[Federal Register Volume 74, Number 220 (Tuesday, November 17, 2009)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 59443-59472]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E9-27402]



[[Page 59443]]

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Part III





Department of the Interior





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Fish and Wildlife Service



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50 CFR 17



Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Removal of the Brown 
Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) From the Federal List of Endangered 
and Threatened Wildlife; Final Rule

Federal Register / Vol. 74 , No. 220 / Tuesday, November 17, 2009 / 
Rules and Regulations

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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[FWS-R2-ES-2008-0025 ; 92220-1113-0000-C6]
RIN 1018-AV28


Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Removal of the 
Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) From the Federal List of 
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: Under the authority of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as 
amended (Act), we, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), are 
removing the brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) from the Federal 
List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife due to recovery. This action 
is based on a review of the best available scientific and commercial 
data, which indicate that the species is no longer in danger of 
extinction, or likely to become so within the foreseeable future. The 
brown pelican will remain protected under the provisions of the 
Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

DATES: The effective date of this rule is December 17, 2009.

ADDRESSES: This final rule is available on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov and http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/Library/. 
Supporting documentation used in preparing this final rule will be 
available for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business 
hours, at the Service's Clear Lake Ecological Services Field Office, 
17629 El Camino Real 211, Houston, Texas 77058-3051.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Steve Parris, Field Supervisor, U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, Clear Lake Ecological Services Field Office, 
17629 El Camino Real 211, Houston, Texas 77058-3051; telephone 
281/286-8282; facsimile 281/488-5882. If you use a telecommunications 
device for the deaf (TDD), call the Federal Information Relay Service 
(FIRS) at 800-877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    Brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) populations currently listed 
under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act; 16 U.S.C. 
1531 et seq.) occur in primarily coastal marine and estuarine (where 
fresh and salt water intermingle) environments along the coast of the 
Gulf of Mexico from Mississippi to Texas and the coast of Mexico; along 
the Caribbean coast from Mexico south to Venezuela; along the Pacific 
Coast from British Columbia, Canada, south through Mexico into Central 
and South America; and in the West Indies, and are occasionally sighted 
throughout the United States (Shields 2002, pp. 2-4). Brown pelicans 
remain in residence throughout the breeding range, but some segments of 
many populations migrate annually after breeding (Shields 2002, p. 6). 
Overall, the brown pelican continues to occur throughout its historical 
range (Shields 2002, pp. 4-5). This rule includes biological and life 
history information for the brown pelican relevant to the delisting. 
Additional information about the brown pelican's biology and life 
history can be found in the Birds of North America, No. 609 (Shields 
2002, pp. 1-36).
    This rule applies to the entire listed species, which includes all 
brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) subspecies. The species 
Pelecanus occidentalis is generally recognized as consisting of six 
subspecies: (1) P. o. occidentalis (Linnaeus, 1766: West Indies and the 
Caribbean Coast of South America, occasionally wanders to coasts of 
Mexico and Florida), (2) P. o. carolinensis (Gmelin, 1798: Atlantic and 
Gulf coasts of the United States and Mexico; Caribbean Coast of Mexico 
south to Venezuela, South America; Pacific Coast from southern Mexico 
to northern Peru, South America), (3) P. o. californicus (Ridgeway, 
1884: California south to Colima, Mexico, including Gulf of 
California), (4) P. o. urinator (Wetmore, 1945: Galapagos Islands), (5) 
P. o. murphyi (Wetmore, 1945: Ecuador and Pacific Coast of Colombia), 
and (6) P. o. thagus (Molina, 1782: Peru and Chile). Recognition of 
brown pelican subspecies is based largely on relative size and color of 
plumage and soft parts (for example, the bill, legs, and feet). The 
distributional limits of the brown pelican subspecies are poorly known, 
so the geographic descriptions of their ranges are approximate and may 
not be adequate to assign subspecies designations. Additionally, some 
authors elevate the Peruvian subspecies to a separate species, Peruvian 
pelican (P. thagus) (see Remsen et al. 2009). However, the taxonomy of 
the brown pelican subspecies has not been critically reviewed for many 
years, and the classification followed by the American Ornithologists' 
Union (American Ornithologists' Union 1957, pp. 29-30) and by Palmer 
(1962, pp. 274-276) is based on Wetmore's (1945, pp. 577-586) review, 
which was based on few specimens from a limited portion of the range. 
Remsen et al. (2009) does not present a comprehensive taxonomic 
treatment of all brown pelicans, but rather, relies on already noted 
morphological differences to propose that P. o. thagus be recognized as 
a full species. Additional taxonomic review of all brown pelicans would 
be needed to further elucidate the relationships and distributions of 
the six described subspecies. The original listing of the brown pelican 
included the species throughout its range and covered all six of the 
subspecies described above. This rule continues that taxonomic 
treatment, including the Peruvian brown pelican (P. o. thagus).

Previous Federal Actions

    On February 20, 2008, we published a 12-month petition finding and 
proposed rule to remove the brown pelican from the Federal List of 
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife (73 FR 9408). We solicited data and 
comments from the public on the proposed rule. The comment period 
opened on February 20, 2008, and closed on April 21, 2008. Note that 
this proposed rule addresses the status of brown pelicans throughout 
their range except where previously delisted along the Atlantic Coast 
of the United States, in Florida, and in Alabama (50 FR 4938; February 
4, 1985). For more information on previous Federal actions concerning 
the brown pelican, please refer to the proposed rule published in the 
Federal Register on February 20, 2008 (73 FR 9408).

Distribution and Population Estimates

    Information on population estimates below is arranged 
geographically for convenience and to present a logical organization of 
the information. These broad geographic areas do not necessarily 
represent populations or other biologically based groupings. The six 
subspecies described above are not used to organize the following 
information because distributional limits of the subspecies are poorly 
known, especially in Central and South America. Additionally, the broad 
overlap in wintering and breeding ranges among the subspecies 
introduces considerable uncertainty in assigning subspecies 
designations in portions of the species range (Shields 2002, p. 5). 
Because the brown pelican is a wide-ranging, mobile species, is 
migratory throughout much of its range, and may shift its breeding or 
wintering areas or distribution in response to local

[[Page 59445]]

conditions, it is difficult to define local populations of the species. 
Much of the population estimate information below is given at the scale 
of individual countries, which may not correspond with actual 
biological populations, particularly for smaller countries that may 
represent only a fraction of the species' range. Direct comparison of 
all the estimates provided below is difficult because methods used to 
derive population estimates are not always reported, some population 
estimates are given as broad ranges, and some do not specify whether 
the estimates are for breeding birds or include nonbreeding birds as 
well. However, the information does indicate the broad distribution of 
the species and reflects the large global population estimate of more 
than 620,000 birds, which does not include previously delisted birds 
along the Atlantic coast of the United States, in Florida, or in 
Alabama (Service 2007a, pp. 44-45).

Gulf of Mexico Coast

    Mississippi.--Turcotte and Watts (1999, pp. 84-86) consider the 
brown pelican a permanent resident of the Mississippi coast, even 
though there are no records of nesting brown pelicans in Mississippi. 
Brown pelicans are currently not known to breed in Mississippi, but the 
annual Christmas Bird Counts have documented wintering brown pelicans 
in Mississippi since 1985 (National Audubon Society 2009, pp. 1-3). The 
most recent counts over the winter of 2008-2009 sighted 372 brown 
pelicans (National Audubon Society 2009, p. 3).
    Louisiana.--Before 1920, brown pelicans were estimated to have 
numbered between 50,000 and 85,000 in Louisiana (King et al. 1977a, pp. 
417, 419). By 1963, the brown pelican had completely disappeared from 
Louisiana (Williams and Martin 1968, p. 130). A reintroduction program 
was conducted between 1968 and 1980. During this period, 1,276 nestling 
brown pelicans were transplanted from colonies in Florida to coastal 
Louisiana (McNease et al. 1984, p. 169). After the initiation of the 
reintroduction, the population reached a total number of 16,405 
successful nests and 34,641 young produced in 2001 (Holm et al. 2003, 
p. 432).
    In 2003, the number of nesting colonies increased, but numbers of 
successful nests decreased to 13,044 due to four severe storms that 
eroded portions of some nest islands and destroyed some late nests in 
various colonies (Hess and Linscombe 2003, Table 2). According to 
surveys conducted by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries 
(LDWF), the population appeared to recover from these impacts and a 
peak of 16,501 successful nests producing 39,021 fledglings was 
recorded in 2004 (LDWF 2006, p. 1; Hess and Linscombe 2006, p. 13). 
However, tropical storms in 2004 resulted in the loss of three nesting 
islands east of the Mississippi River and, after storm events in late 
2005, LDWF surveys detected 25,289 fledglings (Hess and Linscombe 2006, 
p. 13). Surveys in 2006 detected 8,036 successful nests in 15 colonies, 
producing 17,566 fledglings with an average of 2.1 fledglings per 
successful nest (Hess and Linscombe 2007, pp. 1, 4). In 2007, there 
were 14 colonies that produced 24,085 fledglings with an average of 2.2 
fledglings per nest (LDWF 2008, pp. 3, 6).
    Hess and Linscombe (2007, p. 4) concluded that the brown pelican 
population in Louisiana is maintaining sustained growth despite lower 
fledgling production in 2005 and 2006 (a decrease of 31 percent from 
2005 to 2006). Fledgling production has increased 37.1 percent from 
2006 to 2007 (LDWF 2008, p. 5). Numbers of successful nests are not 
directly comparable to numbers of individuals in historic estimates 
because they do not account for immature or nonbreeding individuals or 
provide an index of population size in years when breeding success is 
low due to factors such as weather and food availability. However, 
numbers of successful nests and fledglings produced annually since 1993 
(Hess and Linscombe 2007, p. 4; LDWF 2008, p. 4) do indicate continued 
nesting and successful fledging of young sufficient to sustain a viable 
population in Louisiana. See ``Storm effects, weather, and erosion 
impacts to habitat'' under Factor A for further discussion of effects 
of storms.
    Texas.--Brown pelicans historically numbered around 5,000 in Texas 
but began to decline in the 1920s and 1930s, presumably due to shooting 
and destruction of nests (King et al. 1977a, p. 419). According to King 
et al. (1977a, p. 422), there were no reports of brown pelicans nesting 
in Texas in 1964 or 1966. There were two known nesting attempts in 
1965, but the success of these nests is not known. Annual aerial and 
ground surveys of traditional nesting colonies conducted in Texas 
during the period 1967 to 1974 indicated that only two to seven pairs 
attempted to breed in each of these years. Only 40 young were 
documented fledging during this entire 8-year period (King et al. 
1977a, p. 422).
    The Texas Colonial Waterbird Census has tracked population trends 
in Texas for the brown pelican since 1973 (Service 2006, p. 5). 
Although the Texas population of brown pelicans did not experience the 
total reproductive failure recorded in Louisiana, the first year (1973) 
of information from the Texas census identified only one nesting colony 
with six breeding pairs in the State. Since that time, there was a 
gradual increase through 1993 when there were 530 breeding pairs in two 
nesting colonies; in 1994, there was a substantial increase to 1,751 
breeding pairs in three nesting colonies (Service 2006, pp. 3-5). Since 
then, the overall increasing trend has continued with some year-to-year 
variation (Service 2006, pp. 2-3). The most recent complete count of 
breeding birds in Texas occurred in 2008 and reported 6,136 pairs 
(Service 2009c). This number equates to 12,272 breeding birds, which is 
substantially greater than historical population estimates for Texas.
    Gulf Coast of Mexico.--Very little information is available about 
the status of the brown pelican along the Gulf Coast in Mexico. Aerial 
surveys indicated that brown pelicans in Mexico were virtually absent 
as a breeding species along the Gulf of Mexico north of Veracruz by 
1968 (Service 1979, p. 10). An aerial survey conducted in March 1986 
along this same stretch of coast counted 2,270 birds, down from 4,250 
birds estimated in counts conducted between December 1979 and January 
1980 (Blankenship 1987, p. 2). However, the counts in 1986 and in 1980 
differed in the areas covered and timing of counts and represent only 
two data points, so it is difficult to compare the earlier and later 
counts. A recent survey of colonial waterbirds at Laguna Madre de 
Tamaulipas did not locate brown pelicans (Pronatura and Audubon Texas 
2008), although brown pelicans were not sighted there during the 1986 
aerial surveys either (Blankenship 1987, Table 1). No other recent 
information for this portion of the species' range was found, so no 
conclusions on population trends of the brown pelican for the Mexican 
portion of the Gulf Coast can be drawn.
    Summary of Gulf of Mexico Coast.--Along the U.S. Gulf Coast, brown 
pelican populations, while experiencing some periodic or local 
declines, have increased dramatically from a point of near 
disappearance in the 1960s and 70s. Brown pelicans were present along 
the Gulf Coast of Mexico in 1986, but we currently lack recent 
information on the status of the species in this portion of its range.

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West Indies

    The West Indies refers to a crescent-shaped group of islands 
occurring in the Caribbean Sea consisting of the Bahamas, the Greater 
Antilles (including Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and 
Puerto Rico), and the Lesser Antilles (a group of island countries 
forming an arc from the U.S. Virgin Islands on its northwest end 
southeast to Grenada). Van Halewyn and Norton (1984, p. 201) summarized 
the breeding distribution of brown pelicans throughout the Caribbean 
region and noted at least 23 sites where the species was reliably 
reported nesting in the islands of the West Indies at some time since 
1950. Based on the most recent estimates available at the time, van 
Halewyn and Norton (1984, p. 201) documented more than 2,000 breeding 
pairs throughout the West Indies. More recently, Collazo et al. (2000, 
p. 42) estimated the minimum number of brown pelicans throughout the 
West Indies at 1,500 breeding pairs, and Bradley and Norton (2009, p. 
275) estimated the West Indian population at 1,630 breeding pairs. 
Raffaele et al. (1998, pp. 224-225) describe the brown pelican as ``A 
common year-round resident in the southern Bahamas, Greater Antilles 
and locally in the northern Lesser Antilles east to Montserrat. It is 
common to rare through the rest of the West Indies with some birds 
wandering between islands.''
    In a search for additional seabird breeding colonies in the Lesser 
Antilles, Collier et al. (2003, pp. 112-113) did not find brown 
pelicans nesting on Anguilla, Saba, and Dominica. In an attempt to 
survey seabirds in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Hayes (2002, p. 51) 
found brown pelicans in the central Grenadines. He notes that brown 
pelicans were once considered common in the Grenadines and suggests 
that a small nesting colony may exist there, although there is no 
historical record of nesting.
    Anguilla, Montserrat, Jamaica, the Bahamas, and Antigua.--Recent 
information presented in Bradley and Norton (2009, p. 275) reports 21 
breeding pairs in Anguilla, 14 in Montserrat, greater than 150 in 
Jamaica, 50 in the Bahamas, and 53 in Antigua.
    St. Maarten.--Collier et al. (2003, p. 113) reported finding two 
nesting colonies on St. Maarten Island in 2001, with a total of 64 
nesting pairs, but in 2002 found no breeding pelicans at one of the two 
sites surveyed in 2001. Reasons for the lack of breeding activity in 
2002 are unknown, although Collier et al. (2003, p. 113) suggested a 
disturbance event could have been the cause. The May 2006 newsletter 
for the Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds 
(Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds 2006) notes 
that St. Maarten's proposed Important Bird Areas of Fort Amsterdam and 
Pelikan Key host regionally important populations of nesting brown 
pelicans, although numbers of nesting birds are not given.
    Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands.--Collazo et al. (1998, pp. 63-
64) compared demographic parameters between 1980-82 and 1992-95 for 
brown pelicans in Puerto Rico. The mean number of individuals observed 
during winter aerial population surveys between 1980 and 1982 was 
2,289, while mean winter counts from 1992 to 1995 averaged only 593 
birds (Collazo et al. 1998, p. 63). Reasons for the decrease in number 
of wintering birds between the two periods are not known; however, 
migrational shifts could have contributed to the decrease in winter 
counts between survey periods (Collazo et al. 1998, p. 63). The number 
of nests observed at the selected study sites did not show such an 
appreciable decline during the same period for Puerto Rico and the 
nearby U.S. Virgin Islands, with nest counts ranging from 167 to 250 
during 1980 to 1982, compared with 222 and 256 during 1992 to 1993 
(Collazo et al. 1998, p. 64). Collazo et al. (2000, p. 42) estimated 
approximately 120-200 nesting pairs in Puerto Rico and 300-350 nesting 
pairs in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Information provided by Puerto Rico's 
Department of Natural and Environmental Resources places population 
estimates in the same relative range as Collazo et al. (1998) with an 
average of 437 individuals found in aerial surveys conducted from 1996 
to 2004 (Department of Natural and Environmental Resources 2008, pp. 1, 
3), although it is not known if these were summer or winter surveys. 
Additionally, the U.S. Virgin Islands' Department of Planning and 
Natural Resources reports that about 300 nesting pairs have been 
counted in the U.S. Virgin Islands annually (Department of Planning and 
Natural Resources 2008, p. 1), a comparable number to that reported by 
Collazo et al. (1998). Finally, more recent information from Bradley 
and Norton (2009, p. 275) reports 265 breeding pairs in Puerto Rico and 
325 breeding pairs in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
    Cuba.--Acosta-Cruz and Mugica-Vald[eacute]s (2006, pp. 10, 65) 
reported that brown pelicans are a common resident species, with the 
population augmented by migrants during the winter. Brown pelicans have 
been documented nesting at five sites in the Archipi[eacute]lago 
Sabana-Camag[uuml]ey and in the Refugio de Fauna R[iacute]o 
M[aacute]ximo (Acosta-Cruz and Mugica-Vald[eacute]s 2006, pp. 32-33). 
The number of nesting pairs at Refugio de Fauna R[iacute]o 
M[aacute]ximo was estimated at 16 to 36 pairs during monitoring in 2001 
and 2002 (Acosta-Cruz and Mugica-Vald[eacute]s 2006, p. 33). No 
estimates were given for other nesting sites. More recent data from 
Bradley and Norton (2009, p. 275) estimates there to be 300 nesting 
pairs in 18 colonies in Cuba.
    Aruba.--Information provided by Veterinary Service of Aruba, the 
country's Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of 
Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES; 27 U.S.T. 1087) Management Authority, 
estimates the breeding population on the island to be 20 pairs with a 
total population estimate of 60 individuals (Veterinary Service of 
Aruba 2008, p. 1).
    Summary of West Indies.--Although we do not have detailed 
information on brown pelicans throughout all of the islands of the West 
Indies, the distribution and abundance of current breeding colonies 
reported by Collazo et al. (2000, p. 42), van Halewyn and Norton (1984, 
pp. 174-175, 201), and Bradley and Norton (2009, p. 275) are all 
similar and in the range of 1,500 to 2,000 breeding pairs.

Caribbean and Atlantic Coasts of Mexico, Central America, and South 
America

    No comprehensive population estimates for the Caribbean and 
Atlantic Coasts of Central and South America are available to our 
knowledge, although some estimates for other portions of the species' 
range include birds that nest on the mainland coast or offshore islands 
(e.g., van Halewyn and Norton's estimate of 6,200 pairs in the 
Caribbean included birds nesting on the mainland and offshore islands 
of Colombia and Venezuela (1984, p. 201)).
    Mexico.--Isla Contoy Reserva Especial de la Biosfera off the coast 
of Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico, was the site of Mexico's largest brown 
pelican nesting colony in 1986, with 300 nesting pairs (Blankenship 
1987, p. 2). By the spring of 1996, 700 to 1,000 pairs of brown 
pelicans were estimated to be nesting on Isla Contoy (Shields 2002, p. 
35). Four other colonies in this region accounted for 128 nesting pairs 
in 1986 (Blankenship 1987, p. 2).
    Belize.--Miller and Miller (2006, pp. 7, 64) analyzed Christmas 
Bird Count data collected in Belize from 1969-2005 and reported that 
brown pelican numbers over this period have remained about the same. 
References compiled and summarized by Miller and Miller (2006, pp. 144-
149) variously report

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brown pelicans as: ``Common: high density, likely to be seen many 
places,'' ``Transient, present briefly as migrant,'' ``Resident, 
species present all year,'' and ``apparently secure in Belize.'' Brown 
pelicans are also reported in one reference as nesting on several cays 
(small, low islands composed largely of coral or sand), but no 
information on number of nesting birds or locations are given.
    Guatemala.--Brown pelicans in Guatemala are considered to be a 
breeding resident (Eisermann 2006, p. 55), although locations of 
nesting sites and number of breeding pairs are not given. Eisermann 
(2006, p. 65) estimated the Caribbean slope population of brown 
pelicans in Guatemala to consist of approximately 376 birds.
    Honduras.--Thorn et al. (2006, p. 29) report brown pelicans nesting 
on the Caribbean coast of Honduras and offshore islands. Brown pelicans 
are reported as a common resident in Honduras, with numbers estimated 
to range between 10,000 and 25,000 birds and a stable population trend 
(Thorn et al. 2006, p. 20).
    Nicaragua.--Zolotoff-Pallais and Lezama (2006, p. 74) report that 
the number of brown pelicans within Nicaragua falls within the range 
1001-5000 and is stable, although they do not indicate whether this 
estimate represents only breeding birds.
    Costa Rica.--Brown pelicans are considered a resident species in 
Costa Rica, but are not reported nesting on the Caribbean coast of 
Costa Rica (Quesada 2006, pp. 9, 46).
    Panama.--Brown pelicans primarily nest in the Gulf of Panama on the 
Pacific coast with no nesting reported on the Caribbean coast (Angehr 
2005, pp. 15-16). However, brown pelicans do winter along the Caribbean 
coast of Panama. In 1993, 582 brown pelicans were counted in Panama 
(Shields 2002, p. 22) along the Caribbean coast, and Angehr (2005, p. 
79) considers brown pelicans to be a ``fairly common migrant'' along 
the Caribbean coast.
    Colombia.--Moreno and Buelvas (2005, p. 57) report that brown 
pelicans occur at four sites on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, with a 
good population of brown pelicans in the coastal wetlands of La 
Guajira. However, no estimate of numbers of breeding birds was given. 
Information provided by Colombia's Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas 
y Costeras (INVEMAR) report approximately 20 breeding pairs on the 
Caribbean coast of Colombia with additional migratory birds present 
(INVEMAR 2008).
    Venezuela.--Based on aerial surveys of the Venezuelan coast, Guzman 
and Schreiber (1987, p. 278) estimated a population size of 17,000 
brown pelicans in 25 colonies. Within those breeding colonies, 3,369 
nests were counted (Guzman and Schreiber 1987, p. 278). More recently, 
Rodner (2006, p. 9) confirms that there are approximately 25 brown 
pelican colonies in Venezuela. Rodner (2006, p. 9) does not give an 
overall estimate of the brown pelican population in Venezuela but notes 
more than 1,700 nests have been documented in four of the largest 
breeding colonies, while another recent census of four sites resulted 
in counts of 2,097 pelicans.
    South of Venezuela, brown pelicans are reported as a nonbreeding 
migrant in Guyana (Johnson 2006, p. 5), French Guiana (Delelis and 
Pracontal 2006, p. 57), Surinam (Haverschmidt 1949, p. 77; Ottema 2006, 
p. 3), and Brazil (De Luca et al. 2006, pp. 3, 40)
    Summary of the Caribbean/Atlantic Coast.--In general, brown 
pelicans are broadly distributed on the Caribbean and Atlantic coasts 
of southern Mexico and Central and South America and are still present 
throughout their historic range with population numbers likely in the 
range of 30,000 to 50,000 birds, based on the numbers presented above.

California and Pacific Coast of Northern Mexico

    The most recent population estimate of the brown pelican subspecies 
that ranges from California to Mexico along the Pacific Coast is 
approximately 70,680 nesting pairs, which equates to 141,360 breeding 
birds (Anderson et al. 2007, p. 8). They nest in four distinct 
geographic areas: (1) The Southern California Bight (SCB), which 
includes southern California and northern Baja California, Mexico; (2) 
southwest Baja California; (3) the Gulf of California, which includes 
coastlines of both Baja California and Sonora, Mexico; and (4) mainland 
Mexico further south along the Pacific coastline (including Sinaloa and 
Nayarit) (Service 1983, p. 8).
    During the late 1960s and early 1970s, the SCB population declined 
to fewer than 1,000 pairs and reproductive success was nearly zero 
(Anderson et al. 1975, p. 807). In 2006, approximately 11,695 breeding 
pairs were documented at 10 locations in the SCB: 3 locations on 
Anacapa Island, 1 on Prince Island, and 1 on Santa Barbara Island in 
California; 3 on Los Coronados Islands, 1 on Islas Todos Santos, and 1 
on Isla San Mart[iacute]n in Mexico within the SCB (Henny and Anderson 
2007, p. 9; Gress 2007). In 2007, brown pelicans in California nested 
on west Anacapa Island and Santa Barbara Island but did not nest on 
Prince Island (Burkett et al. 2007, p. 8). The populations on Todos 
Santos and San Mart[iacute]n islands were previously extirpated in 1923 
and 1974, respectively; however, these were recently found to be 
occupied (Gress et al. 2005, pp. 20-25). Todos Santos Island had about 
65 nests in 2004, but there were no nests in 2005. This colony is 
currently considered to be ephemeral, occurring some years and then not 
others (Gress et al. 2005, p. 28). At San Mart[iacute]n Island, 35 
pairs were reported in 1999, a small colony was noted in 2000, and 125-
200 pairs were seen in 2002, 2003, and 2004 (Gress et al. 2005, pp. 20-
25).
    The southwest Baja California coastal population has about 3,100 
breeding pairs, the Gulf of California population is estimated at 
43,350 breeding pairs, and the mainland Mexico populations (including 
islands) is estimated to have 12,385 breeding pairs (Anderson et al. 
2007, p. 8). The Gulf of California population remained essentially the 
same from 1970 to 1988 (Everett and Anderson 1991, p. 125). It is 
thought that populations in Mexico have been stable since the early 
1970s (when long-term studies began) because of their lower exposure to 
organochlorine pesticides (e.g., DDT), although annual numbers at 
individual colonies fluctuate widely due to prey availability and human 
disturbance at colonies (Everett and Anderson 1991, p. 133).
    Summary of California and Pacific Coast of Northern Mexico.--Henny 
and Anderson (2007, pp. 1, 8) concluded that their preliminary 
estimates of nesting pairs in 2006 suggest a large and healthy total 
breeding population for California and the Pacific coast of Mexico.

Pacific Coast of Central America and South America

    As with the Caribbean and Atlantic coasts of Central and South 
America, there are no comprehensive population estimates for brown 
pelicans along this portion of their range.
    Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua.--Brown pelicans 
are considered a nonbreeding visitor on the Pacific slope of Guatemala 
(Eisermann 2006, p. 4) with an estimated abundance of 2,118 birds. 
About 800 brown pelicans are widely distributed along the Pacific Coast 
of El Salvador (Ibarra Portillo 2006, p. 2). However, Herrera et al. 
(2006, p. 44) reported brown pelicans to be a nonbreeding visitor in El 
Salvador with numbers falling within the range 1,001-10,000 and an 
increasing trend. Brown pelicans occur on the Pacific Coast of Honduras 
but are not reported to nest there (Thorn et al. 2006, p. 26, 29). 
Zolotoff-Pallais and Lezama (2006, p. 74) report that the

[[Page 59448]]

number of brown pelicans within Nicaragua falls within the range 1,001-
5,000, but do not indicate locations or breeding status.
    Costa Rica.--The Costa Rican Ministry for Environment and Energy 
has reported that several breeding colonies exist on the Pacific Coast 
from the Nicaraguan border to the Gulf of Nicoya and include the 
islands of Bolanos and Guayabo (Service 2007a, p. 13). Shields (2002, 
p. 35) estimated as many as 850 pairs in Costa Rica. However, Quesada 
(2006, p. 37) estimated the brown pelican population in Costa Rica to 
fall within the range 10,000-25,000 birds with a stable population 
trend.
    Panama.--Estimates of brown pelicans in Panama have varied greatly 
over the years. In 1981, Batista and Montgomery (1982, p. 70) estimated 
that 25,500 adults and chicks were known to occur on just the Pearl 
Island Archipelago in the Gulf of Panama. In 1982, Montgomery and 
Murcia (1982, p. 69) estimated 70,000 adults occurred at 7 colonies 
within the Gulf of Panama. By 1988, 6,031 brown pelicans were known 
from just the Gulf, while in 1998, only 3,017 brown pelicans were 
thought to occur along the entire Pacific Coast of Panama, including 
the Gulf (Shields 2002, p. 22). By 2005, 4,877 brown pelican nests were 
reported just in the Gulf of Panama and a total population was 
estimated to be about 15,000 individuals for the entire Pacific Coast 
of Panama, which includes 150 nests found at Coiba Island in 1976 
(Angehr 2005, p. 6). Angehr (2005, p. 12) also reported that those 
individual colonies that had been studied experienced an overall 
increase of 70 percent in nest numbers from 1979 to 2005, and describes 
the brown pelican on the Pacific Coast of Panama as an ``abundant 
breeder.''
    Colombia.--Moreno and Buelvas (2005, p. 57) list brown pelicans as 
occurring at three protected sites on the Pacific coast of Colombia: 
Malpelo Island, Gorgona Island, and Sanquianga. Naranjo et al. (2006b, 
p. 178) estimated 2,000-4,000 brown pelicans at Sanquianga on the 
mainland and 4,800-5,200 on Gorgona Island. Brown pelicans were 
considered to be one of the most abundant resident species in a 1996-
1998 assessment of waterbird populations on the Pacific Coast of 
Colombia (Naranjo et al. 2006a, p. 181). Naranjo et al. (2006b, p. 179) 
concluded that preliminary results of their waterbird monitoring 
program on the Pacific coast of Colombia indicate that populations of 
Pelecaniformes (which include brown pelicans) in the three protected 
areas are stable. INVEMAR (2008) also report approximately 3,000 
breeding pairs known from the Pacific coast of Colombia, which 
represents approximately 6,000 birds and is consistent with estimates 
by Naranjo et al. (2006b).
    Ecuador.--On Ecuador's Galapagos Islands, Shields (2002, p. 35) 
cites reports of a few thousand pairs. Delaney and Scott (2002, p. 29) 
estimated the population on the Galapagos to be 5,000 birds. Santander 
et al. (2006, pp. 44, 49) reported that brown pelicans in the Galapagos 
number less than 10,000 and are considered common there, while 
populations on the mainland range from 25,000 to 100,000. The 
Ministerio del Ambiente of Ecuador has reported that nesting brown 
pelicans are widely distributed and fairly common along the mainland 
coast of that country (Rojas 2006).
    Peru.--Shields (2002, p. 22) summarizes estimates of brown pelicans 
in Peru at 420,000 adults in 1981-1982, 110,000 in 1982-1983, 620,000 
in 1985-1986, and 400,000 in 1996. Franke (2006, p. 10) reported that a 
1997 survey of guano birds counted 140,000 brown pelicans with an 
increasing population trend reported; however, it is unclear from the 
report whether that number represents a total estimate of the brown 
pelican population in Peru or a subset of birds nesting on islands 
managed for guano production.
    Chile.--The range of brown pelicans in Chile extends from the 
extreme northern city of Arica (Rodr[iacute]guez 2006) to occasionally 
as far south as Isla Chilo[eacute] (Aves de Chile 2006, p. 1). The 
total population size for Chile is unknown (Shields 2002, p. 35). The 
breeding population on Isla P[aacute]jaro Ni[ntilde]o in central Chile 
was 2,699 pairs in 1995-1996, 1,032 pairs in 1996-1997, and none during 
the 1997-1998 El Ni[ntilde]o (a temporary oscillation of the ocean-
atmosphere system) year (Simeone and Bernal 2000, p. 453).
    Two sightings of brown pelicans in Argentina in 1993 and 1999 are 
considered ``hypothetical'' records because they are not documented by 
specimens, photographs, or other concrete evidence (Lichtschein 2006).
    Summary of Pacific Coast of Central and South America.--Brown 
pelicans are abundant breeders along the Pacific coast of Central and 
South America with population numbers in the range of 65,000 to 200,000 
birds, not including an estimated 400,000 birds in Peru.

Summary--Global Distribution and Population Estimates

    As discussed above, currently listed brown pelican populations are 
widely distributed throughout the coast of the Gulf of Mexico from 
Mississippi to Texas and the coast of Mexico; along the Caribbean coast 
from Mexico south to Venezuela; along the Pacific Coast from British 
Columbia, Canada, south through Mexico into Central and South America; 
and in the West Indies. Population estimates for various States, 
regions, and countries reviewed above are not strictly comparable 
because they were not made using any standard protocol or methodology, 
and in many cases the process by which the estimates were developed is 
not described. For example, surveys conducted in different parts of the 
year may yield differing results due to migratory trends and breeding 
patterns. While in some cases these estimates may be reliable in 
describing local abundance and trends, because of their 
incomparability, they have limited value in estimating absolute size or 
trends in the global population.
    During our 5-year status review of the brown pelican, we estimated 
the global listed brown pelican population based on the best available 
information at the time of the review, which included most but not all 
of the individual estimates given above. Although these estimates 
represented the best available information at the time of the review, 
because of the lack of standardization and major differences in 
determining population estimates, we used conservative assumptions in 
tabulating these data in order to make a conservative estimate of the 
global population size of the brown pelican (see Service 2007a, pp. 43-
45 and 60-62). Specifically, where only numbers of nests are known, the 
total number of nests was simply doubled to obtain an estimate of total 
population size for an area. This method likely underestimates the 
population size because there are likely to be unpaired or immature 
nonbreeders in the population. Additionally, where a population 
estimate found in the literature was a range of numbers, the lower 
number was used in calculating the global estimate. Population size is 
merely one factor in determining whether a species is recovered, and 
this approach assures we are making our determination in a manner that 
is protective of the species.
    This total, or global estimate, as given in our 5-year review, is 
for the listed brown pelican, which does not include the Atlantic coast 
of the United States, Florida, and Alabama. The total based on regional 
estimates is over 620,000 individuals, which includes an estimated 
400,000 pelicans from Peru (Service 2007a, pp. 43-45 and 60-62). This 
is likely a conservative estimate given that estimates for some 
countries

[[Page 59449]]

given above (for example, estimates for Colombia and Cuba) were not 
readily available at the time we conducted our 5-year review. Other 
recent estimates yield similar numbers. Kushlan et al.'s (2002, p. 64) 
estimate for the North American Waterbird Conservation Plan area, which 
includes Canada, the United States, Mexico, Central America, the 
Caribbean, and Caribbean islands of Venezuela, was 191,600-193,700 
breeders. Delaney and Scott (2002, p. 29) applied a correction factor 
to Kushlan et al.'s estimate to account for immature birds and 
nonbreeders to estimate a population of 290,000 birds. Neither estimate 
includes birds on the Pacific Coast of South America. Delaney and Scott 
(2002, p. 29) additionally estimated the brown pelican population on 
the Galapagos to be about 5,000 birds, and the population on the 
Pacific Coast of South America (estimate is for the subspecies 
Pelecanus occidentalis thagus, found in Peru and Chile) to range from 
100,000-1,000,000 birds. Shields' (2002, p. 21) population estimate of 
202,600-209,000 brown pelicans also did not include the Peruvian 
subspecies. While each of these estimates covers slightly different 
areas, they are all in general agreement and indicate that the listed 
population of brown pelicans, excluding the Peruvian subspecies, totals 
200,000 or more individuals, while the Peruvian subspecies numbers in 
the few hundred thousand.

Recovery Plan

    Section 4(f) of the Act directs us to develop and implement 
recovery plans for listed species. While brown pelicans were listed 
throughout their range, recovery planning efforts for the brown pelican 
focused primarily on those portions of the species' range within the 
United States. We have published three recovery plans for the brown 
pelican: (1) Recovery Plan for the Eastern Brown Pelican (Service 
1979); (2) the California Brown Pelican Recovery Plan (Service 1983); 
and (3) Recovery Plan for the Brown Pelican in Puerto Rico and the U.S. 
Virgin Islands (Service 1986).
    Section 4(f) of the Act requires the Service to develop and 
implement recovery plans for the conservation and survival of 
threatened and endangered species, unless we find that such a plan will 
not promote the conservation of the species. The Act directs that, to 
the maximum extent practicable, we incorporate into each plan: (1) 
Site-specific management actions that may be necessary to achieve the 
plan's goals for conservation and survival of the species; (2) 
objective, measurable criteria, which when met would result in a 
determination, in accordance with the provisions of section 4 of the 
Act, that the species be removed from the list; and (3) estimates of 
the time required and cost to carry out the plan. However, revisions to 
the List (adding, removing, or reclassifying a species) must reflect 
determinations made in accordance with section 4(a)(1) and 4(b). 
Section 4(a)(1) requires that the Secretary determine whether a species 
is threatened or endangered (or not) because of one or more of five 
threat factors. Therefore, recovery criteria must indicate when a 
species is no longer threatened or endangered by any of the five 
factors. In other words, objective, measurable criteria, or recovery 
criteria, contained in recovery plans must indicate when an analysis of 
the five threat factors under 4(a)(1) would result in a determination 
that a species is no longer threatened or endangered. Section 4(b) 
requires the determination made under section 4(a)(1) as to whether a 
species is threatened or endangered because of one or more of the five 
factors be based on the best available science.
    Thus, while recovery plans are intended to provide guidance to the 
Service, States, and other partners on methods of minimizing threats to 
listed species and on criteria that may be used to determine when 
recovery is achieved, they are not regulatory documents and cannot 
substitute for the determinations and promulgation of regulation 
required under section 4(a)(1). Determinations to remove a species from 
the list made under section 4(a)(1) must be based on the best 
scientific and commercial data available at the time of the 
determination, regardless of whether that information differs from the 
recovery plan.
    In the course of implementing conservation actions for a species, 
new information is often gained that requires recovery efforts to be 
modified accordingly. There are many paths to accomplishing recovery of 
a species, and recovery may be achieved without all criteria being 
fully met For example, one or more criteria may have been exceeded 
while other criteria may not have been accomplished, yet the Service 
may judge that, overall, the threats have been minimized sufficiently, 
and the species is robust enough, to reclassify the species from 
endangered to threatened or perhaps delist the species. In other cases, 
recovery opportunities may have been recognized that were not known at 
the time the recovery plan was finalized. These opportunities may be 
used instead of methods identified in the recovery plan.
    Likewise, information on the species may be learned that was not 
known at the time the recovery plan was finalized. The new information 
may change the extent that criteria need to be met for recognizing 
recovery of the species. Overall, recovery of species is a dynamic 
process requiring adaptive management, planning, implementing, and 
evaluating the degree of recovery of a species that may, or may not, 
fully follow the guidance provided in a recovery plan.
    Thus, while the recovery plan provides important guidance on the 
direction and strategy for recovery, and indicates when a rulemaking 
process may be initiated, the determination to remove a species from 
the List is ultimately based on an analysis of whether a species is no 
longer threatened or endangered. The following discussion provides a 
brief review of recovery planning for the brown pelican, as well as an 
analysis of the recovery criteria and goals as they relate to 
evaluating the status of the species.
    The Recovery Plan for the Eastern Brown Pelican, which includes the 
Atlantic and Gulf Coasts of the United States, does not identify 
recovery criteria because the causes of the species' decline were not 
well understood at the time the plan was prepared. The recovery team 
viewed the wide distribution of the species, rather than absolute 
numbers, as the species' major strength against extinction (Service 
1979, p. iv). This recovery plan also addressed brown pelicans in 
Alabama, Florida, and the Atlantic Coast of the United States, but 
because these populations have already been delisted, we only discuss 
the plan's objectives for the portion of the range that remained listed 
in Louisiana and Texas.
    The recovery plan states a general objective to reestablish brown 
pelicans on all historically used nesting sites in Louisiana and Texas 
(Service 1979, p. iii). The plan identified 9 sites in Louisiana and 11 
sites in Texas. These included historic, current (at the time of the 
recovery plan), and restored islands. Since 2005, brown pelicans have 
nested at between 11 and 15 sites in Louisiana and at 12 sites in Texas 
(Hess and Linscombe 2006, pp. 1-4, 7-8; Service 2006, p. 2). These 
sites include some of the same sites identified in the recovery plan as 
well as previously unknown or newly colonized sites.
    The number and location of nesting sites has varied from year to 
year along the Gulf Coast due in part to frequent tropical storms, but 
generally meet the recovery plan goals for number of

[[Page 59450]]

nesting sites. The northern Gulf of Mexico coast is subject to frequent 
severe tropical storms and hurricanes, which can cause significant 
changes to brown pelican nesting habitat. Past storms have resulted in 
changes to or loss of historical nesting sites, but brown pelicans seem 
well adapted to responding to losses of breeding sites by moving to new 
locations (Hess and Durham 2002, p. 7; Wilkinson et al. 1994, p. 425; 
Williams and Martin 1968, p. 136), and the species has clearly shown 
its ability to rebound (Williams and Martin 1968, p. 130; Holm et al. 
2003, p. 432; Hess and Linscombe 2006, pp. 5, 13) (see ``Storm effects, 
weather, and erosion impacts to habitat'' under Factor A for further 
discussion).
    While nesting is not occurring on all historically identified sites 
in Texas and Louisiana, the number of currently used nesting sites 
meets or exceeds the numbers identified in the recovery plan and 
supports sustainable populations of brown pelicans. Because brown 
pelicans have demonstrated the ability to move to new breeding 
locations when a nesting island is no longer suitable, meeting the 
exact number and location of nesting sites in Texas and Louisiana 
identified in the recovery plan is not necessary to achieve recovery 
for the brown pelican. As discussed further below, we also have 
considered the population's wide distribution, numbers, and 
productivity as indicators that the threats have been reduced such that 
the population is recovered and sustainable.
    The Recovery Plan for the Brown Pelican in Puerto Rico and the U.S. 
Virgin Islands has delisting criteria solely for the area covered by 
the plan. The criteria are to maintain a 5-year observed mean level of: 
(1) 2,300 individuals during winter, and (2) 350 breeding pairs at the 
peak of the breeding season. Both recovery criteria are solely based on 
demographic characteristics and do not provide an explicit reference 
point for determining whether threats have been reduced. The levels in 
the criteria were based on studies of brown pelicans from 1980 to 1983 
(Collazo 1985). Subsequent winter counts from 1992 to 1995 in Puerto 
Rico were 74 percent lower than during 1980-1982 (593 individuals 
compared to 2,289). Although the 1992 to 1995 counts did not include 
the Virgin Islands, it appears likely that the first criterion had not 
been met as of 1995 (Collazo et al. 1998). However, reasons for lower 
counts are unknown. Collazo et al. (1998, pp. 63-64) concluded that 
habitat was not limiting and suggested that migrational shifts could 
have contributed to the decrease in numbers and that longer term 
monitoring of at least 6 to 8 years is needed to define an acceptable 
range of population parameters for brown pelicans in the Caribbean. 
Collazo et al. (1998, p. 64) also concluded that contaminants are not 
affecting brown pelican reproduction.
    Thus, while the first criterion, based on 4 years of data, may not 
be sufficient to establish a realistic figure to reflect recovery, it 
also does not address whether threats to the species are still present. 
Also, because the criterion applies to only a small portion of the 
species' range, as well as only a portion of the species' range in the 
Caribbean, we do not consider it relevant for determining whether the 
brown pelican is recovered globally. Of the two recovery criteria, the 
second criterion is the more appropriate to the evaluation of the 
status of the species as it reflects population productivity. The 
number of pairs seemed to be holding steady between the early 1980s and 
the 1990s with estimates given by Collazo et al. (2000, p. 42) of 165 
pairs for Puerto Rico and 305-345 pairs for the U.S. Virgin Islands. 
While this estimate is not a 5-year observed mean, the estimated number 
is consistent with the recovery criterion for number of breeding pairs. 
Moreover, data from the U.S. Virgin Islands (Department of Planning and 
Natural Resources 2008, p. 1) supports the Collazo et al. (2000, p. 42) 
numbers by estimating the brown pelican population there at about 300 
breeding pairs.
    The California Brown Pelican Recovery Plan only covers the 
California brown pelican subspecies (P. o. californicus), which 
includes the Pacific Coast of California and Mexico, including the Gulf 
of California. The primary objective of this recovery plan is to 
restore and maintain stable, self-sustaining populations throughout 
this portion of the species' range. To accomplish this objective, the 
recovery plan calls for: (1) Maintaining existing populations in 
Mexico; (2) assuring long-term protection of adequate food supplies and 
essential nesting, roosting, and offshore habitat throughout the 
subspecies' range; and (3) restoring population size and productivity 
to self-sustaining levels in the SCB at both the Anacapa and Los 
Coronados Island colonies. Existing populations appear to be stable in 
Mexico and throughout the subspecies range (Everett and Anderson 1991, 
p. 133; Henny and Anderson 2007, pp. 1, 8), food supplies are assured 
by the Coastal Pelagic Species Fishery Management Plan, and the 
majority of essential nesting and roosting habitat throughout the 
subspecies' range is protected (see ``Summary of Factors Affecting the 
Species'' below for further discussion). Therefore, criteria 1 and 2 of 
the recovery plan have been met.
    For population and productivity objectives, the recovery plan 
included the following additional criterion: (a) When any 5-year mean 
productivity for the SCB population reaches at least 0.7 young per 
nesting attempt from a breeding population of at least 3,000 pairs, the 
subspecies should be considered for reclassification from endangered 
status to threatened status; and (b) When any 5-year mean productivity 
for the SCB population reaches at least 0.9 young per nesting attempt 
from a breeding population of at least 3,000 pairs, the subspecies 
should be considered for delisting. Consideration for reclassification 
to threatened would require a total production averaging at least 2,100 
fledglings per year over any 5-year period. Consideration for delisting 
would require a total production averaging at least 2,700 fledglings 
per year over any 5-year period.
    The criterion, including both productivity and population size, for 
downlisting to threatened has been met at least 10 times since 1985. 
The delisting population criterion of at least 3,000 breeding pairs has 
been exceeded every year since 1985, with the exception of 1990 and 
1992, which saw only 2,825 and 1,752 pairs, respectively. In most 
years, the nesting population far exceeds the 3,000 pair delisting 
goal; it has exceeded 6,000 pairs for 10 of the last 15 years (Gress 
2005). Additionally, the delisting criterion of at least 2,700 
fledglings per year over any 5-year period has been met at least 11 
times since 1985 (Gress 2005). However, although productivity has 
improved greatly since the time of listing, the productivity criterion 
for delisting has not been met and the SCB population consistently has 
low productivity, with a mean of 0.63 young fledged per nesting attempt 
from 1985 to 2005 (Gress and Harvey 2004, p. 20; Gress 2005).
    Productivity is an important parameter used for evaluating 
population health; however, it is difficult to determine an objective 
and appropriate minimum value. The 0.9 young per nesting attempt given 
in the recovery plan was the best estimate based on a review of brown 
pelican reproductive parameters in Florida and the Gulf of California 
(Schreiber 1979, p. 1; Anderson and Gress 1983, p. 84), because pre-DDT 
productivity for the SCB population was unknown. Despite the fact that 
this goal has not been

[[Page 59451]]

reached, reproduction has been sufficient to maintain a stable 
population for more than 20 years. Most colonies expanded during this 
interval, including the long-term colonization of Santa Barbara Island, 
which suggests that productivity has been sufficient to maintain a 
stable-to-increasing population. In conclusion, the first two recovery 
criteria for the California Brown Pelican Recovery Plan have been met. 
As discussed above, the population component of the third criterion has 
been far exceeded, while the productivity component has not been met. 
We have concluded, based on current population size and productivity, 
that the productivity component of the third criterion is no longer 
appropriate because current productivity is sufficient to maintain a 
viable population of brown pelicans. Please see responses to comments 6 
and 8 below for additional discussion of the productivity criterion.
    Recovery Planning Summary--The three recovery plans for the brown 
pelican discussed above have not been actively used in recent years to 
guide recovery of the brown pelican because they are either outdated, 
lack recovery criteria for the entire species, or in the case of the 
eastern brown pelican, lack recovery criteria altogether. No subsequent 
revisions have been made to any of these original recovery plans. No 
single recovery plan covers the entire range of the species in the 
United States, and the remainder of the range outside the United 
States, including Central America, South America, and most of the West 
Indies is not covered by a recovery plan. Additionally, the recovery 
criteria in these plans do not specifically address the five threat 
factors used for listing, reclassifying, or delisting a species as 
outlined in section 4(a)(1) of the Act. Consequently, the recovery 
plans do not provide an explicit reference point for determining the 
appropriate legal status of the brown pelican based either on 
alleviating the specific factors that resulted in its initial listing 
as an endangered species or on addressing new risk factors that may 
have emerged since listing. As noted above, recovery is a dynamic 
process and analyzing the degree of recovery requires an adaptive 
process that includes not only evaluating recovery goals and criteria 
but also new information that has become available. Thus, while some 
recovery criteria and many of the goals in the three brown pelican 
recovery plans have been met, our evaluation of the status of the brown 
pelican in this rule is based largely on the analysis of threats in our 
recently completed 5-year review (Service 2007a, pp. 1-66), available 
at http://ecos.fws.gov/docs/five_year_review/doc1039.pdf, and 
presented below.

Summary of Public and Peer Review Comments and Recommendations

    In our February 20, 2008 proposed rule, we requested all interested 
parties submit information, data, and comments concerning multiple 
aspects of the status of the brown pelican. The comment period was open 
from February 20, 2008, through April 21, 2008.
    In accordance with our policy on peer review, published on July 1, 
1994 (59 FR 34270), we solicited opinions from eight expert scientists 
who are familiar with this species regarding pertinent scientific data 
and assumptions relating to supportive biological and ecological 
information for the proposed rule. Reviewers were asked to review the 
proposed rule and the supporting data, to point out any mistakes in our 
data or analysis, and to identify any relevant data that we might have 
overlooked. Four of the eight peer reviewers submitted comments. Three 
of those four were generally supportive of the proposal to remove the 
brown pelican from the Federal List of Threatened and Endangered 
Species while the fourth reviewer did not offer an opinion. Their 
comments are included in the summary below and/or incorporated directly 
into this final rule.
    During the 60-day comment period, we received comments from 19 
individuals, organizations, and government agencies. We have read and 
considered all comments received. We updated the rule where it was 
appropriate, and we responded to all substantive issues received, 
below.

Peer Review Comments

    (1) Comment: The inclusion of brown pelicans on the List (Federal 
List of Threatened and Endangered Wildlife) has provided us with a 
means of protecting habitat that has also protected many other species 
that share the marine habitat with the brown pelican. With this 
delisting, we will lose protections afforded to all these other marine 
species.
    Response: When making listing and delisting determinations, we are 
only to consider the best scientific and commercial information data in 
preparing the five-factor analysis. This analysis has us consider a 
variety of impacts to the species in question and the regulatory 
mechanisms that may mitigate those impacts, but does not allow us to 
consider impacts of listing and delisting on other species. However, 
brown pelicans will remain protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act 
of 1918 (16 U.S.C. 703-711; 40 Stat. 755) and, as discussed below, 
numerous other mechanisms confer protections to the brown pelican and 
to other species and habitats that are not dependent on the protections 
afforded brown pelicans by the Endangered Species Act.
    (2) Comment: Multiple commenters expressed concerns over our global 
population estimate, specifically noting that the number reached is 
vague and speculative because a complete and coordinated survey for the 
entire species has never been done. Reviewers requested use of 
additional information if possible and, if not possible, inclusion of a 
more thorough justification for relying on the old and widely varying 
data in our global population estimate.
    Response: The Act directs that we use the best scientific and 
commercial data available in making our determinations. This rulemaking 
was initially prompted by a petition to delist the species (see the 
``Previous Federal Actions'' section of our proposed rule (February 20, 
2008; 73 FR 9408)). In order to fulfill our requirements to respond to 
the petition and complete the rulemaking process once begun, we are 
statutorily required to make a determination at this time based on the 
best scientific and commercial data currently available to us. We 
recognize that additional research and coordinated efforts would yield 
a more reliable and accurate global population estimate. We have used 
the best available scientific and commercial data in developing our 
global population estimate. However, we have not relied solely upon 
this estimate in making our determination that the brown pelican no 
longer warrants listing. This number is developed and presented in 
efforts to provide the reader a general estimate of the scale of the 
global population, allow comparisons with other available estimates, 
and provide a summary and conclusion of the various estimates provided. 
While the accuracy of the specific number cannot be determined due to 
differences in survey methodology and information quality, the relative 
scale of the number, in the hundreds of thousands, is useful in 
demonstrating the degree of recovery the species has acheived and the 
absence of significant threats to the species. We have expanded the 
discussion under the ``Summary--Global Population Estimate'' section to 
further explain our rationale in developing this estimate.
    (3) Comment: The discussion of the significance of the Puerto Rico 
brown

[[Page 59452]]

pelicans makes it seem that the Service is saying these birds are not 
important.
    Response: In evaluating the brown pelican and whether it continues 
to require regulatory protection under the Act, we have looked at the 
species from a range-wide perspective first. The species' population 
numbers have rebounded and threats have been removed or reduced to the 
point that protection under the Act is no longer needed range wide. 
Next, we assessed whether any population may be experiencing localized 
threats over a significant portion of the range of the pelican such 
that its loss would lead to the species as a whole being at a greater 
risk of extinction. As discussed in ``Significant Portion of the 
Range'' section below, we have determined that the Puerto Rico 
population does not warrant listing as a significant portion of the 
range of the species, although this analysis does not imply that any 
subspecies, population, or subpopulation of brown pelican is not 
important to the long-term conservation of the brown pelican. In 
addition, once the pelican is delisted, brown pelicans will remain 
protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and numerous other 
mechanisms, as discussed below. We will continue working with the 
Puerto Rico Department of Natural Resources through the post-delisting 
monitoring process to monitor the status of the brown pelican in Puerto 
Rico.
    (4) Comment: A complete study of the genetics of the entire species 
would seem to be strongly warranted in order to further elucidate 
unique, small breeding populations.
    Response: We agree and encourage continued research on the brown 
pelican; however, we don't believe a full understanding of the genetics 
of each individual breeding population is required in order to make our 
delisting decision, especially in the face of decreased threats and 
increased conservation and management opportunities.
    (5) Comment: While population numbers confirm that delisting is the 
correct action, threats to the brown pelican still remain. There needs 
to be monitoring of the brown pelican and the marine environment post-
delisting.
    Response: Under section 4(g)(1) of the Act, we are required to 
monitor all species that have been recovered and delisted for at least 
5 years post-delisting. On September 30, 2009 (74 FR 50236), we 
announced the availability of a draft post-delisting monitoring plan 
for the brown pelican which we expect to finalize within a year. We do 
not anticipate any of the factors currently affecting the brown pelican 
to become a threat to the status of the species in the future; however, 
if at any time during the monitoring program, data indicate that the 
protective status under the Act should be reinstated, we can initiate 
listing procedures, including, if appropriate, emergency listing.
    (6) Comment: A peer reviewer noted that the productivity criterion 
developed in the California Brown Pelican Recovery Plan was somewhat 
subjective and based on comparisons to brown pelican productivity 
elsewhere. Despite this problem, the peer reviewer notes that the 
overall conclusions reached in the proposed rule concerning these 
productivity criteria--that a significant recovery has occurred in the 
Southern California Bight--are reasonable and logical.
    Response: While recovery planning and the recovery criteria often 
included in recovery plans provide useful tangible benchmarks for the 
planning of conservation, the Act requires us to base listing and 
delisting assessments on the status of the species and an analysis of 
the factors affecting the species. This process allows us to determine 
that a species has achieved recovery even if it has not met all of its 
recovery criteria. In this case, the significant recovery of the 
California populations of brown pelican in terms of population trends 
and total population numbers has been deemed indicative of recovery of 
the species, although the specific productivity goal has not been met. 
Please see the ``Recovery Plan'' section above for additional 
discussion.
    (7) Comment: Multiple commenters requested the Service to consider 
various updates to the Act, the Act's implementing regulations, and the 
recovery planning process. A peer reviewer specifically indicated that 
the Act has become ``out-of-step'' with principles that have more 
recently emerged from the fields of wildlife management and 
conservation biology.
    Response: While we appreciate input on the efficacy of our program, 
these comments are not relevant to this rulemaking for the brown 
pelican.

Public Comments

    (8) Comment: Concerning the California brown pelican Recovery Plan, 
a mean productivity value of 0.63 seems low. Perhaps better 
clarification should be made regarding the productivity value of 
similar birds and how 0.63 compares.
    Response: Comparisons of productivity between species can be very 
tenuous. A large number of factors affect differences in productivity 
between species and even populations of the same species, including 
relative size of the animals, quality of the habitat, access to 
resources, breeding strategy, and feeding type. Conceptually, in order 
to maintain a population at a stable level, a productivity value of 2.0 
(2 successful fledglings per nest) would be needed in order to keep a 
population level steady, assuming all fledglings survive to breeding 
age and each pair only reproduces once. In other words, this scenario 
would result in one-to-one replacement of adults by the new generation. 
Brown pelicans breed multiple times throughout relatively long 
lifetimes, thus they have multiple chances to replace themselves, 
making numbers near and even below 1.0 acceptable. The key point in our 
assessment is that the California populations have expanded and 
stabilized despite a productivity number below the target set in our 
1983 California Brown Pelican Recovery Plan (Service 1983).
    (9) Comment: The rule should include a discussion of potential 
weather-related issues caused by global warming including hurricane 
frequency and potential impacts to food supply.
    Response: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 
concluded that warming of the climate system is unequivocal (IPCC 
2007a, p. 30). Numerous long-term changes have been observed including 
changes in arctic temperatures and ice, widespread changes in 
precipitation amounts, ocean salinity, wind patterns and aspects of 
extreme weather including droughts, heavy precipitation, heat waves and 
the intensity of tropical cyclones (IPCC 2007b, p. 7). While continued 
change is certain, the magnitude and rate of change is unknown in many 
cases.
    Tropical storms (including hurricanes) have become more intense 
over the period of record (U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) 
2008, p. 5). Multiple studies and analyses have been done concerning 
how tropical storm activity may change in the future. Predicting change 
in frequency and intensity is quite complicated with some factors 
potentially negating or exacerbating each other (e.g., sea surface 
temperature versus vertical wind shear, a measure of the difference in 
wind speed and duration over a vertical distance). There is general 
agreement that, based on current information, the intensity of 
individual storms is likely to increase over time; however, the global 
frequency of tropical storms is believed to stay stable or even 
decrease (CCSP 2008, p. 112). Some authors show an increase in global 
frequency of tropical storms (CCSP 2008, p. 112), but the likely 
magnitude and rate of those

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predicted increases is not known. Aside from the global predictions, 
there is some information that suggests the frequency of intense 
tropical storms in the North Atlantic may increase due to atmospheric 
moisture and increased sea surface temperatures; other studies show 
decreased frequency due to effects of wind shear.
    At this time, the best available information does not allow us to 
predict whether a decrease in brown pelican populations would result 
from or be correlated with a future increase in hurricane activity. If 
this information should change in the future, the post-delisting 
monitoring program will reflect these declines and the situation may be 
reassessed in the future.
    The distribution and abundance of marine fish species is dependent 
on a variety of factors that may be influenced by climate change 
including nutrient availability, ocean currents, and water temperature. 
It has been shown that population levels of anchovies, a main food 
source of pelicans in some areas, decrease in portions of the Pacific 
Ocean in response to the warmer waters found in El Ni[ntilde]o years. 
Thus, it is possible that increased ocean temperatures, which may 
result from climate change, could decrease food supplies for brown 
pelicans. However, other studies show that El Ni[ntilde]o results in 
increased population levels of sardines, another brown pelican prey 
species (Chaves et al. 2003, p. 217). In fact, multiple authors have 
shown that when anchovy abundances are high, sardine abundances are low 
and vice versa (Tourre et al. 2007, p. 4).
    Because the brown pelican is a generalist in terms of prey sources, 
it is able to adapt to available food sources. Additionally, global 
fish populations are likely to be affected by climate change in much 
more complex ways than by simple ocean temperature rise, particularly 
the potential for shifting ocean currents and locations of nutrient 
upwelling. The response of ocean currents to global climate change is 
not well understood at this time due to the complicating factors of 
natural climate variability that occurs on various spatio-temporal 
scales, including the quasi-biennial (2- to 3-year periods), the inter-
annual (3- to 7-year periods), the quasi-decadal (8- to 13-year 
periods), and the inter-decadal (17- to 23-year periods) (Tourre et al. 
2007, p. 1), thus the response of marine fish species and effects to 
brown pelicans is even less predictable. At this time, we are not able 
to predict a decrease in brown pelican population levels in response to 
food availability effects of global climate change.
    (10) Comment: The rule should include an expanded discussion on 
avian flu and other avian diseases.
    Response: Discussion of multiple diseases and potential effects to 
brown pelicans can be found in the ``Disease and Predation'' section 
below. We have updated this section to include a discussion of avian 
influenza, also known as bird flu.
    (11) Comment: Multiple commenters indicated that a variety of 
issues (e.g., avian botulism, domoic acid poisoning, avian disease, oil 
spills, mortality from recreational fisheries, coastal development) 
could be threatening the species throughout some portion of the range 
or are a greater threat to the brown pelican than we have presented in 
our analysis without providing additional information, references, or 
insight to explain their rationale.
    Response: We believe we have used the best available scientific and 
commercial data in developing our five-factor analysis. An important 
point to consider when evaluating the status of a wide-ranging species 
such as the brown pelican is the scope, or the geographic and temporal 
extent, of the threat affecting the species. Some threats adversely 
impact one or more individuals of a species, while a threat to the 
species would be considered a factor that results in a decline in one 
or more population parameters. There are a lot of factors that have 
effects to individuals and local populations; however, these factors 
are not leading to population level impacts and certainly not resulting 
in rangewide adverse impacts.
    (12) Comment: The Puerto Rican, West Indies, eastern Caribbean, and 
Colombian populations of brown pelican should remain listed because 
threats still persist in these areas.
    Response: We acknowledge that a variety of factors continue to 
impact brown pelicans in various portions of the range of the species; 
however, we did not find that these factors are endangering the species 
throughout all or a significant portion of the range of the species now 
or in the foreseeable future. Please see additional discussion in the 
``Significant Portion of the Range'' section below.
    (13) Comment: The brown pelican continues to be threatened by 
pesticides because pesticides not registered for use in the United 
States are readily available for use in areas outside the United 
States.
    Response: It is true that the number and kinds of pesticides 
available and registered for use varies from country to country. 
However, we have no information indicating that pesticide use is 
adversely impacting the brown pelican throughout all or a significant 
portion of the range of the species. In order to find pesticide use to 
be a threat to the brown pelican we would have to have information 
available that shows that pesticides are actually being used and are 
being used in a manner that impacts the species. It would be 
speculative to assert that pesticide use is a threat to the brown 
pelican solely because pesticides are accessible in some areas. In 
addition, we have determined that pesticides known to have affected 
brown pelican populations in the past are no longer a threat to the 
species. Please see the ``Pesticides and Contaminants'' section below.
    (14) Comment: Additional discussion concerning the monitoring and 
enforcement of the Stockholm Convention is needed.
    Response: The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants 
is an international treaty that aims to eliminate the use of persistent 
organic pollutants (e.g., DDT) globally. The Convention went into 
effect on May 17, 2004, and carries the force of international law. 
Monitoring of activities under the Convention is achieved through 
voluntary reporting of production, import, and export activities to the 
Conference of the Parties. Currently, the Parties to the Convention are 
drafting measures for non-compliance with the Convention. The key 
portion of the draft noncompliance measures includes suspension from 
rights of the Convention for parties found to be noncompliant. Of 
particular importance is suspension from support under Articles 13 and 
14 of the Convention, which provide for technical and financial 
assistance to developing country Parties and Parties with economies in 
transition. Further, violation of international laws generally may 
result in economic sanctions or could be brought before the 
International Court of Justice. Finally, pursuant to becoming Parties 
to the Convention, many countries across the range of the brown pelican 
have adopted national measures to reduce or eliminate use of various 
persistent organic pollutants. These measures are enforceable through a 
variety of local and national laws. Please see the ``Pesticides and 
Contaminants'' section below for additional discussion.

Summary of Factors Affecting the Species

    Section 4 of the Act and its implementing regulations (50 CFR part 
424) set forth the procedures for listing

[[Page 59454]]

species, reclassifying species, or removing species from listed status. 
We may determine a species to be an endangered or threatened species 
because of one or more of the five factors described in section 4(a)(1) 
of the Act, and we must consider these same five factors in delisting a 
species. We may delist a species according to 50 CFR 424.11(d) if the 
best available scientific and commercial data indicate that the species 
is neither endangered nor threatened for the following reasons: (1) The 
species is extinct; (2) The species has recovered and is no longer 
endangered or threatened (as is the case with the brown pelican); and/
or (3) The original scientific data used at the time the species was 
classified were in error.
    A recovered species is one that no longer meets the Act's 
definition of threatened or endangered. Determining whether a species 
is recovered requires consideration of the same five categories of 
threats specified in section 4(a)(1) of the Act. For species that are 
already listed as threatened or endangered, this analysis of threats is 
an evaluation of both the threats currently facing the species and the 
threats that are reasonably likely to affect the species in the 
foreseeable future after delisting or downlisting and the removal or 
reduction of the Act's protections.
    A species is ``endangered'' for purposes of the Act if it is in 
danger of extinction throughout all or a ``significant portion of its 
range'' and is ``threatened'' if it is likely to become endangered 
within the foreseeable future throughout all or a ``significant portion 
of its range.'' The word ``range'' in the ``significant portion of its 
range'' (SPR) phrase refers to the range in which the species currently 
exists. The Act does not define the term ``foreseeable future.'' 
However, in a January 16, 2009, memorandum addressed to the Acting 
Director of the Service, the Office of the Solicitor, Department of the 
Interior, concluded, ``* * * as used in the [Act], Congress intended 
the term `foreseeable future' to describe the extent to which the 
Secretary can reasonably rely on predictions about the future in making 
determinations about the future conservation status of the species (M-
37021, January 16, 2009).''
    In considering the foreseeable future as it relates to the status 
of the brown pelican, we considered the factors acting on the species 
and looked to see if reliable predictions about the status of the 
species in response to those factors could be drawn. We considered the 
historical data to identify any relevant existing trends that might 
allow for reliable prediction of the future (in the form of 
extrapolating the trends). We also considered whether we could reliably 
predict any future events that might affect the status of the species, 
recognizing that our ability to make reliable predictions into the 
future is limited by the variable quantity and quality of available 
data.
    For the purposes of this analysis, we will evaluate whether the 
currently listed species, the brown pelican, should be considered 
threatened or endangered. Then we will consider whether there are any 
portions of the brown pelican's range in danger of extinction or likely 
to become endangered within the foreseeable future. The following 
analysis examines all five factors currently affecting, or that are 
likely to affect, the listed brown pelican populations within the 
foreseeable future.

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

Nesting Habitat

    Brown pelicans breed annually from spring to summer above 30 
degrees north latitude, annually from winter to spring between 20 and 
30 degrees north latitude, and irregularly throughout the year on 8.5- 
to 10-month cycles below 20 degrees north latitude (Shields 2002, p. 
12). Brown pelicans usually breed on small, coastal islands free from 
mammalian predators. Brown pelicans use a wide variety of nesting 
substrates. Nests are built on the ground when vegetation is not 
available, but when built in trees, they are about 1.8 meters (m) to 
12.2 m (6 to 40 feet (ft)) above the water's surface (McNease et al. 
1992, p. 252; Jim[eacute]nez 2004, pp. 12-17).
    Along the Pacific Coast of California south to Baja California and 
in the Gulf of California, brown pelicans nest on dry, rocky 
substrates, typically on off-shore islands (Service 1983, pp. 5-6). 
Along the U.S. Gulf Coast, brown pelicans mainly nest on coastal 
islands on the ground or in herbaceous plants or low shrubs (Shields 
2002, p. 13; Wilkenson et al. 1994, pp. 421-423), but will use mangrove 
trees (Avicennia spp.) if available (Lowery 1974, p. 127; Blus et al. 
1979a, p. 130). In some areas of the Caribbean, along the Pacific Coast 
of Mexico, and the Galapagos Islands, mangroves (Avicennia spp., 
Rhizophora spp., Laguncularia spp.) are the most common nesting 
substrate, although other substrates are used as well (Collazo 1985, 
pp. 106-108; Guzman and Schreiber 1987, p. 276; Service 1983, p. 15; 
Shields 2002, p. 13). Various types of tropical forests, such as 
tropical thorn and humid forests, also provide nesting habitat for 
brown pelicans in southern Mexico, South and Central America, and the 
West Indies (Collazo 1985, pp. 106-108; Guzman and Schreiber 1987, p. 
2). Peruvian brown pelicans (found in Peru and Chile) nest only on the 
ground (Shields 2002, p. 13).
    Nesting habitat destruction from coastal development. Within the 
United States, the majority of brown pelican nesting sites are 
protected through land ownership by conservation organizations and 
local, State, and Federal agencies. We are not aware of any losses of 
brown pelican nesting habitat to coastal development within the United 
States. In countries outside of the United States, some coastal and 
mangrove habitat used by brown pelicans has been lost to recreational 
and other coastal developments (Collazo et al. 1998, pp. 63). Mainland 
nesting colonies in Sinaloa and Nayarit, Mexico, have been impacted by 
increasing mariculture (the cultivation of marine life) and agriculture 
through habitat degradation, disturbance, and some removal of mangrove 
habitat (Anderson et al. 2003, pp. 1097-1099; Anderson 2007), although 
the extent of impacts is unknown. Van Halewyn and Norton (1984, p. 215) 
cited cutting and loss of mangrove habitat as a threat for seabirds, 
including brown pelicans, in the Caribbean. Aside from these limited 
accounts, we are not aware of any significant losses of brown pelican 
nesting habitat from coastal development anywhere within its range.
    Some destruction of current and potential brown pelican nesting 
habitat is likely to occur in the future. However, a large number of 
brown pelican nesting sites throughout the species' range are currently 
protected (see discussion below). In some cases, loss of mangrove 
habitat has been specifically cited. However, brown pelicans do not 
nest exclusively in mangroves. They utilize a variety of nesting 
substrates and readily colonize new nesting sites in response to 
changing habitat conditions. For example, Collazo et al. (1998, p. 63) 
documented the loss of one nesting site in Puerto Rico, but stated the 
belief that the pelicans relocated to a new nesting colony nearby (see 
also discussion of colonization of new sites under ``Storm effects, 
weather, and erosion impacts to habitat''). Destruction of nesting 
habitat is likely to affect brown pelicans on a local scale only where 
nesting colonies overlap with coastal or mariculture development. In 
cases where nesting habitat destruction results in the loss of a 
nesting site, it is likely to be limited to a single season of lost 
reproduction because birds will likely disperse to

[[Page 59455]]

other colonies or establish a new colony in a new location. Because 
numerous brown pelican nesting sites are protected, brown pelicans may 
relocate to new nesting sites if any unprotected sites are destroyed, 
and any loss of nesting habitat is likely to result in only limited 
loss of reproduction that will not affect population levels, we do not 
believe that nesting habitat destruction from coastal development 
currently threatens brown pelicans, nor do we believe it will become a 
threat that endangers the brown pelican throughout all of its range in 
the foreseeable future.
    Storm effects, weather, and erosion impacts to habitat. Many 
nesting islands along the U.S. Gulf Coast have been impacted by wave 
action, storm surge erosion, and a lack of sediment deposition (McNease 
and Perry 1998, p. 9), resulting in loss or degradation of nesting 
habitat. Since 1998, nesting habitat east of the Mississippi River in 
Louisiana has undergone continual degradation or loss from tropical 
storms and hurricanes, resulting in a reduced number of successfully 
reared brown pelican young in this area (Hess and Linscombe 2006, p. 
4). In 2003 and 2004, brown pelican nesting and reproduction was 
distributed approximately equally between areas east and west of the 
Mississippi River. After tropical storms in 2004, nesting habitat east 
of the Mississippi River was reduced, resulting in a shift to 95 
percent of nesting and reproduction to west of the Mississippi River. 
In 2005, hurricanes Katrina and Rita resulted in approximately 349 
km\2\ (217 mi\2\) of coastal land loss (Barras 2006, p. 4). This figure 
represents total coastal land loss, including interior marshes. 
Although a figure for barrier island loss would be a more appropriate 
measure of impacts to brown pelicans, we are not aware of any recent, 
comprehensive analysis of barrier island loss. Previous estimates of 
loss did not include the benefits of numerous restoration projects 
discussed below. While Louisiana's brown pelican nesting islands east 
of the Mississippi River were reduced by over 70 percent and what 
remains is vulnerable to overwash from future storm tides, at the time, 
these islands supported only about 5 percent of the total Louisiana 
population of brown pelicans (Hess and Linscombe 2006, pp. 3, 6; Harris 
2006). Louisiana brown pelican nesting islands west of the Mississippi 
River, which accounted for 95 percent of the 2005 brown pelican 
breeding population, were degraded, but still supported the four main 
nesting colonies (Hess and Linscombe 2006, p. 5) (see discussion of 
nesting in Louisiana under ``Distribution and Population Estimate'').
    In some instances, brown pelicans have responded to losses of 
breeding sites by dispersing and using other areas (Hess and Durham 
2002, p. 7). Hess and Linscombe (2001, p. 5) believe that a shift in 
nesting from the Baptiste Collette area to Breton Island in Louisiana 
was the result of high Mississippi River levels and associated muddy 
water, which limited sight feeding. Additionally, two new brown pelican 
nesting colonies were established between 2000 and 2005 on Baptiste 
Collette and Shallow Bayou (Hess and Linscombe 2006, p. 5). Wilkinson 
et al. (1994, p. 425) reported the loss of large brown pelican nesting 
colonies on Deveaux Bank in South Carolina following a hurricane and 
subsequent movement and use of new nesting locations on that island and 
on Bird Key Stono. Hess and Linscombe (2001, p. 4) believe that 
tropical storm and hurricane-induced habitat damage to the Chandeleur 
Islands contributed to the initial dispersal of pelicans to southwest 
Louisiana and the formation of a nesting colony on newly created 
habitat at the Baptiste Collette bar channel.
    While pelicans generally exhibit nest site fidelity, they can also 
demonstrate flexibility and adaptability. In Texas and Louisiana they 
have established breeding colonies on islands artificially created or 
enhanced by material dredged by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 
(Corps) from nearby ship channels (Hess and Linscombe 2001, pp. 5-6; 
Hess and Linscombe 2006, p. 5). For example, Little Pelican Island and 
Alligator Point in Texas are maintained by the disposal of dredged 
material (Yeargan 2007). The Corps in Louisiana beneficially uses 
approximately 8.5 million m\3\ (11.1 million yds\3\) of dredged 
material each year in the surrounding environment (Corps 2004, p. xi). 
For example, dredged material was used to retard erosion and secure 
Queen Bess Island as brown pelican nesting habitat (McNease et al. 
1994, p. 8). It was also used to restore and enhance brown pelican 
habitat on Raccoon Island in 1987 and Last Island in 1992 following 
Hurricane Andrew (McNease and Perry 1998, p. 10; Hess and Linscombe 
2001, p. 5). Use of these islands by pelicans demonstrates both the 
utility of these artificially generated habitats and the pelican's 
ability to find and establish nesting colonies on them.
    While storms in Louisiana and the U.S. Gulf Coast are expected to 
continue in perpetuity, there are numerous projects that are intended 
to protect the coast from this land loss. Coastal habitat protection 
and restoration have been and will continue to be priorities for 
Louisiana, since coastal land loss has much broader negative 
implications to the State economy, oil and gas production, navigation 
security, fisheries and flyways, and strategic petroleum reserves. The 
Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act of 1990 
(CWPPRA), which provides Federal grants to acquire, restore, and 
enhance wetlands of coastal States, is one of the first programs with 
Federal funds dedicated exclusively to the long-term restoration of 
coastal habitat (104 Stat. 4779). As of April 2006, 10 CWPPRA barrier 
island restoration projects in Louisiana have been implemented (costing 
over 75.8 million dollars), with another 9 currently under construction 
or awaiting construction. Several of these directly enhance or protect 
current brown pelican nesting habitat (for example, Raccoon Island), 
while the rest occur on islands that were historically used or could be 
used for nesting in the future (Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Conservation 
and Restoration Task Force 2006, p. 13).
    Two other restoration plans being implemented in coastal Louisiana 
are the Louisiana Coastal Area Ecosystem Restoration Plan (LCA) and 
Louisiana's Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast (State 
Master Plan). The LCA, administered by the Corps of Engineers with 
State cost-share assistance, focuses on the protection of coastal 
wetlands, including barrier island restoration. The State Master Plan 
includes barrier island protection and restoration as a key component. 
In addition, Louisiana's Coastal Impact Assistance Program (CIAP) also 
provides funding for barrier island restoration. The State Master Plan 
serves as Louisiana's overarching document to guide hurricane 
protection and coastal restoration efforts in the State. While none of 
these plans are considered existing regulatory mechanisms for the 
purposes of this delisting rule and they are not designed specifically 
to benefit brown pelicans, they may provide opportunities for us to 
monitor and to minimize the threats to brown pelicans from habitat loss 
and degradation caused by storms in the Louisiana Gulf Coast region 
after the species is delisted. They also demonstrate the level of 
importance State and Federal agencies place on maintaining and 
protecting those areas.
    In other portions of the species' range, storms and weather 
conditions may also remove or degrade vegetation used for

[[Page 59456]]

nesting by brown pelicans. Hurricanes (category 3 or higher) such as 
Hugo and Georges have severely affected red (Rhizophora mangle) and 
black (Avicennia germinans) mangrove habitat in Puerto Rico. Other 
coastal trees such as Bursera simaruba and Pisonia subcordata, which 
are prime nesting trees for pelicans in the U.S. Virgin Islands, have 
also been completely defoliated or torn down by hurricanes (Saliva 
1989). Mangroves and other coastal trees may either be uprooted, 
completely defoliated, or killed (through dislodging of submerged roots 
by strong wave action), and several breeding seasons may pass before 
those areas recover. Similar effects of hurricanes and storms on 
nesting vegetation would be expected in other areas where brown 
pelicans nest in trees (some areas in the Caribbean, portions of the 
Pacific coast of Mexico, and parts of Central and South America). Along 
the U.S. Gulf Coast, mangroves can be killed off by extreme cold 
weather (Blus et al. 1979a, p. 130; McNease et al. 1992, p. 225; 
McNease et al. 1994, p. 6). Coastal black mangroves, decimated by 
freezes since the 1980s, were historically the nesting shrub of choice 
for brown pelicans in Louisiana, but now clumps of vegetation, like 
dense stands of nonwoody plants or low woody shrubs, are used (McNease 
et al. 1992, p. 225; Shields et al. 2002, p. 23).
    While localized losses and degradation of nesting habitat from 
hurricanes, storms, and erosion have been documented (Wilkinson et al. 
1994, p. 425; Hess and Linscombe 2006, p. 4), brown pelicans have 
demonstrated that they are capable of recovering from such losses. For 
example, brown pelican nests producing young in Louisiana have 
generally increased from a low in 1993 of 5,186 to a high of 16,501 in 
2004 (Hess and Linscombe 2006, pp. 5, 13). During this timeframe, 
numerous tropical storms and hurricanes have made landfall on the 
Louisiana coast (Hess and Linscombe 2006, pp. 9-11). As of May 2006, 
less than a year after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Hess and Linscombe 
(2007, p. 4) noted a total of 8,036 nests in 15 colonies. Additionally, 
brown pelicans have shown they are capable of dispersing from nesting 
sites. Examples of this dispersal are the natural expansion and 
population growth observed following the reintroduction program in 
Louisiana (McNease and Perry 1998, p. 1) and more recently with the 
establishment of a new nesting colony at Rabbit Island (Hess and 
Linscombe 2003, p. 5). It is reasonable to expect island erosion will 
continue; however, it is also reasonable to expect State and Federal 
agencies to continue active maintenance and restoration of barrier 
islands through programs such as the CWPPRA and the State Master Plan.
    We lack data on the effects of storms and erosion elsewhere in the 
range of the brown pelican. However, outside of the Gulf of Mexico and 
Caribbean, storms generally are less frequent and less severe. It is 
evident from the information on pelican responses to storms in the Gulf 
of Mexico that they are capable of successfully adapting to the changes 
that storms bring. In addition, brown pelicans are broadly distributed 
along the Gulf of Mexico, nesting at 15 sites in Louisiana in 2006 
(LDWF 2007, pp. 1, 3) and 12 sites in Texas in 2006 (Service 2006, p. 
2). The species' broad distribution and multiple nesting colonies 
reduce the risk that any single storm would affect the entire Gulf 
coast population of brown pelicans. Therefore, we believe that habitat 
modification or destruction of brown pelican nesting habitat by storms 
or coastal erosion will not endanger the brown pelican throughout all 
of its range in the foreseeable future.

Nesting Habitat Protection

    A number of factors may affect the quantity and quality of brown 
pelican nesting habitat from year to year. However, almost all the U.S. 
nesting sites are protected from manmade habitat destruction and human 
disturbance, and a significant number of nesting sites outside the 
United States are also protected. Protections include designations as 
wildlife refuges, biosphere reserves, and national parks, as well as 
land ownership and protection by conservation organizations and local, 
State, and Federal governments. Because these protections are designed 
not only to protect brown pelicans, but other resources as well, such 
as other species of colonial waterbirds, and wetland, coastal, and 
marine habitats, we do not expect these protections to change when the 
brown pelican is delisted.
    Gulf of Mexico Coast. Many of the Texas islands used by brown 
pelicans are leased, managed, and monitored by local chapters of the 
National Audubon Society (Audubon) (Audubon 2007a, p. 1). In Texas, 
Audubon staff assess the conditions of brown pelican islands throughout 
the year (Yeargan 2007) and implement management actions to address 
issues such as erosion and fire ant control. Additionally, there are 
local ``Bird Wardens'' that patrol the islands regularly (Audubon 
2007b, p. 1). The two largest brown pelican nesting colonies in Texas, 
both in Corpus Christi Bay, Texas (Sundown Island, owned by the Port of 
Corpus Christi, and Pelican Island, owned by the Texas General Land 
Office), are part of the Texas Audubon Society's Coastal Sanctuaries 
program (Yeargan 2007; Audubon 2007b, p. 1; Service 2007b, p. 2). 
Audubon also owns North Deer Island, which houses the most productive 
waterbird colony in Galveston Bay and is the largest natural island 
remaining in the bay (Audubon 2007c, p. 1). A third major nesting site, 
Little Pelican Island, Galveston Bay, is owned by the U.S. Army Corps 
of Engineers (Corps) (Yeargan 2007). Audubon, in cooperation with the 
Corps, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and the Service, has placed 
signs around Little Pelican Island advising the public to avoid landing 
on the island during the nesting season (Service 2007b, p. 3).
    Also in Galveston Bay, Evia and Midbay islands, owned by the Port 
of Houston, are important brown pelican nesting islands, and Alligator 
Point in Chocolate Bayou, owned by the Texas General Land Office, also 
supports breeding brown pelicans (Yeargan 2007). Brown pelicans are 
counted annually as part of the Texas Colonial Waterbird Survey 
(Service 2006, p. 1; Erfling 2007). Signs advising the public to avoid 
landing were posted at each island listed above and later lost during 
Hurricane Ike in 2008; however, the signs are to be replaced after the 
hurricane debris is removed (Erfling 2009).
    Louisiana's North Island and Breton Island, two pelican nesting 
islands within the Chandeleur Islands chain, are part of the Service's 
Breton National Wildlife Refuge system (GulfBase 2007, p. 1). Signs are 
posted at the edge of the water indicating that the site is closed to 
human intrusion during the nesting season. In addition, during the 
nesting season, law enforcement personnel patrol the islands during 
periods of high human presence, such as on weekends and holidays 
(Fuller 2007c). One of Louisiana's largest pelican nesting colonies, 
Raccoon Island, in addition to Wine Island, East Island, Trinity 
Island, and Whiskey Island, are part of the Isles Dernieres Barrier 
Islands Refuge owned and managed by the LDWF, which restricts public 
access (Fuller 2007d). Additionally, there are several other small, 
intermittently used nesting colony sites, such as Martin and Brush 
islands, that are privately owned. However, these sites are remote and 
are likely only subject to occasional offshore recreational and 
commercial fishing activity.

[[Page 59457]]

    West Indies. The two nesting sites documented by Collier et al. 
(2003, p. 113) on St. Maarten are protected: Fort Amsterdam as a 
registered and protected historic site, and Pelikan Key as part of a 
marine park. In addition, both sites have been proposed as Important 
Bird Areas (Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds 
2006, pp. 11-12).
    In Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, most breeding colonies 
of brown pelicans are located within Commonwealth or Federal protected 
areas. Cayo Conejo, on the south coast of Vieques Island, Puerto Rico, 
is one of the two most active and largest brown pelican nesting 
colonies in Puerto Rico (Saliva 2003). The U.S. Navy began using the 
eastern portion of Vieques Island for training exercises in the early 
years of World War II, and acquired the eastern and western portions of 
the island between 1941 and 1943 (Schreiber 1999, pp. 8, 13, 18-21). 
Since that time, it has been used in varying intensities for activities 
including amphibious landings, naval gunfire support, and air-to-ground 
training (Service 2001, p. 4). In May 2003, the Navy ceased operations 
on Vieques Island via the Floyd D. Spense Defense Authorization Act of 
2001 and transferred these lands to the Service, which subsequently 
designated it as the Vieques Island National Wildlife Refuge.
    In the U.S. Virgin Islands, brown pelican colonies are fairly 
inaccessible on high cliffs or steep cays (Collazo 1985, pp. 106-108; 
Saliva 1996b); therefore, it is unlikely that human intrusion would be 
a major factor affecting pelican reproduction in those colonies.
    The six nesting sites in Cuba identified by Acosta-Cruz and Mugica-
Vald[eacute]s (2006, pp. 32-33) are within areas identified as wetlands 
of international importance under the Convention on Wetlands of 
International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat. The 
convention itself does not provide specific protections of identified 
wetlands, but does commit the parties to the convention to formulate 
and implement planning for the conservation and management of wetlands 
within their countries. One of the brown pelican sites in Cuba, Refugio 
de Fauna R[iacute]o M[aacute]ximo, is additionally protected as a 
wildlife refuge (Acosta-Cruz and Mugica-Vald[eacute]s 2006, pp. 32-33).
    California and Pacific Coast of Mexico. Pelican nesting colonies in 
California occur within Channel Islands National Park and are protected 
from human disturbance and coastal development. West Anacapa Island, 
where approximately 75 percent of the SCB population nests (Gress et 
al. 2003, p. 15), is designated as a research natural area by Channel 
Islands National Park and closed to the public (NPS 2004, p. 4). To 
protect pelican nesting areas, Santa Barbara Island trails are 
seasonally closed (NPS 2006, p. 1), and Scorpion Rock off Santa Cruz 
Island is permanently closed to the public (NPS 2004, p. 2). In 1980, 
the waters adjacent to the Channel Islands were designated as a 
National Marine Sanctuary (15 CFR 922). This designation implements 
restrictions which include, but are not limited to, (1) no tankers and 
other bulk carriers and barges, or any vessel engaged in the servicing 
of offshore installations within 1.8 kilometers (km) (1.15 miles (mi)); 
(2) no motorized aircraft at altitudes less than 305 m (1,000 ft) over 
the waters within 1.8 km (1.15 mi); and (3) no exploring for, 
developing, or producing oil and gas unless authorized prior to 1981 
(NOAA 2006, Appendix C).
    Additionally, in 2003, the California Department of Fish and Game 
(CDFG) designated the waters adjacent to nesting brown pelican habitat 
on West Anacapa island as a Marine Reserve, increasing protections for 
that colony by prohibiting fishing and other boating activities at 
depths of less than 37 m (120 ft) from January 1 to October 31 of each 
year (California Code of Regulations, Title 14, Sections 27.82, 630, 
and 6321). In 1999, commercial squid fishing boats operating offshore 
of West Anacapa and Santa Barbara islands during the pelican breeding 
season, presumably because the (nonlocal) fishermen were not aware of 
the closure during the breeding season, used bright lights at night to 
attract squid to the surface (Gress 1999, p. 1). Use of lights at night 
was associated with brown pelican nest abandonment, chick mortality, 
and very low productivity (Gress 1999, pp. 1-2). Squid fishing has been 
observed around the Channel Islands in recent years, although it has 
not occurred near the colonies at a noticeable level since 1999 
(Whitworth et al. 2005, p. 19). In 2004, the California Fish and Game 
Commission adopted the requirement of light shields and a limit of 
30,000 watts per boat operating around the Channel Islands (CDFG 
Regulations, Section 149, Title 14, CCR). Although occasional 
disturbances may occur during the breeding season, such as illegal 
boating within the Marine Sanctuary, we believe the protections and 
active enforcement by the National Park Service (NPS) and CDFG have 
ensured that all nesting colonies in California remain relatively 
disturbance free.
    As noted above, Mexico's nesting brown pelicans are monitored 
annually as an indicator species in the Gulf of California (Godinez et 
al. 2004, p. 48). All of the island nesting colonies and many of the 
mainland Mexico nesting colonies are protected from habitat destruction 
or modification by Mexican law because the sites are federally 
protected and designated as either Biosphere Reserve Areas for 
Protection of Flora and Fauna or National Parks (Anderson and Palacios 
2005, p. 16; Carabias-Lilio et al. 2000, p. 3).
    Central America, South America, and Caribbean Coast of Mexico. Isla 
Contoy Reserva Especial de la Biosfera off the coast of Cancun, 
Quintana Roo, Mexico, is Mexico's largest brown pelican nesting colony 
on the Caribbean coast. It is currently protected as a National Park 
within a Biosphere Reserve. Visitation is limited and strictly 
controlled to minimize impacts to the seabirds that nest and roost 
there.
    Guatemala--Eisermann (2006, p. 63) identified 12 sites where brown 
pelicans are present within Guatemala, but did not indicate whether any 
of these are nesting sites. Of these 12 sites, 10 have some level of 
conservation as either Wildlife Refuges, National Parks, Areas of 
Multiple Use, or private protected areas (Eisermann 2006, p. 13).
    Honduras--In Honduras, two of the four identified nesting sites for 
brown pelicans are currently protected: Monumento Natural Marino del 
Archipi[eacute]lago de Cayos Cochinos and Laguna de Los Micos within 
Parque Nacional Blanca Jeannette Kawas (Thorn et al. 2006, pp. 8, 11, 
29). A third nesting area, the cays of Isla Utila, has been proposed 
for protection as Refugio de Vida Silvestre Cayos de Utila and Reserva 
Marina Utila (Thorn et al. 2006, p. 9).
    Nicaragua--Although Zolotoff-Pallais and Lezama (2006, p. 79) do 
not indicate any nesting sites for brown pelicans, they indicate that 
brown pelicans occur at four sites designated as wetlands of 
international importance under the Convention on Wetlands of 
International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat.
    Costa Rica--In Costa Rica, the three major brown pelican nesting 
sites reported by Quesada (2006, p. 34), Isla Guayabo, Isla Negrita, 
and Isla Pararos, are protected as Biological Reserves. A fourth site, 
Isla Verde, identified as a roosting location for brown pelicans, is 
protected as a National Park (Quesada 2006, p. 34).
    Panama--Angehr (2005, pp. 23, 26, 30, 34) identifies four nesting 
sites used

[[Page 59458]]

by brown pelicans in Panama that are on lands with some official 
protective status: (1) Isla Barca Quebrada, within Coiba National Park; 
(2) Iguana Island, within Isla Iguana Wildlife Refuge; (3) a group of 
small islands mostly within the Taboga Wildlife Refuge; and (4) Pearl 
Islands, owned by the Panamanian environmental organization ANCON 
(National Association for the Conservation of Nature). There are many 
more nesting areas in Panama, but they lack protective status.
    Colombia--In Colombia, the seven sites where brown pelican were 
documented to occur by Moreno and Buelvas (2005, pp. 11, 57) are 
included in a system of protected areas or as part of sanctuaries for 
wildlife and plants.
    Venezuela--In Venezuela, Rodner (2006, p. 28) indicates that at 
least 9 of the 25 nesting colonies for brown pelicans are protected as 
either Parques Nacional, Monumentals Natural, or Refugios de Silvestre.
    Ecuador--About 87 percent of the Galapagos Islands are a National 
Park (Exploring Ecuador 2006, p. 1), and commercial and tourist access 
to the Park is regulated by the government of Ecuador to protect 
natural resources (Service 2007a, p. 23). The resident human population 
on the Galapagos Islands has expanded in recent years, as has the 
number of tourists (Charles Darwin Foundation 2006, p. 13). The Charles 
Darwin Foundation, which works in the islands under an agreement with 
the government of Ecuador, has developed a strategic plan to address 
the management of increasing human presence in the islands (Charles 
Darwin Foundation 2006, p. 7). The plan's general objective is to 
``forge a sustainable Galapagos society in which the people who inhabit 
the islands will act as agents of conservation.''
    Peru--Proabonos, an agency in Peru's Ministry of Agriculture, 
protects and manages brown pelican nesting islands (Zavalaga et al. 
2002, p. 9; Proabonos 2006). Additionally, Franke (2006, p. 8) 
indicates brown pelicans occur at four protected sites, although it is 
not clear whether these are nesting sites as well: Santuario Nacional 
Los Manglares de Tumbes, Zona Reservada Los Pantanos de Villa, National 
Reserve Paracas, and Santuario Nacional Lagunas de Mej[iacute]a. 
Estimated increases in the brown pelican population along coastal Peru 
have been attributed to protective measures by the Government of Peru. 
The Ministry of Agriculture's Forest and Wild Fauna Management 
Authority (IRENA) lists the brown pelican as endangered, and provides 
prohibitions against take of the species without a permit (Taura 2006).
    Chile--Simeone and Bernal (2000, p. 450) reported that Isla 
P[aacute]jaro Ni[ntilde]o in Chile has been designated a Nature Reserve 
by the Chilean government for the protection of Humboldt penguins, 
brown pelicans, and other seabirds. The breakwater connecting the 
island to the mainland has controlled access, which has reduced human 
disturbance (Simeone and Bernal 2000, p. 455).
    In summary, efforts to conserve nesting habitat are positively 
affecting nesting brown pelicans, resulting in an overall rangewide 
recovery. Although loss of nesting habitat has occurred on a local 
scale, for instance, in Puerto Rico (Collazo et al. 1998, p. 63) and 
Mexico (Anderson et al. 2003, p. 1099), we have no evidence that 
nesting habitat is limiting pelican populations on a regional or global 
scale. Threats from human disturbance of nesting colonies throughout 
most of the species' range have been abated through protection efforts, 
including federal and state ownership and management, designation of 
National Parks and Biosphere Reserves, signage to deter people from 
entering colonies, and restricted access. While nesting habitat at a 
local scale is lost to storms and erosion, particularly in the Gulf of 
Mexico (McNease and Perry 1998, p. 9), birds have been found to 
disperse to and colonize other natural areas (Hess and Durham 2002, p. 
7) and manmade islands (Hess and Linscombe 2006, pp. 3, 6; Harris 
2006).

Roosting Habitat

    Disturbance-free roosting habitat is essential for brown pelicans 
throughout the year, for drying and maintaining plumage, resting, 
sleeping, and conserving energy (Jaques and Anderson 1987, pp. 4-5). 
Roosts also act as information centers for social facilitation. 
Essential characteristics of roost sites include: Proximity to food 
resources; physical barriers to minimize predation and disturbance; 
sufficient size for individuals to interact normally; and protection 
from adverse environmental conditions, such as wind and surf (Jaques 
and Anderson 1987, p. 5). Communal roosts occur on offshore rocks and 
islands; on beaches at mouths of estuaries; and on breakwaters, 
pilings, jetties, sandbars, and mangrove islets (Jaques and Anderson 
1987, pp. 14, 19; Shields 2002, p. 7). Brown pelicans have two types of 
roosts, day and night roosts. Night roosts need to be larger and less 
accessible to predators and human disturbance than day roosts (Jaques 
and Anderson 1987, p. 27; Jaques and Strong 2003, p. 1). Along the 
Pacific Coast, brown pelicans use roost sites that are different from 
nest sites (Jaques and Anderson 1987, pp. 14, 19; Briggs et al. 1981, 
pp. 7-8). In other areas, brown pelicans generally use their nesting 
grounds as roosting grounds year round (Saliva 2003; Hess and Durham 
2002, p. 1; Hess and Linscombe 2001, p. 1; King et al. 1985, p. 204). 
Because brown pelicans also use nesting sites as roosting sites and 
most of these nesting areas are already protected, as described above, 
we believe roosting habitat is also generally adequately protected. 
However, we have identified southern California as one area where 
roosting habitat may be limited. We discuss the adequacy of protections 
of southern California roosting habitat and its effects on the species 
below.
    While not known to be a concern in other portions of the brown 
pelican's range, natural roost habitat is limited along the southern 
California coast due to a lack of rocky substrate, as well as coastal 
development and wetland filling (Jaques and Strong 2003, p. 1). Most 
roosts in southern California occur on jetties and breakwaters under 
jurisdiction of the Corps, although private structures such as barges 
and oil platforms also provide significant roost habitat (Strong and 
Jaques 2003, p. 20). Night roost habitat is further limited to large 
areas where disturbance is minimal, which may be causing pelicans to 
expend unnecessary energy to fly between daytime roosting/foraging 
areas along the mainland and distant night roosts in the Channel 
Islands (Jaques et al. 1996, p. 46; Jaques and Strong 2003, p. 12).
    In California, all rocks, islands, pinnacles, and exposed reefs 
above mean high tide within 22.2 km (13.8 mi) of shore are included 
within the California Coastal National Monument, managed by the U.S. 
Bureau of Land Management (U.S. Bureau of Land Management 2005, pp. 1-
3). Management includes monitoring and protecting geologic formations 
and the habitat they provide for seabirds and other wildlife (U.S. 
Bureau of Land Management 2005, pp. 1-3). Many pelican roost sites are 
on protected rocks and islands within the California Coastal National 
Monument.
    The central California coast supports an important temporal 
component of pelican roosting habitat, supporting 69 to 75 percent of 
pelicans in California in the fall (Strong and Jaques 2003, p. 28). The 
Farallon Islands National Wildlife Refuge and Monterey Bay National 
Marine Sanctuary in central California protect and support roosting 
habitat (15 CFR 922; Thayer and Sydeman 2004, p. 2; Service 2007c, p. 
1). CDFG designated the waters around the Farallon Islands

[[Page 59459]]

as a State Marine Conservation Area, and the islands are part of the 
Gulf of the Farallons National Marine Sanctuary (CDFG 2007, p. 7; 15 
CFR 922). The Marine Sanctuaries prohibit aircraft from flying below 
305 m (1,000 ft) within their boundaries, and limit allowable uses to 
research, educational, and recreational activities. In general, 
commercial and recreational uses of marine resources are prohibited, 
but certain commercial and recreational harvests of marine resources 
may be permitted (CDFG 2007, pp. 4-5; 15 CFR 922).
    Vandenberg Air Force Base (AFB), in southern California, consulted 
under section 7 of the Act with the Service regarding the effects of 
low-flying test flights, and agreed to avoid flying directly over 
roosting pelicans occurring on their mainland base (Service 2003a, p. 
1). We have consulted with Vandenberg AFB multiple times regarding the 
impacts of missile launches on roosting pelicans and have determined 
that impacts are limited to a short-term startle effect (Service 1998, 
1999, 2003a). A maximum of 30 missile launches per year at Vandenberg 
AFB are estimated (Vanderberg AFB 2008, p. 14). Therefore, potential 
impacts from missile launches are minimal because they are temporary in 
nature and will likely only occur a few times per month.
    The Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge, inland from San 
Diego, is also used for roosting during the post-breeding season, and 
supports and protects up to 5,000 pelicans in the summer within its 
boundaries (Service 2007d, pp. 1-2). However, roosting habitat is 
expected to decrease after the year 2018 as a result of reductions of 
Colorado River water reaching the Salton Sea (Service 2002, p. 52), 
which could decrease the availability of forage fishes to pelicans and 
reduce the suitability of roosting habitat in this area (Service 2002, 
pp. 18, 51). The Bureau of Reclamation will compensate for this loss by 
creating new roosting habitat along the southern California coast 
(Service 2002, p. 52).
    An atlas of pelican roost sites along portions of the central and 
northern California coasts was completed that will allow management 
agencies to evaluate the overall status of roosting habitat and help 
prioritize roost sites for protection. A similar atlas for the southern 
California coast was completed in January of 2009 (Service 2009a). In 
addition, the following restoration plans include projects that will 
benefit brown pelicans, regardless of the brown pelican listing status: 
American Trader Restoration Plan, Command Oil Spill Restoration Plan, 
Torch/Platform Irene Restoration Plan, Kure/Humboldt Bay Oil Spill 
Restoration Plan (KRP), Stuyvesant/Humboldt Coast Oil Spill Restoration 
Plan (SRP), and Montrose Settlement Restoration Plan (MSRP). The 
purpose of these plans is to restore natural resources, including 
seabirds, that were injured as a result of oil spills and hazardous 
substance releases along the California coast. One component of all 
these plans is to reduce human disturbance at roost sites in northern, 
central, and southern California through education, monitoring, and 
enforcement (American Trader Trustee Council 2001, p. 16; Command Oil 
Spill Trustee Council 2004, p. 60; Torch/Platform Irene Trustee Council 
2006, p. 33; CDFG and Service 2008, p. 40; CDFG and Service 2007, p. 
26; MSRP 2005, p. D6-1). The American Trader Trustee Council also 
funded a pilot program in 2004 to create new night roosting habitat in 
the form of a floating platform in the San Diego Bay National Wildlife 
Refuge salt ponds. While pelican use has been limited, the American 
Trader Trustee Council is exploring ways to enhance and improve the 
platform. The MSRP also includes roost site creation and/or enhancement 
as suitable restoration projects for the brown pelican (MSRP 2005, p. 
D6-1).
    While some roosting habitat in the United States may still be 
susceptible to human disturbance, much of the brown pelican roosting 
habitat occurs within protected areas. There are ongoing efforts to 
identify and prioritize important roost sites, reduce disturbances at 
these sites, enhance existing roosts, and create new roost habitat. 
Southern California is the only area we are aware of with potentially 
limited roost sites. We have no information to indicate that roosting 
habitat may be limiting elsewhere in the species' range. Nevertheless, 
the limited number of existing roost sites has had no known impacts to 
the species and the population appears to be stable or increasing. 
Therefore, we do not believe that roost site disturbance will adversely 
affect the brown pelican throughout all of its range in the foreseeable 
future.

Prey Abundance

    Brown pelicans feed on surface-schooling fish such as menhaden 
(Brevoortia spp.), mullet (Mugil spp.), sardines (Sardinops sagax), and 
anchovies (Engraulis spp.), which they catch by plunge-diving in 
coastal waters (Palmer 1962, p. 279; Blus et al. 1979b, p. 175; Gress 
et al. 1990, p. 2; Schreiber et al. 1975, p. 649; Schreiber 1980, p. 
744; Kushlan and Frohring 1985, p. 92). The availability of high 
quality forage in the offshore area within 30 to 50 km (18 to 30 mi) of 
a colony during the breeding season is critical to pelicans for feeding 
young (Anderson et al. 1982, p. 28). Additionally, reproductive success 
is dependent on abundance and availability of prey within foraging 
distance of the colony (Anderson et al. 1982, pp. 23, 30; Everett and 
Anderson 1991, p. 133). Therefore, commercial harvests of pelican prey 
species have the potential to affect brown pelican population dynamics.
    Commercial fishing. The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and 
Management Act of 1976 (16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.) requires management 
plans for commercial fish species to ensure optimum yield with 
guaranteed perpetuation of that resource and minimal impact to the 
ecosystem of which it is a part. Each coastal region of the United 
States is a member of one of eight Fishery Management Councils, each of 
which implements the local fishery management plan (16 U.S.C. 1801 et 
seq.).
    The Pacific Fishery Management Council prepared the Anchovy Fishery 
Management Plan. Amendment 8 to the Anchovy Fishery Management Plan, 
adopted December 15, 1999 (64 FR 69888), changed the name of the 
Anchovy Fishery Management Plan to the Coastal Pelagic Species Fishery 
Management Plan (CPSFMP) and added Pacific sardine (Sardinops sagax), 
Pacific mackerel (Scomber japonicus), jack mackerel (Trachurus 
symmetricus), and market squid (Loligo opalescens) to the fishery 
management unit (CPSFMP 1998, p. 1-1). Amendment 8 divided these 
species into the categories of actively managed and monitored. Harvest 
guidelines for actively managed species, Pacific sardine and Pacific 
mackerel, are based on formulas applied to current biomass estimates 
and designed to ensure that adequate forage is available for seabirds, 
marine mammals, and other fish. There are no harvest guidelines for the 
monitored species (northern anchovy, jack mackerel, and market squid) 
because they are not currently intensively fished, although harvest and 
abundance data will be monitored (CPSFMP 1998, pp. 4-5). The northern 
anchovy fishery essentially ceased in 1983 due to a depressed market. 
The depressed market for northern anchovy is thought to be a long-term 
or possibly permanent condition, although this fishery continues today 
at a minimal level (CDFG 2001, pp. 303-305). A comprehensive assessment 
of the northern anchovy fishery will be conducted if the annual harvest 
approaches 25,000 metric tons (mt) (25,097 tons); however, the annual

[[Page 59460]]

harvest as of 1999 was estimated to be only about 7,000 mt (6,889 tons) 
of an estimated biomass of 388,000 mt (381,872 tons) (Service 1999, pp. 
1-2).
    On June 10, 1999, the Service determined that Amendment 8 to the 
Anchovy Fishery Management Plan will not adversely affect brown 
pelicans in California because it would not decrease the availability 
of fish to pelicans (Service 1999, p. 1). The CPSFMP (1998, pp. 2-5) 
will continue to ensure that adequate forage is available to pelicans 
if economic conditions change and northern anchovies become more 
intensively fished. The CPSFMP will also ensure that other forage 
fishes used by pelicans, such as Pacific sardines and Pacific mackerel, 
are also managed to preserve adequate forage reserves (CPSFMP 1998, pp. 
2-5). Implementation of the CPSFMP is not dependent on the brown 
pelican's status as an endangered species, and should not be affected 
by this delisting rule.
    The central subpopulation of the northern anchovy extends south of 
the U.S. border along the west coast of Baja California, Mexico. 
However, there is no bilateral agreement between the United States and 
Mexico regarding the management of this subpopulation, and the Mexican 
fishery is managed independently and not restricted by a quota (CDFG 
2001, p. 304). The Coronados Islands pelican population may have 
suffered reduced breeding success during the late 1970s as a result of 
intensive commercial anchovy harvests in Mexico (Anderson and Gress 
1982, p. 130). Declines in the anchovy population in the early 1980s 
may have been caused by intensive harvesting in Mexico that far 
exceeded the California fishery (Service 1983, p. 57). Similar to the 
U.S. fishery, anchovy harvests in Mexico have decreased sharply over 
time, from an average 86,363 mt (85,000 tons) per year from 1962 to 
1989, to an average of 3.65 mt (3.6 tons) from 1990 to 1999 (CDFG 2001, 
p. 303). However, if economic conditions change and anchovies become 
more intensively harvested in Mexico, availability of anchovies for 
pelicans could be reduced.
    While no brown pelican prey species appear to be currently 
regulated by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council or the 
Caribbean Fishery Management Council (Web sites accessed: http://www.gulfcouncil.org/, and http://www.caribbeanfmc.com/) in the United 
States, regulations under authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery 
Conservation and Management Act are sufficient to protect prey 
abundance for brown pelicans, including brown pelican food species 
currently being commercially fished and any that may be in the future. 
Therefore, we do not believe that commercial fishing will endanger the 
brown pelican or its prey throughout the United States, Mexico, and 
Caribbean portion of its range in the foreseeable future.
    We do not have information from other countries on commercial 
fishery impacts to brown pelican prey abundance. However, we have no 
evidence to suggest that commercial fishing is limiting brown pelican 
populations. Populations of brown pelicans in Central and South America 
are generally large with stable or increasing trends, indicating that 
food resources are not limiting.
    El Ni[ntilde]o and Freeze Events. A mixture of subarctic and 
tropical waters, upwelling events, and varying depths of the Pacific 
Ocean result in seasonal, inter-annual (between year), and long-term 
variability in fish availability for brown pelicans (Dailey et al. 
1993, pp. 11-13). El Ni[ntilde]o events that occur periodically in the 
Pacific Ocean are characterized by warm, nutrient-poor water and 
reduced productivity (Dailey et al. 1993, p. 11; Leck 1973, p. 357; 
Duffy 1983b, p. 687), thus reducing brown pelican reproductive success 
and causing mortality in pelican chicks (Hayward 2000, p. 111). 
Pelicans have the flexibility to respond to changes in food supplies 
through variable reproductive rates, although a long-term decline in 
food abundance could have serious impacts on the pelican population 
(Anderson et al. 1982, p. 30). An incidental effect of El Ni[ntilde]o 
is movement of brown pelicans into developed areas, presumably in 
search of food, exposing them to collision hazards with structures and 
vehicles (Leck 1973, p. 357). During the 1997 El Ni[ntilde]o event, an 
increase was reported in the local pelican population from 200 to 4,000 
birds within a few weeks within the city of Arica, Chile (CNN 1997, p. 
1). El Ni[ntilde]o events are generally limited to a single breeding 
season, and are not likely to result in long-term population declines 
(Dailey et al. 1993, p. 11).
    McNease et al. (1994, p. 10) found that severe freezes limited 
feeding due to surface ice formation. Fish mortality related to freezes 
also negatively impacts the pelican's food supply on a short-term basis 
(McNease et al. 1994, p. 10). However, these events are typically 
localized and restricted to a single season in duration.
    El Ni[ntilde]os and severe freezes may impact brown pelicans on a 
short-term, localized basis, but they do not pose a rangewide threat to 
the continued existence of the species. The pelican is a long-lived 
species that has evolved with natural phenomena such as variation in 
food resources, winter storms, and hurricanes, such that sporadic 
breeding failures have little effect on long-term population stability 
(Shields 2002, p. 23). These factors are only significant when 
population sizes are small and reproduction is limited (as was the case 
in the late 1960s due to impaired breeding success caused by organo-
chlorine residues). Because current population sizes and distribution 
are large and reproduction has been restored to a level that can 
compensate for normal environmental fluctuations, we do not believe 
these natural events threaten the species throughout all of its range 
in the foreseeable future.

Other Habitat Protections

    U.S. laws that provide protections to brown pelican habitat are the 
Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act (16 U.S.C. 661 et seq.), which 
requires equal consideration and coordination of wildlife conservation 
with other water resource developments, and the Estuary Protection Act 
(16 U.S.C. 1221 et seq.), which requires Federal agencies to assess 
impacts of commercial and industrial developments on estuaries. Section 
10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act (33 U.S.C. 401 et seq.) regulates the 
building of any wharfs, piers, jetties, and other structures and the 
excavation or fill within navigable water. Sections 402 and 404 of the 
Federal Water Pollution Control Act (33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.), as 
amended by the Clean Water Act (91 Stat. 1566) and the Water Quality 
Improvement Act (101 Stat. 7), provide for the development of 
comprehensive programs for water pollution control and efficient and 
coordinated action to minimize damage from oil discharges.
    Additional environmental laws that help protect pelican habitat and 
food sources include: Emergency Wetlands Resources Act of 1986 (16 
U.S.C. 3901 et seq.), which authorizes the purchase of wetlands from 
Land & Water Conservation Fund monies; North American Wetlands 
Conservation Act of 1989 (16 U.S.C. 4401 et seq.) which provides 
funding for wetland conservation programs in Canada, Mexico, and the 
United States; Anadromous Fish Conservation Act of 1965 (16 U.S.C. 757a 
et seq.), which provides funds for conservation, development, and 
enhancement of anadromous fish (marine fish that breed in fresh water) 
through cooperation with States and other non-Federal interests; 
Coastal Barrier Resources Act (16 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.), as amended by 
the Coastal Barrier Improvement Act of 1990, which

[[Page 59461]]

encourages conservation of hurricane-prone, biologically rich coastal 
barrier islands by restricting Federal expenditures that encourage 
development of coastal barrier islands, such as providing National 
Flood Insurance; Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972 (16 U.S.C. 1451 et 
seq.), which provides fiscal incentives for the protection, 
restoration, or enhancement of existing coastal wetlands or creating 
new coastal wetlands and assessing the cumulative effects of coastal 
development on coastal wetlands and fishery resources; Shore Protection 
Act of 1988 (33 U.S.C. 2601 et seq.); Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act 
of 1954, as amended in 1978 and 1985 (43 U.S.C. 1301 et seq.); National 
Ocean Pollution Planning Act of 1978 (33 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.); Oil 
Pollution Act of 1990 (33 U.S.C. 2701 et seq.); Act to Prevent 
Pollution From Ships of 1980 (33 U.S.C. 1901 et seq.); Marine Pollution 
and Research and Control Act of 1989; Ocean Dumping Ban Act of 1988 (33 
U.S.C. 1401 et seq.); Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act 
of 1988 (Pub. L. 100-688); and Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and 
Rodenticide Act of 1996 (7 U.S.C. 136 et seq.). These laws and 
regulations, taken collectively, help ensure the conservation of brown 
pelicans and their habitat.

Climate Change

    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that 
warming of the climate system is unequivocal (IPCC 2007a, p. 30). 
Numerous long-term changes have been observed including changes in 
arctic temperatures and ice, widespread changes in precipitation 
amounts, ocean salinity, wind patterns and aspects of extreme weather 
including droughts, heavy precipitation, heat waves and the intensity 
of tropical cyclones (IPCC 2007b, p. 7). Species that are dependent on 
specialized habitat types, limited in distribution, or occurring 
already at the extreme periphery of their range will be most 
susceptible to the impacts of climate change. Such species would 
currently be found at high elevations, extreme northern/southern 
latitudes, or dependent on delicate ecological interactions, or 
sensitive to nonnative competitors. The brown pelican does not meet the 
profile of a species most susceptible to climate change. It is a wide-
ranging species and is relatively general in its habitat selection as 
it is able to breed in a variety of coastal habitat types and feed on a 
variety of prey items. It is likely that the range of the species may 
shift and population centers may redistribute, but effects of climate 
change would not be expected to result in significant rangewide 
declines in the foreseeable future, based on information currently 
available.
    In summary, conservation efforts are continuing to positively 
affect brown pelicans, resulting in an overall rangewide recovery. 
Although loss of nesting habitat has occurred on a local scale, for 
instance in Puerto Rico (Collazo et al. 1998, p. 63) and Mexico 
(Anderson et al. 2003, p. 1099), we have no evidence that nesting 
habitat loss is limiting pelican populations on a regional or global 
scale. While localized nesting habitat is lost to storms and erosion, 
particularly in the Gulf of Mexico (McNease and Perry 1998, p. 9), 
birds have been found to colonize in other natural areas (Hess and 
Durham 2002, p. 7) and on manmade islands (Hess and Linscombe 2006, pp. 
3, 6; Harris 2006). The only area where we have determined roost sites 
to be limited is in southern California, but this has not had any known 
impacts to the population. Much of the U.S. brown pelican roosting 
habitat is within protected areas. We have no evidence to suggest that 
commercial fishing in the United States and elsewhere is limiting brown 
pelican populations by reducing the species' fish prey base and 
regulatory mechanisms are in place within the United States to manage 
fisheries to ensure adequate prey base for sea birds and other species. 
El Ni[ntilde]os and severe freezes may impact brown pelicans on a 
short-term, localized basis, but these events do not pose a significant 
threat to the species. Although some local factors continue to affect 
brown pelicans, these factors are not of sufficient magnitude to affect 
any brown pelican populations. Therefore, we believe that the present 
or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of the brown 
pelican's habitat or range is not a significant factor affecting the 
brown pelican throughout all of its range, both now and for the 
foreseeable future.

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

    We are not aware of any overutilization for commercial, 
recreational, scientific, or educational uses of brown pelicans, 
although within the United States, Canada, and Mexico, the brown 
pelican is protected from any such threats. In 1936, the Protection of 
Migratory Birds and Game Mammals Treaty was signed by the United 
States, Canada, Japan, Russia, and Mexico (50 Stat. 1311; TS 912), 
which adopted a system for the protection of certain migratory birds, 
including the brown pelican, in the United States and Mexico. This 
Treaty provides for protection from shooting and egg collection by 
establishment of closed seasons and refuge zones. Implementation of the 
treaty in the United States was accomplished by amending the Migratory 
Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) (16 U.S.C. 703 et seq.). The MBTA and its 
implementing regulations (50 CFR parts 20 and 21) prohibit take, 
possession, import, export, transport, selling, purchase, barter, or 
offering for sale, purchase, or barter, any migratory bird, their eggs, 
parts, and nests, except as authorized under a valid permit, and 
require that such use not adversely affect populations (50 CFR 21.11). 
The MBTA and its implementing regulations will adequately protect 
against overutilization of pelicans within the United States, Canada, 
and Mexico (see discussion of the MBTA in ``Effects of this Rule'' 
section below). Another Federal law that will continue to offer some 
form of protection for the brown pelican is the Lacey Act (16 U.S.C. 
3371-3378), which helps the United States and other foreign countries 
enforce their wildlife conservation laws by prohibiting trade in 
wildlife, fish, and plants that have been illegally taken, possessed, 
transported, or sold in violation of other federal, state, and foreign 
laws protecting wildlife.
    We do not have any information to indicate that overutilization for 
commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational uses is occurring 
now or will occur in the future. Therefore, we do not believe 
overutilization is a significant factor affecting the brown pelican 
throughout all of its range, both now and in the foreseeable future.

C. Disease or Predation

    Several diseases have been identified as causing illness and 
mortality of brown pelicans. The diatom Pseudo-nitzchia australis (an 
algae) occasionally blooms in large numbers off the California coast 
and produces the toxin domoic acid that occasionally causes mortalities 
in pelicans (USGS 2002a, p. 5). Erysipelas, caused by the bacterium 
Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae, caused mortality of about 350 pelicans 
off the coast of California during the winter of 1987-1988 (Shields 
2002, p. 32). This outbreak was thought to have been caused by 
unusually warm waters combined with a large number of pelicans in that 
area. Avian botulism, caused by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, 
has caused illness and mortality of pelicans at the Sonny Bono Salton 
Sea National Wildlife Refuge (USGS 2002b, p. 6). None of these disease 
outbreaks have had known long-term impacts on the population, and

[[Page 59462]]

because occurrences are few and self-limiting, we do not believe 
impacts from these diseases will become a threat to brown pelicans 
throughout all of their range in the foreseeable future.
    West Nile virus is listed on the Center for Disease Control's West 
Nile Virus Web page (http://www.cdc.gov/westnile) as causing the 
mortality of white pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos), the only other 
species of pelican native to North America. However, according to this 
same Web site and the USGS, no brown pelican deaths due to West Nile 
virus have been reported, although antibodies for the virus have been 
found in captive brown pelicans (USGS 2003a, p. 6). We do not believe 
impacts from West Nile virus will become a threat to brown pelicans 
throughout all of their range in the foreseeable future, since there is 
no evidence to date that it negatively impacts pelicans. The post-
delisting monitoring plan will be designed to detect declines in brown 
pelican populations that might arise from a variety of threats, 
including West Nile virus. There is an extensive network of Federal and 
State wildlife agencies and other cooperators that monitor colonial 
nesting waterbird species, including the brown pelican (see ``Post-
Delisting Monitoring Plan'' section below).
    Similar to West Nile virus, avian influenza, also known as bird 
flu, is not currently impacting brown pelicans, but may be a threat in 
the future. The term avian influenza refers to multiple strains of the 
influenza virus carried by birds. Just as with the variety of strains 
of human influenza virus, the avian influenza viral strains differ in 
strength, transmission rates, and effects. Strains of avian influenza 
known as low pathanogenic avian influenza (LPAI) are commonly carried 
in the intestines of wild birds and generally do not result in sick or 
dead birds (CDC 2006, p. 1). However, if domesticated birds come into 
contact with a LPAI, the viral strain can mutate to a highly 
pathanogenic avian influenza (HPAI), which can result in significant 
illness and death (USGS 2006, p. 2). The mutated HPAI strain can be 
secondarily transmitted back to wild birds in addition to a variety of 
other species, including humans. Currently, the HPAI strain of avian 
influenza is not known to occur in the range of the brown pelican (USGS 
2009). It is possible that the HPAI strain could be carried into the 
range of the brown pelican through human travel, importation of tainted 
materials, and migratory birds coming in from affected areas (USGS 
2005, p. 2). At this time, avian influenza is not impacting brown 
pelicans and it is not known how populations would respond to exposure. 
Multiple government and international agencies are monitoring the 
progress of the disease (see, for example, USDA's BioSecurity for Birds 
at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/birdbiosecurity). These 
avian influenza specific monitoring programs, in addition to our own 
post-delisting monitoring plan, are designed to detect declines in 
brown pelicans and other bird populations that might arise from threats 
such as avian influenza in the future.
    Ticks have been implicated as the cause of nest abandonment on both 
a Texas and Peruvian island (King et al. 1977b, p. 1; Duffy 1983a, p. 
112). However, these events were localized and apparently have had no 
long-term impact on population levels in these areas. Mites and liver 
flukes have also been reported in brown pelicans (50 FR 4942; February 
4, 1985), but have not been noted to cause significant health 
impairment in healthy birds. We have no evidence that mites, liver 
flukes, or other parasites are limiting brown pelican populations now 
or are likely to in the future. Therefore, we do not believe impacts 
from parasites will become a threat to brown pelicans throughout all of 
their range in the foreseeable future.
    Brown pelicans require nesting areas in close proximity to food 
supplies and free from mammalian predators and human disturbance 
(Anderson and Keith 1980, p. 65). There is no known significant impact 
from mammalian predation on brown pelicans, particularly since they 
generally nest at sites free of mammals that could depredate eggs or 
young. Mammalian predators introduced to seabird nesting islands, such 
as domestic cats (Felis catus) and rats (Rattus spp.), can have serious 
impacts on small and medium-sized seabirds, but they appear to have 
little impact on pelicans (Anderson et al. 1989, p. 102). However, in 
some areas we anticipate that the brown pelican will benefit from feral 
cat removal programs. The Montrose Trustee Council is planning to 
remove the feral cats from San Nicolas Island, a known brown pelican 
roosting location off the southern California coast, starting in 2009 
(Service 2009b).
    There are numerous reported avian predators of chicks and eggs: 
magnificent frigatebirds (Fregata magnificens), gulls (Larus spp.), 
red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis), peregrine falcons (Falco 
peregrinus), American kestrels (Falco sparverius), short-eared owls 
(Asio flammeus), cattle egrets (Bulbulcus ibis), night herons 
(Nycticorax spp.), American oystercatchers (Haematopus palliatus), 
crows (Corvus spp.), and mockingbirds (Mimus gilvus) (Schreiber 1979, 
p. 40; Saliva and Burger 1989, p. 695; Jiminez 2004, pp. 16-17). Avian 
predators occasionally destroy unguarded pelican nests, and 
disturbances to nesting colonies may flush pelicans from nests, 
increasing the risk of predation on eggs and young (Schreiber and 
Riseborough 1972, p. 126). However, if brown pelicans are undisturbed, 
at least one member of the breeding pair usually remains close to the 
nest to protect the eggs and vulnerable nestlings (Duffy 1983a, p. 113; 
Schreiber and Riseborough 1972, p. 126; Shields 2002, p. 12). In the 
absence of other human disturbances, egg and nest predation by mammals 
and other birds does not appear to impose a significant limitation on 
brown pelican reproduction. Most nesting islands are protected from 
human disturbance as discussed above. Therefore, we do not believe 
impacts from mammalian or avian predation will become a threat to brown 
pelicans throughout all of their range within the foreseeable future.
    Disease and predation generally affect only small numbers of 
individuals. In addition, many disease events are usually limited in 
area and may only affect brown pelicans for a short period of time 
(e.g., for a single breeding season). Because brown pelicans are long 
lived, sporadic breeding failures that may be caused by parasites, 
disease, or predation, especially on a local scale, have little effect 
on long-term population stability (Shields 2002, p. 23). Because 
current populations and distribution are large and reproduction has 
been restored to a level that can compensate for normal environmental 
fluctuations, we do not believe that disease, parasites, and predation 
are a significant factor affecting brown pelicans throughout the 
species' range, both now and in the foreseeable future.

D. The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

    As discussed in each of the factors, many regulatory mechanisms 
will remain in place after delisting that ensure future threats will be 
reduced or minimized. We believe these protections, taken together, 
provide adequate regulatory mechanisms to prevent the brown pelican 
from becoming endangered throughout all of its range in the foreseeable 
future.

[[Page 59463]]

E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence

Natural Factors

    This discussion addresses direct mortality of brown pelicans. See 
Factor A for impacts to habitat from natural weather events such as 
storms and El Ni[ntilde]o. Weather events and El Ni[ntilde]o events may 
affect habitat and prey abundance as discussed above, but also may 
result directly in death or injury of individual brown pelicans. 
Boersma (1978, p. 1482) reported El Ni[ntilde]o-season starvation of 
nestling brown pelicans in the Galapagos Islands. The 1982-83, 1986-87, 
and 1991-1994 El Ni[ntilde]o events may have reduced the number of 
nesting brown pelicans in those years at Cayo Conejo, Puerto Rico 
(Schreiber 1999, p. 12). In extreme cases adult mortality has resulted 
from El Ni[ntilde]o events (Shields 2002, p. 32), such as the 
especially severe El Ni[ntilde]o (Southern Oscillation) of 1983 (Duffy 
1986, p. 591). Mortality was not noted during the less severe event of 
1978 (Boersma 1978, p. 1482). Shields (2002, p. 23, and reference cited 
within) states that food shortages as a result of El Ni[ntilde]o and 
other climatic and oceanographic events may result in abandonment of 
nests and starvation of nestlings, but rarely results in adult 
mortality except in extreme events. Because brown pelicans are long 
lived, such sporadic and short-term breeding failures have little 
impact on long-term population viability.
    Storms accompanied by severe tidal flooding can have a significant 
negative effect on brown pelican productivity (McNease et al. 1994, p. 
10). While some adults may be killed during storm events, most impacts 
result in juvenile mortality and reduced fledgling production 
(Wilkinson et al. 1994, p. 425; Hess and Linscombe 2006, p. 4). 
Additionally, eggs and nestlings may be lost due to flooding (Hess and 
Linscombe 2006, p. 23) and nests built in trees are easily dislodged 
and destroyed during strong winds or major storms (Jiminez 2004, pp. 
12-17; Saliva 1989). While McNease et al.'s (1994, p. 10) observations 
indicated a female that has produced eggs or nestlings will not nest 
again in the same season, Hess and Linscombe (2006, pp. 3, 7, 23) found 
pelicans rebuilding new nests on top of flooded and damaged nests.
    In addition to freezes in Louisiana limiting brown pelican foraging 
and resulting in fish mortality, as discussed above under Factor A, 
McNease et al. (1994, p. 10) found effects from severe freezes included 
high initial brown pelican mortality from hypothermia, prolonged 
exposure to low temperatures, and death while plunge-diving into ice-
covered water. However, severe freeze events in Louisiana are 
infrequent (McNease et al. 1994, p. 10) and have not precluded the 
Louisiana population from growing to large numbers since the restocking 
program began in the 1960s.
    Winter storms and severe freezes may locally impact pelicans. For 
example, larger than usual numbers of pelicans began washing up on 
beaches in California during the winter of 2008-2009. This die-off of 
300 to 400 birds appears to have occurred as a result of a winter storm 
event in the Pacific Northwest and weather-related stress in the 
northernmost portion of the winter range of the species where pelicans 
had remained late in the year due to relatively mild weather 
(California Department of Fish and Game 2009, pp. 7-8).
    These natural factors may adversely affect brown pelicans on a 
short-term, localized basis, but do not pose a rangewide threat to the 
continued existence of the species. These factors generally affect only 
a limited number of individuals, affect only a localized area, or 
affect reproductive success for a single season. The pelican is a long-
lived species that has evolved with natural phenomena such as variation 
in food resources, winter storms, and hurricanes. These factors are 
only significant when population sizes are small and reproduction is 
limited. Because current populations and distribution are large and 
reproduction has been restored to a level that can compensate for 
normal environmental fluctuations, we do not believe that natural 
events will endanger the species throughout all of its range in the 
foreseeable future.

Manmade Factors

    Human disturbance of nesting pelicans. Adverse effects on nesting 
pelicans from human disturbance by recreationists, scientists, 
educational groups, and fishermen have been well documented (Anderson 
1988, p. 342; Anderson and Keith 1980, pp. 68-69). Disturbance at 
nesting colonies, such as walking among or near nests, has been shown 
to adversely affect reproductive success of pelicans, and even result 
in abandonment of nests or entire colonies (Anderson and Keith 1980, p. 
69).
    Collier et al. (2003, pp. 112-113) offer human disturbance as the 
cause of a suspension of breeding activity in a brown pelican colony on 
St. Martin in the Lesser Antilles. The colony was near a resort with 
heavy boat and jet ski use. When a jet ski passed within about 400 m 
(1,312 ft) of a colony, 40 pelicans flushed, leaving their nests 
unattended and unprotected from predators, but none flushed when a 
slow-moving dive boat approached within 10 m (33 ft) of the colony.
    In Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, most breeding colonies 
of brown pelicans are located within Commonwealth or Federal protected 
areas. The adverse effects of human disturbances by recreational 
vessels and fishermen have been suggested as potentially resulting in 
abandonment of pelican nests located at low elevations and close to the 
water (Jim[eacute]nez 2004, pp. 12-17). Pelicans have been seen 
flushing from nests when boats approached within 152.4 m (500 ft), and 
have been noted to leave their nests unattended for as long as humans 
remained within this proximity (Saliva 1996a; Saliva 2003). Raffaele et 
al. (1998, pp. 224-225) summarized historical records of pelicans 
nesting in Puerto Rico and noted their extirpation from at least three 
colonies and suggests boat traffic as the cause. Schreiber (1999, p. 
20) noted that one of these extirpated colonies may have moved to a 
nearby bay, hidden from boaters.
    Along Mexico's Pacific Coast, human disturbance at colonies has 
resulted in nest abandonment, predation of eggs and chicks, and total 
abandonment or relocation of individual colonies (Anderson and Keith 
1980, p. 69). Fishermen, birders, photographers, educational groups, 
and egg collectors (in past years) have occasionally disturbed the 
pelican colonies at critical times during the breeding season (Gress et 
al. 2005, p. 7). However, nesting brown pelicans are monitored annually 
as an indicator species in the Gulf of California (Godinez et al. 2004, 
p. 48), and although annual numbers fluctuate widely due to a number of 
factors, including disturbances at some colonies, the populations are 
considered stable (Everett and Anderson 1991, p. 133; Anderson and 
Palacios 2005, p. 2).
    Although the threat of human disturbance has declined in Mexico as 
a result of conservation efforts and increased protection (Luckenbach 
Trustee Council 2006, p. 82), enforcement remains limited (Anderson et 
al. 2003, pp. 1103-1104) and many colonies are still susceptible to 
disturbances (Godinez 2006). However, effects from disturbance have not 
been substantial enough to result in documented population declines in 
the last 20 years (Anderson et al. 2004, p. 37). Therefore, while these 
local impacts are still occurring, we do not believe they currently 
threaten brown pelicans or will become a threat that endangers the 
brown pelican throughout all of its range in the foreseeable future.

[[Page 59464]]

    Future conservation actions in Mexico that are not a factor in our 
rule to delist the brown pelican, but that would benefit brown pelicans 
and reduce human disturbance if implemented, are the restoration of 
seabird colonies on five pelican nesting islands along the Pacific 
Coast of Baja California as part of the Luckenbach Restoration Plan and 
the Montrose Settlements Restoration Program (MSRP) (Luckenbach Trustee 
Council 2006, pp. 74-82, 100, 106; MSRP 2005, pp. D5-11-12). Proposed 
restoration activities include reducing sources of disturbance at 
colonies by redesigning paths and walkways to manage human traffic, 
shielding light sources, and performing public outreach and education 
(Luckenbach Trustee Council 2006, pp. 20, 77).
    While human disturbance can cause brown pelicans to flush from 
their nests, there are also situations where the birds have become 
habituated to nearby intense uses (for example, aircraft activity) 
without obvious effects on breeding efforts (Schreiber et al. 1981, p. 
398). We believe the current protections provided by regulatory 
mechanisms other than the Endangered Species Act for nest sites in the 
United States and to prevent human disturbances to U.S. nesting 
colonies will adequately continue to protect brown pelicans throughout 
their range within the United States. Additionally, while human 
disturbance to brown pelican nesting colonies is still occurring 
outside of the United States, most of the countries in the species' 
range are protecting, and are expected to continue to protect, brown 
pelicans through implementation of restoration plans, designated 
biosphere reserves and parks, and land ownership and protection by 
conservation organizations and local, State, and Federal governments 
(see above for discussion of nesting habitat protections). These 
protections are implemented through various mechanisms that do not rely 
on the U.S. Endangered Species Act and therefore are expected to 
continue if the brown pelican is delisted. The current levels of human 
disturbance are not sufficient to cause population declines of brown 
pelicans, because brown pelicans may become habituated to some level of 
disturbance, may shift nesting locations (as indicated above in 
discussion of loss of nesting habitat), or may only experience a 
temporary loss of reproduction, such as for a single breeding season. 
While human disturbance of brown pelican colonies is continuing, we do 
not believe the level of disturbance is currently sufficient to result 
in population declines of brown pelicans throughout all of the species' 
range in the foreseeable future.
    Pesticides and Contaminants. During initial recovery planning for 
brown pelicans, it was recognized that organochlorine pesticides were 
the major threat to the brown pelican in the United States and these 
pesticides acted by direct toxicity (affecting all age classes) and by 
impairing reproduction (reducing recruitment into the population) 
(Hickey and Anderson 1968, p. 272; Risebrough et al. 1971, pp. 8-9; 
Blus et al. 1979b, p. 183). Impairment of reproduction was attributed 
to a physiological response to the presence of high levels of the 
organochlorine dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDE) (Hickey and 
Anderson 1968, p. 272). DDE is the principal metabolite of DDT, a 
synthetic organochlorine compound that was widely used as a commercial 
and agricultural pesticide from the 1950s through the early 1970s 
(Risebrough 1986, p. 401; 37 FR 13369; July 7, 1972). Brown pelicans 
gradually accumulated these toxins by eating contaminated prey (Hickey 
and Anderson 1968, p. 271). DDE interferes with calcium deposition 
during eggshell formation, resulting in the production of thin-shelled 
eggs that are easily crushed during incubation (Gress 1995, p. 10). DDE 
also causes the death of embryos in the egg, and the death or aberrant 
behavior of recently hatched young (Blus 1982, p. 26). The primary 
reason for severe declines in the brown pelican population in the 
United States was DDT contamination in the 1960s and early 1970s.
    In California, ocean sediments off the coast of Los Angeles were 
heavily contaminated with DDT residues from a DDT manufacturing 
facility that discharged waste into the sewage system, which entered 
the marine environment through a submarine outfall (Gress 1995, p. 10). 
This input ceased in 1970, after which DDT and DDE residues in the 
marine environment decreased sharply, and pelican reproductive success 
improved as eggshell thickness increased (Gress 1995, p. 10; Gress and 
Lewis 1988, p. 13). Reproductive declines are thought to occur when 
pelican eggshells average 15 to 20 percent thinner than normal (Gress 
1994, p. 7). Mean eggshell thickness from 1986 to 1990 was only 4.6 
percent thinner than the pre-1947 mean, a level which may contribute to 
lowered fledging rates in some birds, but is no longer causing 
population-wide reproductive impairment in brown pelicans (Gress 1995, 
p. 92).
    DDE was also found to be detrimental to the reproductive success of 
brown pelicans in both Texas and Louisiana (King et al. 1977a, p. 423) 
and was the direct cause of brown pelican deaths in Louisiana (Holm et 
al. 2003, p. 431). Since banning of the use of DDT, levels of DDE 
residues have declined. The level of DDE residues in eggs collected in 
Texas from 1975 to 1981 was about one half the level found in eggs 
collected in 1970 (King et al. 1985, p. 205; King et al. 1977a, p. 
423).
    In 1997, Mexico introduced a plan to strictly curtail and then 
phase out use of DDT by 2007 (Environmental Health Perspectives 1997, 
p. 1). Mexico used DDT for control of malaria until 1999 (Salazar-
Garc[iacute]a et al. 2004, p. 542), and then eliminated its use by 
2000, several years ahead of schedule (Gonzalez 2005, p. 1). Recent 
contaminants studies in the Gulf of California, Mexico, indicate that 
this area remains one of the least contaminated with persistent organic 
pollutants in western North America (Anderson and Palacios 2005, p. 8).
    Eggs were collected during the periods 1980 to 1982 and 1992 to 
1993 in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (Collazo et al. 1998, 
pp. 62-63). Concentrations of DDE and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) 
were significantly higher in the Puerto Rico eggs than the U.S. Virgin 
Island eggs collected in the 1980s. However, Collazo et al. (1998, p. 
64) state that brown pelican reproduction has not been affected by 
contaminants in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands at least since 
the 1980s. Additionally, contaminant concentrations in the eggs 
collected in the 1990s were significantly lower than those collected in 
the 1980s (USGS 2002b, p. 5).
    The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned the use of DDT in 
the United States in 1972 (37 FR 13369), and Canada's National Office 
of Pollution Prevention banned its use in 1985 (Canada Gazette 2005, p. 
1). The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (http://chm.pops.int/) eliminated or reduced the use of 12 persistent organic 
pollutants, including DDT, in all participating countries in 2001. All 
countries within the breeding range of the brown pelican are 
participants. In addition to the United States and Canada, Cuba and 
Costa Rica have banned its use; Belize, Columbia, Mexico, and Venezuela 
have restricted its use; and eight countries limited access in other 
ways (http://www.pesticideinfo.org). Although low-level DDE 
contamination will probably persist for many years in areas where DDT 
was used, the impact to pelican

[[Page 59465]]

populations is now believed to be negligible and is expected to 
continue to lessen over time. Because regulatory mechanisms are in 
place to ban or strictly limit use of DDT, and current levels of DDE 
contamination are no longer causing population-wide reproductive 
impairment in brown pelicans, DDT or DDE will not endanger the brown 
pelican throughout all of its range within the foreseeable future.
    A number of other organochlorine pesticides have also been 
documented to have affected brown pelicans in some portions of their 
range. The organochlorine pesticide endrin is the probable cause of the 
brown pelican's rapid decline and subsequent disappearance in Louisiana 
(King et al. 1977a, p. 427). Endrin was first used in the Mississippi 
River Basin in 1952. In 1958, dead fish were reported near sugarcane 
fields where endrin was used, and die-offs of fish and other wildlife 
began to consistently occur when heavy rains produced runoffs from 
those fields (King et al. 1977a, p. 427). King et al. (1977a, p. 427) 
reported an estimated six million menhaden found dead between 1960 and 
1963. Extensive fish kills persisted in the lower Mississippi River and 
other streams in sugarcane growing parishes of Louisiana through 1964 
(King et al. 1977a, p. 427). It was concluded that endrin from both 
agricultural and industrial sources was responsible for the fish kills 
(King et al. 1977a, p. 427). Fish-eating ducks, such as mergansers, 
were also reported floating dead in streams and bayous (King et al. 
1977a, p. 427).
    According to Winn (1975, p. 127), the adverse impact of endrin on 
brown pelicans was demonstrated when more than 300 of the 465 birds 
introduced to Louisiana since 1968 died during April and May 1975. 
Brain tissue from five dead pelicans was analyzed. Chemists at 
Louisiana State University identified seven pesticides in the brain 
tissue, all chlorinated hydrocarbons widely used in agriculture. Most 
of the birds analyzed contained what experts regard as potentially 
lethal levels of endrin. In addition to endrin, residues of six other 
organochlorine pesticides (DDE, dieldrin, toxaphene, benzene 
hexachloride, hexachloro-benzene (HCB), and heptachlor epoxide) were 
found (Winn 1975, p. 127). This significant die-off demonstrated the 
vulnerability of brown pelicans to endrin and emphasized the possible 
role of pesticides in the brown pelican's decline in the eastern United 
States. Endrin is also one of the pesticides targeted for elimination 
by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (http://chm.pops.int/). Although it is not currently banned in the United 
States, it is not registered for use in the United States or Canada and 
is banned in Belize, Colombia, Cuba, and Peru (http://www.pesticideinfo.org).
    Dieldrin (another organochlorine pesticide) was also detected at 
levels considered detrimental to reproductive success for brown 
pelicans in the eastern portion of the United States (Blus et al. 1974, 
p. 186; Blus et al. 1975, p. 653; Blus et al. 1979a, p. 132). There is 
only slight evidence that dieldrin thins eggshells, whereas there is 
strong evidence indicating that it adversely affects egg hatching, 
post-hatching survival, and behavior of young birds (Dahlgren and 
Linder 1974, pp. 329-330; Blus 1982, p. 27). The agricultural use of 
dieldrin in the United States ceased in 1970 and it was discontinued as 
a termite control in 1987 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 
2005, p. 340). From 1975 through 1978, dieldrin residues collected from 
brown pelican eggs in Texas were found at levels that do not pose a 
threat to reproductive success and survival (King et al. 1985, p. 206).
    Other organochlorine insecticides, including chlordane-related 
compounds, HCB, and toxaphene, were rarely detected in brown pelican 
eggs collected in Texas from 1975 to 1978 (King et al. 1985, p. 206). 
PCBs are chemicals that were used as coolants and lubricants in 
transformers, capacitors, and other electrical equipment. Due to 
concern over the toxicity and persistence of PCBs, they were banned in 
the United States in 1978 (43 FR 33918) under authority of the Toxic 
Substance Control Act of 1976 (15 U.S.C. 2601 et seq.). Concentrations 
of PCBs in brown pelican eggs collected in Texas declined more than 
eight-fold between 1970 and 1981 (King et al. 1985, p. 206), and are 
now at levels not believed to be detrimental.
    Claims have been made that organochlorine pesticides are still used 
in South and Central America (NatureServe 2007, p. 2). However, we are 
not aware of any reports of pesticides affecting reproduction outside 
of the United States. Nearly every nation within the range of the brown 
pelican has signed the 2001 Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic 
Pollutants (Resource Futures International 2001, p. 11). Signatories to 
the Convention agree to eliminate the production and use of DDT, 
endrin, dieldrin, chlordane, HCB, toxaphene, and PCBs, as well as other 
persistent organic pollutants, with an exemption for use of DDT for 
disease vector (an organism that transmits disease, such as mosquitoes) 
control in accordance with World Health Organization recommendations 
and guidelines and when alternatives are not available. Parties 
exercising this exemption are to periodically report their use 
(Resource Futures International 2001, p. 12). These reports are listed 
on the Convention's Web site: http://chm.pops.int/. The evidence we 
have found indicates that reproduction in brown pelicans is no longer 
affected by the use of persistent organochlorine pesticides. Regulatory 
mechanisms are currently in place to eliminate or severely restrict 
their use such that they do not threaten the brown pelican throughout 
all of its range within the foreseeable future.
    While effects from other environmental contaminants were not 
thoroughly known in the 1970s and 1980s, there were indications that 
some localized contaminant-related problems still existed for the brown 
pelican. National Wildlife Health Laboratory records of brown pelican 
mortality from 1976 to 1983 documented 10 die-off incidents totaling 
over 212 birds along the U.S. Atlantic Coast (Service 2007a, p. 29). 
More recently National Wildlife Health Laboratory records from July 
1995 through June 2003 documented 13 incidents of brown pelican 
mortality for the continental United States east of the Rocky 
Mountains. None of these records cite problems with heavy metals, and 
pesticides were implicated in just one of these cases (USGS 2003b). Two 
pelicans from Florida had moderate brain acetlycholinesterase activity 
depression, an indicator of poisoning from either organophosphorus or 
carbamate pesticides. While these currently applied, short-lived, non-
organochlorine pesticides may cause occasional mortality of individual 
pelicans, they do not accumulate within the body, nor do they persist 
in the environment; therefore, they are unlikely to result in 
widespread reproductive failure like that caused by the use of 
organochlorine pesticides.
    In the United States, an important regulatory mechanism benefitting 
brown pelicans is the requirement that pesticides be registered with 
the EPA. Under the authority of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and 
Rodenticide Act, the EPA requires environmental testing of the effects 
of all new pesticides on representative wildlife species prior to EPA 
granting a pesticide registration. The EPA evaluates pesticides before 
they can be marketed and used in the United States to ensure that they 
will not pose unreasonable adverse effects to human health and the 
environment. Pesticides that meet this test are granted a license or

[[Page 59466]]

``registration,'' which permits their distribution, sales, and use 
according to requirements set by EPA to protect human health and the 
environment. The requirement for evaluation of pesticides during the 
registration process would not be altered if the pelican was delisted 
and protection of the Endangered Species Act were not available.
    Efforts to ban and restrict use of persistent organic pollutants 
have reduced the contaminants that are most likely to cause widespread 
reproductive failures, and thus endangerment of the species. Other 
contaminants continue to be detected in some brown pelican populations, 
but these are generally short-lived pesticides or contaminants and 
effects have only been noted to occur on a local scale and affect few 
individuals and therefore are unlikely to have long-term effects on 
brown pelican reproduction or numbers. Regulatory mechanisms within the 
United States to evaluate and register pesticides, as well as the 
international convention restricting use of persistent organic 
pollutants, ensure that contaminant-caused mortality and widespread 
reproductive failures are unlikely to occur in the future. Therefore, 
we do not believe pesticides and contaminants are a significant factor 
affecting the brown pelican throughout all of its range, both now and 
for the foreseeable future.
    Commercial fishing. Commercial fishing can have a direct effect on 
pelicans through physical injury caused by trawling gear. In 1998, a 
number of live and dead brown pelicans washed up on the beach at 
Matagorda Island, Texas (Sanchez 2007). Many had obvious wing damage. 
This incident coincided with the opening of the summer shrimp season. A 
similar incident in 1999 also coincided with the summer shrimp season 
(Sanchez 2007). It is possible that the young, inexperienced birds were 
colliding with the shrimp net lines while attempting to feed on the 
bycatch (unwanted marine creatures that are caught in the nets while 
fishing for another species), resulting in incidental death. Commercial 
fishing may adversely affect individual brown pelicans on a short-term, 
localized basis, but we do not believe it poses a rangewide threat to 
the continued existence of the species. Therefore, we do not believe 
this impact will become a significant factor affecting the brown 
pelican throughout all of its range in the foreseeable future.
    Recreational fishing. Recreational fishing can have a direct effect 
on pelicans through physical injury caused by fishing tackle. Pelicans 
are occasionally hooked by people fishing from piers or boats (Service 
1983, p. 62). Superficially embedded hooks can often be removed without 
damage; however, a small tear in the mouth pouch can hinder feeding and 
cause death from starvation (Service 1983, p. 63). Mortality is likely 
if a hook is swallowed or if there is substantial injury during hook 
removal (Service 1983, p. 63). Pelicans can become ensnared in 
monofilament fishing line which can result in serious injury, 
infections from cuts, impaired movement and flight, inability to feed, 
and death (Service 1983, p. 63).
    Pelican Harbor Seabird Station, Inc., a Florida wildlife 
rehabilitator, reported that of the 200 pelicans handled in 1982, 
roughly 71 percent had fishing-related injuries. Of these, 12 (8.5 
percent) died or were permanently crippled; the remainder were 
rehabilitated. Fishing-related injuries comprised about 35 percent of 
all observed mortality (February 4, 1985; 50 FR 4943). Another seabird 
rehabilitation group reported treating some 450 brown pelicans for fish 
line or hook injuries over a 4-year period (February 4, 1985; 50 FR 
4943). However, this number of individuals affected is small in 
comparison to global population numbers and is therefore unlikely to 
affect long-term population stability.
    Mortality from recreational fishing is thought to be insignificant 
to overall population dynamics, although it has been a significant 
cause of injury/mortality to newly fledged pelicans near colonies in 
California in the past (Service 1983, p. 62). Live anchovies used for 
bait and chumming (cut or ground bait dumped into the water to attract 
fish to the area where one is fishing) attract young pelicans, and they 
often swallow baited hooks that they encounter, which become embedded 
in bills or pouches (Service 1983, p. 63). In California, the closure 
to vessels at depths of less than 37 m (120 ft) offshore of West 
Anacapa Island has provided physical separation between fishing boats 
and the nesting colony, which has greatly reduced the likelihood of 
these interactions (Gress 2006). Several educational pamphlets have 
been developed and distributed by National Oceanic and Atmospheric 
Administration-Fisheries, in conjunction with the Service, NPS, and 
CDFG, to inform recreational fishermen in California about the impacts 
of hook and line injuries to pelicans and other seabirds and give step-
by-step instructions for removing hooks and fishing lines from 
entangled birds.
    While injuries and deaths from recreational fishing do occur, we 
believe they are accidental and localized, that they affect only few 
individuals, and are not likely to pose a significant factor affecting 
the brown pelican throughout all of its range, both now and in the 
foreseeable future.
    Offshore oil and gas development. Oil spills and chronic oil 
pollution from oil tankers and other vessels, offshore oil platforms, 
and natural oil seeps continue to represent a potential source of 
injury and mortality to pelicans (Carter 2003, p. 3). The effects of 
oil on pelicans persist beyond immediate physiological injuries. 
Survival and future reproductive success of oiled pelicans that are 
rehabilitated and released are lower than for non-oiled pelicans 
(Anderson et al. 1996, p. 715). Injury and mortality of large numbers 
of pelicans would likely result if a significant oil spill occurred 
near a nesting colony during the breeding season or near traditional 
roost sites.
    Oil spills from oil tankers and other vessels are far more common 
than spills from oil platforms (Carter 2003, p. 3). Since 1984, twelve 
major oil spill-related seabird mortality events occurred along the 
coast of California, all of which may have adversely affected breeding, 
roosting, or migrating pelicans (Hampton et al. 2003, p. 30). Only one 
of these events was from an offshore oil platform; the rest were from 
tankers, oil barges, or non-tanker vessels (Hampton et al. 2003, p. 
30). As an example, on February 7, 1990, the oil tanker vessel American 
Trader ran aground at Huntington Beach, California, and spilled 1.6 
million liters (416,598 gallons) of Alaskan crude oil (American Trader 
Trustee Council 2001, p. 1). An estimated 195 pelicans died as a result 
of the spill, and 725 to 1,000 oiled pelicans were observed roosting in 
the Long Beach Breakwater after the spill (American Trader Trustee 
Council 2001, p. 10). The spill occurred just before the start of the 
breeding season as the birds gathered at traditional roosts before 
moving to breeding islands, making large numbers of birds vulnerable to 
the oil (American Trader Trustee Council 2001, p. 10).
    Along the United States coastline, National Marine Sanctuary 
regulations prohibit vessels, including oil tankers, from operating 
within 1.85 km (1.15 mi) of any of the Channel or Farallon islands or 
in the Monterey Bay or Olympic Coast sanctuaries (15 CFR 922). In the 
event of a major oil spill, this is probably an insufficient distance 
from the pelican nesting colonies to prevent impacts. Vessels 
frequently pass through the SCB in established shipping lanes that are 
within 5 km (3 mi) of Anacapa Island to the north and within 50 km (31 
mi) to the south (Carter et al. 2000, p. 436). A traffic separation

[[Page 59467]]

scheme north of Anacapa Island in the Santa Barbara Channel separates 
opposing flows of vessel traffic. The shipping lanes and traffic 
separation scheme in the SCB reduces the likelihood of spills because 
it reduces the probability of vessel-to-vessel and vessel-to platform 
collisions. Shipping traffic is increasing offshore of California, and 
this may result in increased oil spills and pollution events (McCrary 
et al. 2003, p. 48). There is also a shipping lane that passes within 
25 km (16 mi) of Los Coronados Islands in Mexico (Carter et al. 2000, 
p. 436). However, because impacts of tanker spills are localized and 
occur infrequently, we expect that brown pelicans will be affected only 
within localized areas in the event of spills and that individual birds 
will only be affected infrequently. Therefore, we do not believe this 
impact is a significant factor affecting the brown pelican throughout 
all of its range, both now and in the foreseeable future.
    There are 27 offshore oil platforms and 6 artificial oil and gas 
islands off the coast of southern and central California (McCrary et 
al. 2003, p. 43). There are no platforms within the Channel Islands 
National Marine Sanctuary (McCrary et al. 2003, p. 44), and oil and gas 
exploration and development are prohibited within this Sanctuary, 
excluding a few oil and gas leases that existed prior to its 
designation. Oil and gas exploration and development are prohibited in 
the other three National Marine Sanctuaries, Olympic Coast 
(Washington), Gulf of the Farallones (California), and Monterey Bay 
(California) (15 CFR 922), with the exception of a few leases that 
existed prior to each sanctuary's creation, although new petroleum 
operations are unlikely to occur on these leases (McCrary et al. 2003, 
p. 45). The sanctuaries essentially provide a minor buffer from oil 
platform accidents, allowing time for breakup of oil discharges, and 
time to respond before the oil reaches the shore. The last major spill 
from any of the oil platforms or associated pipelines was a well 
blowout in 1969 that released 80,000 barrels in the Santa Barbara 
Channel. The Minerals Management Service (MMS) estimates the risk of a 
spill of 1,000 barrels or more over the next 28 years at 41 percent 
(McCrary et al. 2003, p. 45). However, the likelihood that a spill 
would affect brown pelicans would depend on the location, timing, and 
local conditions associated with the spill. Past spills from oil 
platforms have not limited brown pelican recovery in California.
    In the Gulf of Mexico, the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) is 
categorized into planning areas. The Central Planning Area includes 
Louisiana and Mississippi, and the Western Planning Area includes Texas 
(Ji et al. 2002, p. 19). Based on sheer volume of oil transported to 
those facilities, coastal birds and their habitats in these areas are 
at greatest risk from spills originating in coastal waters. An MMS Oil 
Spill Risk Analysis (OSRA) predicted that in these Planning Areas large 
oil spills associated with OCS activities are low-probability events 
(Service 2003b, p. 7). The OSRA estimated only a 4 to 8 percent 
probability that an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico greater than 1,000 
barrels of oil would occur and contact brown pelican habitat in the 
Central Planning Area, and a similar spill scenario has only a 4 to 7 
percent probability of reaching the Western Planning Area (Ji et al. 
2002, pp. 56, 59). Estimates derived from the OSRA model are 
``conservative'' in that they presume the persistence of the entire 
volume of spilled oil over the entire duration time and do not include 
cleanup activities or natural weathering of the spill (Ji et al. 2002, 
pp. 12-13).
    Beginning in the 1980s, MMS established comprehensive pollution 
prevention requirements that include redundant safety systems, along 
with inspecting and testing requirements to confirm that those devices 
are working properly (Service 2003b, p. 7). There was an 89 percent 
decline in the volume of oil spilled per billion barrels produced from 
OCS operations between 1980 and the present, compared to the total 
volume spilled prior to 1980. Additionally, this spill reduction volume 
occurred during a period when OCS oil production has been increasing 
(Service 2003b, p. 7). Spills less than 1,000 barrels are not expected 
to persist as a slick on the water surface beyond a few days (Service 
2003b, p. 8). Because spills in the OCS would occur at least 3 miles 
from shore, it is unlikely that any spills would make landfall prior to 
breaking up (Service 2003b, p. 8).
    There are a number of regulatory mechanisms within the United 
States that address oil and gas operations. MMS is also responsible for 
inspection and monitoring of OCS oil and gas operations (McCrary et al. 
2003, p. 46). All owners and operators of oil handling, storage, or 
transportation facilities located seaward of the coastline must submit 
an Oil Spill Response Plan to the MMS for approval (30 CFR 254). 
Several Federal and State laws were instituted in the 1970s to reduce 
oil pollution (Carter 2003, p. 2). In 1990, State and Federal oil 
pollution acts were passed, and agencies developed programs to gather 
data on seabird mortality from oil spills, improve seabird 
rehabilitation programs, and develop restoration projects for seabirds 
(Carter 2003, p. 2). There have also been improvements in oil spill 
response time, containment, and cleanup equipment (McCrary et al. 2003, 
p. 46). In the absence of swift and effective action by the responsible 
party for a spill, the U.S. Coast Guard will initiate action pursuant 
to the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 to control and clean up a spill 
offshore under regional area contingency plans, which have been 
developed for this scenario (40 CFR 300 Subpart B). These measures have 
not entirely eliminated the potential for oil spills, but have reduced 
the likelihood of spills, thereby reducing pelican deaths and 
alleviating the magnitude of the impacts on pelicans and other seabirds 
if a spill were to occur (Carter 2003, p. 3).
    If an oil spill or other hazardous materials release does occur in 
the United States, the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) 
process is in place to identify the extent of natural resource injuries 
(including injuries to wildlife), the best methods for restoring those 
resources, and the type and amount of restoration required. The 
Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act 
of 1980, as amended (42 U.S.C. 9601 et seq.), the Oil Pollution Act of 
1990 (33 U.S.C. 2701), and the Federal Water Pollution Control Act or 
Clean Water Act, as amended (33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.) form the legal 
foundation for the NRDA Restoration Program and provide trustees with 
the legal authority to carry out Restoration Program responsibilities. 
Trustees for natural resources include the Departments of Agriculture, 
Commerce, Energy, and the Interior, and other agencies authorized to 
manage or protect natural resources (EPA 2007a, EPA 2007b, Department 
of the Interior 2007). Therefore, if an oil spill occurs and brown 
pelicans are negatively affected, injuries to brown pelican populations 
or their habitat may be restored through this process. For example, in 
California, negative effects to brown pelicans have been mitigated 
through the implementation of restoration measures in the American 
Trader Restoration Plan, the Command Oil Spill Restoration Plan, the 
Torch/Platform Irene Restoration Plan, and the Montrose Settlement 
Restoration Plan.
    Oil spills from oilfields, pipelines, or ships have impacted brown 
pelicans in some other countries. For example,

[[Page 59468]]

oiling related to an oilfield in Mexico (King et al. 1985, p. 208; 
Anderson et al. 1996, p. 211) and from a ship in the Galapagos Islands, 
Ecuador (Lougheed et al. 2002, p. 5) affected brown pelicans. Although 
117 brown pelicans were reported as affected by the 2001 spill in the 
Galapagos Islands from the fuel tanker Jessica, no mortalities of 
pelicans were reported (Lougheed et al. 2002, p. 29). From these 
accounts, brown pelicans frequently survive these incidences, 
especially when receiving some rescue cleanup. Oil spills have been 
identified as a possibility in oil-producing areas of Venezuela, with 
concern for effects on marine productivity and the food supply of brown 
pelicans, as well as for direct oiling of birds (Service 2007a, p. 39). 
While spills outside of the United States are still a possibility, they 
would be localized and thus would not become a threat that would 
endanger the brown pelican throughout all of its range in the 
foreseeable future. In addition, there are a number of international 
conventions and their amendments, including the International 
Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage, International 
Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness Response and Co-operation, 
International Convention Relating to Intervention on the High Seas in 
Cases of Oil Pollution Casualties, and the International Convention on 
the Establishment of an International Fund of Compensation for Oil 
Pollution Damage. The majority of countries within the range of brown 
pelicans are parties to one of more of these international agreements 
(http://sedac.ciesin.org/entri/treatyMultStatus.jsp), which would 
assist with prevention, as well as response and restoration activities 
in the event of oil spills outside the United States.
    Other much less common effects of offshore oil and gas development 
have occasionally been documented. There have been several instances in 
Louisiana of unusual and infrequent mortalities, generally involving 
juvenile brown pelicans, associated with the design and construction of 
inshore and offshore oil platforms (Fuller 2007a, p. 1). Brown pelicans 
have been observed strangling in inshore rig railings and drowning in 
uncovered casements (large pipes used in the drilling process that may 
fill with water). The number of brown pelican mortalities in these 
incidences was low. However, through consultation with the Service, 
MMS, and the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, those features 
were modified to virtually eliminate the problem (Fuller 2007a, p. 1). 
Because brown pelicans are also protected by the MBTA, these 
modifications to prevent mortalities are expected to remain in place 
after the protections of the Act are removed.
    Oil spills and oil pollution continue to have potential impacts on 
brown pelicans, but spill prevention, response, and restoration 
activities have become more organized and effective, and the breeding 
range is large enough that a single spill, even a major one, would 
likely only affect a small fraction of the population. Additionally, 
the death of pelicans from design flaws on platforms is rare and being 
remedied. Therefore, we believe that oil and gas activities, while they 
may occasionally have short-term impacts to local populations, will not 
become threats that endanger the brown pelican throughout all of its 
range in the foreseeable future.
    Miscellaneous. Within the United States, brown pelican mortalities 
have been documented from electrocution on power lines and drowning in 
water intake pipes. In both cases, through consultation with the 
Service, those features were modified to virtually eliminate the 
problem (Fuller 2007b, p. 1). These events were unusual instances of 
short-term, localized impacts to brown pelicans. Continued protection 
of brown pelicans under the MBTA will ensure that future brown pelican 
mortality caused by design of man-made features are similarly 
addressed.

Conclusion

    As required by the Act, we considered the five threat factors in 
order to assess whether the brown pelican is threatened or endangered 
throughout all of its range. When considering the listing status of the 
species, the first step in the analysis is to determine whether the 
species is in danger of extinction throughout all of its range. If this 
is the case, then the species is listed as endangered in its entirety. 
For instance, if the threats on a species are acting only on a portion 
of its range, but the effects of the threats are such that they place 
the entire species in danger of extinction, we would list the entire 
species.
    As discussed above, the primary reason for severe declines in the 
brown pelican population in the United States, and for designating the 
species as endangered, was likely DDT contamination in the 1960s and 
early 1970s. Additionally, pesticides like dieldrin and endrin were 
also found to negatively impact brown pelicans. Since the banning of 
these organochlorine pesticides, brown pelican abundance within the 
United States has shown a dramatic recovery, and although annual 
reproductive success varies widely, populations have remained generally 
stable for at least 20 years. The EPA requires registration and testing 
of new pesticides to assess potential impacts on wildlife, so we do not 
anticipate that a pesticide that would adversely affect brown pelicans 
will be permitted in the future. Although DDT contamination continues 
to persist in the environment, based on the nesting population size, 
overall population stability, and improved reproductive success, the 
continued existence of brown pelicans is no longer threatened by 
exposure to DDT or its metabolites, and populations within the United 
States have recovered adequately to warrant delisting. We have no 
evidence that brown pelicans outside the United States ever declined in 
response to persistent organic pesticides.
    Nesting and roosting colonies in the United States are expected to 
continue to be protected from human disturbance through local 
conservation measures, laws, numerous restoration plans, and ownership 
of many of the nesting and roosting habitats by conservation groups and 
local, State, and Federal agencies. In most countries outside of the 
United States where brown pelicans occur, protection is expected to 
continue through implementation of restoration plans, designated 
biosphere reserves and parks, and land ownership by conservation 
organizations and local, State, and Federal governments.
    Some nesting and roosting habitat is expected to continue to be 
limited at certain local scales, just as some habitat destruction is 
expected to continue. However, the majority of nesting sites within the 
United States and many outside the United States are protected. While 
some nesting habitat may be lost, it is not likely to be a limiting 
factor in brown pelican reproductive success, since pelicans are 
broadly distributed and have the ability to shift breeding sites in 
response to changing habitat and prey abundance conditions. In response 
to storms, erosion, and lack of sedimentation, brown pelicans have 
exhibited their dispersal capabilities; they have established new 
colonies elsewhere, and shown an ability to rebound from low numbers. 
Additionally, there are several restoration activities, such as 
artificial island creation and enhancement with dredge material and 
barrier island restoration and protection that will continue to enhance 
and protect brown pelican habitat, particularly within the U.S. Gulf 
Coast region.
    Impacts from weather events, such as El Ni[ntilde]os and severe 
freezes, are also expected to continue. Natural factors

[[Page 59469]]

such as these may adversely affect pelican reproduction and survival on 
a short-term, localized basis, but alone pose only a minimal threat to 
the species at current population numbers.
    Brown pelican prey abundance in the United States will continue to 
be monitored and managed in accordance with the Magnuson-Stevens 
Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976. We do not have any 
information from outside of the United States on commercial fishery 
impacts to brown pelican prey abundance; however, based on population 
numbers, there is no reason to believe that commercial fisheries are 
currently limiting brown pelican reproductive success.
    Brown pelicans are not threatened with overutilization for 
commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes. Research 
on pelicans is generally observational and noninvasive. Although 
several diseases have been identified as a source of mortality for 
brown pelicans, they appear to be self-limiting and sporadic and are 
not likely to impact long-term population trends. Predation is a minor 
threat that occurs when disturbance to nesting colonies leaves eggs and 
chicks unprotected, making it essential that nesting colonies are 
protected from disturbance, as noted above.
    Commercial and recreational fishing may adversely affect brown 
pelicans on a localized basis, but pose no rangewide threat to the 
continued existence of the species. Oil spills and oil pollution 
continue to be a potential threat, but the breeding range is large 
enough that a single spill, even a major one, would likely only affect 
a small fraction of the population. This threat has been alleviated in 
the United States to some degree by stringent regulations for 
extraction equipment and procedures, traffic separation schemes, 
shipping lanes that reduce the likelihood of collisions or spills, and 
improvements in oil spill response, containment, and cleanup. These 
measures reduce the probability of spills and also may reduce adverse 
impacts if a spill were to occur.

Foreseeable Future

    As discussed above, the brown pelican continues to be affected by a 
variety of localized, short-term impacts. These localized impacts are 
generally expected to continue in perpetuity. For example, there is no 
reason to think that development; hurricanes and other storm events; 
random human disturbance; fishery activities; oil spills; and 
infestation by mites, tick, and liver flukes will not continue at some 
rate indefinitely into the future. Because these impacts are generally 
limited to one breeding season in duration, occur infrequently, or 
occur in only a small portion of the range of the species, they are not 
expected to result in declines in the rangewide status of the species. 
In order to reliably predict that these impacts may result in 
endangerment in the foreseeable future, the rate, magnitude, or 
intensity of the threats would have to increase to the point that 
population level impacts (e.g., repeated nesting failures) were seen in 
at least a significant portion of the range of the species. The brown 
pelican is a long-lived species that breeds multiple years such that 
sporadic breeding failures have little effect on long-term population 
stability (Shields 2002, p. 23). In many cases, pelicans will relocate 
to alternative breeding areas or pelicans from other areas will 
recolonize affected sites. Current science does not allow us to 
extrapolate declines in the species' status if threats remain at 
current levels and further does not allow us to reliably predict that 
these localized, short-term impacts will change in such a way in the 
future such that pelicans will respond negatively over a significant 
portion of the range of the species.
    Some diseases such as domoic acid poisoning, erysipelas, and avian 
botulism occur rarely and are subject to the same fact patterns 
discussed above concerning short-term, localized threats. When 
considering diseases such as West Nile virus and avian influenza, it 
would not be unexpected for either disease to move into the range of 
the brown pelican; however, the timing, intensity, and response of 
pelicans across the range of the species cannot be reliably predicted. 
Thus, the scientific information does not support these diseases as 
threats to the brown pelican in the foreseeable future.
    Predation of chicks and eggs is occurring at a level low enough to 
allow for populations to recover and expand across the range of the 
species. This background level of predation is not expected to increase 
or otherwise change in the future such that this trend would be 
reversed as a result of predation.
    The use of pesticides and contaminants that were known to affect 
brown pelicans across the range of the species has discontinued in most 
portions of the range of the species through implementation of bans, 
laws, and treaties. In order to determine that pesticide and 
contaminant use may be a threat to the brown pelican in the future, its 
use must not only be occurring, but be occurring at a level that 
impacts the long term population levels over at least a significant 
portion of the range of the species. Current scientific and commercial 
information simply does not indicate that these two things are 
happening or that some change will occur allowing it to happen in the 
future.
    The fact that threats are not considered foreseeable does not mean 
that they are not possible, only that current scientific understanding 
does not allow us to reliably predict that impacts will increase or 
that a population decline will result in response to that impact in the 
future. Given current information on threats and ongoing conservation 
and management activities, it would be speculative to assume that these 
impacts will increase to a reliably measureable level, thus it is not 
foreseeable that the threats will impact the species meaningfully in 
the future.
    In conclusion, the single most important threat to the continued 
existence of the brown pelican was from DDT, which is now banned in the 
United States, Mexico, and Canada. In Central and South America and the 
West Indies, most countries have either banned or restricted use of DDT 
or made its importation illegal (http://www.pesticideinfo.org/DetailChemReg.jsp?Rec-Id=PC33482). Although other localized threats to 
the brown pelican remain throughout its range, as discussed above, they 
are at a low enough level that none are likely to have long-term 
population level or demographic effects on brown pelican populations in 
the foreseeable future. We believe this species is no longer in danger 
of extinction throughout its range, nor is it likely to become so in 
the foreseeable future.

Significant Portion of the Range

    Having determined that the brown pelican does not meet the 
definition of threatened or endangered throughout its range, we must 
next consider whether there are any significant portions of its range 
that are in danger of extinction or are likely to become endangered in 
the foreseeable future. On March 16, 2007, a formal opinion was issued 
by the Solicitor of the Department of the Interior, ``The Meaning of In 
Danger of Extinction Throughout All or a Significant Portion of Its 
Range'' (U.S. Department of the Interior 2007). We have summarized our 
interpretation of that opinion and the underlying statutory language 
below. A portion of a species' range is significant if it is part of 
the current range of the species and it contributes substantially to 
the representation, resiliency, or redundancy of the species. The

[[Page 59470]]

contribution must be at a level such that its loss would result in a 
decrease in the ability to conserve the species. In other words, in 
considering significance, the Service should ask whether the loss of 
this portion likely would eventually move the species toward 
extinction, but not necessarily to the point where the species should 
be listed as threatened throughout its range.
    The first step in determining whether a species is threatened or 
endangered in a significant portion of its range is to identify any 
portions of the range of the species that warrant further 
consideration. The range of a species can theoretically be divided into 
portions in an infinite number of ways. However, there is no purpose to 
analyzing portions of the range that are not reasonably likely to be 
significant and threatened or endangered. To identify only those 
portions that warrant further consideration, we determine whether there 
is substantial information indicating that (i) the portions may be 
significant and (ii) the species may be in danger of extinction there 
or likely to become so within the foreseeable future. In practice, a 
key part of this analysis is whether the threats are geographically 
concentrated in some way. If the threats to the species are essentially 
uniform throughout its range, no portion is likely to warrant further 
consideration. Moreover, if any concentration of threats applies only 
to portions of the range that are not significant to the conservation 
of the species, such portions will not warrant further consideration.
    If we identify any portions that warrant further consideration, we 
then determine whether in fact the species is threatened or endangered 
in any significant portion of its range. Depending on the biology of 
the species, its range, and the threats it faces, it may be more 
efficient for the Service to address the significance question first, 
or the status question first. Thus, if the Service determines that a 
portion of the range is not significant, the Service need not determine 
whether the species is threatened or endangered there; if the Service 
determines that the species is not threatened or endangered in a 
portion of its range, the Service need not determine if that portion is 
significant.
    The terms ``resiliency,'' ``redundancy,'' and ``representation'' 
are intended to be indicators of the conservation value of portions of 
the range. Resiliency of a species allows the species to recover from 
periodic or occasional disturbance. A species will likely be more 
resilient if large populations exist in high-quality habitat that is 
distributed throughout the range of the species in such a way as to 
capture the environmental variability found within the range of the 
species. It is likely that the larger size of a population will help 
contribute to the viability of the species overall. Thus, a portion of 
the range of a species may make a meaningful contribution to the 
resiliency of the species if the area is relatively large and contains 
particularly high-quality habitat or if its location or characteristics 
make it less susceptible to certain threats than other portions of the 
range. When evaluating whether or how a portion of the range 
contributes to resiliency of the species, it may help to evaluate the 
historical value of the portion and how frequently the portion is used 
by the species. In addition, the portion may contribute to resiliency 
for other reasons--for instance, it may contain an important 
concentration of certain types of habitat that are necessary for the 
species to carry out its life-history functions, such as breeding, 
feeding, migration, dispersal, or wintering.
    Redundancy of populations may be needed to provide a margin of 
safety for the species to withstand catastrophic events. This does not 
mean that any portion that provides redundancy is a significant portion 
of the range of a species. The idea is to conserve enough areas of the 
range such that random perturbations in the system act on only a few 
populations. Therefore, each area must be examined based on whether 
that area provides an increment of redundancy that is important to the 
conservation of the species.
    Adequate representation insures that the species' adaptive 
capabilities are conserved. Specifically, the portion should be 
evaluated to see how it contributes to the genetic diversity of the 
species. The loss of genetically based diversity may substantially 
reduce the ability of the species to respond and adapt to future 
environmental changes. A peripheral population may contribute 
meaningfully to representation if there is evidence that it provides 
genetic diversity due to its location on the margin of the species' 
habitat requirements.
    Applying the process described above for determining whether a 
species is threatened in a significant portion of its range, we next 
addressed whether any portions of the range of the brown pelican 
warranted further consideration. We noted in the five-factor analysis 
that numerous factors continue to affect brown pelicans in various 
geographical areas within the range. However, we conclude that these 
areas do not warrant further consideration because the areas where 
localized effects may still occur are small (in the context of the 
range of the species) and affect a few pelicans from one year to the 
next (such as abandonment of a single breeding colony or entanglement 
in fishing gear), thus there is no substantial information that these 
areas are a significant portion of the range. Some areas that may be 
significant experience short-term or sporadic events (such as the Gulf 
Coast region experiencing tropical storm events, or Pacific Coast 
populations experiencing reduced nesting success during an El 
Ni[ntilde]o event), but we do not have substantial information that 
brown pelicans in these areas are likely to become in danger of 
extinction in the foreseeable future.
    As discussed previously in Distribution and Population Estimates, 
Recovery Plans, and Factors A and E, declines in wintering numbers of 
brown pelicans have been noted in Puerto Rico (Collazo et al. 2000, p. 
40), which superficially suggest that Puerto Rico warrants further 
consideration. However, Puerto Rico does not represent a large block of 
high quality habitat, is not known to act as a refugium, and is not 
known to contain important concentrations of specialized habitat types 
(e.g., breeding, foraging). As discussed above, brown pelican 
populations generally are able to recolonize neighboring sites that may 
have been lost or extirpated during a catastrophic event (e.g., 
hurricane). In this sense, Puerto Rico contributes to the resiliency of 
brown pelican populations; however, all brown pelican populations 
contribute to resiliency in this way and the Puerto Rico populations 
are not known to contribute more significantly to resiliency than 
neighboring populations and as such are considered to have a low 
contribution to the resiliency of the species. Because Puerto Rico 
represents a small portion of the range of the species, both 
geographically and in total numbers (240-400 out of 620,000 birds), 
these populations have a low contribution to the redundancy of the 
species. Finally, brown pelicans in Puerto Rico belong to the 
subspecies of brown pelican distributed throughout the West Indies and 
along the Caribbean coasts of Colombia and Venezuela and are not known 
to contain any unique genetic materials, morphologies, or behaviors and 
thus have a low contribution to the representation of the species. 
While it is important to note that brown pelicans may serve a vital 
role in the local flora and fauna of Puerto Rico and neighboring areas, 
these populations are not significant to the species as a whole

[[Page 59471]]

under the resiliency, redundancy, and representation framework.
    In addition to a determination that the Puerto Rico populations are 
not significant to the conservation of the species, we did not find 
that these populations are in danger of extinction now or in the 
foreseeable future. Causes for the apparent decline in number of 
wintering birds are not known and no specific threats to brown pelicans 
in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands were identified in the five 
factor analysis above. Although numbers of breeding pelicans in Puerto 
Rico and the Virgin Islands varied from year to year in both the 1980s 
and 1990s, there was no trend in breeding pelican numbers that would 
suggest that the species is in danger of extinction in that area. 
Nesting sites are protected from development, human disturbance of 
nesting sites is not known to be limiting, contaminants are not 
affecting brown pelican populations (Collazo et al. 1998, pp. 63-64), 
and numbers of nesting pairs appear to be holding steady (Collazo et 
al. 2000, p. 42). Juvenile and adult pelicans from the Virgin Islands 
disperse to Puerto Rico (Collazo et al. 1998, p. 63), so proximity to 
breeding colonies on the Virgin Islands and other islands would likely 
re-establish the species on Puerto Rico even if it were lost. In the 
absence of identified threats or evidence that brown pelicans in Puerto 
Rico represent a significant portion of the species' range, we did not 
consider this portion of the range further.
    INVEMAR (2008) states that pelicans in Colombia may be impacted by 
a variety of factors including port construction, mangrove 
deforestation, development, overfishing, pollution, disease, and 
hunting. However, we have found no information to indicate that these 
factors are leading to declines in numbers of brown pelican in 
Colombia. In fact, the seven sites where Moreno and Bulevas (2005, p. 
11) document brown pelicans to occur in Colombia all have some form of 
protection. For example, the largest population in Colombia occurs on 
Isla Gorgona which is a Parque Nacional Natural, or national park, and 
is protected from most disturbance. Further, similar to the situation 
for Puerto Rico, the Colombian populations of brown pelican do not 
appear to be genetically different from other brown pelicans and this 
portion of the range does not appear to include a concentration of an 
important specific habitat type or a large portion of unusually high 
quality habitat. In summary, in our analysis of the five listing 
factors, we did not identify any significant continuing threats in any 
portion of the species range that warrants further consideration.
    In conclusion, major threats to brown pelicans have been reduced, 
managed, or eliminated. Remaining factors that affect brown pelicans 
occur on localized scales, are short-term events, or affect small 
numbers of individuals and do not have long-term effects on population 
numbers or distribution of the species. We have determined that none of 
the existing or potential threats, either alone or in combination with 
others, are likely to cause the brown pelican to become in danger of 
extinction within the foreseeable future throughout all or any 
significant portion of its range. We believe the brown pelican no 
longer requires the protection of the Act, and, therefore, we are 
removing it from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened 
Wildlife.

Effect of This Rule

    This rule revises 50 CFR 17.11(h) to remove the brown pelican from 
the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. Because no critical 
habitat was ever designated for this species, this rule would not 
affect 50 CFR 17.95.
    The prohibitions and conservation measures provided by the Act, 
particularly through sections 7 and 9, no longer apply. Federal 
agencies are no longer required to consult with us to ensure that any 
action they authorize, fund, or carry out is not likely to jeopardize 
the continued existence of this species. This rulemaking, however, does 
not affect the protection given to all migratory bird species under the 
MBTA.
    The take of all migratory birds, including brown pelicans, is 
governed by the MBTA. The MBTA makes it unlawful to at any time, by any 
means or in any manner, to pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill, attempt 
to take, capture, or kill, possess, offer for sale, sell, offer to 
barter, barter, offer to purchase, purchase, deliver for shipment, 
ship, export, import, cause to be shipped, exported, or imported, 
deliver for transportation, transport or cause to be transported, carry 
or cause to be carried, or receive for shipment, transportation, 
carriage, or export, any migratory bird, any part, nest, or eggs of any 
such bird, or any product, whether or not manufactured, which consists, 
or is composed in whole or part, of any such bird or any part, nest, or 
egg thereof (16 U.S.C. 703(a)). Brown pelicans are among the migratory 
birds protected by the MBTA. The MBTA regulates the taking of migratory 
birds for educational, scientific, and recreational purposes. Section 
704 of the MBTA states that the Secretary of the Interior (Secretary) 
is authorized and directed to determine if, and by what means, the take 
of migratory birds should be allowed, and to adopt suitable regulations 
permitting and governing the take. In adopting regulations, the 
Secretary is to consider such factors as distribution and abundance to 
ensure that any take is compatible with the protection of the species. 
Modification to brown pelican habitat would constitute a violation of 
the MBTA only to the extent it directly takes or kills a brown pelican 
(such as removing a nest with chicks present).

Post-Delisting Monitoring Plan

    Section 4(g)(1) of the Act requires that the Secretary, through the 
Service, implement a monitoring program for not less than 5 years for 
all species that have been recovered and delisted. The purpose of this 
requirement is to develop a program that detects the failure of any 
delisted species to sustain itself without the protective measures 
provided by the Act. If at any time during the monitoring program, data 
indicate that the protective status under the Act should be reinstated, 
we can initiate listing procedures, including, if appropriate, 
emergency listing. At the conclusion of the monitoring period, we will 
review all available information to determine if relisting, the 
continuation of monitoring, or the termination of monitoring is 
appropriate. We proposed a draft post-delisting monitoring plan in the 
Federal Register on September 30, 2009 (74 FR 50236) and expect to 
finalize that post-delisting monitoring plan within a year.

Paperwork Reduction Act

    Office of Management and Budget (OMB) regulations at 5 CFR part 
1320, which implement provisions of the Paperwork Reduction Act (44 
U.S.C. 3501 et seq.) require that Federal agencies obtain approval from 
OMB before collecting information from the public. This rule does not 
contain any new collections of information that require approval by OMB 
under the Paperwork Reduction Act. This rule will not impose 
recordkeeping or reporting requirements on State or local governments, 
individuals, businesses, or organizations.

National Environmental Policy Act

    We have determined that Environmental Assessments or Environmental 
Impact Statements, as defined under the authority of the National 
Environmental Policy Act of 1969, need not be prepared in connection 
with actions adopted pursuant to section 4(a) of the Act. We

[[Page 59472]]

published a notice outlining our reasons for this determination in the 
Federal Register on October 25, 1983 (48 FR 49244).

References Cited

    A complete list of all references we cited is available upon 
request from the Clear Lake Ecological Services Office (see FOR FURTHER 
INFORMATION CONTACT).

Authors

    The primary authors of this final rule are staff members of the 
Southwest Regional Office, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

    Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements, Transportation.

Regulation Promulgation

0
Accordingly, we amend part 17, subchapter B of chapter I, title 50 of 
the Code of Federal Regulations as set forth below:

PART 17--[AMENDED]

0
1. The authority citation for part 17 continues to read as follows:

    Authority:  16 U.S.C. 1361-1407; 16 U.S.C. 1531-1544; 16 U.S.C. 
4201-4245; Public Law 99-625, 100 Stat. 3500; unless otherwise 
noted.


Sec.  17.11  [Amended]

0
2. Amend Sec.  17.11(h) by removing the entry for ``Pelican, brown'' 
under BIRDS from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife.

    Dated: October 28, 2009.
 Christine E. Eustis,
 Acting Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. E9-27402 Filed 11-16-09; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P