[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 97 (Tuesday, May 20, 2014)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 28879-28880]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-11540]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 216

RIN 0648-XD275


Sakhalin Bay-Amur River Beluga Whales; Notice of Petition 
Availability

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

ACTION: Notification of availability; request for comment.

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SUMMARY: NMFS has received a petition to ``designate the Sakhalin Bay-
Amur River stock of beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas) as a depleted 
stock under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA).'' In accordance 
with the MMPA, NMFS announces the receipt of the petition and its 
availability for public review and is soliciting comments on the 
petition.

DATES: Comments must be received by close of business on June 19, 2014.

ADDRESSES: The petition is available in electronic form via the 
Internet at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/. A copy of the petition may be 
requested from Chief, Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Conservation 
Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries 
Service, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910.
    You may submit comments, identified by [NOAA-NMFS-2014-0056], by 
any of the following methods:
    Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public comments via 
the Federal eRulemaking Portal http://www.regulations.gov.
    Mail: Send comments to: Chief, Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle 
Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine 
Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910-
3226.
    Instructions: All comments received are a part of the public record 
and will generally be posted to http://www.regulations.gov without 
change. All Personal Identifying Information (for example, name, 
address, etc.) voluntarily submitted by the commenter may be publicly 
accessible. Do not submit Confidential Business Information or 
otherwise sensitive or protected information.
    NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter N/A in the required 
fields, if you wish to remain anonymous). You may submit attachments to 
electronic comments in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF 
file formats only.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dr. Shannon Bettridge, Office of 
Protected Resources, Silver Spring, MD (301) 427-8402.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    Section 3(1)(A) of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) (16 
U.S.C. 1362(1)(A)) defines the term ``depletion'' or ``depleted'' to 
include any case in which ``the Secretary, after consultation with the 
Marine Mammal Commission and the Committee of Scientific Advisors on 
Marine Mammals . . . determines that a species or a population stock is 
below its optimum sustainable population.'' Section 3(9) of the MMPA 
(16 U.S.C. 1362(9)) defines ``optimum sustainable population [(OSP)] . 
. . with respect to any population stock, [as] the number of animals 
which will result in the maximum productivity of the population or the 
species, keeping in mind the carrying capacity [(K)] of the habitat and 
the health of the ecosystem of which they form a constituent element.'' 
NMFS' regulations at 50 CFR 216.3 clarify the definition of OSP as a 
population size that falls within a range from the population level of 
a given species or stock that is the largest supportable within the 
ecosystem (i.e., K) to its maximum net productivity level (MNPL). MNPL 
is the population abundance that results in the greatest net annual 
increment in population numbers resulting from additions to the 
population from reproduction, less losses due to natural mortality.
    The MMPA provides for interested parties to submit a petition to 
designate a species or stock of marine mammals as depleted. Section 
115(a)(3) of the MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1383b(a)(3)) requires NMFS to publish 
a notice in the Federal Register that such a petition has been

[[Page 28880]]

received and is available for public review. Within 60 days of 
receiving a petition, NMFS must publish a finding in the Federal 
Register as to whether the petition presents substantial information 
indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted.
    If NMFS makes a positive 60-day finding, NMFS must promptly 
initiate a review of the status of the affected population stock of 
marine mammals. No later than 210 days after receipt of the petition, 
NMFS must publish a proposed rule as to the status of the species or 
stock, along with the reasons underlying the proposed status 
determination. Following a 60-day minimum comment period on the 
proposed rule, NMFS must publish a final rule within 90 days of the 
close of the comment period on the proposed rule.

Petition on Sakhalin Bay-Amur River Beluga Whales

    On April 23, 2014, NMFS received a petition from the Animal Welfare 
Institute, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, Cetacean Society 
International and Earth Island Institute to ``designate the Sakhalin 
Bay-Amur River stock of beluga whales as depleted under the MMPA.'' The 
petition alleges that the causes of the decline include the following:
    (1) Large-scale commercial hunting from 1915-1963;
    (2) Unsustainable removal quotas;
    (3) Hunting permits;
    (4) Incidental mortality from fishing operations;
    (5) Accidental drowning during live-capture operations;
    (6) Vessel strikes; and
    (7) Other anthropogenic threats.
    In accordance with the MMPA, NMFS announces the receipt of this 
petition, and its availability for public review (see ADDRESSES). NMFS 
also solicits comments and information related to the statements in the 
petition and additional background on the status of Sakhalin Bay-Amur 
River beluga whales.

    Dated: May 13, 2014.
Donna S. Wieting,
Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
[FR Doc. 2014-11540 Filed 5-19-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P