[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 161 (Monday, August 20, 2012)]
[Pages 50153-50154]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-20327]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R1-MB-2012-N167; FXMB12320100000P2-123-FF01M01000]

Special Purpose Permit Application; Hawaii-Based Shallow-Set 
Longline Fishery; Final Environmental Assessment and Finding of No 
Significant Impact

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: We, the Fish and Wildlife Service, announce the availability 
of a final environmental assessment (FEA) and finding of no significant 
impact (FONSI) in our analysis of permitting actions in response to an 
application under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, as amended, 
from the Pacific Islands Regional Office of the National Marine 
Fisheries Service (NMFS), Department of Commerce. NMFS applied for a 
permit for the incidental take of migratory birds in the operation of 
the Hawaii-based shallow-set longline fishery, which targets swordfish. 
After evaluating several alternatives in a draft environmental 
assessment (DEA), we have determined that issuing a permit will not 
result in significant impacts to the human environment.

ADDRESSES: You may download a copy of the FEA and FONSI on the Internet 
at http://www.fws.gov/pacific/migratorybirds/nepa.html. Alternatively, 
you may use one of the methods below to request a hard copy or a CD-
ROM. Please specify the ``FEA/FONSI for the NMFS MBTA Permit'' on all 
     Email: pacific_birds@fws.gov. Include ``FEA/FONSI for the 
NMFS MBTA Permit'' in the subject line of the message.
     U.S. Mail: Please address requests for hard copies of the 
documents to Nanette Seto, Chief, Division of Migratory Birds and 
Habitat Programs, Pacific Region, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 911 
NE. 11th Ave., Portland, OR 97232.
     Fax: Nanette Seto, Chief, Division of Migratory Birds and 
Habitat Programs, 503-231-2019; Attn.: FEA/FONSI for the NMFS MBTA 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Nanette Seto, Chief, Division of 
Migratory Birds and Habitat Programs, Pacific Region, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, 503-231-6164 (phone); pacific_birds@fws.gov (email; 
include ``FEA/FONSI for the NMFS MBTA Permit'' in the subject line of 
the message). If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf 
(TDD), please call the Federal Information Relay Service at 800-877-



    After receiving the permit application from NMFS, we provided a 
public notice and summary background information and solicited public 
comments on the DEA in January 2012 (77 FR 1501). We have now 
considered comments, finalized our analysis, and selected an 
alternative that meets the purpose and need of our action (issuance of 
a permit under the MBTA). We have determined that issuing a permit will 
not result in significant impacts to the human environment.
    We evaluated several alternatives for the proposed issuance of a 
permit under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) for incidental take 
of seabirds in the shallow-set longline fishery based in Hawaii. The 
analysis of alternatives is documented in a final environmental 
assessment (FEA), which is available to the public on our Web site or 
by request (see ADDRESSES). Our need in conducting this evaluation was 
to address an application received from NMFS for a permit to authorize 
take of migratory birds (seabirds) in the shallow-set longline fishery 
based in Hawaii. The purposes of our permitting action include: (1) 
Ensuring that any permit issued meets the criteria established in our 
regulations under MBTA and does not violate our statutory 
responsibility to conserve migratory birds; (2) ensuring the Service 
and NMFS meet their responsibilities under Executive Order 13186 to 
protect migratory birds and avoid and minimize adverse impacts of our 
actions to these birds; (3) identifying the mechanisms underlying the 
take of migratory birds in the fishery; developing, in cooperation with 
the Service, measures for NMFS and the fishery to implement that would 
reduce that take or otherwise improve conservation benefit for birds; 
and (4) minimizing unnecessary costs or burdens on the fishery itself, 
or on NMFS in its role as regulator.
    We analyzed three alternatives in the FEA:

[[Page 50154]]

    1. No action. Under the No Action alternative, we would deny the 
permit application and not issue a permit to NMFS. We rejected 
consideration of a separate alternative of literally taking no action, 
and not even responding to the permit application, because it is our 
policy to process all applications received as quickly as possible (50 
CFR 13.11(c)).
    2. Issue permit as requested (selected alternative). The permit 
would reflect the current operation of the fishery, including the 
seabird-deterrent measures currently required by NMFS regulations and 
the Service's Biological Opinion for the impacts of this fishery to the 
endangered Short-tailed Albatross (Phoebastria albatrus), with no 
changes, regulatory or otherwise, to the operation of the fishery 
during the permit period. No new regulations governing the operation of 
the fishery would be proposed. The permit would authorize the observed 
and reported take of specific numbers of each species, and would 
include conditions requiring NMFS to analyze observer data and fishery 
practices to elucidate how and when take is occurring now and identify 
measures that could reduce this take in the future. In addition, NMFS 
would be required to provide instruction regarding the importance of 
seabird-data collection to observers and include specific discussion at 
Protected Species Workshops for fishers of how and when seabird 
interactions occur during shallow-set fishing. The permit would specify 
requirements for reporting the progress on data analysis and 
identification of additional potential measures for reducing take and 
the extent of training and information-exchange activities. Reporting 
would also describe research, if any is identified, needed to help 
identify measures that could reduce this take in the future. Compliance 
with these requirements would be considered in a future permit renewal.
    3. Issue permit with additional conditions to conduct research and 
to increase conservation benefit to seabirds. Rather than analyze 
existing and future observer data and elicit additional information 
from observers and fishers (as in Alternative 2), Alternative 3 would 
require research and field trials of new deterrent methods and 
technologies or those already in use in the industry to develop means 
to reduce take in the fishery during the 3-year term of the permit. 
Alternative 3 is otherwise the same as Alternative 2.

Internal Scoping and Public Involvement

    We solicited comments on an internal draft of the EA from other 
programs within the Service, and provided responses in a final draft EA 
(DEA) that was available to the public from January 10 through February 
9, 2012 (77 FR 1501). During the public comment period, we received a 
total of eight comment letters: One from a federal agency, one from a 
Fishery Management Council, one from a fishery industry organization, 
two from conservation organizations, and three from private citizens. 
The final EA incorporates minor changes to address technical comments 
and provides narrative responses to substantive comments. Some of these 
comments touch on policy and legal questions that are raised or implied 
by, but that do not themselves affect, our permitting action. However, 
none of the commenters provided additional information that (1) changed 
the outcome of our analysis or (2) required a finding that our action 
would have a significant impact.

Impact Analysis

    The Impacts Analysis in the EA considered direct, indirect, and 
cumulative effects of the alternatives on seabirds, the fishery and 
economic environment, and cultural resources. We found that none of the 
alternatives would have significant impacts to any of these aspects of 
the human environment. The alternatives would not have significant 
adverse impacts to seabirds, because the take of seabirds in this 
fishery is low. Laysan and Black-footed albatrosses comprise roughly 99 
percent of all take of migratory birds in the fishery. The projected 
take of these species in each year of the 3-year term of a permit, and 
the slightly greater amount of annual take that would be authorized in 
a permit (a total of no more than 191 Black-footed and 430 Laysan 
albatrosses over the 3-year permit term), would constitute less than 1 
percent of the total estimated breeding population of each species each 
year. This level of take does not contribute substantially to the 
cumulative total take of these seabirds estimated to occur each year in 
all North Pacific longline fisheries. The other three seabird species 
analyzed in the FEA are the Sooty Shearwater, Northern Fulmar, and the 
endangered Short-tailed Albatross. The shearwater and fulmar are 
represented by one individual bird each in the data on observed take in 
the fishery. We would authorize take of no more than 10 birds annually 
of each of these two species. Although no Short-tailed Albatrosses have 
been reported taken in the fishery, impacts of the fishery to this 
species have been evaluated under the Endangered Species Act, and take 
at a rate of one bird every 5 years has been authorized in the 
Service's Biological Opinion.
    The beneficial impacts of the action involve only seabirds. These 
beneficial impacts are minor. Although either Alternative 2 or 3 would 
result in improved information about sources of take in the fishery and 
means of reducing take, neither would result in an additional reduction 
in take in the fishery during the 3-year permit term. However, the 
long-term goal of this (and any subsequent) permitting action is the 
eventual further reduction of seabird take in this fishery.
    The alternatives do not have a significant impact on the fishery or 
economic environment. Although the alternatives variously may result in 
slight changes in costs to NMFS (for example, to analyze data or 
conduct field trials), none of the alternatives would result in any 
major change in the operation of the fishery. No cultural resources as 
defined under the National Historic Preservation Act are significantly 
affected by the alternatives because the fishery operates in the 200-
mile U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone and on the high seas, far from 
historic sites.


    Alternative 2 will meet fully the purposes and needs of the 
proposed permitting action described above (and described in more 
detail in Chapter 1 of the FEA). This alternative also represents 
initial steps toward the long-term goal of reducing take of seabirds in 
this fishery. We determine that implementation of Alternative 2 does 
not constitute a major Federal action significantly affecting the 
quality of the human environment under the meaning of section 102(2)(c) 
of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (as amended). As such, 
an environmental impact statement is not required.


    We provide this notice under section 668a of the Act (16 U.S.C. 
668-668c) and NEPA regulations (40 CFR 1506.6).

    Dated: July 20, 2012.
Jason Holm,
Acting Regional Director, Pacific Region, Portland, Oregon.
[FR Doc. 2012-20327 Filed 8-17-12; 8:45 am]