[Federal Register: May 20, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 96)]
[Page 23739-23741]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R7-ES-2009-N0076; 70120-1113-0000-C4]

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Short-Tailed 
Albatross (Phoebastria albatrus): Initiation of 5-Year Status Review; 
Availability of Final Recovery Plan

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability of final recovery plan; initiation of 5-
year status review and request for information.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of our final recovery plan for and the initiation of a 5-
year status review for the short-tailed albatross (Phoebastria 
albatrus), a bird species listed as endangered under the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). Our recovery plan describes the 
status, current management, recovery objectives and criteria, and 
specific actions needed to enable us to reclassify the short-tailed 
albatross from endangered to threatened, or from threatened to 
delisted. It also includes criteria that would justify reclassifying 
the species from threatened back to endangered. We conduct 5-year 
reviews to ensure that our classification of each species as threatened 
or endangered on the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and 
Plants is accurate. We request any new information on this species that 
may have a bearing on its classification as endangered. Based on the 
results of this 5-year review, we will make a finding on whether this 
species is properly classified under the Act.

DATES: To allow us adequate time to conduct our 5-year review, we are 
requesting that you submit your information no later than July 20, 
2009. However, we accept new information about any listed species at 
any time.

ADDRESSES: For instructions on how to submit information as well as the 
information that we receive for our 5-year review, see ``Request for 
New Information.'' To obtain a copy of our recovery plan, see 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Greg Balogh, Endangered Species Branch 
Chief, at the above address or by phone at (907) 271-2778.


I. Background

    We originally listed the short-tailed albatross (Phoebastria 
albatrus) in 1970 (35 FR 8491), under the then-Endangered Species 
Conservation Act of 1969, before passage of today's Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 
et seq.). However, as a result of an administrative error (and not from 
any biological evaluation of status), we listed the species as 
endangered throughout its range, except within the United States (50 
CFR 17.11). On July 31, 2000, we corrected this error when we published 
a final rule listing the short-tailed albatross as endangered 
throughout its range (65 FR 46643). This listing was effective August 
30, 2000. For description, taxonomy, distribution, status, breeding 
biology and habitat, and a summary of factors affecting the species, 
please see the final listing rule. In that rule, we also determined 
designation of critical habitat to be not prudent because, among other 
reasons, we could not find habitat-related threats to the species 
within U.S. territory.
    The species occurs in waters throughout the North Pacific, 
primarily along the east coast of Japan and Russia, in the Gulf of 
Alaska, along the Aleutian Islands and in the Gulf of Alaska south of 
64[deg] north latitude. At the time of our 2000 final listing rule, the 
short-tailed albatross population consisted of about 1,200 individuals 
known to breed on two islands: Torishima, an active volcanic island in 
Japan, and Minami-Kojima, an island whose ownership is under dispute by 
Japan, China, and Taiwan.
    The severe decline in short-tailed albatross was caused by 
overexploitation for its feathers prior to and following the turn of 
the 20th century. This threat no longer exists, but its effect lingers. 
The species is thought to have once numbered 5 million individuals, but 
birds were harvested until only a few dozen remained. Numbering about 
2,400 individuals in 2008, the short-tailed albatross is currently 
threatened by volcanic activity, extreme weather, small population 
size, a limited number of breeding sites, contamination by oil and 
other pollutants, and commercial fishery bycatch. Key recommendations 
for immediate action, as described in the recovery plan, are: (1) 
Formation of new breeding colonies at safe locations on Torishima and 
in the Bonin Islands; (2) stabilization of existing breeding habitat on 
Torishima Island; and (3) reduction of seabird bycatch in all North 
Pacific fisheries that may take this species.

II. Availability of Final Recovery Plan

A. Background

    Recovery of endangered or threatened animals and plants to the 
point where they are again secure, self-sustaining members of their 
ecosystems is a primary goal of our endangered species program. To help 
guide the recovery effort, we are working to prepare recovery plans for 
most listed species native to the United States. Recovery plans 
describe actions considered necessary for the conservation and survival 
of the species, establish criteria for reclassifying or delisting 
listed species, and estimate time and cost for implementing needed 
recovery measures.
    The Act requires us to develop recovery plans for listed species, 
unless such a plan would not promote the conservation of a particular 
species. Section 4(f) of the Act requires us to provide public notice 
and an opportunity for public review and comment during recovery plan 
development. We made our draft recovery plan for the short-tailed 
albatross available for public comment from October 27 through December 
27, 2005 (70 FR 61988). We considered information we received during 
this comment period, along with information we received from five peer 
reviewers and the Government of Japan, in our preparation of our final 
recovery plan. The Short-tailed Albatross Recovery Team has taken into 
account these comments in redrafting the recovery plan and in revising 
and justifying the new recovery criteria we set forth in this final 

[[Page 23740]]

B. Recovery Criteria

    The short-tailed albatross may be reclassified from endangered to 
threatened under the following conditions: The total breeding 
population of short-tailed albatross reaches a minimum of 750 pairs; 
and At least three breeding colonies each exhibiting a 3-year running 
average growth rate of greater than or equal to 6 percent for greater 
than or equal to 7 years, at least two of which occupy island groups 
other than Torishima with a minimum of greater than or equal to 50 
breeding pairs each.

III. Initiation of 5-Year Status Review

A. Why Do We Conduct a 5-Year Review?

    Under the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), we maintain a List of 
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants (List) in the Code of 
Federal Regulations (CFR) at 50 CFR 17.11 (for animals) and 17.12 (for 
plants). An informational copy of the List, which covers all listed 
species, is also available on our Internet site at http://
endangered.fws.gov/wildlife.html#Species. Section 4(c)(2)(A) of the Act 
requires us to review the status of each listed species at least once 
every 5 years. Then, based on such review, under section 4(c)(2)(B), we 
determine whether any species should be removed from the List 
(delisted), reclassified from endangered to threatened, or reclassified 
from threatened to endangered. Any change in Federal classification 
requires a separate rulemaking process.
    Our regulations in 50 CFR 424.21 require that we publish a notice 
in the Federal Register announcing the species we are reviewing. This 
notice announces our active 5-year status review of the endangered 
short-tailed albatross.

B. What Information Do We Consider in Our Review?

    We consider all new information available at the time we conduct 
our review. We consider the best scientific and commercial data that 
have become available since our current listing determination or most 
recent status review of the species, such as:
    A. Species biology, including but not limited to population trends, 
distribution, abundance, demographics, and genetics;
    B. Habitat conditions, including but not limited to amount, 
distribution, and suitability;
    C. Conservation measures that have been implemented that benefit 
the species;
    D. Threat status and trends (see five factors under heading ``How 
Do We Determine Whether a Species is Endangered or Threatened?''); and
    E. Other new information, data, or corrections, including but not 
limited to taxonomic or nomenclatural changes, identification of 
erroneous information contained in the List, and improved analytical 

C. How Do We Determine Whether a Species Is Endangered or Threatened?

    Section 4(a)(1) of the Act requires that we determine whether a 
species is endangered or threatened based on one or more of the five 
following factors:
    A. The present or threatened destruction, modification, or 
curtailment of its habitat or range;
    B. Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes;
    C. Disease or predation;
    D. The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or
    E. Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued 
    Under section 4(b)(1) of the Act, we are required to base our 
assessment of these factors solely on the best scientific and 
commercial data available.

D. What Could Happen as a Result of Our Review?

    For each species we review, if we find new information indicating a 
change in classification may be warranted, we may propose a new rule 
that could do one of the following:
    A. Reclassify the species from threatened to endangered (uplist);
    B. Reclassify the species from endangered to threatened (downlist); 
    C. Remove the species from the List (delist).

    If we determine that a change in classification is not warranted, 
then the species remains on the List under its current status.
    We must support any delisting by the best scientific and commercial 
data available, and only consider delisting if such data substantiate 
that the species is neither endangered nor threatened for one or more 
of the following reasons:
    A. The species is considered extinct;
    B. The species is considered to be recovered; and/or
    C. The original data available when the species was listed, or the 
interpretation of such data, were in error (50 CFR 424.11(d)).

E. Request for New Information

    To ensure that a 5-year review is complete and based on the best 
available scientific and commercial information, we request new 
information from the public, governmental agencies, Tribes, the 
scientific community, environmental entities, industry, and any other 
interested parties concerning the status of the species.
    See ``What Information Do We Consider in Our Review?'' for specific 
criteria. If you submit information, support it with documentation such 
as maps, bibliographic references, methods used to gather and analyze 
the data, and/or copies of any pertinent publications, reports, or 
letters by knowledgeable sources.
    Submit your comments and materials to office listed under 

F. Public Availability of Comments

    Before including your address, phone number, e-mail address, or 
other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be 
aware that your entire comment--including your personal identifying 
information--may be made publicly available at any time. While you can 
ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying 
information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be 
able to do so. Comments and materials received will be available for 
public inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the 
offices where we receive comments.

IV. Contacts

    Submit your comments and information on this species, as well as 
any request for information or for a copy of the final recovery plan, 
by any one of the following methods. You may also view information and 
comments we receive in response to this notice, as well as other 
documentation in our files, at the following locations by appointment, 
during normal business hours.
    E-mail: greg_balogh@fws.gov; Use ``Short-tailed albatross'' as the 
message subject line.
    Fax: Attn: Greg Balogh, (907) 271-2786.
    U.S. mail: Greg Balogh, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Anchorage 
Fish and Wildlife Field Office, 605 W. 4th Ave., Rm G-61, Anchorage, AK 
    In-Person Drop-off or Document review/pickup: You may drop off 
comments and information, review/obtain documents, or view received 
comments during regular business hours at the above address.
    Internet: You may obtain a copy of the recovery plan on the 
Internet at http://endangered.fws.gov/recovery/index.html#plans.

[[Page 23741]]

V. Definitions

    (A) Species includes any species or subspecies of fish, wildlife, 
or plant, and any distinct population segment of any species of 
vertebrate, which interbreeds when mature;
    (B) Endangered means any species that is in danger of extinction 
throughout all or a significant portion of its range; and
    (C) Threatened means any species that is likely to become an 
endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a 
significant portion of its range.

VI. Authority

    We release our final recovery plan under section 4(f) of the Act, 
16 U.S.C. 1533(f). We publish this notice under the authority of the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

    Dated: March 30, 2009.
Gary Edwards,
Acting Regional Director, Region 7, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. E9-11700 Filed 5-19-09; 8:45 am]