[Federal Register: January 9, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 6)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 1175-1176]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 18

RIN 1018-AH86

Florida Manatees; Incidental Take During Specified Activities; 
Extension of Public Comment Period

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule; extension of public comment period.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, provide notice that 
the public comment period for the proposed regulations that would 
authorize for the next five years the incidental, unintentional take of 
a small number of Florida manatees (Trichechus manatus latirostris) 
resulting from government activities related to watercraft and 
watercraft access facilities is extended to allow all interested 
parties to submit written comments on the proposal and the draft 
environmental impact statement. Comments previously submitted during 
the comment period need not be resubmitted as they will be incorporated 
into the public record and will be fully considered in the final 
determination on the proposal.

DATES: The original comment period is scheduled to close on January 13, 
2003. The comment period is hereby extended until January 27, 2003. 
Comments from all interested parties must be received by the closing 
date. Any comments that are received after the closing date may not be 
considered in the final decision on this proposal.

ADDRESSES: If you wish to comment, you may submit your comments by any 
one of the following methods:
    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 904/232-2404.
    3. You may send comments by electronic mail (e-mail) to 
manatee@fws.gov. For directions on how to submit electronic comment 
files, see the ``Public Comments Solicited'' section.
    We request that you identify whether you are commenting on the 
proposed rule or draft environmental impact statement. 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. Monday through Friday, at the above address. You may obtain 
copies of the draft environmental impact statement from the above 
address or by calling 904/232-2580, or from our Web site at http://northflorida.fws.gov.
 Information regarding this proposal is available 
in alternative formats upon request.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Pete Benjamin, Assistant Field 
Supervisor (see ADDRESSES section), telephone 904/232-2580; or visit 
our Web site at http://northflorida.fws.gov.



    The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) of 1972 (16 U.S.C. 1361-
1407) 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

[[Page 1176]]

unless authorized. ``Take'' as defined by the MMPA and its implementing 
regulations (50 CFR part 18) means ``to harass, hunt, capture, collect, 
or kill, or attempt to harass, hunt, capture, collect, or kill any 
marine mammal, including, without limitation, any of the following--the 
collection of dead animals or parts thereof; the restraint or detention 
of a marine mammal, no matter how temporary; tagging a marine mammal; 
or the negligent or intentional operation of an aircraft or vessel, or 
the doing of any other negligent or intentional act which results in 
the disturbing or molesting of a marine mammal.''
    ``Harassment'' is defined under 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.''
    The prohibitions on take apply to all persons, including Federal, 
State, and local government agencies, with the exception of humane 
taking (including euthanasia) by government officials while engaged in 
their official duties (16 U.S.C. 1379(h)).
    Section 101(a)(5)(A) of the MMPA allows the Secretary of the 
Department of the Interior, through the Director of the Fish and 
Wildlife Service (Service), upon request, to authorize by specific 
regulation the incidental unintentional take of a small number of 
marine mammals by U.S. citizens engaged in specific identified 
activities (other than commercial fishing) within specific geographic 
areas. On November 14, 2002, the Service published a proposed rule and 
notice of availability of a draft Environmental Impact Statement 
regarding regulations that would authorize for the next five years the 
incidental unintentional take of a small number of Florida manatees 
(Trichechus manatus latirostris) resulting from government activities 
related to watercraft and watercraft access facilities within three 
regions of Florida (67 FR 69078).

Public Comments Solicited

    Any final action resulting from this proposal will be based on the 
best available information. Therefore, we solicit comments or 
suggestions from the public, other concerned governmental agencies, the 
scientific community, industry, or any other interested party 
concerning this proposed rule.
    We welcome any and all suggestions, materials, and recommendations 
to assist and guide us in this endeavor. Specifically, we are seeking:
    1. Information regarding manatee population studies/data, 
particularly for the Southwest Florida Stock;
    2. Information regarding measures, including technological 
measures, that would result in the least practicable impact on manatees 
and their habitat;
    3. Information regarding the effectiveness of mitigating measures 
currently in place;
    4. Information regarding the potential social and economic effects 
of the proposed regulations;
    5. Information regarding means of minimizing potential social and 
economic effects of the negative finding for the Southwest Stock;
    6. Suggested means and measures to report and monitor the effects 
of incidental take on manatees;
    7. Suggested additional research efforts related to the findings of 
this rule; and
    8. Nominations for participants to serve on the Working Group on 
Watercraft-related Incidental Take.
    Additionally, we are requesting specific public comment on the 
following issues pertaining to the economic analysis, which is printed 
in its entirety in the EIS for this action:
    1. Information to better model the change in boater behavior and/or 
the economic surplus impacts of changes in marine access;
    2. Additional estimates of the difference in residential property 
values with and without the potential to construct private boat docks;
    3. Information to estimate the number and regional distribution of 
out-of-state boaters who use their boats in Florida waters; and
    4. Alternative regional impact models (i.e., alternatives to 
IMPLAN) that would more accurately capture changes in sector outputs 
and employment resulting from the rule.
    Please submit comments as a DOS text file format and avoid the use 
of special characters and encryption. Please also include ``Attn--RIN 
1018-AH86'' and your name and return address in your email message. If 
you do not receive a confirmation from the system that we have received 
your email message, contact us directly by calling the Jacksonville 
Field Office (see ADDRESSES section).
    Our practice is to make comments, including names and home 
addresses of respondents, available for public review during regular 
business hours. Individual respondents may request that we withhold 
their name and home address from the rulemaking 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. We will not consider anonymous comments. We will make 
all submissions from organizations or businesses, and from individuals 
identifying themselves as representatives or officials of organizations 
or businesses, available for public inspection in their entirety.
    Our final determination on the proposed regulations will take into 
consideration comments and any additional information received by the 
date specified above. Previous comments and information submitted 
during the comment period need not be resubmitted. The comment period 
is extended to January 27, 2003.


    The primary author of this notice is Stefanie Barrett, U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service (see ADDRESSES).


    The authority to establish regulations that would authorize for the 
next five years the incidental, unintentional take of small numbers of 
Florida manatees is provided by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 
1972 (16 U.S.C. 1361-1407), as amended.

    Dated: December 27, 2002.
David P. Smith,
Acting Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.
[FR Doc. 03-357 Filed 1-8-03; 8:45 am]