[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 120 (Thursday, June 21, 2012)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 37367-37373]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-15116]


=======================================================================
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[Docket No. FWS-R4-ES-2012-0018; 4500030113]


Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 90-Day Finding on 
a Petition to List the Black-Capped Petrel as Endangered or Threatened

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of petition finding and initiation of status review.

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

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce a 
90-day finding on a petition to list the black-capped petrel, 
Pterodroma hasitata, as endangered or threatened under the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act), and to designate critical 
habitat in U.S. waters and territories in the South Atlantic and 
Caribbean region. Based on our review, we find that the petition 
presents substantial scientific or commercial information indicating 
that listing of the black-capped petrel may be warranted. Therefore, 
with the publication of this notice, we are initiating a review of the 
status of the species to determine if listing the black-capped petrel 
is warranted. To ensure that this status review is comprehensive, we 
are requesting scientific and commercial data and other information 
regarding this species. Based on the status review, we will issue a 12-
month finding on the petition, which will address whether the 
petitioned action is warranted, as provided in section 4(b)(3)(B) of 
the Act.

DATES: To allow us adequate time to conduct this review, we request 
that we receive information on or before August

[[Page 37368]]

20, 2012. The deadline for submitting an electronic comment using the 
Federal eRulemaking Portal (see ADDRESSES section, below) is 11:59 p.m. 
Eastern Time on this date. After August 20, 2012, you must submit 
information directly to the Field Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION 
CONTACT section below). Please note that we might not be able to 
address or incorporate information that we receive after the above 
requested date.

ADDRESSES: You may submit information by one of the following methods:
    (1) Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Search for Docket No. FWS-R4-ES-2012-0018.
    (2) By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public 
Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R4-ES-2012-0018; Division of Policy and 
Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax 
Drive, MS 2042-PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.
    We will not accept email or faxes. We will post all information we 
receive on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means that we 
will post any personal information you provide us (see the Request for 
Information section below for more details).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Marelisa Rivera, Deputy Field 
Supervisor, Caribbean Ecological Services Field Office, P.O. Box 491, 
Boquer[oacute]n, PR 00622; by telephone at 787-851-7297; or by 
facsimile at 787-851-7440. If you use a telecommunications device for 
the deaf (TDD), please call the Federal Information Relay Service 
(FIRS) at 800-877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Request for Information

    When we make a finding that a petition presents substantial 
information indicating that listing a species may be warranted, we are 
required to promptly review the status of the species (status review). 
For the status review to be complete and based on the best available 
scientific and commercial information, we request information on the 
black-capped petrel from governmental agencies, Native American tribes, 
the scientific community, industry, and any other interested parties. 
We seek information on:
    (1) The species' biology, range, and population trends, including:
    (a) Habitat requirements for feeding, breeding, and sheltering;
    (b) Genetics and taxonomy;
    (c) Historical and current range, including distribution patterns;
    (d) Historical and current population levels, and current and 
projected trends; and
    (e) Past and ongoing conservation measures for the species, its 
habitat, or both.
    (2) The factors that are the basis for making a listing 
determination for a species under section 4(a) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 
1531 et seq.), which are:
    (a) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or 
curtailment of its habitat or range;
    (b) Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes;
    (c) Disease or predation;
    (d) The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or
    (e) Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued 
existence.
    If, after the status review, we determine that listing the black-
capped petrel is warranted, we will propose critical habitat (see 
definition in section 3(5)(A) of the Act) under section 4 of the Act, 
to the maximum extent prudent and determinable at the time we propose 
to list the species. Therefore, we also request data and information 
on:
    (1) What may constitute ``physical or biological features essential 
to the conservation of the species,'' within the geographical range 
currently occupied by the species;
    (2) Where these features are currently found;
    (3) Whether any of these features may require special management 
considerations or protection;
    (4) Specific areas outside the geographical area occupied by the 
species that are ``essential for the conservation of the species;'' and
    (5) What, if any, critical habitat you think we should propose for 
designation if the species is proposed for listing, and why such 
habitat meets the requirements of section 4 of the Act.
    Please include sufficient information with your submission (such as 
scientific journal articles or other publications) to allow us to 
verify any scientific or commercial information you include.
    Submissions merely stating support for or opposition to the action 
under consideration without providing supporting information, although 
noted, will not be considered in making a determination. Section 
4(b)(1)(A) of the Act directs that determinations as to whether any 
species is an endangered or threatened species must be made ``solely on 
the basis of the best scientific and commercial data available.''
    You may submit your information concerning this status review by 
one of the methods listed in the ADDRESSES section. If you submit 
information via http://www.regulations.gov, your entire submission--
including any personal identifying information--will be posted on the 
Web site. If your submission is made via a hardcopy that includes 
personal identifying information, you may request at the top of your 
document that we withhold this personal identifying information from 
public review. However, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do 
so. We will post all hardcopy submissions on http://www.regulations.gov.
    Information and supporting documentation that we received and used 
in preparing this finding is available for you to review at http://www.regulations.gov, or by appointment, during normal business hours, 
at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Caribbean Ecological Services 
Field Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).

Background

    Section 4(b)(3)(A) of the Act requires that we make a finding on 
whether a petition to list, delist, or reclassify a species presents 
substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the 
petitioned action may be warranted. We are to base this finding on 
information provided in the petition, supporting information submitted 
with the petition, and information otherwise available in our files. To 
the maximum extent practicable, we are to make this finding within 90 
days of our receipt of the petition and publish our notice of the 
finding promptly in the Federal Register.
    Our standard for substantial scientific or commercial information 
within the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) with regard to a 90-day 
petition finding is ``that amount of information that would lead a 
reasonable person to believe that the measure proposed in the petition 
may be warranted'' (50 CFR 424.14(b)). If we find that substantial 
scientific or commercial information was presented, we are required to 
promptly conduct a species status review, which we subsequently 
summarize in our 12-month finding.

Petition History

    On September 13, 2011, we received a petition dated September 1, 
2011, from Mark N. Salvo, WildEarth Guardians (WEG), requesting that 
the black-capped petrel be listed as endangered or threatened, and that 
critical habitat be designated under the Act. The petition clearly 
identified itself as such and included the requisite identification 
information for the

[[Page 37369]]

petitioner, required at 50 CFR 424.14(a). In a September 27, 2011, 
letter to Mark N. Salvo, we acknowledged receipt of the petition. This 
finding addresses the petition.

Previous Federal Action(s)

    The black-capped petrel was included as a category 2 candidate 
species in the Federal Register notice dated November 15, 1994 (59 FR 
58982). Category 2 candidates were taxa for which information was 
available indicating that listing was possibly appropriate, but 
insufficient data were available regarding biological vulnerability and 
threats. In the February 28, 1996, Notice of Review (61 FR 7595), we 
discontinued the use of multiple candidate categories and removed 
category 2 species from the candidate list, which removed the black-
capped petrel from the candidate species list.

Species Information

    The black-capped petrel (Pterodroma hasitata) is a seabird that 
ranges between 35-40 centimeters (cm) (14-16 inches (in)) in size, with 
mostly dusky to black upperparts and white patches on the rump, 
hindneck, and forehead; the crown is black and in sharp contrast with 
the white neck (del Hoyo et al. 1992, p. 238; Raffaele et al. 1998, pp. 
216-217). The black-capped petrel is the only extant gadfly petrel (one 
of about 30 species of petrel in the genus Pterodroma) known to breed 
in the Caribbean basin (Haney 1987, p. 153). It is a colonial nesting 
species that nests in crevices or burrows in steep, forested mountain 
cliffs (Raffaele et al. 1998, p. 217). The black-capped petrel is 
nocturnal and arrives at its nesting site after sunset (Raffaele et al. 
1998, p. 217). The black-capped petrel occurs widely in the West Indies 
away from its breeding grounds. It is believed to feed on squid and 
fish (Raffaele et al. 1998, p. 217).
    Imber (1985, entire) recognized four subgenera within Pterodroma, 
and based on morphological characteristics, he placed P. hasitata 
within the largest subgenus, Pterodroma. Included in this subgenus were 
all other species of Pterodroma that breed in the North Atlantic 
(Bermuda petrel (Pterodroma cahow), Zino's petrel (Pterodroma madeira), 
Fea's petrel (Pterodroma feae)), as well as petrel species that breed 
in the South Atlantic, the South Pacific, and the southern Indian Ocean 
(Farnsworth 2010, p. 5).
    Farnswoth (2010, p. 5) states that Howell and Patteson (2008, 
entire) suggested that variation in black-capped petrels may reflect 
multiple cryptic species, as evidenced by different plumage 
characteristics and different molt sequence and timing. Their 
discussion is the most extensive and comprehensive taxonomic evaluation 
to date for this species, but even they suggest that additional 
information is needed to understand whether this variation is a 
function of subpopulations, geographic variation, multiple cryptic 
species, molt timing, or some combination of these (Farnsworth 2010, p. 
5).
    We accept the characterization of the black-capped petrel as a 
species because Jes[uacute]s et al. (2009, entire) investigated the 
phylogenetics (evolutionary relatedness) of North Atlantic gadfly 
petrels using both morphological characters (form and structure of the 
species) and mitrochondrial DNA sequences, largely confirming the 
monophyly (descent from a single ancestor) of this group. Within this 
assemblage, Pterodroma hasitata is ancestral to P. cahow and P. feae 
(Jes[uacute]s et al. 2009, pp. 207-209). While all descended from a 
common ancestor, this supports separate species designations. During a 
recent meeting of the Black-capped Petrel Working Group (Black-capped 
Petrel Working Group Notes 2011, p. 2), Marcel van Tuinen stated that 
he and his colleagues had managed to extract and amplify DNA from over 
20 black-capped petrels caught off the coast of the Outer Banks of 
North Carolina in the 1980s. They found fixed genetic differences 
between dark and light morphs of this seabird in terms of the size of 
the black cap, with intermediate morphs mostly falling with the light 
morphs. This genetic evidence points out the possibility of two 
distinct breeding populations of black-capped petrel; although the 
genetic differentiation is not large enough to consider these morphs 
different species, it is possible to consider them as separate 
populations and, perhaps, subspecies (Black-capped Petrel Working Group 
Notes 2011, p. 2).
    Black-capped petrel populations declined throughout the 19th and 
20th centuries (IUCN 2010, p. 1; Birdlife International 2011, p. 2) and 
were thought to be extinct in the early 1900s (Bent 1922, p. 106). 
Currently, there are only 13 known breeding colonies and an estimated 
600-2,000 breeding pairs (Schreiber and Lee 2000, p. 6; Birdlife 
International 2011, p. 1). While historically the black-capped petrel 
had breeding colonies throughout the Caribbean region, current breeding 
populations are known only on the island of Hispaniola (Haiti and the 
Dominican Republic), and possibly Dominica and Martinique (Lee and 
Haney 1999, pp.14-17; Raffaele et al. 1998, p. 217).
    Existing black-capped petrel breeding colonies are located in Haiti 
(Rimmer et al. 2006, pp. 8-9) and the Dominican Republic (Collar et al. 
1992, p. 6; Simons et al. 2002, p. 1; Rupp et al. 2011, pp. 8-10) 
within national park boundaries. The known breeding locations in Haiti 
are in the Parc National Pic Macaya in the Massif de la Hotte mountain 
range and the Parc National La Viste in the Massif de la Selle mountain 
range. The known breeding location in the Dominican Republic is within 
the Parque Nacional Sierra de Bahoruco. The Massif de la Selle and the 
Sierra de Bahoruco are in adjacent parks along the Haitian-Dominican 
border (WEG 2011, p. 4-7; Collar et al. 2002, pp. 1-2, 3).
    There may still be breeding populations of black-capped petrels 
breeding on Dominica, as suggested by the report of a female black-
capped petrel with a brood patch in 2007. The breeding female that was 
found in Dominica in 2007 was a few kilometers (km) southwest of Morne 
Micotrin, one of the taller mountains within Morne Trois Pitons 
National Park, which is a Birdlife International Important Bird Area. 
However, subsequent visits to Dominica have failed to find nesting 
birds (Black-capped Petrel Working Group 2011, p. 17), and only a few 
black-capped petrels have been reported off of this island in recent 
years (Raffaele et al. 1998, p. 217).
    It is believed that black-capped petrels historically bred in the 
southeastern coastal slopes of the Sierra Maestra mountain range in 
Cuba (Simons et al. 2006, p. 1). After dark, continued vocalizions from 
the birds indicated that at least some of the petrels flew ashore near 
a narrow stream valley up the steep mountainside towards the Sierra 
Maestra peaks (Simons et al. 2006, p. 1). An additional 25 birds were 
sighted at the same location on February 9, 2004, and the birds' 
behavior of massing just offshore and then flying inland at dusk was 
consistent with breeding in other Pterodroma species (Simons et al. 
2006, p. 2). The authors considered that this behavior strongly 
suggested that black-capped petrels were nesting near Sierra Maestra; 
however, we have no evidence confirming that the birds are nesting in 
this location.
    The nonbreeding (foraging) range of the black-capped petrel is 
centered in the South Atlantic Bight between North Carolina and Florida 
in the United States. It appears that black-capped petrels migrate from 
West Indies breeding colonies, north and east of the

[[Page 37370]]

Bahamas, via the Antilles Current, rather than through the Straits of 
Florida (Haney 1987, p. 164). The seasonal abundance patterns of black-
capped petrels suggest that the species is widely distributed during 
the midsummer near the Gulf Stream to 36 degrees North latitude, and 
perhaps farther north to 40-45 degrees North latitude (Haney 1987, p. 
165). Black-capped petrels may occur farther north along the 
continential shelf than present records suggest, especially where the 
Gulf Stream meanders, and warm core rings occur near the edge of the 
continental shelf; however, surveys of northwest Atlantic marine 
habitats beyond the continental shelf have not identified the species 
(Haney 1987, p. 165).
    Black-capped petrels have been observed relatively close to shore 
in the West Indies. For example, during an expedition to search for the 
Jamaica petrel (Pterodroma caribbaea), Shirihai et al. (2010, pp. 5-6) 
observed 46 black-capped petrels off Jamaica, whose behavior suggested 
that they were breeding in the John Crow Mountains of Jamaica. 
Furthermore, while conducting observations of tubenoses (shearwaters 
(Puffinus species) and petrels) off the coast of Guadeloupe, Levesque 
and Yesou (2005, p. 674) observed three confirmed black-capped petrels 
in early 2004 (7 and 14 January, 4 February) and four gadfly petrels 
(Pterodroma species) in the same period that were also most likely 
black-capped petrels. Prior to 2004, black-capped petrels had not been 
reported near Guadeloupe in recent history, since breeding ceased to be 
reported in the 18th century or early 19th century.

Evaluation of Information for This Finding

    Section 4 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1533) and its implementing 
regulations at 50 CFR part 424 set forth the procedures for adding a 
species to, or removing a species from, the Federal Lists of Endangered 
and Threatened Wildlife and Plants. A species may be determined to be 
an endangered or threatened species due to one or more of the five 
factors described in section 4(a)(1) of the Act:
    (A) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or 
curtailment of its habitat or range;
    (B) Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes;
    (C) Disease or predation;
    (D) The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or
    (E) Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued 
existence.
    In considering what factors might constitute threats, we must look 
beyond the mere exposure of the species to the factor to determine 
whether the species responds to the factor in a way that causes actual 
impacts to the species. If there is exposure to a factor, but no 
response, or only a positive response, that factor is not a threat. If 
there is exposure and the species responds negatively, the factor may 
be a threat and we then attempt to determine how significant a threat 
it is. If the threat is significant, it may drive or contribute to the 
risk of extinction of the species such that the species may warrant 
listing as endangered or threatened as those terms are defined by the 
Act. This does not necessarily require empirical proof of a threat. The 
combination of exposure and some corroborating evidence of how the 
species is likely impacted could suffice. The mere identification of 
factors that could impact a species negatively may not be sufficient to 
compel a finding that listing may be warranted. The information shall 
contain evidence sufficient to suggest that these factors may be 
operative threats that act on the species to the point that the species 
may meet the definition of endangered or threatened under the Act.
    In making this 90-day finding, we evaluated whether information 
regarding threats to the black-capped petrel, as presented in the 
petition and other information available in our files, is substantial, 
thereby indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted. Our 
evaluation of this information is presented below.

A. The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment 
of Its Habitat or Range

Information Provided in the Petition
    The petition claims that the ``socio-economic realities of Haiti 
and the Dominican Republic threaten the destruction of its remaining 
breeding sites'' (WEG 2011, p. 1) In addition, the petition claims that 
``offshore oil development off the U.S. Atlantic coast could destroy 
the primary foraging area of the species'' (WEG 2011, p. 1).
    Lee and Haney (1999, p. 43) noted that local human populations in 
Haiti were encroaching towards the black-capped petrel's breeding 
colonies around 1980, and agricultural clearings extended both above 
and below the colonies. The human population of Haiti is expected to 
increase from approximately 9.7 million in July 2011, to close to 11.2 
million by 2025 (United States Census Bureau 2011a, p. 1; CIA World 
Fact Book, p. 1; WEG 2011, p. 9). Similarly, in the Dominican Republic, 
the human population is expected to increase from 9.9 million in 2011, 
to 11.7 million by 2025 (United States Census Bureau 2011b, p. 1; WEG 
2011, p. 10). In the Dominican Republic, there is also evidence of 
illegal selective logging and charcoal-burning within the section of 
Sierra de Bahoruco National Park near the single known breeding colony 
of black-capped petrel in the park, and while some improvement in the 
situation has occurred in recent years, the park administration still 
faces challenges (Williams et al. 1996, p. 29; WEG 2011, p. 14-15), 
which are discussed further under Factor D, below.
    According to the petition, ``Reintroduction of the species to its 
former range in Guadeloupe and Martinique seems unlikely due to heavy 
deforestation on these islands (Lee and Haney 1999, p. 44, WEG 2011, p. 
9). Only 14,600 hectares of suitable breeding habitat remains on 
Guadeloupe, and all of the forest habitats on Martinique are heavily 
affected by human activity (Lee and Haney 1999, p. 44, WEG 2011, p. 
9).''
    Although the petition includes electrical and communication towers 
as threats to the black-capped petrel under Factor A, we believe that 
discussion of these potential threats is more appropriate under Factor 
E.
Evaluation of Information Provided in the Petition and Available in 
Service Files
    Based on our review of the information provided in the petition and 
available in our files, it is likely that deforestation and habitat 
modification as a result of human encroachment upon the black-capped 
petrel's habitat in Haiti will continue.
    The black-capped petrel's narrow foraging habitat at sea is 
impacted by offshore energy development (Lee and Haney 1999, p. 2), 
particularly as this species is attracted to oily surfaces to feed (Lee 
and Haney 1999, p. 48). An oil spill in its feeding range could affect 
the remaining black-capped petrel population.
    In summary, we find that the information provided in the petition, 
as well as other information available in our files, presents 
substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the 
petitioned action may be warranted due to habitat destruction 
associated with human encroachment (including those resulting from 
deforestation and agriculture) and offshore oil developments in the 
species' foraging grounds.

[[Page 37371]]

B. Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or 
Educational Purposes

Information Provided in the Petition
    The petition claims that human overutilization extirpated the 
black-capped petrel from two of its former breeding grounds, Guadeloupe 
and Martinique, due to extensive hunting. The petition also claims that 
destructive hunting practices continue within the species' remaining 
breeding areas and that without protection from overutilization, the 
black-capped petrel could be extirpated in Haiti and the Dominican 
Republic (WEG 2011, p. 11-12), as well.
Evaluation of Information Provided in the Petition and Available in 
Service Files
    Despite its inclusion under Factor B in the petition, hunting 
information is not relevant to Factor B, because hunting of black-
capped petrels on these islands is for subsistence rather than 
commercial purposes. Therefore, hunting of black-capped petrels is 
addressed under Factor E below. We have no information that black-
capped petrels are collected or overutilized for commercial, 
recreational, scientific, or educational purposes. We find that the 
remaining information provided in the petition and available in our 
files does not present substantial scientific or commercial information 
indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted due to 
overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes.

C. Disease or Predation

Information Provided in the Petition
    The petition claims that ``one of the most serious threats to the 
black-capped petrel, both historically and currently, is predation from 
introduced mammals'' (WEG 2011, p. 12), including dogs (Canis 
familiaris), cats (Felis catus), Virginia oppossums (Didelphis 
virginiana), and potentially mongoose (Herpestes auropunctatus) and 
rats (Rattus norvegicus and R. rattus). For instance, the petition 
states, ``* * * researchers have noted that feral dogs, cats, and 
mongoose are becoming more abundant in the nesting areas, and have 
observed dogs digging petrels from burrows'' (Collar et al. 1992, p. 
5). Lee and Haney (1999, p. 46) observed the presence of feral house 
cats at the base of the single nesting cliff in Sierra de Baoruco in 
the Dominican Republic (WEG 2011, p. 13). The petition goes on to state 
that ``with an estimated population of only 600-2000 breeding pairs and 
13 known breeding colonies, the proximity of introduced predators is an 
important threat to the black-capped petrel'' (WEG 2011, p. 13). 
Finally, the petition mentions that pre-Columbians living on the 
eastern part of Hispaniola imported the coati (Nasua nasua), although 
the coati's impact on nesting black-capped petrels is unknown (WEG 
2011, p. 15).
Evaluation of Information Provided in the Petition and Available in 
Service Files
    Based on the information provided in the petition and available in 
our files, we concur with the petition that predators are encroaching 
upon the remaining breeding grounds of the black-capped petrel. In 
addition to the information submitted by the petitioner, we found 
information in our files to indicate that guards often have several 
dogs on site that act as sentries at a telecommunication tower site in 
Loma de Toro, Sierra de Bahoruco, Dominican Republic. The dogs roam 
freely at night and could prey upon petrel adults or nestlings (Black-
capped Petrel Working Group 2011, p. 8).
    In summary, we find that the information provided in the petition 
and available in our files provides substantial scientific or 
commercial information indicating that the petitioned action may be 
warranted due to predation. However, neither the petition nor our files 
present information on the impact of disease to the black-capped 
petrel.

D. The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms.

Information Provided in the Petition
    The petition claims that only cursory protection exists for the 
black-capped petrel's remaining breeding habitat. Although at least 11 
of the 13 known breeding colonies in Haiti and the Dominican Republic 
are located in national parks, according to the petitioner, these 
national park designations have done little to protect the species. The 
single breeding colony of petrels in the Dominican Republic is located 
within the Sierra de Bahoruco National Park (Collar et al. 1992, p. 6), 
and it is one of the three core zones of the Jaragua-Bahoruco-
Enriquillo Biosphere Reserve. This Reserve contains both protected and 
unprotected properties (WEG 2011, p. 14). Additionally, the petition 
states that a 1,152-square kilometer (284,665 acres (ac)) area within 
the reserve is designated as a Key Biodiversity area, which allows 
activities, such as research, conservation, recreation, and ecotourism, 
to take place. According to the petition, although park infrastructure 
has improved significantly, chronic understaffing, communication 
problems between the different ranger stations, lack of adequate 
transportation, and insufficient fuel supplies make park administration 
difficult (WEG 2011, p. 14-15).
    As noted by the petition, in Haiti, nine breeding colonies are 
located within the La Visite National Park in Massif de la Selle and 
another is located in the Pic Macaya National Park in Massif de la 
Hotte (Collar et al. 1992, pp. 1, 6). The petition asserts that 
``Massif de la Hotte has been designated as a priority for conservation 
action,'' and it is largely encompassed by the 2,000-hectare (4,942-ac) 
Parc National Pic Macaya, which is a Key Biodiversity Area and is 
within a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve (WEG 2011, p. 14).
    The petition also claims that there is no stated protection for the 
species' foraging areas, and no regulatory mechanisms exist that 
protect the black-capped petrel's narrow foraging range (WEG 2011, p. 
15).
Evaluation of Information Provided in the Petition and Available in 
Service Files
    Activities that threaten the species and its habitat (e.g., forest 
clearings, selective logging, charcoal-burning, fires, nonnative 
mammals) continue to occur around Sierra de Bahoruco and other national 
parks in Hispaniola. However, we currently have no information, either 
from the petition or in our files, on any existing regulatory 
mechanisms that would provide specific protections for the black-capped 
petrel in the national parks of Hispaniola.
    Based on the information provided in the petition and available in 
our files, we currently have no information that any regulatory 
mechanisms exist to protect the petrel's foraging habitat.
    In summary, we find that the information provided in the petition 
and in our files does not provide substantial scientific or commercial 
information indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted due 
to the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms. However, as we 
proceed with the 12-month status review, we will further investigate 
this factor to determine what, if any, regulatory mechanisms exist to 
protect the species and whether or not these mechanisms are inadequate.

[[Page 37372]]

E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence

Information Provided in the Petition
    The petition claims that ``other biological and anthropogenic 
factors threaten the black-capped petrel's continued existence, 
including slow recruitment, pollution and bioaccumulation of heavy 
metals, and climate change'' (WEG 2011, p. 16). ``One breeding pair 
must successfully breed for three consecutive years to ensure 
population growth. This aspect of the species' ecology only intensifies 
the effects of the other threats to the birds. The loss of a few 
breeding birds could lead cause a significant decline in the 
population'' (WEG 2011, p. 16).
    With regard to heavy metals, the petition states, ``Whaling et al. 
(1980) reported that black-capped petrels contain seven to nine times 
more mercury contamination that other similar seabirds, although he was 
unclear as to the reason. Oil drilling and other activities in the 
petrel's key foraging area off of North Carolina could release mercury 
and other heavy metals into marine waters and the food chain, and thus 
increase toxic loads in petrels (Lee and Haney 1999, p. 2, 48; Black-
capped Petrel Working Group 2011, p. 19).''
    Additionally, the petition asserts that electrical and 
communication towers pose immediate collision threats to the black-
capped petrel on high mountain ridges at breeding locations, because 
during nightly courtship flights the birds fly in groups at high speed 
at varying heights, making them vulnerable to fatal collisions with the 
towers or the stabilizing guy wires (Black-capped Petrel Workging Group 
2011, p. 8; WEG 2011, p. 10).
    The petition claims that extensive hunting is known to have 
occurred in Guadeloupe back to at least the mid-17th century and is 
thought to have resulted in near extirpation of this population (Collar 
et al. 2002, p. 6; WEG 2011, p. 12; see also the discussion under 
Factor B, above). In Haiti, local people are known to hunt this bird 
using the practice of ``sen sel'' (Wingate 1964, pp. 154-155). ``Sen 
sel'' is a method of capturing the birds at breeding colonies by 
lighting a fire on a cliff top above a colony (Wingate 1964, pp. 154-
155). Birds flying near the fire become disoriented and crash directly 
into the fire or into nearby vegetation (Wingate 1964, p. 154). This 
practice continues today in Haiti, and as Haiti's population grows and 
continues to encroach on the 12 remaining breeding colonies, hunting is 
likely to have an increasingly negative effect on the species (Lee and 
Haney 1999, pp. 42-43).
    The petition claims that climate change is expected to have 
significant impacts in the Caribbean region, including sea level rise, 
higher temperatures, changes in rainfall patterns, and increased 
intensity of hurricane and other storm activity (Black-capped Petrel 
Working Group 2011, p. 5; WEG 2011, p. 16). In addition, the petition 
states that impacts specific to black-capped petrels could include 
changes in habitat suitability, loss of nesting burrows washed out by 
rain or flooding, increased petrel strandings inland during storm 
events, and increased risk from vector-borne disease.
Evaluation of Information Provided in the Petition and Available in 
Service Files
    Information in our files supports the claim in the petition that 
the species is threatened by other natural and manmade factors.
    Birdlife International (2011, p. 1) indicates that a 
telecommunications mast with stay wires erected in 1995 on Loma de Toro 
in Sierra de Bahoruco (the only known nesting locality in the Dominican 
Republic) poses a collision hazard to the black-capped petrel. The 
Black-capped Petrel Working Group (2011, p. 12) reports that lighting 
of the towers with light fixtures in a color other than red can attract 
petrels and increase risk of fatal collision. At some black-capped 
petrel breeding sites (e.g., Loma del Toro), towers are fitted with 
bright white lights at the base to assist guards with security 
surveillance. A watchtower for fire control was placed on Loma del 
Toro, which allows fires to be spotted quickly (Black-capped Petrel 
Working Group 2011, p. 12). However, this tall, new structure, when 
combined with the already existing communication towers, presents 
additional hazards for flying petrels (WEG 2011, p. 15). Also, at some 
towers, security guards maintain an open fire throughout the night for 
warmth and light; the fire may attract petrels, and could be 
potentially fatal. These open fires also have the additional impact of 
forest clearing and greatly increases danger of forest fires (Black-
capped Petrel Working Group 2011, p. 12).
    According to Lee and Haney (1999, p. 48), artificial lights on oil 
rigs may result in mortality of black-capped petrels from collisions 
because they are attracted to the lights, particularly when nights are 
foggy. Due to the high speed flight of the species, collisions with 
rigging would most likely prove fatal (Lee and Haney 1999, p. 48).
    In addition to the practice of `sen sel,' described by the 
petitioner, other types of fires may have the same effect on the 
species. For instance, agricultural clearings now extend to areas just 
above and below nesting colonies on cliffs; it is standard practice to 
burn cleared vegetation, which Lee and Haney (1999, p. 43) state has 
been reported to have a ``sen sel''-type effect on the black-capped 
petrel.
    The Black-capped Petrel Working Group (2011, p. 18) notes that 
projections for climate change, particularly regionally, are 
accompanied by substantial uncertainty. ``The Gulf Stream and its 
associated water masses in the western North Atlantic are key foraging 
areas for the black-capped petrel, and effects in that system (e.g., 
stoppage or reversal) would likely significantly impact the species'' 
(Black-capped Petrel Working Group 2011, p. 18). However, there is 
currently little evidence of these effects, nor information that these 
effects may be specifically impacting the black-capped petrel; 
therefore, the risk associated with them for the petrel is low (Black-
capped Petrel Working Group 2011, p. 18).
    The Black-capped Petrel Working Group noted that, ``although they 
are likely long-lived (>=40 years), high adult survival rates are 
likely critical to balance strong limits that low reproductive rate and 
limited nest site availability exert on population growth and 
expansion.'' Therefore, it is likely that the ecology of this species 
may exacerbate other threats.
    In summary, we find that the information provided in the petition, 
as well as other information in our files, presents substantial 
scientific or commercial information indicating that the petitioned 
action may be warranted due to the presence of telecommunication 
infrastructure, local consumption of black-capped petrels, the impacts 
of fires and artificial light sources, pollution and heavy metals, slow 
recruitment, and the impacts of structures associated with oil rigs. We 
do not find substantial scientific or commercial information in the 
petition or in our files that the petitioned action may be warranted 
due to the impacts of climate change. However, we will further 
investigate this in our 12-month finding.

Finding

    On the basis of our evaluation of the petition and other readily 
available data under section 4(b)(3)(A) of the Act, we find that the 
petition presents substantial scientific or commercial information 
indicating that listing the

[[Page 37373]]

black-capped petrel throughout its entire range may be warranted. This 
finding is based on information provided under factors A, C, and E. We 
find that the information provided under factors B and D are not 
substantial.
    Because we have found that the petition presents substantial 
information indicating that listing the black-capped petrel may be 
warranted, we are initiating a status review to determine whether 
listing the black-capped petrel under the Act is warranted.
    The ``substantial information'' standard for a 90-day finding 
differs from the Act's ``best scientific and commercial data'' standard 
that applies to a status review to determine whether a petitioned 
action is warranted. A 90-day finding does not constitute a status 
review under the Act. In a 12-month finding, we will determine whether 
a petitioned action is warranted after we have completed a thorough 
status review of the species, which is conducted following a 
substantial 90-day finding. Because the Act's standards for 90-day and 
12-month findings are different, as described above, a substantial 90-
day finding does not mean that the 12-month finding will result in a 
warranted finding.

References Cited

    A complete list of references cited is available on the Internet at 
http://www.regulations.gov and upon request from the Caribbean 
Ecological Services Field Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).

Authors

    The primary authors of this notice are the staff members of the 
Caribbean Ecological Services Field Office.

Authority

    The authority for this action is the Endangered Species Act of 
1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

    Dated: June 7, 2012.
Daniel M. Ashe,
Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2012-15116 Filed 6-20-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P