Taking and Importing Marine Mammals; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Seabird Research Activities in Central California

Federal Register, Volume 84 Issue 233 (Wednesday, December 4, 2019)
[Federal Register Volume 84, Number 233 (Wednesday, December 4, 2019)]
[Pages 66379-66380]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2019-26171]
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
[RTID 0648-XR068]
Taking and Importing Marine Mammals; Taking Marine Mammals
Incidental to Seabird Research Activities in Central California
AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.
ACTION: Notice; receipt of application for Letter of Authorization;
request for comments and information.
SUMMARY: NMFS has received a request from Point Blue Conservation
Science (Point Blue) for authorization to take small numbers of marine
mammals incidental to seabird research activities in central California
over the course of five years from the date of issuance. Pursuant to
regulations implementing the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), NMFS
is announcing receipt of Point Blue's request for the development and
implementation of regulations governing the incidental taking of marine
mammals. NMFS invites the public to provide information, suggestions,
and comments on Point Blue's application and request.
DATES: Comments and information must be received no later than January
3, 2020.
ADDRESSES: Comments on the application should be addressed to Jolie
Harrison, Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected
Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. Physical comments should
be sent to 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910 and
electronic comments should be sent to [email protected].
    Instructions: NMFS is not responsible for comments sent by any
other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the
end of the comment period. Comments received electronically, including
all attachments, must not exceed a 25-megabyte file size. Attachments
to electronic comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word or Excel or
Adobe PDF file formats only. All comments received are a part of the
public record and will generally be posted online at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/incidental-take-authorizations-research-and-other-activities without change. All
personal identifying information (e.g., name, address) voluntarily
submitted by the commenter may be publicly accessible. Do not submit
confidential business information or otherwise sensitive or protected
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Amy Fowler, Office of Protected
Resources, NMFS, (301) 427-8401. An electronic copy of Point Blue's
application may be obtained online at: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/incidental-take-authorizations-research-and-other-activities. In case of problems accessing these
documents, please call the contact listed above.
    Sections 101(a)(5)(A) and (D) of the MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.)
direct the Secretary of Commerce (as delegated to NMFS) to allow, upon
request, the incidental, but not intentional, taking of small numbers
of marine mammals by U.S. citizens who engage in a specified activity
(other than commercial fishing) within a specified geographical region
if certain findings are made and either regulations are issued or, if
the taking is limited to harassment, a notice of a proposed
authorization is provided to the public for review.
    An incidental take authorization shall be granted if NMFS finds
that the taking will have a negligible impact on the species or
stock(s), will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the
availability of the species or stock(s) for subsistence uses (where
relevant), and if the permissible methods of taking and requirements
pertaining to the mitigation, monitoring and reporting of such takings
are set forth.
    NMFS has defined negligible impact 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
    The MMPA states that the term take means to harass, hunt, capture,
kill or attempt to harass, hunt, capture, or kill any marine mammal.
    Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, the
MMPA defines harassment as: Any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance,
which (i) has the potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal
stock in the wild (Level A harassment); or (ii) has the potential to
disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing
disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to,
migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering (Level
B harassment).
Summary of Request
    On September 17, 2019, NMFS received an application from Point Blue
requesting authorization for take of marine mammals incidental to
seabird research activities at three research sites in central
California. We determined the application was adequate and complete on
November 26, 2019. The requested regulations would be valid for five
years, from July 7, 2020 through July 6, 2025. Point Blue plans to
monitor and census seabird populations, observe seabird nesting
habitat, restore nesting burrows, and resupply a field station. The
proposed action may incidentally expose marine mammals occurring in the
vicinity to human presence at pinniped haulouts, thereby resulting in
incidental take, by Level B harassment only. Therefore, Point Blue
requests authorization to incidentally take marine mammals.
    NMFS has previously issued nine Incidental Harassment
Authorizations (IHAs) to Point Blue for similar work from 2006 through
2018 (72 FR 71121, December 14, 2007; 73 FR 77011, December 18, 2008;
75 FR 8677, February 19, 2010; 77 FR 73989, December 7, 2012; 78 FR
66686, November 6, 2013; 80 FR 80321, December 24, 2015; 81 FR 34978,
June 1, 2016; 82 FR 31759, July 7, 2017; 83 FR 31372, July 5, 2018).
Point Blue complied with all the requirements (e.g., mitigation,
monitoring, and reporting) of the previous IHAs and their monitoring
reports are available online at: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/incidental-take-authorizations-research-and-other-activities.
[[Page 66380]]
Specified Activities
    The planned activities occur on Southeast Farallon Island (SEFI),
A[ntilde]o Nuevo Island (ANO), and Point Reyes National Seashore
(PRNS). Point Blue, along with partners Oikonos Ecosystem Knowledge and
PRNS, have been conducting seabird research activities at these
locations for over 30 years. This research is conducted under
cooperative agreements with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)
in consultation with the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine
Sanctuary. Point Blue's research activities have the potential to
harass California sea lions (Zalophus californianus), harbor seals
(Phoca vitulina), northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris),
northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus), Guadalupe fur seals
(Arctocephalus townsendi), and Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus).
    Research on SEFI is conducted year round. At SEFI, seabird
monitoring sites are visited ~ 1-3 times per day for a maximum of 500
visits per year. Most seabird monitoring visits are brief (~15
minutes), though seabird observers are present from 2-5 hours daily at
North Landing from early April--early August each year to conduct
observational studies on breeding common murres (Uria aalge). Boat
landings to re-supply the field station, lasting 1-3 hours, are
conducted once every two weeks. At ANI, research is conducted
approximately once/week from April-August, with occasional intermittent
visits made during the rest of the year. The maximum number of visits
per year would be 20. Landings and visits to nest boxes are brief (~15
minutes). Research at PRNS is conducted year round, with an emphasis
during the seabird nesting season with occasional intermittent visits
the rest of the year. The maximum number of visits per year is 20. A
component of the seabird research involves habitat restoration and
monitoring which requires sporadic visits from September-November,
between the seabird breeding season and the elephant seal pupping
Information Solicited
    Interested persons may submit information, suggestions, and
comments concerning Point Blue's request (see ADDRESSES). NMFS will
consider all information, suggestions, and comments related to the
request during the development of proposed regulations governing the
incidental taking of marine mammals by Point Blue, if appropriate.
    Dated: November 27, 2019.
Angela Somma,
Acting Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2019-26171 Filed 12-3-19; 8:45 am]