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FR Notice – Protective Regulations for Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins under the MMPA

ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments.

SUMMARY: We, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), propose regulations under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) to prohibit swimming with and approaching a Hawaiian spinner dolphin within 50 yards (45.7 m) (for persons, vessels, and objects), including approach by interception. These proposed regulatory measures are intended to prevent take of Hawaiian spinner dolphins from occurring in marine areas where viewing pressures are most prevalent; prohibitions would apply in waters within 2 nautical miles (nm; 3.7 km) of the Hawaiian Islands and in the waters between the islands of Lanai, Maui, and Kahoolawe. This proposed rule to establish 50-yard swim-with and approach regulations would help ensure public compliance by providing clear notice of prohibited conduct that results in take, including harassment and disturbance.

Although unauthorized take of marine mammals, including harassment of spinner dolphins, already is and continues to be prohibited under the MMPA throughout their range, the purpose of this regulation is to identify and prohibit specific human activities that result in take (including harassment) of spinner dolphins, and thus reduce disturbance and disruption of important Hawaiian spinner dolphin behaviors in areas where human- dolphin interactions are most likely to occur. These proposed regulations would reduce take of Hawaiian spinner dolphins and the impact of human viewing and interaction on these animals in the Main Hawaiian Islands (MHI). We developed this proposed rule after considering comments submitted
in response to an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR), as well as information received during the public scoping period for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), from community meetings, and from a dedicated scientific research project.

Although not currently part of this proposal, we are also considering whether additional management measures may be necessary and appropriate to protect Hawaiian spinner dolphins from take, especially in essential daytime habitats that are regularly targeted by humans for dolphin-directed activities. Accordingly, we are soliciting public comment on the proposed
swim-with and approach regulations, as well as alternative management options discussed in this rule and in detail in the DEIS.

DATES: Comments must be received no later than 5 p.m. on October 23, 2016.
Public meetings will provide the public with an opportunity to provide comments on any portion of the proposed rule or DEIS. These meetings are scheduled for:

  • September 7, 2016, 5:30–9:30 p.m. at Konawaena High School Cafeteria, 81–1043 Konawaena School Rd., Kealakekua, HI 96750;
  • September 8, 2016, 5:30–9:30 p.m. at Kealakehe High School Cafeteria, 74–5000 Puohulihuli St., Kailua Kona, HI
    96740;
  • September 21, 2016, 5:30–9:00 p.m. at Kauai High School Cafeteria, 3577 Lala Rd., Lihue, HI 96766;
  • September 22, 2016, 5:30–9:00 p.m. at the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Visitor Center, 726 South Kihei Rd., Kihei, HI 96753;
  • September 27, 2016, 5:30–9:30 p.m. at Roosevelt High School Dining Hall, 1120 Nehoa Street, Honolulu, HI 96822;
    and
  • September 28, 2016, 5:30–9:30 p.m. at Waianae High School Cafeteria, 85–251 Farrington Hwy., Waianae, HI 96792.

 

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, information, or data on this document, identified by  NOAA–2005–0226, and on the DEIS by either of the following methods: Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic comments via the Federal  eRulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-2005-0226, click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.

Mail: Submit written comments to Susan Pultz, Chief, Conservation Planning and Rulemaking Branch, Protected Resources Division, National Marine Fisheries Service, Pacific Islands Regional Office, 1845 Wasp Blvd., Bldg. 176, Honolulu, HI 96818, Attn: Hawaiian Spinner Dolphin Proposed Rule.

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