[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 75 (Thursday, April 18, 2013)]
[Pages 23284-23285]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-09067]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[Docket No. FWS-R7-ES-2012-0019; FF07CAMM00-FXFR13370700000M7]

Marine Mammal Protection Act; Draft Revised Stock Assessment 
Reports for the Pacific Walrus and Three Northern Sea Otters

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments.


SUMMARY: In accordance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, 
as amended (MMPA), and its implementing regulations, we, the U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service (Service), have developed a draft revised marine 
mammal stock assessment report (SAR) for the Pacific walrus stock and 
for each of the following three northern sea otter stocks in Alaska: 
Southwest, Southcentral, and Southeast. We now make the SARs available 
for public review and comment.

DATES: Comments must be received by July 17, 2013.

ADDRESSES: Document Availability: You may view the draft revised stock 
assessment reports on http://www.regulations.gov under Docket No. FWS-
R7-ES-2012-0019. You may also view them in Adobe Acrobat format by 
navigating to the species information page at http://alaska.fws.gov/fisheries/mmm/reports.htm. Alternatively, you may contact the Chief, 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Marine Mammals Management Office, 1011 
East Tudor Road, Anchorage, AK 99503; telephone: 907-786-3800.
    Written Comments: You may submit comments on the draft revised 
stock assessment reports by one of the following methods:
     U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, 
Attn: Docket No. FWS-R7-ES-2012-0019; Division of Policy and Directives 
Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 
2042-PDM; Arlington, VA 22203; or
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. 
Follow the instructions for submitting comments to Docket No. FWS-R7-
    Please indicate to which revised stock assessment report(s)--the 
Pacific walrus, or the southeast, southcentral, or southwest Alaska 
northern sea otter stock--your comments apply. We will not accept email 
or faxes. We will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This 
generally means that we will post any personal information you provide 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Charles S. Hamilton, Marine Mammals 
Management Office, 800-362-5148 (telephone). Persons who use a 
telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal 
Information Relay Service at 800-877-8339.



    We announce for review and comment the availability of draft 
revised marine mammal stock assessment reports (SAR) for the Pacific 
walrus (Odobenus rosmarus divergens) stock and for each of the 
following three northern sea otter (Enhydra lutris kenyoni) stocks in 
Alaska: Southwest, Southcentral, and Southeast.
    Under the MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) and its implementing 
regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at 50 CFR part 18, 
we regulate the taking, possession, transportation, purchasing, 
selling, offering for sale, exporting, and importing of marine mammals. 
One of the goals of the MMPA is to ensure that stocks of marine mammals 
occurring in waters under U.S. jurisdiction do not experience a level 
of human-caused mortality and serious injury that is likely to cause 
the stock to be reduced below its optimum sustainable population level 
(OSP). OSP is defined under the MMPA as ``* * * the number of animals 
which will result in the maximum productivity of the population or the 
species, keeping in mind the carrying capacity of the habitat and the 
health of the ecosystem of which they form a constituent element'' (16 
U.S.C. 1362(3)(9)).
    To help accomplish the goal of maintaining marine mammal stocks at 
their OSPs, section 117 of the MMPA requires the Service and the 
National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to prepare a SAR for each 
marine mammal stock that occurs in waters under U.S. jurisdiction. Each 
SAR must include:
    1. A description of the stock and its geographic range;
    2. A minimum population estimate, maximum net productivity rate, 
and current population trend;
    3. An estimate of human-caused mortality and serious injury;
    4. A description of commercial fishery interactions;
    5. A categorization of the status of the stock; and
    6. An estimate of the potential biological removal (PBR) level.
    The MMPA defines the PBR as ``the maximum number of animals, not 
including natural mortalities, that may be removed from a marine mammal 
stock while allowing that stock to reach or maintain its OSP'' (16 
U.S.C. 1362(3)(20)). The PBR is the product of the minimum population 
estimate of the stock (Nmin); one-half the maximum 
theoretical or estimated net productivity rate of the stock at a small 
population size (Rmax); and a recovery factor 
(Fr) of between 0.1 and 1.0. This can be written as:

PBR = (Nmin)(\1/2\ of the Rmax)(Fr)

    Section 117 of the MMPA requires the Service and NMFS to review the 
SARs (a) At least annually for stocks that are specified as strategic 
stocks, (b) at least annually for stocks for which significant new 
information is available, and (c) at least once every 3 years for all 
other stocks. If our review of the status of a stock indicates that it 
has changed or may be more accurately determined, then the SAR must be 
revised accordingly.
    A strategic stock is defined in the MMPA as a marine mammal stock 
``(a) for which the level of direct human-caused mortality exceeds the 
PBR level; (b) which, based on the best available scientific 
information, is declining and is likely to be listed as a threatened 
species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 
1531 et seq.) [the ``ESA''], within the foreseeable future; or (c) 
which is listed as a threatened or endangered species under the ESA, or 
is designated as depleted under [the MMPA].'' 16 U.S.C. 1362(3)(19).
    The Pacific walrus SAR was last revised in December of 2009. In the 
final 2009 revised stock assessment, we classified the Pacific walrus 
as a strategic stock because the total human-caused mortality or 
removals exceeded PBR. Therefore, the Service has reviewed the stock 
assessment for the Pacific walrus annually and, in 2010, concluded that 
revision of the SAR was not warranted at that time because the status 
of the stock had not changed significantly, nor could it be more

[[Page 23285]]

accurately determined. SARs for the Southwest, Southcentral, and 
Southeast stocks of northern sea otters were last revised in August of 
2008. The Southwest stock of northern sea otter qualifies as a 
strategic stock due to its listing as a threatened species under the 
ESA; therefore, the Service has reviewed the SAR for the Southwest 
stock annually in 2009 and 2010 and concluded both times that revision 
of the SAR was not warranted because the status of the stock had not 
changed, nor could it be more accurately determined. The Southcentral 
and Southeast stocks of northern sea otter are considered non-
strategic, and the Service also reviewed these SARs annually in 2009 
and 2010 due to the availability of significant new information. During 
both these reviews, the Service determined that revision of the SARs 
for the Southcentral and Southeast stocks of northern sea otter was not 
warranted. However, upon review in 2011, the Service determined that 
revision was warranted for the Pacific walrus stock, as well as the 
Southwest, the Southcentral, and the Southeast northern sea otter 
stocks; the Service has consulted with the Alaska Regional Scientific 
Review Group concerning these revisions.
    The following table summarizes the information we are now making 
available in the draft revised stock assessment reports for the Pacific 
walrus and the southwest, southcentral and southeast stocks of the 
northern sea otter, which lists the stock's Nmin, 
Rmax, Fr, PBR, annual estimated human-caused 
mortality and serious injury, and status. After consideration of any 
public comments we receive, the Service will revise and finalize the 
SARs as appropriate for these stocks. We will publish a notice of 
availability and summary of the final SARs, including responses to 
submitted comments.

   Summary: Draft Revised Stock Assessment Reports for the Pacific Walrus, and Southwest, Southcentral, and Southeast Stocks of the Northern Sea Otter
                                                                                            Annual estimated human-caused
                                                                                          mortality and  serious injury  (5-
                Stock                     Nmin         Rmax          Fr          PBR                year average)                    Stock status
                                                                                              Fishery/other     Subsistence
Pacific Walrus......................      129,000         0.08          0.5        2,580  12..................        4,852  Strategic.
Northern Sea Otter, Southwest Stock.       45,064         0.20          0.1          450  <10.................           76  Strategic.
Northern Sea Otter, Southcentral           14,661         0.20          1.0        1,466  1...................          293  Non-Strategic.
Northern Sea Otter, Southeast Stock.       21,798         0.20          1.0        2,179  Unknown.............          447  Non-Strategic.

Public Availability of Comments

    Before including your address, phone number, email 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.


    In accordance with section 117(b)(1) of the MMPA, we include in 
this notice a list of the sources of information or published reports 
upon which we based the draft revised SAR. The Service consulted 
technical reports, conference proceedings, refereed journal 
publications, and scientific studies prepared or issued by Federal 
agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and individuals with expertise 
in the fields of marine mammal biology and ecology, population 
dynamics, Alaska Native subsistence use of marine mammals, modeling, 
and commercial fishing technology and practices.
    These agencies and organizations include: the Service, the U.S. 
Geological Survey, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 
the National Park Service, the Arctic Institute, the North American 
Wildlife and Natural Resource Conference, the Marine Mammals of the 
Holarctic V Conference, the Aleutian Islands Risk Assessment Management 
Team, the Exxon Valdez Restoration Project, and the Outer Continental 
Shelf Environmental Assessment Program. In addition, the Service 
consulted publications such as the Journal of Wildlife Management, 
Conservation Biology, Marine Mammal Science, Ecological Applications, 
Biological Conservation, Aquatic Mammals, and Journal of Zoology, as 
well as other refereed journal literature, technical reports, and data 
sources in the development of these SARs.
    A complete list of citations to the scientific literature relied on 
for each of the four draft revised SARs is available on the Federal 
eRulemaking portal (http://www.regulations.gov) under Docket No. FWS-
R7-ES-2012-0019. The list can also be viewed in Adobe Acrobat format at 
    In the past, the Service has published a complete list of citations 
to each technical report, scientific paper, and journal publication 
upon which the draft revised SAR is based at the end of the Notice of 
Availability. However, in order for the public to more easily 
understand how the agency has used and interpreted the sources relied 
upon in the draft revised SARs, the Service is making the complete list 
of literature citations available at the end of each of the draft 
revised SARs. In recognition that the public typically reviews our 
draft SARs, or any revision thereof, in conjunction with the list of 
supporting literature citations found at the end of draft SARs, the 
Service believes it is unnecessary to also publish the complete list of 
references separately in this notice of availability. Instead, we are 
including the complete list of references in the draft revised SARs as 
a single document available to the public through the Government's 
regulations portal and our own Web page.


    The authority for this action is the Marine Mammal Protection Act 
of 1972, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1361 et al.).

    Dated: April 9, 2013.
Rowan W. Gould,
Acting Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2013-09067 Filed 4-17-13; 8:45 am]