Protected Species Updates

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NMFS Announces Final Rule Designating ESA Critical Habitat for the Main Hawaiian Islands Insular False Killer Whales

On July 24, 2018, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) published a final rule to designate critical habitat for the Main Hawaiian Islands (MHI) insular false killer whale distinct population segment (DPS). The critical habitat encompasses waters from 45-meter depth contour to the 3,200-meter depth contour around the main Hawaiian Islands, with 14 areas excluded from designation based on economic or national security impacts.
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FR Notice – Closure of Southern Exclusion Zone to Hawaii Longline Vessels (July 18, 2018)

AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

ACTION: Temporary rule; area closure; request for comments.

SUMMARY: NMFS is closing the Southern Exclusion Zone (SEZ) to deep-set longline fishing through December 31, 2018, for all vessels registered under the Hawaii longline limited access program, as a result of the fishery reaching the established annual trigger of two observed false killer whale mortalities or serious injuries (M&SI) in the fishery within the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) around Hawaii. This action is necessary to comply with False Killer Whale Take Reduction Plan (Plan) regulations that establish the SEZ closure trigger and procedures to limit M&SI of false killer whales in the Hawaii deep-set longline fishery.
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FR Notice – Request for Nominations to the Marine Mammal Scientific Review Groups (July 16, 2018)

AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

ACTION: Notice; request for nominations.

SUMMARY: As required by of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), the Secretary of Commerce established three independent regional scientific review groups (SRGs) to provide advice on a range of marine mammal science and management issues. NMFS conducted a membership review of the Alaska, Atlantic, and Pacific SRGs, and is soliciting nominations for new members to fill vacancies and gaps in expertise.
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FR Notice – List of Fisheries for 2018 (Feb. 7, 2018) (Final Rule)

SUMMARY: The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) publishes its final List of Fisheries (LOF) for 2018, as required by the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). The LOF for 2018 reflects new information on interactions between commercial fisheries and marine mammals. NMFS must classify each commercial fishery on the LOF into one of three categories under the MMPA based upon the level
of mortality and serious injury of marine mammals that occurs incidental to each fishery. The classification of a fishery on the LOF determines whether participants in that fishery are subject to certain provisions of the MMPA, such as registration, observer coverage, and take reduction plan (TRP) requirements.

DATES: The applicability date of this final rule is March 9, 2018.

ADDRESSES: Chief, Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Conservation Division, Office of Protected
Resources, NMFS, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910.

Click here for complete FR Notice

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Request for Proposals: Developing a Framework for Understanding Ecosystem Factors Influencing Protected Species Interaction Patterns in the Hawaii and American Samoa Longline Fisheries (Case Study using Olive Ridley and Leatherback Turtle Interactions in the Hawaii Deep-set Longline Fishery)

The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, in coordination with the NMFS Pacific Island Fisheries Science Center and Pacific Islands Regional Office, is soliciting proposals for a contractor to develop a framework to understand ecosystem factors influencing patterns in interaction with sea turtles, marine mammals, seabirds, and protected elasmobranchs in the Hawaii longline fisheries, using olive ridley and leatherback turtle interactions in the Hawaii deep-set longline fishery as a case study.

Proposals must be submitted and received at the Council office by Friday, January 19, 2018 at 5pm Hawaii Standard Time.

The contract will run for a 12-month period starting in late February or early March 2018.

Please see the full RFP for details on the scope of work, proposal requirements, and submission guidelines.

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FR Notice – Proposed Rulemaking To Designate Critical Habitat for the Main Hawaiian Islands Insular False Killer Whale Distinct Population Segment (Nov. 3, 2017)

AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.
ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments.

SUMMARY: We, NMFS, propose to designate critical habitat for the Main Hawaiian Islands insular false killer whale (Pseudorca crassidens) distinct population segment by designating waters from the 45-meter (m) depth contour to the 3200-m depth contour around the main Hawaiian Islands from Niihau east to Hawaii, pursuant to section 4 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Based on considerations of economic and national security impacts, we propose to exclude the following areas from designation because the benefits of exclusion outweigh the benefits of inclusion and exclusion will not result in extinction of the species: The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s Call Area offshore of the Island of Oahu, the Pacific Missile Range Facilities Offshore ranges (including the Shallow Water Training Range, the Barking Sands Tactical Underwater Range, and the Barking Sands Underwater Range Extension), the Kingfisher Range, Warning Area 188, Kaula and Warning Area 187, Fleet Operational Readiness Accuracy Check Site Range, the Shipboard Electronic Systems Evaluation Facility, Warning Areas 196 and 191, and Warning Areas 193 and 194. In addition, the Ewa Training Minefield and the Naval Defensive Sea Area are precluded from designation under section 4(a)(3) of the ESA because they are managed under the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Integrated Natural Resource Management Plan that we find provides a benefit to the Main Hawaiian Islands insular false killer whale. We are soliciting comments on all aspects of the proposal, including information on the economic, national security, and other relevant impacts. We will consider
additional information received prior to making a final designation.
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FR notice – List of Fisheries for 2018 (Oct. 12, 2017) (Proposed Rule)

AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

ACTION: Proposed rule.

SUMMARY: The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) publishes its proposed List of Fisheries (LOF) for 2018, as required by the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). The LOF for 2018 reflects new information on interactions between commercial fisheries and marine mammals. NMFS must classify each commercial fishery on the LOF into one of three categories under the MMPA based upon the level of mortality and serious injury of marine mammals that occurs incidental to each fishery. The classification of a fishery on the LOF determines whether participants in that fishery are subject to certain provisions of the MMPA, such as registration, observer coverage, and take reduction plan (TRP) requirements.
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FR Notice – Notice of 12-Month Finding on a Petition To List the Pacific Bluefin Tuna as Threatened or Endangered Under the Endangered Species Act (Aug. 8, 2017)

AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration  (NOAA), Commerce.

ACTION: Notice of 12-month petition finding.

SUMMARY: We, NMFS, announce a 12- month finding on a petition to list the Pacific bluefin tuna
(Thunnus orientalis) as a threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and to designate critical habitat concurrently with the listing. We have completed a comprehensive
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FR Notice – 12-Month Finding on a Petition To List Giant and Reef Manta Rays as Threatened or Endangered Under the Endangered Species Act 1/12/2017

AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.
ACTION: Proposed rule; 12-month petition finding; request for comments.

SUMMARY: We, NMFS, announce a 12- month finding on a petition to list the giant manta ray (Manta birostris) and reef manta ray (Manta alfredi) as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). We have completed a comprehensive status review of both species in response to this petition. Based on the best scientific and commercial information available, including the status review report(Miller and Klimovich 2016), and after taking into account efforts being made to protect these species, we have determined that the giant manta ray (M. birostris) is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout a significant portion of its range. Therefore, we propose to list the giant manta ray as a threatened species under the ESA. Any protective regulations determined to be necessary and
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FR Notice – NP Loggerhead Draft Recover Plan, Oct. 12, 2016

Endangered and Threatened Species;
Notice of Initiation of a 5-Year Review and Notice of Intent To Draft the Recovery Plan for the Distinct Population Segment of North Pacific Ocean Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta)

AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce, and Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Interior.

ACTION: Notice of initiation of a 5-year review and notice of intent to draft a recovery plan; request for information.

SUMMARY: NMFS and USFWS announce the initiation of a 5-year review for the distinct population segment (DPS) of North Pacific Ocean loggerhead sea turtle (hereafter referred to as ‘North Pacific loggerhead’) and our intent to draft the North Pacific loggerhead recovery plan. A 5-year review is a periodic assessment conducted to ensure that the listed species has the appropriate level of protection under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA). Recovery plans are guides to rebuild and ensure the long- term viability of protected species in the wild. Each document is based on the best scientific and commercial data available at the time of the review/ update. Therefore, we are requesting submission of any information on the status of the North Pacific loggerhead that has become available since the 2011 listing.
DATES: Information related to this notice must be received by close of business on December 12, 2016.

ADDRESSES: Submit your comments identified by NOAA–NMFS–2016–0134, by either of the following methods:
• Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D= [NOAA-NMFS-2016-0134], click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields and enter or attach your comments.
• Mail: Submit written comments to Alexis Gutierrez, National Marine Fisheries Service, Office of Protected Resources, Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Conservation Division, 1315 East West Highway, Silver
Spring, MD 20910.

Instructions: NMFS, may not consider comments if they are sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period. All comments received are a part of the public record and NMFS will generally post for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender is publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/A’’ in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Alexis Gutierrez, Office of Protected Resources, phone, 301–427–8441, email: Alexis.Gutierrez@noaa.gov

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