[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 152 (Tuesday, August 7, 2012)]
[Pages 47043-47045]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-19308]



National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XC062

Draft 2012 Marine Mammal Stock Assessment Reports

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

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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 2012 SARs.

DATES: Comments must be received by November 5, 2012.

ADDRESSES: The 2012 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-2012-0119], 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, Shannon.Bettridge@noaa.gov; Robyn Angliss 206-
526-4032, Robyn.Angliss@noaa.gov, regarding Alaska regional stock 
assessments; Gordon Waring, 508-495-2311, Gordon.Waring@noaa.gov, 
regarding Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean regional stock 
assessments; or Jim Carretta, 858-546-7171, Jim.Carretta@noaa.gov, 
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 
2012 SARs.

Alaska Reports

    In the Alaska region (waters off Alaska that are under the 
jurisdiction of the United States), SARs for 29 Alaska stocks (14 
``strategic,'' 15 ``non-strategic'') were updated. The following stocks 
were reviewed and considered for updating for 2012: Steller sea lion 
(western and eastern stocks), Northern fur seal, harbor seals (12 
stocks), Cook Inlet beluga whale, AT1 transient killer whale, Pacific 
white-sided dolphin, harbor porpoise (Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea, 
Southeast Alaska stocks), Dall's porpoise, sperm whale, humpback whale 
(western North Pacific and central North Pacific stocks), fin whale, 
minke 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. 
Information on the remaining Alaska region stocks can be found in the 
final 2011 reports (Allen and Angliss, 2012).
    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. At the recommendation of the Alaska SRG, data for all 12 harbor 
seals stocks in Alaska will be presented in a single harbor seal SAR 
document. Therefore, NMFS will not be developing separate SARs for all 
12 stocks. Serious injury and mortality records for harbor seals are 
reported; however, most of these records have not been assigned to a 
particular stock.
    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 analytical methods for 
estimating bycatch were updated. As a result of these changes, AFSC 
determined that 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 four-year period 
from 2007-2010.
    NMFS has decided to shift the eastern North Pacific gray whale SAR 
from the Alaska SARs to the Pacific SARs beginning in 2012, because the 
Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC) has the responsibility for 
conducting abundance estimates and management for the gray whale stock. 
In 2012, both the Alaska SRG and Pacific SRG reviewed the gray whale 
SAR, and staff who compile the Pacific SARs have worked closely with 
AFSC and Northwest Regional Office staff during this first year of 

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Atlantic Reports

    In the Atlantic region (including the Atlantic coast, Gulf Coast, 
and U.S. territories in the Caribbean), 52 reports (covering 80 stocks) 
were updated, including 23 Atlantic reports and 29 Gulf of Mexico 
reports. Of these, 43 stocks are ``strategic'' and 37 are ``non-
strategic.'' Information on the remaining Atlantic region stocks can be 
found in the final 2011 reports (Waring et al., 2011).
    Atlantic white-sided dolphins became non-strategic in 2012, due to 
new abundance estimates. The Northern North Carolina Estuarine System 
Stock of bottlenose dolphins has a new abundance estimate based on a 
2006 mark-recapture survey, resulting in a PBR calculation of 7.9 
animals for this stock (previously ``undetermined'' PBR); the stock 
remains ``strategic.'' The Gulf of Mexico Northern Coastal Stock of 
bottlenose dolphins changed from non-strategic to strategic status with 
this 2012 report, because an Unusual Mortality Event of unprecedented 
size and duration (began 1 February 2010 and is ongoing) has impacted 
the Northern Coastal Stock area.
    A new section entitled Habitat Issues has been added to each Gulf 
of Mexico report, which includes information on the Deepwater Horizon 
oil spill and the Natural Resource Damage Assessment process.

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 15 stocks (five ``strategic'' and ten 
``non-strategic'' stocks). Strategic stocks included: Hawaiian monk 
seal, Southern Resident killer whale, Hawaii Insular false killer 
whale, Hawaii Pelagic false killer whale, and California/Oregon/
Washington Sperm Whale. Non-strategic stocks included: Long-beaked 
common dolphin, Eastern North Pacific Gray Whale, Northwestern Hawaiian 
Islands false killer whale, Palmyra Atoll false killer whale, Hawaii 
Island spinner dolphin, Oahu/Four Islands spinner dolphin, Kauai/Niihau 
spinner dolphin, Pearl and Hermes Reef spinner dolphin, Midway Atoll/
Kure spinner dolphin, and Hawaii Pelagic spinner dolphin. Information 
on the remaining Pacific region stocks can be found in the final 2011 
reports (Carretta et al., 2012).
    The stock assessment report for Palmyra Atoll false killer whale 
now appears separately from false killer whale reports that focus on 
the Hawaiian Islands region, and a new stock of Northwestern Hawaiian 
Islands false killer whales is presented for the first time. New 
abundance estimates are available for eight stocks: Hawaiian monk seal, 
Long-beaked common dolphin, Southern Resident killer whale, three 
stocks of spinner dolphin (Hawaii Island, Oahu/Four Islands, and Kauai/
Niihau), Hawaii Pelagic false killer whale and Northwestern Hawaiian 
Islands false killer whale. The stock assessment report for Eastern 
North Pacific gray whales is now included in the Pacific Region stock 
assessment reports.

    Dated: August 1, 2012.
Helen M. Golde,
Acting Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2012-19308 Filed 8-6-12; 8:45 am]