[Federal Register Volume 68, Number 31 (Friday, February 14, 2003)]
[Notices]
[Pages 7579-7580]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 03-3745]


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

DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service


Availability of a Draft National Management Plan for the Genus 
Eriocheir

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of document availability and request for comments.

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

SUMMARY: This notice announces the availability of a Draft National 
Management Plan for the Genus Eriocheir for public review and comment. 
The document was prepared by the Chinese Mitten Crab Control Working 
Group of the Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force, as authorized by 
section 4722(c) of the Nonindigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and 
Control Act (NANPCA) of 1990 (16 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.). Comments 
received will be considered in preparing the final National Management 
Plan for the Genus Eriocheir, which will become the basis for 
cooperative and integrated management of the Chinese Mitten Crab, 
Eriocheir sinensis, with the involvement of Federal, State, Tribal, and 
local resource agencies.

DATES: Comments on the draft National Management Plan for the Genus 
Eriocheir should be received by March 31, 2003.

ADDRESSES: Written responses and requests for copies of the document 
should be mailed to Chair, Chinese Mitten Crab Control Working Group, 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Sacramento/San Joaquin Estuary Fishery 
Resources Office (SSJEFRO), 4001 North Wilson Way, Stockton, CA 95205-
2486.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kim Webb, Chair, Chinese Mitten Crab 
Control Working Group, at 209-946-6400 ext. 311 or by e-mail at kim_
webb@fws.gov or Sharon Gross, Executive Secretary, Aquatic Nuisance 
Species Task Force at 703-358-2308 or by e-mail at sharon_
gross@fws.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Chinese mitten crab, Eriocheir sinensis, 
is a recently introduced species to the San Francisco Estuary and 
associated watershed. The most probable mechanisms of introduction to 
the estuary were deliberate release to establish a fishery and/or 
accidental release via ballast water. This species is native to coastal 
rivers and estuaries of Korea and China along the Yellow Sea. The 
Chinese mitten crab is presently well-established throughout the San 
Francisco Bay, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, and the mainstems of 
the major rivers and tributaries that flow into the estuary. Both the 
distribution and population size of this species continue to rapidly 
increase.
    The establishment of this species in North America is of concern 
because the crab is considered a pest in northern Europe. The crab was 
accidentally introduced to Germany in the early 1900s, proliferated and 
spread to many northern European rivers and estuaries, where it 
impacted local fisheries and levee integrity. Once mitten crabs become 
established, there may be numerous negative impacts. The following 
description of negative impacts has been developed from a review of the 
literature and from experience with the California crab populations:
    [sbull] Levees and/or banks are weakened due to mitten crab 
burrowing, leading to increased maintenance/repair requirements, 
slumping and/or failure of banks and/or levees. The tidal marsh and the 
mouth of San Francisquito Creek has experienced enhanced erosion where 
horizontal mitten crab burrows cut into the marsh sediments.
    [sbull] Mitten crab feeding behavior contributes to a decrease in 
vegetation in agriculture fields and/or natural habitats.
    [sbull] Fish in fish salvage or fish passage operations face 
increased mortality due to the presence of mitten crab in the 
facilities. At peak times of fall migration period, estimated fish 
mortality attributed to the crabs at the federal facility at Tracey is 
reported to be 98-99%. The economic impact incurred to the fish salvage 
facilities amounted to over one million dollars.
    [sbull] Water diversion/industrial use activities are subject to 
interference due to crabs blocking or clogging systems.
    [sbull] Recreational and commercial fishing are subject to 
interference and reductions in opportunities/efficiencies due to 
blocking/clogging of traps/nets, bait stealing and/or damage to gear or 
catch.
    [sbull] The impacts of predation, competition, habitat alteration 
and/or foodweb disturbance on biotic populations leads to a decrease in 
biotic populations and/or biodiversity, and a change in the community 
structure.
    [sbull] Public and wildlife health risks arising from potential 
bioaccumulation and biomagnification of contaminants, the transfer of 
disease, or spread of parasites leads to a decrease in public/wildlife 
health. These risks are escalated both by direct consumption of the 
crab or indirectly by consumption/association with animals that prey on 
or associate with the crab.
    In recognition of these threats, the California Department of Fish 
and Game added the genus Eriocheir to its List of Prohibited Species 
(Section 671, Title 14) in 1986. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
added the genus to its injurious wildlife list under the Lacey Act in 
1989 (50 CFR 16.13). The ANS Task Force has followed the status of the 
mitten crab

[[Page 7580]]

invasion of California since early 1998 and determined that, under the 
authority of NANPCA, the development of a cooperative and comprehensive 
management plan for the genus Eriocheir was appropriate and necessary. 
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service supported a literature search and 
summary, organized a public meeting and workshop, and developed a 
report in 1999 to the ANS Task Force entitled ``The Chinese Mitten Crab 
Invasion of California: A Draft Management Plan for the Genus 
Eriocheir.'' In 2001 the ANS Task Force developed a Mitten Crab Control 
Working Group (under the authority of NANPCA) and charged the committee 
with the task to review and edit the draft plan. The committee 
submitted a revised version of the draft plan to the ANS Task Force for 
review and approval in 2002.
    The purpose of the draft management plan is to assist the ANS Task 
Force and other interested parties with a determination of appropriate 
responses to the Chinese mitten crab invasion of the San Francisco Bay 
and estuary, as well as the threat to other estuaries. The plan 
addresses the information and initial recommendations as well as the 
opinions of committee members regarding priorities for implementation 
of management actions. Currently, there is not enough information about 
this crab to implement many management actions with a high degree of 
confidence; therefore, a vital component of this program is adaptive 
management. As implementation moves forward, results of new findings 
will be incorporated into future planning. Continual integration of 
findings will require flexibility in adoption of many program 
components, but it will greatly enhance the success of the program by 
allowing decisions to be based on more complete scientific information.
    The goal of the draft National Plan is to prevent or delay the 
introduction and spread of Eriocheir species to new areas and reduce 
the negative impacts of existing populations.
    The draft plan has identified the following four primary 
objectives: (1) Preventing introductions and spread; (2) detecting new 
populations and monitoring existing populations; (3) reducing negative 
impacts; and (4) developing strategies and methods for population 
control and management. Elements of research, outreach and management 
pertain to each of these objectives.
    The draft plan has outlined actions not only to minimize further 
impacts in California, but to also prevent invasions in other 
ecosystems. Due to reports of crab sightings and the susceptibility of 
these regions, the Columbia River, Mississippi River, Hudson River, and 
St. Lawrence River are considered areas that may soon face the same 
type of invasion that San Francisco Bay has experienced. Without the 
implementation of proactive efforts to prevent new introductions and 
spread from California, control and management activities will likely 
be required in numerous locations throughout the country in the future, 
making management efforts even more complex and expensive. Importantly, 
while immediate actions are warranted in the draft plan, additional 
biological information is also needed to allow development of a 
theoretically based management plan that will allow us to minimize 
negative impacts on the very resources we hope to protect.
    The draft National Management Plan for the Genus Eriocheir is 
available on the ANS Task Force Web site (http://www.anstaskforce.gov) 
You may also request copies of the draft plan by calling or writing the 
person listed under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT.

    Dated: January 21, 2003.
Everett Wilson,
Acting Co-Chair, Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force, Assistant 
Director--Fisheries and Habitat Conservation.
[FR Doc. 03-3745 Filed 2-13-03; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-M