback whale. 
This comprises M/SI from all commercial fisheries, including the AK 
BSAI Pacific cod pot fishery, as well as fishery-related M/SI for the 
stock not assigned to a specific commercial fishery. The SARs for both 
stocks also include unattributed fishery-related M/SI (7.9 for Central 
North Pacific, 0.4 for Western North Pacific), which is not assigned to 
a specific commercial fishery. This unattributed fishery-related M/SI 
could be from any number of commercial or recreational fisheries, 
including the AK BSAI Pacific cod pot fishery. Because data are not 
currently available to assign the unattributed fishery-related M/SI to 
a specific commercial fishery, we did not include unattributed 
mortality in the calculations for the NID Tier 2 analysis. In addition, 
because the Central North Pacific and Western North Pacific stocks of 
humpback whales are considered to be transboundary stocks, NMFS assumed 
NITt is exceeded and conducted the more conservative Tier 2 
analysis with the lower NITs criterion. NMFS is actively 
monitoring the AK BSAI Pacific cod pot fishery through the North 
Pacific Fisheries Observer Program. Further, most of the information on 
large whale entanglements in Alaska is reported to and documented by 
the Alaska Large Whale Entanglement Response Program. If additional 
fishery-related M/SI of the Central North Pacific or Western North 
Pacific stock of humpback whale is documented through the observer 
program or the Alaska Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response 
Program that indicates additional M/SI of the Central North Pacific or 
Western North Pacific stock of humpback whale in the AK BSAI Pacific 
cod pot fishery, then NMFS will re-evaluate the NID and the proposed 
permit.
    The NID analysis is presented in an accompanying MMPA section 
101(a)(5)(E) determination document that provides summaries of the 
information used to evaluate each ESA-listed stocks documented on the 
2021 MMPA LOF as killed or injured incidental to the fishery (available 
at: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/action/mmpa-list-fisheries-2021). 
The draft MMPA 101(a)(5)(E) determination document is available at: 
https://www.regulations.gov/docket/NOAA-NMFS-2021-0123. Based on the 
criteria outlined in the directive, the most recent SAR, and the best 
available scientific information, NMFS has determined that the M/SI 
incidental to the Category II AK BSAI Pacific cod pot fishery will have 
a negligible impact on the associated ESA-listed marine mammal stocks 
(Central North Pacific and Western North Pacific stocks of humpback 
whale). Accordingly, this MMPA 101(a)(5)(E) requirement is satisfied 
for the commercial fishery (see draft MMPA 101(a)(5)(E) determination 
document is available at: https://www.regulations.gov/docket/NOAA-NMFS-2021-0123).

Recovery Plan

    The humpback whale recovery plan has been completed (see https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/endangered-species-conservation/recovery-species-under-endangered-species-act). Accordingly, the 
requirement to have recovery plans in place or being developed is 
satisfied.

Take Reduction Plan

    Subject to available funding, MMPA section 118 requires the 
development and implementation of a Take Reduction Plan (TRP) for each 
strategic stock that interacts with a Category I or II fishery. The 
stocks considered for this permit are designated as a strategic stock 
under the MMPA because the stocks, or a component of the stocks, are 
listed as threatened or endangered under the ESA (MMPA section 
3(19)(C)).
    The short- and long-term goals of a TRP are to reduce M/SI of 
marine mammals incidental to commercial fishing to levels below the 
Potential Biological Removal (PBR) level for stocks and to an 
insignificant threshold, defined by NMFS as 10 percent of PBR, 
respectively. The obligations to develop and implement a TRP are 
subject to the availability of funding. MMPA section 118(f)(3) (16 
U.S.C. 1387(f)(3)) contains specific priorities for developing TRPs 
when funding is insufficient. NMFS has insufficient funding available 
to simultaneously develop and implement TRPs for all strategic stocks 
that interact with Category I or Category II fisheries. As provided in 
MMPA section 118(f)(6)(A) and (f)(7), NMFS uses the most recent SAR and 
LOF as the basis to determine its priorities for establishing Take 
Reduction Teams (TRT) and developing TRPs. Information about NMFS' 
marine mammal TRTs and TRPs may be found at: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/marine-mammal-take-reduction-plans-and-teams.

[[Page 71239]]

    Based on NMFS' priorities, implementation of a TRP for the AK BSAI 
Pacific cod pot fishery is currently deferred under MMPA section 118 as 
other stocks/fisheries are a higher priority for any available funding. 
Accordingly, the requirement under MMPA section 118 to have TRPs in 
place or in development is satisfied (see determination supporting the 
permit available on the internet at https://www.regulations.gov/docket/NOAA-NMFS-2021-0123).

Monitoring Program

    Under MMPA section 118(d), NMFS is to establish a program for 
monitoring incidental M/SI of marine mammals from commercial fishing 
operations. The AK BSAI Pacific cod pot is monitored under the partial 
coverage category through the North Pacific Fisheries Observer Program. 
Accordingly, the requirement under MMPA section 118 to have a 
monitoring program in place is satisfied.

Vessel Registration

    MMPA section 118(c) requires that vessels participating in Category 
I and II fisheries register to obtain an authorization to take marine 
mammals incidental to fishing activities. NMFS has integrated the MMPA 
registration process, implemented through the Marine Mammal 
Authorization Program, with existing state and Federal fishery license, 
registration, or permit systems for Category I and II fisheries on the 
LOF. Therefore, the requirement for vessel registration is satisfied.

Conclusions for Proposed Permit

    Based on the above evaluation for the AK BSAI Pacific cod pot 
fishery as it relates to the three requirements of MMPA section 
101(a)(5)(E), we propose to issue a MMPA 101(a)(5)(E) permit to the 
commercial fishery to authorize the incidental take of ESA-listed 
species or stocks during commercial fishing operations. If, during the 
3-year authorization, there is a significant change in the information 
or conditions used to support any of these determinations, NMFS will 
re-evaluate whether to amend or modify the authorization, after notice 
and opportunity for public comment. NMFS solicits public comments on 
the proposed permit and the preliminary determination supporting the 
permit.

ESA Section 7 and National Environmental Policy Act Requirements

    ESA section 7(a)(2) requires federal agencies to ensure that 
actions they authorize, fund, or carry out do not jeopardize the 
existence of any species listed under the ESA, or destroy or adversely 
modify designated critical habitat of any ESA-listed species. The 
effects of the AK BSAI Pacific cod pot fishery on ESA-listed marine 
mammals, were analyzed in the ESA section 7 Biological Opinion for the 
BSAI Groundfish Fishery Management Plan.
    Under section 7 of the ESA, Biological Opinions analyze the effects 
of the proposed action on ESA-listed species and their critical habitat 
and, where appropriate, exempt anticipated future take of ESA-listed 
species as specified in the incidental take statement. Under MMPA 
section 101(a)(5)(E), NMFS analyzes previously documented M/SI 
incidental to commercial fisheries through the negligible impact 
determination process, and when the necessary findings can be made, 
issues a MMPA section 101(a)(5)(E) permit that allows for an 
unspecified amount of incidental taking of specific ESA-listed marine 
mammal stocks while engaging in commercial fishing operations. Thus, 
the applicable standards and resulting analyses under the MMPA and ESA 
differ, and as such, may not always align.
    The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires Federal 
agencies to evaluate the impacts of alternatives for their actions on 
the human environment. Because the proposed permit would not modify any 
fishery operation and the effects of the fishery operations have been 
evaluated in accordance with NEPA, no additional NEPA analysis beyond 
that conducted for the associated Fishery Management Plan is required 
for the permit. Issuing the proposed permit would have no additional 
impact on the human environment or effects on threatened or endangered 
species beyond those analyzed in these documents.

References

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. Department of Commerce, NOAA Tech. Memo. 
NMFS-AFSC-421. 398 p.
National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). 2020. National Marine 
Fisheries Service Procedure 02-204-02: Criteria for Determining 
Negligible Impact under MMPA Section 101(a)(5)(E). 20 p. Available 
online: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/laws-and-policies/protected-resources-policy-directives.
National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). 2019. National Marine 
Fisheries Service Procedure 02-204-03: Reviewing and designating 
stocks and issuing Stock Assessment Reports under the Marine Mammal 
Protection Act. 9 p. Available online: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/laws-and-policies/protected-resources-policy-directives
National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). 2016. National Marine 
Fisheries Service Procedure 02-204-01: Guidelines for preparing 
stock assessment reports pursuant to the 1994 amendments to the 
Marine Mammal Protection Act. 23 p. Available online: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/guidelines-assessing-marine-mammal-stocks.
National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). 2014. National Marine 
Fisheries Service Procedure 02-238-01: Process for Distinguishing 
Serious from Non-Serious Injury of Marine Mammals. 42 p. Available 
online: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/marine-mammal-protection-act-policies-guidance-and-regulations.

    Dated: December 9, 2021.
Kimberly Damon-Randall,
Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
[FR Doc. 2021-27109 Filed 12-14-21; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P