[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 5 (Tuesday, January 8, 2013)]
[Pages 1205-1206]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-00135]



National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XC359

Taking and Importing Marine Mammals; Taking Marine Mammals 
Incidental to Hydrographic Surveys

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

ACTION: Notice; receipt of application for letter of authorization; 
request for comments and information.


SUMMARY: NMFS' Office of Protected Resources has received a request 
from the NOAA Office of Coast Survey (OCS) for authorization to take 
small numbers of marine mammals incidental to conducting hydrographic 
surveys, over the course of 5 years from the date of issuance. Pursuant 
to regulations implementing the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), 
NMFS is announcing receipt of OCS's request under the MMPA for the 
development and implementation of regulations governing the incidental 
taking of marine mammals. We invite information, suggestions, and 
comments on OCS's application and request.

DATES: Comments and information must be received no later than February 
7, 2013.

ADDRESSES: Comments on the application should be addressed 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. The mailbox address for 
providing email comments is [email protected]. We are not responsible 
for email comments sent to addresses other than the one provided here. 
Comments sent via email, including all attachments, must not exceed a 
10-megabyte file size.

Resources, NMFS, (301) 427-8401.



    An electronic copy of OCS's application may be obtained by visiting 
the Internet at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental.htm#applications.

    The OCS released a draft Environmental Assessment, prepared 
pursuant to requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act, for 
the conduct of their hydrographic surveys on June 20, 2012. A copy of 
the draft EA which would also support our proposed rulemaking under the 
MMPA, is also available at http://www.nauticalcharts.noaa.gov/Legal/.


    Section 101(a)(5)(A) of the MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) directs 
the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) to allow, upon request, the 
incidental, but not intentional, taking of small numbers of marine 
mammals by U.S. citizens who engage in a specified activity (other than 
commercial fishing) if certain findings are made and regulations are 
    Incidental taking shall be allowed if NMFS finds that the taking 
will have a negligible impact on the species or stock(s) affected and 
will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of the 
species or stock(s) for taking for subsistence uses, and if the 
permissible methods of taking and requirements pertaining to the 
mitigation, monitoring and reporting of such taking are set forth.
    NMFS has defined ``negligible impact'' in 50 CFR 216.103 as ``an 
impact resulting from the specified activity that cannot be reasonably 
expected to, and is not reasonably likely to, adversely affect the 
species or stock through effects on annual rates of recruitment or 
survival.'' Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent 
here, the MMPA defines ``harassment'' as: ``any act of pursuit, 
torment, or annoyance which (i) has the potential to injure a marine 
mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild [Level A harassment]; or (ii) 
has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in 
the wild by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but 
not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or 
sheltering [Level B harassment].''

Summary of Request

    On December 27, 2012, we received a complete and adequate 
application from OCS requesting authorization for take of marine 
mammals incidental to hydrographic surveys conducted by OCS. The 
requested governing regulations would be valid for 5 years from the 
date of issuance. OCS operates active acoustic devices that have the 
potential to disturb marine mammals, and operates throughout coastal 
waters of the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone. During 2013-18, OCS plans 
to conduct surveys in all coastal waters of the U.S. except for those 
in the Caribbean and in Hawaii and other Pacific islands. Because the 
specified activities have the potential to take marine mammals present 
within the action areas, OCS requests authorization to take small 
numbers of multiple species or stocks of marine mammal.

Specified Activities

    Hydrographic survey projects support OCS's mandated mission to 
provide reliable nautical charts and other products necessary for safe 
navigation, economic security, and environmental sustainability in U.S. 
coastal waters. OCS surveys approximately 3,000 square nautical miles 
of coastal waters each year, and proposes to continue the same level of 
activity. In order to conduct these surveys, OCS uses active acoustic 
devices, including some that may result in behavioral harassment of 
marine mammals. These include high-frequency single-beam and multibeam 
echosounders and side-scan sonars mounted on or towed behind vessels 
traveling at a slow speed.
    A more detailed description of the hydrographic surveys conducted 
by OCS may be found in their application, which is available at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental.htm.

[[Page 1206]]

Information Solicited

    Interested persons may submit information, suggestions, and 
comments concerning OCS's request (see ADDRESSES). We will consider all 
information, suggestions, and comments related to the request during 
the development of proposed regulations governing the incidental taking 
of marine mammals by OCS, if appropriate.

Helen M. Golde,
Acting Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2013-00135 Filed 1-7-13; 8:45 am]