[Federal Register: June 18, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 117)]
[Page 34184-34185]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service


National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

[I.D. 042604A]

Notice of Availability of a Draft Recovery Plan for the Gulf of 
Maine Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of Atlantic Salmon

AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and 
Atmospheric Administration, Commerce; and U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of Availability of Draft Recovery Plan for the Gulf of 
Maine Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of Atlantic Salmon (Salmo 


SUMMARY: The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service (FWS)(collectively, the Services) announce the 
availability for public review of the Draft Recovery Plan for the Gulf 
of Maine DPS of Atlantic Salmon. The Services are soliciting review and 
comment on the draft plan from the public and all interested parties.

DATES: The comment period for this proposal closes on September 16, 
2004. The Services will consider and address all substantive comments 
that are received during the comment period. In addition to making this 
draft plan available for public review, it is simultaneously being 
submitted for agency and peer review. After consideration of all 
substantive comments received during the review period, the Recovery 
Plan will be submitted for final approval. Comments on the Draft 
Recovery Plan must be received before the closing date.
    The Services have scheduled two public meetings/hearings in the 
State of Maine to discuss the Draft Recovery Plan with interested 
parties and solicit comments. Both meetings/hearings will start at 6:00 
p.m. on the dates indicated:
    (1) July 14, 2004. University of Maine at Machias, The Science 
Building Lecture Hall.
    (2) July 15, 2004. Augusta Civic Center, Kennebec/Penobscot Room.

ADDRESSES: Please send written comments and materials to the Atlantic 
Salmon Recovery Plan Coordinator at the address provided above. In 
addition, the Services are accepting electronic comments (i.e., email) 
on the Draft Recovery Plan at the following address: 
    Persons wishing to review the Draft Recovery Plan can obtain a copy 
from the Atlantic Salmon Recovery Plan Coordinator, National Marine 
Fisheries Service, One Blackburn Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. 
Electronic copies of the Draft Recovery Plan are also available on-line 
on the NMFS (http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/) and FWS (www.fws.gov) websites.

Recovery Plan Coordinator (978-281-9328 extension 6534); Pat Scida 
(NMFS), Endangered Species Coordinator (978-281-9208); or Martin Miller 
(FWS), Chief, Endangered Species Division (413-253-8615).



    Recovery Plans describe actions considered necessary for the 
conservation and recovery of species listed under the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973 (Act), as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), 
establish criteria for the downlisting or delisting of such species and 
estimate the time and costs required to implement recovery actions. The 
Act requires the development of Recovery Plans for listed species 
unless such a plan would not promote the recovery of a particular 
species. Section 4(f) of the

[[Page 34185]]

Act, as amended in 1988, requires that public notice and an opportunity 
for public review and comment be provided during Recovery Plan 
development. The Services will consider all substantive comments and 
information presented during the public comment period in the course of 
finalizing this Recovery Plan.
    The Gulf of Maine DPS of Atlantic salmon was listed as endangered 
under the Act on December 17, 2000 (65 FR 69459). The DPS includes all 
persistent, naturally reproducing populations of Atlantic salmon from 
the Kennebec River downstream of the former Edwards Dam site, northward 
to the mouth of the St. Croix River. At the time of listing, there were 
at least eight rivers in the geographic range of the DPS known to still 
support wild Atlantic salmon populations (Dennys, East Machias, 
Machias, Pleasant, Narraguagus, Ducktrap and Sheepscot Rivers and Cove 
Brook). In addition to these eight rivers, there are at least 14 small 
coastal rivers within the historic range of the DPS from which wild 
salmon populations have been extirpated.
    The Gulf of Maine DPS has declined to critically low levels. Adult 
returns have continued to decline since the listing. In 2002, total 
adult returns to the eight rivers still supporting wild Atlantic salmon 
populations within the DPS were estimated to range from 23 to 46 
individuals. No adults were documented in three of the eight rivers. 
Juvenile abundance estimates and survival have also continued to 
decline. Declining smolt production has been documented in recent 
years, despite fry stocking.
    The Recovery Plan includes prioritized actions to recover the Gulf 
of Maine DPS. The major areas of action are designed to stop and 
reverse the downward population trends of the eight wild Atlantic 
salmon populations and minimize the potential for human activities to 
result in the degradation or destruction of Atlantic salmon habitat 
essential to its survival and recovery. The Draft Recovery Plan 
identifies the following actions as necessary for the full recovery of 
the DPS: (1) Protect and restore freshwater and estuarine habitat; (2) 
prevent take in freshwater, estuarine and marine fisheries; (3) reduce 
predation and competition on all life stages of Atlantic salmon; (4) 
reduce risks from commercial aquaculture operations; (5) supplement 
wild populations with hatchery-reared DPS salmon; (6) conserve the 
genetic integrity of the DPS; (7) assess stock status of key life 
stages; (8) promote salmon recovery through increased public and 
government awareness; and (9) assess effectiveness of recovery actions 
and revise as appropriate.
    The recovery planning process included a ``threats assessment'', 
which evaluated the geographic extent and the severity of threats to 
various life-stages of Atlantic salmon in the DPS. This evaluation 
resulted in the following threats being identified as high priority for 
action to reverse the decline of Atlantic salmon populations in the 
Gulf of Maine DPS: (1) Aquaculture practices which pose ecological and 
genetic risks; (2) acidified water and associated aluminum toxicity 
which decrease juvenile survival; (3) poaching of adults in DPS rivers; 
(4) incidental capture of adults and parr by recreational fishermen; 
(5) predation; and (6) excessive or unregulated water withdrawal.

Public Comments Solicited

    The Services solicit written comments on the draft Recovery Plan. 
All substantive comments received by the date specified above will be 
considered prior to final approval of the Recovery Plan.
    As is noted in the Recovery Plan, the National Research Council 
(NRC) was asked to describe what is known about the genetic makeup of 
Atlantic salmon in Maine and issued a report on this subject in January 
2002. The NRC was also asked to assess the causes of decline and to 
suggest strategies for the rehabilitation of Atlantic salmon in Maine 
and issued a report addressing this issue on January 20, 2004. The 
Services' preliminary review of the NRC's January 20, 2004 report 
indicates that the report's findings are generally consistent with this 
draft Recovery Plan. However, several issues within this report warrant 
additional consideration as we develop a final recovery plan. The most 
significant of these issues include: (1) risks associated with the 
research and monitoring; (2) mortality as smolts transition from 
freshwater to the ocean; (3) potential impacts of hatchery operations; 
and (4) the need for a structured and inclusive risk and decision 
analysis process.
    The Services are seeking public comment on these and other findings 
and recommendations in the NRC report as they relate to this Recovery 
Plan. It is important to note that the scope of the NRC report is 
broader than this Recovery Plan; the NRC report considered all Atlantic 
salmon populations in Maine, whereas the Recovery Plan focuses only on 
the Gulf of Maine DPS.


    The authority for this action is section 4(f) of the Endangered 
Species Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

    Dated: May 14, 2004.
Laurie K. Allen,
Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries 
    Dated: May 12, 2004.
Marvin E. Moriarty,
Regional Director, Region 5, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 04-13731 Filed 6-17-04; 8:45 am]