[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 167 (Tuesday, August 28, 2012)]
[Page 51969]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-21225]

[[Page 51969]]



National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XC185

Taking and Importing Marine Mammals: Taking Marine Mammals 
Incidental to Navy Operations of Surveillance Towed Array Sensor System 
Low Frequency Active Sonar

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

ACTION: Notice; issuance of four Letters of Authorization.


SUMMARY: In accordance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), as 
amended, and implementing regulations, notification is hereby given 
that NMFS has issued four 1-year Letters of Authorization (LOAs) to 
take marine mammals by harassment incidental to the U.S. Navy's 
operation of Surveillance Towed Array Sensor System Low Frequency 
Active (SURTASS LFA) sonar operations to the Chief of Naval Operations, 
Department of the Navy, 2000 Navy Pentagon, Washington, DC 20350 and 
persons operating under his authority.

DATES: Effective from August 15, 2012, through August 14, 2013.

ADDRESSES: Electronic copies of the Navy's April 19, 2012, LOA 
application letter and the LOAs are available by writing to P. Michael 
Payne, Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected 
Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, 
Silver Spring, MD 20910-3225, by telephoning the contact listed here 
(see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT), or online at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental.htm#applications. Documents 
cited in this notice may be viewed, by appointment, during regular 
business hours, at the aforementioned address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jeannine Cody, Office of Protected 
Resources, NMFS (301) 427-8401.



    Section 101(a)(5)(A) of the MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) directs 
the Secretary of Commerce to allow, upon request, the incidental, but 
not intentional taking of marine mammals by U.S. citizens who engage in 
a military readiness activity if certain findings are made and 
regulations are issued.
    Authorization may be granted for periods of 5 years or less if NMFS 
finds that the taking will have a negligible impact on the species or 
stock(s), and will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the 
availability of the species or stock(s) for certain subsistence uses. 
In addition, NMFS must prescribe regulations that include permissible 
methods of taking and other means effecting the least practicable 
adverse impact on the species and its habitat, and on the availability 
of the species for subsistence uses, paying particular attention to 
rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance. The 
regulations also must include requirements pertaining to the monitoring 
and reporting of such taking.
    Regulations governing the taking of marine mammals incidental to 
the U.S. Navy's operation of SURTASS LFA sonar were effective on August 
15, 2012 (77 FR 50290, August 20, 2012) and remain in effect through 
August 15, 2017. They are codified at 50 CFR part 218 subpart X. These 
regulations include mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements 
for the incidental taking of marine mammals by the SURTASS LFA sonar 
system. For detailed information on this action, please refer to the 
August 20, 2012 Federal Register document and 50 CFR part 218 subpart 

Summary of LOA Request

    NMFS received an application from the U.S. Navy for four LOAs, one 
covering the USNS VICTORIOUS (T-AGOS 19), one covering the USNS ABLE 
(T-AGOS 20), one covering the USNS EFFECTIVE (T-AGOS 21), and one 
covering the USNS IMPECCABLE (T-AGOS 23), under the regulations 
effective on August 15, 2012 (77 FR 50290, August 20, 2012). The Navy 
requested that these LOAs become effective on August 15, 2012. The 
application requested authorization, for a period not to exceed one 
year, to take, by harassment, marine mammals incidental to employment 
of the SURTASS LFA sonar system for training, testing and routine 
military operations on the aforementioned ships in areas of the Pacific 
Ocean, as described in the 2012 regulations.

Monitoring and Reporting

    In compliance with NMFS' 2007 SURTASS LFA sonar regulations which 
expired on August 15, 2007, the Navy submitted a comprehensive report 
on SURTASS LFA sonar operations and the mitigation and monitoring 
activities conducted under the LOAs issued under its previous rule for 
the 2007 through 2012 period. A copy of this report can be viewed and/
or downloaded at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental.htm#applications. Based on this report and other annual and 
comprehensive reports, the Navy has conducted the specified activities 
in the manner described in the regulations and LOAs, and has 
implemented the required mitigation and monitoring measures. 
Additionally, marine mammal detections and behavioral observations 
suggest that the actual impacts of SURTASS LFA sonar operation and 
training fall within the scope and nature of those analyzed and 
anticipated by the regulations and LOAs.
    In accordance with the current SURTASS LFA sonar regulations (50 
CFR 218.230), the Navy must submit quarterly mitigation monitoring 
reports; annual reports; and a 5-year comprehensive report. Under the 
previous two rulemakings, the Navy has not exceeded the take authorized 
by NMFS. Upon receipt, NMFS will post this annual report at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental.htm#applications.


    NMFS has issued four LOAs to the U.S. Navy, authorizing the 
incidental harassment of marine mammals, incidental to operating the 
four SURTASS LFA sonar systems for routine training, testing and use 
during military operations. Issuance of these four LOAs is based on 
findings, described in the preamble to the final rule (77 FR 50290, 
August 20, 2012) and supported by information contained in the Navy's 
required reports on SURTASS LFA sonar, that the activities described 
under these four LOAs will have no more than a negligible impact on 
marine mammal stocks and will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on 
the availability of the affected marine mammal stocks for subsistence 
    These LOAs remain valid through August 14, 2013, provided the Navy 
remains in conformance with the conditions of the regulations and the 
LOAs, and the mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements 
described in 50 CFR 218.230 through 218.241 (77 FR 50290, August 20, 
2012) and in the LOAs are undertaken.

    Dated: August 23, 2012.
Helen M. Golde,
Acting Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2012-21225 Filed 8-27-12; 8:45 am]