[Federal Register: October 12, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 196)]
[Page 62562-62564]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R7-ES-2010-N192; 70120-1113-0000-C4]

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Notice of 
Availability of Draft Recovery Plan for the Southwest Alaska Distinct 
Population Segment of the Northern Sea Otter

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of document availability for review and public comment.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of our draft recovery plan for the southwest Alaska 
Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of the northern sea otter (Enydra 
lutris kenyoni), listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act 
of 1973, as amended (Act). Our recovery plan describes the status, 
current management, recovery objectives and criteria, and specific 
actions needed to enable us to delist the southwest Alaska DPS. We 
request review and comment on our plan from local, State, and Federal 
agencies and the public. We will also accept any new information on the 
species' status throughout its range.

DATES: We must receive written comments on or before February 9, 2011. 
However, we will accept information about any species at any time.

ADDRESSES: Copies of the draft recovery plan are available by request 
from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Marine Mammals Management 
Office, 1011 East Tudor Road, Anchorage, AK 99503;

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telephone 907/786-3800; facsimile 907/786-3816. If you use a 
telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), call the Federal 
Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-877-8339. An electronic copy of 
the draft recovery plan is also available at: http://alaska.fws.gov/
    For how to submit comments, see ``Request for Public Comments'' 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Douglas M. Burn, Wildlife Biologist, 
at the above address or telephone number.



    Recovery of endangered or threatened animals and plants to the 
point where they are again secure, self-sustaining members of their 
ecosystems is a primary goal of our endangered species program and the 
Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). To help guide the recovery effort, we are 
working to prepare recovery plans for most listed species native to the 
United States. The Act requires that we develop recovery plans for 
listed species, unless such a plan would not promote the conservation 
of a particular species, and that we provide public notice and an 
opportunity for public review and comment during recovery plan 
development. Recovery plans describe actions considered necessary for 
the conservation and survival of the species, establish criteria for 
reclassifying or delisting listed species, and estimate time and cost 
for implementing needed recovery measures.
    We listed the southwest Alaska DPS of the northern sea otter as 
threatened on August 9, 2005 (70 FR 46366). For description, taxonomy, 
distribution, status, breeding biology and habitat, and a summary of 
factors affecting the species, please see the final listing rule. 
Critical habitat was designated for this DPS on October 8, 2009 (74 FR 
    The southwest Alaska population ranges from Attu Island at the 
western end of Near Islands in the Aleutians, east to Kamishak Bay on 
the western side of lower Cook Inlet, and includes waters adjacent to 
the Aleutian Islands, the Alaska Peninsula, the Kodiak archipelago, and 
the Barren Islands (see Figure 3 of the February 11, 2004, Proposed 
Listing Rule; 69 FR 6605). Within this range, sea otters generally 
occur in nearshore, shallow waters less than 100 meters (m) (328 ft) in 
depth. This population experienced a rapid decline in abundance of more 
than 50 percent since the late 1980s. At the time of our 2005 final 
listing rule, we estimated that the DPS consisted of approximately 
42,000 sea otters.
    The magnitude of the population decline has varied over the range. 
In some areas, numbers have declined by more than an order of 
magnitude, while in other areas no decline has been detected. To 
address such differences, this recovery plan identifies five management 
units (MUs) within the DPS: (1) Western Aleutian Islands; (2) Eastern 
Aleutian Islands; (3) South Alaska Peninsula; (4) Bristol Bay; and (5) 
Kodiak, Kamishak, Alaska Peninsula.
    The cause of the overall decline is not known with certainty, but 
the weight of evidence points to increased predation, most likely by 
the killer whale (Orcinus orca), as the most likely cause. Predation is 
therefore considered a threat to the recovery of this DPS; however, 
other threats--including infectious disease, biotoxins, contaminants, 
oil spills, food limitation, disturbance, bycatch in fisheries, 
subsistence harvest, loss of habitat, and illegal take--are also 
considered in this recovery plan. Threats are summarized in general, 
and their relative importance is assessed for each of the five MUs. 
Most threats are assessed to be of low importance to recovery of the 
DPS; the threats judged to be most important are predation (moderate to 
high importance) and oil spills (low to moderate importance). Threats 
from subsistence harvest, illegal take, and infectious disease are 
assessed to be of moderate importance in the Kodiak, Kamishak, Alaska 
Peninsula MU, but of low importance elsewhere.
    The goal of the recovery program is to control or reduce threats to 
the southwest Alaska DPS of the northern sea otter to the extent that 
this DPS no longer requires the protections afforded by the Act and 
therefore can be delisted. To achieve this goal, the recovery plan 
identifies three objectives: (1) Achieve and maintain a self-sustaining 
population of sea otters in each MU; (2) maintain enough sea otters to 
ensure that they are playing a functional role in their nearshore 
ecosystem; and (3) mitigate threats sufficiently to ensure persistence 
of sea otters. Each of these objectives includes explicit criteria to 
determine if the objective has been met; these are known as ``delisting 
criteria.'' They stipulate that in order for the DPS to be removed from 
the Endangered and Threatened Species List, at least three of the five 
MUs must have met the delisting criteria. Delisting should not be 
considered, however, if any MU meets the criteria specified for 
uplisting to endangered. The plan also contains criteria to determine 
if the DPS should be considered for reclassification as endangered; 
these are known as ``uplisting criteria.''
    Specific actions to achieve recovery and delisting of the DPS are 
specified in the recovery action outline and narrative. As demographic 
characteristics of the population constitute one of the three types of 
delisting criteria, population monitoring and population modeling are 
high priorities. Monitoring the status of the kelp forest ecosystem in 
the Western Aleutian and Eastern Aleutian MUs is also a high priority, 
as results from such monitoring will be needed to evaluate the 
ecosystem-based delisting criteria. Other high-priority actions include 
identifying characteristics of sea otter habitat, and ensuring that 
adequate oil spill response capability exists in southwest Alaska. As 
predation is considered to be the most important threat to recovery, 
additional research on that topic is also a high priority. The recovery 
implementation schedule provides details regarding the timing, cost, 
and agencies or entities responsible for implementing each recovery 
action. The full cost of implementing this recovery plan over the next 
5 years is approximately $15M, of which $2.815M is for Priority 1 
actions. Securing adequate funding to implement the plan is therefore 
also a high priority.

Request for Public Comments

    We request written comments on the draft recovery plan. All 
comments received by the date specified in DATES will be considered 
prior to finalization of this recovery plan. If you wish to comment, 
you may submit your comments and materials concerning this recovery 
plan by one of these methods:
    (1) You may submit written comments and information by mail or 
facsimile or in person to the Alaska Regional Office at the above 
address (see ADDRESSES).
    (2) You may send comments by electronic mail (e-mail) to r7_mmm_
comment@fws.gov. Please include your name and return address in your e- 
mail message.
    Comments and materials received, as well as supporting 
documentation used in preparation of the recovery plan, will be 
available for inspection, during normal business hours at the above 
Anchorage address (see ADDRESSES).
    We specifically seek comments on the following:
    (1) Biological, commercial trade, or other relevant data concerning 
any threat (or lack thereof) to the species;
    (2) Additional information concerning the range, distribution, and 
population size of these species, including the location of any 
additional populations;

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    (3) Current or planned activities in the subject area and their 
possible impacts on these species; and
    (4) The suitability and feasibility of the recovery criteria, 
strategies, or actions described in the draft recovery plan.

Public Availability of Comments

    Before including your address, phone number, e-mail address, or 
other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be 
aware that your entire comment--including your personal identifying 
information--may be made publicly available at any time. While you can 
ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying 
information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be 
able to do so.

    Authority:  We developed our draft recovery plan under the 
authority of section 4(f) of the Act, 16 U.S.C. 1533(f). We publish 
this notice under section 4(f) Endangered Species Act of 1973, as 
amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

    Dated: September 8, 2010.
Gary Edwards,
Acting Regional Director, Alaska Region, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
[FR Doc. 2010-25538 Filed 10-8-10; 8:45 am]