[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 164 (Wednesday, August 24, 2011)]
[Pages 52940-52941]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-21654]



National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XA595

Draft 2011 Marine Mammal Stock Assessment Reports

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

ACTION: Notice; request for comments.


SUMMARY: NMFS reviewed the Alaska, Atlantic, and Pacific regional 
marine mammal stock assessment reports (SARs) in accordance with the 
Marine Mammal Protection Act. SARs for marine mammals in the Alaska, 
Atlantic, and Pacific regions were revised according to new 
information. NMFS solicits public comments on draft 2011 SARs.

DATES: Comments must be received by November 22, 2011.

ADDRESSES: The 2011 draft SARs, summaries of them, and references cited 
in this notice are available in electronic form via the Internet at 
    Copies of the Alaska Regional SARs may be requested from Robyn 
Angliss, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, NMFS, 7600 Sand Point Way, NE 
BIN 15700, Seattle, WA 98115-0070.
    Copies of the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean Regional SARs 
may be requested from Gordon Waring, Northeast Fisheries Science 
Center, 166 Water St., Woods Hole, MA 02543.
    Copies of the Pacific Regional SARs may be requested from Jim 
Carretta, Southwest Fisheries Science Center, 8604 La Jolla Shores 
Drive, La Jolla, CA 92037-1508.
    You may submit comments, identified by [NOAA-NMFS-2011-0200], 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 or requests for copies of reports 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, Attn: Stock Assessments.
    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: Shannon Bettridge, Office of Protected 
Resources, 301-427-8402, [email protected]; Robyn Angliss 206-
526-4032, [email protected], regarding Alaska regional stock 
assessments; Gordon Waring, 508-495-2311, [email protected], 
regarding Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean regional stock 
assessments; or Jim Carretta, 858-546-7171, [email protected], 
regarding Pacific regional stock assessments.



    Section 117 of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) (16 U.S.C. 
1361 et seq.) requires NMFS and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
(FWS) to prepare stock assessments for each stock of marine mammals 
occurring in waters under the jurisdiction of the United States. These 
reports must contain information regarding the distribution and 
abundance of the stock, population growth rates and trends, estimates 
of annual human-caused mortality and serious injury from all sources, 
descriptions of the fisheries with which the stock interacts, and the 
status of the stock. Initial reports were completed in 1995.
    The MMPA requires NMFS and FWS to review the SARs at least annually 
for strategic stocks and stocks for which significant new information 
is available, and at least once every three years for non-strategic 
stocks. The term ``strategic stock'' means a marine mammal stock: (A) 
For which the level of direct human-caused mortality exceeds the 
potential biological removal level; (B) which, based on the best 
available scientific information, is declining and is likely to be 
listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act within 
the foreseeable future; or (C) which is listed as a threatened species 
or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. NMFS and the 
FWS are required to revise a SAR if the status of the stock has changed 
or can be more accurately determined. NMFS, in conjunction with the 
Alaska, Atlantic, and Pacific independent Scientific Review Groups 
(SRGs), reviewed the status of marine mammal stocks as required and 
revised reports in the Alaska, Atlantic, and Pacific regions to 
incorporate new information. NMFS solicits public comments on the draft 
2011 SARs.

Alaska Reports

    In the Alaska region (waters off Alaska that are under the 
jurisdiction of the United States), SARs for 35 Alaska stocks (14 
``strategic'', 21 ``non-strategic'' including 12 new harbor seal 
stocks) were updated or added. The following stocks were reviewed and 
considered for updating for 2011: Steller sea lion (western and eastern 
stocks), Northern fur seal, harbor seals (12 stocks), spotted seal, 
bearded seal, ringed seal, ribbon seal, beluga whale (Beaufort Sea, 
eastern Chukchi Sea, eastern Bering Sea, Bristol Bay, and Cook Inlet 
stocks), AT1 transient killer whale, harbor porpoise (Gulf of Alaska, 
Bering Sea, Southeast Alaska stocks), sperm whale, gray whale, humpback

[[Page 52941]]

whale (western North Pacific and central North Pacific stocks), fin 
whale, North Pacific right whale, and bowhead whale. Most revisions 
included updates of abundance and/or mortality estimates. None of the 
updates resulted in change of status of a stock.
    In light of the availability of new fishery observer data, serious 
injury and mortality data from the Alaska groundfish fisheries observer 
programs were updated for all stocks for the 2007- 2009 period 
regardless of whether they were scheduled for review in 2011. Serious 
injury and mortality estimates were changed for the following stocks: 
Killer whale (Alaska resident and Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea, and 
Aleutian Islands Transient stocks) and Dall's porpoise.
    In 2010, NMFS and the Alaska Native Harbor Seal Commission held 
their annual co-management meeting during which they agreed to proceed 
with a revised set of population boundaries for harbor seals in Alaska, 
resulting in a population structure of twelve harbor seal stocks in 
Alaska. NMFS is currently in the process of drafting individual SARs 
for the 12 stocks. Preliminary abundance estimates and PBR levels have 
been calculated for each harbor seal stock, and those estimates are 
included in the draft 2011 SARs. Serious injury and mortality records 
for harbor seals are reported; however, most of these records have not 
been assigned to a particular stock. At the recommendation of the 
Alaska SRG, data for all 12 harbor seals stocks in Alaska are presented 
in a single harbor seal SAR for 2011. NMFS expects to develop separate 
SARs for all 12 stocks in the 2012 SARs.
    Typically, the most recent five years of data are used for 
estimating average annual serious injury and mortality of stocks. In 
2007, the NMFS Alaska Fisheries Science Center (AFSC) developed a new 
database for the fisheries observer data and updated analytical methods 
for estimating bycatch. As a result of these changes, AFSC determined 
that Alaska fisheries observer data from 2007 onward could not be 
combined with data from analyses of data prior to 2006. Therefore, 
after consulting the SRG, the AFSC decided to base fishery observer 
serious injury and mortality estimates on an analysis of the most 
recent three-year period from 2007-2009.
    NMFS decided to shift the eastern North Pacific gray whale SAR from 
the Alaska SARs to the Pacific SARs beginning in 2012. The NMFS 
Southwest Fisheries Science Center has the responsibility for 
conducting abundance estimates and management for the gray whale stock; 
and, therefore, the agency felt it was most appropriate for that Center 
to prepare the SAR. Both the Alaska SRG and Pacific SRG will review the 
2012 gray whale SAR, and staff who compile the Pacific SARs will work 
closely with AFSC and Northwest Regional Office staff during the first 
year after this transition is made.
    Ice-dependent seal (``ice seals'') SARs were updated in 2011 based 
on the availability of significant new information resulting from the 
status reviews conducted for these stocks.

Atlantic Reports

    In the Atlantic region, SARs were revised for 14 Atlantic stocks 
and four Gulf of Mexico stocks. The updated western Atlantic (U.S. 
Atlantic coast, Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. Territories in the Caribbean) 
stocks include all the large whale stocks except sperm whales and blue 
whales, and those small cetacean and seal species that had fishery 
interactions. Of these, seven are ``strategic'' stocks: North Atlantic 
right whale, humpback whale, fin whale, sei whale, long-finned pilot 
whale, Atlantic white-sided dolphin (which became strategic because the 
2002 abundance estimate is outdated), and harbor porpoise. The updated 
Gulf of Mexico stocks include Bryde's whale (which has now become 
``strategic'' because the average annual human-caused mortality and 
serious injury exceeds PBR), pantropical spotted dolphin (not 
``strategic''), bottlenose dolphin-bay, sound and estuarine (all stocks 
``strategic'') and bottlenose dolphin-oceanic (not ``strategic'').
    Eight new Atlantic region SARs have been added in 2011. These 
include reports for five Caribbean species (bottlenose dolphin, 
Atlantic spotted dolphin, spinner dolphin, short-finned pilot whale, 
and Cuvier's beaked whale) and three Gulf of Mexico estuarine stocks of 
bottlenose dolphin that had previously been included in the bottlenose 
dolphin--bay, sound and estuarine stocks report (Barataria Bay, St. 
Joseph Bay and Choctawhatchee Bay). Because most of the bottlenose 
dolphin stock sizes are currently unknown but likely small, and 
relatively few mortalities and serious injuries would exceed PBR, NMFS 
considers each of these stocks a ``strategic'' stock. All Caribbean 
region stocks are being considered as strategic stocks due to lack of 
knowledge of stock size or anthropogenic mortality.

Pacific Reports

    In the Pacific region (waters along the west coast of the United 
States, within waters surrounding the main and Northwest Hawaiian 
Islands, and within waters surrounding U.S. Territories in the Western 
Pacific), SARs were revised for nine stocks, including four 
``strategic'' stocks (Hawaiian monk seal, Southern Resident killer 
whale, Hawaii Insular false killer whale, and Hawaii Pelagic false 
killer whale), and five ``non-strategic'' stocks (California sea lion, 
California harbor seal, Northern Oregon/Washington coast harbor 
porpoise, Washington Inland waters harbor porpoise, and Palmyra Atoll 
false killer whale). The remaining 66 Pacific region stocks under NMFS 
jurisdiction were not revised, and information on those stocks can be 
found in the final 2010 reports (Carretta et al. 2011). General updates 
are as follows.
    Abundance estimates were updated for four stocks: California sea 
lion, California harbor seal, Hawaiian monk seal, and Southern Resident 
killer whale. The abundance estimate updates did not change the status 
of these stocks. The new abundance estimate for California sea lions 
increased the PBR from 8,511 to 9,200. The new abundance estimate for 
California harbor seals decreased the PBR from 1,896 to 1,600. PBRs for 
Hawaiian monk seals and Southern Resident killer whales are unchanged.
    Updated information on human-caused mortality is presented for 
California Sea lions, California harbor seals, two harbor porpoise 
stocks, and three false killer whale stocks.
    NMFS received a petition in October 2009 to list the Hawaii insular 
false killer whale as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. A 
Take Reduction Team was established in 2010 with the goal of reducing 
mortality and serious injury incidental to commercial fishing in the 
Hawaii pelagic, Hawaii insular, and Palmyra stocks of false killer 
whale (75 FR 2853, 19 January 2010). Details on the Take Reduction Plan 
and its proposed implementation were published in 2011 (76 FR 42082, 18 
July 2011). New information on a population viability analysis for the 
stock of Hawaii Insular false killer whale is presented in the draft 
2011 SAR.

    Dated: August 18, 2011.
James H. Lecky,
Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries 
[FR Doc. 2011-21654 Filed 8-23-11; 8:45 am]