[Federal Register: June 18, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 118)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 34686-34692]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[FWS-R7-ES-2008-0004; 1111 FY07 MO-B2]

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 90-Day Finding on 
a Petition To List the Long-Tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis) as 

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of 90-day petition finding.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce a 
90-day finding on a petition to list the long-tailed duck (Clangula 
hyemalis) as endangered under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as 
amended (Act). We find that the petition does not present substantial 
scientific or commercial information indicating that listing the 
species may be warranted.

[[Page 34687]]

Therefore, we will not initiate a further status review in response to 
this petition. We ask the public to submit to us any new information 
that becomes available concerning the status of the long-tailed duck or 
threats to it or its habitat at any time. This information will help us 
monitor and encourage the conservation of the species.

DATES: The finding announced in this document was made on June 18, 
2008. You may submit new information concerning this species for our 
consideration at any time.

ADDRESSES: This finding is available on the Internet at http://
www.regulations.gov. Supporting information we used in preparing this 
finding is available for public inspection, by appointment, during 
normal business hours, at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Anchorage 
Fish and Wildlife Field Office, 605 West 4th Avenue, G-61, Anchorage, 
AK 99501. Please submit any new information, materials, comments, or 
questions concerning this species or this finding to the above address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Greg Balogh, Endangered Species 
Branch Chief, Anchorage Fish and Wildlife Field Office, (see 
ADDRESSES); by telephone at 907-271-2778; or by facsimile at 907-271-
2786. Persons who use a telecommunications devise for the deaf (TTD) 
may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-877-8339.



    Section 4(b)(3)(A) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) requires 
that we make a finding on whether a petition to list, delist, or 
reclassify a species presents substantial scientific or commercial 
information to indicate that the petitioned action may be warranted. We 
are to base this finding on information provided in the petition, 
supporting information submitted with the petition, and information 
otherwise available in our files at the time we make the determination. 
To the maximum extent practicable, we are to make this finding within 
90 days of our receipt of the petition, and publish our notice of this 
finding promptly in the Federal Register.
    Our standard for substantial information within the Code of Federal 
Regulations (CFR) with regard to a 90-day petition finding is ``that 
amount of information that would lead a reasonable person to believe 
that the measure proposed in the petition may be warranted'' (50 CFR 
424.14(b)). If we find that substantial information was presented, we 
are required to promptly commence a review of the status of the 
    In making this finding, we based our decision on information 
provided by the petitioner and otherwise available in our files at the 
time of the petition review, and we evaluated this information in 
accordance with 50 CFR 424.14(b). Our process for making a 90-day 
finding under section 4(b)(3)(A) of the Act and 50 CFR 424.14(b) of our 
regulations is limited to a determination of whether the information in 
the petition meets the ``substantial information'' threshold.


    On February 10, 2000, we received an undated petition from Nancy 
Hillstrand, Homer, Alaska, to list the long-tailed duck as endangered 
and to designate critical habitat in southcentral and southeastern 
Alaska, including Kodiak and the Aleutians, the Yukon-Delta National 
Wildlife Refuge, and the National Petroleum Reserve. The petition 
itemizes threats to the species based on personal observations. The 
petition references, but does not provide supporting data on, multiple 
threats to the long-tailed duck and other species of the Tribe Mergini. 
As the petition does not specify the particular population to be listed 
as endangered, the Service assumed the petitioned action was to list 
the species as endangered throughout its entire range. On March 10, 
2000, the Service informed the petitioner that funds available for 
listing activities were fully allocated to higher-priority actions 
associated with statutory requirements and active litigation, and that 
we would address the petition as funding became available. We also 
concluded in our March 10, 2000, letter that emergency listing of the 
long-tailed duck was not indicated. Responding to the petition was 
further delayed due to the high priority of responding to court orders 
and settlement agreements regarding other species, until funding 
recently became available to respond to the petition. This finding 
fulfills the Service's obligation under 16 U.S.C. 1533(b)(3)(A) and its 
implementing regulations at 50 CFR 424.14(b).

Biology and Distribution

    The long-tailed duck (Clangula hyemalis) (Order Anseriformes, 
Family Anatidae) is a small to medium-sized sea duck, with a long tail, 
steep forehead, flattened crown, small stout bill, and strongly 
contrasting plumages of white, black, and brown. It is most similar to 
the harlequin duck (Histrionicus histrionicus) and Steller's eider 
(Polysticta stelleri). Adults weigh roughly 750 to 1,000 grams (1.7 to 
2.2 pounds) and measure roughly 38 to 53 centimeters (15 to 21 inches) 
in length. Average male body mass and size is greater than that of the 
    The long-tailed duck is Holarctic in distribution, breeding in 
tundra and taiga regions around the globe as far north as 80 degrees 
north latitude. With a worldwide population of more than seven million 
birds, this species may be the most abundant Arctic sea duck. The 
following information regarding the description and natural history of 
the long-tailed duck has been condensed from Robertson and Savard 
(2002) and Wilbor (1999). Specific references are cited for data of 
particular relevance to this finding.
    In North America, the long-tailed duck breeds from the northern 
coast of Alaska east across Canada to Ellesmere and Baffin Islands and 
northern Labrador south to southern and central Alaska, northwestern 
British Columbia, eastern and southcentral Ontario, and Hudson and 
James Bays (Robertson and Savard 2002, p. 3). This species winters on 
both coasts of North America and on the Great Lakes. In western North 
America, it winters throughout the Aleutian Islands and Kodiak Island 
and along coastal southern Alaska, the entire British Columbia coast, 
the Puget Sound, and coastal Washington State south to northern Oregon 
(Robertson and Savard 2002, p. 3). It is rare along the Oregon and 
California coasts and present throughout all western provinces and 
States east to Colorado and Utah and south to Gulf of California, 
Mexico. On the east coast of North America, it winters from southern 
Labrador, Newfoundland, St. Lawrence estuary, Gulf of St. Lawrence, 
Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Gulf of Maine, and along the New 
England coast and Chesapeake Bay south to Cape Hatteras, North 
Carolina. It is common south to the north shore of the Gulf of Mexico 
and Atlantic Coast to Florida and rare as far south as Bermuda. Inland, 
it winters on all five Great Lakes. Small numbers are scattered 
throughout many water bodies in eastern North America. It remains in 
northern areas as long as open water is available.
    In the Palearctic, the breeding range of the long-tailed duck is 
circumpolar, including all of coastal Greenland (except the far north), 
Iceland, northern Scandinavia, the north coast of continental arctic 
Russia to the Chukotska Peninsula, and most offshore islands. It 
winters in southwest Greenland and throughout most of Iceland. Large 
numbers winter in the

[[Page 34688]]

Baltic Sea and Finland, and in the North Sea and coastal Norway. In the 
Pacific, the species winters along eastern and southern Kamchatka 
Peninsula, along Commander Island, Bering Strait, and northern Anadyr 
    Long-tailed ducks breed over a vast range and at low densities, 
making comprehensive surveys of their abundance difficult. They are 
even more difficult to monitor in winter due to their offshore 
distribution. Although incomplete survey coverage reduces reliability 
of population size and trend estimates, current population estimates 
suggest they are the most abundant Arctic sea duck. The North American 
population may number up to two million birds (USFWS 2001, p. 45). 
Approximately 200,000 birds breed in Alaska; the remainder breeds in 
Canada (USFWS 2003, p. 50). Miyabayashi and Mundkur (1999, p. 118) 
estimate 500,000 to 1,000,000 birds breed and winter in eastern Asia. 
Nearly 150,000 birds breed in Iceland and Greenland (Wetlands 
International 2002, p. 97), and an estimated 4,600,000 breed in western 
Siberia and northern Europe (Scott and Rose 1996, p. 208). The size of 
the pre-breeding population (birds less than 3 years old) is unknown.
    Although the Icelandic breeding population experienced a marked 
decline in the early 20th century, the breeding populations in Iceland 
and Greenland are now thought to be stable (Wetlands International 
2002, p. 97). Scott and Rose (1996, p. 208) indicated that post-
breeding numbers on the tundra of western and central Siberia and 
breeding populations in northern Europe were stable between 1972 and 
1989. In contrast, several surveys suggest declining long-tailed duck 
populations in some parts of Alaska and Canada. The North American 
Waterfowl Breeding Population Survey indicated an average annual 
decline of 5.3 percent from 1973 to 1997 (USFWS 2001, p. 45), and 
Conant and Groves (2005, p. 5) report a 29-year downward trend for 
long-tailed ducks in Alaska and the Yukon Territory. Larned, et al. 
(2005, p. 7) reported an insignificant decline in long-tailed duck 
numbers on the Arctic Coastal Plain in Alaska, and Mallek, et al. 
(2006, p. 4) reported a significant downward 20-year trend for the same 
area. However, existing breeding population surveys must be interpreted 
with caution. Both Conant and Groves (2005, p. 9) and Larned, et al. 
(2005, p. 7) suggest that survey timing relative to spring arrival 
(whether early or late) may account for the lower abundances detected 
in recent years. The North American Waterfowl Breeding Population 
Survey does not include major breeding grounds in Canada and Alaska, 
its transect lines are not located systematically throughout all 
habitat strata, and it is unlikely that birds are evenly distributed in 
the sampled area. Such incomplete survey coverage represents an 
obstacle to providing reliable population and trend estimates for 
species like the long-tailed duck that occur over vast regions at low 
densities (USFWS 2001, p. 45). In contrast to suggested population 
declines in northern Alaska, the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Coastal Zone 
Survey indicated significantly increasing populations for long-tailed 
ducks since 1988 (Platte and Stehn 2005, p. 6).
    Long-tailed ducks have the most complex molt of any waterfowl 
species, with three different plumages (basic, supplemental, and 
alternate) during the year; plumage is changing almost continuously. In 
winter and spring, male plumage is mainly white with a black ear patch, 
black collar around the breast, completely dark wings, and dark central 
tail feathers; the male has a short dark bill with a pink subterminal 
band. In early spring and early summer, males appear mostly dark, with 
a pale gray facial patch. By mid-summer, males have gray flanks and 
buff on their wings. The pattern of plumage change in the female is 
similar to that of the male, lighter in winter and darker in summer, 
but lacks the sharp contrast of dark and white, thus appearing darker 
than the male in winter plumage. Females also do not possess long 
central tail feathers. Juveniles resemble females but are duller, and 
the white areas are less distinct than in adult plumages. There are no 
recognized subspecies or geographic variations.
    Long-tailed ducks nest in small clusters in subarctic and arctic 
wetlands on lake islands and by ponds in open tundra and taiga, rarely 
to tree line; offshore islands with freshwater ponds and tundra-like 
vegetation are also used. Nests are usually in upland habitat, 
concealed in vegetation, and close to fresh water with emergent 
vegetation (Arctophila spp. or Carex spp.) for cover, and open deep 
water for feeding. Nest site selection may be influenced by predation 
pressure from foxes (Vulpes spp. and Alopex spp.), gulls (Larus spp.), 
ravens (Corvus corax), and jaegers (Stercorarius spp.). Long-tailed 
ducks avoid nesting on ponds where herring gulls (Larus argentatus), 
Pacific loons (Gavia pacifica), and common eiders (Somateria 
mollissima) nest (Robertson and Savard 2002, pp. 5, 12-13).
    While male long-tailed ducks defend a territory, females are not 
territorial at any stage. Although information on the mating system is 
scarce, site fidelity of males and females to breeding grounds suggests 
long-term monogamy. Data from Hudson Bay (Alison 1975, pp. 10, 43) 
indicate that females show a strong tendency to return to their 
previous nest area and suggest some level of subadult female philopatry 
to natal breeding areas as well.
    A diurnal feeder, the long-tailed duck dives for food and has a 
highly variable diet of animal prey, focusing on locally abundant food 
items. Diving to depths greater than 60 meters (196.8 feet), it is 
probably the deepest diver among waterfowl (Robertson and Savard 2002, 
p. 6). On breeding grounds, its diet consists mainly of larval and 
adult aquatic insects, crustaceans, fish roe, and vegetable matter. On 
marine wintering grounds, epibenthic crustaceans, amphipods, mysids, 
isopods, bivalves, gastropods, fish, and fish eggs are important in the 
diet; amphipods, fish, mollusks, and oligochaete worms make up the diet 
on freshwater wintering grounds (Robertson and Savard 2002, p. 7).
    Nest sites, selected by the female, are generally close to water on 
islands in freshwater ponds, on mainland tundra, in marshy habitat, in 
scrubland (Salix spp. and Betula spp.), and in dry uplands. Alison 
(1975, p. 43) documented nest reuse for three successful females. 
Between six and eight smooth, pale gray to olive buff eggs are laid 
between late June and late July, depending on location and weather, 
particularly snow melt. Hatching occurs after 24-29 days of incubation 
(by the female only), between early July and early August. Ducklings 
are precocial, and leave the nest 1-2 days after hatching, feeding on 
material that surfaces when the female dives. The female will lead 
broods to new ponds when food resources become depleted in the occupied 
pond. Hens and broods tend to use lakes without fish and may use 10-20 
different ponds during the pre-fledging period. Young birds fledge 35-
40 days after hatching. Re-nesting following nest failure is not 
documented in this species and is unlikely at high latitudes.
    Mean annual survival rate of adult females in Alaska is estimated 
to be 75 percent (+8 Standard Error (SE)) (Robertson and Savard 2002, 
p. 15). In Iceland, mean annual survival of banded adults is 72 percent 
(Robertson and Savard 2002, p. 15). Although little information is 
available, first breeding is thought to begin at age 2 years, but first 
attempts to breed are likely unsuccessful. Periodic non-breeding may 
occur, although it is poorly documented. Long-tailed ducks are thought 
to be long-lived; band recovery

[[Page 34689]]

data include a male at least 15 years old recovered alive and a male at 
least 18 years old that had been harvested.
    Very little data are available on percent of eggs that eventually 
result in fledged young, fledging success of hatched young, or mean 
number of young fledged per nest attempt. Nest success ranges from 41.3 
percent in western Alaska to 58.9 percent in northern Manitoba 
(Robertson and Savard 2002, p. 14). Duckling success in western Alaska 
is reported to average 9 percent (Robertson and Savard 2002, p. 14). In 
North America during years with warmer arctic temperatures, more 
immature birds are harvested, suggesting that temperatures influence 
reproductive success. In northern Sweden, the proportion of females 
that reared at least one brood to fledging was higher in years with 
abundant small rodents (Lemmus spp. and Microtus spp.) (Robertson and 
Savard 2002, p. 15).
    The long-tailed duck is a short-to-medium-distance migrant that 
stages in the thousands at traditional coastal locations before 
migrating north. Northerly movements begin in late February in western 
North America and late March on the east coast of North America 
(Robertson and Savard 2002, p. 4; Wilbor 1999, p. 16). Northward 
migration from the Great Lakes area begins in late February. Birds 
travel along the northeast Alaska coast from late May to mid-June, and 
move inland to nesting areas from Baffin Bay during mid-to late June. 
Large flocks make use of ice leads in the Arctic until breeding areas 
become available for nesting. Birds arrive on the breeding grounds from 
mid-May in southerly areas to June in arctic Alaska, Baffin Island, and 
Ellesmere Island (Robertson and Savard 2002, p. 4).
    Post-breeding males begin molting-migration mid-June in Manitoba 
and late June along the north Alaska coast. Sub-adults leave Arctic 
Coastal Plain breeding areas by late June. Females migrate to molting 
sites several weeks after males in mid-to late August. Small molting 
populations are thought to occur throughout most of the breeding range. 
Major molting habitats in the Beaufort Sea occur near St. Lawrence 
Island and in coastal lagoons on the west and north coasts of Alaska. 
Other important molting sites, with concentrations numbering 30,000 to 
40,000 individuals, are located between Prudhoe Bay and Demarcation 
Bay. A large number of birds molt along the coasts of western Baffin 
Bay. North American breeders may also molt in coastal eastern Russia 
and northwestern Greenland (Robertson and Savard 2002, p. 5).
    Long-tailed ducks winter in either offshore marine habitat or 
inland freshwater areas. Southerly migration begins in late fall with 
arrival at the Pacific coast, Great Lakes, and Atlantic coast wintering 
areas in October. Resident populations may exist in Alaska and Hudson 
Bay (Robertson and Savard 2002, p. 4). Migration routes are both marine 
(coastal and up to 160 kilometers (km) (99.4 miles (mi)) from offshore) 
(Fischer, et al. 2002, p. 76) and overland. Few long-tailed ducks have 
been banded, making it difficult to determine affiliations between 
breeding and wintering locations. Breeding birds banded in northern 
Manitoba were found to winter primarily in the Great Lakes and to a 
lesser extent on the Atlantic Coast (Chesapeake Bay). Birds banded in 
Alaska have never been recovered on the Atlantic Coast (Robertson and 
Savard 2002, p. 5).
    Although there may be two or more geographic populations of long-
tailed ducks in North America that are separated by the breeding and 
wintering distribution, the delineation of these populations is not 
documented (USFWS 2001, p. 45). Traditional band recovery data are 
insufficient to determine the relationship between breeding, molting, 
migrating, and wintering groups of long-tailed ducks across their 

Threats Analysis

    Section 4 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1533) and its implementing 
regulations at 50 CFR 424 set forth the procedures for adding species 
to the Federal Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants. 
A species may be determined to be an endangered or threatened species 
due to one or more of the five factors described in section 4(a)(1) of 
the Act: (A) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or 
curtailment of habitat or range; (B) overutilization for commercial, 
recreational, scientific, or educational purposes; (C) disease or 
predation; (D) inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or (E) 
other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence. In 
making this finding, we evaluated whether threats to the long-tailed 
duck presented in the petition and other information available in our 
files at the time of the petition review reasonably indicate that 
listing the long-tailed duck may be warranted. Our evaluation of these 
threats is presented below. In the discussion below, we have evaluated 
the threats listed in the petition under the most appropriate listing 
    Certain aspects of long-tailed duck ecology and demography should 
be considered when evaluating the species' status and threats. When 
compared with dabbling (Anatini) and diving (Aythyini) ducks, long-
tailed ducks are considered K-selected species. Healthy populations of 
K-selected species are characterized by delayed sexual maturity, low 
annual recruitment, relatively low and variable breeding propensity, 
and high adult survival. Low annual productivity rates and high annual 
survival rates balance to ensure that individuals replace themselves 
with offspring that survive to recruit into the breeding population. 
Although factors that compromise productivity can cause populations to 
decline, population growth rates are most sensitive to changes in adult 
survival (Goudie, et al. 1994, p. 30). K-selected species will decline 
in abundance most rapidly if adults are removed from the population 
prior to replacing themselves (i.e., if adult survival is decreased).

A. The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment 
of Its Habitat or Range

    The petitioner listed, but did not discuss in detail or provide 
supporting biological data, the following reasons for the petition that 
may be addressed under Factor A: increasing oil exploration and 
development and associated oil spills, removal of biomass from the 
marine environment by fishing in the North Pacific, and ``mussel 
beds.'' Only the indirect, habitat-related effects to long-tailed ducks 
of oil spills and operational waste discharges are discussed under 
Factor A; direct effects to long-tailed ducks from exposure to oil and 
operational wastes will be discussed in Factor E. Lacking more specific 
information, we interpreted the term ``mussel beds'' to refer to 
potential competition with nearshore marine aquaculture facilities. The 
petitioner provided no supporting information to support these claims; 
therefore, we relied on information in Service files to clarify these 
potential threats.
    No direct measures of habitat degradation are available (Robertson 
and Savard 2002, p. 18), nor is habitat loss (nesting, molting, or 
wintering) implicated as a factor influencing the Bering/Pacific or 
North American long-tailed duck population decline (Wilbor 1999, p. 
    Several sources cite oil pollution as a threat to marine birds in 
general and long-tailed ducks in particular [in Alaska (Wilbor 1999, p. 
51; USFWS 2003, p. 51); in the North Sea (International Council for the

[[Page 34690]]

Exploration of the Sea 2004, p. 24); in the Baltic Sea (Laine and 
Backer 2002, p. 2); in Britain and Ireland (Kirby, et al. 1993, p. 
123); and globally (Robertson and Savard 2002, p. 17)]. However, most 
are concerned with the acute mortality phase of exposure to oil (to be 
discussed under Factor E), and none reported any evidence of long-term 
effects on long-tailed duck populations due to habitat degradation.
    Franson, et al. (2004, p. 504) analyzed blood from long-tailed 
ducks collected at near-shore islands in the vicinity of Prudhoe Bay 
and at a reference site for trace elements to compare contaminant 
levels in sea ducks using the marine environment near the Prudhoe Bay 
oil fields. In marine ecosystems, persistent contaminants, including 
trace elements and organochlorines, reach their greatest concentrations 
in coastal regions, and, except for selenium, concentrations of metals 
in blood were low and were not consistently higher at one location 
(Franson, et al. 2004, pp. 504-505).
    Flint, et al. (2003, p. 38) utilized nearshore and offshore aerial 
surveys, as well as ground-based studies, in both industrialized and 
control areas to evaluate how long-tailed ducks may be affected by 
industrialization. Their data demonstrated that, even when flightless, 
long-tailed ducks moved considerable distances. There was little 
evidence of displacement of individuals associated with disturbance; 
rather, patterns of movements were thought to be primarily influenced 
by weather conditions, particularly wind direction. Further, declines 
in duck numbers in the seismic area could not be attributed to 
underwater seismic activities, as similar changes in aerial survey 
counts and lagoon movements were observed in both the industrial and 
control areas (Flint, et al. 2003, p. 55).
    The potential for competition with mussel aquaculture in the 
nearshore environment is limited to areas where overwintering long-
tailed ducks and marine aquaculture overlap, and is anticipated to be 
low due to the broad diversity of the winter diet of the species 
(Robertson and Savard 2002, p. 7). Additionally, aquaculture sites may 
present an attractive foraging site for long-tailed ducks.
    The removal of biomass from the marine environment through 
overfishing of herring and other species may reduce the availability of 
spawn for migrating long-tailed ducks (Robertson and Savard 2002, p. 
18); however, no correlation between these indirect impacts and long-
tailed duck population trends has been documented.
    Increasing oil exploration and development and associated oil 
spills, removal of biomass from the marine environment by fishing in 
the North Pacific, and ``mussel beds,'' as identified by the 
petitioner, are all potential habitat-related threats to the long-
tailed duck. However, no evidence of long-term effects on long-tailed 
duck populations due to habitat degradation or loss has been 
documented. We find that the petition does not present substantial 
scientific or commercial information indicating that listing the long-
tailed duck as endangered may be warranted due to the present or 
threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or 

B. Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or 
Educational Purposes

    The petitioner asserts that subsistence harvest is increasing, and 
collection by museums continues despite population declines. The 
petitioner provided no information to support these statements; 
therefore, we relied on information in Service files to clarify these 
potential threats.
    The majority of long-tailed ducks harvested during the migratory 
game bird season are taken on the Atlantic Coast. Alaska accounts for 
approximately 2 percent of the total harvest of approximately 14,500 
birds (Trost and Drut 2002, p. 28), which is less than 1 percent of the 
world population. Wilbor (1999, p. 51) estimated the total long-tailed 
duck subsistence harvest in the Alaska/Pacific flyway to be 11,000 
birds annually (plus 1,000 during the migratory game bird season); 
however, Service data (Alaska Migratory Bird Co-Management Council 
2007) and Trost and Drut (2002, p. 28) reported much lower harvest 
levels: fewer than 5,000 (subsistence) and fewer than 500 (sport). 
Based on an annual take of 12,000 birds, Wilbor (1999, p. 51) estimated 
that about 2 percent of the total Bering/Pacific long-tailed duck 
population is harvested annually and concluded that the impact on the 
population dynamics of this segment of the population was low. Although 
the long-tailed duck is believed to be an important species in the 
eastern Russian commercial sea duck harvest (Goudie, et al. 1994, p. 
36), no information is available on the Russian and Japanese harvests. 
A review of migratory game bird harvest data reported by Trost and Drut 
(2002, p. 28) indicates that harvest of long-tailed ducks in Alaska has 
remained relatively stable between 1966 and 2001, as has subsistence 
harvest of the species in Alaska (Wentworth and Wong 2001, p. 96). 
Finally, Robertson and Savard (2002, p. 18) report scientific research 
activities have no obvious impacts.
    Accordingly, we find that the petition does not present substantial 
scientific or commercial information indicating that listing the long-
tailed duck as endangered may be warranted due to overutilization of 
long-tailed ducks for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes.

C. Disease or Predation

    The petition does not provide information or state that disease or 
predation is a threat to the species. In addition, there is no 
information in our files to indicate that disease or predation is a 
threat to the long-tailed duck.

D. Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

    The petitioner lists lack of protection under the Migratory Bird 
Treaty Act (16 U.S.C. 703-712), inadequacy of existing regulatory 
mechanisms, increased hunting pressure on long-tailed ducks due to bag 
limit reductions on dabbler and goose species, unchanged bag limits 
despite population declines, and legalization of the spring subsistence 
hunt as threats to the species. The petitioner provided no additional 
evidence to support these claims; therefore, we relied on information 
in Service files to clarify these potential threats.
    The long-tailed duck is not currently listed under the Convention 
on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora 
(CITES), nor is it included on the International Union for the 
Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List (Threatened Animals of the 
World) (Wilbor 1999, p. 3). No specific State or provincial designation 
has been given to the long-tailed duck in the United States, Northwest 
Territories, Yukon Territory, Canada, or Russia (Wilbor 1999, p. 4).
    The long-tailed duck is protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty 
Act of 1918 (MBTA) in the United States, and is covered by treaties 
with Canada, Russia, and Japan. Unless permitted by regulations, the 
MBTA provides that it is unlawful to pursue, hunt, take, capture or 
kill, possess, sell or purchase, or transport or export any migratory 
bird, part, nest, egg or product. The MBTA grants the Secretary of the 
Interior the authority to establish hunting seasons for any of the 
migratory game bird species, including the long-tailed duck, listed in 
the MBTA. The Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that hunting is 

[[Page 34691]]

only for those species for which hunting is consistent with population 
status and long-term conservation. The Fish and Wildlife Service 
annually publishes migratory game bird regulations in the Federal 
Register. State and provincial game laws formulated in conjunction with 
the Fish and Wildlife Service and Canadian Wildlife Service establish 
bag limits and seasons. In Canada and Russia, long-tailed duck sport 
hunting is managed under hunting regulations set forth by the Canadian 
Wildlife Service and the Russian Ministry of Environment and Natural 
Resources, respectively.
    Monitoring requirements of the MBTA, the fall/winter migratory game 
bird hunting regulations, and the spring/summer subsistence harvest 
regulations provide mechanisms to limit the harvest of long-tailed 
ducks if necessary for population regulation. We have no documented 
information that these mechanisms will not adequately protect long-
tailed duck populations.
    Accordingly, we find that the petition does not present substantial 
scientific or commercial information indicating that listing the long-
tailed duck as endangered may be warranted due to the inadequacy of 
existing regulatory mechanisms.

E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence

    Threats listed by the petitioner that may be addressed under Factor 
E include increased oil spills due to offshore drilling and ``the 
climatic decadal oscillation.'' The discussion of oil-related effects 
under this factor will be limited to the acute, direct effects to long-
tailed ducks from exposure to oil. Indirect effects of habitat 
degradation resulting from offshore oil development and oil spills are 
discussed above under Factor A. Furthermore, as the petitioner provided 
no additional information to support these claims, we relied on 
information in Service files to clarify these potential threats.
    Stehn and Platte (2000, p. 1) constructed a spatial model by 
overlaying bird density estimates with predicted spill trajectories. 
Spills of various sizes were used to estimate the potential effects of 
an offshore spill from the proposed Liberty Project in the nearshore 
Beaufort Sea. Their model predicted that the average number of birds 
that would be exposed to oil in the event of a spill at the site was 
greatest for long-tailed ducks (as high as 2,062) and that the average 
proportion of the total long-tailed duck population in the study area 
that would be exposed to oil in the event of a spill at the site was 
between 3 percent and 9 percent, and may approach 19 percent.
    The petitioner did not define the term ``Pacific Decadal 
Oscillation'' or identify specific concerns regarding the relationship 
between this mode of interdecadal climatic variation and long-tailed 
duck populations. Hare and Mantua (2000, p. 105) describe the Pacific 
Decadal Oscillation (PDO) as a long-lived El Ni[ntilde]o (ENSO)-like 
pattern of Pacific climate variability that explains variations in the 
Pacific Basin and North American regions. The PDO is characterized by 
fluctuations between warm- and cold-water regimes.
    No data exist evaluating the relationship between long-tailed duck 
productivity, survival, or population trends and large-scale climate 
patterns. Species like the long-tailed duck have the ability to exploit 
a wider range of habitats and food sources, are less sensitive to early 
stages of ice formation, and respond to persistent ice cover in the 
nearshore zone by concentrating in offshore areas (Zydelis 2001, p. 
307). Zydelis and Ruskyte (2005, p. 139) found body condition and fat 
reserves in winter to be equivalent between long-tailed ducks feeding 
primarily on mollusks and those feeding on mobile, energy-rich food 
items such as crustaceans.
    The possible effects of exposure to oil on long-tailed ducks are 
thought to be localized, and have not been implicated in global 
population declines. Additionally, no localized long-tailed duck 
declines have been documented. While climate patterns and oceanographic 
conditions are important factors influencing long-tailed duck habitat, 
food resources, and distribution, the relative ecological plasticity of 
the species in selecting winter habitat and food suggests it is less 
sensitive to inter-annual and inter-decadal climatic variability 
(Zydelis and Ruskyte 2005, p. 139) than other sea ducks. In spite of 
potential localized impacts resulting from oil spills, the long-tailed 
duck remains the most abundant arctic sea duck and continues to occupy 
historical breeding and wintering ranges. For these reasons, we believe 
the impact of these potential threats on the population dynamics of 
this species is negligible. Therefore, we find that the petition does 
not provide substantial scientific or commercial information indicating 
that listing the long-tailed duck as endangered may be warranted as a 
result of increased oil spills due to offshore drilling and ``the 
climatic decadal oscillation'' or any other natural or manmade factors 
affecting the species' continued existence.

Significant Portion of the Range

    The petition does not specify a population of concern, it does not 
articulate that the long-tailed duck should be listed in any particular 
portion of its range, and it does not specify any particular portion of 
the species' range that it maintains is significant. Therefore, we 
based our threats analysis on the entire range of the species. Nearly 
all of the threats identified in the petition appear to be potential 
threats which could occur, rather than actual threats, with no 
documented correlation between these potential threats and impacts on 
long-tailed duck populations. Our threats analysis does not find 
substantial information to indicate that any of the five factors poses 
a threat to the long-tailed duck. If we were to determine in the future 
that the long-tailed duck is threatened or endangered in a significant 
portion of its range, we would add the species to the candidate list 
and propose its listing.


    We have reviewed and evaluated the five listing factors with regard 
to the long-tailed duck, based on the information in the petition and 
available in our files. On the basis of this review and evaluation, we 
conclude that the petition does not present substantial scientific or 
commercial information to indicate that listing the long-tailed duck as 
endangered under the Act may be warranted.
    While the petitioner did not provide detailed information on the 
abundance or geographic distribution of the long-tailed duck, 
information in Service files indicates that the long-tailed duck is 
currently numerous and widespread. Its breeding range has not 
contracted. The information provided in the petition on the potential 
impacts to the species caused by offshore oil exploration and 
development, removal of biomass due to fishing, and potential 
competition with nearshore marine aquaculture is inadequate to 
determine that these activities are destroying or modifying habitat in 
a manner and at a level that affects the species to such an extent that 
a reasonable person could conclude that listing may be warranted. 
Likewise, evidence in our files concerning hunting (both sport and 
subsistence), collecting by scientific institutions, and oil spill 
losses does not provide substantial information to support a conclusion 
that listing the species may be warranted. No data exist evaluating the 
relationship between long-tailed duck productivity, survival, or 
population trends and large-scale climate patterns such as Pacific

[[Page 34692]]

Decadal Oscillation. We also found the evidence in our files inadequate 
to corroborate the petitioner's assertion that the MBTA may not be an 
effective regulatory mechanism, because under the MBTA, the harvest of 
long-tailed ducks is regulated and monitored.
    After reviewing and evaluating the petition and information 
available in our files, we find that the petition does not present 
substantial scientific or commercial information to indicate that 
listing the long-tailed duck as endangered may be warranted at this 
time. Although we will not commence a status review in response to this 
petition, we will continue to monitor the long-tailed duck population 
status and trends, potential threats, and ongoing management actions 
that might be important with regard to the conservation of the long-
tailed duck. If you wish to provide information regarding the long-
tailed duck, you may submit your information and materials to the 
Anchorage Fish and Wildlife Field Office (see ADDRESSES).

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited in this document is 
available, upon request, from the Anchorage Fish and Wildlife Field 
Office (see ADDRESSES).


    The primary author of this document is staff of the Anchorage Fish 
and Wildlife Field Office (see ADDRESSES).


    The authority for this action is the Endangered Species Act of 
1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.)

    Dated: June 12, 2008.
Kenneth Stansell,
Acting Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. E8-13840 Filed 6-17-08; 8:45 am]