[Federal Register: June 10, 2002 (Volume 67, Number 111)]
[&thnsp;Proposed Rules]               
[Page 39668-39670]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 18

Marine Mammals: Incidental Take During Specified Activities

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement 


SUMMARY: Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), we, 
the Fish and Wildlife Service, intend to prepare an EIS to evaluate the 
effects of authorizing the incidental, unintentional take of small 
numbers of Florida manatees (Trichechus manatus latirostris). Pursuant 
to the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), we are currently in the 
process of developing incidental take regulations for government 
activities related to the operation of watercraft and watercraft access 
facilities within the geographic area of the species' range in Florida 
for a period of not more than five years.

DATES: We will consider comments on the proposed Programmatic 
Environmental Impact Statement that are received by July 25, 2002.

ADDRESSES: If you wish to comment, you may submit your comments by any 
one of several methods:

[[Page 39669]]

    1. You may submit written comments and information to the Field 
Supervisor, Jacksonville Field Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 
6620 Southpoint Drive, South, Suite 310, Jacksonville, Florida 32216.
    2. You may hand-deliver written comments to our Jacksonville Field 
Office, at the above address, or fax your comments to 904/
    3. You may send comments by electronic mail (e-mail) to 
fw4_es_jacksonville@fws.gov. For directions on how 
to submit electronic comment files, see the “Public Comments 
Solicited” section.
    Comments and materials received, as well as supporting 
documentation used in the preparation of this proposed rule, will be 
available for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business 
hours from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at the above address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Peter Benjamin, Assistant Field 
Supervisor Jacksonville Field Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
(see ADDRESSES section), telephone 904/232–2580; or visit our Web 
site at http://northflorida.fws.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Section 104 of the Marine Mammal Protection 
Act of 1972, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1361–1407) (MMPA), sets a 
general moratorium, with certain exceptions, on the taking and 
importation of marine mammals and marine mammal products and makes it 
unlawful for any person to take, possess, transport, purchase, sell, 
export, or offer to purchase, sell, or export, any marine mammal or 
marine mammal product unless authorized. Take, as defined by section 
3(13) of the MMPA means to harass, hunt, capture, or kill, or attempt 
to harass, hunt, capture, or kill any marine mammal.
    “Harassment” is defined at section 3(18) of the MMPA as 
any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance which—(i) has the 
potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild; 
or (ii) has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal 
stock in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, 
including, but not limited to migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, 
feeding, or sheltering (16 U.S.C. 1362). You can find other definitions 
relevant to our proposed action at 50 CFR 18.27(c).
    The MMPA contains exceptions to the moratorium. For example, 
section 101(a)(5)(A) authorizes the Secretary, upon request by citizens 
of the United States who engage in a specified activity (other than 
commercial fishing) within a specified geographical region, to allow 
the incidental, but not intentional, take of small numbers of a species 
or stock of marine mammal if certain findings are made and regulations 
prescribed. The Secretary must find that the total of such taking 
during the specified time period (not more than five consecutive years 
each) will have a negligible impact on the species or stock and will 
not have an unmitigable impact on the availability of such species or 
stock for subsistence uses. The regulations implementing the MMPA 
define “negligible impact” as an impact resulting from the 
specified activity that cannot be reasonably expected to, and is not 
reasonably likely to, adversely affect the species or stock through 
effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival (50 CFR 18.27(c)). 
If such findings are made, we would then establish specific regulations 
setting forth permissible methods of taking pursuant to such activity, 
means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact on the species 
or stock and their habitat, and requirements for monitoring and 
reporting such taking. We have determined that the subsistence 
provision requiring a finding that the total taking not have an 
unmitigable impact on the availability of the species or stock for 
subsistence uses is not applicable to Florida manatees.
    Following promulgation of incidental take regulations, U.S. 
citizens (including government agencies) could apply for a Letter of 
Authorization, which, if granted, would authorize incidental take 
associated with an applicant's activities. Procedures for obtaining a 
Letter of Authorization are described at 50 CFR 18.27(f).
    The largest known human-related cause of manatee deaths is 
collisions with watercraft. Between 1976 and 1999, watercraft-related 
deaths increased at an average of 7.2 percent per year. In 2000 and 
2001, watercraft-related deaths accounted for 29 percent and 25 
percent, respectively. From 1996 to 2001, watercraft-related deaths 
have been the highest on record, ranging from 54 to 82.
    In the State of Florida, County, State, and Federal agencies engage 
in a variety of activities that may result in the incidental, 
unintentional take of manatees by watercraft. Many of these activities 
relate to the use and regulation of watercraft operated in Florida 
waters accessible to manatees, including: (1) Regulating boater 
behavior on the water (e.g., speed zones and vessel registration); (2) 
permitting construction of watercraft access facilities (marinas, 
docks, boat ramps); (3) funding construction of watercraft access 
facilities; (4) operating watercraft access facilities; and (5) 
operating watercraft. To date, there is no authorization for the 
incidental, unintentional death, injury, or harassment of manatees 
caused by these otherwise legal activities.
    We engage in, or have the authority to engage in, each of the above 
five categories of activities; therefore, our activities could result 
in the incidental, unintentional take of manatees. As such, we have 
initiated development of incidental take regulations for our own 
activities related to watercraft in Florida. We have also encouraged 
other Federal and State agencies involved in these same types of 
activities to join us in this evaluation in order to develop a more 
comprehensive rule that could address a broader range of activities 
that may result in watercraft-related take of manatees.
    The Environmental Impact Statement will evaluate the environmental 
effects of the incidental take regulations, and will evaluate 
alternatives for structuring and implementing the proposed regulations.
    Persons wishing to provide relevant information and comments 
regarding this activity should submit these to the above address. For 
information, please contact the individual identified above in the 

Public Comments Solicited

    Interested persons are invited to submit comments regarding our 
preparation of an EIS related to development of incidental take 
regulations for manatees in Florida. We welcome any and all 
suggestions, materials, and recommendations to assist and guide us in 
this endeavor. Specifically, we are seeking:
    &sbull; Information on the direct, secondary and cumulative 
effects of this rulemaking on manatees, manatee habitat, and other 
aspects of the human environment;
    &sbull; Suggestions regarding the range of alternatives to be 
considered in the EIS, including alternatives for structuring the 
proposed incidental take regulations, and alternatives to incidental 
take regulations;
    &sbull; Information regarding the potential social and 
economic effects of the proposed regulations;
    &sbull; Information on potential mitigative measures, 
including technological measures, that would result in the least 
practicable impact on manatees and their habitat; and,
    &sbull; Suggested means and measures to report and monitor the 
effects of incidental take on manatees.
    Our practice is to make comments, including names and home 
addresses of respondents, available for public review

[[Page 39670]]

during regular business hours. Individual respondents may request that 
we withhold their name and home address from the EIS record, which we 
will honor to the extent allowable by law. If you wish us to withhold 
your name and/or address, you must state this prominently at the 
beginning of your comment. However, we will not consider anonymous 
comments. We will make all submissions from organizations or business, 
and from individuals identifying themselves as representatives or 
officials of organizations or businesses, available for public 
inspection in their entirety.

    Dated: May 6, 2002.
Sam D. Hamilton,
Regional Director, Region 4.
[FR Doc. 02–14326 Filed 6–7–02; 8:45 am]