[Federal Register: July 31, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 147)]
[Rules and Regulations]               
[Page 46643-46654]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AE91

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Final Rule To List 
the Short-Tailed Albatross as Endangered in the United States

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Final rule.


SUMMARY: Under the authority of the Endangered Species Act (Act) of 
1973, as amended, we, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), 
extend endangered status for the short-tailed albatross (Phoebastria 
albatrus) to include the species' range within the United States. As a 
result of an administrative error in the original listing, the short-
tailed albatross is currently listed as endangered throughout its range 
except in the United States. Short-tailed albatrosses

[[Page 46644]]

range throughout the North Pacific Ocean and north into the Bering Sea 
during the nonbreeding season; breeding colonies are limited to two 
Japanese islands, Torishima and Minami-kojima. Originally numbering in 
the millions, the current worldwide population of breeding age birds is 
approximately 600 individuals and the worldwide total population is 
approximately 1,200 individuals. There are no breeding populations of 
short-tailed albatrosses in the United States, but several individuals 
have been regularly observed during the breeding season on Midway Atoll 
in the northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Current threats to the species 
include destruction of breeding habitat by volcanic eruption or mud or 
land slides caused by monsoon rains, and demographic or genetic 
vulnerability due to low population size and limited breeding 
distribution. Longline fisheries, plastics ingestion, contaminants, and 
airplane strikes may also be factors affecting the species' 
conservation. This rule implements the Federal protection and recovery 
provisions provided by the Act for individuals when they occur in the 
United States.

DATES: This rule is effective August 30, 2000.

ADDRESSES: The complete file for this rule is available for inspection, 
by appointment, during normal business hours at the Anchorage Field 
Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 605 West 4th Avenue, Room G-62, 
Anchorage, AK 99501 (telephone 907/271-2888).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Greg Balogh, Endangered Species 
Biologist, at the above address or telephone 907/271-2778.




    George Steller made the first record of the short-tailed albatross 
in the 1740s. The type specimen for the species was collected offshore 
of Kamchatka, Russia, and was described in 1769 by P.S. Pallas in 
Spicilegia Zoologica (American Ornithologists' Union (AOU) 1997). In 
the order of tube-nosed marine birds, Procellariiformes, the short-
tailed albatross is classified within the family Diomedeidae. Until 
recently, it had been assigned to the genus Diomedea. Following the 
results of genetic studies by Nunn et al. (1996), the family 
Diomedeidae was arranged in four genera. The genus Phoebastria, North 
Pacific albatrosses, now includes the short-tailed albatross, the 
Laysan albatross (P. immutabilis), the black-footed albatross (P. 
nigripes), and the waved albatross (P. irrorata)(AOU 1998).


    The short-tailed albatross is a large pelagic bird with long narrow 
wings adapted for soaring just above the water surface. The bill, which 
is disproportionately large compared to the bills of other northern 
hemisphere albatrosses, is pink and hooked with a bluish tip, with 
external tubular nostrils, and a thin but conspicuous black line 
extending around the base. Adult short-tailed albatrosses are the only 
North Pacific albatross with an entirely white back. The white head 
develops a yellow-gold crown and nape over several years. Fledged 
juveniles are dark brown-black, but soon develop the pale bills and 
legs that distinguish them from black-footed and Laysan albatrosses 
(Tuck 1978, Roberson 1980).

Historical Distribution

    The short-tailed albatross once ranged throughout most of the North 
Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea, with known nesting colonies on the 
following islands: Torishima in the Seven Islands of Izu Group in 
Japan; Mukojima, Nishinoshima, Yomeshima, and Kitanoshima in the Bonin 
Islands of Japan; Kita-daitojima, Minami-daitojima, and Okino-daitojima 
of the Daito group of Japan; Senkaku Retto of southern Ryukyu Islands 
of Japan, including Minami-kojima, Kobisho, and Uotsurijima; Iwo Jima 
in the western Volcanic Islands (Kazan-Retto) of Japan; Agincourt 
Island, Taiwan; and Pescadore Islands, of Taiwan, including Byosho 
Island (Hasegawa 1979, King 1981). Other undocumented nesting colonies 
may have existed. For example, recent observations, together with 
records from the 1930s, suggest that the short-tailed albatross may 
have once nested on Midway Atoll. However, no confirmed historical 
breeding accounts are available for this area. Throughout this rule 
when we refer to Midway Atoll, we mean the complex of islets that occur 
within Midway Atoll that includes Sand Islet, Eastern Islet, and Spit 
Islet. Midway Atoll is located east of Kure Atoll, at the northwestern 
end of the Hawaiian Archipelago. A subset of atolls, islands, and reefs 
located north and west of the main Hawaiian Islands (Hawaii Island to 
Kauai Island) is known as the northwestern Hawaiian Islands (Nihoa 
Island to Kure Atoll).
    Early naturalists, such as Turner and Chamisso, believed that 
short-tailed albatrosses bred in the Aleutian Islands because high 
numbers of birds were seen nearshore during the summer and fall months 
(Yesner 1976). Alaska Aleut lore referred to local breeding birds, and 
the explorer O. Von Kotzebue reported that Natives harvested short-
tailed albatross eggs. However, while adult bones were found in Aleut 
middens (refuse heaps), fledgling remains were not recorded in more 
than 400 samples (Yesner 1976). Yesner (1976) believed that short-
tailed albatrosses did not breed in the Aleutians but were harvested 
offshore during the summer, nonbreeding season. Given the midwinter 
constraints on breeding at high latitudes and the known southerly 
location of winter breeding, it is highly unlikely that these birds 
ever bred in Alaska (Sherburne 1993).
    Additional historical information on the species' range away from 
known breeding areas is scant. Evidence from archeological studies in 
middens suggests that hunters in kayaks had access to an abundant 
nearshore supply of short-tailed albatrosses from California north to 
St. Lawrence Island as early as 4,000 years ago (Howard and Dodson 
1933, Yesner and Aigner 1976, Murie 1959). In the 1880s and 1890s, 
short-tailed albatross abundance and distribution during the 
nonbreeding season was generalized by statements such as ``more or less 
numerous'' in the vicinity of the Aleutian Islands (Yesner 1976). They 
were reported as highly abundant around Cape Newenham, in western 
Alaska (DeGange 1981), and Veniaminof regarded them as abundant near 
the Pribilof Islands (Gabrielson and Lincoln 1959). In 1904, they were 
considered ``tolerably common on both coasts of Vancouver Island, but 
more abundant on the west coast'' (Kermode in Campbell et al., 1990).

Historical Population Status

    At the beginning of the 20th century, the species declined in 
population numbers to near extinction, primarily as a result of hunting 
at the breeding colonies in Japan. Albatross were killed for their 
feathers and various other body parts. The down feathers were used for 
quilts and pillows, and wing and tail feathers were used for writing 
quills; their bodies were processed into fertilizer and rendered into 
fat, and their eggs were collected for food (Austin 1949).
    Pre-exploitation worldwide population estimates of short-tailed 
albatrosses are not known; the total number of birds harvested may 
provide the best estimate, since the harvest drove the species nearly 
to extinction. Between approximately 1885 and 1903, an estimated five 
million short-tailed

[[Page 46645]]

albatrosses were harvested from the breeding colony on Torishima 
(Yamashina in Austin 1949), and harvest continued until the early 
1930s, except for a few years following the 1903 volcanic eruption. One 
of the residents on the island (a schoolteacher) reported 3,000 
albatrosses killed in December 1932 and January 1933. By 1949, there 
were no short-tailed albatrosses breeding at any of the historically 
known breeding sites, including Torishima, and the species was thought 
to be extinct (Austin 1949).
    The species persisted, however, and in 1950, the chief of the 
weather station at Torishima, Mr. M. Yamamoto, reported nesting of the 
short-tailed albatross (Tickell 1973, 1975). By 1954 there were 25 
birds and at least 6 pairs (Ono 1955). These were presumably birds that 
had been wandering the North Pacific during the final several years of 
slaughter. Since then, as a result of habitat management projects, 
stringent protection, and the absence of any significant volcanic 
eruption events, the population has gradually increased. The average 
growth of the Torishima, Tsubamesaki colony, between 1950 and 1977 was 
2.5 adults per year; between 1978 and 1991 the average population 
increase was 11 adults per year. An average annual population growth of 
at least 7.8 percent per year (Hasegawa 1982, Cochrane and Starfield in 
prep.) has resulted in a continuing increase in the breeding population 
to an estimated 388 breeding birds on Torishima in 1997-1998 (H. 
Hasegawa, Toho University, Chiba, Japan, pers. comm. 1999). Torishima 
is under Japanese Government ownership and management and is managed 
for the conservation of wildlife. At this time, there is no evidence 
that the breeding population on Torishima is limited by the number of 
nest sites; therefore, ongoing management efforts focus on maintaining 
high rates of breeding success.
    Two primary activities have been undertaken to enhance breeding 
success on Torishima. First, erosion control efforts at the Tsubamesaki 
colony have improved nesting success. Second, an attempt to establish a 
second breeding colony on Torishima involved an experimental program 
for luring breeding birds to the opposite side of the island from the 
Tsubamesaki colony. Preliminary results of the experiment are 
promising; the first chick was produced in 1997. The expectation is 
that absent a volcanic eruption or some other catastrophic event, the 
population on Torishima will continue to grow, but that it will be many 
years before the breeding sites are limited (Hasegawa 1997).
    In 1971, 12 adult short-tailed albatrosses were discovered on 
Minami-kojima in the Senkaku Islands, one of the former breeding colony 
sites (Hasegawa 1984). Aerial surveys in 1979 and 1980 resulted in 
observations of between 16 and 35 adults. In April 1988, the first 
confirmed chicks on Minami-kojima were observed, and in March 1991, 10 
chicks were observed. In 1991, the estimate for the population on 
Minami-kojima was 75 birds and 15 breeding pairs (Hasegawa 1991). In 
1999, the estimate for the population is 150 birds and 30 breeding 
pairs (H. Hasegawa pers. comm. 1999). There is no information available 
on historical numbers at this breeding site.
    Short-tailed albatrosses have been observed on Midway Atoll since 
the 1930s (Berger 1972, Hadden 1941, Fisher in Tickell 1973, Robbins in 
Hasegawa and DeGange 1982), but there have never been more than two 
individuals reported on the Atoll during the same year, and no 
successful nesting has been confirmed on the Atoll. The islets of 
Midway Atoll are vegetated, flat coral sand. Three species of albatross 
(black-footed, Laysan, and short-tailed) occur on the islets. Black-
footed and Laysan albatrosses are common, nesting everywhere on the 
islands except where ironwood trees dominate the habitat. About 160 
people live on these islands, and a maximum of 100 visitors are allowed 
at any one time.
    Midway Atoll is a National Wildlife Refuge managed by the Service 
for the conservation of seabirds and other fish and wildlife and their 
habitats. The Refuge consists of roughly 31 square kilometers (12 
square-miles) of marine waters and 607 hectares (1,500 acres) of land 
consisting of three islets (Sand Islet, Eastern Islet, and Spit Islet). 
The Refuge is between 28 deg.05' and 28 deg.25' N latitude and 
177 deg.10' and 177 deg.30' W longitude, 4,505 kilometers (km) (2,800 
miles (mi)) west of San Francisco and 3,539 km (2,200 mi) east of 
Japan. Approximately two million black-footed and Laysan albatrosses 
nest at Midway.
    The first short-tailed albatross recorded on the Midway Atoll spent 
two winters between 1938 and 1940, but was somehow injured and died 
(Richardson 1994). Successful nesting by one pair in 1961 and 1962 was 
reported, but the validity of the report has been disputed (Tickell 
1996). The report was made by Dr. Harvey Fisher in a private letter 
written in 1983 to Dr. Hiroshi Hasegawa of Toho University in Japan 
(Richardson 1994). However, no photographs, observation records, or log 
entries have been found to verify this observation. In the years 
following the reported observation, the reported nest location on Sand 
Islet in the Midway Atoll was paved, and tens of thousands of 
albatrosses were exterminated from Sand Islet to construct an aircraft 
runway and to provide safe conditions for aircraft landings and 
departures. It is possible that, if any short-tailed albatrosses were 
nesting on the island, the individuals were either displaced or killed 
during this process (E. Flint, Service, Honolulu pers. comm. 1999).
    An adult short-tailed albatross was banded at Eastern Islet in 
Midway Atoll on March 18, 1966 (Sanger 1972). Beginning in November 
1972 and continuing through at least February 10, 1983, an individual 
banded as a chick on Torishima in March 1964 (band number 558-30754) 
returned to the Midway Atoll during most or all breeding seasons, and 
was regularly observed on the west side of Sand Islet (Richardson 
1994). An unbanded immature bird was observed on Sand Islet in February 
1981, but was not seen again.
    The first confirmed record of a short-tailed albatross nest and egg 
on the Midway Atoll occurred in 1993. The female was banded (Yellow 
015) as a chick in Japan in 1982 and had been returning to the same 
location on Sand Islet during the breeding season each year since 1988. 
The nest was in a grassy space beside the southwest edge of the active 
runway on Sand Islet very close to several black-footed albatross 
nests. The female incubated the egg for at least 31 days, but 
eventually abandoned the nest, and the egg was collected by our 
biologists and determined to be inviable. Yellow 015 subsequently laid 
and incubated an egg in 1995 and 1997, but both eggs were inviable (N. 
Hoffman, Service, Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge pers. comm. 
    An adult short-tailed albatross, banded (White 000) as a chick at 
Torishima in 1979, was first recorded at Midway Atoll in November 1985. 
It returned to the same site each year in December and left each 
spring, usually in April, until early in the fall of 1994. Its pattern 
of behavior in the breeding season was to sit in the colony except for 
occasional trips of 2 to 3 days length out to sea. In March 1994, Dr. 
Lee Eberhardt observed and videotaped breeding displays between White 
000 and Yellow 015 (Richardson 1994). White 000 returned to Midway in 
the fall of 1994, but failed to return after a routine foraging trip 
soon thereafter, and has not been sighted again.
    A third adult short-tailed albatross, banded as Yellow 051 in 1989 

[[Page 46646]]

Torishima Island in Japan, was first observed in January 1996 on 
Eastern Islet within the Midway Atoll. Yellow 051 was subsequently 
observed on Eastern Islet in December 1996 and in February 1997. A 
fourth short-tailed albatross, banded as Blue 057 in 1988 on Torishima 
Island in Japan, was first observed in February 1999 on Eastern Islet. 
Blue 057 was observed a second time in April 1999 on Sand Islet.
    Observations of individuals have also been made during the breeding 
season on Laysan Island, Green Island at Kure Atoll, and French Frigate 
Shoals, but there is no indication that these occurrences represent 
established breeding populations (Sekora 1977, Fefer 1989).
    The dramatic declines during the turn of the century and recent 
increases in numbers of short-tailed albatrosses were reflected in 
observations from the nonbreeding season. Between the 1950s and 1970, 
there were few records of the species away from the breeding grounds 
(Palmer 1962, Tramontano 1970). There were 12 reported marine sightings 
in the 1970s and 55 sightings in the 1980s; more than 250 sightings 
have been reported in the 1990s to date (Sanger 1972, Hasegawa and 
DeGange 1982, Service unpublished data). However, this observed 
increase in opportunistic sightings should be interpreted cautiously, 
because of the potential temporal, spatial, and numerical biases 
introduced by the opportunistic nature of the shipboard observations. 
Observation effort, total number of vessels present, and location of 
vessels may have affected the number of observations independent of an 
increase in total numbers of birds present. Moreover, the reporting 
rate of observations has likely increased with implementation of 
outreach efforts by Federal agencies and fishing interest groups in the 
last few years.
    At-sea sightings since the 1940s indicate that the short-tailed 
albatross, while very few in number today, is distributed widely 
throughout its historical foraging range of the temperate and subarctic 
North Pacific Ocean (Sanger 1972; Service unpublished data) and is 
often found close to the U.S. coast. From December through April, 
distribution is concentrated near the breeding colonies in the Izu and 
Bonin Islands (McDermond and Morgan 1993), although foraging trips may 
extend hundreds of miles or more from the colony sites, if short-tailed 
albatross behavior is similar to black-footed and Laysan albatrosses. 
Recent satellite tracking of black-footed and Laysan albatrosses 
revealed that individuals of those species travel hundreds of miles 
from the breeding colonies during the breeding season (David Anderson, 
Wake Forest University, pers. comm. 1999).
    In summer (the nonbreeding season), individuals appear to disperse 
widely throughout the historical range of the temperate and subarctic 
North Pacific Ocean (Sanger 1972), with reported observations 
concentrated in the northern Gulf of Alaska, Aleutian Islands, and 
Bering Sea (McDermond and Morgan 1993, Sherburne 1993, Service 
unpublished data). Individuals have been recorded along the west coast 
of North America as far south as the Baja Peninsula, Mexico (Palmer 

Current Population

    A worldwide population total may be coarsely estimated by combining 
information from a variety of sources. Estimates of total numbers of 
breeding age adults and immature birds may be obtained using a variety 
of different data and methods. We rounded the total estimates to the 
nearest hundred birds, reflecting the lack of precision in some of the 
    Breeding age population estimates come primarily from egg counts 
and breeding bird observations. Assuming 2 adults are present for each 
of the 212 eggs counted, 424 breeding adults would have been present on 
Torishima in 1998-1999 (H. Hasegawa pers. comm. 1999). Hasegawa (pers. 
comm. 1999) estimates there are currently 60 breeding adults on Minami-
kojima. Based on these estimates, the total number of observed breeding 
birds is thought to be approximately 480. It has been noted that an 
average of approximately 25 percent of breeding adults may not return 
to breed each year (H. Hasegawa pers. comm. 1997). Therefore, a 
reasonable estimate is that approximately 120 additional breeding age 
birds may not be observed on the breeding grounds in a given year. 
Based on these estimates, we believe that there is a total of 
approximately 600 breeding age birds.
    Estimates of the number of immature (nonbreeding) birds are more 
difficult to make because these individuals are rarely seen between 
fledging and breeding at approximately 6 years of age. We used two 
different methods to estimate the number of immature birds in the 
population: (1) Observational data of chicks fledged, and (2) modeling 
information. Both methods yielded similar results. H. Hasegawa (pers. 
comm. 1999) reports that 586 chicks were fledged from the Tsubamesaki 
colony on Torishima between 1993 and 1998. The only information on 
number of chicks from Minami-kojima is that ten chicks were counted by 
H. Hasegawa (pers. comm. 1997) in 1991. Over the past 6 years, 
therefore, assuming a stable population, an estimated minimum of 60 
chicks may have fledged from Minami-kojima. Based on an assumed average 
juvenile (fledging to age of first breeding) survival rate of 94 
percent (Cochrane and Starfield in prep.) and an average age of first 
breeding at 6 years (H. Hasegawa pers. comm. 1997), this technique 
yields an estimate of about 600 immature individuals in the population 
(rounded to tens). Alternatively, modeling information indicates that 
immature birds comprise approximately 47 percent of the total 
population in recent years, given current understanding of population 
dynamics. Breeding age birds are estimated at 600; therefore, based on 
the population modeling, we estimate that the immature birds also 
number approximately 600. The total population of short-tailed 
albatross is likely around 1,200 birds. No numerical estimates of 
uncertainty are available for this estimate.
    The short-tailed albatross population on Torishima Island is 
growing at a fairly rapid rate, especially given that it is a long-
lived and slow-to-reproduce species. Habitat management within the 
species main nesting colony has increased its nest success rate (H. 
Hasegawa, pers. comm. 1997) and probably its population growth rate as 
well. The recent annual population growth rate (Cochrane and Starfield 
in prep) in the Torishima short-tailed albatross colony (7.8 percent) 
approaches the maximum potential rate of increase (8 percent) that 
Fisher (1976) estimated for the Laysan albatross in the 1960s.

Demographic Information

    Short-tailed albatrosses are long-lived and slow to mature; the 
average age at first breeding is 6 years old (H. Hasegawa pers. comm. 
1997). As many as 25 percent of breeding age adults may not return to 
the colony in a given year (H. Hasegawa pers. comm. 1997). Females lay 
a single egg each year, which is not replaced if destroyed (Austin 
1949). Survival rates for all post-fledging ages combined are high (96 
percent; H. Hasegawa pers. comm. 1997). Actual juvenile survival rates 
are unknown, but are probably lower than adult survival rates. Cochrane 
and Starfield (in prep) assume a subadult survival rate of 94 percent. 
Breeding success (the percent of eggs laid that result in a fledged 
chick) varies between approximately 60 and 70 percent (H. Hasegawa 
pers. comm. 1997). Low

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breeding success occurs in years when catastrophic volcanic or weather 
events occur during the breeding season.

Breeding Biology

    At Torishima, birds arrive at the breeding colony in October and 
begin nest building. Egg-laying begins in late October and continues 
through late November. The female lays a single egg, incubation 
involves both parents and lasts for 64-65 days, eggs hatch in late 
December and January, and by late May or early June, the chicks are 
almost full grown and the adults begin abandoning their nests (H. 
Hasegawa pers. comm. 1997; Hasegawa and DeGange 1982). The chicks 
fledge soon after the adults leave the colony: by mid-July, the 
breeding colony is totally deserted (Austin 1949). Nonbreeders and 
failed breeders disperse from the breeding colony in late winter 
through spring (Hasegawa and DeGange 1982). There is no detailed 
information on breeding activities on Minami-kojima, but it is likely 
to be similar to that on Torishima.
    Short-tailed albatrosses are monogamous and highly philopatric to 
nesting areas (returning to the same breeding site year after year). 
Chicks hatched at Torishima return there to breed. However, young birds 
may occasionally disperse from their natal colonies to breed, as 
evidenced by the appearance of adult birds on Midway Atoll that were 
banded as chicks on Torishima (H. Hasegawa pers. comm. 1997, Richardson 

Breeding Habitat

    Available evidence from historical accounts, and from current 
breeding sites, indicates that short-tailed albatross nesting occurs on 
flat or sloped sites, with sparse or full vegetation, on isolated 
windswept offshore islands, with restricted human access (Aronoff 1960, 
Sherburne 1993, DeGange 1981). Current nesting habitat on Torishima is 
steep sites on soils containing loose volcanic ash. The island is 
dominated by a grass, Miscanthus sinensis var. condensatus, but a 
composite, Chrysanthemum pacificum, and a nettle, Boehmeria biloba, are 
also present (Hasegawa 1977). The grass is likely to stabilize the 
soil, provide protection from weather, and minimize mutual interference 
between nesting pairs while allowing for safe, open takeoffs and 
landings (Hasegawa 1978). The nest is a grass or moss-lined concave 
scoop about 0.75 meters (m) (2 feet (ft.)) in diameter (Tickell 1975). 
The only terrestrial area within U.S. jurisdiction that is currently 
used by the short-tailed albatross for attempted nesting is the Midway 

Marine Habitat

    Numerous records indicate that the short-tailed albatross frequents 
nearshore and coastal waters, which may explain why another common name 
for the species is the ``coastal albatross.'' However, the source of 
these records derives from boats that were near shore to begin with. 
The lack of more pelagic observations may say more about the 
distribution of boats than of albatrosses. Nevertheless, our short-
tailed albatross at-sea sightings' database contains many observations 
of short-tailed albatrosses within 10 km (6 mi) of shore, and several 
observations of birds within 5 km (3 mi) of the shore (Terry Antrobus, 
Service, Anchorage, pers. comm. 2000). Their presence may coincide with 
areas of high biological productivity, such as along the west coast of 
North America, the Bering Sea, and offshore from the Aleutians 
(Hasegawa and DeGange 1982). The North Pacific marine environment of 
the short-tailed albatross is characterized by coastal regions of 
upwelling and high productivity and expansive, deep water beyond the 
continental shelf.
    Specific geographic and seasonal distribution patterns within the 
marine range are not well understood. The short-tailed albatross is a 
frequent visitor to the productive waters in shelf break areas of the 
Northern Gulf of Alaska, Aleutians Islands, and Bering Sea. 
Historically, short-tailed albatrosses were found in middens in coastal 
areas, suggesting that they were available to hunters in kayaks close 
to shore. References from the early and mid-1900s suggest that short-
tailed albatrosses were more coastal in distribution than black-footed 
or Laysan albatrosses. Very little information exists on the 
distribution of the short-tailed albatross in open ocean areas; few 
systematic scientific studies have been conducted in these areas. 
Observations over the last 10-15 years from vessels and fishery 
observers are concentrated in the shelf break areas. Distributional 
data suggests that this species utilizes coastal shelf break areas of 
the Aleutian Islands, Bering Sea, and northern Gulf of Alaska on a 
regular basis for foraging. However, it is not known how important 
these areas are to the species, what percentage of the population 
visits these areas, what amount of time the species spends in these 
coastal areas, or if it uses open ocean areas to the same degree. 
Additionally, the short-tailed albatross is known to forage in the 
waters surrounding Hawaii including Midway Atoll in the northwest 
Hawaiian Island chain. In summary, the marine range of the short-tailed 
albatross within U.S. territorial waters includes Alaska's vast coastal 
shelf break areas and the marine waters of Hawaii for foraging, but we 
do not know how much or to what extent it utilizes open ocean areas of 
the Gulf of Alaska, North Pacific Ocean, and Bering Sea. There is no 
information on specific habitat or area use patterns within the vast 
shelf break areas used by the species.


    The diet of short-tailed albatrosses includes squid, fish, eggs of 
flying fish, shrimp, and other crustaceans (Hattori in Austin 1949, H. 
Hasegawa pers. comm. 1997). There is currently no information on 
variation of diet by season, habitat, or environmental condition.

Previous Federal Action

    Currently, the short-tailed albatross is listed as endangered under 
the Act, throughout its range, except in the United States (50 CFR 
17.11). The species was originally listed as endangered in accordance 
with the Endangered Species Conservation Act of 1969 (ESCA). Pursuant 
to the ESCA, two separate lists of endangered wildlife were maintained, 
one for foreign species and one for species native to the United 
States. The short-tailed albatross appeared only on the List of 
Endangered Foreign Wildlife (35 FR 8495; June 2, 1970). When the Act 
became effective on December 28, 1973, it superseded the ESCA. The 
native and foreign lists were combined to create one list of endangered 
and threatened species (39 FR 1171; January 4, 1974). When the lists 
were combined, prior notice of the action for the short-tailed 
albatross was not given to the governors of the affected States 
(Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington), as required by 
the Act, because available data were interpreted as not supporting 
resident status for the short-tailed albatross. Thus, native 
individuals of this species were never formally proposed for listing 
pursuant to the criteria and procedures of the Act.
    On July 25, 1979, we published a notice (44 FR 43705) stating that, 
through an oversight in the listing of the short-tailed albatross and 
six other endangered species, individuals occurring in the United 
States were not protected by the Act. The notice stated that our intent 
was that all populations and individuals of the seven species should be 
listed as endangered wherever they occurred. Therefore, the notice 
stated that we intended to take action to propose endangered status for

[[Page 46648]]

individuals occurring in the United States.
    On July 25, 1980, we published a proposed rule (45 FR 49844; July 
25, 1980) to list, in the United States, the short-tailed albatross and 
four of the other species referred to above. No final action was taken 
on the July 25, 1980, proposal. In 1996, we designated the short-tailed 
albatross as a candidate for listing in the United States (62 FR 49398; 
September 19, 1997). On November 2, 1998, we issued an updated proposed 
rule to list the short-tailed albatross as endangered in the United 
States (63 FR 58692; November 2, 1998).
    The processing of this final rule conforms with our current Listing 
Priority Guidance published in the Federal Register on October 22, 1999 
(64 FR 57114). The guidance clarifies the order in which we will 
process rulemakings. Our first priority is processing emergency listing 
rules for any species determined to face a significant and imminent 
risk to its well-being. Second priority is processing final 
determinations on proposed additions to the lists of endangered and 
threatened wildlife and plants (such as this final rule). Third 
priority is processing new proposals to add species to the lists. The 
processing of administrative petition findings (petitions filed under 
section 4 of the Act) is the fourth priority.

Summary of Comments and Recommendations

    In the November 2, 1998, proposed rule and associated 
notifications, all interested parties were requested to submit factual 
reports or information that might contribute to the development of a 
final rule. Appropriate Federal and State agencies, State governments, 
scientific organizations, and other interested parties were contacted 
and asked to comment. During the open public comment period, we 
solicited information from five independent scientists in compliance 
with our peer review policy (59 FR 34270; July 1, 1994). Three of the 
peer reviewers responded with comments. All three supported the listing 
of the short-tailed albatross as endangered throughout its range. We 
also solicited comments from the governments of Canada, the People's 
Republic of China, Vietnam, the Republic of Korea, the Phillippines, 
Norway, the Russian Federation, Japan, and Mexico. Comments were 
received from the Government of Mexico supporting the action; comments 
from the People's Republic of China were neutral, neither supporting 
nor objecting to the proposal. The comments from both Mexico and China 
were received after the close of the public comment period.
    We also published notices of the proposed rule in the Seattle Times 
and Anchorage Daily News on December 13, 1998, and in the Juneau Empire 
on December 15, 1998. In addition to the three comments received from 
peer reviewers, two additional comments were received during the 
comment period. All five of the comments supported the proposed 
listing. We received two comments after the comment period closed (in 
addition to those submitted by the People's Republic of China and 
Mexico); one was in support of the proposed listing, and one was 
neutral. No comments questioned the action proposed, the information 
upon which we based our conclusions, or any other matters relevant to 
the section 4 listing. Editorial and technical comments were made by 
some reviewers and were incorporated into the final rule, as 
appropriate. No public hearings were requested.

Summary of Factors Affecting the Species

    After a thorough review and consideration of all information 
available, we have determined that endangered status for the short-
tailed albatross should be extended to include the species range within 
the United States. Under the procedures found at section 4(a)(1) of the 
Act, and the regulations implementing the listing provisions of the Act 
(50 CFR part 424), a species may be determined to be endangered or 
threatened due to one or more of the five factors described in section 
4(a)(1). These factors and their application to the short-tailed 
albatross (Phoebastria albatrus) are as follows:
    A. The present or threatened destruction, modification, or 
curtailment of its habitat or range. Short-tailed albatrosses face a 
significant threat to the primary breeding colony on Torishima due to 
the potential of habitat destruction from volcanic eruptions on the 
island. The threat is not predictable in time or in magnitude. 
Eruptions could be catastrophic or minor, and could occur at any time 
of year. A catastrophic eruption during the breeding season could 
result in chick or adult mortalities as well as destruction of nesting 
habitat. Additionally, breeding habitat and nesting birds are 
threatened by frequent mud slides and erosion caused by the monsoon 
rains that occur on the island. Significant loss of currently occupied 
breeding habitat or breeding adults at Torishima would delay the 
recovery of the species or jeopardize its continued existence.
    Torishima is an active volcano approximately 394 m (1,300 ft) high 
and 2.6 km (1.6 mi) wide (H. Hasegawa pers. comm. 1997) located at 
30.48 deg. N and 140.32 deg. E (Simkin and Siebert 1994). The earliest 
record of a volcanic eruption at Torishima is a report of a submarine 
eruption in 1871 (Simkin and Siebert 1994), but there is no information 
on the magnitude or effects of this eruption. Since the first recorded 
human occupation on the island in 1887, four eruptions have been 
recorded: (1) On August 7, 1902, an explosive eruption in the central 
and flank vents resulted in lava flow and a submarine eruption and 
caused 125 human mortalities; (2) on August 17, 1939, an explosive 
eruption in the central vent resulted in lava flow and caused two human 
mortalities; (3) on November 13, 1965, a submarine eruption occurred; 
and (4) on October 2, 1975, a submarine eruption occurred 9 km (5.4 mi) 
south of Torishima (Simkin and Siebert 1994). The literature also 
refers to an additional eruption in 1940, which resulted in lava flow 
that filled the island's only place suitable for vessels to anchor 
(Austin 1949).
    Austin (1949) visited the waters around Torishima in 1949 and made 
the following observations: ``The only part of Torishima not affected 
by the recent volcanic activity is the steep northwest slopes where the 
low buildings occupied by the weather station staff are huddled. 
Elsewhere, except on the forbidding vertical cliffs, the entire surface 
of the island is now covered with stark, lifeless, black-gray lava. 
Where the flow thins out on the northwest slopes, a few dead, white 
sticks are mute remnants of the brush growth that formerly covered the 
island. Also on these slopes some sparse grassy vegetation is visible, 
but there is no sign of those thick reeds, or ``makusa'' that formerly 
sheltered the albatross colonies. The main crater is still smoking and 
fumes issue from cracks and fissures all over the summit of the 
    In 1965, meteorological staff stationed on the island were 
evacuated on an emergency basis due to a high level of seismic 
activity; although no eruption followed, the island has since been 
considered too dangerous for permanent human occupation (Tickell 1973). 
In late 1997, Hiroshi Hasegawa observed more steam from the volcano 
crater, a more pronounced bulge in the center of the crater, and more 
sulphur crusts around the crater than were previously

[[Page 46649]]

present (R. Steiner, Alaska Sea Grant Program, pers. comm. 1998).
    The eruptions in 1902 and 1939 destroyed much of the original 
breeding colony sites. The remaining site used by albatrosses is a 
sparsely vegetated steep slope of loose volcanic soil. The monsoon 
rains that occur on the island result in frequent mud slides and 
erosion of these soils, which can result in habitat loss and chick 
mortality. A typhoon in 1995 occurred just before the breeding season 
and destroyed most of the vegetation at the Tsubamezaki colony. Without 
the protection provided by vegetation, eggs and chicks are at greater 
risk of mortality from monsoon rains, sand storms, and wind (H. 
Hasegawa pers. comm. 1997). Breeding success at Tsubamezaki is lower in 
years when significant typhoons result in mud slides (H. Hasegawa pers. 
comm. 1997).
    In 1981, a project was supported by the Environment Agency of Japan 
and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to improve nesting habitat by 
transplanting grass and stabilizing the loose volcanic soils (Hasegawa 
1991). Breeding success at the Tsubamezaki colony has increased 
following habitat enhancement (H. Hasegawa pers. comm. 1997). Current 
population enhancement efforts in Japan are concentrated on attracting 
breeding birds to an alternate, well-vegetated colony site on Torishima 
that is less likely to be impacted by lava flow, mud slides, or erosion 
than the Tsubamezaki colony site (H. Hasegawa pers. comm. 1997). 
Japan's ``Short-tailed Albatross Conservation and Management Master 
Plan'' (Environment Agency 1996) sets forth a long-term goal of 
examining the possibility of establishing additional breeding grounds 
away from Torishima once there are at least 1,000 birds on Torishima. 
Until other safe breeding sites are established, however, short-tailed 
albatross survival will continue to be at risk due to the possibility 
of significant habitat loss and mortality from unpredictable natural 
catastrophic volcanic eruptions and frequent mud slides and erosion 
that result from monsoon rains on the island.
    B. Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes. As described above under Historical Population 
Status, direct harvest of short-tailed albatrosses caused a 
catastrophic decline in population numbers (refer to the Historical 
Population Status section); today, direct harvest of short-tailed 
albatrosses is rare. Hasegawa (pers. comm. 1997) reports that some 
local Japanese fishermen in Izu and Ryukyuu Islands hunt seabirds and 
may take some short-tailed albatrosses, but the likelihood that short-
tailed albatrosses are taken, or the level of such take, is not known. 
No other known direct take of short-tailed albatrosses occurs for 
commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes.
    C. Disease or predation. No known diseases affect short-tailed 
albatrosses on Torishima or Minami-kojima today. However, the world 
population is vulnerable to the effects of disease because of the small 
population size and extremely limited number of breeding sites. H. 
Hasegawa (pers. comm. 1997) reports that he has observed a wing-
disabled bird every few years on Torishima, but the cause of the 
disability is not known. An avian pox has been observed in chicks of 
albatross species on Midway Atoll, but whether this pox infects short-
tailed albatrosses or may have an effect on the survivorship of any 
albatross species is unknown (T. Work, D.V.M., USGS, Hawaii).
    Several parasites have been documented on short-tailed albatrosses 
on Torishima in the past including: a bloodsucking tick that attacks 
its host's feet, a feather louse, and a carnivorous beetle (Austin 
1949). However, current evidence suggests that no parasites affect 
short-tailed albatrosses on Torishima today, and no evidence indicates 
that parasites caused mortality or had population level impacts in the 
past (H. Hasegawa pers. comm. 1997).
    Sharks (subclass elasmobranchii) may take fledgling short-tailed 
albatrosses as they desert the colony and take to the surrounding 
waters (Harrison 1979). Shark predation is well documented among other 
albatross species, but has not been documented for the short-tailed 
albatross. The crow, Corvus sp., is the only historically known avian 
predator of chicks on Torishima. Hattori (in Austin 1949) reported that 
one-third of the chicks on Torishima were killed by crows, but crows 
are not present on the island today (H. Hasegawa pers. comm. 1997). 
Black or ship rats were introduced to Torishima at some point during 
human occupation, but their effect on short-tailed albatrosses in 
unknown. Cats were also present, most likely introduced during the 
feather hunting period. They have caused damage to other seabirds on 
the island (Ono 1955), but there is no evidence to indicate an adverse 
effect to short-tailed albatrosses. Cats were present on Torishima in 
1973 (Tickell 1975), but Hasegawa (1982) did not subsequently find any 
evidence of cats on the island.
    D. The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms. The short-
tailed albatross is currently listed under the Act as endangered 
outside of the United States. Listing the species within the United 
States as endangered would provide more comprehensive and extensive 
protection for the species through sections 7, 9, and 10 of the Act, 
and through recovery planning.
    The short-tailed albatross is listed as endangered on the State of 
Alaska's list of endangered species (State of Alaska, Alaska Statutes, 
Article 4. Sec. 16.20.19). This classification was supported by a 
letter to Commissioner Noerenberg from J.C. Bartonek (1972, in litt.) 
in which he recommended endangered status because the short-tailed 
albatross occurs or ``was likely'' to occur in State waters within the 
3-mile limit of State jurisdiction (Sherburne 1993). Under the Alaska 
Endangered Species Act, endangered species may not be harvested, 
captured, or propagated, except under a special permit from the Alaska 
Department of Fish and Game. In addition, the law requires the 
commissioners of the departments of Fish and Game and Natural Resources 
to protect the natural habitat of endangered species on lands under 
their jurisdiction (Schoen 1996). The short-tailed albatross does not 
appear on the State list of Hawaii's list of threatened and endangered 
    The Japanese Government designated the short-tailed albatross as a 
protected species in 1958, as a Special National Monument in 1962 
(Hasegawa and DeGange 1982) and as a Special Bird for Protection in 
1972 (King 1981). Torishima was declared a National Monument in 1965 
(King 1981). These designations have resulted in tight restrictions on 
human activities and disturbance on Torishima (H. Hasegawa pers. comm. 
1997). In 1992, the species was classified as ``endangered'' under the 
newly implemented ``Species Preservation Act'' in Japan, which makes 
Federal funds available for conservation programs and requires that a 
10-year plan be in place that sets forth conservation goals for the 
species. The current Japanese ``Short-tailed Albatross Conservation and 
Management Master Plan'' outlines general goals for continuing 
management and monitoring of the species, and future conservation needs 
(Environment Agency 1996). The principal management practices used on 
Torishima are legal protection, habitat enhancement, and population 
monitoring. Torishima and Minami-kojima are the only two confirmed 
breeding sites for short-tailed albatrosses, and both are under 
Japanese ownership and management. Of concern is that Minami-kojima has 
also been claimed by the Nationalist Republic of China and the People's 
Republic of

[[Page 46650]]

China. The situation may present logistical and diplomatic problems in 
attempts to implement protection for the colony on the island (Tickell 
    We were informed by the Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora 
Import and Export Administrative Office that short-tailed albatross is 
listed as a national first-class wildlife species for protection in the 
Law of the People's Republic of China on the Protection of Wildlife 
that was promulgated in 1998 (Meng Xianlin, in litt. 1999). The 
hunting, capture, or killing of the short-tailed albatross is 
prohibited, and its habitats are legally protected.
    On July 1, 1975, the short-tailed albatross was included in 
Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered 
Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES is a treaty established 
to prevent international trade that may be detrimental to the survival 
of plants and animals. Generally, both import and export permits are 
required from the importing and exporting countries before an Appendix 
I species may be shipped, and Appendix I species may not be imported 
for primarily commercial purposes. CITES export permits may not be 
issued if the export will be detrimental to the survival of the species 
or if the specimens were not legally acquired. However, CITES does not 
itself regulate take or domestic trade. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act 
of 1918, as amended (MBTA: 16 U.S.C. 703 et seq.), currently protects 
short-tailed albatrosses from taking in areas under its jurisdiction.
    E. Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued 
existence. Other factors potentially represent threats to the species 
conservation and recovery.
    One of these factors is small population size; another is the fact 
that only two breeding populations exist. The worldwide breeding-age 
population of short-tailed albatrosses numbers approximately 600 
individuals. A significant proportion of these individuals nest in the 
Tsubamezaki colony on Torishima. The remaining small number of breeding 
birds nest on Minami-kojima. Because the population size is small, and 
breeding is limited to only two colonies, a catastrophic volcanic or 
weather event on Torishima or Minami-kojima has the potential not only 
to significantly reduce the numbers of birds in the world, but also to 
reduce the worldwide breeding population to a level where the risk of 
extinction is high. Both the small population size and severely limited 
number of breeding colonies increases the vulnerability of the species 
to extinction caused by random stochastic events. The natural or 
artificial establishment of additional breeding colonies in protected 
habitats would help to secure the recovery of the species; however, 
such an effort is problematic. First, the population must be large 
enough to allow them to be available to colonize new sites through 
natural dispersal or allow humans to take birds from the wild to 
initiate such an effort. Secondly, we do not sufficiently understand 
the ecological requirements of breeding colony sites to allow us to 
undertake such an effort with confidence of success. Thus far, the only 
other known site where the birds have attempted to nest is on the 
Midway Atoll, where all those attempts have been unsuccessful. Until 
the population increases significantly in number and additional 
breeding colonies are established, the short-tailed albatross will 
remain vulnerable to extinction. Genetic diversity of the worldwide 
population may also be cause for concern since the species experienced 
a severe genetic bottleneck during the middle of this century.
    The risk of extinction caused by a catastrophic event at either of 
the two breeding colonies is buffered by adult and immature nonbreeding 
birds that are at sea during the breeding season. An average of 25 
percent of breeding age adults do not return to breed each year (H. 
Hasegawa pers. comm. 1997), and immature birds do not return to the 
colony to breed until at least 6 years after fledging (H. Hasegawa 
pers. comm. 1997). Modeling information suggests that about half of the 
current total worldwide population may be immature birds. If suitable 
habitat were still available on Torishima or Minami-kojima, these birds 
could recolonize in years following a catastrophic event.
    Another potential threat to the species' conservation and recovery 
is damage or injury related to oil contamination, which could cause 
physiological problems from petroleum toxicity and by interfering with 
the bird's ability to thermoregulate. Oil spills can occur in many 
parts of the short-tailed albatrosses' marine range. Oil development 
has been considered in the past in the vicinity of the Senkaku Islands 
(Hasegawa 1981, in litt.). Future industrial development would 
introduce the risk of local marine contamination, or pollution due to 
blowouts, spills, and leaks related to oil extraction, transfer, and 
transportation. Historically short-tailed albatrosses rafted together 
in the waters around Torishima (Austin 1949), and small groups of 
individuals have occasionally been observed at sea (Service unpublished 
data). An oil spill in an area where a large number of individuals were 
rafting, such as near breeding colonies, could affect the population 
significantly. The species' habit of feeding at the surface of the sea 
makes them vulnerable to oil contamination. Dr. Hiroshi Hasegawa (pers. 
comm. 1997) has observed some birds on Torishima with oil spots on 
their plumage.
    Consumption of plastics may also be a factor affecting the species' 
conservation and recovery. Albatrosses often consume plastics at sea, 
presumably mistaking the plastics for food items, or consuming marine 
life such as the eggs of flying fish that are attached to floating 
objects. Dr. Hiroshi Hasegawa (pers. comm. 1997) reports that short-
tailed albatrosses on Torishima commonly regurgitate large amounts of 
plastics debris. Plastics ingestion can result in injury or mortality 
to albatrosses if sharp plastic pieces cause internal injuries, or 
through reduction in ingested food volumes and dehydration (Sievert and 
Sileo in McDermond and Morgan 1993). Young birds may be particularly 
vulnerable to potential effects of plastic ingestion prior to 
developing the ability to regurgitate (Fefer 1989, in litt.). Auman 
(1994) found that Laysan albatross chicks found dead in the colony had 
significantly greater plastics loads than chicks within the population 
as a whole. This comparison was based on examinations of chicks injured 
by vehicles, which is presumably unrelated to plastics ingestion, and 
therefore representative of the population. Hasegawa has observed a 
large increase in the occurrence of plastics in birds on Torishima over 
the last 10 years (R. Steiner pers. comm. 1998), but the effect on 
survival and population growth is not known.
    Another potential threat to short-tailed albatross conservation and 
recovery is mortality incidental to longline fishing in the North 
Pacific and Bering Sea. Short-tailed albatross mortalities occur in 
longline fisheries as a result of baited longline hooks that are 
accessible to foraging albatrosses, primarily during line setting. Five 
short-tailed albatrosses are known to have been taken by longline 
fisheries in Alaska from 1983-1996. In consultation with the National 
Marine Fisheries Service, we determined that the Alaskan groundfish and 
halibut fisheries are likely to adversely affect short-tailed 
albatrosses, but are not likely to result in an appreciable reduction 
in the likelihood of survival and recovery of the species (Service 1989 
and amendments, Service 1998, Service 1999). Consultation under section 
7 of the Act is now being conducted for the Hawaiian longline fishery; 
the amount

[[Page 46651]]

and likelihood of take in this fishery is difficult to determine 
because of the low rate of observer coverage (5 percent of fishing time 
is observed). No takes of short-tailed albatrosses in the Hawaiian 
longline fishery have been reported; however, black-footed albatrosses 
and Laysan albatrosses have been taken (E. Flint pers. comm. 2000). The 
National Marine Fisheries Service is currently investigating whether 
collisions with sonar cables (third wires) associated with commercial 
trawl vessels may be adversely affecting short-tailed albatrosses (K. 
Rivera, NMFS, pers. comm. 2000).
    In general, seabirds are vulnerable to becoming entangled in 
derelict fishing gear. Laysan and black-footed albatrosses are 
occasionally entangled in derelict fishing gear on land and at sea in 
the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge (E. Flint pers. comm. 
2000). The magnitude of impacts caused by derelict gear from 
international longline fisheries is unknown. Hasegawa (pers. comm. 
1997) reports that three to four birds per year on Torishima come 
ashore entangled in derelict fishing gear, some of which die as a 
result. He also stated that some take by Japanese fishermen 
(handliners) may occur near the nesting colonies, although no such take 
has been reported. There is no additional information on the potential 
effects of fisheries near Torishima on the species. Lost or abandoned 
fishing gear is a threat to the species throughout its range, and is 
not restricted to the short-tailed albatross colony around Torishima 
Island, Japan.
    At the current population level and growth rate, the level of 
mortality resulting from longline fisheries is not thought to represent 
a threat to the species' continued survival, although it likely is 
slowing the recovery. In addition, in the event of a major population 
decline resulting from a natural environmental catastrophe or an oil 
spill, the effects of longline fisheries on short-tailed albatrosses 
could be significant.
    We have documented seabird collisions with airplanes on Midway 
Atoll National Wildlife Refuge since operation of the airfield was 
transferred from the Department of Defense to the Department of the 
Interior in July 1997. Since acquiring the airfield, we have 
implemented several precautionary mechanisms to reduce and document 
seabird collisions. Transient aircraft (primarily U.S. Military or U.S. 
Coast Guard C-130 airplanes) are required to obtain prior permission 
before landing at the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. Aircraft 
are advised to land within the parameters provided by ground 
controllers to reduce air collisions with seabirds. Prior to any 
aircraft landing or takeoff, the runway and taxiways are ``swept'' to 
haze any birds resting on the airfield. Bird activity advisories are 
provided to the pilots, and recommendations are suggested to modify 
approaches and landings at the airfield to avoid collisions. During 
nesting seasons, runway sweeps become more involved with several crews 
hazing birds from the runway.
    A female short-tailed albatross (band: yellow 015) has resided 
about 150 ft (50 m) from the end of the Midway Atoll National Wildlife 
Refuge runway since 1989. It is known to reside on the islet during the 
nesting season, from November to April. Although the bird is located 
close to the runway, aircraft are unlikely to collide with it because 
most landings and takeoffs, during November to April, occur at night 
when birds are less likely to be in flight. There have been no reports 
of Yellow 015 having a close encounter with aircraft, according to 
ground crews that monitor this bird during take-offs and landings (B. 
Dieli, Service, Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge pers. comm. 


    The worldwide population of short-tailed albatrosses continues to 
be in danger of extinction throughout its range due to natural 
environmental threats, small population size, and the small number of 
breeding colonies. Longline fishing, plastics pollution, oil 
contamination, and airplane strikes are not viewed as threats to the 
species survival, but we do consider them threats to the species 
conservation and recovery (i.e., these factors, by themselves, will 
probably not cause the extinction of the species, but have the 
potential to slow down recovery of the species). We believe that these 
factors may hamper recovery not by adversly modifying or distroying 
habitat, but by affecting the survival of individual birds.
    Most of the world's breeding population nests on Torishima Island 
in the Tsubamezaki colony. These individuals and the breeding habitat 
are at risk of measurable or significant population level impacts from 
a volcanic eruption on the island. The habitat at Tsubamezaki is 
further threatened by continued erosion and mud slides from monsoon 
rains despite the reduction of risk through habitat management. The 
only other known breeding location is on Minami-kojima, which is 
threatened by political unrest and internationally disputed ownership.
    We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial 
information available regarding the past, present, and future threats 
faced by this species in determining to make this rule. Based on this 
evaluation, we extend the listing of the short-tailed albatross as 
endangered to include its U.S. range. We are also correcting the 
information in the Historic Range column of the short-tailed albatross 
entry in the list of endangered and threatened species (50 CFR 
17.11(h)). The information in this column currently indicates the 
species' historic range includes the North Pacific Ocean and Bering 
Sea, and lands and waters of Japan, China, Russia, and the United 
States. We will correct this entry to include Taiwan, Canada, and 
Mexico. This column is nonregulatory in nature and is provided for the 
information of the reader.

Critical Habitat

    Section 4(a)(3) of the Act, as amended, and implementing 
regulations (50 CFR 424.12), require that we designate critical 
habitat, to the maximum extent prudent and determinable, at the time a 
species is listed as endangered or threatened. Designation is not 
prudent when one or both of the following situations exist: (1) The 
species is threatened by taking or other human activity, and 
identification of critical habitat can be expected to increase the 
degree of such threat to the species, or (2) such designation of 
critical habitat would not be beneficial to the species.
    Critical habitat is defined in section 3(5)(a) of the Act as: (i) 
The specific areas within the geographical area occupied by a species, 
at the time it is listed in accordance with the Act, on which are found 
those physical or biological features (I) essential to the conservation 
of the species and (II) that may require special management 
considerations or protection; and (ii) specific areas outside the 
geographical area occupied by a species at the time it is listed, upon 
a determination that such areas are essential for the conservation of 
the species. ``Conservation'' means the use of all methods and 
procedures needed to bring the species to the point at which listing 
under the Act is no longer necessary.
    In the November 2, 1998, proposed rule, we determined that 
designation of critical habitat was not prudent for the short-tailed 
albatross, based on our analysis and determination that such 
designation would not be beneficial to the species. With regard to 
breeding areas and potential breeding areas within the United States or 

[[Page 46652]]

United States jurisdiction, we concluded that there would be no 
additional benefit or protection conferred through the designation of 
critical habitat on the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge over that 
conferred through the jeopardy standard of section 7 of the Act. With 
regard to foraging areas in the waters of the United States or under 
United States jurisdiction, we concluded there would be no additional 
benefit because there is currently no information to support a 
conclusion that any specific marine habitat areas within United States 
jurisdiction are uniquely important. More importantly, adverse effects 
that have occurred in the marine environment have been a result of 
activities, such as longline fishing, that threaten individual 
albatrosses rather than albatross habitat. These effects will be 
addressed through the jeopardy standard of section 7 of the Act and 
through the section 9 prohibitions of the Act. With regard to foraging 
areas in United States waters, the proposed rule also concluded there 
would be no additional benefit or protection conferred through the 
destruction or adverse modification standard for critical habitat under 
section 7 of the Act. We did not receive any comments during the public 
comment period on this proposed determination.
    We believe that proposed determination was correct. Given the lack 
of habitat-related threats within U.S. territory for this species, the 
informational and educational benefits normally associated with 
critical habitat designation would not occur. Furthermore, there are no 
areas that we could identify as meeting the definition of critical 
    In accordance with the Act, a critical habitat designation can 
include areas outside the species current range if we determine that 
they are essential to the conservation of the species. We have not 
found any areas outside the current range of the species to be 
essential for the conservation of the species. Our best data suggests 
that the short-tailed albatross still occupies all of its marine-based 
historical range.
    For areas within the geographical range currently occupied by the 
species, critical habitat is considered to be those areas that have the 
physical and biological features essential to the conservation of the 
species and require special management consideration or protection. 
Areas within the geographic range currently occupied by the species 
that might be considered to have the features essential for the 
conservation of the species and that might require special management 
or protection include both breeding and marine habitat.
    Critical habitat cannot be designated within foreign countries or 
in other areas outside of United States jurisdiction (50 CFR 
424.12(h)). Thus, we would only consider for designation any habitats 
on United States land, in United States territorial waters, within the 
United States Exclusive Economic Zone from 0-321 km (0-200 mi) from 
shore, or in other areas within the jurisdiction of the United States. 
This albatross comes ashore primarily for breeding. The only areas 
where the short-tailed albatross successfully breeds is on the 
Torishima and Minami-kojima Islands of Japan. The only area within U.S. 
jurisdiction where albatross have attempted breeding is Midway Atoll. 
However, there is no current breeding population on Midway, and no 
evidence that a breeding population existed there in the past. We 
currently do not consider Midway Atoll to provide important breeding 
habitat for the species. Given the short-tailed albatross' apparent 
failure to successfully colonize Midway Atoll, we find that it does not 
contain features essential to the conservation of the species at this 
time. Based on this information we determined that Midway Atoll does 
not constitute critical habitat for this species at this time. However, 
should these circumstances change, such as with successful breeding, we 
will reevaluate the contribution of this area to the conservation and 
recovery of the species.
    With the exception of Midway Atoll, the short-tailed albatross 
habitat within United States jurisdiction is almost entirely marine 
(rare sightings of transient birds are made on other Hawaiian Islands). 
The species uses marine habitat for foraging. Marine habitats occupied 
by short-tailed albatrosses within United States jurisdiction are vast. 
Areas with essential physical and biological features are likely to 
occur throughout the temperate and subarctic North Pacific Ocean, along 
the west coast of North America as far south as the Baja Peninsula, 
Mexico. Individuals are widely distributed throughout this vast marine 
range. Because of the species' highly mobile, pelagic nature, any 
individual short-tailed albatross has the potential to occur at any 
location throughout its marine range. In addition to the species being 
highly mobile, its prey species (e.g., squid, fish, and eggs of flying 
fish) are also highly mobile, exhibiting seasonal and inter-annual 
variations in distribution. Available albatross observation data 
suggests that the short-tailed albatross concentrates its feeding 
efforts along the shelf-break areas in the Bering Sea and along the 
Aleutian Islands. However, the vast majority of these observations are 
made from commercial fishing vessels plying these waters; few vessels 
from which we have requested observation data operate very far from 
these shelf break areas. Some of these vessels have reported that 
short-tailed albatross are much more common during some years than 
others, suggesting that most of the birds are feeding elsewhere. 
Furthermore, we have recorded several short-tailed albatross 
observations made by individuals aboard research vessels far from the 
shelf-break areas frequented by commercial fishing vessels, suggesting 
that the birds do forage away from the shelf-break areas as well.
    We note that this species has historically been referred to as the 
coastal albatross. However, there is no objective data to suggest that 
this species used coastal areas more heavily than offshore areas. That 
it was historically sighted from shore was likely an artifact of its 
once-large population size; given 5 million short-tailed albatrosses 
wandering across the North Pacific, many were bound to have been 
observed from shore.
    The recent rate of annual growth in the Torishima short-tailed 
albatross colony (7.8 percent) approaches the maximum potential rate of 
increase (8 percent) that Fisher (1976) estimated for Laysan albatross 
in the 1960s, before fisheries bycatch and contaminants affected that 
population. The fact that the short-tailed albatross' population is 
growing at a rate that is probably near its maximum biological capacity 
for growth, allows us to infer that nothing about the bird's marine 
habitat is limiting population growth. Because the North Pacific Ocean 
and Bearing Sea once supported millions of short-tailed albatross, we 
believe that this species is not anywhere near its habitat carrying 
capacity, and it will be some time before any feature of its marine 
habitat becomes a critical limiting factor to population growth. Thus, 
we conclude that there is no need for special management or protection 
of any marine habitat feature with regards to the short-tailed 
albatross. Indeed, if we were able to increase the amount of forage 
fish throughout the species entire range, this action may not result in 
an appreciable increase in the population growth rate of short-tailed 
albatross, given that the species population is already growing at a 
rate that may be approaching its maximum biological capacity. To 
increase the availability of prey species within U.S. waters only would 
be even

[[Page 46653]]

less likely to result in an increase in population growth rate, yet 
this is the only portion of its global range for which we can designate 
critical habitat and enact special management or protections.
    Because this species' precarious situation derives entirely from 
historical harvest of the birds themselves, and not from any action 
that caused habitat degradation, and because marine habitat does not 
appear to be a factor limiting current population growth rate, we do 
not believe that there are areas within the United States that contain 
features that are essential to the conservation of the species that 
require special management or protection. Special management or 
protection is defined by regulation as ``any methods or procedures 
useful in protecting physical and biological features of the 
environment for the conservation of listed species.'' Because this 
species population growth is not limited by its marine habitat, nor do 
we believe that it will become limited by its marine habitat in the 
foreseeable future, we find that there are no methods or procedures 
that would be useful in protecting the physical and biological features 
of the marine environment. Therefore, we conclude that there are no 
areas within this environment that need special management or 
    In summary, we do not find any habitats within the jurisdiction of 
the United States that meet the definition of critical habitat, i.e., 
habitats within United States that contain the features essential for 
the conservation of the species and require special management and 
protection. Because there is no habitat that meets the definition of 
critical habitat, we find that it is not prudent to designate critical 
habitat for the short-tailed albatross.

Available Conservation Measures

    Conservation measures provided to species listed as endangered or 
threatened under the Act include recognition, recovery actions, 
requirements for Federal protection, and prohibitions against certain 
activities. Recognition through listing encourages and results in 
conservation actions by Federal, State, and local agencies, private 
organizations, and individuals. The protection required of Federal 
agencies and the prohibitions against taking and harm are discussed, in 
part, below.
    Section 7(a) of the Act requires Federal agencies to evaluate their 
actions with respect to any species that is proposed or listed as 
endangered or threatened and with respect to its critical habitat, if 
any is being designated or proposed. Regulations implementing this 
interagency cooperation provision of the Act are codified at 50 CFR 
part 402. Section 7(a)(2) requires Federal agencies to ensure that 
activities they authorize, fund, or carry out are not likely to 
jeopardize the continued existence of any listed species or destroy or 
adversely modify its critical habitat. If a Federal action may affect a 
listed species or its critical habitat, the responsible Federal agency 
must enter into formal consultation with us. Section 7(a)(4) requires 
Federal agencies to confer with us on any action that is likely to 
jeopardize the continued existence of a proposed species or result in 
destruction or adverse modification of proposed critical habitat.
    Federal agency actions that may require consultation as described 
in the preceding paragraph include National Marine Fisheries Service's 
Fishery Management Plans, management practices at the Midway Atoll 
National Wildlife Refuge, permits or authorization for oil tankering 
within the range of short-tailed albatrosses, and oil spill contingency 
    The Act and its implementing regulations found at 50 CFR 17.21 set 
forth a series of prohibitions and exceptions that apply to all 
endangered species of wildlife. All prohibitions of section 9(a)(1) of 
the Act, implemented by 50 CFR 17.21, apply. These prohibitions, in 
part, make it illegal for any person subject to the jurisdiction of the 
United States, to take (includes harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, 
wound, kill, trap, or collect; or to attempt to engage in any of 
these), import or export, ship in interstate commerce in the course of 
a commercial activity, or sell or offer for sale in interstate or 
foreign commerce any listed species. It is also illegal to possess, 
sell, deliver, carry, transport, or ship any such wildlife that has 
been taken illegally. Certain exceptions apply to agents of the Service 
and State conservation agencies.
    Permits may be issued to carry out otherwise prohibited activities 
involving endangered wildlife species under certain circumstances. 
Regulations governing permits for endangered wildlife are at 50 CFR 
17.22 and 17.23. Such permits are available for scientific purposes, to 
enhance the propagation or survival of the species, and/or for 
incidental take in connection with otherwise lawful activities. 
Information collections associated with these permits are approved 
under the Paperwork Reduction Act, 44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq., and assigned 
Office of Management and Budget Clearance number 1018-0094.
    Our policy (59 FR 34272; July 1, 1994) is to identify to the 
maximum extent practicable, at the time a species is listed, those 
activities that would or would not constitute a violation of section 9 
of the Act. The intent of this policy is to increase public awareness 
of the effect of the listing on proposed and ongoing activities within 
a species' range. The known non-Federal activities that may result in 
incidental take of short-tailed albatrosses are State-managed hook-and-
line longline fisheries. Activities that are not expected to result in 
any take of short-tailed albatrosses include: (1) Fishing activities in 
Alaska and Hawaii other than hook-and-line longline fishing; (2) 
lawfully conducted vessel operations such as transport, tankering, and 
barging; and (3) harbor operations or improvements. Questions regarding 
whether other specific activities will constitute a violation of 
section 9 should be directed to the Field Supervisor of the Anchorage 
Field Office (See ADDRESSES section).

Hawaii State Law

    Federal listing will automatically invoke listing under the State's 
endangered species law. Hawaii's endangered species law states, ``Any 
species of aquatic life, wildlife, or land plant that has been 
determined to be an endangered species pursuant to the Federal 
Endangered Species Act shall be deemed to be an endangered species 
under the provisions of this chapter * * *'' (HRS, sect. 195D-4(a)). 
Therefore, Federal listing will accord the species listed status under 
Hawaii State law. State law prohibits export, take, possession, 
processing, selling, delivering, carrying, transporting, or shipping of 
any listed species. The State law encourages conservation of such 
species by State agencies and triggers other State regulations to 
protect the species (HRS, sect. 195AD-4 and 5).

National Environmental Policy Act

    We have determined that an Environmental Assessment or 
Environmental Impact Statement, as defined under the authority of the 
National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, need not be prepared in 
connection with regulations adopted pursuant to section 4(a) of the 
Endangered Species Act. We published a notice outlining our reasons for 
this determination in the Federal Register on October 25, 1983 (48 FR 

[[Page 46654]]

Required Determinations

    This rule does not contain any new collections of information other 
than those already approved under the Paperwork Reduction Act, 44 
U.S.C. 3501 et seq., and assigned Office of Management and Budget 
clearance number 1018-0094. An agency may not conduct or sponsor, and a 
person is not required to respond to, a collection of information 
unless it displays a currently valid OMB control number. For additional 
information concerning permit and associated requirements for 
endangered species, see 50 CFR 17.32.

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited herein, as well as others, 
is available upon request from the Anchorage Field Office, U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service (see ADDRESSES section).


    The primary author of this proposed rule is Janey Fadley, U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service, Juneau Fish and Wildlife Service Office, 3000 
Vintage Park Blvd, Suite 201, Juneau, Alaska 99801, telephone (907) 

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

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

Regulation Promulgation

    Accordingly, we amend part 17, subchapter B of chapter I, title 50 
of the Code of Federal Regulations, as follows:


    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; Pub. L. 99-625, 100 Stat. 3500, unless otherwise noted.

    2. In Sec. 17.11(h), the table entry for ``Albatross, short-
tailed'', under BIRDS, is revised to read as follows:

Sec. 17.11  Endangered and threatened wildlife.

* * * * *
    (h) * * *

                        Species                                                    Vertebrate
--------------------------------------------------------                        population where                                  Critical     Special
                                                            Historic range       endangered or         Status      When listed    habitat       rules
           Common name                Scientific name                              threatened

          *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *

          *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *
Albatross, short-tailed..........  Phoebastria.........  North Pacific Ocean  Entire.............  E                     3,700           NA           NA
                                   (=Diomedea) albatrus   and Bering Sea-
                                                          Canada, China,
                                                          Japan, Mexico,
                                                          Russia, Taiwan,
                                                          U.S.A. (AK, CA,
                                                          HI, OR, WA).

          *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *

    Dated: July 25, 2000.
Jamie Rappaport Clark,
Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 00-19223 Filed 7-28-00; 8:45 am]