Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Essential Fish Habitat
NMFS announces the availability of a Draft Environmental Assessment for Amendment 10 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Fishery Management Plan (FMP). NMFS finalized the most recent Atlantic HMS Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) 5-Year Review on July 1, 2015 and determined that updates to Atlantic HMS EFH were warranted. NMFS also determined that modifications to current Habitat Areas of Particular Concern (HAPCs) for bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) and sandbar shark (Carcharhimus plumbeus) and the consideration of new HAPCs for lemon sharks (Negaprion brevisostris) and sand tiger sharks (Carcharias taurus) may be warranted. The purpose of this Draft Amendment is to update Atlantic HMS EFH with recent information following the EFH delineation methodology established in Amendment 1 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP (Amendment 1); update and consider new HAPCs for Atlantic HMS based on recent information, as warranted; minimize to the extent practicable the adverse effects of fishing and non-fishing activities on EFH, and identify other actions to encourage the conservation and enhancement of EFH.
Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; Reef Fish Fishery of the Gulf of Mexico; Red Snapper Management Measures
NMFS proposes to implement management measures described in Amendment 45 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico (FMP), as prepared by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council) (Amendment 45). This proposed rule would extend the 3-year sunset provision for the Gulf of Mexico (Gulf) red snapper recreational sector separation measures for an additional 5 years. Additionally, this rule would correct an error in the Gulf red snapper recreational accountability measures (AMs). The purpose of this proposed rule is to extend the sector separation measures to allow the Council more time to consider and possibly develop alternative management strategies within the Gulf red snapper recreational sector.
Western Pacific Fishery Management Council; Public Meeting
The Western Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) will hold a meeting of its American Samoa Archipelago Fishery Ecosystem Plan (FEP) Advisory Panel (AP) and Hawaii Archipelago FEP AP to discuss and make recommendations on fishery management issues in the Western Pacific Region.
Technical Amendments and Recodification of Alaska Humpback Whale Approach Regulations
We, NMFS, are making technical amendments to and recodifying Alaska humpback whale approach regulations within the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) with only minor, technical revisions. Specifically, we are recodifying the regulations that apply to ``Endangered Marine and Anadromous Species'' so that they also appear in ``Threatened Marine and Anadromous Species''. This action is necessary to reflect the change in the Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing status of humpback whales, whereby some populations of humpback whales will now be classified as endangered species and one will be classified as a threatened species. In addition, we are adding the Alaska approach regulations to the regulations governing the taking and importing of marine mammals under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) to clarify that protections are in effect for all humpback whales that may occur in or transit through the waters surrounding Alaska, including those that are not ESA-listed. This clarification reflects that the approach regulations were originally adopted under the MMPA as well as the ESA. We are also making minor changes to the language of the existing regulations to modernize language and update citations to relevant authorities.
Approach Regulations for Humpback Whales in Waters Surrounding the Islands of Hawaii Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act
We, NMFS, are issuing regulations under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) to prevent take by protecting humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) from the detrimental effects resulting from approach by humans within 200 nautical miles (370.4 km) of the islands of Hawaii. These regulations are necessary because existing regulations promulgated under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) protecting humpback whales from approach in Hawaii will no longer be in effect upon the effective date of a final rule published elsewhere in today's issue of the Federal Register that separates humpback whales into 14 Distinct Population Segments (DPSs) and identifies the ``Hawaii DPS'' as neither endangered nor threatened. These MMPA regulations prohibit operating an aircraft within 1,000 feet (304.8 m) of a humpback whale, approaching within 100 yards (91.4 m) of a humpback whale by any means, causing a vessel, person or other object to approach within 100 yards (91.4 m) of a humpback whale, or approaching a humpback whale by interception (i.e., placing an aircraft, vessel, person, or other object in the path of a humpback whale so that the whale approaches within a restricted distance). The regulations also prohibit the disruption of normal behavior or prior activity of a humpback whale by any act or omission. Certain vessels and activities are exempt from the prohibition. NMFS finds that there is good cause to waive public notice and comment prior to implementation of these regulations in order to avoid a gap in protections for the whales. However, we are requesting comments on the regulations and Environmental Assessment; NMFS will subsequently publish a final rule with responses to comments and any revisions, if appropriate.
Endangered and Threatened Species; Identification of 14 Distinct Population Segments of the Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) and Revision of Species-Wide Listing
We, NMFS, issue a final determination to revise the listing status of the humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). We divide the globally listed endangered species into 14 distinct population segments (DPS), remove the current species-level listing, and in its place list four DPSs as endangered and one DPS as threatened. Based on their current statuses, the remaining nine DPSs do not warrant listing. At this time, we find that critical habitat is not determinable for the three listed DPSs that occur in U.S. waters (Western North Pacific, Mexico, Central America); we will consider designating critical habitat for these three DPSs in a separate rulemaking.