Taking of Marine Mammals Incidental to Commercial Fishing Operations; False Killer Whale Take Reduction Plan
We, NMFS, issue the final False Killer Whale Take Reduction Plan (FKWTRP), and regulatory measures and non-regulatory measures and recommendations to reduce mortalities and serious injuries of false killer whales in Hawaii-based longline fisheries. Regulatory measures include gear requirements, longline prohibited areas, training and certification in marine mammal handling and release, captains' supervision of marine mammal handling and release, and posting of NMFS- approved placards on longline vessels. In this rule, NMFS also recommends research and data collection programs. This final rule also revises the boundaries of the longline prohibited area around the main Hawaiian Islands to be consistent with the prohibited area established under the FKWTRP regulations. The FKWTRP is based on consensus recommendations submitted to NMFS by the False Killer Whale Take Reduction Team (Team), with certain modifications described herein that were determined to be necessary to meet the requirements of the MMPA. This final rule is necessary because current mortality and serious injury levels of the Hawaii Pelagic and Hawaii Insular stocks of false killer whales incidental to the Hawaii-based pelagic longline fisheries are above the stocks' potential biological removal (PBR) levels, and are therefore inconsistent with the short- and long-term goals of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). The FKWTRP is intended to meet the requirements of the MMPA.