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Title 50 – Wildlife and Fisheries–Volume 10

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Title 50 – Wildlife and Fisheries–Volume 10


Part


chapter ii – National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Commerce

200

CHAPTER II – NATIONAL MARINE FISHERIES SERVICE, NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION, DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

SUBCHAPTER A – GENERAL PROVISIONS

PART 200 – SMALL BUSINESS SIZE STANDARDS ESTABLISHED BY NMFS FOR REGULATORY FLEXIBILITY ACT COMPLIANCE PURPOSES ONLY


Authority:5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.


Source:80 FR 81198, Dec. 29, 2015, unless otherwise noted.

§ 200.1 Purpose and scope.

(a) This part sets forth the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) small business size standards for NMFS to use in conducting Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) analyses for NMFS actions subject to the RFA. This part also sets forth the timeframe for NMFS to review its small business size standards.


(b) NMFS has established the alternative size standards in this part, for RFA compliance purposes only, in order to simplify the RFA analyses done in support of NMFS’ rules, better meet the RFA’s intent by more accurately representing expected disproportionate effects of NMFS’ rules between small and large businesses, create a standard that more accurately reflects the size distribution of all businesses in the industry, and allow NMFS to determine when changes to the standard are necessary and appropriate.


§ 200.2 Small business size standards and frequency of review.

(a) NMFS’ small business size standard for businesses, including their affiliates, whose primary industry is commercial fishing is $11 million in annual gross receipts. This standard applies to all businesses classified under North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code 11411 for commercial fishing, including all businesses classified as commercial finfish fishing (NAICS 114111), commercial shellfish fishing (NAICS 114112), and other commercial marine fishing (NAICS 114119) businesses.


(b) NMFS will review each of the small business size standards in paragraph (a) of this section at least once every 5 years to determine if a change is warranted. A change may be warranted because of changes in industry structure, market conditions, inflation, or other relevant factors.


SUBCHAPTER B – NORTH PACIFIC COMMERCIAL FISHERIES [RESERVED]

SUBCHAPTER C – MARINE MAMMALS

PART 216 – REGULATIONS GOVERNING THE TAKING AND IMPORTING OF MARINE MAMMALS


Authority:16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq., unless otherwise noted.


Source:39 FR 1852, Jan. 15, 1974, unless otherwise noted.


Note to part 216:

See also 50 CFR parts 228 and 229 for regulations governing certain incidental takings of marine mammals.

Subpart A – Introduction

§ 216.1 Purpose of regulations.

The regulations in this part implement the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, 86 Stat. 1027, 16 U.S.C. 1361-1407, Pub. L. 92-522, which, among other things, restricts the taking, possession, transportation, selling, offering for sale, and importing of marine mammals.


§ 216.2 Scope of regulations.

This part 216 applies solely to marine mammals and marine mammal products as defined in § 216.3. For regulations under the MMPA, with respect to other marine mammals and marine mammal products, see 50 CFR part 18.


[39 FR 1852, Jan. 15, 1974, as amended at 59 FR 50375, Oct. 3, 1994]


§ 216.3 Definitions.

In addition to definitions contained in the MMPA, and unless the context otherwise requires, in this part 216:


Acts means, collectively, the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, as amended, 16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq., the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended, 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq., and the Fur Seal Act of 1966, as amended, 16 U.S.C. 1151 et seq.


Active sportfishing means paying passengers have their terminal fishing gear (lures, hooks, etc.) in the water in an attempt to catch fish or, in the case of fishing involving chumming, fishing is considered to be in progress from the instant fish have been sighted taking bait (boiling) during that chumming process.


Administrator, Southwest Region means the Regional Administrator, Southwest Region, National Marine Fisheries Service, 501 W. Ocean Blvd., Suite 4200, Long Beach, CA 90802-4213, or his or her designee.


Agreement on the International Dolphin Conservation Program (Agreement on the IDCP) means the Agreement establishing the formal binding IDCP that was signed in Washington, DC on May 21, 1998.


Alaskan Native means a person defined in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (43 U.S.C. 1602(b)) (85 Stat. 588) as a citizen of the United States who is of one-fourth degree or more Alaska Indian (including Tsimishian Indians enrolled or not enrolled in the Metlaktla Indian Community), Eskimo, or Aleut blood or combination thereof. The term includes any Native, as so defined, either or both of whose adoptive parents are not Natives. It also includes, in the absence of proof of a minimum blood quantum, any citizen of the United States who is regarded as an Alaska Native by the Native village or group, of which he claims to be a member and whose father or mother is (or, if deceased, was) regarded as Native by any Native village or Native group. Any such citizen enrolled by the Secretary of the Interior pursuant to section 5 of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act shall be conclusively presumed to be an Alaskan Native for purposes of this part.


Albacore tuna means the species Thunnus alalunga.


Article of handicraft means items made by an Indian, Aleut or Eskimo from the nonedible byproducts of fur seals taken for personal or family consumption which –


(1) Were commonly produced by Alaskan Natives on or before October 14, 1983;


(2) Are composed wholly or in some significant respect of natural materials, and;


(3) Are significantly altered from their natural form and which are produced, decorated, or fashioned in the exercise of traditional native handicrafts without the use of pantographs, multiple carvers, or similar mass copying devices. Improved methods of production utilizing modern implements such as sewing machines or modern tanning techniques at a tannery registered pursuant to § 216.23(c) may be used so long as no large scale mass production industry results. Traditional native handicrafts include, but are not limited to, weaving, carving, stitching, sewing, lacing, beading, drawing, and painting. The formation of traditional native groups, such as a cooperative, is permitted so long as no large scale mass production results.


Assistant Administrator means the Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Silver Spring, MD 20910, or his/her designee.


Authentic native articles of handicrafts and clothing means items made by an Indian, Aleut or Eskimo which (a) were commonly produced on or before December 21, 1972, and (b) are composed wholly or in some significant respect of natural materials, and (c) are significantly altered from their natural form and which are produced, decorated, or fashioned in the exercise of traditional native handicrafts without the use of pantographs, multiple carvers, or similar mass copying devices. Improved methods of production utilizing modern implements such as sewing machines or modern tanning techniques at a tannery registered pursuant to § 216.23(c) may be used so long as no large scale mass production industry results. Traditional native handicrafts include, but are not limited to, weaving, carving, stitching, sewing, lacing, beading, drawing, and painting. The formation of traditional native groups, such as a cooperative, is permitted so long as no large scale mass production results.


Bigeye tuna means the species Thunnus obesus.


Bluefin tuna means the species Thunnus thynnus or Thunnus orientalis.


Bona fide scientific research: (1) Means scientific research on marine mammals conducted by qualified personnel, the results of which:


(i) Likely would be accepted for publication in a refereed scientific journal;


(ii) Are likely to contribute to the basic knowledge of marine mammal biology or ecology. (Note: This includes, for example, marine mammal parts in a properly curated, professionally accredited scientific collection); or


(iii) Are likely to identify, evaluate, or resolve conservation problems.


(2) Research that is not on marine mammals, but that may incidentally take marine mammals, is not included in this definition (see sections 101(a)(3)(A), 101(a)(5)(A), and 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA, and sections 7(b)(4) and 10(a)(1)(B) of the ESA).


Bycatch limit means the calculation of a potential biological removal level for a particular marine mammal stock, as defined in § 229.2 of this chapter, or comparable scientific metric established by the harvesting nation or applicable regional fishery management organization or intergovernmental agreement.


Carrying capacity means the Regional Director’s determination of the maximum amount of fish that a vessel can carry in short tons based on the greater of the amount indicated by the builder of the vessel, a marine surveyor’s report, or the highest amount reported landed from any one trip.


Certified charter vessel means a fishing vessel of a non-U.S. flag nation, which is operating under the jurisdiction of the marine mammal laws and regulations of another, harvesting, nation by a formal declaration entered into by mutual agreement of the nations.


Co-investigator means the on-site representative of a principal investigator.


Commercial fishing operation means the lawful harvesting of fish from the marine environment for profit as part of an ongoing business enterprise. Such terms may include licensed commercial passenger fishing vessel (as defined) activities, but no other sportfishing activities, whether or not the fish so caught are subsequently sold.


Commercial passenger fishing vessel means any vessel licensed for commercial passenger fishing purposes within the State out of which it is operating and from which, while under charter or hire, persons are legally permitted to conduct sportfishing activities.


Comparability finding means a finding by the Assistant Administrator that the harvesting nation for an export or exempt fishery has met the applicable conditions specified in § 216.24(h)(6)(iii) subject to the additional considerations for comparability determinations set out in § 216.24(h)(7).


Custody means holding a live marine mammal pursuant to the conditional authority granted under the MMPA, and the responsibility therein for captive maintenance of the marine mammal.


Declaration of Panama means the declaration signed in Panama City, Republic of Panama, on October 4, 1995.


Director, Office of Protected Resources means Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910.


Dolphin Mortality Limit (DML) means the maximum allowable number of incidental dolphin mortalities per calendar year assigned to a vessel, unless a shorter time period is specified.


Endangered Species means a species or subspecies of marine mammal listed as “endangered” pursuant to the Endangered Species Act of 1973, 87 Stat. 884, Pub. L. 93-205 (see part 17 of this title).


ESA means the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended, 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.


ETP means the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean which includes the Pacific Ocean area bounded by 40° N. latitude, 40° S. latitude, 160° W. longitude and the coastlines of North, Central and South America.


Exempt fishery means a foreign commercial fishing operation determined by the Assistant Administrator to be the source of exports of commercial fish and fish products to the United States and to have a remote likelihood of, or no known, incidental mortality and serious injury of marine mammals in the course of commercial fishing operations. A commercial fishing operation that has a remote likelihood of causing incidental mortality and serious injury of marine mammals is one that collectively with other foreign fisheries exporting fish and fish products to the United States causes the annual removal of:


(1) Ten percent or less of any marine mammal stock’s bycatch limit; or


(2) More than 10 percent of any marine mammal stock’s bycatch limit, yet that fishery by itself removes 1 percent or less of that stock’s bycatch limit annually; or


(3) Where reliable information has not been provided by the harvesting nation on the frequency of incidental mortality and serious injury of marine mammals caused by the commercial fishing operation, the Assistant Administrator may determine whether the likelihood of incidental mortality and serious injury is “remote” by evaluating information concerning factors such as fishing techniques, gear used, methods used to deter marine mammals, target species, seasons and areas fished, qualitative data from logbooks or fisher reports, stranding data, the species and distribution of marine mammals in the area, or other factors at the discretion of the Assistant Administrator. A foreign fishery will not be classified as an exempt fishery unless the Assistant Administrator has reliable information from the harvesting nation, or other information to support such a finding.


Exemption period means the one-time, six-year period that commences January 1, 2017 and ends December 31, 2022, during which commercial fishing operations that are the source of exports of commercial fish and fish products to the United States will be exempt from the prohibitions of § 216.24(h)(1).


Export fishery means a foreign commercial fishing operation determined by the Assistant Administrator to be the source of exports of commercial fish and fish products to the United States and to have more than a remote likelihood of incidental mortality and serious injury of marine mammals (as defined in the definition of an “exempt fishery”) in the course of its commercial fishing operations. Where reliable information has not been provided by the harvesting nation on the frequency of incidental mortality and serious injury of marine mammals caused by the commercial fishing operation, the Assistant Administrator may determine whether the likelihood of incidental mortality and serious injury is more than “remote” by evaluating information concerning factors such as fishing techniques, gear used, methods used to deter marine mammals, target species, seasons and areas fished, qualitative data from logbooks or fisher reports, stranding data, and the species and distribution of marine mammals in the area, or other factors at the discretion of the Assistant Administrator that may inform whether the likelihood of incidental mortality and serious injury of marine mammals caused by the commercial fishing operation is more than “remote.” Commercial fishing operations not specifically identified in the current List of Foreign Fisheries as either exempt or export fisheries are deemed to be export fisheries until the next List of Foreign Fisheries is published unless the Assistant Administrator has reliable information from the harvesting nation to properly classify the foreign commercial fishing operation. Additionally, the Assistant Administrator, may request additional information from the harvesting nation and may consider other relevant information as set forth in § 216.24(h)(3) about such commercial fishing operations and the frequency of incidental mortality and serious injury of marine mammals, to properly classify the foreign commercial fishing operation.


Facility means, in the context specific to captive marine mammals,: (1) One or more permanent primary enclosures used to hold marine mammals captive (i.e., pools, lagoons) and associated infrastructure (i.e., equipment and supplies necessary for the care and maintenance of marine mammals) where these enclosures are either located within the boundaries of a single contiguous parcel of land and water, or are grouped together within the same general area within which enclosure-to-enclosure transport is expected to be completed in less than one hour; or


(2) A traveling display/exhibit, where the enclosure(s) and associated infrastructure is transported together with the marine mammals.


Feeding is offering, giving, or attempting to give food or non-food items to marine mammals in the wild. It includes operating a vessel or providing other platforms from which feeding is conducted or supported. It does not include the routine discard of bycatch during fishing operations or the routine discharge of waste or fish byproducts from fish processing plants or other platforms if the discharge is otherwise legal and is incidental to operation of the activity.


First exporter means the person or company that first exports the fish or fish product, or, in the case of shipments that are subject to the labeling requirements of 50 CFR part 247 and that only contain fish harvested by vessels of the United States, the first seller of the fish or fish product.


Fish and fish product means any marine finfish, mollusk, crustacean, or other form of marine life other than marine mammals, reptiles, and birds, whether fresh, frozen, canned, pouched, or otherwise prepared.


Fisheries Certificate of Origin, or FCO, means NOAA Form 370, as described in § 216.24(f)(4).


Force majeure means forces outside the vessel operator’s or vessel owner’s control that could not be avoided by the exercise of due care.


FSA means the Fur Seal Act of 1966, as amended, 16 U.S.C. 1151 et seq.


Fur seal means North Pacific fur seal, scientifically known as Callorhinus ursinus.


Hard part means any bone, tooth, baleen, treated pelt, or other part of a marine mammal that is relatively solid or durable.


Harvesting nation means the country under whose flag one or more fishing vessels are documented, or which has by formal declaration agreed to assert jurisdiction over one or more certified charter vessels, from which vessel(s) fish are caught that are a part of any cargo or shipment of fish to be imported into the United States, regardless of any intervening transshipments.


Humane means the method of taking, import, export, or other activity which involves the least possible degree of pain and suffering practicable to the animal involved.


Import means to land on, bring into, or introduce into, or attempt to land on, bring into, or introduce into, any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, whether or not such landing, bringing, or introduction constitutes an importation within the Customs laws of the United States; except that, for the purpose of any ban on the importation of fish or fish products issued under the authority of 16 U.S.C. 1371(a)(2)(B), the definition of “import” in § 216.24(f)(1)(ii) shall apply.


Incidental catch means the taking of a marine mammal (1) because it is directly interfering with commercial fishing operations, or (2) as a consequence of the steps used to secure the fish in connection with commercial fishing operations: Provided, That a marine mammal so taken must immediately be returned to the sea with a minimum of injury and further, that the taking of a marine mammal, which otherwise meets the requirements of this definition shall not be considered an incidental catch of that mammal if it is used subsequently to assist in commercial fishing operations.


Intentional purse seine set means that a tuna purse seine vessel or associated vessels chase marine mammals and subsequently make a purse seine set.


Intermediary nation means a nation that imports fish or fish products from a fishery on the List of Foreign Fisheries and re-exports such fish or fish products to the United States.


International Dolphin Conservation Program (IDCP) means the international program established by the agreement signed in La Jolla, California, in June 1992, as formalized, modified, and enhanced in accordance with the Declaration of Panama and the Agreement on the IDCP.


International Dolphin Conservation Program Act (IDCPA) means Public Law 105-42, enacted into law on August 15, 1997.


International Review Panel (IRP) means the International Review Panel established by the Agreement on the IDCP.


Intrusive research means a procedure conducted for bona fide scientific research involving: A break in or cutting of the skin or equivalent, insertion of an instrument or material into an orifice, introduction of a substance or object into the animal’s immediate environment that is likely either to be ingested or to contact and directly affect animal tissues (i.e., chemical substances), or a stimulus directed at animals that may involve a risk to health or welfare or that may have an impact on normal function or behavior (i.e., audio broadcasts directed at animals that may affect behavior). For captive animals, this definition does not include:


(1) A procedure conducted by the professional staff of the holding facility or an attending veterinarian for purposes of animal husbandry, care, maintenance, or treatment, or a routine medical procedure that, in the reasonable judgment of the attending veterinarian, would not constitute a risk to the health or welfare of the captive animal; or


(2) A procedure involving either the introduction of a substance or object (i.e., as described in this definition) or a stimulus directed at animals that, in the reasonable judgment of the attending veterinarian, would not involve a risk to the health or welfare of the captive animal.


Label means a display of written, printed, or graphic matter on or affixed to the immediate container of any article.


Land or landing means to begin offloading any fish, to arrive in port with the intention of offloading fish, or to cause any fish to be offloaded.


Large-scale driftnet means a gillnet that is composed of a panel or panels of webbing, or a series of such gillnets, with a total length of 2.5 kilometers or more that is used on the high seas and allowed to drift with the currents and winds for the purpose of harvesting fish by entangling the fish in the webbing of the net.


Level A Harassment means any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance which has the potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild.


Level B Harassment means any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance which has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering but which does not have the potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild.


List of Foreign Fisheries means the most recent list, organized by harvesting nation, of foreign commercial fishing operations exporting fish or fish products to the United States, that is published in the Federal Register by the Assistant Administrator and that classifies commercial fishing operations according to the frequency and likelihood of incidental mortality and serious injury of marine mammals during such commercial fishing operations as either an exempt fishery or an export fishery.


Longtail tuna means the species Thunnus tonngol.


Marine environment means the oceans and the seas, including estuarine and brackish waters.


Marine mammal means those specimens of the following orders, which are morphologically adapted to the marine environment, and whether alive or dead, and any part thereof, including but not limited to, any raw, dressed or dyed fur or skin: Cetacea (whales, dolphins, and porpoises) and Pinnipedia, other than walrus (seals and sea lions).


MMPA means the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, as amended, 16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.


Native village or town means any community, association, tribe, band, clan or group.


Optimum sustainable population is a population size which falls within a range from the population level of a given species or stock which is the largest supportable within the ecosystem to the population level that results in maximum net productivity. Maximum net productivity is the greatest net annual increment in population numbers or biomass resulting from additions to the population due to reproduction and/or growth less losses due to natural mortality.


Per-stock per-year dolphin mortality limit means the maximum allowable number of incidental dolphin mortalities and serious injuries from a specified stock per calendar year, as established under the IDCP.


Pregnant means pregnant near term.


Pribilovians means Indians, Aleuts, and Eskimos who live on the Pribilof Islands.


Principal investigator means the individual primarily responsible for the taking, importation, export, and any related activities conducted under a permit issued for scientific research or enhancement purposes.


Public display means an activity that provides opportunities for the public to view living marine mammals at a facility holding marine mammals captive.


Regional Director means the Regional Administrator, Northeast Regional Office, NMFS, One Blackburn Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930; or Regional Administrator, Northwest Regional Office, NMFS, 7600 Sandpoint Way, N.E., Building 1, Seattle, WA 98115; or Regional Administrator, Southeast Regional Office, NMFS, 9721 Executive Center Drive North, St. Petersburg, FL 33702; or Regional Administrator, Southwest Regional Office, NMFS, 501 West Ocean Boulevard, Suite 4200, Long Beach, CA 90802; or Regional Administrator, Pacific Islands Regional Office, NMFS, 1601 Kapiolani Boulevard, Suite 1110, Honolulu, HI 96814; or Regional Administrator, Alaska Regional Office, NMFS, PO Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802.


Rehabilitation means treatment of beached and stranded marine mammals taken under section 109(h)(1) of the MMPA or imported under section 109(h)(2) of the MMPA, with the intent of restoring the marine mammal’s health and, if necessary, behavioral patterns.


Secretary shall mean the Secretary of Commerce or his authorized representative.


Serious injury means any injury that will likely result in mortality.


Sexual harassment means any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favors, or other verbal and physical conduct of a sexual nature which has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.


Skipjack tuna means the species Euthynnus (Katsuwonus) pelamis.


Soft part means any marine mammal part that is not a hard part. Soft parts do not include urine or fecal material.


South Pacific Ocean means any waters of the Pacific Ocean that lie south of the equator.


South Pacific Tuna Treaty means the Treaty on Fisheries Between the Governments of Certain Pacific Island States and the Government of the United States of America (50 CFR part 300, subpart D).


Southern bluefin tuna means the species Thunnus maccoyii.


Stranded or stranded marine mammal means a marine mammal specimen under the jurisdiction of the Secretary:


(1) If the specimen is dead, and is on a beach or shore, or is in the water within the Exclusive Economic Zone of the United States; or


(2) If the specimen is alive, and is on a beach or shore and is unable to return to the water, or is in the water within the Exclusive Economic Zone of the United States where the water is so shallow that the specimen is unable to return to its natural habitat under its own power.


Subsistence means the use of marine mammals taken by Alaskan Natives for food, clothing, shelter, heating, transportation, and other uses necessary to maintain the life of the taker or those who depend upon the taker to provide them with such subsistence.


Subsistence uses means the customary and traditional uses of fur seals taken by Pribilovians for direct personal or family consumption as food, shelter, fuel, clothing, tools or transportation; for the making and selling of handicraft articles out of nonedible byproducts of fur seals taken for personal or family consumption; and for barter, or sharing for personal or family consumption. As used in this definition –


(1) Family means all persons related by blood, marriage, or adoption, or any person living within a household on a permanent basis.


(2) Barter means the exchange of fur seals or their parts, taken for subsistence uses –


(i) For other wildlife or fish or their parts, or


(ii) For other food or for nonedible items other than money if the exchange is of a limited and noncommercial nature.


Take means to harass, hunt, capture, collect, or kill, or attempt to harass, hunt, capture, collect, or kill any marine mammal. This includes, without limitation, any of the following: The collection of dead animals, or parts thereof; the restraint or detention of a marine mammal, no matter how temporary; tagging a marine mammal; the negligent or intentional operation of an aircraft or vessel, or the doing of any other negligent or intentional act which results in disturbing or molesting a marine mammal; and feeding or attempting to feed a marine mammal in the wild.


Threatened species means a species of marine mammal listed as “threatened” pursuant to the Endangered Species Act of 1973, 87 Stat. 884, Pub. L. 93-205.


Transboundary stock means a marine mammal stock occurring in the:


(1) Exclusive economic zones or territorial sea of the United States and one or more other coastal States; or


(2) Exclusive economic zone or territorial sea of the United States and on the high seas.


Trip means a voyage starting when a vessel leaves port with all fish wells empty of fish and ending when a vessel unloads all of its fish.


Tuna means any fish of the genus Thunnus and the species Euthynnus (Katsuwonus) pelamis.


Tuna product means any food product processed for retail sale and intended for human or animal consumption that contains an item listed in § 216.24(f)(2)(i) or (ii), but does not include perishable items with a shelf life of less than 3 days.


Wasteful manner means any taking or method of taking which is likely to result in the killing of marine mammals beyond those needed for subsistence, subsistence uses, or for the making of authentic native articles of handicrafts and clothing, or which results in the waste of a substantial portion of the marine mammal and includes, without limitation, the employment of a method of taking which is not likely to assure the capture or killing of a marine mammal, or which is not immediately followed by a reasonable effort to retrieve the marine mammal.


U.S. regulatory program means the regulatory program governing the incidental mortality and serious injury of marine mammals in the course of commercial fishing operations as specified in the Marine Mammal Protection Act and its implementing regulations.


Yellowfin tuna means the species Thunnus albacares (synonomy: Neothunnus macropterus).


[39 FR 1852, Jan. 15, 1974]


Editorial Note:For Federal Register citations affecting § 216.3, see the List of CFR Sections Affected, which appears in the Finding Aids section of the printed volume and at www.govinfo.gov.

§ 216.4 Other laws and regulations.

(a) Federal. Nothing in this part, nor any permit issued under authority of this part, shall be construed to relieve a person from any other requirements imposed by a statute or regulation of the United States, including any applicable statutes or regulations relating to wildlife and fisheries, health, quarantine, agriculture, or customs.


(b) State laws or regulations. See part 403 of this chapter.


[39 FR 1852, Jan. 15, 1974, as amended at 41 FR 36662, Aug. 31, 1976; 58 FR 65134, Dec. 13, 1993]


§ 216.5 Payment of penalty.

The respondent shall have 30 days from receipt of the final assessment decision within which to pay the penalty assessed. Upon a failure to pay the penalty, the Secretary may request the Attorney General to institute a civil action in the appropriate United States District Court to collect the penalty.


[39 FR 1852, Jan. 15, 1974. Redesignated at 46 FR 61652, Dec. 18, 1981]


§ 216.6 Forfeiture and return of seized property.

(a) Whenever any cargo or marine mammal or marine mammal product has been seized pursuant to section 107 of the MMPA, the Secretary shall expedite any proceedings commenced under these regulations.


(b) Whenever a civil penalty has been assessed by the Secretary under these regulations, any cargo, marine mammal, or marine mammal product seized pursuant to section 107 of the MMPA shall be subject to forfeiture. If respondent voluntarily forfeits any such seized property or the monetary value thereof without court proceedings, the Secretary may apply the value thereof, if any, as determined by the Secretary, toward payment of the civil penalty.


(c) Whenever a civil penalty has been assessed under these regulations, and whether or not such penalty has been paid, the Secretary may request the Attorney General to institute a civil action in an appropriate United States District Court to compel forfeiture of such seized property or the monetary value thereof to the Secretary for disposition by him in such manner as he deems appropriate. If no judicial action to compel forfeiture is commenced within 30 days after final decision-making assessment of a civil penalty, pursuant to § 216.60, such seized property shall immediately be returned to the respondent.


(d) If the final decision of the Secretary under these regulations is that respondent has committed no violation of the MMPA or of any permit or regulations issued thereunder, any marine mammal, marine mammal product, or other cargo seized from respondent in connection with the proceedings under these regulations, or the bond or other monetary value substituted therefor, shall immediately be returned to the respondent.


(e) If the Attorney General commences criminal proceedings pursuant to section 105(b) of the MMPA, and such proceedings result in a finding that the person accused is not guilty of a criminal violation of the MMPA, the Secretary may institute proceedings for the assessment of a civil penalty under this part: Provided, That if no such civil penalty proceedings have been commenced by the Secretary within 30 days following the final disposition of the criminal case, any property seized pursuant to section 107 of the MMPA shall be returned to the respondent.


(f) If any seized property is to be returned to the respondent, the Regional Director shall issue a letter authorizing such return. This letter shall be dispatched to the respondent by registered mail, return receipt requested, and shall identify the respondent, the seized property, and, if appropriate, the bailee of the seized property. It shall also provide that upon presentation of the letter and proper identification, the seized property is authorized to be released. All charges for storage, care, or handling of the seized property accruing 5 days or more after the date of the return receipt shall be for the account of the respondent: Provided, That if it is the final decision of the Secretary under these regulations that the respondent has committed the alleged violation, all charges which have accrued for the storage, care, or handling of the seized property shall be for the account of the respondent.


[39 FR 1852, Jan. 15, 1974. Redesignated at 46 FR 61652, Dec. 18, 1981, and amended at 59 FR 50375, Oct. 3, 1994]


§ 216.7 Holding and bonding.

(a) Any marine mammal, marine mammal product, or other cargo seized pursuant to section 107 of the MMPA shall be delivered to the appropriate Regional Director of the National Marine Fisheries Service (see § 201.2 of this title) or his designee, who shall either hold such seized property or arrange for the proper handling and care of such seized property.


(b) Any arrangement for the handling and care of seized property shall be in writing and shall state the compensation to be paid. Subpart F of 15 CFR part 904 contains additional procedures that govern seized property that is subject to forfeiture or has been forfeited under the MMPA.


[39 FR 1852, Jan. 15, 1974. Redesignated at 46 FR 61652, Dec. 18, 1981, and amended at 50 FR 12785, Apr. 1, 1985; 59 FR 50375, Oct. 3, 1994]


§ 216.8 Enforcement officers.

Enforcement Agents of the National Marine Fisheries Service shall enforce the provisions of the MMPA and may take any actions authorized by the MMPA with respect to enforcement. In addition, the Secretary may utilize, by agreement, the personnel, services, and facilities of any other Federal Agency for the purposes of enforcing this MMPA. Pursuant to the terms of section 107(b) of the MMPA, the Secretary may also designate officers and employees of any State or of any possession of the United States to enforce the provisions of this MMPA.


[39 FR 1852, Jan. 15, 1974. Redesignated at 46 FR 61652, Dec. 18, 1981, and amended at 59 FR 50375, Oct. 3, 1994]


Subpart B – Prohibitions

§ 216.11 Prohibited taking.

Except as otherwise provided in subparts C, D, and I of this part 216 or in part 228 or 229, it is unlawful for:


(a) Any person, vessel, or conveyance subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to take any marine mammal on the high seas, or


(b) Any person, vessel, or conveyance to take any marine mammal in waters or on lands under the jurisdiction of the United States, or


(c) Any person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to take any marine mammal during the moratorium.


[39 FR 1852, Jan. 15, 1974, as amended at 47 FR 21254, May 18, 1982; 54 FR 21921, May 19, 1989]


§ 216.12 Prohibited importation.

(a) Except as otherwise provided in subparts C and D of this part 216, it is unlawful for any person to import any marine mammal or marine mammal product into the United States.


(b) Regardless of whether an importation is otherwise authorized pursuant to subparts C and D of this part 216, it is unlawful for any person to import into the United States any:


(1) Marine mammal:


(i) Taken in violation of the MMPA, or


(ii) Taken in another country in violation to the laws of that country;


(2) Any marine mammal product if


(i) The importation into the United States of the marine mammal from which such product is made would be unlawful under paragraph (b)(1) of this section, or


(ii) The sale in commerce of such product in the country of origin if the product is illegal.


(c) Except in accordance with an exception referred to in subpart C and §§ 216.31 (regarding scientific research permits only) and 216.32 of this part 216, it is unlawful to import into the United States any:


(1) Marine mammal which was pregnant at the time of taking.


(2) Marine mammal which was nursing at the time of taking, or less than 8 months old, whichever occurs later.


(3) Specimen of an endangered or threatened species of marine mammal.


(4) Specimen taken from a depleted species or stock of marine mammals, or


(5) Marine mammal taken in an inhumane manner.


(d) It is unlawful to import into the United States any fish, whether fresh, frozen, or otherwise prepared, if such fish was caught in a manner proscribed by the Secretary of Commerce for persons subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, whether or not any marine mammals were in fact taken incident to the catching of the fish.


[39 FR 1852, Jan. 15, 1974, as amended at 59 FR 50375, Oct. 3, 1994]


§ 216.13 Prohibited uses, possession, transportation, sales, and permits.

It is unlawful for:


(a) Any person to use any port, harbor or other place under the jurisdiction of the United States for any purpose in any way connected with a prohibited taking or an unlawful importation of any marine mammal or marine mammal product; or


(b) Any person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to possess any marine mammal taken in violation of the MMPA or these regulations, or to transport, sell, or offer for sale any such marine mammal or any marine mammal product made from any such mammal.


(c) Any person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to use in a commercial fishery, any means or method of fishing in contravention of regulations and limitations issued by the Secretary of Commerce for that fishery to achieve the purposes of this MMPA.


(d) Any person to violate any term, condition, or restriction of any permit issued by the Secretary.


[39 FR 1852, Jan. 15, 1974, as amended at 59 FR 50375, 50376, Oct. 3, 1994; 61 FR 21933, May 10, 1996]


§ 216.14 Marine mammals taken before the MMPA.

(a) Section 102(e) of the MMPA provides, in effect, that the MMPA shall not apply to any marine mammal taken prior to December 21, 1972, or to any marine mammal product, consisting of or composed in whole or in part of, any marine mammal taken before that date. This prior status of any marine mammal or marine mammal product may be established by submitting to the Director, National Marine Fisheries Service prior to, or at the time of importation, an affidavit containing the following:


(1) The Affiant’s name and address;


(2) Identification of the Affiant;


(3) A description of the marine mammals or marine mammal products which the Affiant desires to import;


(4) A statement by the Affiant that, to the best of his knowledge and belief, the marine mammals involved in the application were taken prior to December 21, 1972;


(5) A statement by the Affiant in the following language:



The foregoing is principally based on the attached exhibits which, to the best of my knowledge and belief, are complete, true and correct. I understand that this affidavit is being submitted for the purpose of inducing the Federal Government to permit the importation of – under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 (16 U.S.C. 1361 through 1407) and regulations promulgated thereunder, and that any false statements may subject me to the criminal penalties of 13 U.S.C. 1001, or to penalties under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972.


(b) Either one of two exhibits shall be attached to such affidavit, and will contain either:


(1) Records or other available evidence showing that the product consists of or is composed in whole or in part of marine mammals taken prior to the effective date of the MMPA. Such records or other evidentiary material must include information on how, when, where, and by whom the animals were taken, what processing has taken place since taking, and the date and location of such processing; or


(2) A statement from a government agency of the country of origin exercising jurisdiction over marine mammals that any and all such mammals from which the products sought to be imported were derived were taken prior to December 21, 1972.


(c) No pre-Act marine mammal or pre-Act marine mammal product may be imported unless the requirements of this section have been fulfilled.


(d) This section has no application to any marine mammal or marine mammal product intended to be imported pursuant to §§ 216.21, 216.31 or § 216.32.


[39 FR 1852, Jan. 15, 1974, as amended at 59 FR 50375, 50376, Oct. 3, 1994]


§ 216.15 Depleted species.

The following species or population stocks have been designated by the Assistant Administrator as depleted under the provisions of the MMPA.


(a) Hawaiian monk seal (Monachus schauinslandi).


(b) Bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus).


(c) North Pacific fur seal (Callorhinus ursinus). Pribilof Island population.


(d) Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), coastal-migratory stock along the U.S. mid-Atlantic coast.


(e) Eastern spinner dolphin (Stenella longirostris orientalis).


(f) Northeastern offshore spotted dolphin (Stenella attenuata).


(g) Cook Inlet, Alaska, stock of beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas). The stock includes all beluga whales occurring in waters of the Gulf of Alaska north of 58° North latitude including, but not limited to, Cook Inlet, Kamishak Bay, Chinitna Bay, Tuxedni Bay, Prince William Sound, Yakutat Bay, Shelikof Strait, and off Kodiak Island and freshwater tributaries to these waters.


(h) Eastern North Pacific Southern Resident stock of killer whales (Orcinus orca). The stock includes all resident killer whales in pods J, K, and L in the waters of, but not limited to, the inland waterways of southern British Columbia and Washington, including the Georgia Strait, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and Puget Sound.


(i) AT1 stock of killer whales (Orcinus orca). The stock includes all killer whales belonging to the AT1 group of transient killer whales occurring primarily in waters of Prince William Sound, Resurrection Bay, and the Kenai Fjords region of Alaska.


(j) Sakhalin Bay-Nikolaya Bay-Amur River beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas). The stock includes all beluga whales primarily occurring in, but not limited to, waters of Sakhalin Bay, Nikolaya Bay, and Amur River in the Sea of Okhotsk.


[53 FR 17899, May 18, 1988, as amended at 58 FR 17791, Apr. 6, 1993; 58 FR 45074, Aug. 26, 1993; 58 FR 58297, Nov. 1, 1993; 59 FR 50376, Oct. 3, 1994; 65 FR 34597, May 31, 2000; 68 FR 31983, May 29, 2003; 69 FR 31324, June 3, 2004; 81 FR 74719, Oct. 27, 2016]


§ 216.16 Prohibitions under the General Authorization for Level B harassment for scientific research.

It shall be unlawful for any person to:


(a) Provide false information in a letter of intent submitted pursuant to § 216.45(b);


(b) Violate any term or condition imposed pursuant to § 216.45(d).


[59 FR 50376, Oct. 3, 1994]


§ 216.17 General prohibitions.

It is unlawful for any person to:


(a) Assault, resist, oppose, impede, intimidate, threaten, or interfere with any authorized officer in the conduct of any search, inspection, investigation or seizure in connection with enforcement of the MMPA, DPCIA, or IDCPA.


(b) Interfere with, delay, or prevent by any means the apprehension of another person, knowing that such person has committed any act prohibited by the MMPA.


(c) Resist a lawful arrest for any act prohibited under the MMPA.


(d) Make any false statement, oral or written, to an authorized officer concerning any act under the jurisdiction of the MMPA, DPCIA, IDCPA, or attempt to do any of the above.


(e) Interfere with, obstruct, delay, or prevent by any means an investigation, search, seizure, or disposition of seized property in connection with enforcement of the MMPA, DPCIA, or IDCPA.


[70 FR 19008, Apr. 12, 2005]


§ 216.18 Approaching humpback whales in Alaska.

(a) Prohibitions. Except as provided under paragraph (b) of this section, it is unlawful for any person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to commit, to attempt to commit, to solicit another to commit, or to cause to be committed, within 200 nautical miles (370.4 km) of Alaska, or within inland waters of the state, any of the acts in paragraphs (a)(1) through (a)(3) of this section with respect to humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae):


(1) Approach, by any means, including by interception (i.e., placing a vessel in the path of an oncoming humpback whale so that the whale surfaces within 100 yards (91.4 m) of the vessel), within 100 yards (91.4 m) of any humpback whale;


(2) Cause a vessel or other object to approach within 100 yards (91.4 m) of a humpback whale; or


(3) Disrupt the normal behavior or prior activity of a whale by any other act or omission. A disruption of normal behavior may be manifested by, among other actions on the part of the whale, a rapid change in direction or speed; escape tactics such as prolonged diving, underwater course changes, underwater exhalation, or evasive swimming patterns; interruptions of breeding, nursing, or resting activities, attempts by a whale to shield a calf from a vessel or human observer by tail swishing or by other protective movement; or the abandonment of a previously frequented area.


(b) Exceptions. The following exceptions apply, but any person who claims the applicability of an exception has the burden of proving that the exception applies:


(1) Paragraph (a) of this section does not apply if an approach is authorized by the National Marine Fisheries Service through a permit issued under subpart D of this part (Special Exceptions) or through a similar authorization.


(2) Paragraph (a) of this section does not apply to the extent that a vessel is restricted in its ability to maneuver and, because of the restriction, cannot comply with paragraph (a) of this section.


(3) Paragraph (a) of this section does not apply to commercial fishing vessels lawfully engaged in actively setting, retrieving or closely tending commercial fishing gear. For purposes of this section, commercial fishing means taking or harvesting fish or fishery resources to sell, barter, or trade. Commercial fishing does not include commercial passenger fishing operations (i.e., charter operations or sport fishing activities).


(4) Paragraph (a) of this section does not apply to state, local, or Federal government vessels operating in the course of official duty.


(5) Paragraph (a) of this section does not affect the rights of Alaska Natives under 16 U.S.C. 1539(e).


(6) This section shall not take precedence over any more restrictive conflicting Federal regulation pertaining to humpback whales, including the regulations at 36 CFR 13.1102-13.1188 that pertain specifically to the waters of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.


(c) General measures. Notwithstanding the prohibitions and exceptions in paragraphs (a) and (b) of this section, to avoid collisions with humpback whales, vessels must operate at a slow, safe speed when near a humpback whale. “Safe speed” has the same meaning as the term is defined in 33 CFR 83.06 and the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea 1972 (see 33 U.S.C. 1602), with respect to avoiding collisions with humpback whales.


[81 FR 62020, Sept. 8, 2016]


§ 216.19 Special restrictions for humpback whales in waters surrounding the islands of Hawaii.

(a) Prohibitions. Except as noted in paragraph (b) of this section, it is unlawful for any person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to commit, to attempt to commit, to solicit another to commit, or to cause to be committed, within 200 nautical miles (370.4 km) of the islands of Hawaii, any of the following acts with respect to humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae):


(1) Operate any aircraft within 1,000 feet (304.8 m) of any humpback whale;


(2) Approach, by any means, within 100 yards (91.4 m) of any humpback whale;


(3) Cause a vessel, person, or other object to approach within 100 yards (91.4 m) of a humpback whale;


(4) Approach a humpback whale by interception (i.e., placing an aircraft, vessel, person, or other object in the path of a humpback whale so that the whale approaches within 1,000 feet (304.8 m) of the aircraft or 100 yards (91.4 m) of the vessel, person, or object); or


(5) Disrupt the normal behavior or prior activity of a whale by any other act or omission. A disruption of normal behavior may be manifested by, among other actions on the part of the whale, a rapid change in direction or speed; escape tactics such as prolonged diving, underwater course changes, underwater exhalation, or evasive swimming patterns; interruptions of breeding, nursing, or resting activities, attempts by a whale to shield a calf from a vessel or human observer by tail swishing or by other protective movements; or the abandonment of a previously frequented area.


(b) Exceptions. The prohibitions of paragraph (a) of this section do not apply to:


(1) Federal, State, or local government vessels or persons operating in the course of their official duties such as law enforcement, search and rescue, or public safety;


(2) Vessel operations necessary to avoid an imminent and serious threat to a person, vessel, or the environment;


(3) Vessels restricted in their ability to maneuver, and because of this restriction are not able to comply with approach restrictions; or


(4) Vessels or persons authorized under permit or authorization issued by NMFS to conduct scientific research or response efforts that may result in taking of humpback whales.


(c) Affirmative defense. (1) In connection with any action alleging a violation of this section, any person claiming the benefit of any exemption, exception, or permit listed in paragraph (b) of this section has the burden of proving that the exemption or exception is applicable, or that the permit was granted and was valid and in force at the time of the alleged violation.


(2) [Reserved]


[81 FR 62017, Sept. 8, 2016]


§ 216.20 Special restrictions for Hawaiian spinner dolphins.

(a) Applicability. The following special restrictions designed to protect Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins apply:


(1) In all waters within 2 nautical miles (nmi) of the main Hawaiian Islands, and


(2) In all waters bounded by the islands of Lāna`i, Maui, and Kaho`olawe enclosed by 3 line segments that connect points on the 2-nmi boundary between the islands as follows: The straight line between 20°32′51″ N/156°43′50″ W (Kaho`olawe) and 20°42′4″ N/156°55′34″ W (Lāna`i), the straight line between 20°51′1″ N/156°54′0″ W (Lāna`i) and 20°59′48″ N/156°42′28″ W (Maui), and the straight line between 20°33′55″ N/156°26′43″ W (Maui) and 20°32′15″ N/156°29′51″ W (Kaho`olawe) (all coordinates referenced to The World Geodetic System of 1984 (WGS 84)).


Table 1 to Paragraph (a)(2) – Coordinates for the Extent of the Designated Waters Bounded by Lāna`i, Maui, and Kaho`olawe *

[All coordinates referenced to The World Geodetic System of 1984 (WGS 84).]

Line segment between islands
Figure 3 label
Latitude
Longitude
Kaho`olawe and Lāna`iA120°32′51″ N156°43′50″ W
A220°42′4″ N156°55′34″ W
Lāna`i and MauiB120°51′1″ N156°54′0″ W
B220°59′48″ N156°42′28″ W
Maui and Kaho`olaweC120°33′55″ N156°26′43″ W
C220°32′15″ N156°29′51″ W

* (see Figure 3 of this section).


(b) Prohibitions. Except as noted in paragraph (c) of this section, it is unlawful for any person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to commit, to attempt to commit, to solicit another to commit, or to cause to be committed any of the following:


(1) Approach or remain within 50 yards (45.7 m) of a Hawaiian spinner dolphin by any means;


(2) Swim within 50 yards (45.7 m) of a Hawaiian spinner dolphin;


(3) Cause a vessel, person, or other object to approach or remain within 50 yards (45.7 m) of a Hawaiian spinner dolphin; or


(4) Intercept or place a vessel, person, or other object in the path of a Hawaiian spinner dolphin so that the dolphin approaches within 50 yards (45.7 m) of the vessel, person, or object.


(c) Exceptions. The prohibitions of paragraph (b) of this section do not apply to:


(1) Any person who inadvertently comes within 50 yards (45.7 m) of a Hawaiian spinner dolphin or is approached by a spinner dolphin, provided the person makes no effort to engage or pursue the animal and takes immediate steps to move away from the animal;


(2) Any vessel that is underway and is approached by a Hawaiian spinner dolphin, provided the vessel continues normal navigation and makes no effort to engage or pursue the animal. For purposes of this exception, a vessel is defined as a watercraft or other artificial contrivance used, or capable of being used, as a means of transportation on water (1 U.S.C. 3); a vessel is underway if it is not made fast to the shore, at anchor, or aground;


(3) Any vessel transiting to or from a port, harbor, or in a restricted channel when a 50-yard (45.7 m) distance will not allow the vessel to maintain safe navigation;


(4) Vessel operations necessary to avoid an imminent and serious threat to a person or vessel;


(5) Any vessel that is anchored or aground and is approached by a Hawaiian spinner dolphin, provided the vessel makes no effort to engage or pursue the animal;


(6) Activities authorized through a permit or authorization issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service to take Hawaiian spinner dolphins;


(7) Federal, State, or local government vessels, aircraft, personnel, and assets when necessary in the course of performing official duties;


(8) Commercial fishing vessels that incidentally take spinner dolphins during the course of commercial fishing operations, provided such vessels operate in compliance with a valid marine mammal authorization in accordance with MMPA section 118(c).


(d) Affirmative defense. In connection with any action alleging a violation of this section, any person claiming the benefit of any exemption, exception, or permit listed in paragraph (c) of this section has the burden of proving that the exemption or exception is applicable, or that the permit was granted and was valid and in force at the time of the alleged violation.


(e) Maps of areas for Hawaiian spinner dolphin special restrictions. The following are overview maps and a table with corresponding coordinate data for the areas for Hawaiian spinner dolphin special restriction.




86 FR 53841, Sept. 28, 2021]


Subpart C – General Exceptions

§ 216.21 Actions permitted by international treaty, convention, or agreement.

The MMPA and these regulations shall not apply to the extent that they are inconsistent with the provisions of any international treaty, convention or agreement, or any statute implementing the same relating to the taking or importation of marine mammals or marine mammal products, which was existing and in force prior to December 21, 1972, and to which the United States was a party. Specifically, the regulations in subpart B of this part and the provisions of the MMPA shall not apply to activities carried out pursuant to the Interim Convention on the Conservation of North Pacific Fur Seals signed at Washington on February 9, 1957, and the Fur Seal Act of 1966, 16 U.S.C. 1151 through 1187, as in each case, from time to time amended.


[39 FR 1852, Jan. 15, 1974, as amended at 59 FR 50376, Oct. 3, 1994]


§ 216.22 Taking by State or local government officials.

(a) A State or local government official or employee may take a marine mammal in the normal course of his duties as an official or employee, and no permit shall be required, if such taking:


(1) Is accomplished in a humane manner;


(2) Is for the protection or welfare of such mammal or for the protection of the public health or welfare; and


(3) Includes steps designed to insure return of such mammal, if not killed in the course of such taking, to its natural habitat. In addition, any such official or employee may, incidental to such taking, possess and transport, but not sell or offer for sale, such mammal and use any port, harbor, or other place under the jurisdiction of the United States. All steps reasonably practicable under the circumstances shall be taken by any such employee or official to prevent injury or death to the marine mammal as the result of such taking. Where the marine mammal in question is injured or sick, it shall be permissible to place it in temporary captivity until such time as it is able to be returned to its natural habitat. It shall be permissible to dispose of a carcass of a marine mammal taken in accordance with this subsection whether the animal is dead at the time of taking or dies subsequent thereto.


(b) Each taking permitted under this section shall be included in a written report to be submitted to the Secretary every six months beginning December 31, 1973. Unless otherwise permitted by the Secretary, the report shall contain a description of:


(1) The animal involved;


(2) The circumstances requiring the taking;


(3) The method of taking;


(4) The name and official position of the State official or employee involved;


(5) The disposition of the animal, including in cases where the animal has been retained in captivity, a description of the place and means of confinement and the measures taken for its maintenance and care; and


(6) Such other information as the Secretary may require.


(c) Salvage of dead stranded marine mammals or parts therefrom and subsequent transfer.


(1) Salvage. In the performance of official duties, a state or local government employee; an employee of the National Marine Fisheries Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, or any other Federal agency with jurisdiction and conservation responsibilities in marine shoreline areas; or a person authorized under 16 U.S.C. 1382(c) may take and salvage a marine mammal specimen if it is stranded and dead or it was stranded or rescued and died during treatment, transport, captivity or other rehabilitation subsequent to that stranding or distress if salvage is for the purpose of utilization in scientific research or for the purpose of maintenance in a properly curated, professionally accredited scientific collection.


(2) Registration. A person salvaging a dead marine mammal specimen under this section must register the salvage of the specimen with the appropriate Regional Office of the National Marine Fisheries Service within 30 days after the taking or death occurs. The registration must include:


(i) The name, address, and any official position of the individual engaged in the taking and salvage;


(ii) A description of the marine mammal specimen salvaged including the scientific and common names of the species;


(iii) A description of the parts salvaged;


(iv) The date and the location of the taking;


(v) Such other information as deemed necessary by the Assistant Administrator.


(3) Identification and curation. The Regional Director will assign a single unique number to each carcass, and the parts thereof, that are salvaged under the provisions of this section. The person who salvaged the specimen may designate the number to be assigned. After this number is assigned, the person who salvaged the specimen must permanently mark that number on each separate hard part of that specimen and must affix that number with tags or labels to each soft part of that specimen or the containers in which that soft part is kept. Each specimen salvaged under this section must be curated in accordance with professional standards.


(4) No sale or commercial trade. No person may sell or trade for commercial purposes any marine mammal specimen salvaged under this section.


(5) Transfer without prior authorization. A person who salvages a marine mammal specimen under this section may transfer that specimen to another person if:


(i) The person transferring the marine mammal specimen does not receive remuneration for the specimen;


(ii) The person receiving the marine mammal specimen is an employee of the National Marine Fisheries Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, or any other Federal agency with jurisdiction and conservation responsibilities in marine shoreline areas; is a person authorized under 16 U.S.C. 1382(c); or is a person who has received prior authorization under paragraph (c)(6) of this section;


(iii) The marine mammal specimen is transferred for the purpose of scientific research, for the purpose of maintenance in a properly curated, professionally accredited scientific collection, or for educational purposes;


(iv) The unique number assigned by the National Marine Fisheries Service is on, marked on, or affixed to the marine mammal specimen or container; and


(v) Except as provided under paragraph (c)(8) of this section, the person transferring the marine mammal specimen notifies the appropriate Regional Office of the National Marine Fisheries Service of the transfer, including notification of the number of the specimen transferred and the person to whom the specimen was transferred, within 30 days after the transfer occurs.


(6) Other transfers within the United States. Except as provided under paragraphs (c)(5) and (c)(8) of this section, a person who salvages a marine mammal specimen, or who has received a marine mammal specimen under the provisions of this section, may not transfer that specimen to another person within the United States unless the Regional Director of the appropriate Regional Office of the National Marine Fisheries Service grants prior written authorization for the transfer. The Regional Director may grant authorization for the transfer if there is evidence that the conditions listed under paragraphs (c)(5)(i), (c)(5)(iii), and (c)(5)(iv) of this section are met.


(7) Tranfers outside of the United States. A person who salvages a marine mammal specimen, or a person who has received a marine mammal specimen under the provisions of this section, may not transfer that specimen to a person outside of the United States unless the Assistant Administrator grants prior written authorization for the transfer. The Assistant Administrator may grant authorization for the transfer if there is evidence that the conditions listed under paragraphs (c)(5)(i), (c)(5)(iii), and (c)(5)(iv) of this section are met.


(8) Exceptions to requirements for notification or prior authorization. A person may transfer a marine mammal specimen salvaged under this section without the notification required in paragraph (c)(5)(v) of this section or the prior authorization required in paragraph (c)(6) of this section if:


(i) The transfer is a temporary transfer to a laboratory or research facility within the United States so that analyses can be performed for the person salvaging the specimen; or


(ii) The transfer is a loan of not more than 1 year to another professionally accredited scientific collection within the United States.


[39 FR 1852, Jan. 15, 1974, as amended at 56 FR 41307, Aug. 20, 1991]


§ 216.23 Native exceptions.

(a) Taking. Notwithstanding the prohibitions of subpart B of this part 216, but subject to the restrictions contained in this section, any Indian, Aleut, or Eskimo who resides on the coast of the North Pacific Ocean or the Arctic Ocean may take any marine mammal without a permit, if such taking is:


(1) By Alaskan Natives who reside in Alaska for subsistence, or


(2) For purposes of creating and selling authentic native articles of handicraft and clothing, and


(3) In each case, not accomplished in a wasteful manner.


(b) Restrictions. (1) No marine mammal taken for subsistence may be sold or otherwise transferred to any person other than an Alaskan Native or delivered, carried, transported, or shipped in interstate or foreign commerce, unless:


(i) It is being sent by an Alaskan Native directly or through a registered agent to a tannery registered under paragraph (c) of this section for the purpose of processing, and will be returned directly or through a registered agent to the Alaskan Native; or


(ii) It is sold or transferred to a registered agent in Alaska for resale or transfer to an Alaskan Native; or


(iii) It is an edible portion and it is sold in an Alaskan Native village or town.


(2) No marine mammal taken for purposes of creating and selling authentic native articles of handicraft and clothing may be sold or otherwise transferred to any person other than an Indian, Aleut or Eskimo, or delivered, carried, transported or shipped in interstate or foreign commerce, unless:


(i) It is being sent by an Indian, Aleut or Eskimo directly or through a registered agent to a tannery registered under paragraph (c) of this section for the purpose of processing, and will be returned directly or through a registered agent to the Indian, Aleut or Eskimo; or


(ii) It is sold or transferred to a registered agent for resale or transfer to an Indian, Aleut, or Eskimo; or


(iii) It has first been transformed into an authentic native article of handicraft or clothing; or


(iv) It is an edible portion and sold (A) in an Alaskan Native village or town, or (B) to an Alaskan Native for his consumption.


(c) Any tannery, or person who wishes to act as an agent, within the jurisdiction of the United States may apply to the Director, National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Department of Commerce, Washington, DC 20235, for registration as a tannery or an agent which may possess and process marine mammal products for Indians, Aleuts, or Eskimos. The application shall include the following information:


(i) The name and address of the applicant;


(ii) A description of the applicant’s procedures for receiving, storing, processing, and shipping materials;


(iii) A proposal for a system of bookkeeping and/or inventory segregation by which the applicant could maintain accurate records of marine mammals received from Indians, Aleuts, or Eskimos pursuant to this section;


(iv) Such other information as the Secretary may request;


(v) A certification in the following language:



I hereby certify that the foregoing information is complete, true and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief. I understand that this information is submitted for the purpose of obtaining the benefit of an exception under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 (16 U.S.C. 1361 through 1407) and regulations promulgated thereunder, and that any false statement may subject me to the criminal penalties of 18 U.S.C. 1001, or to penalties under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972.


(vi) The signature of the applicant.


The sufficiency of the application shall be determined by the Secretary, and in that connection, he may waive any requirement for information, or require any elaboration or further information deemed necessary. The registration of a tannery or other agent shall be subject to such conditions as the Secretary prescribes, which may include, but are not limited to, provisions regarding records, inventory segregation, reports, and inspection. The Secretary may charge a reasonable fee for processing such applications, including an appropriate apportionment of overhead and administrative expenses of the Department of Commerce.

(d) Notwithstanding the preceding provisions of this section, whenever, under the MMPA, the Secretary determines any species of stock of marine mammals to be depleted, he may prescribe regulations pursuant to section 103 of the MMPA upon the taking of such marine animals by any Indian, Aleut, or Eskimo and, after promulgation of such regulations, all takings of such marine mammals shall conform to such regulations.


(e) Marking and reporting of Cook Inlet Beluga Whales – (1) Definitions. In addition to definitions contained in the MMPA and the regulations in this part:


(i) Reporting means the collection and delivery of biological data, harvest data, and other information regarding the effect of taking a beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas) from Cook Inlet, as required by NMFS.


(ii) Whaling captain or vessel operator means the individual who is identified by Alaskan Natives as the leader of each hunting team (usually the other crew on the boat) and who is the whaling captain; or the individual operating the boat at the time the whale is harvested or transported to the place of processing.


(iii) Cook Inlet means all waters of Cook Inlet north of 59° North latitude, including, but not limited to, waters of Kachemak Bay, Kamishak Bay, Chinitna Bay, and Tuxedni Bay.


(2) Marking. Each whaling captain or vessel operator, upon killing and landing a beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas) from Cook Inlet, Alaska, must remove the lower left jawbone, leaving the teeth intact and in place. When multiple whales are harvested during one hunting trip, the jawbones will be marked for identification in the field to ensure correct reporting of harvest information by placing a label marked with the date, time, and location of harvest within the container in which the jawbone is placed. The jawbone(s) must be retained by the whaling captain or vessel operator and delivered to NMFS at the Anchorage Field Office, 222 West 7th Avenue, Anchorage, Alaska 99513 within 72 hours of returning from the hunt.


(3) Reporting. Upon delivery to NMFS of a jawbone, the whaling captain or vessel operator must complete and mail a reporting form, available from NMFS, to the NMFS Anchorage Field Office within 30 days. A separate form is required for each whale harvested.


(i) To be complete, the form must contain the following information: the date and location of kill, the method of harvest, and the coloration of the whale. The respondent will also be invited to report on any other observations concerning the animal or circumstance of the harvest.


(ii) Data collected pursuant to paragraph (e) of this section will be reported on forms obtained from the Anchorage Field Office. These data will be maintained in the NMFS Alaska Regional Office in Juneau, Alaska, where such data will be available for public review.


(4) No person may falsify any information required to be set forth on the reporting form as required by paragraph (e) of this section.


(5) The Anchorage Field Office of NMFS is located in room 517 of the Federal Office Building, 222 West 7th Avenue; its mailing address is: NMFS, Box 43, Anchorage, AK. 99513.


(f) Harvest management of Cook Inlet beluga whales – (1) Cooperative management of subsistence harvest. Subject to the provisions of 16 U.S.C. 1371(b) and any further limitations set forth in § 216.23, any taking of a Cook Inlet beluga whale by an Alaska Native must be authorized under an agreement for the co-management of subsistence uses (hereinafter in this paragraph “co-management agreement”) between the National Marine Fisheries Service and an Alaska Native organization(s).


(2) Limitations. (i) Sale of Cook Inlet beluga whale parts and products. Authentic Native articles of handicraft and clothing made from nonedible by-products of beluga whales taken in accordance with the provisions of this paragraph may be sold in interstate commerce. The sale of any other part or product, including food stuffs, from Cook Inlet beluga whales is prohibited, provided that nothing herein shall be interpreted to prohibit or restrict customary and traditional subsistence practices of barter and sharing of Cook Inlet beluga parts and products.


(ii) Beluga whale calves or adults with calves. The taking of a calf or an adult whale accompanied by a calf is prohibited.


(iii) Season. All takings of beluga whales authorized under § 216.23(f) shall occur no earlier than July 1 of each year.


(iv) Taking during 2001-2004. The harvest of Cook Inlet beluga whales is restricted during the four-year period of 2001-2004 as follows:


(A) Strike limitations. Subject to the suspension provision of subparagraph (C), a total of six (6) strikes, which could result in up to six landings, are to be allocated through co-management agreement(s).


(B) Strike allocations. Four strikes, not to exceed one per year, are allocated to the Native Village of Tyonek. The remaining two strikes will be allocated over the 4-year period through co-management agreement with other Cook Inlet community hunters, with no more than one such strike being allocated during every other year.


(C) Emergency provisions. Takings of beluga whales authorized under § 216.23 will be suspended whenever unusual mortalities exceed six (6) whales in any year. “Unusual mortalities” include all documented human-caused mortality (including illegal takings and net entanglements but excluding all legally harvested whales) and all documented mortality resulting from unknown or natural causes that occur above normal levels, considered for the purposes of this provision to be twelve beluga whales per year. The level of unusual mortalities shall be calculated by documenting mortality for the calendar year and subtracting twelve. The sum of this result and the carry over of unusual mortality from any previous year from which the population has not recovered is the level of unusual mortalities for the current year. If in any year the number of unusual mortalities exceeds six whales, no strikes will be allowed in that year or in subsequent years until the population has recovered from those mortalities through foregone future harvests and natural recruitment.


(v) Taking during 2008 and subsequent years. (A) Co-management agreements pursuant to paragraph (f)(1) of this section may be established for 5-year intervals beginning in 2008. Agreements must include specific provisions regarding the number and allocation of strikes, hunting practices to promote consistency with limitations in paragraph (f)(2)(ii) of this section, and to improve efficiency of the harvest, mitigating measures, and enforcement. Agreements may include provisions regarding the sex composition of the beluga harvest.


(B) Strike/harvest levels for each 5-year planning interval beginning in 2008 will be determined by the recovery of this stock as measured by the average abundance in the prior 5-year interval and the best estimate of the population growth rate using information obtained in the 10 years prior to each 5-year interval. Criteria for categorizing growth rates are presented below as an algorithm using the estimated abundance, the distribution statistics for growth rates, and the date. Harvest levels are subject to the Expected Mortality Limit. The established strike levels are presented in the Harvest Table and the following algorithm will be used to determine harvest levels for each 5-year period beginning in 2008.


(1) NMFS will calculate the average stock abundance over the previous 5-year period.


(2) NMFS will calculate a population growth rates from abundance estimates for the most recent 10-year period prior to the next 5-year period.


(3) Using the abundance and growth information obtained in accordance with paragraphs (f)(2)(v)(B)(1) and (f)(2)(v)(B)(2), NMFS will calculate the probabilities that the growth rate within the population would be less than 1 percent, less than 2 percent, or greater than 3 percent. NMFS will then use paragraphs (f)(2)(v)(B)(3(i)) and (f)(2)(v)(B)(3)(vi) of this section to select the proper cell from the Harvest Table to determine the harvest levels for the next 5-year interval.


(i) Is the average stock abundance over the previous 5-year period less than 350 beluga whales? If yes, the Harvest Table provides that the harvest is zero during the next 5-year period. If no, go to (f)(2)(v)(B)(3)(ii) of this section.


(ii) Is the current year 2035 or later and is there more than a 20 percent probability the growth rate is less than 1 percent? If yes, the harvest is zero during the next 5-year period. If no, go to paragraph (f)(2)(v)(B)(3)(iii) of this section.


(iii) Is the current year between 2020 and 2034 and there is more than a 20 percent probability the growth rate is less than 1 percent? If yes, the harvest is three whales during the next 5-year period. If no, go to paragraph (f)(2)(v)(B)(3)(iv) of this section.


(iv) Is the current year 2015 or later and is there more than a 25 percent probability the growth rate is less than 2 percent? If yes, go to the harvest table using the “Low” growth rate column. If no, go to paragraph (f)(2)(v)(B)(3)(vi)) of this section.


(v) Is the current year prior to 2015 and is there more than a 75 percent probability the growth rate is less than 2 percent? If yes, go to the harvest table using the “Low” growth rate column. If no, go to paragraph (f)(2)(v)(B)(3)(vi) of this section.


(vi) Is there more than a 25-percent probability the growth rate is more than 3 percent? If yes, go to the harvest table using the “High” growth rate column. If no, go to the harvest table using the “Intermediate” growth rate column.


Harvest Table

5-year population averages
“High” growth rate
“Intermediate” growth rate
“Low” growth rate
Expected Mortality Limit
Less than 350000
350-3998 strikes in 5 years5 strikes in 5 years5 strikes in 5 years21
400-4499 strikes in 5 years8 strikes in 5 years5 strikes in 5 years24
450-49910 strikes in 5 years8 strikes in 5 years5 strikes in 5 years27
500-52414 strikes in 5 years9 strikes in 5 years5 strikes in 5 years30
525-54916 strikes in 5 years10 strikes in 5 years5 strikes in 5 years32
550-57420 strikes in 5 years15 strikes in 5 years5 strikes in 5 years33
575-59922 strikes in 5 years16 strikes in 5 years5 strikes in 5 years35
600-62424 strikes in 5 years17 strikes in 5 years6 strikes in 5 years36
625-64926 strikes in 5 years18 strikes in 5 years6 strikes in 5 years38
650-69928 strikes in 5 years19 strikes in 5 years7 strikes in 5 years39
700-77932 strikes in 5 years20 strikes in 5 years7 strikes in 5 years42
780 + Consult with co-managers to expand harvest levels while allowing for the population to grow

(C) At the beginning of each 5-year period, an Expected Mortality Limit is determined from the Harvest Table using the 5-year average abundance. During the course of each calendar year, the number of beach casts carcasses and carcasses found floating either reported to NMFS or observed by NMFS personnel will be the number of mortalities for that year. If at the end of each calendar year this number exceeds the Expected Mortality Limit, then an unusual mortality event has occurred. The Estimated Excess Mortalities will be calculated as twice the number of reported dead whales above the Expected Mortality Limit. The harvest will then be adjusted as follows:


(1) The harvest level for the remaining years of the current 5-year period will be recalculated by reducing the 5-year average abundance from the previous 5-year period by the Estimated Excess Mortalities. The revised abundance estimate would then be used in the harvest table for the remaining years and the harvest adjusted accordingly.


(2) For the subsequent 5-year period, for the purpose of calculating the 5-year average, the Estimated Excess Mortalities would be subtracted from the abundance estimates of the year of the excess mortality event so that the average would reflect the loss to the population. This average would then be used in the table to set the harvest level.


[39 FR 1852, Jan. 15, 1974, as amended at 59 FR 50376, Oct. 3, 1994; 64 FR 27927, May 24, 1999; 69 FR 17980, Apr. 6, 2004; 73 FR 60985, Oct. 15, 2008]


§ 216.24 Taking and related acts in commercial fishing operations including tuna purse seine vessels in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.

(a)(1) No marine mammal may be taken in the course of a commercial fishing operation by a U.S. purse seine fishing vessel in the ETP unless the taking constitutes an incidental catch as defined in § 216.3, and vessel and operator permits have been obtained in accordance with these regulations, and such taking is not in violation of such permits or regulations.


(2)(i) It is unlawful for any person using a U.S. purse seine fishing vessel of 400 short tons (st) (362.8 metric tons (mt)) carrying capacity or less to intentionally deploy a net on or to encircle dolphins, or to carry more than two speedboats, if any part of its fishing trip is in the ETP.


(ii) It is unlawful for any person using a U.S. purse seine fishing vessel of greater than 400 st (362.8 mt) carrying capacity that does not have a valid permit obtained under these regulations to catch, possess, or land tuna if any part of the vessel’s fishing trip is in the ETP.


(iii) It is unlawful for any person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to receive, purchase, or possess tuna caught, possessed, or landed in violation of paragraph (a)(2)(ii) of this section.


(iv) It is unlawful for any person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to intentionally deploy a purse seine net on, or to encircle, dolphins from a vessel operating in the ETP when there is not a DML assigned to that vessel.


(v) It is unlawful for any person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to intentionally deploy a purse seine net on, or to encircle, dolphins from a vessel operating in the ETP with an assigned DML after a set in which the DML assigned to that vessel has been reached or exceeded.


(vi) Alleged violations of the Agreement on the IDCP and/or these regulations identified by the International Review Panel will be considered for potential enforcement action by NMFS.


(3) Upon written request made in advance of entering the ETP, the limitations in paragraphs (a)(2)(ii) and (e)(1) of this section may be waived by the Administrator, West Coast Region, for the purpose of allowing transit through the ETP. The waiver will provide, in writing, the terms and conditions under which the vessel must operate, including a requirement to report to the Administrator, West Coast Region, the vessel’s date of exit from or subsequent entry into the permit area.


(b) Permits – (1) Vessel permit. The owner or managing owner of a U.S. purse seine fishing vessel of greater than 400 st (362.8 mt) carrying capacity that participates in commercial fishing operations in the ETP must possess a valid vessel permit issued under paragraph (b) of this section. This permit is not transferable and must be renewed annually. If a vessel permit holder surrenders his/her permit to the Administrator, West Coast Region, the permit will not be returned and a new permit will not be issued before the end of the calendar year. Vessel permits will be valid through December 31 of each year.


(2) Operator permit. The person in charge of and actually controlling fishing operations (hereinafter referred to as the operator) on a U.S. purse seine fishing vessel engaged in commercial fishing operations under a vessel permit must possess a valid operator permit issued under paragraph (b) of this section. Such permits are not transferable and must be renewed annually. To receive a permit, the operator must have satisfactorily completed all required training under paragraph (c)(5) of this section. The operator’s permit is valid only when the permit holder is on a vessel with a valid vessel permit. Operator permits will be valid through December 31 of each year.


(3) Possession and display. A valid vessel permit issued pursuant to paragraph (b)(1) of this section must be on board the vessel while engaged in fishing operations, and a valid operator permit issued pursuant to paragraph (b)(2) of this section must be in the possession of the operator to whom it was issued. Permits must be shown upon request to NMFS enforcement agents, U.S. Coast Guard officers, or designated agents of NMFS or the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) (including observers). A vessel owner or operator who is at sea on a fishing trip when his or her permit expires and to whom a permit for the next year has been issued, may take marine mammals under the terms of the new permit without having to display it on board the vessel until the vessel returns to port.


(4) Application for vessel permit. ETP tuna purse seine vessel permit application forms and instructions for their completion are available from NMFS. To apply for an ETP vessel permit, a vessel owner or managing owner must complete, sign, and submit the appropriate form via fax to (562) 980-4047, by email to [email protected], or through an online permit system, allowing at least 15 days for processing. To submit an ETP vessel permit application online, a request must first be made to [email protected], and NMFS will give instructions about whether and how an online application can be made. To request that a vessel in excess of 400 st (362.8 mt) carrying capacity be categorized as active on the Vessel Register under § 300.22(b)(4)(ii) of this title in the following calendar year, the owner or managing owner must submit the vessel permit application, payment of the vessel permit application fee, and payment of the vessel assessment fee no later than September 15 for vessels for which a DML is requested for the following year, and no later than November 30 for vessels for which a DML is not requested for the following year.


(5) Application for operator permit. An applicant for an operator permit must complete, sign, and submit the appropriate form obtained from NMFS and submit payment of the permit application fee to the Administrator, West Coast Region, allowing at least 45 days for processing. Application forms and instructions for their completion are available from NMFS.


(6) Fees – (i) Vessel permit application fees. Payment of the permit application fee is required before NMFS will issue a permit. The Assistant Administrator may change the amount of this fee at any time if a different fee is determined in accordance with the NOAA Finance Handbook. The amount of the fee will be printed on the vessel permit application form provided by the Administrator, West Coast Region.


(ii) Operator permit fee. The Assistant Administrator may require a fee to be submitted with an application for an operator permit. The level of such a fee shall be determined in accordance with the NOAA Finance Handbook and specified by the Administrator, West Coast Region, on the application form.


(iii) Vessel assessment fee. The vessel assessment fee supports the placement of observers on individual tuna purse seine vessels, and maintenance of the observer program, as established by the IATTC or other approved observer program.


(A) The owner or managing owner of a purse seine vessel for which a DML has been requested must submit the vessel assessment fee to the IATTC, no later than September 15 of the year prior to the calendar year for which the DML is requested. Payment of the vessel assessment fee must be consistent with the fee for active status on the Vessel Register under § 300.22(b)(4) of this title.


(B) The owner or managing owner of a purse seine vessel for which active or inactive status on the Vessel Register, as defined in § 300.21 of this title, has been requested, but for which a DML has not been requested, must submit payment of the vessel assessment fee to the IATTC, no later than November 30 of the year prior to the calendar year in which the vessel will be listed on the Vessel Register. Payment of the vessel assessment fee is required only if the vessel is listed as active and is required to carry an observer, or if the vessel is listed as inactive and exceeds 400 st (362.8 mt) in carrying capacity. Payment of the vessel assessment fee must be consistent with the vessel’s status, either active or inactive, on the Vessel Register in § 300.22(b)(4) of this title.


(C) The owner or managing owner of a purse seine vessel that is permitted and authorized under an alternative international tuna purse seine fisheries management regime in the Pacific Ocean must submit the vessel assessment fee to the IATTC, prior to obtaining an observer and entering the ETP to fish. Consistent with § 300.22(b)(1) of this title, this class of purse seine vessels is not required to be listed on the Vessel Register under § 300.22(b)(4) of this title in order to purse seine for tuna in the ETP during a single fishing trip per calendar year of 90 days or less. Payment of the vessel assessment fee must be consistent with the fee for active status on the Vessel Register under § 300.22(b)(4)(ii) of this title.


(D) The owner or managing owner of a purse seine vessel listed as inactive on the Vessel Register at the beginning of the calendar year and who requests active status on the Vessel Register under § 300.22(b)(4) of this title during the year, must pay the vessel assessment fee associated with active status, less the vessel assessment fee associated with inactive status that was already paid, before NMFS will request the IATTC Director change the status of the vessel from inactive to active. Payment of the vessel assessment fee is required only if the vessel is required to carry an observer.


(E) The owner or managing owner of a purse seine vessel not listed on the Vessel Register at the beginning of the calendar year and who requests to replace a vessel removed from active status on the Vessel Register under § 300.22(b)(4) of this title during the year, must pay the vessel assessment fee associated with active status only if the vessel is required to carry an observer, before NMFS will request the IATTC Director change the status of the vessel to active.


(F) Payments will be subject to a 10 percent surcharge if received under paragraph (b)(6)(iii)(E) of this section for vessels that were listed as active on the Vessel Register in the calendar year prior to the year for which active status was requested; or if received after the dates specified in paragraph (b)(6)(iii)(A) or (B) of this section for vessels for which active status is requested if the vessel was listed as active during the year the request was made. Payments will not be subject to a 10 percent surcharge if received under paragraph (b)(6)(iii)(C) or (D) of this section, or if received under paragraph (b)(6)(iii)(E) of this section for vessels that were not listed as active on the Vessel Register in the calendar year prior to the year for which active status was requested. Payments will also not be subject to a 10 percent surcharge if received after the date specified in paragraph (b)(6)(iii)(B) of this section for vessels for which inactive status is requested, or for vessels for which active status is requested if the vessel was not listed as active during the year the request was made. Payment of all vessel assessment fees described in this section must be made to the IATTC.


(7) Application approval. The Administrator, West Coast Region, will determine the adequacy and completeness of an application and, upon determining that an application is adequate and complete, will approve that application and issue the appropriate permit, except for applicants having unpaid or overdue civil penalties, criminal fines, or other liabilities incurred in a legal proceeding.


(8) Conditions applicable to all permits – (i) General conditions. Failure to comply with the provisions of a permit or with these regulations may lead to suspension, revocation, modification, or denial of a permit. The permit holder, vessel, vessel owner, operator, or master may be subject, jointly or severally, to the penalties provided for under the MMPA. Procedures governing permit sanctions and denials are found at subpart D of 15 CFR part 904.


(ii) Observer placement. By obtaining a permit, the permit holder consents to the placement of an observer on the vessel during every trip involving operations in the ETP and agrees to payment of the fees for observer placement. No observer will be assigned to a vessel unless that vessel owner has submitted payment of observer fees to the Administrator, West Coast Region. The observers may be placed under an observer program of NMFS, IATTC, or another observer program approved by the Administrator, West Coast Region.


(iii) Explosives. The use of explosive devices is prohibited during all tuna purse seine operations that involve marine mammals.


(iv) Reporting requirements. (A) The vessel permit holder of each permitted vessel must notify the Administrator, West Coast Region, or the IATTC contact designated by the Administrator, West Coast Region, at least 5 days in advance of the vessel’s departure on a fishing trip to allow for observer placement on every trip. If the vessel permit holder would like to use an IATTC and Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) cross-endorsed observer when fishing in the IATTC Convention Area, the notification must also include a request for the placement of a cross-endorsed observer pursuant to the Memorandum of Cooperation between the IATTC and WCPFC.


(B) The vessel permit holder must notify the Administrator, West Coast Region, or the IATTC contact designated by the Administrator, West Coast Region, of any change of vessel operator at least 48 hours prior to departing on a fishing trip. In the case of a change in operator due to an emergency, notification must be made within 72 hours of the change.


(v) Data release. By using a permit, the permit holder authorizes the release to NMFS and the IATTC of all data collected by observers aboard purse seine vessels during fishing trips under the IATTC observer program or another international observer program approved by the Administrator, West Coast Region. The permit holder must furnish the international observer program with all release forms required to authorize the observer data to be provided to NMFS and the IATTC. Data obtained under such releases will be used for the same purposes as would data collected directly by observers placed by NMFS and will be subject to the same standards of confidentiality.


(9) Mortality and serious injury reports. The Administrator, West Coast Region, will provide to the public periodic status reports summarizing the estimated incidental dolphin mortality and serious injury by U.S. vessels of individual species and stocks.


(c) Purse seining by vessels with Dolphin Mortality Limits (DMLs). In addition to the terms and conditions set forth in paragraph (b) of this section, any permit for a vessel to which a DML has been assigned under paragraph (c)(9) of this section and any operator permit when used on such a vessel are subject to the following terms and conditions:


(1) A vessel may be used to chase and encircle schools of dolphins in the ETP only under the immediate direction of the holder of a valid operator’s permit.


(2) No retention of live marine mammals. Except as otherwise authorized by a specific permit, live marine mammals incidentally taken must be immediately returned to the ocean without further injury. The operator of a purse seine vessel must take every precaution to refrain from causing or permitting incidental mortality or serious injury of marine mammals. Live marine mammals may not be brailed, sacked up, or hoisted onto the deck during ortza retrieval.


(3) Gear and equipment required for valid permit. A vessel possessing a vessel permit for purse seining involving the intentional taking of marine mammals may not engage in fishing operations involving the intentional deployment of the net on or encirclement of dolphins unless it is equipped with a dolphin safety panel in its purse seine, has the other required gear and equipment, and uses the required procedures.


(i) Dolphin safety panel. The dolphin safety panel must be a minimum of 180 fathoms in length (as measured before installation), except that the minimum length of the panel in nets deeper than 18 strips must be determined in a ratio of 10 fathoms in length for each strip of net depth. It must be installed so as to protect the perimeter of the backdown area. The perimeter of the backdown area is the length of corkline that begins at the outboard end of the last bowbunch pulled and continues to at least two-thirds the distance from the backdown channel apex to the stern tiedown point. The dolphin safety panel must consist of small mesh webbing not to exceed 1
1/4 inches (3.18 centimeters (cm)) stretch mesh extending downward from the corkline and, if present, the base of the dolphin apron to a minimum depth equivalent to two strips of 100 meshes of 4
1/4 inches (10.80 cm) stretch mesh webbing. In addition, at least a 20-fathom length of corkline must be free from bunchlines at the apex of the backdown channel.


(ii) Dolphin safety panel markers. Each end of the dolphin safety panel and dolphin apron, if present, must be identified with an easily distinguishable marker.


(iii) Dolphin safety panel hand holds. Throughout the length of the corkline under which the dolphin safety panel and dolphin apron are located, hand hold openings must be secured so that they will not allow the insertion of a 1
3/8 inch (3.50 cm) diameter cylindrical-shaped object.


(iv) Dolphin safety panel corkline hangings. Throughout the length of the corkline under which the dolphin safety panel and dolphin apron if present, are located, corkline hangings must be inspected by the vessel operator following each trip. Hangings found to have loosened to the extent that a cylindrical-shaped object with a 1
3/8 inch (3.50 cm) diameter can be inserted between the cork and corkline hangings, must be tightened so as not to allow the insertion of a cylindrical-shaped object with a 1
3/8 inch (3.50 cm) diameter.


(v) Speedboats. A minimum of three speedboats in operating condition must be carried. All speedboats carried aboard purse seine vessels and in operating condition must be rigged with tow lines and towing bridles or towing posts. Speedboat hoisting bridles may not be substituted for towing bridles.


(vi) Raft. A raft suitable to be used as a dolphin observation-and-rescue platform must be carried.


(vii) Facemask and snorkel, or viewbox. At least two facemasks and snorkels or viewboxes must be carried.


(viii) Lights. The vessel must be equipped with long-range, high-intensity floodlights with a sodium lamp of at least 1000 watts, or a multivapour lamp of at least 1500 watts, for use in darkness to ensure sufficient light to observe that procedures for dolphin release are carried out and to monitor incidental dolphin mortality.


(4) Vessel inspection – (i) Twice per year. At least twice during each calendar year, purse seine nets and other gear and equipment required under § 216.24(c)(3) must be made available for inspection and for a trial set/net alignment by an authorized NMFS inspector or IATTC staff as specified by the Administrator, West Coast Region, in order to obtain a vessel permit. The first such inspection shall be carried out before the vessel’s request for a DML is submitted to the IATTC. The second such inspection shall be carried out before notification of any reallocation of DMLs for vessels with full-year DMLs or during the last quarter of the year for vessels with second-semester DMLs.


(ii) Reinspection. Purse seine nets and other gear and equipment required by these regulations must be made available for reinspection by an authorized NMFS inspector or IATTC staff as specified by the Administrator, West Coast Region. The vessel permit holder must notify the Administrator, West Coast Region, of any net modification at least 5 days prior to departure of the vessel in order to determine whether a reinspection or trial set/net alignment is required.


(iii) Failure to pass inspection. Upon failure to pass an inspection or reinspection, a vessel may not engage in purse seining involving the intentional taking of marine mammals until the deficiencies in gear or equipment are corrected as required by NMFS.


(5) Operator permit holder training requirements. An operator must maintain proficiency sufficient to perform the procedures required herein, and must attend and satisfactorily complete a formal training session approved by the Administrator, West Coast Region, in order to obtain his or her permit. At the training session, an attendee will be instructed on the relevant provisions and regulatory requirements of the MMPA and the IDCP, and the fishing gear and techniques that are required for reducing serious injury and mortality of dolphin incidental to purse seining for tuna. Operators who have received a written certificate of satisfactory completion of training and who possess a current or previous calendar year permit will not be required to attend additional formal training sessions unless there are substantial changes in the relevant provisions or implementing regulations of the MMPA or the IDCP, or in fishing gear and techniques. Additional training may be required for any operator who is found by the Administrator, West Coast Region, to lack proficiency in the required fishing procedures or familiarity with the relevant provisions or regulations of the MMPA or the IDCP.


(6) Marine mammal release requirements. All operators fishing pursuant to paragraph (c) of this section must use the following procedures during all sets involving the incidental taking of marine mammals in association with the capture and landing of tuna.


(i) Backdown procedure. Backdown must be performed following a purse seine set in which dolphins are captured in the course of catching tuna, and must be continued until it is no longer possible to remove live dolphins from the net by this procedure. At least one crewmember must be deployed during backdown to aid in the release of dolphins. Thereafter, other release procedures required will be continued so that all live dolphins are released prior to the initiation of the sack-up procedure.


(ii) Prohibited use of sharp or pointed instrument. The use of a sharp or pointed instrument to remove any marine mammal from the net is prohibited.


(iii) Sundown sets prohibited. On every set encircling dolphin, the backdown procedure must be completed no later than one-half hour after sundown, except as provided here. For the purpose of this section, sundown is defined as the time at which the upper edge of the sun disappears below the horizon or, if the view of the sun is obscured, the local time of sunset calculated from tables developed by the U.S. Naval Observatory or other authoritative source approved by the Administrator, West Coast Region. A sundown set is a set in which the backdown procedure has not been completed and rolling the net to sack-up has not begun within one-half hour after sundown. Should a set extend beyond one-half hour after sundown, the operator must use the required marine mammal release procedures including the use of the high intensity lighting system. In the event a sundown set occurs where the seine skiff was let go 90 or more minutes before sundown, and an earnest effort to rescue dolphins is made, the International Review Panel of the IDCP may recommend to the United States that in the view of the International Review Panel, prosecution by the United States is not recommended. Any such recommendation will be considered by the United States in evaluating the appropriateness of prosecution in a particular circumstance.


(iv) Dolphin safety panel. During backdown, the dolphin safety panel must be positioned so that it protects the perimeter of the backdown area. The perimeter of the backdown area is the length of corkline that begins at the outboard end of the last bow bunch pulled and continues to at least two-thirds the distance from the backdown channel apex to the stern tiedown point.


(7) Experimental fishing operations. The Administrator, West Coast Region, may authorize experimental fishing operations, consistent with the provisions of the IDCP, for the purpose of testing proposed improvements in fishing techniques and equipment that may reduce or eliminate dolphin mortality or serious injury, or do not require the encirclement of dolphins in the course of fishing operations. The Administrator, West Coast Region, may waive, as appropriate, any requirements of this section except DMLs and the obligation to carry an observer.


(i) A vessel permit holder may apply for an experimental fishing operation waiver by submitting the following information to the Administrator, West Coast Region, no less than 90 days before the date the proposed operation is intended to begin:


(A) The name(s) of the vessel(s) and the vessel permit holder(s) to participate;


(B) A statement of the specific vessel gear and equipment or procedural requirement to be exempted and why such an exemption is necessary to conduct the experiment;


(C) A description of how the proposed modification to the gear and equipment or procedures is expected to reduce incidental mortality or serious injury of marine mammals;


(D) A description of the applicability of this modification to other purse seine vessels;


(E) The planned design, time, duration, and general area of the experimental operation;


(F) The name(s) of the permitted operator(s) of the vessel(s) during the experiment;


(G) A statement of the qualifications of the individual or company doing the analysis of the research; and


(H) Signature of the permitted operator or of the operator’s representative.


(ii) The Administrator, West Coast Region, will acknowledge receipt of the application and, upon determining that it is complete, will publish a notice in the Federal Register summarizing the application, making the full application available for inspection and inviting comments for a minimum period of 30 days from the date of publication.


(iii) The Administrator, West Coast Region, after considering the information submitted in the application identified in paragraph (c)(7)(i) of this section and the comments received, will either issue a waiver to conduct the experiment that includes restrictions or conditions deemed appropriate, or deny the application, giving the reasons for denial.


(iv) A waiver for an experimental fishing operation will be valid only for the vessels and operators named in the permit, for the time period and areas specified, for trips carrying an observer designated by the Administrator, West Coast Region, and when all the terms and conditions of the permit are met.


(v) The Administrator, West Coast Region, may suspend or revoke an experimental fishing waiver in accordance with 15 CFR part 904 if the terms and conditions of the waiver or the provisions of the regulations are not followed.


(8) Operator permit holder performance requirements. [Reserved]


(9) Vessel permit holder dolphin mortality limits. For purposes of this paragraph, the term “vessel permit holder” includes both the holder of a current vessel permit and also the holder of a vessel permit for the following year.


(i) By September 1 each year, a vessel permit holder desiring a DML for the following year must provide to the Administrator, West Coast Region, the name of the U.S. purse seine fishing vessel(s) of carrying capacity greater than 400 st (362.8 mt) that the owner intends to use to intentionally deploy purse seine fishing nets in the ETP to encircle dolphins in an effort to capture tuna during the following year. NMFS will forward the list of purse seine vessels to the Director of the IATTC on or before October 1, or as otherwise required by the IDCP, for assignment of a DML for the following year under the provisions of Annex IV of the Agreement on the IDCP.


(ii) Each vessel permit holder that desires a DML only for the period between July 1 to December 31 must provide the Administrator, West Coast Region, by September 1 of the prior year, the name of the U.S. purse seine fishing vessel(s) of greater than 400 st (362.8 mt) carrying capacity that the owner intends to use to intentionally deploy purse seine fishing nets in the ETP to encircle dolphins in an effort to capture tuna during the period. NMFS will forward the list of purse seine vessels to the Director of the IATTC on or before October 1, or as otherwise required under the IDCP, for possible assignment of a DML for the 6-month period July 1 to December 31. Under the IDCP, the DML will be calculated by the IDCP from any unutilized pool of DMLs in accordance with the procedure described in Annex IV of the Agreement on the IDCP and will not exceed one-half of an unadjusted full-year DML as calculated by the IDCP.


(iii)(A) The Administrator, West Coast Region, will notify vessel owners of the DML assigned for each vessel for the following year, or the second half of the year, as applicable.


(B) The Administrator, West Coast Region, may adjust the DMLs in accordance with Annex IV of the Agreement on the IDCP. All adjustments of full-year DMLs will be made before January 1, and the Administrator, West Coast Region, will notify the Director of the IATTC of any adjustments prior to a vessel departing on a trip using its adjusted DML. The notification will be no later than February 1 in the case of adjustments to full-year DMLs, and no later than May 1 in the case of adjustments to DMLs for the second half of the year.


(C) In accordance with the requirements of Annex IV of the Agreement on the IDCP, the Administrator, West Coast Region, may adjust a vessel’s DML if it will further scientific or technological advancement in the protection of marine mammals in the fishery or if the past performance of the vessel indicates that the protection or use of the yellowfin tuna stocks or marine mammals is best served by the adjustment, within the mandates of the MMPA. Experimental fishing operation waivers or scientific research permits will be considered a basis for adjustments.


(iv)(A) A vessel assigned a full-year DML that does not make a set on dolphins by April 1 or that leaves the fishery will lose its DML for the remainder of the year, unless the failure to set on dolphins is due to force majeure or other extraordinary circumstances as determined by the International Review Panel.


(B) A vessel assigned a DML for the second half of the year will be considered to have lost its DML if the vessel has not made a set on dolphins before December 31, unless the failure to set on dolphins is due to force majeure or extraordinary circumstances as determined by the International Review Panel.


(C) Any vessel that loses its DML for 2 consecutive years will not be eligible to receive a DML for the following year.


(D) NMFS will determine, based on available information, whether a vessel has left the fishery.


(1) A vessel lost at sea, undergoing extensive repairs, operating in an ocean area other than the ETP, or for which other information indicates that vessel will no longer be conducting purse seine operations in the ETP for the remainder of the period covered by the DML will be determined to have left the fishery.


(2) NMFS will make all reasonable efforts to determine the intentions of the vessel owner. The owner of any vessel that has been preliminarily determined to have left the fishery will be provided notice of such preliminary determination and given the opportunity to provide information on whether the vessel has left the fishery prior to NMFS making a final determination under 15 CFR part 904 and notifying the IATTC.


(v) Any vessel that exceeds its assigned DML after any applicable adjustment under paragraph (c)(9)(iii) of this section will have its DML for the subsequent year reduced by 150 percent of the overage, unless another adjustment is determined by the International Review Panel, as mandated by the Agreement on the IDCP.


(vi) A vessel that is covered by a valid vessel permit and that does not normally fish for tuna in the ETP but desires to participate in the fishery on a limited basis may apply for a per-trip DML from the Administrator, West Coast Region, at any time, allowing at least 60 days for processing. The request must state the expected number of trips involving sets on dolphins and the anticipated dates of the trip or trips. The request will be forwarded to the Secretariat of the IATTC for processing in accordance with Annex IV of the Agreement on the IDCP. A per-trip DML will be assigned if one is made available in accordance with the terms of Annex IV of the Agreement on the IDCP. If a vessel assigned a per-trip DML does not set on dolphins during that trip, the vessel will be considered to have lost its DML unless this was a result of force majeure or other extraordinary circumstances as determined by the International Review Panel. After two consecutive losses of a DML, a vessel will not be eligible to receive a DML for the next fishing year.


(vii) Observers will make their records available to the vessel operator at any reasonable time, including after each set, in order for the operator to monitor the balance of the DML(s) remaining for use.


(viii) Vessel and operator permit holders must not deploy a purse seine net on or encircle any school of dolphins containing individuals of a particular stock of dolphins for the remainder of the calendar year:


(A) after the applicable per-stock per-year dolphin mortality limit for that stock of dolphins (or for that vessel, if so assigned) has been reached or exceeded; or


(B) after the time and date provided in actual notification or notification in the Federal Register by the Administrator, West Coast Region, based upon the best available evidence, stating when any applicable per-stock per-year dolphin mortality limit has been reached or exceeded, or is expected to be reached in the near future.


(ix) If individual dolphins belonging to a stock that is prohibited from being taken are not reasonably observable at the time the net skiff attached to the net is released from the vessel at the start of a set, the fact that individuals of that stock are subsequently taken will not be cause for enforcement action provided that all procedures required by the applicable regulations have been followed.


(x) Vessel and operator permit holders must not intentionally deploy a purse seine net on or encircle dolphins intentionally:


(A) after a set in which the vessel’s DML, as adjusted, has been reached or exceeded; or


(B) after the date and time provided in actual notification by letter, facsimile, radio, or electronic mail, or notice in the Federal Register by the Administrator, West Coast Region, based upon the best available evidence, that intentional sets on dolphins must cease because the total of the DMLs assigned to the U.S. fleet has been reached or exceeded, or is expected to be exceeded in the near future.


(d) Purse seining by vessels without assigned DMLs. In addition to the requirements of paragraph (b) of this section, a vessel permit used for a trip not involving an assigned DML and the operator’s permit when used on such a vessel are subject to the following terms and conditions: a permit holder may take marine mammals provided that such taking is an accidental occurrence in the course of normal commercial fishing operations and the vessel does not intentionally deploy its net on, or to encircle, dolphins; marine mammals taken incidental to such commercial fishing operations must be immediately returned to the environment where captured without further injury, using release procedures such as hand rescue, or aborting the set at the earliest effective opportunity; and the use of one or more rafts and facemasks or viewboxes to aid in the rescue of dolphins is recommended.


(e) Observers – (1) The holder of a vessel permit must allow an observer duly authorized by the Administrator, West Coast Region, to accompany the vessel on all fishing trips in the ETP for the purpose of conducting research and observing operations, including collecting information that may be used in civil or criminal penalty proceedings, forfeiture actions, or permit sanctions. A vessel that fails to carry an observer in accordance with these requirements may not engage in fishing operations.


(2) Research and observation duties will be carried out in such a manner as to minimize interference with commercial fishing operations. Observers must be provided access to vessel personnel and to dolphin safety gear and equipment, electronic navigation equipment, radar displays, high powered binoculars, and electronic communication equipment. The navigator must provide true vessel locations by latitude and longitude, accurate to the nearest minute, upon request by the observer. Observers must be provided with adequate space on the bridge or pilothouse for clerical work, as well as space on deck adequate for carrying out observer duties. No vessel owner, master, operator, or crew member of a permitted vessel may impair, or in any way interfere with, the research or observations being carried out. Masters must allow observers to use vessel communication equipment necessary to report information concerning the take of marine mammals and other observer collected data upon request of the observer.


(3) Any marine mammals killed during fishing operations that are accessible to crewmen and requested from the permit holder or master by the observer must be brought aboard the vessel and retained for biological processing, until released by the observer for return to the ocean. Whole marine mammals or marine mammal parts designated as biological specimens by the observer must be retained in cold storage aboard the vessel until retrieved by authorized personnel of NMFS or the IATTC when the vessel returns to port for unloading.


(4) It is unlawful for any person to forcibly assault, impede, intimidate, interfere with, or to influence or attempt to influence an observer, or to harass (including sexual harassment) an observer by conduct that has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with the observer’s work performance, or that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment. In determining whether conduct constitutes harassment, the totality of the circumstances, including the nature of the conduct and the context in which it occurred, will be considered. The determination of the legality of a particular action will be made from the facts on a case-by-case basis.


(i) Requirements for owners and operators of U.S. purse seine vessels for reporting and actions in response to observer safety are at § 300.29 of this title.


(ii) [Reserved]


(5)(i) All observers must be provided sleeping, toilet and eating accommodations at least equal to that provided to a full crew member. A mattress or futon on the floor or a cot is not acceptable in place of a regular bunk. Meal and other galley privileges must be the same for the observer as for other crew members.


(ii) Female observers on a vessel with an all-male crew must be accommodated either in a single-person cabin or, if reasonable privacy can be ensured by installing a curtain or other temporary divider, in a two-person cabin shared with a licensed officer of the vessel. If the cabin assigned to a female observer does not have its own toilet and shower facilities that can be provided for the exclusive use of the observer, then a schedule for time-sharing common facilities must be established before the placement meeting and approved by NMFS or other approved observer program and must be followed during the entire trip.


(iii) In the event there are one or more female crew members, the female observer must be provided a bunk in a cabin shared solely with female crew members, and provided toilet and shower facilities shared solely with these female crew members.


(f) Importation, purchase, shipment, sale and transport. (1)(i) It is illegal to import into the United States any fish, whether fresh, frozen, or otherwise prepared, if the fish have been caught with commercial fishing technology that results in the incidental kill or incidental serious injury of marine mammals in excess of that allowed under this part for U.S. fishermen, or as specified at paragraph (f)(6) of this section.


(ii) For purposes of this paragraph (f), and in applying the definition of an “intermediary nation,” an import occurs when the fish or fish product is released from a nation’s Customs’ custody and enters into the commerce of the nation. For other purposes, “import” is defined in § 216.3.


(2) Imports requiring a Fisheries Certificate of Origin and an International Fisheries Trade Permit. Shipments of tuna, tuna products, and certain other fish products identified in paragraphs (f)(2)(i) through (iii) of this section may not be imported into the United States unless: a scanned copy of a properly completed Fisheries Certificate of Origin (FCO), NOAA Form 370, associated certifications and statements described in § 216.91(a), and required data set are filed electronically with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at the time of, or in advance of, importation as required under § 300.323; and the importer of record designated on the entry summary (Customs Form 7501) holds a valid International Fisheries Trade Permit as specified at § 300.322 of this title. “Required data set” has the same meaning as § 300.321 of this title (see definition of “Documentation and data sets required”).


(i) Imports requiring a Fisheries Certificate of Origin, subject to yellowfin tuna embargo. All shipments containing yellowfin tuna or yellowfin tuna products (other than fresh tuna) imported into the United States must be accompanied by an FCO, including, but not limited to, those imported under the following Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTS) numbers. Updated HTS numbers can be identified by referencing the most current HTS in effect at the time of importation, available at www.usitc.gov. The scope of yellowfin tuna embargoes and procedures for attaining an affirmative finding are described under paragraphs (f)(6) and (f)(8) of this section, respectively.


(A) Frozen: (products containing Yellowfin).



0303.42.0020 Yellowfin tunas, whole, frozen

0303.42.0040 Yellowfin tunas, head-on, frozen, except whole

0303.42.0060 Yellowfin tunas, other, frozen, except whole, head-on, fillets, livers and roes

0304.87.0000 Tuna fish fillets, frozen, not elsewhere specified or indicated (NESOI)

0304.99.1190 Tuna, frozen, in bulk or in immediate containers weighing with their contents over 6.8 kg each

(B) Airtight Containers: (products containing Yellowfin).
1604.14.1010Tunas and skipjack, in oil, in airtight containers, in foil or other flexible containers weighing with their contents not more than 6.8 kg each
1604.14.1099Tunas and skipjack, in oil, in airtight containers, NESOI
1604.14.2291Other tunas and skipjack, no oil, in foil/flexible airtight containers, not over 6.8 kg, 4.8% of U.S. consumption of canned tuna during preceding year
1604.14.2299Tunas, NESOI and skipjack, not in oil, in other airtight containers not over 7 kg, 4.8% of U.S. consumption of canned tuna during preceding year
1604.14.3091Tunas and skipjack, NESOI, not in oil, in foil or other flexible airtight containers, weighing with their contents not more than 6.8 kg each
1604.14.3099Other tunas and skipjack, not in oil, in airtight containers, NESOI
(C) Loins: (products containing Yellowfin).
1604.14.4000Tunas and skipjacks, prepared or preserved, not in airtight containers, not in oil, in bulk or immediate containers with their contents over 6.8 kg each
1604.14.5000Tunas and skipjack, prepared or preserved, not in airtight containers, NESOI

(D) Other: (products containing Yellowfin).



0511.91.0090 Fish, shellfish products unfit for human consumption

1604.20.1000 Fish pastes

1604.20.1500 Fish balls, cakes and puddings, in oil

1604.20.2000 Fish balls, cakes and puddings, not in oil, less than 6.8 kg, in airtight containers

1604.20.2500 Fish balls, cakes and puddings, not in oil, not in airtight containers, in immediate containers weighing with their contents not over 6.8 kg each

1604.20.3000 Fish balls, cakes and puddings, NESOI

1604.20.4000 Fish sticks, not cooked, nor in oil

1604.20.5010 Fish sticks, cooked and frozen

1604.20.5090 Fish sticks, NESOI

2309.10.0010 Dog or cat food, in airtight containers

(ii) Imports requiring a Fisheries Certificate of Origin, not subject to yellowfin tuna embargo. All shipments containing tuna or tuna products (other than fresh tuna or yellowfin tuna identified in paragraph (f)(2)(i) of this section) imported into the United States must be accompanied by an FCO, including, but not limited to, those imported under the following HTS numbers. Updated HTS numbers can be identified by referencing the most current HTS in effect at the time of importation, available at www.usitc.gov.


(A) Frozen: (other than Yellowfin).



0303.41.0000 Albacore or longfinned tunas, frozen, except fillets, livers and roes

0303.43.0000 Skipjack tunas or stripe-bellied bonito, frozen, except fillets, livers and roes

0303.44.0000 Bigeye tunas, frozen, except fillets, livers and roes

0303.45.0110 Atlantic Bluefin, frozen, except fillets, livers and roes

0303.45.0150 Pacific Bluefin, frozen, except fillets, livers and roes

0303.46.0000 Southern bluefin tunas, frozen, except fillets, livers and roes

0303.49.0200 Tunas, frozen, except fillets, livers and roes, NESOI

0304.87.0000 Tuna fish fillets, frozen, NESOI

0304.99.1190 Tuna, frozen, in bulk or in immediate containers weighing with their contents over 6.8 kg each, NESOI

(B) Airtight Containers: (other than Yellowfin).
1604.14.1010Tunas and skipjack, in oil, in airtight containers, in foil or other flexible containers weighing with their contents not more than 6.8 kg each
1604.14.1091Tunas, albacore, in oil, in airtight containers, NESOI
1604.14.1099Tunas and skipjack, in oil, in airtight containers, NESOI
1604.14.2251Albacore tuna, not in oil, in foil/flexible airtight containers, weighing not over 6.8 kg, 4.8% of U.S. consumption of canned tuna during preceding year
1604.14.2259Albacore tuna, not in oil, in airtight containers weighing not over 7 kg, NESOI, 4.8% of U.S. consumption of canned tuna during preceding year
1604.14.2291Other tunas and skipjack, no oil, in foil/flexible airtight containers, not over 6.8 kg, 4.8% of U.S. consumption of canned tuna during preceding year
1604.14.2299Tunas, NESOI and skipjack, not in oil, in other airtight containers, not over 7 kg, 4.8% of U.S. consumption of canned tuna during preceding year
1604.14.3051Tuna, albacore not in oil, in foil or other flexible airtight containers, weighing with contents not more than 6.8 kg each, NESOI
1604.14.3059Tuna, albacore not in oil, in airtight containers, NESOI
1604.14.3091Tunas and skipjack, NESOI, not in oil, in foil or other flexible airtight containers, weighing with their contents not more than 6.8 kg each
1604.14.3099Other tunas and skipjack, not in oil, in airtight containers, NESOI
(C) Loins: (other than Yellowfin).
1604.14.4000Tunas and skipjacks, prepared or preserved, not in airtight containers, not in oil, in bulk or immediate containers with their contents over 6.8 kg each
1604.14.5000Tunas and skipjack, prepared or preserved, not in airtight containers, NESOI

(D) Other: (only if the product contains tuna).



0511.91.0090 Fish, shellfish products unfit for human consumption

1604.20.1000 Fish pastes

1604.20.1500 Fish balls, cakes and puddings, in oil

1604.20.2000 Fish balls, cakes and puddings, not in oil, less than 6.8 kg, in airtight containers

1604.20.2500 Fish balls, cakes and puddings, not in oil, not in airtight containers, in immediate containers weighing with their contents not over 6.8 kg each

1604.20.3000 Fish balls, cakes and puddings, NESOI

1604.20.4000 Fish sticks, not cooked, nor in oil

1604.20.5010 Fish sticks, cooked and frozen

1604.20.5090 Fish sticks, NESOI

2309.10.0010 Dog or cat food, in airtight containers

(iii) Exports from driftnet nations only, requiring a Fisheries Certificate of Origin and official certification. The following HTS numbers identify categories of fish and shellfish, in addition to those identified in paragraphs (f)(2)(i) and (f)(2)(ii) of this section, known to have been harvested using a large-scale driftnet and imported into the United States. Shipments exported from a large-scale driftnet nation, as identified under paragraph (f)(7) of this section, and imported into the United States, including but not limited to those imported into the United States under any of the HTS numbers listed in paragraph (f)(2) of this section, must be accompanied by an FCO and the official statement described in paragraph (f)(4)(xiii) of this section.


(A) Frozen:



0303.11.0000 Sockeye (red) salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka), frozen, except fillets, livers and roes

0303.12.0012 Chinook (King) salmon (Oncorhynchus tschawytscha), frozen, except fillets, livers and roes

0303.12.0022 Chum (dog) salmon (Oncorhynchus keta), frozen, except fillets, livers and roes

0303.12.0032 Pink (humpie) salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha), frozen, except fillets, livers and roes

0303.12.0052 Coho (silver) salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch), frozen, except fillets, livers and roes

0303.12.0062 Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus masou, Oncorhynchus rhodurus), frozen, except fillets, livers and roes, NESOI

0303.13.0000 Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) and Danube salmon (Hucho hucho), frozen, except fillets, livers and roes

0303.14.0000 Trout (Salmo trutta; Oncorhynchus mykiss, clarki, aguabonita, gilae, apache, and chrysogaster), frozen, except fillets, livers and roes

0303.19.0100 Salmonidae, frozen, except fillets, livers and roes, NESOI

0303.57.0010 Swordfish steaks, frozen, except fillets

0303.57.0090 Swordfish, frozen, except steaks, fillets, livers and roes

0303.81.0010 Dogfish (Squalus spp.), frozen, except fillets, livers and roes

0303.81.0090 Sharks, frozen, except dogfish, fillets, livers and roes

0303.89.0079 Fish, other, frozen, except fillets, livers and roes, NESOI

0304.81.5010 Atlantic Salmonidae (Salmo salar) fillets, frozen, NESOI

0304.81.5090 Salmonidae fillets, frozen, except Atlantic salmon, NESOI

0304.89.1090 Fish fillets, skinned, frozen blocks weighing over 4.5 kg each, to be minced, ground or cut into pieces of uniform weights and dimensions, NESOI

0304.91.1000 Swordfish, frozen, in bulk or in immediate containers weighing over 6.8 kg each

0304.91.9000 Swordfish, frozen, NESOI

0304.99.9191 Fish fillets, ocean, frozen, NESOI

0307.49.0010 Squid fillets, frozen

0307.49.0022 Squid, Loligo opalescens, NESOI

0307.49.0024 Squid, Loligo pealei, NESOI

0307.49.0029 Squid, Loligo, other, NESOI

0307.49.0050 Squid, other, NESOI

(B) Canned:



1604.11.2020 Pink (humpie) salmon, whole or in pieces, but not minced, in oil, in airtight containers

1604.11.2030 Sockeye (red) salmon, whole or in pieces, but not minced, in oil, in airtight containers

1604.11.2090 Salmon NESOI, whole or in pieces, but not minced, in oil, in airtight containers

1604.11.4010 Chum (dog) salmon, not in oil, canned

1604.11.4020 Pink (humpie) salmon, not in oil, canned

1604.11.4030 Sockeye (red) salmon, not in oil, canned

1604.11.4040 Salmon, NESOI, not in oil, canned

1604.11.4050 Salmon, whole or in pieces, but not minced, NESOI

1604.19.2100 Fish, NESOI, not in oil, in airtight containers

1604.19.3100 Fish, NESOI, in oil, in airtight containers

1605.54.6020 Squid, Loligo, prepared or preserved

1605.54.6030 Squid, except Loligo, prepared or preserved

(C) Other:



0305.39.6080 Fish fillets, dried, salted or in brine, but not smoked, NESOI

0305.41.0000 Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.), Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), and Danube salmon (Hucho hucho), including fillets, smoked

0305.49.4041 Fish including fillets, smoked, NESOI

0305.59.0000 Fish, dried, whether or not salted but not smoked, NESOI

0305.69.4000 Salmon, salted but not dried or smoked; in brine

0305.69.5001 Fish in immediate containers weighing with their contents 6.8 kg or less each, salted but not dried or smoked; in brine, NESOI

0305.69.6001 Fish, salted but not dried or smoked; in brine, NESOI

0305.71.0000 Shark fins, dried, whether or not salted but not smoked

0305.49.0010 Squid, frozen, fillets

0307.49.0022 Squid, Loligo opalescens, frozen (except fillets), dried, salted or in brine

0307.49.0024 Squid, Loligo pealei, frozen (except fillets), dried, salted or in brine

0307.49.0029 Squid, Loligo, frozen (except fillets), dried, salted or in brine, NESOI

0307.49.0050 Squid, other, frozen (except fillets), dried, salted or in brine, except Loligo squid

0307.49.0060 Cuttle fish (Sepia officinalis, Rossia macrosoma, Sepiola spp.), frozen, dried, salted or in brine

(3) Disposition of Fisheries Certificates of Origin. The FCO described in paragraph (f)(4) of this section may be obtained from the Administrator, West Coast Region, or downloaded from the internet at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/noaa-form-370-fisheries-certificate-origin.


(i) A properly completed FCO, and its attached certifications and statements as described in § 216.91(a), must accompany the required CBP entry documents that are filed at the time of, or in advance of, importation.


(ii) FCOs and associated certifications and statements as described in § 216.91(a) must be provided electronically to CBP as indicated in paragraph (f)(2) of this section.


(iii) FCOs that accompany imported shipments of tuna destined for further processing in the United States must be endorsed at each change in ownership and submitted to the Administrator, West Coast Region, by the last endorser when all required endorsements are completed. Such FCOs must be submitted as specified in § 216.93(d)(2).


(iv) Importers and exporters are required to retain their records, including FCOs, import or export documents, invoices, and bills of lading for 2 years, and such records must be made available within 30 days of a request by the Secretary or the Administrator, West Coast Region.


(4) Contents of Fisheries Certificate of Origin. An FCO, certified to be accurate by the exporter(s) of the accompanying shipment, must include the following information:


(i) CBP entry identification;


(ii) Date of entry;


(iii) Exporter’s full name and complete address;


(iv) Importer’s or consignee’s full name and complete address;


(v) Species description, product form, and HTS number;


(vi) Total net weight of the shipment in kilograms;


(vii) Ocean area where the fish were harvested (ETP, western Pacific Ocean, south Pacific Ocean, north Pacific Ocean, eastern Atlantic Ocean, western Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Indian Ocean, or other);


(viii) Type of fishing gear used to harvest the fish (purse seine, longline, baitboat, large-scale driftnet, gillnet, pole and line/hook and line, or other);


(ix) Country under whose laws the harvesting vessel operated based upon the flag of the vessel or, if a certified charter vessel, the country that accepted responsibility for the vessel’s fishing operations;


(x) Dates on which the fishing trip began and ended;


(xi) The name of the harvesting vessel;


(xii) Dolphin-safe condition of the shipment, described by checking the appropriate statement on the form and attaching additional certifications as described in § 216.91(a) if required;


(xiii) For shipments containing fish or fish products exported from, or harvested on the high seas by vessels of a nation known to use large-scale driftnets, as determined by the Secretary pursuant to paragraph (f)(7) of this section, the High Seas Driftnet Certification contained on the FCO must be dated and signed by a responsible government official of the large-scale driftnet nation, certifying that the fish or fish products were harvested by a method other than large-scale driftnet; and


(xiv) Each importer, exporter, or processor who takes custody of the shipment must sign and date the form to certify that the form and attached documentation accurately describes the shipment of fish that they accompany.


(5) Dolphin-safe label. Tuna or tuna products sold in or exported from the United States that include on the label the term “dolphin-safe” or any other term or symbol that claims or suggests the tuna were harvested in a manner not injurious to dolphins are subject to the requirements of subpart H of this part (§ 216.90 et seq.).


(6) Scope of embargoes – (i) ETP yellowfin tuna embargo. Yellowfin tuna or products of yellowfin tuna harvested using a purse seine in the ETP identified by an HTS number listed in paragraph (f)(2)(i) of this section may not be imported into the United States if such tuna or tuna products were:


(A) Harvested on or after March 3, 1999, the effective date of section 4 of the IDCPA, and harvested by, or exported from, a nation that the Assistant Administrator has determined has jurisdiction over purse seine vessels of greater than 400 st (362.8 mt) carrying capacity harvesting tuna in the ETP, unless the Assistant Administrator has made an affirmative finding required for importation for that nation under paragraph (f)(8) of this section;


(B) Exported from an intermediary nation, as defined in Section 3 of the MMPA, and a ban is currently in force prohibiting the importation from that nation under paragraph (f)(9) of this section; or


(C) Harvested before March 3, 1999, the effective date of Section 4 of the IDCPA, and would have been banned from importation under Section 101(a)(2) of the MMPA at the time of harvest.


(ii) Driftnet embargo. A shipment containing fish or fish products identified by an HTS number listed in paragraph (f)(2) of this section may not be imported into the United States if it is harvested by a large-scale driftnet, or if it is exported from or harvested on the high seas by any nation determined by the Assistant Administrator to be engaged in large-scale driftnet fishing, unless a government official of the large-scale driftnet nation completes, signs and dates the High Seas Driftnet section of the FCO certifying that the fish or fish products were harvested by a method other than large-scale driftnet.


(iii) Pelly certification. After 6 months of an embargo being in place against a nation under this section, the Secretary will certify that nation under section 8(a) of the Fishermen’s Protective Act (22 U.S.C. 1978(a)). When such an embargo is lifted, the Secretary will terminate the certification under Section 8(d) of that Act (22 U.S.C. 1978(d)).


(iv) Coordination. The Assistant Administrator will promptly advise the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security of embargo decisions, actions, and finding determinations.


(7) Large-scale driftnet nation: determination. Based upon the best information available, the Assistant Administrator will determine which nations have registered vessels that engage in fishing using large-scale driftnets. Such determinations will be published in the Federal Register. A responsible government official of any such nation may certify to the Assistant Administrator that none of the nation’s vessels use large-scale driftnets. Upon receipt of the certification, the Assistant Administrator may find, and publish such finding in the Federal Register, that none of that nation’s vessels engage in fishing with large-scale driftnets.


(8) Affirmative finding procedure for nations harvesting yellowfin tuna using a purse seine in the ETP. (i) The Assistant Administrator will determine, on an annual basis, whether to make an affirmative finding based upon documentary evidence provided by the government of the harvesting nation or by the IDCP and the IATTC, and will publish the finding in the Federal Register. A finding will remain valid for 1 year or for such other period as the Assistant Administrator may determine. An affirmative finding will be terminated if the Assistant Administrator determines that the requirements of this paragraph are no longer being met. Every 5 years, the government of the harvesting nation must submit such documentary evidence directly to the Assistant Administrator and request an affirmative finding. Documentary evidence must be submitted by the harvesting nation for the first affirmative finding application. The Assistant Administrator may require the submission of supporting documentation or other verification of statements made in connection with requests to allow importations. An affirmative finding applies to yellowfin tuna and yellowfin tuna products that were harvested by vessels of the nation after March 3, 1999. To make an affirmative finding, the Assistant Administrator must find that:


(A) The harvesting nation participates in the IDCP and is either a member of the IATTC or has initiated (and within 6 months thereafter completed) all steps required of applicant nations, in accordance with article V, paragraph 3, of the Convention establishing the IATTC, to become a member of that organization;


(B) The nation is meeting its obligations under the IDCP and its obligations of membership in the IATTC, including all financial obligations;


(C)(1) The annual total dolphin mortality of the nation’s purse seine fleet (including certified charter vessels operating under its jurisdiction) did not exceed the aggregated total of the mortality limits assigned by the IDCP for that nation’s purse seine vessels for the year preceding the year in which the finding would start; or


(2)(i) Because of extraordinary circumstances beyond the control of the nation and the vessel captains, the total dolphin mortality of the nation’s purse seine fleet (including certified charter vessels operating under its jurisdiction) exceeded the aggregated total of the mortality limits assigned by the IDCP for that nation’s purse seine vessels; and


(ii) Immediately after the national authorities discovered the aggregate mortality of its fleet had been exceeded, the nation required all its vessels to cease fishing for tuna in association with dolphins for the remainder of the calendar year; and


(D)(1) In any years in which the parties agree to a global allocation system for per-stock per-year individual stock quotas, the nation responded to the notification from the IATTC that an individual stock quota had been reached by prohibiting any additional sets on the stock for which the quota had been reached;


(2) If a per-stock per-year quota is allocated to each nation, the annual per-stock per-year dolphin mortality of the nation’s purse seine fleet (including certified charter vessels operating under its jurisdiction) did not exceed the aggregated total of the per-stock per-year limits assigned by the IDCP for that nation’s purse seine vessels (if any) for the year preceding the year in which the finding would start; or


(3)(i) Because of extraordinary circumstances beyond the control of the nation and the vessel captains, the per-stock per-year dolphin mortality of the nation’s purse seine fleet (including certified charter vessels operating under its jurisdiction) exceeded the aggregated total of the per-stock per-year limits assigned by the IDCP for that nation’s purse seine vessels; and


(ii) Immediately after the national authorities discovered the aggregate per-stock mortality limits of its fleet had been exceeded, the nation required all its vessels to cease fishing for tuna in association with the stocks whose limits had been exceeded, for the remainder of the calendar year.


(ii) Documentary Evidence and Compliance with the IDCP – (A) Documentary Evidence. The Assistant Administrator will make an affirmative finding under paragraph (f)(8)(i) of this section only if the government of the harvesting nation provides directly to the Assistant Administrator, or authorizes the IATTC to release to the Assistant Administrator, complete, accurate, and timely information that enables the Assistant Administrator to determine whether the harvesting nation is meeting the obligations of the IDCP, and whether ETP-harvested tuna imported from such nation comports with the tracking and verification regulations of subpart H of this part.


(B) Revocation. After considering the information provided under paragraph (f)(8)(ii)(A) of this section, each party’s financial obligations to the IATTC, and any other relevant information, including information that a nation is consistently failing to take enforcement actions on violations that diminish the effectiveness of the IDCP, the Assistant Administrator, in consultation with the Secretary of State, will revoke an affirmative finding issued to a nation that is not meeting the obligations of the IDCP.


(iii) A harvesting nation may apply for an affirmative finding at any time by providing to the Assistant Administrator the information and authorizations required in paragraphs (f)(8)(i) and (f)(8)(ii) of this section, allowing at least 60 days from the submission of complete information to NMFS for processing.


(iv) The Assistant Administrator will make or renew an affirmative finding for the period from April 1 through March 31 of the following year, or portion thereof, if the harvesting nation has provided all the information and authorizations required by paragraphs (f)(8)(i) and (f)(8)(ii) of this section, and has met the requirements of paragraphs (f)(8)(i) and (f)(8)(ii) of this section.


(v) Reconsideration of finding. The Assistant Administrator may reconsider a finding upon a request from, and the submission of additional information by, the harvesting nation, if the information indicates that the nation has met the requirements under paragraphs (f)(8)(i) and (f)(8)(ii) of this section.


(9) Intermediary nation. Except as authorized under this paragraph, no yellowfin tuna or yellowfin tuna products harvested by purse seine in the ETP classified under one of the HTS numbers listed in paragraph (f)(2)(i) of this section may be imported into the United States from any intermediary nation.


(i) An “intermediary nation” is a nation that exports yellowfin tuna or yellowfin tuna products to the United States and that imports yellowfin tuna or yellowfin tuna products that are subject to a direct ban on importation into the United States pursuant to Section 101(a)(2)(B) of the MMPA.


(ii) Shipments of yellowfin tuna that pass through any nation (e.g. on a ‘through Bill of Lading’) and are not entered for consumption in that nation are not considered to be imports to that nation and thus, would not cause that nation to be considered an intermediary nation under the MMPA.


(iii) The Assistant Administrator will publish in the Federal Register a notice announcing when NMFS has determined, based on the best information available, that a nation is an “intermediary nation.” After the effective date of that notice, the import restrictions of this paragraph shall apply.


(iv) Changing the status of intermediary nation determinations. Imports from an intermediary nation of yellowfin tuna and yellowfin tuna products classified under any of the HTS numbers in paragraph (f)(2)(i) of this section may be imported into the United States only if the Assistant Administrator determines, and publishes a notice of such determination in the Federal Register, that the intermediary nation has provided certification and reasonable proof that it has not imported in the preceding 6 months yellowfin tuna or yellowfin tuna products that are subject to a ban on direct importation into the United States under Section 101(a)(2)(B) of the MMPA. At that time, the nation shall no longer be considered an “intermediary nation” and these import restrictions shall no longer apply.


(v) The Assistant Administrator will review decisions under this paragraph upon the request of an intermediary nation. Such requests must be accompanied by specific and detailed supporting information or documentation indicating that a review or reconsideration is warranted. For purposes of this paragraph, the term “certification and reasonable proof” means the submission to the Assistant Administrator by a responsible government official from the nation of a document reflecting the nation’s customs records for the preceding 6 months, together with a certification attesting that the document is accurate.


(10) Fish refused entry. If fish is denied entry under paragraph (f)(2) of this section, the Port Director of CBP shall refuse to release the fish for entry into the United States.


(11) Disposition of fish refused entry into the United States. Fish that is denied entry under paragraph (f)(2) of this section and that is not exported under CBP supervision within 90 days shall be disposed of under CBP laws and regulations at the importer’s expense. Provided, however, that any disposition shall not result in an introduction into the United States of fish caught in violation of the MMPA.


(12) Market Prohibitions. (i) It is unlawful for any person to sell, purchase, offer for sale, transport, or ship in the United States, any tuna or tuna products unless the tuna products are either:


(A) Dolphin-safe under subpart H of this part; or


(B) Harvested in compliance with the IDCP by vessels under the jurisdiction of a nation that is a member of the IATTC or has initiated, and within 6 months thereafter completes, all steps required by an applicant nation to become a member of the IATTC.


(ii) It is unlawful for any exporter, transshipper, importer, processor, or wholesaler/distributor to possess, sell, purchase, offer for sale, transport, or ship in the United States, any tuna or tuna products bearing a label or mark that refers to dolphins, porpoises, or marine mammals unless the label or mark complies with the requirements of 16 U.S.C. 1385(d).


(g) Penalties. Any person or vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States will be subject to the penalties provided for under the MMPA for the conduct of fishing operations in violation of these regulations. Penalties for violating these regulations may include, but are not limited to, civil monetary fines, permit suspension or revocation, and reductions in current and future DMLs. Recommended sanctions are identified in the IDCPA/DPCIA Tuna/Dolphin Civil Administrative Penalty Schedule. Procedures for the imposition of penalties under the MMPA are found at 15 CFR part 904.


(h) Taking and related acts of marine mammals in foreign commercial fishing operations not governed by the provisions related to tuna purse seine vessels in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean – (1) Prohibitions. (i) As provided in section 101(a)(2) and 102(c)(3)of the MMPA, the importation of commercial fish or fish products which have been caught with commercial fishing technology which results in the incidental kill or incidental serious injury of ocean mammals in excess of U.S. standards or caught in a manner which the Secretary has proscribed for persons subject to the jurisdiction of the United States are prohibited. For purposes of paragraph (h) of this section, a fish or fish product caught with commercial fishing technology which results in the incidental mortality or incidental serious injury of marine mammals in excess of U.S. standards is any fish or fish product harvested in an exempt or export fishery for which a valid comparability finding is not in effect.


(ii) Accordingly, it is unlawful for any person to import, or attempt to import, into the United States for commercial purposes any fish or fish product if such fish or fish product:


(A) Was caught or harvested in a fishery that does not have a valid comparability finding in effect at the time of import; or


(B) Is not accompanied by a Certification of Admissibility where such Certification is required pursuant to paragraph (h)(9)(iv) of this section or by such other documentation as the Assistant Administrator may identify and announce in the Federal Register that indicates the fish or fish product was not caught or harvested in a fishery subject to an import prohibition under paragraphs (h)(1) and (h)(9)(i) of this section.


(iii) It is unlawful for any person, including exporters, transshippers, importers, processors, or wholesalers/distributors to possess, sell, purchase, offer for sale, re-export, transport, or ship in interstate or foreign commerce in the United States, any fish or fish product imported in violation of paragraph (h) of this section.


(2) Exemptions. (i) Exempt fisheries are exempt from requirements of paragraphs (h)(6)(iii)(B) through (E) of this section.


(A) For the purposes of paragraph (h) of this section, harvesting nation means the country under whose flag or jurisdiction one or more fishing vessels or other entity engaged in commercial fishing operations are documented, or which has by formal declaration or agreement asserted jurisdiction over one or more authorized or certified charter vessels, and from such vessel(s) or entity(ies) fish are caught or harvested that are a part of any cargo or shipment of fish or fish products to be imported into the United States, regardless of any intervening transshipments, exports or re-exports.


(B) [Reserved]


(ii) The prohibitions of paragraph (h)(1) of this section shall not apply during the exemption period.


(iii) Paragraph (h) of this section shall not apply to a commercial fishing operation subject to section 101(a)(2)(B) of the MMPA and its implementing regulations set out in the relevant provisions of paragraph (f) of this section which govern the incidental take of delphinids in course of commercial purse seine fishing operations for yellowfin tuna in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean and restrictions on importation and sale of fish and fish products caught or harvested in that commercial fishing operation. Paragraph (h) of this section shall not apply with respect to large-scale driftnet fishing, which is governed by paragraph (f)(7) of this section and the restrictions it sets out on importation and sale of fish and fish products harvested by using a large-scale driftnet.


(3) Procedures to identify foreign commercial fishing operations with incidental mortality and serious injury of marine mammals as exempt or export fisheries. In developing the List of Foreign Fisheries in paragraph (h)(4) of this section, the Assistant Administrator:


(i) Shall periodically analyze imports of fish and fish products and identify commercial fishing operations that are the source of exports of such fish and fish products to the United States that have or may have incidental mortality or serious injury of marine mammals in the course of their commercial fishing operations.


(A) For the purposes of paragraph (h) of this section, a commercial fishing operation means vessels or entities that catch, take, or harvest fish (as defined in section 3 of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (16 U.S.C. 1802)) from the marine environment (or other areas where marine mammals occur) that results in the sale or barter of all or part of the fish caught, taken or harvested. The term includes aquaculture activities that interact with or occur in marine mammal habitat.


(B) [Reserved]


(ii) Shall notify, in consultation with the Secretary of State, each harvesting nation that has commercial fishing operations identified pursuant to paragraph (h)(3)(i) of this section and request that within 90 days of notification the harvesting nation submit reliable information about the commercial fishing operations identified, including as relevant the number of participants, number of vessels, gear type, target species, area of operation, fishing season, any information regarding the frequency of marine mammal incidental mortality and serious injury and any programs (including any relevant laws, decrees, regulations or measures) to assess marine mammal populations and to reduce incidental mortality and serious injury of marine mammals in those fisheries or prohibit the intentional killing or injury of marine mammals.


(iii) Shall review each harvesting nation’s submission, evaluate any information it contains (including descriptions of its regulatory programs) and, if necessary, request additional information.


(iv) May consider other readily available and relevant information about such commercial fishing operations and the frequency of incidental mortality and serious injury of marine mammals, including: fishing vessel records; reports of on-board fishery observers; information from off-loading facilities, port-side officials, enforcement agents and officers, transshipment vessel workers and fish importers; government vessel registries; regional fisheries management organizations documents and statistical document programs; and appropriate certification programs. Other sources may include published literature and reports on fishing vessels with incidental mortality and serious injury of marine mammals from government agencies; foreign, state, and local governments; regional fishery management organizations; nongovernmental organizations; industry organizations; academic institutions; and citizens and citizen groups.


(4) List of Foreign Fisheries. (i) Within one year of January 1, 2017, and the year prior to the expiration of the exemption period and every four years thereafter, the Assistant Administrator, based on the information obtained in paragraph (h)(3) of this section, will publish in the Federal Register:


(A) A proposed List of Foreign Fisheries by harvesting nation for notice and comment; and


(B) A final List of Foreign Fisheries, effective upon publication in the Federal Register.


(ii) To the extent that information is available, the List of Foreign Fisheries shall:


(A) Classify each commercial fishing operation that is the source of exports of fish and fish products to the United States based on the definitions for export fishery and exempt fishery set forth in § 216.3 and identified in the List of Foreign Fisheries by harvesting nation and other defining factors including geographic location of harvest, gear-type, target species or a combination thereof;


(B) Include fishing gear type, target species, and number of vessels or other entities engaged in each commercial fishing operation;


(C) List the marine mammals that interact with each commercial fishing operation and indicate the level of incidental mortality and serious injury of marine mammals in each commercial fishing operation;


(D) Provide a description of the harvesting nation’s programs to assess marine mammal stocks and estimate and reduce marine mammal incidental mortality and serious injury in its export fisheries; and


(E) List the harvesting nations that prohibit, in the course of commercial fishing operations that are the source of exports to the United States, the intentional mortality or serious injury of marine mammals unless the intentional mortality or serious injury of a marine mammal is imminently necessary in self-defense or to save the life of a person in immediate danger.


(5) Consultations with Harvesting Nations with Commercial Fishing Operations on the List of Foreign Fisheries. (i) Within 90 days of publication of the final List of Foreign Fisheries in the Federal Register, the Assistant Administrator, in consultation with the Secretary of State, shall consult with harvesting nations with commercial fishing operations identified as export or exempt fisheries as defined in § 216.3 for purposes of notifying the harvesting nation of the requirements of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and this subpart.


(ii) The Assistant Administrator, in consultation with the Secretary of State, may consult with harvesting nations for the purposes of providing notifications of deadlines under this section, ascertaining or reviewing the progress of the harvesting nation’s development, adoption, implementation, or enforcement of its regulatory program governing the incidental mortality and serious injury of marine mammals in the course of commercial fishing operations for an export fishery, supplementing or clarifying information needed in conjunction with the List of Foreign Fisheries in paragraphs (h)(3) and (4) of this section, the progress report in paragraph (h)(10) of this section or an application for or reconsideration of a comparability finding in paragraphs (h)(6) and (8) of this section.


(iii) The Assistant Administrator shall, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the United States Trade Representative, consult with any harvesting nations that failed to receive a comparability finding for one or more of commercial fishing operations or for which a comparability finding is terminated and encourage the harvesting nation to take corrective action and reapply for a comparability finding in accordance with paragraph (h)(9)(iii) of this section.


(6) Procedure and conditions for a comparability finding – (i) Procedures to apply for a comparability finding. On November 30 of the year prior to when the exemption period or comparability finding is to expire, a harvesting nation, shall submit to the Assistant Administrator an application for each of its export and exempt fisheries, along with documentary evidence demonstrating that the harvesting nation has met the conditions specified in paragraph (h)(6)(iii) of this section for each of such fisheries, including reasonable proof as to the effects on marine mammals of the commercial fishing technology in use in the fishery for fish or fish products exported from such nation to the United States. The Assistant Administrator may require the submission of additional supporting documentation or other verification of statements made in an application for a comparability finding.


(ii) Procedures to issue a comparability finding. No later than November 30th of the year when the exemption period or comparability finding is to expire, the Assistant Administrator, in response to an application from a harvesting nation for an export or exempt fishery, shall determine whether to issue to the harvesting nation, in accordance with the procedures set forth in paragraph (h)(8) of this section, a comparability finding for the fishery. In making this determination, the Assistant Administrator shall consider documentary evidence provided by the harvesting nation and relevant information readily available from other sources. If a harvesting nation provides insufficient documentary evidence in support of its application, the Assistant Administrator shall draw reasonable conclusions regarding the fishery based on readily available and relevant information from other sources, including where appropriate information concerning analogous fisheries that use the same or similar gear-type under similar conditions as the fishery, in determining whether to issue the harvesting nation a comparability finding for the fishery.


(iii) Conditions for a comparability finding. The following are conditions for the Assistant Administrator to issue a comparability finding for the fishery, subject to the additional considerations set out in paragraph (h)(7) of this section:


(A) For an exempt or export fishery, the harvesting nation:


(1) Prohibits the intentional mortality or serious injury of marine mammals in the course of commercial fishing operations in the fishery unless the intentional mortality or serious injury of a marine mammal is imminently necessary in self-defense or to save the life of a person in immediate danger; or


(2) Demonstrates that it has procedures to reliably certify that exports of fish and fish products to the United States are not the product of an intentional killing or serious injury of a marine mammal unless the intentional mortality or serious injury of a marine mammal is imminently necessary in self-defense or to save the life of a person in immediate danger; and


(B) For an export fishery, the harvesting nation maintains a regulatory program with respect to the fishery that is comparable in effectiveness to the U.S. regulatory program with respect to incidental mortality and serious injury of marine mammals in the course of commercial fishing operations, in particular by maintaining a regulatory program that includes, or effectively achieves comparable results as, the conditions in paragraph (h)(6)(iii)(C), (D), or (E) of this section as applicable (including for transboundary stocks).


(C) Conditions for an export fishery operating under the jurisdiction of a harvesting nation within its EEZ (or the equivalent) or territorial sea. In making the finding in paragraph (h)(6)(ii) of this section, with respect to an export fishery operating under the jurisdiction of a harvesting nation within its EEZ (or the equivalent) or territorial sea, the Assistant Administrator shall determine whether the harvesting nation maintains a regulatory program that provides for, or effectively achieves comparable results as, the following:


(1) Marine mammal assessments that estimate population abundance for marine mammal stocks in waters under the harvesting nation’s jurisdiction that are incidentally killed or seriously injured in the export fishery.


(2) An export fishery register containing a list of all fishing vessels participating in the export fishery, including information on the number of vessels participating, the time or season and area of operation, gear type and target species.


(3) Regulatory requirements that include:


(i) A requirement for the owner or operator of a vessel participating in the export fishery to report all intentional and incidental mortality and injury of marine mammals in the course of commercial fishing operations; and


(ii) A requirement to implement measures in the export fishery designed to reduce the total incidental mortality and serious injury of a marine mammal stock below the bycatch limit; and


(iii) with respect to any transboundary stock or any other marine mammal stocks interacting with the export fishery, measures to reduce the incidental mortality and serious injury of that stock that the United States requires its domestic fisheries to take with respect to that transboundary stock or marine mammal stock.


(4) Implementation of monitoring procedures in the export fishery designed to estimate incidental mortality or serious injury in the export fishery, and to estimate the cumulative incidental mortality and serious injury of marine mammal stocks in waters under its jurisdiction resulting from the export fishery and other export fisheries interacting with the same marine mammal stocks, including an indication of the statistical reliability of those estimates.


(5) Calculation of bycatch limits for marine mammal stocks in waters under its jurisdiction that are incidentally killed or seriously injured in the export fishery.


(6) Comparison of the incidental mortality and serious injury of each marine mammal stock or stocks that interact with the export fishery in relation to the bycatch limit for each stock; and comparison of the cumulative incidental mortality and serious injury of each marine mammal stock or stocks that interact with the export fishery and any other export fisheries of the harvesting nation showing that these export fisheries:


(i) Do not exceed the bycatch limit for that stock or stocks; or


(ii) Exceed the bycatch limit for that stock or stocks, but the portion of incidental marine mammal mortality or serious injury for which the export fishery is responsible is at a level that, if the other export fisheries interacting with the same marine mammal stock or stocks were at the same level, would not result in cumulative incidental mortality and serious injury in excess of the bycatch limit for that stock or stocks.


(D) Conditions for a harvesting nation’s export fishery operating within the jurisdiction of another state. In making the finding in paragraph (h)(6)(ii) of this section, with respect to a harvesting nation’s export fishery operating within the jurisdiction of another state, the Assistant Administrator shall determine whether the harvesting nation maintains a regulatory program that provides for, or effectively achieves comparable results as, the following:


(1) Implementation in the export fishery of:


(i) With respect to any transboundary stock interacting with the export fishery, any measures to reduce the incidental mortality and serious injury of that stock that the United States requires its domestic fisheries to take with respect that transboundary stock; and


(ii) With respect to any other marine mammal stocks interacting with the export fishery while operating within the jurisdiction of the state, any measures to reduce incidental mortality and serious injury that the United States requires its domestic fisheries to take with respect to that marine mammal stock; and


(2) For an export fishery not subject to management by a regional fishery management organization:


(i) An assessment of marine mammal abundance of stocks interacting with the export fishery, the calculation of a bycatch limit for each such stock, an estimation of incidental mortality and serious injury for each stock and reduction in or maintenance of the incidental mortality and serious injury of each stock below the bycatch limit. This data included in the application may be provided by the state or another source; and


(ii) Comparison of the incidental mortality and serious injury of each marine mammal stock or stocks that interact with the export fishery in relation to the bycatch limit for each stock; and comparison of the cumulative incidental mortality and serious injury of each marine mammal stock or stocks that interact with the export fishery and any other export fisheries of the harvesting nation showing that these export fisheries do not exceed the bycatch limit for that stock or stocks; or exceed the bycatch limit for that stock or stocks, but the portion of incidental marine mammal mortality or serious injury for which the export fishery is responsible is at a level that, if the other export fisheries interacting with the same marine mammal stock or stocks were at the same level, would not result in cumulative incidental mortality and serious injury in excess of the bycatch limit for that stock or stocks; or


(3) For an export fishery that is subject to management by a regional fishery management organization, implementation of marine mammal data collection and conservation and management measures applicable to that fishery required under any applicable intergovernmental agreement or regional fisheries management organization to which the United States is a party.


(E) Conditions for a harvesting nation’s export fishery operating on the high seas under the jurisdiction of the harvesting nation or another state. In making the finding in paragraph (h)(6)(ii) of this section, with respect to a harvesting nation’s export fishery operating on the high seas under the jurisdiction of the harvesting nation or another state, the Assistant Administrator shall determine whether the harvesting nation maintains a regulatory program that provides for, or effectively achieves comparable results as, the U.S. regulatory program with respect to the following:


(1) Implementation in the fishery of marine mammal data collection and conservation and management measures applicable to that fishery required under any applicable intergovernmental agreement or regional fisheries management organization to which the United States is a party; and


(2) Implementation in the export fishery of:


(i) With respect to any transboundary stock interacting with the export fishery, any measures to reduce the incidental mortality and serious injury of that stock that the United States requires its domestic fisheries to take with respect that transboundary stock; and


(ii) With respect to any other marine mammal stocks interacting with the export fishery while operating on the high seas, any measures to reduce incidental mortality and serious injury that the United States requires its domestic fisheries to take with respect to that marine mammal stock when they are operating on the high seas.


(7) Additional considerations for comparability finding determinations. When determining whether to issue any comparability finding for a harvesting nation’s export fishery the Assistant Administrator shall also consider:


(i) U.S. implementation of its regulatory program for similar marine mammal stocks and similar fisheries (e.g., considering gear or target species), including transboundary stocks governed by regulations implementing a take reduction plan (§ 229.2 of this chapter), and any other relevant information received during consultations;


(ii) The extent to which the harvesting nation has successfully implemented measures in the export fishery to reduce the incidental mortality and serious injury of marine mammals caused by the harvesting nation’s export fisheries to levels below the bycatch limit;


(iii) Whether the measures adopted by the harvesting nation for its export fishery have reduced or will likely reduce the cumulative incidental mortality and serious injury of each marine mammal stock below the bycatch limit, and the progress of the regulatory program toward achieving its objectives;


(iv) Other relevant facts and circumstances, which may include the history and nature of interactions with marine mammals in this export fishery, whether the level of incidental mortality and serious injury resulting from the fishery or fisheries exceeds the bycatch limit for a marine mammal stock, the population size and trend of the marine mammal stock, and the population level impacts of the incidental mortality or serious injury of marine mammals in a harvesting nation’s export fisheries and the conservation status of those marine mammal stocks where available;


(v) The record of consultations under paragraph (h)(5) of this section with the harvesting nation, results of these consultations, and actions taken by the harvesting nation and under any applicable intergovernmental agreement or regional fishery management organization to reduce the incidental mortality and serious injury of marine mammals in its export fisheries;


(vi) Information gathered during onsite inspection by U.S. government officials of a fishery’s operations;


(vii) For export fisheries operating on the high seas under an applicable intergovernmental agreement or regional fishery management organization to which the United States is a party, the harvesting nation’s record of implementation of or compliance with measures adopted by that regional fishery management organization or intergovernmental agreement for data collection, incidental mortality and serious injury mitigation or the conservation and management of marine mammals; whether the harvesting nation is a party or cooperating non-party to such intergovernmental agreement or regional fishery management organization; the record of United States implementation of such measures; and whether the United States has imposed additional measures on its fleet not required by an intergovernmental agreement or regional fishery management organization; or


(viii) For export fisheries operating on the high seas under an applicable intergovernmental agreement or regional fisheries management organization to which the United States is not a party, the harvesting nation’s implementation of and compliance with measures, adopted by that regional fisheries management organization or intergovernmental agreement, and any additional measures implemented by the harvesting nation for data collection, incidental mortality and serious injury mitigation or the conservation and management of marine mammals and the extent to which such measures are comparable in effectiveness to the U.S. regulatory program for similar fisheries.


(8) Comparability finding determinations – (i) Publication. No later than November 30th of the year when the exemption period or comparability finding is to expire, the Assistant Administrator shall publish in the Federal Register, by harvesting nation, a notice of the harvesting nations and fisheries for which it has issued or denied a comparability finding and the specific fish and fish products that as a result are subject to import prohibitions under paragraphs (h)(1) and (9) of this section.


(ii) Notification. Prior to publication in the Federal Register, the Assistant Administrator, in consultation with the Secretary of State and, in the event of a denial of a comparability finding, with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, shall notify each harvesting nation in writing of the fisheries of the harvesting nation for which the Assistant Administrator is:


(A) Issuing a comparability finding;


(B) Denying a comparability finding with an explanation for the reasons for the denial of such comparability finding; and


(C) Specify the fish and fish products that will be subject to import prohibitions under paragraphs (h)(1) and (9) of this section on account of a denial of a comparability finding and the effective date of such import prohibitions.


(iii) Preliminary comparability finding consultations. (A) Prior to denying a comparability finding under paragraph (h)(8)(ii) of this section or terminating a comparability finding under paragraph (h)(8)(vii) of this section, the Assistant Administrator shall:


(1) Notify the harvesting nation that it is preliminarily denying or terminating its comparability finding and explain the reasons for that preliminary denial or termination;


(2) Provide the harvesting nation a reasonable opportunity to submit reliable information to refute the preliminary denial or termination of the comparability finding and communicate any corrective actions it is taking to meet the applicable conditions for a comparability finding set out in paragraph (h)(6)(iii) of this section subject to the additional considerations set out in paragraph (h)(7) of this section.


(B) The Assistant Administrator shall take into account any information it receives from the harvesting nation and issue a final comparability finding determination, notifying the harvesting nation pursuant to paragraph (h)(8)(ii) of this section of its determination and, if a denial or termination, an explanation of the reasons for the denial or termination of the comparability finding.


(C) A preliminary denial or termination of a comparability finding shall not result in import prohibitions pursuant to paragraphs (h)(1) and (9) of this section.


(iv) Duration of a comparability finding. Unless terminated in accordance with paragraph (h)(8)(vii) of this section or issued for a specific period pursuant to a re-application under paragraph (h)(9)(iii) of this section, a comparability finding shall remain valid for 4 years from publication or for such other period as the Assistant Administrator may specify.


(v) Renewal of comparability finding. To seek renewal of a comparability finding, every 4 years or prior to the expiration of a comparability finding, the harvesting nation must submit to the Assistant Administrator the application and the documentary evidence required pursuant to paragraph (h)(6)(i) of this section, including, where applicable, reasonable proof as to the effects on marine mammals of the commercial fishing technology in use in the fishery for fish or fish products exported to the United States, by November 30 of the year prior to the expiration date of its current comparability finding.


(vi) Procedures for a comparability finding for new foreign commercial fishing operations wishing to export to the United States. (A) For foreign commercial fishing operations not on the List of Foreign Fisheries that are the source of new exports to the United States, the harvesting nation must notify the Assistant Administrator that the commercial fishing operation wishes to export fish and fish products to the United States.


(B) Upon notification the Assistant Administrator shall issue a provisional comparability finding allowing such imports for a period not to exceed 12 months.


(C) At least 120 days prior to the expiration of the provisional comparability finding the harvesting nation must submit to the Assistant Administrator the reliable information specified in paragraph (h)(3)(ii) of this section and the application and the applicable documentary evidence required pursuant to paragraph (h)(6)(i) of this section.


(D) Prior to expiration of the provisional comparability finding, the Assistant Administrator shall review the application and information provided and classify the commercial fishing operation as either an exempt or export fishery in accordance with paragraphs (h)(3)(iii) through (iv) and (h)(4)(ii) of this section and determine whether to issue the harvesting nation a comparability finding for the fishery in accordance with paragraph (h)(6)(ii) through (iii) of this section.


(E) If the harvesting nation submits the reliable information specified in paragraph (h)(3)(ii) of this section at least 180 days prior to expiration of the provisional comparability finding, the Assistant Administrator will review that information and classify the fishery as either an exempt or export fishery.


(vii) Discretionary review of comparability findings. (A) The Assistant Administrator may reconsider a comparability finding that it has issued at any time based upon information obtained by the Assistant Administrator including any progress report received from a harvesting nation; or upon request with the submission of information from the harvesting nation, any nation, regional fishery management organizations, nongovernmental organizations, industry organizations, academic institutions, citizens or citizen groups that the harvesting nation’s exempt or export fishery no longer meets the applicable conditions in paragraph (h)(6)(iii) of this section. Upon receiving a request, the Assistant Administrator has the discretion to determine whether to proceed with a review or reconsideration.


(B) After such review or reconsideration and consultation with the harvesting nation, the Assistant Administrator shall, if the Assistant Administrator determines that the basis for the comparability finding no longer applies, terminate a comparability finding.


(C) The Assistant Administrator shall notify in writing the harvesting nation and publish in the Federal Register a notice of the termination and the specific fish and fish products that as a result are subject to import prohibitions under paragraphs (h)(1) and (9) of this section.


(9) Imposition of import prohibitions. (i) With respect to a harvesting nation for which the Assistant Administrator has denied or terminated a comparability finding for a fishery, the Assistant Administrator, in cooperation with the Secretaries of the Treasury and Homeland Security, shall identify and prohibit the importation of fish and fish products into the United States from the harvesting nation caught or harvested in that fishery. Any such import prohibition shall become effective 30 days after the of publication of the Federal Register notice referenced in paragraph (h)(8)(i) of this section and shall only apply to fish and fish products caught or harvested in that fishery.


(ii) Duration of import restrictions and removal of import restrictions. (A) Any import prohibition imposed pursuant to paragraphs (h)(1) and (9) of this section with respect to a fishery shall remain in effect until the Assistant Administrator issues a comparability finding for the fishery.


(B) A harvesting nation with an export fishery with a comparability finding that expired, was denied or terminated may re-apply for a comparability finding at any time by submitting an application to the Assistant Administrator, along with documentary evidence demonstrating that the harvesting nation has met the conditions specified in paragraph (h)(6)(iii) of this section, including, as applicable, reasonable proof as to the effects on marine mammals of the commercial fishing technology in use in the fishery for the fish or fish products exported from such nation to the United States.


(C) The Assistant Administrator shall make a determination whether to issue the harvesting nation that has re-applied for a comparability finding for the fishery within 90 days from the submission of complete information to the Assistant Administrator. The Assistant Administrator shall issue a comparability finding for the fishery for a specified period where the Assistant Administrator finds that the harvesting nation meets the applicable conditions in paragraph (h)(6)(iii) of this section, subject to the additional consideration for a comparability finding in paragraph (h)(7) of this section.


(D) Upon issuance of a comparability finding to the harvesting nation with respect to the fishery and notification in writing to the harvesting nation, the Assistant Administrator, in cooperation with the Secretaries of Treasury and Homeland Security, shall publish in the Federal Register a notice of the comparability finding and the removal of the corresponding import prohibition effective on the date of publication in the Federal Register.


(iii) Certification of admissibility. (A) If fish or fish products are subject to an import prohibition under paragraphs (h)(1) and (9) of this section, the Assistant Administrator, to avoid circumvention of the import prohibition, may require that the same or similar fish and fish products caught or harvested in another fishery of the harvesting nation and not subject to the prohibition be accompanied by a certification of admissibility by paper or electronic equivalent filed through the National Marine Fisheries Service message set required in the International Trade Data System. No certification of admissibility shall be required for a fish product for which it is infeasible to substantiate the attestation that the fish or fish products do not contain fish or fish products caught or harvested in a fishery subject to an import prohibition. The certification of admissibility may be in addition to any other applicable import documentation requirements.


(B) The Assistant Administrator shall notify the harvesting nation of the fisheries and the fish and fish products to be accompanied by a certification of admissibility and provide the necessary documents and instruction.


(C) The Assistant Administrator, in cooperation with the Secretaries of Treasury and Homeland Security, shall as part of the Federal Register notice referenced in paragraph (h)(8)(i) of this section, publish a list of fish and fish products, organized by harvesting nation, required to be accompanied by a certification of admissibility. Any requirement for a certification of admissibility shall be effective 30 days after the publication of such notice in the Federal Register.


(D) For each shipment, the certification of admissibility must be properly completed and signed by a duly authorized official or agent of the harvesting nation and subject to validation by a responsible official(s) designated by the Assistant Administrator. The certification must also be signed by the importer of record and submitted in a format (electronic facsimile [fax], the Internet, etc.) specified by the Assistant Administrator.


(iv) Intermediary nation. (A) For purposes of this paragraph (h)(9), and in applying the definition of an “intermediary nation,” an import into the intermediary nation occurs when the fish or fish product is released from a harvesting nation’s customs jurisdiction and enters the customs jurisdiction of the intermediary nation or when the fish and fish products are entered into a foreign trade zone of the intermediary nation for processing or transshipment. For other purposes, “import” is defined in § 216.3.


(B) No fish or fish products caught or harvested in a fishery subject to an import prohibition under paragraphs (h)(1) and (9) of this section, may be imported into the United States from any intermediary nation.


(C) Within 30 days of publication of the Federal Register notice described in paragraph (h)(8)(i) of this section specifying fish and fish products subject to import prohibitions under paragraphs (h)(1) and (9) of this section, the Assistant Administrator shall, based on readily available information, identify intermediary nations that may import, and re-export to the United States, fish and fish products from a fishery subject to an import prohibition under paragraphs (h)(1) and (h)(9)(i) of this section and notify such nations in writing that they are subject to action under paragraph (h)(9)(iv)(D) of this section with respect to the fish and fish products for which the Assistant Administer identified them.


(D) Within 60 days from the date of notification, an intermediary nation notified pursuant to paragraph (h)(9)(iv)(C) of this section must certify to the Assistant Administrator that it:


(1) Does not import, or does not offer for import into the United States, fish or fish products subject to an import prohibition under paragraphs (h)(1) and (h)(9)(i) of this section; or


(2) Has procedures to reliably certify that exports of fish and fish products from the intermediary nation to the United States do not contain fish or fish products caught or harvested in a fishery subject to an import prohibition under paragraphs (h)(1) and (h)(9)(i) of this section.


(E) The intermediary nation must provide documentary evidence to support its certification including information demonstrating that:


(1) It has not imported in the preceding 6 months the fish and fish products for which it was notified under paragraph (h)(9)(iv)(C) of this section; or


(2) It maintains a tracking, verification, or other scheme to reliably certify on either a global, individual shipment or other appropriate basis that fish and fish products from the intermediary nation offered for import to the United States do not contain fish or fish products caught or harvested in a fishery subject to an import prohibition under paragraphs (h)(1) and (h)(9)(i) of this section and for which it was notified under paragraph (h)(9)(iv)(C) of this section.


(F) No later than 120 days after a notification pursuant to paragraph (h)(9)(iv)(C) of this section, the Assistant Administrator will review the documentary evidence provided by the intermediary nation under paragraphs (h)(9)(iv)(D) and (E) of this section and determine based on that information or other readily available information whether the intermediary nation imports, or offers to import into the United States, fish and fish products subject import prohibitions and, if so, whether the intermediary nation has procedures to reliably certify that exports of fish and fish products from the intermediary nation to the United States do not contain fish or fish products subject to import prohibitions under paragraphs (h)(1) and (9) of this section, and notify the intermediary nation of its determination.


(G) If the Assistant Administrator determines that the intermediary nation does not have procedures to reliably certify that exports of fish and fish products from the intermediary nation to the United States do not contain fish or fish products caught or harvested in a fishery subject to an import prohibition under paragraphs (h)(1) and (h)(9)(i) of this section, the Assistant Administrator, in cooperation with the Secretaries of the Treasury and Homeland Security, will file with the Office of the Federal Register a notice announcing the fish and fish products exported from the intermediary nation to the United States that are of the same species as, or similar to, fish or fish products subject to an import prohibition under paragraphs (h)(1) and (h)(9)(i) of this section that may not be imported into the United States as a result of the determination. A prohibition under this paragraph shall not apply to any fish or fish product for which the intermediary nation was not identified under paragraph (h)(9)(iv)(C) of this section.


(H) The Assistant Administrator will review determinations under this paragraph upon the request of an intermediary nation. Such requests must be accompanied by specific and detailed supporting information or documentation indicating that a review or reconsideration is warranted. Based upon such information and other relevant information, the Assistant Administrator may determine that the intermediary nation should no longer be subject to an import prohibition under paragraph (h)(9)(iv)(G) of this section. If the Assistant Administrator makes such a determination, the Assistant Administrator, in cooperation with the Secretaries of the Treasury and Homeland Security, shall lift the import prohibition under this paragraph and publish notification of such action in the Federal Register.


(10) Progress report for harvesting nations with export fisheries. (i) A harvesting nation shall submit, with respect to an exempt or export fishery, a progress report to the Assistant Administrator documenting actions taken to:


(A) Develop, adopt and implement its regulatory program; and


(B) Meet the conditions in paragraph (h)(6)(iii) of this section, including with respect to reducing or maintaining incidental mortality and serious injury of marine mammals below the bycatch limit for its fisheries.


(ii) The progress report should include the methods the harvesting nation is using to obtain information in support of a comparability finding and a certification by the harvesting nation of the accuracy and authenticity of the information contained in the progress report.


(iii) The first progress report will be due two years prior to the end of exemption period and every four years thereafter on or before July 31.


(iv) The Assistant Administrator may review the progress report to monitor progress made by a harvesting nation in developing its regulatory program or to reconsider a comparability finding in accordance with paragraph (h)(8)(vi) of this section.


(11) International cooperation and assistance. Consistent with the authority granted under Marine Mammal Protection Act at 16 U.S.C. 1378 and the availability of funds, the Assistant Administrator may:


(i) Provide appropriate assistance to harvesting nations identified by the Assistant Administrator under paragraph (h)(5) of this section with respect to the financial or technical means to develop and implement the requirements of this section;


(ii) Undertake, where appropriate, cooperative research on marine mammal assessments for abundance, methods to estimate incidental mortality and serious injury and technologies and techniques to reduce marine mammal incidental mortality and serious injury in export fisheries;


(iii) Encourage and facilitate, as appropriate, the voluntary transfer of appropriate technology on mutually agreed terms to assist harvesting nations in qualifying for a comparability finding under paragraph (h)(6) of this section; and


(iv) Initiate, through the Secretary of State, negotiations for the development of bilateral or multinational agreements with harvesting nations to conserve marine mammals and reduce the incidental mortality and serious injury of marine mammals in the course of commercial fishing operations.


(12) Consistency with international obligations. The Assistant Administrator shall ensure, in consultation with the Department of State and the Office of the United States Trade Representative that any action taken under this section, including any action to deny a comparability finding or to prohibit imports, is consistent with the international obligations of the United States, including under the World Trade Organization Agreement.


[69 FR 55297, Sept. 13, 2004, as amended at 70 FR 19008, Apr. 12, 2005; 74 FR 1613, Jan. 13, 2009; 81 FR 36184, June 6, 2016; 81 FR 51132, Aug. 3, 2016; 81 FR 54413, Aug. 15, 2016; 83 FR 3625, Jan. 26, 2018; 84 FR 70043, Dec. 20, 2019; 85 FR 29669, May 18, 2020; 85 FR 49975, Aug. 17, 2020; 85 FR 58297, Sept. 18, 2020; 85 FR 69517, Nov. 3, 2020]


§ 216.25 Exempted marine mammals and marine mammal products.

(a) The provisions of the MMPA and these regulations shall not apply:


(1) To any marine mammal taken before December 21, 1972
1
, or




1 In the context of captive maintenance of marine mammals, the only marine mammals exempted under this section are those that were actually captured or otherwise in captivity before December 21, 1972.


(2) To any marine mammal product if the marine mammal portion of such product consists solely of a marine mammal taken before such date.


(b) The prohibitions contained in § 216.12(c) (3) and (4) shall not apply to marine mammals or marine mammal products imported into the United States before the date on which a notice is published in the Federal Register with respect to the designation of the species or stock concerned as depleted or endangered.


(c) Section 216.12(b) shall not apply to articles imported into the United States before the effective date of the foreign law making the taking or sale, as the case may be, of such marine mammals or marine mammal products unlawful.


[39 FR 1852, Jan. 15, 1974, as amended at 56 FR 43888, Sept. 5, 1991; 59 FR 50376, Oct. 3, 1994]


§ 216.26 Collection of certain marine mammal parts without prior authorization.

Notwithstanding any other provision of this subpart:


(a) Any bones, teeth or ivory of any dead marine mammal may be collected from a beach or from land within

1/4 of a mile of the ocean. The term ocean includes bays and estuaries.


(b) Notwithstanding the provisions of subpart D, soft parts that are sloughed, excreted, or discharged naturally by a living marine mammal in the wild may be collected or imported for bona fide scientific research and enhancement, provided that collection does not involve the taking of a living marine mammal in the wild.


(c) Any marine mammal part collected under paragraph (a) of this section or any marine mammal part collected and imported under paragraph (b) of this section must be registered and identified, and may be transferred or otherwise possessed, in accordance with § 216.22(c). In registering a marine mammal part collected or imported under paragraph (b) of this section, the person who collected or imported the part must also state the scientific research or enhancement purpose for which the part was collected or imported.


(d) No person may purchase, sell or trade for commercial purposes any marine mammal part collected or imported under this section.


(e) The export of parts collected without prior authorization under paragraph (b) of this section may occur if consistent with the provisions at § 216.37(d) under subpart D.


[39 FR 1852, Jan. 15, 1974, as amended at 59 FR 50376, Oct. 3, 1994; 61 FR 21933, May 10, 1996]


§ 216.27 Release, non-releasability, and disposition under special exception permits for rehabilitated marine mammals.

(a) Release requirements. (1) Any marine mammal held for rehabilitation must be released within six months of capture or import unless the attending veterinarian determines that:


(i) The marine mammal might adversely affect marine mammals in the wild;


(ii) Release of the marine mammal to the wild will not likely be successful given the physical condition and behavior of the marine mammal; or


(iii) More time is needed to determine whether the release of the marine mammal to the wild will likely be successful. Releasability must be reevaluated at intervals of no less than six months until 24 months from capture or import, at which time there will be a rebuttable presumption that release into the wild is not feasible.


(2) The custodian of the rehabilitated marine mammal shall provide written notification prior to any release into the wild.


(i) Notification shall be provided to:


(A) The NMFS Regional Director at least 15 days in advance of releasing any beached or stranded marine mammal, unless advance notice is waived in writing by the Regional Director; or


(B) The Office Director at least 30 days in advance of releasing any imported marine mammal.


(ii) Notification shall include the following:


(A) A description of the marine mammal, including its physical condition and estimated age;


(B) The date and location of release; and


(C) The method and duration of transport prior to release.


(3) The Regional Director, or the Office Director as appropriate, may:


(i) Require additional information prior to any release;


(ii) Change the date or location of release, or the method or duration of transport prior to release;


(iii) Impose additional conditions to improve the likelihood of success or to monitor the success of the release; or


(iv) Require other disposition of the marine mammal.


(4) All marine mammals must be released near wild populations of the same species, and stock if known, unless a waiver is granted by the Regional Director or the Office Director.


(5) All marine mammals released must be tagged or marked in a manner acceptable to the Regional Director or the Office Director. The tag number or description of the marking must be reported to the Regional Director or Office Director following release.


(b) Non-releasability and postponed determinations. (1) The attending veterinarian shall provide the Regional Director or Office Director with a written report setting forth the basis of any determination under paragraphs (a)(1)(i) through (iii) of this section.


(2) Upon receipt of a report under paragraph (b)(1) of this section, the Regional Director or Office Director, in their sole discretion, may:


(i) Order the release of the marine mammal;


(ii) Order continued rehabilitation for an additional 6 months; or


(iii) Order other disposition as authorized.


(3) No later than 30 days after a marine mammal is determined unreleasable in accordance with paragraphs (a)(1)(i) through (iii) of this section, the person with authorized custody must:


(i) Request authorization to retain or transfer custody of the marine mammal in accordance with paragraph (c) of this section, or;


(ii) Humanely euthanize the marine mammal or arrange any other disposition of the marine mammal authorized by the Regional Director or Office Director.


(4) Notwithstanding any of the provisions of this section, the Office Director may require use of a rehabilitated marine mammal for any activity authorized under subpart D in lieu of animals taken from the wild.


(5) Any rehabilitated beached or stranded marine mammal placed on public display following a non-releasability determination under paragraph (a)(1) of this section and pending disposition under paragraph (c) of this section, or any marine mammal imported for medical treatment otherwise unavailable and placed on public display pending disposition after such medical treatment is concluded, must be held in captive maintenance consistent with all requirements for public display.


(c) Disposition for a special exception purpose. (1) Upon receipt of an authorization request made under paragraph (b)(3)(i) of this section, or release notification under (a)(2), the Office Director may authorize the retention or transfer of custody of the marine mammal for a special exception purpose authorized under subpart D.


(2) The Office Director will first consider requests from a person authorized to hold the marine mammal for rehabilitation. The Office Director may authorize such person to retain or transfer custody of the marine mammal for scientific research, enhancement, or public display purposes.


(3) The Office Director may authorize retention or transfer of custody of the marine mammal only if:


(i) Documentation has been submitted to the Office Director that the person retaining the subject animal or the person receiving custody of the subject animal by transfer, hereinafter referred to as the recipient, complies with public display requirements of 16 U.S.C. 1374(c)(2)(A) or, for purposes of scientific research and enhancement, holds an applicable permit, or an application for such a special exception permit under § 216.33 or a request for a major amendment under § 216.39 has been submitted to the Office Director and has been found complete;


(ii) The recipient agrees to hold the marine mammal in conformance with all applicable requirements and standards; and


(iii) The recipient acknowledges that the marine mammal is subject to seizure by the Office Director:


(A) If, at any time pending issuance of the major amendment or permit, the Office Director determines that seizure is necessary in the interest of the health or welfare of the marine mammal;


(B) If the major amendment or permit is denied; or


(C) If the recipient is issued a notice of violation and assessment, or is subject to permit sanctions, in accordance with 15 CFR part 904.


(4) There shall be no remuneration associated with any transfer, provided that, the transferee may reimburse the transferor for any and all costs associated with the rehabilitation and transport of the marine mammal.


(5) Marine mammals undergoing rehabilitation or pending disposition under this section shall not be subject to public display, unless such activities are specifically authorized by the Regional Director or the Office Director, and conducted consistent with the requirements applicable to public display. Such marine mammals shall not be trained for performance or be included in any aspect of a program involving interaction with the public; and


(6) Marine mammals undergoing rehabilitation shall not be subject to intrusive research, unless such activities are specifically authorized by the Office Director in consultation with the Marine Mammal Commission and its Committee of Scientific Advisors on Marine Mammals, and are conducted pursuant to a scientific research permit.


(d) Reporting. In addition to the report required under § 216.22(b), the person authorized to hold marine mammals for rehabilitation must submit reports to the Regional Director or Office Director regarding release or other disposition. These reports must be provided in the form and frequency specified by the Regional Director or Office Director.


[61 FR 21933, May 10, 1996]


Subpart D – Special Exceptions

§ 216.30 [Reserved]

§ 216.31 Definitions.

For the purpose of this subpart, the definitions set forth in 50 CFR part 217 shall apply to all threatened and endangered marine mammals, unless a more restrictive definition exists under the MMPA or part 216.


[61 FR 21935, May 10, 1996]


§ 216.32 Scope.

The regulations of this subpart apply to:


(a) All marine mammals and marine mammal parts taken or born in captivity after December 20, 1972; and


(b) All marine mammals and marine mammal parts that are listed as threatened or endangered under the ESA.


[61 FR 21935, May 10, 1996]


§ 216.33 Permit application submission, review, and decision procedures.

(a) Application submission. Persons seeking a special exemption permit under this subpart must submit an application to the Office Director. The application must be signed by the applicant, and provide in a properly formatted manner all information necessary to process the application. Written instructions addressing information requirements and formatting may be obtained from the Office Director upon request.


(b) Applications to export living marine mammals. For applicants seeking a special exception permit to export living marine mammals, the application must:


(1) Be submitted through the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Fauna and Flora management authority of the foreign government or, if different, the appropriate agency or agencies of the foreign government that exercises oversight over marine mammals.


(2) Include a certification from the foreign government that:


(i) The information set forth in the application is accurate;


(ii) The laws and regulations of the foreign governmentinvolved allow enforcement of the terms and conditions of the permit, and that the foreign government will enforce all terms and conditions; and


(iii) The foreign government involved will afford comity to any permit amendment, modification, suspension or revocation decision.


(c) Initial review. (1) NMFS will notify the applicant of receipt of the application.


(2) During the initial review, the Office Director will determine:


(i) Whether the application is complete.


(ii) Whether the proposed activity is for purposes authorized under this subpart.


(iii) If the proposed activity is for enhancement purposes, whether the species or stock identified in the application is in need of enhancement for its survival or recovery and whether the proposed activity will likely succeed in its objectives.


(iv) Whether the activities proposed are to be conducted consistent with the permit restrictions and permit specific conditions as described in § 216.35 and § 216.36(a).


(v) Whether sufficient information is included regarding the environmental impact of the proposed activity to enable the Office Director:


(A) To make an initial determination under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) as to whether the proposed activity is categorically excluded from preparation of further environmental documentation, or whether the preparation of an environmental assessment (EA) or environmental impact statement (EIS) is appropriate or necessary; and


(B) To prepare an EA or EIS if an initial determination is made by the Office Director that the activity proposed is not categorically excluded from such requirements.


(3) The Office Director may consult with the Marine Mammal Commission (Commission) and its Committee of Scientific Advisors on Marine Mammals (Committee) in making these initial, and any subsequent, determinations.


(4) Incomplete applications will be returned with explanation. If the applicant fails to resubmit a complete application or correct the identified deficiencies within 60 days, the application will be deemed withdrawn. Applications that propose activities inconsistent with this subpart will be returned with explanation, and will not be considered further.


(d) Notice of receipt and application review. (1) Upon receipt of a valid, complete application, and the preparation of any NEPA documentation that has been determined initially to be required, the Office Director will publish a notice of receipt in the Federal Register. The notice will:


(i) Summarize the application, including:


(A) The purpose of the request;


(B) The species and number of marine mammals;


(C) The type and manner of special exception activity proposed;


(D) The location(s) in which the marine mammals will be taken, from which they will be imported, or to which they will be exported; and


(E) The requested period of the permit.


(ii) List where the application is available for review.


(iii) Invite interested parties to submit written comments concerning the application within 30 days of the date of the notice.


(iv) Include a NEPA statement that an initial determination has been made that the activity proposed is categorically excluded from the requirement to prepare an EA or EIS, that an EA was prepared resulting in a finding of no significant impact, or that a final EIS has been prepared and is available for review.


(2) The Office Director will forward a copy of the complete application to the Commission for comment. If no comments are received within 45 days (or such longer time as the Office Director may establish) the Office Director will consider the Commission to have no objection to issuing a permit.


(3) The Office Director may consult with any other person, institution, or agency concerning the application.


(4) Within 30 days of publication of the notice of receipt in the Federal Register, any interested party may submit written comments or may request a public hearing on the application.


(5) If the Office Director deems it advisable, the Office Director may hold a public hearing within 60 days of publication of the notice of receipt in the Federal Register. Notice of the date, time, and place of the public hearing will be published in the Federal Register not less than 15 days in advance of the public hearing. Any interested person may appear in person or through representatives and may submit any relevant material, data, views, or comments. A summary record of the hearing will be kept.


(6) The Office Director may extend the period during which any interested party may submit written comments. Notice of the extension must be published in the Federal Register within 60 days of publication of the notice of receipt in the Federal Register.


(7) If, after publishing a notice of receipt, the Office Director determines on the basis of new information that an EA or EIS must be prepared, the Office Director must deny the permit unless an EA is prepared with a finding of no significant impact. If a permit is denied under these circumstances the application may be resubmitted with information sufficient to prepare an EA or EIS, and will be processed as a new application.


(e) Issuance or denial procedures. (1) Within 30 days of the close of the public hearing or, if no public hearing is held, within 30 days of the close of the public comment period, the Office Director will issue or deny a special exception permit.


(2) The decision to issue or deny a permit will be based upon:


(i) All relevant issuance criteria set forth at § 216.34;


(ii) All purpose-specific issuance criteria as appropriate set forth at § 216.41, § 216.42, and § 216.43;


(iii) All comments received or views solicited on the permit application; and


(iv) Any other information or data that the Office Director deems relevant.


(3) If the permit is issued, upon receipt, the holder must date and sign the permit, and return a copy of the original to the Office Director. The permit shall be effective upon the permit holder’s signing of the permit. In signing the permit, the holder:


(i) Agrees to abide by all terms and conditions set forth in the permit, and all restrictions and relevant regulations under this subpart; and


(ii) Acknowledges that the authority to conduct certain activities specified in the permit is conditional and subject to authorization by the Office Director.


(4) Notice of the decision of the Office Director shall be published in the Federal Register within 10 days after the date of permit issuance or denial and shall indicate where copies of the permit, if issued, may be reviewed or obtained. If the permit issued involves marine mammals listed as endangered or threatened under the ESA, the notice shall include a finding by the Office Director that the permit:


(i) Was applied for in good faith;


(ii) If exercised, will not operate to the disadvantage of such endangered or threatened species; and


(iii) Is consistent with the purposes and policy set forth in section 2 of the ESA.


(5) If the permit is denied, the Office Director shall provide the applicant with an explanation for the denial.


(6) Under the MMPA, the Office Director may issue a permit for scientific research before the end of the public comment period if delaying issuance could result in injury to a species, stock, or individual, or in loss of unique research opportunities. The Office Director also may waive the 30-day comment period required under the ESA in an emergency situation where the health or life of an endangered or threatened marine mammal is threatened and no reasonable alternative is available. If a permit is issued under these circumstances, notice of such issuance before the end of the comment period shall be published in the Federal Register within 10 days of issuance.


(7) The applicant or any party opposed to a permit may seek judicial review of the terms and conditions of such permit or of a decision to deny such permit. Review may be obtained by filing a petition for review with the appropriate U.S. District Court as provided for by law.


[61 FR 21935, May 10, 1996]


§ 216.34 Issuance criteria.

(a) For the Office Director to issue any permit under this subpart, the applicant must demonstrate that:


(1) The proposed activity is humane and does not present any unnecessary risks to the health and welfare of marine mammals;


(2) The proposed activity is consistent with all restrictions set forth at § 216.35 and any purpose-specific restrictions as appropriate set forth at § 216.41, § 216.42, and § 216.43;


(3) The proposed activity, if it involves endangered or threatened marine mammals, will be conducted consistent with the purposes and policies set forth in section 2 of the ESA;


(4) The proposed activity by itself or in combination with other activities, will not likely have a significant adverse impact on the species or stock;


(5) Whether the applicant’s expertise, facilities, and resources are adequate to accomplish successfully the objectives and activities stated in the application;


(6) If a live animal will be held captive or transported, the applicant’s qualifications, facilities, and resources are adequate for the proper care and maintenance of the marine mammal; and


(7) Any requested import or export will not likely result in the taking of marine mammals or marine mammal parts beyond those authorized by the permit.


(b) The opinions or views of scientists or other persons or organizations knowledgeable of the marine mammals that are the subject of the application or of other matters germane to the application will be considered.


[61 FR 21936, May 10, 1996]


§ 216.35 Permit restrictions.

The following restrictions shall apply to all permits issued under this subpart:


(a) The taking, importation, export, or other permitted activity involving marine mammals and marine mammal parts shall comply with the regulations of this subpart.


(b) The maximum period of any special exception permit issued, or any major amendment granted, is five years from the effective date of the permit or major amendment. In accordance with the provisions of § 216.39, the period of a permit may be extended by a minor amendment up to 12 months beyond that established in the original permit.


(c) Except as provided for in § 216.41(c)(1)(v), marine mammals or marine mammal parts imported under the authority of a permit must be taken or imported in a humane manner, and in compliance with the Acts and any applicable foreign law. Importation of marine mammals and marine mammal parts is subject to the provisions of 50 CFR part 14.


(d) The permit holder shall not take from the wild any marine mammal which at the time of taking is either unweaned or less than eight months old, or is a part of a mother-calf/pup pair, unless such take is specifically authorized in the conditions of the special exception permit. Additionally, the permit holder shall not import any marine mammal that is pregnant or lactating at the time of taking or import, or is unweaned or less than eight months old unless such import is specifically authorized in the conditions of the special exception permit.


(e) Captive marine mammals shall not be released into the wild unless specifically authorized by the Office Director under a scientific research or enhancement permit.


(f) The permit holder is responsible for all activities of any individual who is operating under the authority of the permit;


(g) Individuals conducting activities authorized under the permit must possess qualifications commensurate with their duties and responsibilities, or must be under the direct supervision of a person with such qualifications;


(h) Persons who require state or Federal licenses to conduct activities authorized under the permit must be duly licensed when undertaking such activities;


(i) Special exception permits are not transferable or assignable to any other person, and a permit holder may not require any direct or indirect compensation from another person in return for requesting authorization for such person to conduct the taking, import, or export activities authorized under the subject permit;


(j) The permit holder or designated agent shall possess a copy of the permit when engaged in a permitted activity, when the marine mammal is in transit incidental to such activity, and whenever marine mammals or marine mammal parts are in the possession of the permit holder or agent. A copy of the permit shall be affixed to any container, package, enclosure, or other means of containment, in which the marine mammals or marine mammal parts are placed for purposes of transit, supervision, or care. For marine mammals held captive and marine mammal parts in storage, a copy of the permit shall be kept on file in the holding or storage facility.


[61 FR 21936, May 10, 1996]


§ 216.36 Permit conditions.

(a) Specific conditions. (1) Permits issued under this subpart shall contain specific terms and conditions deemed appropriate by the Office Director, including, but not limited to:


(i) The number and species of marine mammals that are authorized to be taken, imported, exported, or otherwise affected;


(ii) The manner in which marine mammals may be taken according to type of take;


(iii) The location(s) in which the marine mammals may be taken, from which they may be imported, or to which they may be exported, as applicable, and, for endangered or threatened marine mammal species to be imported or exported, the port of entry or export;


(iv) The period during which the permit is valid.


(2) [Reserved]


(b) Other conditions. In addition to the specific conditions imposed pursuant to paragraph (a) of this section, the Office Director shall specify any other permit conditions deemed appropriate.


[61 FR 21937, May 10, 1996]


§ 216.37 Marine mammal parts.

With respect to marine mammal parts acquired by take or import authorized under a permit issued under this subpart:


(a) Marine mammal parts are transferrable if:


(1) The person transferring the part receives no remuneration of any kind for the marine mammal part;


(2) The person receiving the marine mammal part is:


(i) An employee of NMFS, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, or any other governmental agency with conservation and management responsibilities, who receives the part in the course of their official duties;


(ii) A holder of a special exception permit which authorizes the take, import, or other activity involving the possession of a marine mammal part of the same species as the subject part; or


(iii) In the case of marine mammal parts from a species that is not depleted, endangered or threatened, a person who is authorized under section 112(c) of the MMPA and subpart C of this part to take or import marine mammals or marine mammal parts;


(iv) Any other person specifically authorized by the Regional Director, consistent with the requirements of paragraphs (a)(1) and (a)(3) through (6) of this section.


(3) The marine mammal part is transferred for the purpose of scientific research, maintenance in a properly curated, professionally accredited scientific collection, or education, provided that, for transfers for educational purposes, the recipient is a museum, educational institution or equivalent that will ensure that the part is available to the public as part of an educational program;


(4) A unique number assigned by the permit holder is marked on or affixed to the marine mammal part or container;


(5) The person receiving the marine mammal part agrees that, as a condition of receipt, subsequent transfers may only occur subject to the provisions of paragraph (a) of this section; and


(6) Within 30 days after the transfer, the person transferring the marine mammal part notifies the Regional Director of the transfer, including a description of the part, the person to whom the part was transferred, the purpose of the transfer, certification that the recipient has agreed to comply with the requirements of paragraph (a) of this section for subsequent transfers, and, if applicable, the recipient’s permit number.


(b) Marine mammal parts may be loaned to another person for a purpose described in paragraph (a)(3) of this section and without the agreement and notification required under paragraphs (a)(5) and (6) of this section, if:


(1) A record of the loan is maintained; and


(2) The loan is for not more than one year. Loans for a period greater than 12 months, including loan extensions or renewals, require notification of the Regional Director under paragraph (a)(6).


(c) Unless other disposition is specified in the permit, a holder of a special exception permit may retain marine mammal parts not destroyed or otherwise disposed of during or after a scientific research or enhancement activity, if such marine mammal parts are:


(1) Maintained as part of a properly curated, professionally accredited collection; or


(2) Made available for purposes of scientific research or enhancement at the request of the Office Director.


(d) Marine mammal parts may be exported and subsequently reimported by a permit holder or subsequent authorized recipient, for the purpose of scientific research, maintenance in a properly curated, professionally accredited scientific collection, or education, provided that:


(1) The permit holder or other person receives no remuneration for the marine mammal part;


(2) A unique number assigned by the permit holder is marked on or affixed to the marine mammal specimen or container;


(3) The marine mammal part is exported or reimported in compliance with all applicable domestic and foreign laws;


(4) If exported or reimported for educational purposes, the recipient is a museum, educational institution, or equivalent that will ensure that the part is available to the public as part of an educational program; and


(5) Special reports are submitted within 30 days after both export and reimport as required by the Office Director under § 216.38.


[61 FR 21937, May 10, 1996]


§ 216.38 Reporting.

All permit holders must submit annual, final, and special reports in accordance with the requirements established in the permit, and any reporting format established by the Office Director.


[61 FR 21937, May 10, 1996]


§ 216.39 Permit amendments.

(a) General. Special exception permits may be amended by the Office Director. Major and minor amendments may be made to permits in response to, or independent of, a request from the permit holder. Amendments must be consistent with the Acts and comply with the applicable provisions of this subpart.


(1) A major amendment means any change to the permit specific conditions under § 216.36(a) regarding:


(i) The number and species of marine mammals that are authorized to be taken, imported, exported, or otherwise affected;


(ii) The manner in which these marine mammals may be taken, imported, exported, or otherwise affected, if the proposed change may result in an increased level of take or risk of adverse impact;


(iii) The location(s) in which the marine mammals may be taken, from which they may be imported, and to which they may be exported, as applicable; and


(iv) The duration of the permit, if the proposed extension would extend the duration of the permit more than 12 months beyond that established in the original permit.


(2) A minor amendment means any amendment that does not constitute a major amendment.


(b) Amendment requests and proposals. (1) Requests by a permit holder for an amendment must be submitted in writing and include the following:


(i) The purpose and nature of the amendment;


(ii) Information, not previously submitted as part of the permit application or subsequent reports, necessary to determine whether the amendment satisfies all issuance criteria set forth at § 216.34, and, as appropriate, § 216.41, § 216.42, and § 216.43.


(iii) Any additional information required by the Office Director for purposes of reviewing the proposed amendment.


(2) If an amendment is proposed by the Office Director, the permit holder will be notified of the proposed amendment, together with an explanation.


(c) Review of proposed amendments – (1) Major amendments. The provisions of § 216.33(d) and (e) governing notice of receipt, review and decision shall apply to all proposed major amendments.


(2) Minor amendments. (i) After reviewing all appropriate information, the Office Director will provide the permit holder with written notice of the decision on a proposed or requested amendment, together with an explanation for the decision.


(ii) If the minor amendment extends the duration of the permit 12 months or less from that established in the original permit, notice of the minor amendment will be published in the Federal Register within 10 days from the date of the Office Director’s decision.


(iii) A minor amendment will be effective upon a final decision by the Office Director.


[61 FR 21937, May 10, 1996]


§ 216.40 Penalties and permit sanctions.

(a) Any person who violates any provision of this subpart or permit issued thereunder is subject to civil and criminal penalties, permit sanctions and forfeiture as authorized under the Acts, and 15 CFR part 904.


(b) All special exception permits are subject to suspension, revocation, modification and denial in accordance with the provisions of subpart D of 15 CFR part 904.


[61 FR 21938, May 10, 1996]


§ 216.41 Permits for scientific research and enhancement.

In addition to the requirements under §§ 216.33 through 216.38, permits for scientific research and enhancement are governed by the following requirements:


(a) Applicant. (1) For each application submitted under this section, the applicant shall be the principal investigator responsible for the overall research or enhancement activity. If the research or enhancement activity will involve a periodic change in the principal investigator or is otherwise controlled by and dependent upon another entity, the applicant may be the institution, governmental entity, or corporation responsible for supervision of the principal investigator.


(2) For any scientific research involving captive maintenance, the application must include supporting documentation from the person responsible for the facility or other temporary enclosure.


(b) Issuance Criteria. For the Office Director to issue any scientific research or enhancement permit, the applicant must demonstrate that:


(1) The proposed activity furthers a bona fide scientific or enhancement purpose;


(2) If the lethal taking of marine mammals is proposed:


(i) Non-lethal methods for conducting the research are not feasible; and


(ii) For depleted, endangered, or threatened species, the results will directly benefit that species or stock, or will fulfill a critically important research need.


(3) Any permanent removal of a marine mammal from the wild is consistent with any applicable quota established by the Office Director.


(4) The proposed research will not likely have significant adverse effects on any other component of the marine ecosystem of which the affected species or stock is a part.


(5) For species or stocks designated or proposed to be designated as depleted, or listed or proposed to be listed as endangered or threatened:


(i) The proposed research cannot be accomplished using a species or stock that is not designated or proposed to be designated as depleted, or listed or proposed to be listed as threatened or endangered;


(ii) The proposed research, by itself or in combination with other activities will not likely have a long-term direct or indirect adverse impact on the species or stock;


(iii) The proposed research will either:


(A) Contribute to fulfilling a research need or objective identified in a species recovery or conservation plan, or if there is no conservation or recovery plan in place, a research need or objective identified by the Office Director in stock assessments established under section 117 of the MMPA;


(B) Contribute significantly to understanding the basic biology or ecology of the species or stock, or to identifying, evaluating, or resolving conservation problems for the species or stock; or


(C) Contribute significantly to fulfilling a critically important research need.


(6) For proposed enhancement activities:


(i) Only living marine mammals and marine mammal parts necessary for enhancement of the survival, recovery, or propagation of the affected species or stock may be taken, imported, exported, or otherwise affected under the authority of an enhancement permit. Marine mammal parts would include in this regard clinical specimens or other biological samples required for the conduct of breeding programs or the diagnosis or treatment of disease.


(ii) The activity will likely contribute significantly to maintaining or increasing distribution or abundance, enhancing the health or welfare of the species or stock, or ensuring the survival or recovery of the affected species or stock in the wild.


(iii) The activity is consistent with:


(A) An approved conservation plan developed under section 115(b) of the MMPA or recovery plan developed under section 4(f) of the ESA for the species or stock; or


(B) If there is no conservation or recovery plan, with the Office Director’s evaluation of the actions required to enhance the survival or recovery of the species or stock in light of the factors that would be addressed in a conservation or recovery plan.


(iv) An enhancement permit may authorize the captive maintenance of a marine mammal from a threatened, endangered, or depleted species or stock only if the Office Director determines that:


(A) The proposed captive maintenance will likely contribute directly to the survival or recovery of the species or stock by maintaining a viable gene pool, increasing productivity, providing necessary biological information, or establishing animal reserves required to support directly these objectives; and


(B) The expected benefit to the species or stock outweighs the expected benefits of alternatives that do not require removal of marine mammals from the wild.


(v) The Office Director may authorize the public display of marine mammals held under the authority of an enhancement permit only if:


(A) The public display is incidental to the authorized captive maintenance;


(B) The public display will not interfere with the attainment of the survival or recovery objectives;


(C) The marine mammals will be held consistent with all requirements and standards that are applicable to marine mammals held under the authority of the Acts and the Animal Welfare Act, unless the Office Director determines that an exception is necessary to implement an essential enhancement activity; and


(D) The marine mammals will be excluded from any interactive program and will not be trained for performance.


(vi) The Office Director may authorize non-intrusive scientific research to be conducted while a marine mammal is held under the authority of an enhancement permit, only if such scientific research:


(A) Is incidental to the permitted enhancement activities; and


(B) Will not interfere with the attainment of the survival or recovery objectives.


(c) Restrictions. (1) The following restrictions apply to all scientific research permits issued under this subpart:


(i) Research activities must be conducted in the manner authorized in the permit.


(ii) Research results shall be published or otherwise made available to the scientific community in a reasonable period of time.


(iii) Research activities must be conducted under the direct supervision of the principal investigator or a co-investigator identified in the permit.


(iv) Personnel involved in research activities shall be reasonable in number and limited to:


(A) Individuals who perform a function directly supportive of and necessary to the permitted research activity; and


(B) Support personnel included for the purpose of training or as backup personnel for persons described in paragraph (c)(1)(iv)(A).


(v) Any marine mammal part imported under the authority of a scientific research permit must not have been obtained as the result of a lethal taking that would be inconsistent with the Acts, unless authorized by the Office Director.


(vi) Marine mammals held under a permit for scientific research shall not be placed on public display, included in an interactive program or activity, or trained for performance unless such activities:


(A) Are necessary to address scientific research objectives and have been specifically authorized by the Office Director under the scientific research permit; and


(B) Are conducted incidental to and do not in any way interfere with the permitted scientific research; and


(C) Are conducted in a manner consistent with provisions applicable to public display, unless exceptions are specifically authorized by the Office Director.


(vii) Any activity conducted incidental to the authorized scientific research activity must not involve any taking of marine mammals beyond what is necessary to conduct the research (i.e., educational and commercial photography).


(2) Any marine mammal or progeny held in captive maintenance under an enhancement permit shall be returned to its natural habitat as soon as feasible, consistent with the terms of the enhancement permit and the objectives of an approved conservation or recovery plan. In accordance with section 10(j) of the ESA, the Office Director may authorize the release of any population of an endangered or threatened species outside the current range of such species if the Office Director determines that such release will further the conservation of such species.


[61 FR 21938, May 10, 1996]


§ 216.42 Photography. [Reserved]

§ 216.43 Public display. [Reserved]

§ 216.44 Applicability/transition.

(a) General. The regulations of this subpart are applicable to all persons, including persons holding permits or other authorizing documents issued before June 10, 1996, by NMFS for the take, import, export, or conduct of any otherwise prohibited activity involving a marine mammal or marine mammal part for special exception purposes.


(b) Scientific research. Any intrusive research as defined in § 216.3, initiated after June 10, 1996, must be authorized under a scientific research permit. Intrusive research authorized by the Office Director to be conducted on captive marine mammals held for public display purposes prior to June 10, 1996, must be authorized under a scientific research permit one year after June 10, 1996.


[61 FR 21939, May 10, 1996]


§ 216.45 General Authorization for Level B harassment for scientific research.

(a) General Authorization. (1) Persons are authorized under section 104(c)(3)(C) of the MMPA to take marine mammals in the wild by Level B harassment, as defined in § 216.3, for purposes of bona fide scientific research Provided, That:


(i) They submit a letter of intent in accordance with the requirements of paragraph (b) of this section, receive confirmation that the General Authorization applies in accordance with paragraph (c) of this section, and comply with the terms and conditions of paragraph (d) of this section; or


(ii) If such marine mammals are listed as endangered or threatened under the ESA, they have been issued a permit under Section 10(a)(1)(A) of the ESA and implementing regulations at 50 CFR parts 217-227, particularly at § 222.23 through § 222.28, to take marine mammals in the wild for the purpose of scientific research, the taking authorized under the permit involves such Level B harassment of marine mammals or marine mammal stocks, and they comply with the terms and conditions of that permit.


(2) Except as provided under paragraph (a)(1)(ii) of this section, no taking, including harassment, of marine mammals listed as threatened or endangered under the ESA is authorized under the General Authorization. Marine mammals listed as endangered or threatened under the ESA may be taken for purposes of scientific research only after issuance of a permit for such activities pursuant to the ESA.


(3) The following types of research activities will likely qualify for inclusion under the General Authorization: Photo-identification studies, behavioral observations, and vessel and aerial population surveys (except aerial surveys over pinniped rookeries at altitudes of less than 1,000 ft).


(b) Letter of intent. Except as provided under paragraph (a)(1)(ii) of this section, any person intending to take marine mammals in the wild by Level B harassment for purposes of bona fide scientific research under the General Authorization must submit, at least 60 days before commencement of such research, a letter of intent by certified return/receipt mail to the Chief, Permits Division, F/PR1, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, 1335 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910-3226.


(1) The letter of intent must be submitted by the principal investigator (who shall be deemed the applicant). For purposes of this section, the principal investigator is the individual who is responsible for the overall research project, or the institution, governmental entity, or corporation responsible for supervision of the principal investigator.


(2) The letter of intent must include the following information:


(i) The name, address, telephone number, qualifications and experience of the applicant and any co-investigator(s) to be conducting the proposed research, and a curriculum vitae for each, including a list of publications by each such investigator relevant to the objectives, methodology, or other aspects of the proposed research;


(ii) The species or stocks of marine mammals (common and scientific names) that are the subject of the scientific research and any other species or stock of marine mammals that may be harassed during the conduct of the research;


(iii) The geographic location(s) in which the research is to be conducted, e.g., geographic name or lat./long.;


(iv) The period(s) of time over which the research will be conducted (up to five years), including the field season(s) for the research, if applicable;


(v) The purpose of the research, including a description of how the proposed research qualifies as bona fide research as defined in § 216.3; and


(vi) The methods to be used to conduct the research.


(3) The letter of intent must be signed, dated, and certified by the applicant as follows:



In accordance with section 104(c)(3)(C) of the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) and implementing regulations (50 CFR part 216), I hereby notify the National Marine Fisheries Service of my intent to conduct research involving only Level B harassment on marine mammals in the wild, and request confirmation that the General Authorization for Level B Harassment for Scientific Research applies to the proposed research as described herein. I certify that the information in this letter of intent is complete, true, and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief, and I understand that any false statement may subject me to the criminal penalties of 18 U.S.C. 1001, or penalties under the MMPA and implementing regulations. I acknowledge and accept that authority to conduct scientific research on marine mammals in the wild under the General Authorization is a limited conditional authority restricted to Level B harassment only, and that any other take of marine mammals, including the conduct of any activity that has the potential to injure marine mammals (i.e., Level A harassment), may subject me to penalties under the MMPA and implementing regulations.


(c) Confirmation that the General Authorization applies or notification of permit requirement. (1) Not later than 30 days after receipt of a letter of intent as described in paragraph (b) of this section, the Chief, Permits Division, NMFS will issue a letter to the applicant either:


(i) Confirming that the General Authorization applies to the proposed scientific research as described in the letter of intent;


(ii) Notifying the applicant that all or part of the research described in the letter of intent is likely to result in a taking of a marine mammal in the wild involving other than Level B harassment and, as a result, cannot be conducted under the General Authorization, and that a scientific research permit is required to conduct all or part of the subject research; or


(iii) Notifying the applicant that the letter of intent fails to provide sufficient information and providing a description of the deficiencies, or notifying the applicant that the proposed research as described in the letter of intent is not bona fide research as defined in § 216.3.


(2) A copy of each letter of intent and letter confirming that the General Authorization applies or notifying the applicant that it does not apply will be forwarded to the Marine Mammal Commission.


(3) Periodically, NMFS will publish a summary document in the Federal Register notifying the public of letters of confirmation issued.


(d) Terms and conditions. Persons issued letters of confirmation in accordance with paragraph (c) of this section are responsible for complying with the following terms and conditions:


(1) Activities are limited to those conducted for the purposes, by the means, in the locations, and during the periods of time described in the letter of intent and acknowledged as authorized under the General Authorization in the confirmation letter sent pursuant to paragraph (c) of this section;


(2) Annual reports of activities conducted under the General Authorization must be submitted to the Chief, Permits Division (address listed in paragraph (b) of this section) within 90 days of completion of the last field season(s) during the calendar year or, if the research is not conducted during a defined field season, no later than 90 days after the anniversary date of the letter of confirmation issued under paragraph (c) of this section. Annual reports must include:


(i) A summary of research activities conducted;


(ii) Identification of the species and number of each species taken by Level B harassment;


(iii) An evaluation of the progress made in meeting the objectives of the research as described in the letter of intent; and


(iv) Any incidental scientific, educational, or commercial uses of photographs, videotape, and film obtained as a result of or incidental to the research and if so, names of all photographers.


(3) Authorization to conduct research under the General Authorization is for the period(s) of time identified in the letter of intent or for a period of 5 years from the date of the letter of confirmation issued under paragraph (c) of this section, whichever is less, unless extended by the Director or modified, suspended, or revoked in accordance with paragraph (e) of this section;


(4) Activities conducted under the General Authorization may only be conducted under the on-site supervision of the principal investigator or co-investigator(s) named in the letter of intent. All personnel involved in the conduct of activities under the General Authorization must perform a function directly supportive of and necessary for the research being conducted, or be one of a reasonable number of support personnel included for the purpose of training or as back-up personnel;


(5) The principal investigator must notify the appropriate Regional Director, NMFS, (Regional Director) in writing at least 2 weeks before initiation of on-site activities. The Regional Director shall consider this information in efforts to coordinate field research activities to minimize adverse impacts on marine mammals in the wild. The principal investigator must cooperate with coordination efforts by the Regional Director in this regard;


(6) If research activities result in a taking which exceeds Level B harassment, the applicant shall:


(i) Report the taking within 12 hours to the Director, Office of Protected Resources, or his designee as set forth in the letter authorizing research; and


(ii) Temporarily discontinue for 72 hours all field research activities that resulted in the taking. During this time period, the applicant shall consult with NMFS as to the circumstances surrounding the taking and any precautions necessary to prevent future taking, and may agree to amend the research protocol, as deemed necessary by NMFS.


(7) NMFS may review scientific research conducted pursuant to the General Authorization. If requested by NMFS, the applicant must cooperate with any such review and shall:


(i) Allow any employee of NOAA or any other person designated by the Director, Office of Protected Resources to observe research activities; and


(ii) Provide any documents or other information relating to the scientific research;


(8) Any photographs, videotape, or film obtained during the conduct of research under the General Authorization must be identified by a statement that refers to the General Authorization or ESA permit number, and includes the file number provided by NMFS in the confirmation letter, the name of the photographer, and the date the image was taken. This statement must accompany the image(s) in all subsequent uses or sales. The annual report must note incidental scientific, educational, or commercial uses of the images, and if there are any such uses, the names of all photographers; and


(9) Persons conducting scientific research under authority of the General Authorization may not transfer or assign any authority granted thereunder to any other person.


(e) Suspension, revocation, or modification. (1) NMFS may suspend, revoke, or modify the authority to conduct scientific research under the General Authorization if:


(i) The letter of intent included false information or statements of a material nature;


(ii) The research does not constitute bona fide scientific research;


(iii) Research activities result in takings of marine mammals other than by Level B harassment;


(iv) Research activities differ from those described in the letter of intent submitted by the applicant and letter of confirmation issued by NMFS; or


(v) The applicant violates any term or condition set forth in this section.


(2) Any suspension, revocation, or modification is subject to the requirements of 15 CFR part 904.


[59 FR 50376, Oct. 3, 1994]


§ 216.46 U.S. citizens on foreign flag vessels operating under the International Dolphin Conservation Program.

The MMPA’s provisions do not apply to a citizen of the United States who incidentally takes any marine mammal during fishing operations in the ETP which are outside the U.S. exclusive economic zone (as defined in section 3 of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (16 U.S.C. 1802)), while employed on a fishing vessel of a harvesting nation that is participating in, and in compliance with, the IDCP.


_____

__________

[65 FR 56, Jan. 3, 2000]


§ 216.47 Access to marine mammal tissue, analyses, and data.

(a) Applications for the National Marine Mammal Tissue Bank samples (NMMTB). (1) A principal investigator, contributor or holder of a scientific research permit issued in accordance with the provisions of this subpart may apply for access to a tissue specimen sample in the NMMTB. Applicants for tissue specimen samples from the NMMTB must submit a signed written request with attached study plan to the Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program (MMHSRP) Program Manager, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS. The written request must include:


(i) A clear and concise statement of the proposed use of the banked tissue specimen. The applicant must demonstrate that the proposed use of the banked tissue is consistent with the goals of the NMMTB and the MMHSRP.


(A) The goals of the MMHSRP are to facilitate the collection and dissemination of reference data on marine mammals and health trends of marine mammal populations in the wild; to correlate the health of marine mammals and marine mammal populations in the wild with available data on physical, chemical, and biological environmental parameters; and to coordinate effective responses to unusual mortality events.


(B) The goal of the NMMTB is to maintain quality controlled marine mammal tissues that will permit retrospective analyses to determine environmental trends of contaminants and other analytes of interest and that will provide the highest quality samples for analyses using new and innovative techniques.


(ii) A copy of the applicant’s scientific research permit. The applicant must demonstrate that the proposed use of the banked tissue is authorized by the permit;


(iii) Name of principal investigator, official title, and affiliated research or academic organization;


(iv) Specific tissue sample and quantity desired;


(v) Research facility where analyses will be conducted. The applicant must demonstrate that the research facility will follow the Analytical Quality Assurance (AQA) program, which was designed to ensure the accuracy, precision, level of detection, and intercompatibility of data resulting from chemical analyses of marine mammal tissues. The AQA consists of annual interlaboratory comparisons and the development of control materials and standard reference materials for marine mammal tissues;


(vi) Verification that funding is available to conduct the research;


(vii) Estimated date for completion of research, and schedule/date of subsequent reports;


(viii) Agreement that all research findings based on use of the banked tissue will be reported to the NMMTB, MMHSRP Program Manager and the contributor; and the sequences of tissue specimen samples that are used/released for genetic analyses (DNA sequencing) will be archived in the National Center for biotechnology Information’s GenBank. Sequence accessions in GenBank should document the source, citing a NIST field number that indentifies the animal; and


(ix) Agreement that credit and acknowledgment will be given to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), US Geologic Service (USGS), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the Minerals Management Service (MMS), NMFS, the NMMTB, and the collector for use of banked tissues.


(2) The applicant shall insert the following acknowledgment in all publications, abstracts, or presentations based on research using the banked tissue:



The specimens used in this study were collected by [the contributor] and provided by the National Marine Mammal Tissue Bank, which is maintained in the National Biomonitoring Specimen Bank at NIST and which is operated under the direction of NMFS with the collaboration of MMS, USGS, USFWS, and NIST through the Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program [and the Alaska Marine Mammal Tissue Archival Project if the samples are from Alaska].


(3) Upon submission of a complete application, the MMHSRP Program Manager will send the request and attached study plan to the following entities which will function as the review committee:


(i) Appropriate Federal agency (NMFS or USFWS) marine mammal management office for that particular species; and


(ii) Representatives of the NMMTB Collaborating Agencies (NMFS, USFS, USGS Biological Resources Division, and NIST) If no member of the review committee is an expert in the field that is related to the proposed research activity, any member may request an outside review of the proposal, which may be outside of NMFS or USFWS but within the Federal Government.


(4) The MMHSRP Program Manager will send the request and attached study plan to any contributor(s) of the tissue specimen sample. The contributor(s) of the sample may submit comments on the proposed research activity to the Director, Office of Protected Resources within 30 days of the date that the request was sent to the contributor(s).


(5) The USFWS Representative of the NMMTB Collaborating Agencies will be chair of review committees for requests involving species managed by the DOI. The MMHSRP Program Manager will be chair of all other review committees.


(6) Each committee chair will provide recommendations on the request and an evaluation of the study plan to the Director, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS.


(7) The Director, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, will make the final decision on release of the samples based on the advice provided by the review committee, comments received from any contributor(s) of the sample within the time provided in paragraph (a)(4) of this section, and determination that the proposed use of the banked tissue specimen is consistent with the goals of the MMHSRP and the NMMTB. The Director will send a written decision to the applicant and send copies to all review committee members. If the samples are released, the response will indicate whether the samples have been homogenized and, if not, the homogenization schedule.


(8) The applicant will bear all shipping and homogenization costs related to use of any specimens from the NMMTB.


(9) The applicant will dispose of the tissue specimen sample consistent with the provisions of the applicant’s scientific research permit after the research is completed, unless the requester submits another request and receives approval pursuant to this section. The request must be submitted within three months after the original project has been completed.


(b) [Reserved]


[69 FR 41979, July 13, 2004]


§§ 216.48-216.49 [Reserved]

Subpart E – Designated Ports

§ 216.50 Importation at designated ports.

(a) Any marine mammal or marine mammal product which is subject to the jurisdiction of the National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Commerce and is intended for importation into the United States shall be subject to the provisions of 50 CFR part 14.


(b) For the information of importers, designated ports of entry for the United States are:



New York, N.Y.

Miami, Fla.

Chicago, Ill.

San Francisco, Calif.

Los Angeles, Calif.

New Orleans, La.

Seattle, Wash.

Honolulu, Hi.

(c) Additionally, marine mammals or marine mammal products which are entered into Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa or the Virgin Islands and which are not to be forwarded or transhipped within the United States may be imported through the following ports:



Alaska – Juneau, Anchorage, Fairbanks

Hawaii – Honolulu

Puerto Rico – San Juan

Guam – Honolulu, Hi.

American Samoa – Honolulu, Hi.

Virgin Islands – San Juan, P.R.

(d) Importers are advised to see 50 CFR part 14 for importation requirements and information.


[39 FR 1852, Jan. 15, 1974. Redesignated at 59 FR 50376, Oct. 3, 1994]


Subpart F – Pribilof Islands, Taking for Subsistence Purposes

§ 216.71 Allowable take of fur seals.

Pribilovians may take fur seals on the Pribilof Islands if such taking is


(a) For subsistence uses, and


(b) Not accomplished in a wasteful manner.


[51 FR 24840, July 9, 1986. Redesignated at 61 FR 11750, Mar. 22, 1996]


§ 216.72 Restrictions on subsistence use of fur seals.

(a) The harvests of seals on St. Paul and St. George Islands shall be treated independently for the purposes of this section. Any suspension, termination, or extension of the harvest is applicable only to the island for which it is issued.


(b)-(c)[Reserved]


(d) St. George Island. The subsistence fur seal harvest restrictions described in paragraphs (d)(1) through (5) of this section apply exclusively to the harvest of sub-adult fur seals; restrictions that apply exclusively to the harvest of young of the year fur seals can be found in paragraphs (d)(6) through (11) of this section. For the taking of fur seals for subsistence uses, Pribilovians on St. George Island may harvest up to a total of 500 male fur seals per year over the course of both the sub-adult male harvest and the male young of the year harvest. Pribilovians are authorized each year up to three mortalities of female fur seals associated with the subsistence seasons. Any female fur seal mortalities will be included in the total authorized subsistence harvest of 500 fur seals per year.


(1) Pribilovians may only harvest sub-adult male fur seals 124.5 centimeters or less in length from June 23 through August 8 annually on St. George Island.


(2) Pribilovians may harvest sub-adult male fur seals at the hauling grounds shown in Figure 1 to part 216. No hauling ground may be harvested more than twice per week.


(3) [Reserved]


(4) The scheduling of the sub-adult male harvest is at the discretion of the Pribilovians, but must be such as to minimize stress to the harvested seals. The Pribilovians must give adequate advance notice of their harvest schedules to the NMFS representatives to allow for necessary monitoring activities. No fur seal may be taken except by experienced sealers using the traditional harvesting methods, including stunning followed immediately by exsanguination. The harvesting method shall include organized drives of sub-adult male fur seals to killing fields, unless the NMFS representatives determine, in consultation with the Pribilovians conducting the harvest, that alternative methods will not result in increased disturbance to the rookery or the increased accidental take of female seals.


(5) [Reserved]


(6) Pribilovians may only harvest male young of the year from September 16 through November 30 annually on St. George Island. Pribilovians may harvest up to 150 male fur seal young of the year annually.


(7) No more than 50 male young of the year may be harvested from each of the following regions where fur seals congregate: East region includes the breeding areas known as East Reef and East Cliffs rookeries and the associated non-breeding hauling grounds; South region includes the breeding areas known as Zapadni and South rookeries and the associated non-breeding hauling grounds; and North region includes the breeding areas known as North and Staraya Artil rookeries and associated non-breeding hauling grounds, as shown in Figure 1 to part 216. No area may be harvested more than twice per week and must be in accordance with paragraph (d)(10) of this section.


(8) The scheduling of the young of the year harvest is at the discretion of the Pribilovians, but must be such as to minimize stress to the harvested and un-harvested fur seals and minimize the take of female fur seals. The Pribilovians must give adequate advance notice of their harvest schedules to the NMFS representatives to allow for necessary monitoring activities. No fur seal may be taken except by sealers using the harvesting methods implemented to reduce disturbance, injury, and accidental mortality of female fur seals. Pribilovians may use, but are not limited to, organized drives of young of the year fur seals from congregating areas to inland killing fields. Methods of harvest must include identification of male young of the year, followed by stunning and immediate exsanguination, unless the NMFS representatives, in consultation with the Pribilovians conducting the harvest, determine that alternative methods will not result in increased stress to harvested and un-harvested fur seals, increased disturbance or injury to resting fur seals, or the accidental mortality of female seals.


(9) [Reserved]


(10) No young of the year fur seals may be taken from any designated breeding area or its associated hauling ground(s) where the most recent NMFS analysis projects that pup production has greater than a 5 percent probability of falling below a level capable of sustaining a harvest in 10 years.


(11) No more than 120 days after the final subsistence harvest each calendar year, NMFS representatives and St. George Island community members must review the implementation of the harvest and consider best harvest practices and determine if implementation can be improved to better meet the subsistence needs of the St. George Island community or reduce negative effects on fur seals.


(e) St. Paul Island. For the taking of fur seals for subsistence uses, Pribilovians on St. Paul Island are authorized to take by hunt and harvest up to 2,000 juvenile (less than 7 years old, including pups) male fur seals per year.


(1) Juvenile male fur seals may be killed with firearms from January 1 through May 31 annually, or may be killed using alternative hunting methods developed through the St. Paul Island Co-management Council if those methods are consistent with § 216.71 and result in substantially similar effects. A firearm is any weapon, such as a pistol or rifle, capable of firing a missile using an explosive charge as a propellant.


(2) Juvenile male fur seals may be harvested without the use of firearms from June 23 through December 31 annually. Authorized harvest may be by established harvest methods of herding and stunning followed immediately by exsanguination, or by alternative harvest methods developed through the St. Paul Island Co-management Council if those methods are consistent with § 216.71 and result in substantially similar effects.


(3) Pribilovians are authorized each year up to 20 mortalities of female fur seals associated with the subsistence seasons. Any female fur seal mortalities will be included in the total number of fur seals authorized per year for subsistence uses (2,000).


(f) Subsistence use suspension provisions. (1) The Assistant Administrator is required to suspend the take provided for in § 216.71 on St. George and/or St. Paul Islands, as appropriate, when:


(i) He or she determines that subsistence use is being conducted in a wasteful manner; or


(ii) With regard to St. George Island, two female fur seals have been killed during the subsistence seasons on St. George Island.


(2) A suspension based on a determination under paragraph (f)(1)(i) of this section may be lifted by the Assistant Administrator if he or she finds that the conditions that led to the determination that subsistence use was being conducted in a wasteful manner have been remedied.


(3) A suspension based on a determination under paragraph (f)(1)(ii) of this section may be lifted by the Assistant Administrator if he or she finds that the conditions that led to the killing of two female fur seals on St. George Island have been remedied and additional or improved methods to detect female fur seals during the subsistence seasons are being implemented.


(g) Subsistence use termination provisions. The Assistant Administrator shall terminate the annual take provided for in § 216.71 on the Pribilof Islands, as follows:


(1) For St. Paul Island:


(i) For the hunting of juvenile male fur seals with firearms, at the end of the day on May 31 or when 2,000 fur seals have been killed, whichever comes first;


(ii) For the harvest of juvenile male fur seals without firearms, at the end of the day on December 31 or when 2,000 fur seals have been killed, whichever comes first; or


(iii) When 20 female fur seals have been killed during the subsistence seasons.


(2) For St. George Island:


(i) For the sub-adult male harvest, at the end of the day on August 8 or when 500 sub-adult male seals have been harvested, whichever comes first;


(ii) For the male young of the year harvest, at the end of the day on November 30 or earlier when either of the following occurs first: 150 male young of the year fur seals have been harvested or a total of 500 male sub-adult and male young of the year fur seals have been harvested; or


(iii) When three female fur seals have been killed during the subsistence seasons.


[51 FR 24840, July 9, 1986, as amended at 57 FR 33902, July 31, 1992; 59 FR 35474, July 12, 1994. Redesignated at 61 FR 11750, Mar. 22, 1996, as amended at 79 FR 65337, Nov. 4, 2014; 84 FR 52382, Oct. 2, 2019; 85 FR 15948, Mar. 20, 2020]


§ 216.73 Disposition of fur seal parts.

Except for transfers to other Alaskan Natives for barter or sharing for personal or family consumption, no part of a fur seal taken for subsistence uses may be sold or otherwise transferred to any person unless it is a nonedible byproduct which:


(a) Has been transformed into an article of handicraft, or


(b) Is being sent by an Alaskan Native directly, or through a registered agent, to a tannery registered under 50 CFR 216.23(c) for the purpose of processing, and will be returned directly to the Alaskan Native for conversion into an article of handicraft, or


(c) Is being sold or transferred to an Alaskan Native, or to an agent registered under 50 CFR 216.23(c) for resale or transfer to an Alaskan Native, who will convert the seal part into a handicraft.


[51 FR 24840, July 9, 1986. Redesignated at 61 FR 11750, Mar. 22, 1996]


§ 216.74 Cooperation between fur seal subsistence users, tribal and Federal officials.

Federal scientists and Pribilovians cooperatively manage the subsistence use of northern fur seals under section 119 of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (16 U.S.C. 1388). The federally recognized tribes on the Pribilof Islands have signed agreements describing a shared interest in the conservation and management of fur seals and the designation of co-management councils that meet and address the purposes of the co-management agreements for representatives from NMFS, St. George and St. Paul tribal governments. NMFS representatives are responsible for compiling information related to sources of human-caused mortality and serious injury of marine mammals. The Pribilovians are responsible for reporting their subsistence needs and actual level of subsistence take. This information is used to update stock assessment reports and make determinations under § 216.72. Pribilovians who take fur seals for subsistence uses collaborate with NMFS representatives and the respective Tribal representatives to consider best subsistence use practices under co-management and to facilitate scientific research.


[84 FR 52383, Oct. 2, 2019, as amnded at 85 FR 15948, Mar. 20, 2020]


Subpart G – Pribilof Islands Administration

§ 216.81 Visits to fur seal rookeries.

From June 1 to October 15 of each year, no person, except those authorized by a representative of the National Marine Fisheries Service, or accompanied by an authorized employee of the National Marine Fisheries Service, shall approach any fur seal rookery or hauling grounds nor pass beyond any posted sign forbidding passage.


[41 FR 49488, Nov. 9, 1976. Redesignated at 61 FR 11750, Mar. 22, 1996]


§ 216.82 Dogs prohibited.

In order to prevent molestation of fur seal herds, the landing of any dogs at Pribilof Islands is prohibited.


[41 FR 49488, Nov. 9, 1976. Redesignated at 61 FR 11750, Mar. 22, 1996]


§ 216.83 Importation of birds or mammals.

No mammals or birds, except household cats, canaries and parakeets, shall be imported to the Pribilof Islands without the permission of an authorized representative of the National Marine Fisheries Service.


[41 FR 49488, Nov. 9, 1976. Redesignated at 61 FR 11750, Mar. 22, 1996]


§ 216.84 [Reserved]

§ 216.85 Walrus and Otter Islands.

By Executive Order 1044, dated February 27, 1909, Walrus and Otter Islands were set aside as bird reservations. All persons are prohibited to land on these islands except those authorized by the appropriate representative of the National Marine Fisheries Service.


[41 FR 49488, Nov. 9, 1976. Redesignated at 61 FR 11750, Mar. 22, 1996]


§ 216.86 Local regulations.

Local regulations will be published from time to time and will be brought to the attention of local residents and persons assigned to duty on the Islands by posting in public places and brought to the attention of tourists by personal notice.


[41 FR 49488, Nov. 9, 1976. Redesignated at 61 FR 11750, Mar. 22, 1996]


§ 216.87 Wildlife research.

(a) Wildlife research, other than research on North Pacific fur seals, including specimen collection, may be permitted on the Pribilof Islands subject to the following conditions:


(1) Any person or agency, seeking to conduct such research shall first obtain any Federal or State of Alaska permit required for the type of research involved.


(2) Any person seeking to conduct such research shall obtain prior approval of the Director, Pribilof Islands Program, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 1700 Westlake Avenue North, Seattle, WA 98109, by filing with the Director an application which shall include:


(i) Copies of the required Federal and State of Alaska permits; and


(ii) A resume of the intended research program.


(3) All approved research shall be subject to all regulations and administrative procedures in effect on the Pribilof Islands, and such research shall not commence until approval from the Director is received.


(4) Any approved research program shall be subject to such terms and conditions as the Director, Pribilof Islands Program deems appropriate.


(5) Permission to utilize the Pribilof Islands to conduct an approved research program may be revoked by the Director, Pribilof Islands Program at any time for noncompliance with any terms and conditions, or for violations of any regulation or administrative procedure in effect on the Pribilof Islands.


[43 FR 5521, Feb. 9, 1978. Redesignated at 61 FR 11750, Mar. 22, 1996]


Subpart H – Dolphin Safe Tuna Labeling


Authority:16 U.S.C. 1385.

§ 216.90 Purposes.

This subpart governs the requirements for using the official mark described in § 216.95 or an alternative mark that refers to dolphins, porpoises, or marine mammals, to label tuna or tuna products offered for sale in or exported from the United States using the term dolphin-safe or suggesting the tuna were harvested in a manner not injurious to dolphins.


[69 FR 55307, Sept. 13, 2004]


§ 216.91 Dolphin-safe labeling standards.

(a) It is a violation of Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act (15 U.S.C. 45) for any producer, importer, exporter, wholesaler/distributor, or seller of any tuna products that are exported from or offered for sale in the United States to include on the label of those products the term “dolphin-safe” or any other term or symbol that claims or suggests that the tuna contained in the products were harvested using a method of fishing that is not harmful to dolphins if the products contain tuna harvested:


(1) ETP large purse seine vessel. In the ETP by a purse seine vessel of greater than 400 st (362.8 mt) carrying capacity unless:


(i) The documentation requirements for dolphin-safe tuna under §§ 216.92 and 216.93 are met;


(ii) No dolphins were killed or seriously injured during the sets in which the tuna were caught; and


(iii) None of the tuna were caught on a trip using a purse seine net intentionally deployed on or to encircle dolphins, provided that this paragraph (a)(1)(iii) will not apply if the Assistant Administrator publishes a notification in the Federal Register announcing a finding under 16 U.S.C. 1385(g)(2) that the intentional deployment of purse seine nets on or encirclement of dolphins is not having a significant adverse impact on any depleted stock.


(2) Driftnet. By a vessel engaged in large-scale driftnet fishing; or


(3) Other fisheries. By a vessel in a fishery other than one described in paragraph (a)(1) or (2) of this section unless such product is accompanied as described in § 216.93(d), (e), or (f), as appropriate, by:


(i) For tuna caught in a purse seine fishery outside the ETP by a vessel on a fishing trip that began before July 13, 2013, a written statement executed by the Captain of the vessel certifying that no purse seine net was intentionally deployed on or used to encircle dolphins during the particular trip on which the tuna was harvested.


(ii) For tuna caught by a vessel on a fishing trip that began on or after July 13, 2013, and before May 21, 2016, a written statement executed by the Captain of the vessel certifying:


(A) For a purse seine vessel outside the ETP, that no purse seine net was intentionally deployed on or used to encircle dolphins during the fishing trip in which the tuna were caught, and that no dolphins were killed or seriously injured in the sets in which the tuna were caught;


(B) For a vessel other than one described in paragraph (a)(3)(ii)(A) of this section, that no dolphins were killed or seriously injured in the sets or other gear deployments in which the tuna were caught.


(iii) For tuna caught by a vessel on a fishing trip that began on or after May 21, 2016, a written statement executed by the Captain of the vessel certifying that:


(A) No purse seine net or other fishing gear was intentionally deployed on or used to encircle dolphins during the fishing trip in which the tuna were caught, and that no dolphins were killed or seriously injured in the sets or other gear deployments in which the tuna were caught; and


(B) The Captain of the vessel has completed the NMFS Tuna Tracking and Verification Program dolphin-safe captain’s training course. The NMFS Tuna Tracking and Verification Program dolphin-safe captain’s training course is available on the website of the NMFS Tuna Tracking and Verification Program at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/dolphin-safe.


(iv) For tuna caught in a fishery where the Assistant Administrator has determined that observers participating in a national or international observer program are qualified and authorized to issue observer statements for purposes of the dolphin-safe labeling program, and where such an observer is on board the vessel, a written statement executed by the observer, or by an authorized representative of a nation participating in the observer program based on information from the observer. Any determination by the Assistant Administrator shall be announced in a notice published in the Federal Register. Determinations under this paragraph (a)(3)(iv) will also be publicized on the website of the NMFS Tuna Tracking and Verification Program (https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/dolphin-safe). The written statement shall certify:


(A) That no dolphins were killed or seriously injured in the sets or other gear deployments in which the tuna were caught; and,


(B) In purse seine fisheries, that no purse seine net was intentionally deployed on or used to encircle dolphins during the trip on which the tuna were caught.


(v) For tuna caught in a fishery in which the Assistant Administrator has determined that either a regular and significant association between dolphins and tuna (similar to the association between dolphins and tuna in the ETP) or a regular and significant mortality or serious injury of dolphins is occurring, a written statement, executed by the Captain of the vessel and an observer participating in a national or international program acceptable to the Assistant Administrator, unless the Assistant Administrator determines an observer statement is unnecessary. Determinations under this paragraph (a)(3)(v) will also be publicized on the website of the NMFS Tuna Tracking and Verification Program (https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/dolphin-safe). The written statement shall certify that:


(A) No fishing gear was intentionally deployed on or used to encircle dolphins during the trip on which the tuna were caught;


(B) No dolphins were killed or seriously injured in the sets or other gear deployments in which the tuna were caught; and


(C) Any relevant requirements of paragraph (a)(4) of this section were complied with during the trip on which the tuna were caught.


(4) Other fisheries – segregation. In a fishery other than one described in paragraph (a)(1) or (2) of this section on a fishing trip that began on or after July 13, 2013 unless the tuna caught in sets or gear deployments designated as dolphin-safe was stored physically separate from tuna caught in a non-dolphin-safe set or other gear deployment by the use of netting, other material, or separate storage areas from the time of capture through unloading. If tuna caught in a set or other gear deployment where a dolphin was killed or seriously injured is not stored physically separate from dolphin-safe tuna as stated in § 216.93(c)(2)(i) or (c)(3)(i), as applicable, all tuna inside the storage well or other storage location shall be considered non-dolphin-safe.


(5) Other fisheries – chain of custody recordkeeping. By a vessel in a fishery other than one described in paragraph (a)(1) or (2) of this section unless:


(i) For tuna designated dolphin-safe that was harvested on a fishing trip that began on or after May 21, 2016, in addition to any other applicable requirements:


(A) The importer of record or U.S. processor of tuna or tuna products, as applicable, maintains information on the complete chain of custody, including storage facilities, transshippers, processors, re-processors, and wholesalers/distributors to enable dolphin-safe tuna to be distinguished from non-dolphin-safe tuna from the time it is caught to the time it is ready for retail sale;


(B) The importer of record or the U.S. processor, as appropriate, ensures that information is readily available to NMFS upon request to allow it to trace any non-dolphin-safe tuna loaded onto the vessel back to one or more storage wells or other storage locations for a particular fishing trip and to show that such non-dolphin-safe tuna was kept physically separate from dolphin-safe tuna through unloading.


(ii) For tuna designated dolphin-safe that was harvested in a fishery about which the Assistant Administrator made a determination under paragraph (a)(3)(v) of this section, and harvested on a fishing trip that begins on or after 60 days after the date of the Federal Register notice of that determination, the tuna or tuna products are accompanied by valid documentation signed by a representative of the vessel flag nation or the processing nation (if processed in another nation) certifying that:


(A) The catch documentation is correct;


(B) The tuna or tuna products meet the dolphin-safe labeling standards under this section; and


(C) The chain of custody information is correct.


(iii) The information referred to in paragraphs (a)(5)(i) and (ii) of this section is maintained at the place of business of the importer of record or the U.S. processor, as applicable, for a period of 2 years from the date of the import or receipt, and be made available to NMFS for inspection upon request.


(b) It is a violation of section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act (15 U.S.C. 45) to willingly and knowingly use a label referred to in this section in a campaign or effort to mislead or deceive consumers about the level of protection afforded dolphins under the IDCP.


(c) A tuna product that is labeled with the official mark, described in § 216.95, may not be labeled with any other label or mark that refers to dolphins, porpoises, or marine mammals.


[81 FR 15448, Mar. 23, 2016, as amended at 81 FR 15449, Mar. 23, 2016; 83 FR 3626, Jan. 26, 2018]


§ 216.92 Dolphin-safe requirements for tuna harvested in the ETP by large purse seine vessels.

(a) U.S. vessels. Tuna products that contain tuna harvested by U.S. flag purse seine vessels of greater than 400 st (362.8 mt) carrying capacity in the ETP may be labeled dolphin-safe only if the following requirements are met:


(1) Tuna Tracking Forms containing a complete record of all the fishing activities on the trip, certified by the vessel Captain and the observer, are submitted to the Administrator, Southwest Region, at the end of the fishing trip during which the tuna was harvested;


(2) The tuna is delivered for processing to a U.S. tuna processor in a plant located in one of the 50 states, Puerto Rico, or American Samoa that is in compliance with the tuna tracking and verification requirements of § 216.93; and


(3) The tuna or tuna products meet the dolphin-safe labeling standards under § 216.91.


(b) Imported tuna. (1) Yellowfin tuna or tuna products harvested in the ETP by vessels of greater than 400 st (362.8 mt) carrying capacity and presented for import into the United States may be labeled dolphin-safe only if the yellowfin tuna was harvested by a U.S. vessel fishing in compliance with the requirements of the IDCP and applicable U.S. law, or by a vessel belonging to a nation that has obtained an affirmative finding under § 216.24(f)(8).


(2) Tuna or tuna products, other than yellowfin tuna, harvested in the ETP by purse seine vessels of greater than 400 st (362.8 mt) carrying capacity and presented for import into the United States may be labeled dolphin-safe only if:


(i) The tuna was harvested by a U.S. vessel fishing in compliance with the requirements of the IDCP and applicable U.S. law, or by a vessel belonging to a nation that is a Party to the Agreement on the IDCP or has applied to become a Party and is adhering to all the requirements of the Agreement on the IDCP Tuna Tracking and Verification Plan;


(ii) The tuna or tuna products are accompanied as described in § 216.24(f)(3) by a properly completed FCO; and


(iii) The tuna or tuna products are accompanied as described in § 216.24(f)(3) by valid documentation signed by a representative of the appropriate IDCP member nation, containing the harvesting vessel names and tuna tracking form numbers represented in the shipment, and certifying that:


(A) There was an IDCP approved observer on board the vessel(s) during the entire trip(s); and


(B) The tuna contained in the shipment were caught according to the dolphin-safe labeling standards of § 216.91.


[69 FR 55307, Sept. 13, 2004, as amended at 74 FR 1617, Jan. 13, 2009]


§ 216.93 Tracking and verification program.

The Administrator, Southwest Region, has established a national tracking and verification program to accurately document the dolphin-safe condition of tuna, under the standards set forth in §§ 216.91 and 216.92. The tracking program includes procedures and reports for use when importing tuna into the United States and during U.S. fishing, processing, and marketing in the United States and abroad. Verification of tracking system operations is attained through the establishment of audit and document review requirements. The tracking program is consistent with the international tuna tracking and verification program adopted by the Parties to the Agreement on the IDCP.


(a) Tuna tracking forms. Whenever a U.S. flag tuna purse seine vessel of greater than 400 st (362.8 mt) carrying capacity fishes in the ETP, IDCP approved Tuna Tracking Forms (TTFs), bearing a unique number assigned to that trip, are used by the observer to record every set made during that trip. One TTF is used to record dolphin-safe sets and a second TTF is used to record non-dolphin-safe sets. The information entered on the TTFs following each set includes the date, well number, weights by species composition, estimated tons loaded, and additional notes, if any. The observer and the vessel engineer initial the entry as soon as possible following each set, and the vessel captain and observer review and sign both TTFs at the end of the fishing trip certifying that the information on the forms is accurate. TTFs are confidential official documents of the IDCP, consistent with Article XVIII of the Agreement on the IDCP, and the Agreement on the IDCP Rules of Confidentiality.


(b) Dolphin-Safe Certification. Upon request, the Office of the Administrator, Southwest Region, will provide written certification that tuna harvested by U.S. purse seine vessels greater than 400 st (362.8 mt) carrying capacity is dolphin-safe, but only if NMFS’ review of the TTFs for the subject trip shows that the tuna for which the certification is requested is dolphin-safe under the requirements of the Agreement on the IDCP and U.S. law.


(c) Tracking fishing operations. (1) ETP large purse seine vessel. In the ETP by a purse seine vessel of greater than 400 st (362.8 mt) carrying capacity:


(i) During fishing trips, any part of which included fishing in the ETP, by purse seine vessels greater than 400 st (362.8 mt) carrying capacity, tuna caught in sets designated as dolphin-safe by the vessel observer must be stored separately from tuna caught in non-dolphin-safe sets from the time of capture through unloading. Vessel personnel will decide into which wells tuna will be loaded. The observer will initially designate whether each set is dolphin-safe or not, based on his/her observation of the set. The observer will initially identify a vessel fish well as dolphin-safe if the first tuna loaded into the well during a trip was captured in a set in which no dolphin died or was seriously injured. The observer will initially identify a vessel fish well as non-dolphin-safe if the first tuna loaded into the well during a trip was captured in a set in which a dolphin died or was seriously injured. Any tuna loaded into a well previously designated non-dolphin-safe is considered non-dolphin-safe tuna. The observer will change the designation of a dolphin-safe well to non-dolphin-safe if any tuna are loaded into the well that were captured in a set in which a dolphin died or was seriously injured.


(ii) The captain, managing owner, or vessel agent of a U.S. purse seine vessel greater than 400 st (362.8 mt) returning to port from a trip, any part of which included fishing in the ETP, must provide at least 48 hours’ notice of the vessel’s intended place of landing, arrival time, and schedule of unloading to the Administrator, Southwest Region.


(iii) If the trip terminates when the vessel enters port to unload part or all of its catch, new TTFs will be assigned to the new trip, and any information concerning tuna retained on the vessel will be recorded as the first entry on the TTFs for the new trip. If the trip is not terminated following a partial unloading, the vessel will retain the original TTFs and submit a copy of those TTFs to the Administrator, Southwest Region, within 5 working days. In either case, the species and amount unloaded will be noted on the respective originals.


(iv) Tuna offloaded to trucks, storage facilities, or carrier vessels must be loaded or stored in such a way as to maintain and safeguard the identification of the dolphin-safe or non-dolphin-safe designation of the tuna as it left the fishing vessel.


(v) The handling of TTFs and the tracking and verification of tuna caught in the Convention Area by a U.S. purse seine vessel greater than 400 st (362.8 mt) carrying capacity shall be conducted consistent with the international tuna tracking and verification program adopted by the Parties to the Agreement on the IDCP.


(2) Purse seine vessel other than ETP large purse seine vessel. This paragraph (c)(2) applies to tuna product labeled dolphin-safe that includes tuna harvested on a fishing trip that began on or after July 13, 2013, in the ETP by a purse seine vessel of 400 st (362.8 mt) or less carrying capacity or by a purse seine vessel outside the ETP of any carrying capacity.


(i) Tuna caught in sets designated as dolphin-safe must be stored separately from tuna caught in non-dolphin-safe sets from the time of capture through unloading. Tuna caught in sets where a dolphin died or was seriously injured must be stored in a well designated as non-dolphin-safe by the captain or, where applicable, by a qualified and authorized observer under § 216.91. Any tuna loaded into a well previously designated non-dolphin-safe is considered non-dolphin-safe tuna. The captain or, where applicable, a qualified and authorized observer under § 216.91, will change the designation of a dolphin-safe well to non-dolphin-safe if any tuna are loaded into the well that were captured in a set in which a dolphin died or was seriously injured. If a purse seine vessel has only one well used to store tuna, dolphin-safe tuna must be kept physically separate from non-dolphin-safe tuna by using netting or other material. If a purse seine vessel has more than one well used to store tuna, all tuna inside a well shall be considered non-dolphin-safe, if at any time non-dolphin-safe tuna is loaded into the well, regardless of the use of netting or other material inside the well.


(ii) Tuna offloaded to trucks, storage facilities, or carrier vessels must be loaded or stored in such a way as to maintain and safeguard the identification of the dolphin-safe or non-dolphin-safe designation of the tuna as it left the fishing vessel.


(3) Other vessels. This paragraph (c)(3) applies to tuna product labeled dolphin-safe that includes tuna harvested by a vessel on a fishing trip that began on or after July 13, 2013 other than ones described in paragraphs (c)(1) or (2) of this section:


(i) Tuna caught in sets or other gear deployments designated as dolphin-safe must be stored separately from tuna caught in non-dolphin-safe sets or other gear deployments from the time of capture through unloading. Dolphin-safe tuna must be kept physically separate from non-dolphin-safe tuna by using netting, other material, or separate storage areas. The captain or, where applicable, a qualified and authorized observer under § 216.91, must designate the storage areas for dolphin-safe and non-dolphin-safe tuna.


(ii) Tuna offloaded to trucks, storage facilities, or carrier vessels must be loaded or stored in such a way as to maintain and safeguard the identification of the dolphin-safe or non-dolphin-safe designation of the tuna as it left the fishing vessel.


(d) Tracking cannery operations. (1) Whenever a U.S. tuna canning company in the 50 states, Puerto Rico, or American Samoa receives a domestic or imported shipment of tuna for processing, a NMFS representative may be present to monitor delivery and verify that dolphin-safe and non-dolphin-safe tuna are clearly identified and remain segregated. Such inspections may be scheduled or unscheduled, and canners must allow the NMFS representative access to all areas and records.


(2) Tuna processors must submit a report to the Administrator, Southwest Region, of all tuna received at their processing facilities in each calendar month whether or not the tuna is actually canned or stored during that month. Monthly cannery receipt reports must be submitted electronically or by mail before the last day of the month following the month being reported. Monthly reports must contain the following information:


(i) Domestic receipts: whether the tuna is eligible to be labeled dolphin-safe under § 216.91, species, condition (round, loin, dressed, gilled and gutted, other), weight in short tons to the fourth decimal, ocean area of capture (ETP, western Pacific, Indian, eastern and western Atlantic, other), catcher vessel, gear type, trip dates, carrier name, unloading dates, and location of unloading. Where the processor indicates the tuna is eligible to be labeled dolphin-safe under § 216.91, it must enclose the certifications required by that section.


(ii) Import receipts: In addition to the information required in paragraph (d)(2)(i) of this section, a copy of the FCO for each imported receipt must be provided.


(3) Tuna processors must report on a monthly basis the amounts of ETP-caught tuna that were immediately utilized upon receipt or removed from cold storage. This report may be submitted in conjunction with the monthly report required in paragraph (d)(2) of this section. This report must contain:


(i) The date of removal from cold storage or disposition;


(ii) Storage container or lot identifier number(s) and dolphin-safe or non-dolphin-safe designation of each container or lot; and


(iii) Details of the disposition of fish (for example, canning, sale, rejection, etc.).


(4) During canning activities, non-dolphin-safe tuna may not be mixed in any manner or at any time during processing with any dolphin-safe tuna or tuna products and may not share the same storage containers, cookers, conveyers, tables, or other canning and labeling machinery.


(e) Tracking processor operations other than cannery operations. U.S. tuna processors other than cannery operations engaged in processing tuna products, including frozen, dried, or smoked tuna products, must submit a report to the Administrator, Southwest Region that includes the information set out in § 216.93(d)(2) and (3) on a monthly basis for all tuna received at their processing facilities that will be included in any tuna product labeled dolphin-safe.


(f) Tracking imports. All tuna products, except fresh tuna, that are imported into the United States must be accompanied as described in § 216.24(f)(3) by a properly certified FCO as required by § 216.24(f)(2). For tuna tracking purposes, copies of FCOs and associated certifications and statements must be submitted by the importer of record to U.S. Customs and Border Protection as described in and required by § 216.24(f)(2).


(g) Verification requirements. (1) Record maintenance. Any exporter, transshipper, importer, processor, or wholesaler/distributor of any tuna or tuna products must maintain records related to that tuna for at least 2 years. These records include, but are not limited to: FCOs and required certifications, any reports required in paragraphs (a), (b), (d) and (e) of this section, invoices, other import documents, and trip reports.


(2) Record submission. At the time of, or in advance of, importation of a shipment of tuna or tuna products, any importer of tuna or tuna products must submit all corresponding FCOs and required certifications and statements for those tuna or tuna products as required by § 216.24(f)(2).


(3) Audits and spot checks. Upon request of the Administrator, Southwest Region, any exporter, transshipper, importer, processor, or wholesaler/distributor of tuna or tuna products must provide the Administrator, Southwest Region, timely access to all pertinent records and facilities to allow for audits and spot-checks on caught, landed, stored, and processed tuna.


(h) Confidentiality of proprietary information. Information submitted to the Assistant Administrator under this section will be treated as confidential in accordance with NOAA Administrative Order 216-100 “Protection of Confidential Fisheries Statistics.”


[78 FR 41002, July 9, 2013, as amended at 81 FR 51133, Aug. 3, 2016]


§ 216.94 False statements or endorsements.

Any person who knowingly and willfully makes a false statement or false endorsement required by § 216.92 is liable for a civil penalty not to exceed $100,000, that may be assessed in an action brought in any appropriate District Court of the United States on behalf of the Secretary.


[61 FR 27794, June 3, 1996. Redesignated at 69 FR 55307, Sept. 13, 2004]


§ 216.95 Official mark for “Dolphin-safe” tuna products.

(a) This is the “official mark” (see figure 1) designated by the United States Department of Commerce that may be used to label tuna products that meet the “dolphin-safe” standards set forth in the Dolphin Protection Consumer Information Act, 16 U.S.C. 1385, and implementing regulations at §§ 216.91 through 216.94:



(b) Location and size of the official mark. The official mark on labels must allow the consumer to identify the official mark and be similar in design and scale to figure 1. A full color version of the official mark is available at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/dolphin-safe-official-mark.


[65 FR 34410, May 30, 2000. Redesignated at 69 FR 55307, Sept. 13, 2004, as amended at 83 FR 3626, Jan. 26, 2018]


Subpart I – General Regulations Governing Small Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities


Source:61 FR 15887, Apr. 10, 1996, unless otherwise noted.

§ 216.101 Purpose.

The regulations in this subpart implement section 101(a)(5) (A) through (D) of the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, as amended, 16 U.S.C. 1371(a)(5), which provides a mechanism for allowing, upon request, the incidental, but not intentional, taking of small numbers of marine mammals by U.S. citizens who engage in a specified activity (other than commercial fishing) within a specified geographic region.


§ 216.102 Scope.

The taking of small numbers of marine mammals under section 101(a)(5) (A) through (D) of the Marine Mammal Protection Act may be allowed only if the National Marine Fisheries Service:


(a) Finds, based on the best scientific evidence available, that the total taking by the specified activity during the specified time period will have a negligible impact on species or stock of marine mammal(s) and will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of those species or stocks of marine mammals intended for subsistence uses;


(b) Prescribes either regulations under § 216.106, or requirements and conditions contained within an incidental harassment authorization issued under § 216.107, setting forth permissible methods of taking and other means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact on the species or stock of marine mammal and its habitat and on the availability of the species or stock of marine mammal for subsistence uses, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance; and


(c) Prescribes either regulations or requirements and conditions contained within an incidental harassment authorization, as appropriate, pertaining to the monitoring and reporting of such taking. The specific regulations governing certain specified activities are contained in subsequent subparts of this part.


§ 216.103 Definitions.

In addition to definitions contained in the MMPA, and in § 216.3, and unless the context otherwise requires, in subsequent subparts to this part:


Arctic waters means the marine and estuarine waters north of 60° N. lat.


Citizens of the United States and U.S. citizens mean individual U.S. citizens or any corporation or similar entity if it is organized under the laws of the United States or any governmental unit defined in 16 U.S.C. 1362(13). U.S. Federal, state and local government agencies shall also constitute citizens of the United States for purposes of this part.


Incidental harassment, incidental taking and incidental, but not intentional, taking all mean an accidental taking. This does not mean that the taking is unexpected, but rather it includes those takings that are infrequent, unavoidable or accidental. (A complete definition of “take” is contained in § 216.3).


Negligible impact is an impact resulting from the specified activity that cannot be reasonably expected to, and is not reasonably likely to, adversely affect the species or stock through effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival.


Small numbers means a portion of a marine mammal species or stock whose taking would have a negligible impact on that species or stock.


Specified activity means any activity, other than commercial fishing, that takes place in a specified geographical region and potentially involves the taking of small numbers of marine mammals.


Specified geographical region means an area within which a specified activity is conducted and that has certain biogeographic characteristics.


Unmitigable adverse impact means an impact resulting from the specified activity:


(1) That is likely to reduce the availability of the species to a level insufficient for a harvest to meet subsistence needs by:


(i) Causing the marine mammals to abandon or avoid hunting areas;


(ii) Directly displacing subsistence users; or


(iii) Placing physical barriers between the marine mammals and the subsistence hunters; and


(2) That cannot be sufficiently mitigated by other measures to increase the availability of marine mammals to allow subsistence needs to be met.


§ 216.104 Submission of requests.

(a) In order for the National Marine Fisheries Service to consider authorizing the taking by U.S. citizens of small numbers of marine mammals incidental to a specified activity (other than commercial fishing), or to make a finding that an incidental take is unlikely to occur, a written request must be submitted to the Assistant Administrator. All requests must include the following information for their activity:


(1) A detailed description of the specific activity or class of activities that can be expected to result in incidental taking of marine mammals;


(2) The date(s) and duration of such activity and the specific geographical region where it will occur;


(3) The species and numbers of marine mammals likely to be found within the activity area;


(4) A description of the status, distribution, and seasonal distribution (when applicable) of the affected species or stocks of marine mammals likely to be affected by such activities;


(5) The type of incidental taking authorization that is being requested (i.e., takes by harassment only; takes by harassment, injury and/or death) and the method of incidental taking;


(6) By age, sex, and reproductive condition (if possible), the number of marine mammals (by species) that may be taken by each type of taking identified in paragraph (a)(5) of this section, and the number of times such takings by each type of taking are likely to occur;


(7) The anticipated impact of the activity upon the species or stock of marine mammal;


(8) The anticipated impact of the activity on the availability of the species or stocks of marine mammals for subsistence uses;


(9) The anticipated impact of the activity upon the habitat of the marine mammal populations, and the likelihood of restoration of the affected habitat;


(10) The anticipated impact of the loss or modification of the habitat on the marine mammal populations involved;


(11) The availability and feasibility (economic and technological) of equipment, methods, and manner of conducting such activity or other means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact upon the affected species or stocks, their habitat, and on their availability for subsistence uses, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance;


(12) Where the proposed activity would take place in or near a traditional Arctic subsistence hunting area and/or may affect the availability of a species or stock of marine mammal for Arctic subsistence uses, the applicant must submit either a plan of cooperation or information that identifies what measures have been taken and/or will be taken to minimize any adverse effects on the availability of marine mammals for subsistence uses. A plan must include the following:


(i) A statement that the applicant has notified and provided the affected subsistence community with a draft plan of cooperation;


(ii) A schedule for meeting with the affected subsistence communities to discuss proposed activities and to resolve potential conflicts regarding any aspects of either the operation or the plan of cooperation;


(iii) A description of what measures the applicant has taken and/or will take to ensure that proposed activities will not interfere with subsistence whaling or sealing; and


(iv) What plans the applicant has to continue to meet with the affected communities, both prior to and while conducting the activity, to resolve conflicts and to notify the communities of any changes in the operation;


(13) The suggested means of accomplishing the necessary monitoring and reporting that will result in increased knowledge of the species, the level of taking or impacts on populations of marine mammals that are expected to be present while conducting activities and suggested means of minimizing burdens by coordinating such reporting requirements with other schemes already applicable to persons conducting such activity. Monitoring plans should include a description of the survey techniques that would be used to determine the movement and activity of marine mammals near the activity site(s) including migration and other habitat uses, such as feeding. Guidelines for developing a site-specific monitoring plan may be obtained by writing to the Director, Office of Protected Resources; and


(14) Suggested means of learning of, encouraging, and coordinating research opportunities, plans, and activities relating to reducing such incidental taking and evaluating its effects.


(b)(1) The Assistant Administrator shall determine the adequacy and completeness of a request and, if determined to be adequate and complete, will begin the public review process by publishing in the Federal Register either:


(i) A proposed incidental harassment authorization; or


(ii) A notice of receipt of a request for the implementation or reimplementation of regulations governing the incidental taking.


(2) Through notice in the Federal Register, newspapers of general circulation, and appropriate electronic media in the coastal areas that may be affected by such activity, NMFS will invite information, suggestions, and comments for a period not to exceed 30 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register. All information and suggestions will be considered by the National Marine Fisheries Service in developing, if appropriate, the most effective regulations governing the issuance of letters of authorization or conditions governing the issuance of an incidental harassment authorization.


(3) Applications that are determined to be incomplete or inappropriate for the type of taking requested, will be returned to the applicant with an explanation of why the application is being returned.


(c) The Assistant Administrator shall evaluate each request to determine, based upon the best available scientific evidence, whether the taking by the specified activity within the specified geographic region will have a negligible impact on the species or stock and, where appropriate, will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of such species or stock for subsistence uses. If the Assistant Administrator finds that the mitigating measures would render the impact of the specified activity negligible when it would not otherwise satisfy that requirement, the Assistant Administrator may make a finding of negligible impact subject to such mitigating measures being successfully implemented. Any preliminary findings of “negligible impact” and “no unmitigable adverse impact” shall be proposed for public comment along with either the proposed incidental harassment authorization or the proposed regulations for the specific activity.


(d) If, subsequent to the public review period, the Assistant Administrator finds that the taking by the specified activity would have more than a negligible impact on the species or stock of marine mammal or would have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of such species or stock for subsistence uses, the Assistant Administrator shall publish in the Federal Register the negative finding along with the basis for denying the request.


§ 216.105 Specific regulations.

(a) For all petitions for regulations under this paragraph, applicants must provide the information requested in § 216.104(a) on their activity as a whole, which includes, but is not necessarily limited to, an assessment of total impacts by all persons conducting the activity.


(b) For allowed activities that may result in incidental takings of small numbers of marine mammals by harassment, serious injury, death or a combination thereof, specific regulations shall be established for each allowed activity that set forth:


(1) Permissible methods of taking;


(2) Means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact on the species and its habitat and on the availability of the species for subsistence uses; and


(3) Requirements for monitoring and reporting, including requirements for the independent peer-review of proposed monitoring plans where the proposed activity may affect the availability of a species or stock for taking for subsistence uses.


(c) Regulations will be established based on the best available information. As new information is developed, through monitoring, reporting, or research, the regulations may be modified, in whole or in part, after notice and opportunity for public review.


§ 216.106 Letter of Authorization.

(a) A Letter of Authorization, which may be issued only to U.S. citizens, is required to conduct activities pursuant to any regulations established under § 216.105. Requests for Letters of Authorization shall be submitted to the Director, Office of Protected Resources. The information to be submitted in a request for an authorization will be specified in the appropriate subpart to this part or may be obtained by writing to the above named person.


(b) Issuance of a Letter of Authorization will be based on a determination that the level of taking will be consistent with the findings made for the total taking allowable under the specific regulations.


(c) Letters of Authorization will specify the period of validity and any additional terms and conditions appropriate for the specific request.


(d) Notice of issuance of all Letters of Authorization will be published in the Federal Register within 30 days of issuance.


(e) Letters of Authorization shall be withdrawn or suspended, either on an individual or class basis, as appropriate, if, after notice and opportunity for public comment, the Assistant Administrator determines that:


(1) The regulations prescribed are not being substantially complied with; or


(2) The taking allowed is having, or may have, more than a negligible impact on the species or stock or, where relevant, an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of the species or stock for subsistence uses.


(f) The requirement for notice and opportunity for public review in § 216.106(e) shall not apply if the Assistant Administrator determines that an emergency exists that poses a significant risk to the wellbeing of the species or stocks of marine mammals concerned.


(g) A violation of any of the terms and conditions of a Letter of Authorization or of the specific regulations shall subject the Holder and/or any individual who is operating under the authority of the Holder’s Letter of Authorization to penalties provided in the MMPA.


§ 216.107 Incidental harassment authorization for Arctic waters.

(a) Except for activities that have the potential to result in serious injury or mortality, which must be authorized under § 216.105, incidental harassment authorizations may be issued, following a 30-day public review period, to allowed activities that may result in only the incidental harassment of a small number of marine mammals. Each such incidental harassment authorization shall set forth:


(1) Permissible methods of taking by harassment;


(2) Means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact on the species, its habitat, and on the availability of the species for subsistence uses; and


(3) Requirements for monitoring and reporting, including requirements for the independent peer-review of proposed monitoring plans where the proposed activity may affect the availability of a species or stock for taking for subsistence uses.


(b) Issuance of an incidental harassment authorization will be based on a determination that the number of marine mammals taken by harassment will be small, will have a negligible impact on the species or stock of marine mammal(s), and will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of species or stocks for taking for subsistence uses.


(c) An incidental harassment authorization will be either issued or denied within 45 days after the close of the public review period.


(d) Notice of issuance or denial of an incidental harassment authorization will be published in the Federal Register within 30 days of issuance of a determination.


(e) Incidental harassment authorizations will be valid for a period of time not to exceed 1 year but may be renewed for additional periods of time not to exceed 1 year for each reauthorization.


(f) An incidental harassment authorization shall be modified, withdrawn, or suspended if, after notice and opportunity for public comment, the Assistant Administrator determines that:


(1) The conditions and requirements prescribed in the authorization are not being substantially complied with; or


(2) The authorized taking, either individually or in combination with other authorizations, is having, or may have, more than a negligible impact on the species or stock or, where relevant, an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of the species or stock for subsistence uses.


(g) The requirement for notice and opportunity for public review in paragraph (f) of this section shall not apply if the Assistant Administrator determines that an emergency exists that poses a significant risk to the well-being of the species or stocks of marine mammals concerned.


(h) A violation of any of the terms and conditions of an incidental harassment authorization shall subject the holder and/or any individual who is operating under the authority of the holder’s incidental harassment authorization to penalties provided in the MMPA.


§ 216.108 Requirements for monitoring and reporting under incidental harassment authorizations for Arctic waters.

(a) Holders of an incidental harassment authorization in Arctic waters and their employees, agents, and designees must cooperate with the National Marine Fisheries Service and other designated Federal, state, or local agencies to monitor the impacts of their activity on marine mammals. Unless stated otherwise within an incidental harassment authorization, the holder of an incidental harassment authorization effective in Arctic waters must notify the Alaska Regional Director, National Marine Fisheries Service, of any activities that may involve a take by incidental harassment in Arctic waters at least 14 calendar days prior to commencement of the activity.


(b) Holders of incidental harassment authorizations effective in Arctic waters may be required by their authorization to designate at least one qualified biological observer or another appropriately experienced individual to observe and record the effects of activities on marine mammals. The number of observers required for monitoring the impact of the activity on marine mammals will be specified in the incidental harassment authorization. If observers are required as a condition of the authorization, the observer(s) must be approved in advance by the National Marine Fisheries Service.


(c) The monitoring program must, if appropriate, document the effects (including acoustical) on marine mammals and document or estimate the actual level of take. The requirements for monitoring plans, as specified in the incidental harassment authorization, may vary depending on the activity, the location, and the time.


(d) Where the proposed activity may affect the availability of a species or stock of marine mammal for taking for subsistence purposes, proposed monitoring plans or other research proposals must be independently peer-reviewed prior to issuance of an incidental harassment authorization under this subpart. In order to complete the peer-review process within the time frames mandated by the MMPA for an incidental harassment authorization, a proposed monitoring plan submitted under this paragraph must be submitted to the Assistant Administrator no later than the date of submission of the application for an incidental harassment authorization. Upon receipt of a complete monitoring plan, and at its discretion, the National Marine Fisheries Service will either submit the plan to members of a peer review panel for review or within 60 days of receipt of the proposed monitoring plan, schedule a workshop to review the plan. The applicant must submit a final monitoring plan to the Assistant Administrator prior to the issuance of an incidental harassment authorization.


(e) At its discretion, the National Marine Fisheries Service may place an observer aboard vessels, platforms, aircraft, etc., to monitor the impact of activities on marine mammals.


(f)(1) As specified in the incidental harassment authorization, the holder of an incidental harassment authorization for Arctic waters must submit reports to the Assistant Administrator within 90 days of completion of any individual components of the activity (if any), within 90 days of completion of the activity, but no later than 120 days prior to expiration of the incidental harassment authorization, whichever is earlier. This report must include the following information:


(i) Dates and type(s) of activity;


(ii) Dates and location(s) of any activities related to monitoring the effects on marine mammals; and


(iii) Results of the monitoring activities, including an estimate of the actual level and type of take, species name and numbers of each species observed, direction of movement of species, and any observed changes or modifications in behavior.


(2) Monitoring reports will be reviewed by the Assistant Administrator and, if determined to be incomplete or inaccurate, will be returned to the holder of the authorization with an explanation of why the report is being returned. If the authorization holder disagrees with the findings of the Assistant Administrator, the holder may request an independent peer review of the report. Failure to submit a complete and accurate report may result in a delay in processing future authorization requests.


(g) Results of any behavioral, feeding, or population studies, that are conducted supplemental to the monitoring program, should be made available to the National Marine Fisheries Service before applying for an incidental harassment authorization for the following year.


Subparts J-X [Reserved]

Figure 1 to Part 216 – Northern Fur Seal Breeding Areas (Rookeries) and Hauling Grounds on St. George Island, Alaska


[79 FR 65338, Nov. 4, 2014]


PART 217 – REGULATIONS GOVERNING THE TAKE OF MARINE MAMMALS INCIDENTAL TO SPECIFIED ACTIVITIES


Authority:16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq., unless otherwise noted.


Source:74 FR 35143, July 20, 2009, unless otherwise noted.

Subpart A – Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Russian River Estuary Management Activities


Source:82 FR 13774, Mar.15, 2017, unless otherwise noted.


Effective Date Note:At 82 FR 13774, Mar.15, 2017, subpart A was added, effective Apr. 21, 2017, through Apr. 20, 2022. At 82 FR 27442, June 15, 2017, the expiration date was extended to July 3, 2022.

§ 217.1 Specified activity and specified geographical region.

(a) Regulations in this subpart apply only to the Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA) and those persons it authorizes or funds to conduct activities on its behalf for the taking of marine mammals that occurs in the area outlined in paragraph (b) of this section and that occurs incidental to estuary management activities.


(b) The taking of marine mammals by SCWA may be authorized in a Letter of Authorization (LOA) only if it occurs at Goat Rock State Beach or in the Russian River estuary in California.


§ 217.2 Effective dates.

Regulations in this subpart are effective from April 21, 2017, through April 20, 2022.


§ 217.3 Permissible methods of taking.

Under LOAs issued pursuant to §§ 216.106 and 217.7 of this chapter, the Holder of the LOA (hereinafter “SCWA”) may incidentally, but not intentionally, take marine mammals within the area described in § 217.1(b) by Level B harassment associated with estuary management activities, provided the activity is in compliance with all terms, conditions, and requirements of the regulations in this subpart and the appropriate LOA.


§ 217.4 Prohibitions.

Notwithstanding takings contemplated in § 217.1 and authorized by an LOA issued under §§ 216.106 and 217.7 of this chapter, no person in connection with the activities described in § 217.1 may:


(a) Violate, or fail to comply with, the terms, conditions, and requirements of this subpart or an LOA issued under §§ 216.106 and 217.7 of this chapter;


(b) Take any marine mammal not specified in such LOAs;


(c) Take any marine mammal specified in such LOAs in any manner other than as specified;


(d) Take a marine mammal specified in such LOAs if NMFS determines such taking results in more than a negligible impact on the species or stocks of such marine mammal; or


(e) Take a marine mammal specified in such LOAs if NMFS determines such taking results in an unmitigable adverse impact on the species or stock of such marine mammal for taking for subsistence uses.


§ 217.5 Mitigation requirements.

When conducting the activities identified in § 217.1(a) of this chapter, the mitigation measures contained in any LOA issued under §§ 216.106 and 217.7 of this chapter must be implemented. These mitigation measures shall include but are not limited to:


(a) General conditions. (1) A copy of any issued LOA must be in the possession of SCWA, its designees, and work crew personnel operating under the authority of the issued LOA; and


(2) If SCWA observes a pup that may be abandoned, it shall contact the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) West Coast Regional Stranding Coordinator immediately and also report the incident to NMFS Office of Protected Resources within 48 hours. Observers shall not approach or move the pup.


(b) SCWA crews shall cautiously approach the haul-out ahead of heavy equipment.


(c) SCWA staff shall avoid walking or driving equipment through the seal haul-out.


(d) Crews on foot shall make an effort to be seen by seals from a distance.


(e) During breaching events, all monitoring shall be conducted from the overlook on the bluff along Highway 1 adjacent to the haul-out.


(f) A water level management event may not occur for more than two consecutive days unless flooding threats cannot be controlled.


(g) All work shall be completed as efficiently as possible and with the smallest amount of heavy equipment possible.


(h) Boats operating near river haul-outs during monitoring shall be kept within posted speed limits and driven as far from the haul-outs as safely possible.


(i) SCWA shall implement the following mitigation measures during pupping season (March 15-June 30):


(1) SCWA shall maintain a one week no-work period between water level management events (unless flooding is an immediate threat) to allow for an adequate disturbance recovery period. During the no-work period, equipment must be removed from the beach.


(2) If a pup less than one week old is on the beach where heavy machinery will be used or on the path used to access the work location, the management action shall be delayed until the pup has left the site or the latest day possible to prevent flooding while still maintaining suitable fish rearing habitat. In the event that a pup remains present on the beach in the presence of flood risk, SCWA shall consult with NMFS and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to determine the appropriate course of action. SCWA shall coordinate with the locally established seal monitoring program (Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods) to determine if pups less than one week old are on the beach prior to a breaching event.


(3) Physical and biological monitoring shall not be conducted if a pup less than one week old is present at the monitoring site or on a path to the site.


§ 217.6 Requirements for monitoring and reporting.

(a) Monitoring and reporting shall be conducted in accordance with the approved Pinniped Monitoring Plan.


(b) Baseline monitoring shall be conducted each week, with two events per month occurring in the morning and two per month in the afternoon. These censuses shall continue for four hours, weather permitting; the census days shall be chosen to ensure that monitoring encompasses a low and high tide each in the morning and afternoon. All seals hauled out on the beach shall be counted every 30 minutes from the overlook on the bluff along Highway 1 adjacent to the haul-out using high-powered spotting scopes. Observers shall indicate where groups of seals are hauled out on the sandbar and provide a total count for each group. If possible, adults and pups shall be counted separately.


(c) Peripheral coastal haul-outs shall be visited concurrently with baseline monitoring in the event that a lagoon outlet channel is implemented and maintained for a prolonged period of over 21 days.


(d) During estuary management events, monitoring shall occur on all days that activity is occurring using the same protocols as described for baseline monitoring, with the difference that monitoring shall begin at least one hour prior to the crew and equipment accessing the beach work area and continue through the duration of the event, until at least one hour after the crew and equipment leave the beach. In addition, a one-day pre-event survey of the area shall be made within one to three days of the event and a one-day post-event survey shall be made after the event, weather permitting.


(e) For all monitoring, the following information shall be recorded in 30-minute intervals:


(1) Pinniped counts by species;


(2) Behavior;


(3) Time, source and duration of any disturbance, with takes incidental to SCWA actions recorded only for responses involving movement away from the disturbance or responses of greater intensity (e.g., not for alerts);


(4) Estimated distances between source of disturbance and pinnipeds;


(5) Weather conditions (e.g., temperature, percent cloud cover, and wind speed); and


(6) Tide levels and estuary water surface elevation.


(f) Reporting – (1) Annual reporting. (i) SCWA shall submit an annual summary report to NMFS not later than ninety days following the end of the reporting period established in any LOA issued under § 217.7. SCWA shall provide a final report within thirty days following resolution of comments on the draft report.


(ii) These reports shall contain, at minimum, the following:


(A) The number of seals taken, by species and age class (if possible);


(B) Behavior prior to and during water level management events;


(C) Start and end time of activity;


(D) Estimated distances between source and seals when disturbance occurs;


(E) Weather conditions (e.g., temperature, wind, etc.);


(F) Haul-out reoccupation time of any seals based on post-activity monitoring;


(G) Tide levels and estuary water surface elevation;


(H) Seal census from bi-monthly and nearby haul-out monitoring; and


(I) Specific conclusions that may be drawn from the data in relation to the four questions of interest in SCWA’s Pinniped Monitoring Plan, if possible.


(2) SCWA shall submit a comprehensive summary report to NMFS in conjunction with any future submitted request for incidental take authorization.


(g) Reporting of injured or dead marine mammals. (1) In the unanticipated event that the activity defined in § 217.1(a) clearly causes the take of a marine mammal in a prohibited manner, SCWA shall immediately cease such activity and report the incident to the Office of Protected Resources (OPR), NMFS and the West Coast Regional Stranding Coordinator, NMFS. Activities shall not resume until NMFS is able to review the circumstances of the prohibited take. NMFS will work with SCWA to determine what measures are necessary to minimize the likelihood of further prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. SCWA may not resume their activities until notified by NMFS. The report must include the following information:


(i) Time and date of the incident;


(ii) Description of the incident;


(iii) Environmental conditions;


(iv) Description of all marine mammal observations in the 24 hours preceding the incident;


(v) Species identification or description of the animal(s) involved;


(vi) Fate of the animal(s); and


(vii) Photographs or video footage of the animal(s).


(2) In the event that SCWA discovers an injured or dead marine mammal and determines that the cause of the injury or death is unknown and the death is relatively recent (e.g., in less than a moderate state of decomposition), SCWA shall immediately report the incident to OPR and the West Coast Regional Stranding Coordinator, NMFS. The report must include the information identified in paragraph (g)(1) of this section. Activities may continue while NMFS reviews the circumstances of the incident. NMFS will work with SCWA to determine whether additional mitigation measures or modifications to the activities are appropriate.


(3) In the event that SCWA discovers an injured or dead marine mammal and determines that the injury or death is not associated with or related to the activities defined in § 217.1(a) (e.g., previously wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced decomposition, scavenger damage), SCWA shall report the incident to OPR and the West Coast Regional Stranding Coordinator, NMFS, within 24 hours of the discovery. SCWA shall provide photographs or video footage or other documentation of the stranded animal sighting to NMFS.


(4) Pursuant to paragraphs (g)(2) and (3) of this section, SCWA may use discretion in determining what injuries (i.e., nature and severity) are appropriate for reporting. At minimum, SCWA must report those injuries considered to be serious (i.e., will likely result in death) or that are likely caused by human interaction (e.g., entanglement, gunshot). Also pursuant to sections paragraphs (g)(2) and (3) of this section, SCWA may use discretion in determining the appropriate vantage point for obtaining photographs of injured/dead marine mammals.


§ 217.7 Letters of Authorization.

(a) To incidentally take marine mammals pursuant to the regulations in this subpart, SCWA must apply for and obtain an LOA.


(b) An LOA, unless suspended or revoked, may be effective for a period of time not to exceed the expiration date of the regulations in this subpart.


(c) If an LOA expires prior to the expiration date of the regulations in this subpart, SCWA may apply for and obtain a renewal of the LOA.


(d) In the event of projected changes to the activity or to mitigation and monitoring measures required by an LOA, SCWA must apply for and obtain a modification of the LOA as described in § 217.8.


(e) The LOA shall set forth:


(1) Permissible methods of incidental taking;


(2) Means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact (i.e., mitigation) on the species, its habitat, and on the availability of the species for subsistence uses; and


(3) Requirements for monitoring and reporting.


(f) Issuance of the LOA shall be based on a determination that the level of taking will be consistent with the findings made for the total taking allowable under the regulations in this subpart.


(g) Notice of issuance or denial of an LOA shall be published in the Federal Register within 30 days of a determination.


§ 217.8 Renewals and modifications of Letters of Authorization.

(a) An LOA issued under §§ 216.106 and 217.7 of this chapter for the activity identified in § 217.1(a) shall be renewed or modified upon request by the applicant, provided that:


(1) The proposed specified activity and mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures, as well as the anticipated impacts, are the same as those described and analyzed for the regulations in this subpart (excluding changes made pursuant to the adaptive management provision in paragraph (c)(1) of this section); and


(2) NMFS determines that the mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures required by the previous LOA under the regulations in this subpart were implemented.


(b) For an LOA modification or renewal requests by the applicant that include changes to the activity or the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting (excluding changes made pursuant to the adaptive management provision in paragraph (c)(1) of this section) that do not change the findings made for the regulations or result in no more than a minor change in the total estimated number of takes (or distribution by species or years), NMFS may publish a notice of proposed LOA in the Federal Register, including the associated analysis of the change, and solicit public comment before issuing the LOA.


(c) An LOA issued under §§ 216.106 and 217.7 of this chapter for the activity identified in § 217.1(a) may be modified by NMFS under the following circumstances:


(1) Adaptive management. NMFS may modify (including augment) the existing mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures (after consulting with SCWA regarding the practicability of the modifications) if doing so creates a reasonable likelihood of more effectively accomplishing the goals of the mitigation and monitoring.


(i) Possible sources of data that could contribute to the decision to modify the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures in an LOA are:


(A) Results from SCWA’s monitoring from the previous year(s).


(B) Results from other marine mammal and/or sound research or studies.


(C) Any information that reveals marine mammals may have been taken in a manner, extent or number not authorized by the regulations in this subpart or subsequent LOAs.


(ii) If, through adaptive management, the modifications to the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures are substantial, NMFS will publish a notice of proposed LOA in the Federal Register and solicit public comment.


(2) Emergencies. If NMFS determines that an emergency exists that poses a significant risk to the well-being of the species or stocks of marine mammals specified in LOAs issued pursuant to §§ 216.106 and 217.7 of this chapter, an LOA may be modified without prior notice or opportunity for public comment. Notice would be published in the Federal Register within thirty days of the action.


§§ 217.9-217.10 [Reserved]

Subpart B – Taking of Marine Mammals Incidental to Commercial Fireworks Displays


Source:82 FR 27442, June 15, 2017, unless otherwise noted.


Effective Date Note:At 82 FR 27442, June 15, 2017, subpart B was revised, effective July 4, 2017. At 82 FR 29010, June 27, 2017, the effective date was corrected to June 29, 2017, through June 28, 2022.

§ 217.11 Specified activity and specified geographical region.

(a) Regulations in this subpart apply only to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS) and those persons it authorizes to display fireworks within the MBNMS for the taking of marine mammals that occurs in the area described in paragraph (b) of this section and that occurs incidental to authorization of commercial fireworks displays.


(b) The taking of marine mammals by MBNMS may be authorized in a Letter of Authorization (LOA) only if it occurs in the MBNMS.


§ 217.12 Effective dates.

Regulations in this subpart are effective from June 29, 2017, through June 28, 2022.


[82 FR 27442, June 15, 2017; 82 FR 29010, June 27, 2017]


§ 217.13 Permissible methods of taking.

(a) Under LOAs issued pursuant to § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.17, the Holder of the LOA (hereinafter “MBNMS”) may incidentally, but not intentionally, take California sea lions (Eumatopias jubatus) and harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) within the area described in § 217.11(b), provided the activity is in compliance with all terms, conditions, and requirements of the regulations in this subpart and the appropriate LOA.


(b) [Reserved]


§ 217.14 Prohibitions.

Notwithstanding takings contemplated in § 217.11 and authorized by an LOA issued under § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.17, no person in connection with the activities described in § 217.11 may:


(a) Violate, or fail to comply with, the terms, conditions, and requirements of this subpart or an LOA issued under § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.17;


(b) Take any marine mammal not specified in such LOAs;


(c) Take any marine mammal specified in such LOAs other than by incidental, unintentional Level B harassment;


(d) Take a marine mammal specified in such LOAs if such taking results in more than a negligible impact on the species or stocks of such marine mammal; or


(e) Take a marine mammal specified in such LOAs if NMFS determines such taking results in an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of such species or stocks for taking for subsistence purposes.


§ 217.15 Mitigation requirements.

(a) When conducting the activities identified in § 217.11(a), the mitigation measures contained in any LOA issued under § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.17 must be implemented. These mitigation measures include but are not limited to:


(1) Limiting the location of the authorized fireworks displays to the four specifically designated areas at Half Moon Bay, the Santa Cruz/Soquel area, the northeastern Monterey Breakwater, and Cambria (Santa Rosa Creek);


(2) Limiting the frequency of authorized fireworks displays to no more than an average frequency of less than or equal to once every two months in each of the four prescribed areas;


(3) Limiting the duration of authorized individual fireworks displays to no longer than 30 minutes each, with the exception of two longer shows per year across all four areas not to exceed 1 hour;


(4) Prohibiting fireworks displays at MBNMS between March 1 and June 30 of any year; and


(5) Continuing to implement authorization requirements and general and special restrictions for each event, as determined by MBNMS. Standard requirements include, but are not limited to, the use of a ramp-up period, wherein salutes are not allowed in the first five minutes of the display; the removal of plastic and aluminum labels and wrappings from fireworks; and post-show reporting and cleanup. MBNMS shall continue to assess displays and restrict the number of aerial salute effects on a case-by-case basis, and shall implement general and special restrictions unique to each fireworks event as necessary.


(b) [Reserved]


§ 217.16 Requirements for monitoring and reporting.

(a) MBNMS is responsible for ensuring that all monitoring required under an LOA is conducted appropriately, including, but not limited to:


(1) Counts of pinnipeds in the impact area prior to and after all displays. For the pre-event census, counts should be made as close to the start of the display as possible, with at least one conducted the day before the display and, if possible, another within 30 minutes of the fireworks display. For the post-census, counts should occur in conjunction with beach clean-ups the day following the fireworks display; and


(2) Reporting to NMFS of all marine mammal injury, serious injury, or mortality encountered during debris cleanup the morning after each fireworks display.


(b) Unless specified otherwise in the LOA, MBNMS must submit a draft annual monitoring report to the Director, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, no later than 60 days after the conclusion of each calendar year. This report must contain:


(1) An estimate of the number of marine mammals disturbed by the authorized activities; and


(2) Results of the monitoring required in paragraph (a) of this section, and any additional information required by the LOA. A final annual monitoring report must be submitted to NMFS within 30 days after receiving comments from NMFS on the draft report. If no comments are received from NMFS, the draft report will be considered to be the final annual monitoring report.


(c) A draft comprehensive monitoring report on all marine mammal monitoring conducted during the period of these regulations must be submitted to the Director, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS at least 120 days prior to expiration of these regulations. A final comprehensive monitoring report must be submitted to the NMFS within 30 days after receiving comments from NMFS on the draft report. If no comments are received from NMFS, the draft report will be considered to be the final comprehensive monitoring report.


§ 217.17 Letters of Authorization.

(a) To incidentally take marine mammals pursuant to these regulations, the MBNMS must apply for and obtain an LOA.


(b) An LOA, unless suspended or revoked, may be effective for a period of time not to exceed the expiration date of these regulations.


(c) In the event of projected changes to the activity or to mitigation and monitoring measures required by an LOA, the MBNMS must apply for and obtain a modification of the LOA as described in § 217.18.


(d) The LOA shall set forth:


(1) The number of marine mammals, by species, authorized to be taken;


(2) Permissible methods of incidental taking;


(3) Means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact (i.e., mitigation) on the species, its habitat, and on the availability of the species for subsistence uses; and


(4) Requirements for monitoring and reporting.


(e) Issuance of the LOA shall be based on a determination that the level of taking will be consistent with the findings made for the total taking allowable under these regulations.


(f) Notice of issuance or denial of an LOA shall be published in the Federal Register within 30 days of a determination.


§ 217.18 Renewals and modifications of Letters of Authorization.

(a) An LOA issued under § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.17 for the activity identified in § 217.11(a) shall be renewed or modified upon request by the applicant, provided that:


(1) The specified activity and mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures, as well as the anticipated impacts, are the same as those described and analyzed for the regulations in this subpart (excluding changes made pursuant to the adaptive management provision in paragraph (c)(1) of this section); and


(2) NMFS determines that the mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures required by the previous LOA under these regulations were implemented.


(b) For LOA modification or renewal requests by the applicant that include changes to the activity or the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting (excluding changes made pursuant to the adaptive management provision in paragraph (c)(1) of this section) that do not change the findings made for the regulations or result in no more than a minor change in the total estimated number of takes (or distribution by species or years), NMFS may publish a notice of proposed LOA in the Federal Register, including the associated analysis of the change, and solicit public comment before issuing the LOA.


(c) An LOA issued under §§ 217.106 and 217.17 for the activity identified in § 217.11(a) may be modified by NMFS under the following circumstances:


(1) Adaptive management. NMFS may modify (including augment) the existing mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures (after consulting with MBNMS regarding the practicability of the modifications) if doing so creates a reasonable likelihood of more effectively accomplishing the goals of the mitigation and monitoring.


(i) Possible sources of data that could contribute to the decision to modify the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures in an LOA:


(A) Results from the MBNMS’s monitoring from the previous year(s);


(B) Results from other marine mammal and/or sound research or studies; and


(C) Any information that reveals marine mammals may have been taken in a manner, extent, or number not authorized by these regulations or subsequent LOAs.


(ii) If, through adaptive management, the modifications to the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures are substantial, NMFS will publish a notice of proposed LOA in the Federal Register and solicit public comment.


(2) Emergencies. If NMFS determines that an emergency exists that poses a significant risk to the well-being of the species or stocks of marine mammals specified in an LOA issued pursuant to § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.17, an LOA may be modified without prior notice or opportunity for public comment. The Notice would be published in the Federal Register within 30 days of the action.


Subpart C – Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Research and Monitoring in Southern Alaska National Parks


Source:84 FR 8274, Mar. 7, 2019, unless otherwise noted.


Effective Date Note:At 84 FR 8274, Mar. 7, 2019, subpart C was added, effective Mar. 7, 2019, through Feb. 29, 2024.

§ 217.20 Specified activity and specified geographical region.

(a) Regulations in this subpart apply only to the National Park Service (NPS) and those persons it authorizes or funds to conduct activities on its behalf for the taking of marine mammals that occurs in the area outlined in paragraph (b) of this section and that occurs incidental to the NPS’s research and monitoring activities listed in the Letters of Authorization (LOA).


(b) The taking of marine mammals by NPS may be authorized in an LOA only if it occurs at Glacier Bay National Park (GLBA NP) or in the NPS’s Southwest Alaska Inventory and Monitoring Network (SWAN) sites.


§ 217.21 Effective dates.

Regulations in this subpart are effective from March 7, 2019 through February 29, 2024.


§ 217.22 Permissible methods of taking.

Under LOAs issued pursuant to §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.26, the Holder of the LOA (hereinafter “NPS”) may incidentally, but not intentionally, take marine mammals within the area described in § 217.20(b) by Level B harassment associated with research and monitoring activities, provided the activity is in compliance with all terms, conditions, and requirements of the regulations in this subpart and the appropriate LOA.


§ 217.23 Prohibitions.

Notwithstanding takings contemplated in § 217.20 and authorized by an LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.26, no person in connection with the activities described in § 217.20 may:


(a) Violate, or fail to comply with, the terms, conditions, and requirements of this subpart or an LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.26;


(b) Take any marine mammal not specified in such LOAs;


(c) Take any marine mammal specified in such LOAs in any manner other than as specified;


(d) Take a marine mammal specified in such LOAs if NMFS determines such taking results in more than a negligible impact on the species or stocks of such marine mammal; or


(e) Take a marine mammal specified in such LOAs if NMFS determines such taking results in an unmitigable adverse impact on the species or stock of such marine mammal for taking for subsistence uses.


§ 217.24 Mitigation requirements.

When conducting the activities identified in § 217.20(a), the mitigation measures contained in any LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.24 must be implemented. These mitigation measures shall include but are not limited to:


(a) General conditions. (1) A copy of any issued LOA must be in the possession of NPS, its designees, and additional survey crew personnel operating under the authority of the issued LOA;


(2) Before all surveys, the lead NPS biologist must instruct additional survey crew on appropriate conduct when in the vicinity of hauled-out marine mammals. This training must brief survey personnel on marine mammals (inclusive of identification as needed, e.g., neonates); and


(3) NPS must avoid interaction with any marine mammal species for which take is not authorized (or any species for which authorized take numbers have been met). For humpback, killer, and beluga whales, NPS must avoid operation of a motor vessel within
1/4 nautical mile of these cetaceans. If accidentally positioned within
1/4 nautical mile of these cetaceans, NPS must slow the vessel speed to 10 knots or less and maintain course away from the marine mammal until at least
1/4 nautical mile of separation exists;


(b) Glacier Bay gull and climate monitoring. (1) On an annual basis, NPS may conduct a maximum of five days of gull monitoring for each survey location listed in the LOA;


(2) On an annual basis, the NPS may conduct a maximum of three days of activities related to climate monitoring on Lone Island;


(3) NPS is required to conduct pre-survey monitoring before deciding to access a study site;


(4) Prior to deciding to land onshore, NPS must use high-powered image stabilizing binoculars before approaching at distances of greater than 500 m (1,640 ft) to determine and document the number, species, and location of hauled-out marine mammals;


(5) During pre-survey monitoring, vessels must maintain a distance of 328 to 1,640 ft (100 to 500 m) from the shoreline;


(6) If a harbor seal pup less than one week of age (neonate) is present within or near a study site or a path to a study site, NPS must not access the site nor conduct the study at that time. In addition, if during the activity, a pup less than one week of age is observed, all research activities must conclude for the day;


(7) NPS must maintain a distance of at least 100 m from any Steller sea lion;


(8) NPS must perform controlled and slow ingress to islands where harbor seals are present;


(9) NPS must monitor for offshore predators at the study sites during pre-survey monitoring and must avoid research activities when killer whales (Orcinus orca) or other predators are observed within a 1 mile radius; and


(10) NPS must maintain a quiet working atmosphere, avoid loud noises, and must use hushed voices in the presence of hauled-out pinnipeds; and


(c) SWAN marine bird surveys. (1) On an annual basis, NPS may conduct one summer survey at each location listed in the LOA;


(2) On an annual basis, the NPS may conduct one winter survey at each location listed in the LOA;


(3) NPS must maintain a minimum vessel distance of 100 meters from the shoreline at all times while surveying; and


(4) If hauled out Steller sea lions or harbor seals are observed, NPS must maintain the vessel speed and minimum distance. If survey conditions allow, the survey must be attempted from a distance greater than 150 meters.


§ 217.25 Requirements for monitoring and reporting.

NPS is required to conduct marine mammal monitoring during research and monitoring activities. NPS and/or its designees must record the following for the designated monitoring activity:


(a) Glacier Bay gull and climate monitoring. (1) Species counts (with numbers of adults/juveniles); and numbers of disturbances, by species and age, according to a three-point scale of intensity;


(2) Information on the weather, including the tidal state and horizontal visibility;


(3) The observer will note the presence of any offshore predators (date, time, number, and species); and


(4) The observer must note unusual behaviors, numbers, or distributions of pinnipeds, such that any potential follow-up research can be conducted by the appropriate personnel; marked or tag-bearing pinnipeds or carcasses, allowing transmittal of the information to appropriate agencies; and any rare or unusual species of marine mammal for agency follow-up. The observer must report that information to NMFS’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center and/or the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Marine Mammal Program.


(b) SWAN marine bird surveying. (1) Species counts and numbers of type 3, flushing, disturbances;


(2) Information on the weather, including the tidal state and horizontal visibility; and


(3) The observer must note unusual behaviors, numbers, or distributions of pinnipeds, such that any potential follow-up research can be conducted by the appropriate personnel; marked or tag-bearing pinnipeds or carcasses, allowing transmittal of the information to appropriate agencies; and any rare or unusual species of marine mammal for agency follow-up. The observer must report that information to NMFS’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center and/or the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Marine Mammal Program.


(c) Annual reporting. NPS must submit separate annual draft reports for GLBA NP and SWAN on all monitoring conducted within ninety calendar days of the completion of annual research and monitoring activities. Final reports for both GLBA NP and SWAN must be prepared and submitted within thirty days following resolution of comments on each draft report from NMFS. This report must contain:


(1) A summary and table of the dates, times, and weather during all research activities;


(2) Species, number, location, and behavior of any marine mammals observed throughout all monitoring activities;


(3) An estimate of the number (by species) of marine mammals exposed to acoustic or visual stimuli associated with the research activities; and


(4) A description of the implementation and effectiveness of the monitoring and mitigation measures of the Authorization and full documentation of methods, results, and interpretation pertaining to all monitoring.


(d) Comprehensive reporting. NPS must submit a comprehensive 5-year report covering all activities conducted under the incidental take regulations at least 90 days prior to expiration of these regulations if new regulations are sought or 90 days after expiration of regulations.


(e) Reporting of injured or dead marine mammals. (1) In the unanticipated event that the activity defined in § 219.20(a) clearly causes the take of a marine mammal in a prohibited manner such as an injury (Level A harassment), serious injury, or mortality, NPS must immediately cease the specified activities and report the incident to the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the Alaska Regional Stranding Coordinator, NMFS. The report must include the following information:


(i) Time and date of the incident;


(ii) Description of the incident;


(iii) Environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, Beaufort sea state, cloud cover, and visibility);


(iv) Description of all marine mammal observations and active sound source use in the 24 hours preceding the incident;


(v) Species identification or description of the animal(s) involved;


(vi) Fate of the animal(s); and


(vii) Photographs or video footage of the animal(s);


(2) Activities must not resume until NMFS is able to review the circumstances of the prohibited take. NMFS will work with NPS to determine what measures are necessary to minimize the likelihood of further prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. NPS must not resume their activities until notified by NMFS;


(3) In the event that NPS discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the lead observer determines that the cause of the injury or death is unknown and the death is relatively recent (e.g., in less than a moderate state of decomposition), NPS must immediately report the incident to the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the Alaska Stranding Coordinator, NMFS. The report must include the same information identified in paragraph (e)(1) of this section. Activities may continue while NMFS reviews the circumstances of the incident. NMFS will work with NPS to determine whether additional mitigation measures or modifications to the activities are appropriate;


(4) In the event that NPS discovers an injured or dead marine mammal and determines that the injury or death is not associated with or related to the activities defined in § 217.20(a) (e.g., previously wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced decomposition, scavenger damage), NPS must report the incident to OPR and the Alaska Stranding Coordinator, NMFS, within 24 hours of the discovery. NPS must provide photographs or video footage or other documentation of the stranded animal sighting to NMFS. NPS can continue their research activities; and


(5) Pursuant to paragraphs (e)(2) through (4) of this section, NPS may use discretion in determining what injuries (i.e., nature and severity) are appropriate for reporting. At minimum, NPS must report those injuries considered to be serious (i.e., will likely result in death) or that are likely caused by human interaction (e.g., entanglement, gunshot). Also pursuant to paragraphs (e)(3) and (4) of this section, NPS may use discretion in determining the appropriate vantage point for obtaining photographs of injured/dead marine mammals.


§ 217.26 Letters of Authorization.

(a) To incidentally take marine mammals pursuant to these regulations, NPS must apply for and obtain an LOA.


(b) An LOA, unless suspended or revoked, may be effective for a period of time not to exceed the expiration date of these regulations.


(c) If an LOA expires prior to the expiration date of these regulations, NPS may apply for and obtain a renewal of the LOA.


(d) In the event of projected changes to the activity or to mitigation and monitoring measures required by an LOA, NPS must apply for and obtain a modification of the LOA as described in § 217.27.


(e) The LOA shall set forth:


(1) Permissible methods of incidental taking;


(2) Means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact (i.e., mitigation) on the species, its habitat, and on the availability of the species for subsistence uses; and


(3) Requirements for monitoring and reporting.


(f) Issuance of the LOA shall be based on a determination that the level of taking will be consistent with the findings made for the total taking allowable under these regulations.


(g) Notice of issuance or denial of an LOA shall be published in the Federal Register within 30 days of a determination.


§ 217.27 Renewals and modifications of Letters of Authorization.

(a) An LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.26 for the activity identified in § 217.20(a) shall be renewed or modified upon request by the applicant, provided that:


(1) The proposed specified activity and mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures, as well as the anticipated impacts, are the same as those described and analyzed for these regulations (excluding changes made pursuant to the adaptive management provision in paragraph (c)(1) of this section); and


(2) NMFS determines that the mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures required by the previous LOA under these regulations were implemented.


(b) For an LOA modification or renewal requests by the applicant that include changes to the activity or the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting (excluding changes made pursuant to the adaptive management provision in paragraph (c)(1) of this section) that do not change the findings made for the regulations or result in no more than a minor change in the total estimated number of takes (or distribution by species or years), NMFS may publish a notice of proposed LOA in the Federal Register, including the associated analysis of the change, and solicit public comment before issuing the LOA.


(c) An LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.26 for the activity identified in § 217.20(a) may be modified by NMFS under the following circumstances:


(1) Adaptive management. NMFS may modify (including augment) the existing mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures (after consulting with NPS regarding the practicability of the modifications) if doing so creates a reasonable likelihood of more effectively accomplishing the goals of the mitigation and monitoring set forth in the preamble for these regulations.


(i) Possible sources of data that could contribute to the decision to modify the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures in an LOA:


(A) Results from NPS’s monitoring from the previous year(s).


(B) Results from other marine mammal research or studies.


(C) Any information that reveals marine mammals may have been taken in a manner, extent or number not authorized by these regulations or subsequent LOAs.


(ii) If, through adaptive management, the modifications to the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures are substantial, NMFS shall publish a notice of proposed LOA in the Federal Register and solicit public comment.


(2) Emergencies. If NMFS determines that an emergency exists that poses a significant risk to the well-being of the species or stocks of marine mammals specified in LOAs issued pursuant to §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.26, an LOA may be modified without prior notice or opportunity for public comment. Notice would be published in the Federal Register within thirty days of the action.


§§ 217.28-217.29 [Reserved]

Subpart D – Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Construction and Operation of the Liberty Drilling and Production Island


Source:84 FR 70322, Dec. 20, 2019, unless otherwise noted.


Effective Date Note:At 84 FR 70322, Dec. 20, 2019, subpart D was added, effective Dec. 1, 2021, through Nov. 30 2026.

§ 217.30 Specified activity and specified geographical region.

(a) Regulations in this subpart apply only to Hilcorp LLC (Hilcorp) and those persons it authorizes or funds to conduct activities on its behalf for the taking of marine mammals that occurs in the areas outlined in paragraph (b) of this section and that occurs incidental to construction, maintenance, and operation of the Liberty Drilling and Production Island (LDPI) and associated infrastructure.


(b) The taking of marine mammals by Hilcorp may be authorized in a Letter of Authorization (LOA) only if it occurs within the Beaufort Sea, Alaska.


§ 217.31 Effective dates.

Regulations in this subpart are effective from December 1, 2021, through November 30, 2026.


§ 217.32 Permissible methods of taking.

Under LOAs issued pursuant to §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.36, the Holder of the LOA (hereinafter “Hilcorp”) may incidentally, but not intentionally, take marine mammals within the area described in § 217.30(b) by mortality, serious injury, Level A harassment, or Level B harassment associated with the LDPI construction and operation activities, including associated infrastructure, provided the activities are in compliance with all terms, conditions, and requirements of the regulations in this subpart and the appropriate LOA.


§ 217.33 Prohibitions.

Notwithstanding takings contemplated in § 217.32 and authorized by an LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.36, no person in connection with the activities described in § 217.30 may:


(a) Violate, or fail to comply with, the terms, conditions, and requirements of this subpart or an LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.36;


(b) Take any marine mammal not specified in such LOAs;


(c) Take any marine mammal specified in such LOAs in any manner other than as specified;


(d) Take a marine mammal specified in such LOAs if the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) determines such taking results in more than a negligible impact on the species or stocks of such marine mammal; or


(e) Take a marine mammal specified in such LOAs if NMFS determines such taking results in an unmitigable adverse impact on the species or stock of such marine mammal for taking for subsistence uses.


§ 217.34 Mitigation requirements.

When conducting the activities identified in § 217.30(a), the mitigation measures contained in any LOA issued under § 216.106 of this chapter must be implemented. These mitigation measures shall include but are not limited to:


(a) General conditions. (1) Hilcorp must renew, on an annual basis, the Plan of Cooperation (POC), throughout the life of the regulations in this subpart;


(2) A copy of any issued LOA must be in the possession of Hilcorp, its designees, and work crew personnel operating under the authority of the issued LOA;


(3) Hilcorp must conduct briefings for construction and ice road supervisors and crews, and the marine mammal and acoustic monitoring teams prior to the start of annual ice road or LDPI construction, and when new personnel join the work, in order to explain responsibilities, communication procedures, the marine mammal monitoring protocol, and operational procedures;


(4) Hilcorp must allow subsistence hunters to use the LDPI for safe harbor during severe storms, if requested by hunters;


(5) In the unanticipated event of an oil spill during LDPI operational years, Hilcorp must notify NMFS of the spill within 48 hours, regardless of size, and implement measures contained within the Liberty Oil Spill Response Plan; and


(6) Hilcorp must strive to complete pile driving and pipeline installation during the ice-covered season.


(7) Except during takeoff and landing and in emergency situations, aircraft must maintain an altitude of at least 457 m (1,500 ft). If a marine mammal is observed, then a horizontal distance of 305 m (100 ft) of whales or seals will be maintained between the aircraft and the observed marine mammals.


(b) Ice road construction, maintenance, and operation. (1) Hilcorp must implement the NMFS-approved Ice Road and Ice Trail Best Management Practices (BMPs) and the Wildlife Action Plan. These documents may be updated as needed throughout the life of the regulations in this subpart, in consultation with NMFS.


(2) Hilcorp must not approach ringed seal structures (i.e., lairs or breathing holes) within 150 m or ringed seals within 50 m.


(c) Liberty Drilling Production Island construction. (1) For all pile driving and construction activities involving heavy equipment, Hilcorp must implement a minimum shutdown zone of 10 meters (m) from any marine mammal in water or seals on land. If a marine mammal comes within or is about to enter the shutdown zone, such operations must cease immediately;


(2) For all pile driving activity, Hilcorp shall implement shutdown zones with radial distances as identified in any LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.36. If a marine mammal comes within or is about to enter the shutdown zone, such operations must cease immediately. NMFS may adjust the shutdown zones pending review and approval of an acoustic monitoring report (see § 217.35);


(3) Hilcorp must employ NMFS-approved protected species observers (PSOs) and designate monitoring zones with radial distances as identified in any LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.36. NMFS may adjust the monitoring zones pending review and approval of an acoustic monitoring report (see § 217.35);


(4) If a bowhead whale or other low frequency cetacean enters the Level A harassment zone, pile or pipe driving must be shut down immediately. If a beluga whale or pinniped enters the Level A harassment zone while pile driving is ongoing, work may continue until the pile is completed (estimated to require approximately 15-20 minutes), but additional pile driving must not be initiated until the animal has left the Level A harassment zone. During this time, PSOs must monitor the animal and record behavior;


(5) If a marine mammal is approaching a Level A harassment zone and pile driving has not commenced, pile driving must be delayed. Pile driving may not commence or resume until either the animal has voluntarily left and been visually confirmed beyond the shutdown zone; 15 minutes have passed without subsequent detections of small cetaceans and pinnipeds; or 30 minutes have passed without subsequent detections of large cetaceans;


(6) If a species for which authorization has not been granted, or a species for which authorization has been granted but the authorized takes are met, is observed approaching or within the monitoring zone (which equates to the Level B harassment zone), pile driving and removal activities must shut down immediately using delay and shut-down procedures. Activities must not resume until the animal has been confirmed to have left the area or the observation time period, as indicated in paragraph (c)(5) of this section, has elapsed;


(7) Hilcorp must use soft start techniques when impact pile driving. Soft start requires contractors to provide an initial set of strikes at reduced energy, followed by a thirty-second waiting period, then two subsequent reduced energy strike sets. A soft start must be implemented at the start of each day’s impact pile driving and at any time following cessation of impact pile driving for a period of thirty minutes or longer;


(8) All pipe- and pile-driving activities (impact and vibratory) and LDPI support vessel traffic outside the barrier islands must cease by August 1, annually, and not resume until the official end of the hunt or until the quota has been met, whichever occurs first. Hilcorp must coordinate annually with subsistence users on the dates of these hunts; and


(9) Should an ice seal be observed on or near the LDPI by any Hilcorp personnel, during construction or operation, the sighting must be reported to Hilcorp’s Environmental Specialist. No construction activity should occur within 10 m of an ice seal and any vehicles used should use precaution and not approach any ice seal within 10 m.


(d) Vessel restrictions. When operating vessels, Hilcorp must:


(1) Reduce vessel speed to 5 knots (kn) if a whale is observed within 500 m (1641 feet (ft)) of the vessel and is on a potential collision course with the vessel, or if a vessel is within 275 m (902 ft) of whales, regardless of course relative to the vessel;


(2) Avoid multiple changes in vessel direction;


(3) Not approach within 800 m (2,624 ft) of a North Pacific right whale or within 5.6 km (3 nautical miles) of Steller sea lion rookeries or major haulouts; and


(4) Avoid North Pacific right whale critical habitat or, if critical habitat cannot be avoided, reduce vessel speed during transit.


§ 217.35 Requirements for monitoring and reporting.

(a) All marine mammal and acoustic monitoring must be conducted in accordance to Hilcorp’s Marine Mammal Mitigation and Monitoring Plan (4MP) and Acoustic Monitoring Plan, which includes acoustic monitoring during both the open-water and ice-covered seasons. These plans may be modified throughout the life of the regulations in this subpart upon NMFS review and approval.


(b) Monitoring must be conducted by NMFS-approved PSOs, who must have no other assigned tasks during monitoring periods and be equipped with, at minimum, binoculars and rangefinders. At minimum, two PSOs must be placed on elevated platforms on the island during the open-water season when island construction activities are occurring. These observers will monitor for marine mammals and implement shutdown or delay procedures when applicable through communication with the equipment operator.


(c) One PSO will be placed on the side where construction activities are taking place and the other placed on the opposite side of the LDPI; both observers will be on elevated platforms.


(d) PSOs will rotate duties such that they will observe for no more than 4 hours at a time and no more than 12 hours in a 24-hour period.


(e) An additional island-based PSO will work with an aviation specialist to use an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) to detect marine mammals in the monitoring zones during pile and pipe driving and slope shaping. Should UAS monitoring not be feasible or be deemed ineffective, a boat-based PSO must monitor for marine mammals during pile and pipe driving.


(f) During the open-water season, marine mammal monitoring must take place from 30 minutes prior to initiation of pile and pipe driving activity through 30 minutes post-completion of pile driving activity. Pile driving may commence when observers have declared the shutdown zone clear of marine mammals. In the event of a delay or shutdown of activity resulting from marine mammals in the shutdown zone, animals must be allowed to remain in the shutdown zone (i.e., must leave of their own volition) and their behavior must be monitored and documented.


(g) After island construction is complete but drilling activities are occurring, a PSO will be stationed on the LDPI for approximately 4 weeks during the month of August to monitor for the presence of marine mammals around the island in the monitoring zone.


(1) Marine mammal monitoring during pile driving and removal must be conducted by NMFS-approved PSOs in a manner consistent with the following:


(i) At least one observer must have prior experience working as an observer;


(ii) Other observers may substitute education (degree in biological science or a related field) or training for experience;


(iii) Where a team of three or more observers are required, one observer must be designated as lead observer or monitoring coordinator. The lead observer must have prior experience working as an observer; and


(iv) Hilcorp must submit PSO curricula vitae (CVs) for approval by NMFS prior to the onset of pile driving.


(2) PSOs must have the following additional qualifications:


(i) Ability to conduct field observations and collect data according to assigned protocols;


(ii) Experience or training in the field identification of marine mammals, including the identification of behaviors;


(iii) Sufficient training, orientation, or experience with the construction operation to provide for personal safety during observations;


(iv) Writing skills sufficient to prepare a report of observations including, but not limited to, the number and species of marine mammals observed; dates and times when in-water construction activities were conducted; dates, times, and reason for implementation of mitigation (or why mitigation was not implemented when required); and marine mammal behavior; and


(v) Ability to communicate orally, by radio or in person, with project personnel to provide real-time information on marine mammals observed in the area as necessary.


(h) Hilcorp must deploy autonomous sound recorders on the seabed to conduct underwater passive acoustic monitoring in the open-water season the first four years of the project such that island construction activities, including pile driving, and drilling operations are recorded. Acoustic monitoring will be conducted for the purposes of sound source verification to verify distances from noise sources at which underwater sound levels reach thresholds for potential marine mammal harassment.


(i) Hilcorp must submit incident and monitoring reports.


(1) Hilcorp must submit a draft annual marine mammal and acoustic summary report to NMFS not later than 90 days following the end of each calendar year. Hilcorp must provide a final report within 30 days after receipt of NMFS’ comments on the draft report. The reports must contain, at a minimum, the following:


(i) Date and time that monitored activity begins or ends;


(ii) Description of construction activities occurring during each observation period;


(iii) Weather parameters (e.g., wind speed, percent cloud cover, visibility);


(iv) Water conditions (e.g., sea state, tide state);


(v) Species, numbers, and, if possible, sex and age class of marine mammals observed;


(vi) Description of any observable marine mammal behavior patterns, including bearing and direction of travel and distance from construction activity;


(vii) Distance from construction activities to marine mammals and distance from the marine mammals to the observation point;


(viii) An extrapolated total take estimate for each species based on the number of marine mammals observed and the extent of the harassment zones during the applicable construction activities;


(ix) Histograms of the perpendicular distance at which marine mammals were sighted by the PSOs;


(x) Description of implementation of mitigation measures (e.g., shutdown or delay);


(xi) Locations of all marine mammal observations;


(xii) An estimate of the effective strip width of the island-based PSOs and the UAS imagery; and


(xiii) Sightings and locations of marine mammals associated with acoustic detections.


(2) Annually, Hilcorp must submit a report within 90 days of ice road decommissioning. The report must include the following:


(i) Date, time, location of observation;


(ii) Ringed seal characteristics (i.e., adult or pup, behavior (avoidance, resting, etc.));


(iii) Activities occurring during observation, including equipment being used and its purpose, and approximate distance to ringed seal(s);


(iv) Actions taken to mitigate the effects of interaction, emphasizing: which BMPs were successful; which BMPs may need to be improved to reduce interactions with ringed seals; the effectiveness and practicality of implementing BMPs; any issues or concerns regarding implementation of BMPs; and potential effects of interactions based on observation data;


(v) Proposed updates (if any) to the NMFS-approved Wildlife Management Plan(s) or the ice-road BMPs; and


(vi) Reports should be able to be queried for information.


(3) Hilcorp must submit a final 5-year comprehensive summary report to NMFS not later than 90 days following the expiration of this subpart and LOA.


(4) Hilcorp must submit acoustic monitoring reports per the Acoustic Monitoring Plan.


(5) Hilcorp must report on observed injured or dead marine mammals.


(i) In the unanticipated event that the activity defined in § 217.30 clearly causes the take of a marine mammal in a prohibited manner, Hilcorp must immediately cease such activity and report the incident to the Office of Protected Resources (OPR), NMFS, and to the Alaska Regional Stranding Coordinator, NMFS. Activities must not resume until NMFS is able to review the circumstances of the prohibited take. NMFS will work with Hilcorp to determine what measures are necessary to minimize the likelihood of further prohibited take and ensure Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) compliance. Hilcorp may not resume their activities until notified by NMFS. The report must include the following information:


(A) Time, date, and location (latitude/longitude) of the incident;


(B) Description of the incident;


(C) Environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, Beaufort sea state, cloud cover, visibility);


(D) Description of all marine mammal observations in the 24 hours preceding the incident;


(E) Species identification or description of the animal(s) involved;


(F) Fate of the animal(s); and


(G) Photographs or video footage of the animal(s). Photographs may be taken once the animal has been moved from the waterfront area.


(H) In the event that Hilcorp discovers an injured or dead marine mammal and determines that the cause of the injury or death is unknown and the death is relatively recent (e.g., in less than a moderate state of decomposition), Hilcorp must immediately report the incident to OPR and the Alaska Regional Stranding Coordinator, NMFS. The report must include the information identified in paragraph (i)(5)(i) of this section. Activities may continue while NMFS reviews the circumstances of the incident. NMFS will work with Hilcorp to determine whether additional mitigation measures or modifications to the activities are appropriate.


(ii) In the event Hilcorp discovers an injured or dead marine mammal and determines that the injury or death is not associated with or related to the activities defined in § 217.30 (e.g., previously wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced decomposition, scavenger damage), Hilcorp must report the incident to OPR and the Alaska Regional Stranding Coordinator, NMFS, within 24 hours of the discovery. Hilcorp must provide photographs or video footage or other documentation of the stranded animal sighting to NMFS. Photographs may be taken once the animal has been moved from the waterfront area.


§ 217.36 Letters of Authorization.

(a) To incidentally take marine mammals pursuant to this subpart, Hilcorp must apply for and obtain an LOA.


(b) An LOA, unless suspended or revoked, may be effective for a period of time not to exceed the expiration date of this subpart.


(c) If an LOA expires prior to the expiration date of this subpart, Hilcorp may apply for and obtain a renewal of the LOA.


(d) In the event of projected changes to the activity or to mitigation and monitoring measures required by an LOA, Hilcorp must apply for and obtain a modification of the LOA as described in § 217.37.


(e) The LOA shall set forth:


(1) Permissible methods of incidental taking;


(2) Means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact (i.e., mitigation) on the species, its habitat, and on the availability of the species for subsistence uses; and


(3) Requirements for monitoring and reporting.


(f) Issuance of the LOA shall be based on a determination that the level of taking will be consistent with the findings made for the total taking allowable under this subpart.


(g) Notice of issuance or denial of an LOA shall be published in the Federal Register within thirty days of a determination.


§ 217.37 Renewals and modifications of Letters of Authorization.

(a) An LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.36 for the activity identified in § 217.30(a) shall be renewed or modified upon request by the applicant, provided that:


(1) The proposed specified activity and mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures, as well as the anticipated impacts, are the same as those described and analyzed for this subpart (excluding changes made pursuant to the adaptive management provision in paragraph (c)(1) of this section); and


(2) NMFS determines that the mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures required by the previous LOA under this subpart were implemented.


(b) For LOA modification or renewal requests by the applicant that include changes to the activity or the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting (excluding changes made pursuant to the adaptive management provision in paragraph (c)(1) of this section) that do not change the findings made for this subpart or result in no more than a minor change in the total estimated number of takes (or distribution by species or years), NMFS may publish a notice of proposed LOA in the Federal Register, including the associated analysis of the change, and solicit public comment before issuing the LOA.


(c) An LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.36 for the activity identified in § 217.30(a) may be modified by NMFS under the following circumstances:


(1) Adaptive management. NMFS may modify (including augment) the existing mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures (after consulting with Hilcorp regarding the practicability of the modifications) if doing so creates a reasonable likelihood of more effectively accomplishing the goals of the mitigation and monitoring set forth in this subpart.


(i) Possible sources of data that could contribute to the decision to modify the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures in an LOA:


(A) Results from Hilcorp’s monitoring from the previous year(s).


(B) Results from other marine mammal and/or sound research or studies.


(C) Any information that reveals marine mammals may have been taken in a manner, extent, or number not authorized by this subpart or subsequent LOAs.


(ii) If, through adaptive management, the modifications to the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures are substantial, NMFS will publish a notice of proposed LOA in the Federal Register and solicit public comment.


(2) Emergencies. If NMFS determines that an emergency exists that poses a significant risk to the well-being of the species or stocks of marine mammals specified in LOAs issued pursuant to §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.36, an LOA may be modified without prior notice or opportunity for public comment. Notice would be published in the Federal Register within thirty days of the action.


§ § 217.38-217.39 [Reserved]

Subpart E – Taking and Importing Marine Mammals; Alaska Gasline Development Corporation Liquefied Natural Gas Facilities Construction


Source:85 FR 50751, Aug. 17, 2020, unless otherwise noted.


Effective Date Note:At 85 FR 50751, Aug. 17, 2020, subpart E was added, effective Jan. 1, 2021, through Dec. 31, 2025.

§ 217.40 Specified activity and specified geographical region.

(a) Regulations in this subpart apply only to the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation (AGDC) or successor entities and those persons it authorizes or funds to conduct activities on its behalf for the taking of marine mammals that occurs in the area outlined in paragraph (b) of this section and that occurs incidental to the activities described in paragraph (c) of this section.


(b) The taking of marine mammals by AGDC may be authorized in a Letter of Authorization (LOA) only if it occurs within AGDC’s Alaska liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities’ construction areas, which are located between the Beluga Landing shoreline crossing on the north and the Kenai River south of Nikiski on the south in Cook Inlet, Alaska.


(c) The taking of marine mammals during this project is only authorized if it occurs incidental to construction activities associated with the proposed LNG facilities or the Mainline crossing of Cook Inlet.


§ 217.41 Effective dates.

Regulations in this subpart are effective January 1, 2021 through December 31, 2025.


§ 217.42 Permissible methods of taking.

Under LOAs issued pursuant to §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.46, the Holder of the LOAs (hereinafter “AGDC”) may incidentally, but not intentionally, take marine mammals within the area described in § 217.40(b) by Level A harassment and Level B harassment associated with pile driving and pipe laying activities, provided the activity is in compliance with all terms, conditions, and requirements of the regulations in this subpart and the applicable LOAs.


§ 217.43 Prohibitions.

Notwithstanding takings contemplated in § 217.42 and authorized by LOAs issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.46, no person in connection with the activities described in § 217.40 may:


(a) Violate, or fail to comply with, the terms, conditions, and requirements of this subpart or a LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.46;


(b) Take any marine mammal not specified in such LOAs; and


(c) Take any marine mammal specified in such LOAs in any manner other than as specified.


§ 217.44 Mitigation requirements.

When conducting the activities identified in § 217.40(c), the mitigation measures contained in any LOAs issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.46 must be implemented. These mitigation measures must include but are not limited to:


(a) Time and area restriction. AGDC must follow the following time and area restrictions.


(1) In-water pile driving must occur only during daylight hours. Times for other construction activities, such as pipe laying, anchor handling, and dredging are not restricted.


(2) Pile driving associated with the Mainline Material Offloading Facility (Mainline MOF) must not occur from June 1 to September 7 (pile driving can occur from September 8 to May 31).


(3) Other than in-water sheet pile driving and pile removal, anchor handling, trenching, pipe laying, and vessel transits related to these activities, AGDC may not engage in in-water sound-producing activities within 10 miles (16 km) of the mean higher high water (MHHW) line of the Susitna Delta (Beluga River to the Little Susitna River) between April 15 and October 15 which produce sound levels in excess of 120 dB rms re 1µPa @ 1 m.


(b) Establishment of monitoring and exclusion zones. (1) For all relevant in-water construction activity, AGDC must designate Level A harassment zones with radial distances as identified in any LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.46.


(2) For all relevant in-water construction activity, AGDC must designate Level B harassment zones with radial distances as identified in any LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.46.


(3) For all in-water pile driving work, AGDC must implement an exclusion zone for each specific activity as identified in any LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.46. If a marine mammal comes within or enters the exclusion zone, AGDC must cease all operations.


(i) For humpback whale and killer whale during in-water pile driving activity, the exclusion zones must be based on the Level A harassment distances, but must not be less than 10 m from the pile.


(ii) For harbor porpoise and harbor seal during in-water pile driving activity, the exclusion zones must be based on the Level A harassment distances up to 1,000 m, but must not be less than 10 m from the pile.


(iii) For Cook Inlet beluga whale during in-water pile driving activity, the exclusion zones must be based on the Level B harassment distances.


(iv) A 2,900-m exclusion zone must be established for Cook Inlet beluga whale before pipe laying activity associated with anchor handling can occur.


(v) A minimum of 10-m exclusion zone must be established for in-water construction and heavy machinery not addressed elsewhere in this paragraph (b)(3).


(c) Monitoring of exclusion zones. Pile driving must only take place when the exclusion zones are visible and can be adequately monitored. If visibility degrades to where the entire exclusion zone cannot be effectively monitored during pile driving, AGDC may continue to drive the pile section that was being driven to its target depth, but may not drive additional sections of pile.


(d) Shutdown measures. (1) AGDC must deploy protected species observers (PSOs) to monitor marine mammals during in-water pile driving and pipe laying activities.


(2) Monitoring must take place from 30 minutes prior to initiation of pile driving or pipe laying activities through 30 minutes post-completion of pile driving or pipe laying activities.


(i) For pile driving activity, pre-activity monitoring must be conducted for 30 minutes to confirm that the exclusion zone is clear of marine mammals, and pile driving may commence only if observers have declared the exclusion zone clear of marine mammals for that full duration of time. Monitoring must occur throughout the time required to drive a pile. A determination that the exclusion zone is clear must be made during a period of good visibility (i.e., the entire exclusion zone and surrounding waters must be visible to the naked eye).


(ii) If marine mammals are found within the exclusion zone, pile driving of the segment must be delayed until they move out of the area. If a marine mammal is seen above water and then dives below, the contractor must wait 30 minutes for large cetaceans (humpback whale) and 15 minutes for small cetaceans (beluga and killer whales and harbor porpoise) and pinnipeds. If no marine mammals of that species are seen by the observer in that time it can be assumed that the animal has moved beyond the exclusion zone.


(iii) If pile driving of a segment ceases for 30 minutes or more and a marine mammal is sighted within the designated exclusion zone prior to commencement of pile driving, the observer(s) must notify the pile driving operator (or other authorized individual) immediately and continue to monitor the exclusion zone. Operations may not resume until the marine mammal has exited the exclusion zone or 30 minutes have elapsed for large cetaceans or 15 minutes have elapsed for small cetaceans and pinnipeds since the last sighting.


(3) If a marine mammal authorized to be taken by Level B harassment enters or approaches the exclusion zone, if a marine mammal not specified in the LOAs enters the Level B harassment zone, or if the take of a marine mammal species or stock has reached the take limits specified in any LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.46 and enters the Level B harassment zone, AGDC must halt all construction activities at that location. If construction is halted or delayed due to the presence of a marine mammal, the activity may not commence or resume until either the animal has voluntarily left and been visually confirmed beyond the shutdown or Level B harassment zone, whichever applicable, or 30 minutes have passed without re-detection of the animal if it is a larger cetacean (humpback whale), or 15 minutes have passed without re-detection of the animal if it is a small cetacean (beluga and killer whales and porpoises) or pinniped.


(e) Soft start. (1) AGDC must implement soft start techniques for impact pile driving. AGDC must conduct an initial set of three strikes from the impact hammer at 40 percent energy, followed by a 30-second waiting period, then two subsequent three strike sets with associated 30-seconds waiting periods at the reduced energy.


(2) Soft start must be required for any impact driving, including at the beginning of the day, and at any time following a cessation of impact pile driving of 30 minutes or longer.


(f) Noise attenuation device. For pile-driving at the Mainline MOF near the Beluga River, and on the east side of Cook Inlet near Nikiski associated with the liquefaction facility, AGDC must deploy air bubble curtains around piles. If the sound source verification (SSV) measurements indicate that the best-performing bubble curtain configuration provides less than a 2 dB reduction in in-water sound beyond the bubble curtain, use of the bubble curtain may be discontinued.


(g) Vessel transit. (1) Operators of vessels must, at all times, avoid approaching within 100 yards of marine mammals. Operators must observe direction of travel of marine mammals and attempt to maintain a distance of 100 yards or greater between the animal and the vessel by working to alter vessel course or velocity.


(2) The vessel operator must avoid placing the vessel between members of a group of marine mammals in a way that may cause separation of individuals in the group from other individuals in that group. A group is defined as being three or more whales observed within 500-m of one-another and displaying behaviors of directed or coordinated activity (e.g., migration or group feeding).


(3) If the vessel approaches within 1.6 km (1 mi) of one or more whales, the vessel operator must take reasonable precautions to avoid potential interaction with the whales by taking one or more of the following actions, as appropriate:


(i) Steering to the rear of whale(s) to avoid causing changes in their direction of travel.


(ii) Maintaining vessel speed of 10 knots (19 km/hr) or less when transiting to minimize the likelihood of lethal vessel strikes.


(iii) Reducing vessel speed to less than 5 knots (9 km/hour) within 274 m (300 yards) of the whale(s).


(4) Project vessels must remain a minimum of 2.8 km (1.5 nm) seaward of the mean lower low water (MLLW) line between the Little Susitna River and −150.80 degrees west longitude to minimize the impacts of vessel sound and avoid strikes on Cook Inlet beluga whales between June 1 and September 7. The Susitna Delta Exclusion Zone is defined as the union of the areas defined by:


(i) A 16-km (10-mile) buffer of the Beluga River thalweg seaward of the mean lower low water (MLLW) line;


(ii) A 16-km (10-mile) buffer of the Little Susitna River thalweg seaward of the MLLW line; and


(iii) A 16-km (10-mile) seaward buffer of the MLLW line between the Beluga River and Little Susitna River.


(iv) The buffer extends landward along the thalweg to include intertidal waters within rivers and streams up to their mean higher high water line (MHHW). The seaward boundary has been simplified so that it is defined by lines connecting readily discernable landmarks.


(5) For vessels operating in the Susitna Delta Exclusion Zone, the following must be implemented:


(i) All project vessels operating within the designated Susitna Delta area must maintain a speed over ground below 4 knots. PSOs must note the numbers, date, time, coordinates, and proximity to vessels of all belugas observed during operations, and report these observations to NMFS in monthly PSO reports.


(ii) Vessel crew must be trained to monitor for Endangered Species Act (ESA)-listed species prior to and during all vessel movements within the Susitna Delta Exclusion Zone. The vessel crew must report sightings to the PSO team for inclusion in the overall sighting database and reports.


(iii) Vessel operators must not move their vessels when they are unable to adequately observe the 100-m zone around vessels under power (in gear) due to darkness, fog, or other conditions, unless necessary for ensuring human safety.


§ 217.95 Requirements for monitoring and reporting.

(a) Marine mammal visual monitoring – (1) Protected species observers. AGDC must employ trained protected species observers (PSO) to conduct marine mammal monitoring for its LNG facilities construction projects.


(i) The PSOs must observe and collect data on marine mammals in and around the project area for 30 minutes before, during, and for 30 minutes after all construction work. PSOs must have no other assigned tasks during monitoring periods, and must be placed at appropriate and safe vantage point(s) practicable to monitor for marine mammals and implement shutdown or delay procedures, when applicable, through communication with the equipment operator.


(ii) [Reserved]


(2) Protected species observer qualifications. AGDC must adhere to the following observer qualifications:


(i) Independent PSOs (i.e., not construction personnel) who have no other assigned tasks during monitoring periods must be used;


(ii) Where a team of three or more PSOs are required, a lead observer or monitoring coordinator must be designated. The lead observer must have prior experience working as a marine mammal observer during construction;


(iii) Other PSOs may substitute education (degree in biological science or related field) or training for experience;


(iv) AGDC must submit PSO CVs for approval by NMFS prior to the onset of pile driving;


(v) The PSOs must have the ability to conduct field observations and collect data according to assigned protocols;


(vi) The PSOs must have the experience or training in the field identification of marine mammals, including the identification of behaviors;


(vii) The PSOs must have sufficient training, orientation, or experience with the construction operation to provide for personal safety during observations;


(viii) The PSOs must have writing skills sufficient to prepare a report of observations including but not limited to the number and species of marine mammals observed; dates and times when in-water construction activities were conducted; dates, times, and reason for implementation of mitigation (or why mitigation was not implemented when required); and marine mammal behavior; and


(ix) The PSOs must have the ability to communicate orally, by radio or in person, with project personnel to provide real-time information on marine mammals observed in the area as necessary.


(3) Marine mammal monitoring protocols. AGDC must adhere to the following marine mammal monitoring protocols:


(i) For pile driving activities, a minimum of two PSOs must be on duty at all times;


(ii) For pile driving activities, PSOs must be stationed on a bluff with minimum height 500 feet above sea level immediately above the construction site;


(iii) For marine mammal monitoring during pipe laying activities, at least one PSO must be on the barge and on watch;


(iv) PSOs may not exceed 4 consecutive watch hours; must have a minimum two-hour break between watches; and may not exceed a combined watch schedule of more than 12 hours in a 24-hour period;


(v) PSOs must have no other construction-related tasks while conducting monitoring;


(vi) Monitoring must be conducted from 30 minutes prior to commencement of pile driving, throughout the time required to drive a pile, and for 30 minutes following the conclusion of pile driving;


(vii) Monitoring must be conducted from 30 minutes prior to commencement of pipe laying activity, throughout the time of pipe laying, and for 30 minutes following the conclusion of pipe laying for the segment;


(viii) During all observation periods, PSOs must use high-magnification (25X), as well as standard handheld (7X) binoculars, and the naked eye to search continuously for marine mammals;


(ix) Monitoring distances must be measured with range finders. Distances to animals must be based on the best estimate of the PSO, relative to known distances to objects in the vicinity of the PSO; and


(x) Bearings to animals must be determined using a compass.


(4) Marine mammal monitoring data collection. PSOs must collect the following information during marine mammal monitoring:


(i) Date and time that monitored activity begins and ends for each day conducted (monitoring period);


(ii) Construction activities occurring during each daily observation period, including how many and what type of piles driven and distances covered during pipe laying;


(iii) Deviation from initial proposal in pile numbers, pile types, average driving times, and pipe laying distances, etc.;


(iv) Weather parameters in each monitoring period (e.g., wind speed, percent cloud cover, visibility);


(v) Water conditions in each monitoring period (e.g., sea state, tide state);


(vi) For each marine mammal sighting:


(A) Species, numbers, and, if possible, sex and age class of marine mammals;


(B) Description of any observable marine mammal behavior patterns, including bearing and direction of travel and distance from pile driving and pipe laying activities, and notable changes in patterns;


(C) Location and distance from pile driving and pipe laying activities to marine mammals and distance from the marine mammals to the observation point; and


(D) Estimated amount of time that the animals remained in the Level A and/or Level B harassment zones;


(vii) Description of implementation of mitigation measures within each monitoring period (e.g., shutdown or delay); and


(viii) Other human activity in the area within each monitoring period.


(b) Acoustic monitoring. AGDC must conduct a sound source verification (SSV) in accordance with the requirements in the LOA, at the beginning of the pile driving to characterize the sound levels associated with different pile and hammer types, as well as to establish the marine mammal monitoring and mitigation zones.


(1) A minimum of 2 piles of each type and size must be measured.


(2) The following data, at minimum, shall be collected during acoustic monitoring and reported:


(i) Hydrophone equipment and methods: Recording device, sampling rate, distance from the pile where recordings were made; depth of recording device(s);


(ii) Type of pile being driven and method of driving during recordings; and


(iii) Mean, median, and maximum sound levels (dB re: 1µPa): Cumulative sound exposure level (SELcum), peak sound pressure level (SPLpeak), root mean square sound pressure level (SPLrms), and single-strike sound exposure level (SELs-s).


(3) An SSV report must be submitted to NMFS within 72 hours after field measurements for approval of the results.


(4) The results of the SSV report may be used to adjust the extent of Level A and Level B harassment zones in-water pile driving.


(c) Reporting measures – (1) Notification. AGDC must notify NMFS 48 hours prior to the start of each activity in Cook Inlet that may cause harassment of marine mammals. If there is a delay in activity, AGDC must also notify NMFS as soon as practicable.


(2) Monthly report. AGDC must submit monthly reports via email to NMFS Office of Protected Resources (OPR) and Alaska Regional Office (AKRO) for all months with project activities by the 15th of the month following the monthly reporting period. The monthly report must contain and summarize the following information:


(i) Dates, times, locations, heading, speed, weather, sea conditions (including Beaufort sea state and wind force), and a list of all in-water sound-producing activities occurring concurrent with marine mammal observations;


(ii) Species, number, location, distance from the vessel, and behavior of all observed marine mammals, as well as associated project activity (e.g., number of power-downs and shutdowns), observed throughout all monitoring activities;


(iii) Observation data in paragraphs (a) and (b) of this section must be provided in digital spreadsheet format that can be queried;


(iv) An estimate of the number of animals (by species) exposed to sound at received levels greater than or equal to either the Level A or Level B harassment thresholds, with a discussion the time spent above those received levels and of any specific behaviors those individuals exhibited;


(v) If the extent of Level B harassment zone is beyond visual observation, AGDC must also include an appropriate adjustment to estimate the total numbers of marine mammals taken based on the portion of the areas that are monitored; and


(vi) A description of the implementation and effectiveness of the terms and conditions of the Biological Opinion’s Incidental Take Statement and mitigation and monitoring measures of the LOA.


(3) Marine mammal tally numbers. (i) AGDC must keep a tally of the estimated number of marine mammals that are taken, based on the number of marine mammals observed within the applicable harassment zones, and alert NMFS when the authorized limit is close to being met based on prescribed monitoring measured in the final rule; and


(ii) AGDC must keep a tally of the number of marine mammal that are sighted during the pile driving and pipe laying activities.


(4) Beluga whale takes. AGDC must immediately notify NMFS if the number of Cook Inlet beluga estimated as taken (based on observed exposures above thresholds) reaches 80% of the authorized takes in any given calendar year during which take is authorized.


(5) Annual report. (i) AGDC must submit a comprehensive annual report to NMFS within 90 calendar days of the cessation of in-water work each year for review. The report must synthesize all sighting data and effort during each activity for each year.


(ii) NMFS will provide comments within 30 days after receiving annual reports, and AGDC must address the comments and submit revisions within 30 days after receiving NMFS comments.


(iii) If no comments are received from the NMFS within 30 days, the annual report is considered completed.


(iv) The report must include the following information:


(A) Summaries of monitoring effort including total hours, observation rate by species and marine mammal distribution through the study period, accounting for sea state and other factors affecting visibility and detectability of marine mammals.


(B) Analyses of the effects of various factors that may have influenced detectability of marine mammals (e.g., sea state, number of observers, fog/glare, and other factors as determined by the PSOs).


(C) Species composition, occurrence, and distribution of marine mammal sightings, including date, water depth, numbers, age/size/gender categories (if determinable), group sizes, and ice cover.


(D) Marine mammal observation data with a digital record of observation data provided in digital spreadsheet format that can be queried.


(E) Summary of implemented mitigation measures (i.e., shutdowns and delays).


(F) Number of marine mammals during periods with and without project activities (and other variables that could affect detectability), such as:


(1) Initial sighting distances versus project activity at the time of sighting;


(2) Closest point of approach versus project activity;


(3) Observed behaviors and types of movements versus project activity;


(4) Numbers of sightings/individuals seen versus project activity;


(5) Distribution around the source vessels versus project activity; and


(6) Numbers of animals detected in the exclusion zone.


(G) Analyses of the effects of project activities on listed marine mammals.


(6) Final report. (i) AGDC must provide NMFS, within 90 days of project completion at the end of the five-year period, a report of all parameters listed in the monthly and annual report requirements in paragraph (c) of this section, noting also all operational shutdowns or delays necessitated due to the proximity of marine mammals.


(ii) NMFS will provide comments within 30 days after receiving this report, and AGDC must address the comments and submit revisions within 30 days after receiving NMFS comments.


(iii) If no comments are received from the NMFS within 30 days, the final report is considered as final.


(7) Reporting of injured or dead marine mammals. (i) In the unanticipated event that the construction or demolition activities clearly cause the take of a marine mammal in a prohibited manner, such as an injury, serious injury, or mortality, AGDC must immediately cease operations with the potential to impact marine mammals in the vicinity and immediately report the incident to the NMFS Office of Protected Resources, NMFS Alaska Regional Office, and the Alaska Region Stranding Coordinators. The report must include the following information:


(A) Time, date, and location (latitude/longitude) of the incident;


(B) Description of the incident;


(C) Status of all sound source use in the 24 hours preceding the incident;


(D) Environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, sea state, cloud cover, visibility, and water depth);


(E) Description of marine mammal observations in the 24 hours preceding the incident;


(F) Species identification or description of the animal(s) involved;


(G) The fate of the animal(s); and


(H) Photographs or video footage of the animal (if equipment is available).


(ii) Activities must not resume until NMFS is able to review the circumstances of the prohibited take. NMFS must work with AGDC to determine what is necessary to minimize the likelihood of further prohibited take and ensure Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) compliance. AGDC may not resume its activities until notified by NMFS via letter, email, or telephone.


(iii) In the event that AGDC discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the lead PSO determines that the cause of the injury or death is unknown and the death is relatively recent (i.e., in less than a moderate state of decomposition as described in paragraph (c)(7)(iv) of this section), AGDC must immediately report the incident to the NMFS Office of Protected Resources, NMFS Alaska Regional Office, and the Alaska Regional Stranding Coordinators. The report must include the same information identified in paragraph (b)(3)(i) of this section. Activities may continue while NMFS reviews the circumstances of the incident. NMFS will work with AGDC to determine whether modifications in the activities are appropriate.


(iv) In the event that AGDC discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the lead PSO determines that the injury or death is not associated with or related to the activities authorized in the LOA (e.g., previously wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced decomposition, or scavenger damage), AGDC must report the incident to the NMFS Office of Protected Resources, NMFS Alaska Regional Office, and the Alaska Regional Stranding Coordinators, within 48 hours of the discovery. AGDC must provide photographs or video footage (if available) or other documentation of the stranded animal sighting to NMFS and the Marine Mammal Stranding Network. AGDC may continue its operations under such a case.


§ 217.46 Letters of Authorization.

(a) To incidentally take marine mammals pursuant to the regulations in this subpart, AGDC must apply for and obtain (LOAs) in accordance with § 216.106 of this chapter for conducting the activity identified in § 217.40(c).


(b) LOAs, unless suspended or revoked, may be effective for a period of time not to extend beyond the expiration date of the regulations in this subpart.


(c) If an LOA(s) expires prior to the expiration date of the regulations in this subpart, AGDC may apply for and obtain a renewal of the LOA(s).


(d) In the event of projected changes to the activity or to mitigation, monitoring, reporting (excluding changes made pursuant to the adaptive management provision of § 217.47(c)(1)) required by an LOA, AGDC must apply for and obtain a modification of LOAs as described in § 217.47.


(e) Each LOA must set forth:


(1) Permissible methods of incidental taking;


(2) Means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact (i.e., mitigation) on the species, their habitat, and the availability of the species for subsistence uses; and


(3) Requirements for monitoring and reporting.


(f) Issuance of the LOA(s) must be based on a determination that the level of taking must be consistent with the findings made for the total taking allowable under the regulations in this subpart.


(g) Notice of issuance or denial of the LOA(s) must be published in the Federal Register within 30 days of a determination.


§ 217.47 Renewals and modifications of Letters of Authorization.

(a) An LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.46 for the activity identified in § 217.40(c) must be renewed or modified upon request by the applicant, provided that:


(1) The proposed specified activity and mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures, as well as the anticipated impacts, are the same as those described and analyzed for the regulations in this subpart (excluding changes made pursuant to the adaptive management provision in paragraph (c)(1) of this section); and


(2) NMFS determines that the mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures required by the previous LOA(s) under the regulations in this subpart were implemented.


(b) For LOA modification or renewal requests by the applicant that include changes to the activity or the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures (excluding changes made pursuant to the adaptive management provision in paragraph (c)(1) of this section) that do not change the findings made for the regulations in this subpart or result in no more than a minor change in the total estimated number of takes (or distribution by species or years), NMFS may publish a notice of proposed LOA in the Federal Register, including the associated analysis of the change, and solicit public comment before issuing the LOA.


(c) An LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.46 for the activity identified in § 217.40(c) may be modified by NMFS under the following circumstances:


(1) Adaptive management. After consulting with AGDC regarding the practicability of the modifications, NMFS may modify (including by adding or removing measures) the existing mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures if doing so creates a reasonable likelihood of more effectively accomplishing the goals of the mitigation and monitoring set forth in the regulations in this subpart.


(i) Possible sources of data that could contribute to the decision to modify the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures in an LOA:


(A) Results from AGDC’s monitoring from the previous year(s);


(B) Results from other marine mammal and/or sound research or studies; or


(C) Any information that reveals marine mammals may have been taken in a manner, extent or number not authorized by the regulations in this subpart or subsequent LOAs.


(ii) If, through adaptive management, the modifications to the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures are substantial, NMFS must publish a notice of proposed LOA in the Federal Register and solicit public comment.


(2) Emergencies. If NMFS determines that an emergency exists that poses a significant risk to the well-being of the species or stocks of marine mammals specified in LOAs issued pursuant to §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.46, an LOA may be modified without prior notice or opportunity for public comment. Notice would be published in the Federal Register within 30 days of the action.


§ § 217.48-217.49 [Reserved]

Subpart F [Reserved]

Subpart G – Taking and Importing Marine Mammals; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to U.S. Air Force Launches and Operations at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California


Source:84 FR 14333, Apr. 10, 2019, unless otherwise noted.


Effective Date Note: At 84 FR 14333, Apr. 10, 2019, subpart G was added, effective Apr. 10, 2019, until Apr. 10, 2024.

§ 217.60 Specified activity and specified geographical region.

(a) Regulations in this subpart apply only to the 30th Space Wing, United States Air Force (USAF) and those persons it authorizes to conduct activities on its behalf for the taking of marine mammals that occurs in the areas outlined in paragraph (b) of this section and that occurs incidental to rocket and missile launches and aircraft operations.


(b) The taking of marine mammals by the USAF may be authorized in a Letter of Authorization (LOA) only if it occurs from activities originating at Vandenberg Air Force Base.


§ 217.61 Effective dates.

Regulations in this subpart are effective from April 10, 2019, until April 10, 2024.


§ 217.62 Permissible methods of taking.

(a) Under an LOA issued pursuant to §§ 216.106 and 217.60 of this chapter, the Holder of the LOA (herein after “USAF”) may incidentally, but not intentionally, take marine mammals by Level B harassment, within the area described in § 217.60(b), provided the activity is in compliance with all terms, conditions, and requirements of the regulations in this subpart and the appropriate LOA.


§ 217.63 Prohibitions.

Notwithstanding takings contemplated in § 217.62(c) and authorized by an LOA issued under §§ 216.106 and 217.66 of this chapter, no person in connection with the activities described in § 217.60 may:


(a) Violate, or fail to comply with, the terms, conditions, and requirements of this subpart or an LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.66;


(b) Take any marine mammal not specified in such LOAs;


(c) Take any marine mammal specified in such LOAs in any manner other than as specified;


(d) Take a marine mammal specified in such LOAs if NMFS determines such taking results in more than a negligible impact on the species or stocks of such marine mammal; or


(e) Take a marine mammal specified in such LOAs if NMFS determines such taking results in an unmitigable adverse impact on the species or stock of such marine mammal for taking for subsistence uses.


§ 217.64 Mitigation requirements.

When conducting the activities identified in § 217.60(a), the mitigation measures contained in any Letter of Authorization issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.66 must be implemented. These mitigation measures include (but are not limited to):


(a) For missile and rocket launches, the USAF must avoid, whenever possible, launches during the harbor seal pupping season of March through June, unless constrained by factors including, but not limited to, human safety, national security, or launch mission objectives.


(b) For rocket launches, the USAF must avoid, whenever possible, launches which are predicted to produce a sonic boom on the Northern Channel Islands from March through June.


(c) Aircraft and helicopter flight paths must maintain a minimum distance of 1,000 feet (ft) (305 meters (m)) from recognized pinniped haulouts and rookeries, whenever possible, except for one area near the VAFB harbor over which aircraft may be flown to within 500 ft of a haulout, and except in emergencies or for real-time security incidents, which may require approaching pinniped haulouts and rookeries closer than 1,000 ft (305 m).


(d) Except for during take-off and landing actions, the following minimum altitudes must be maintained over all known marine mammal haulouts when marine mammals are present: For Class 0-2 UAS, a minimum of 300 ft; for Class 3 UAS, a minimum of 500 ft; and for Class 4 or 5 UAS, a minimum of 1,000 ft.


(e) If post-launch surveys determine that an injurious or lethal take of a marine mammal has occurred, the launch procedure and the monitoring methods must be reviewed, in cooperation with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), and appropriate changes must be made through modification to a Letter of Authorization, prior to conducting the next launch under that Letter of Authorization.


§ 217.65 Requirements for monitoring and reporting.

(a) To conduct monitoring of rocket launch activities, the USAF must either use video recording, or must designate a qualified on-site individual approved in advance by NMFS, with demonstrated proficiency in the identification of all age and sex classes of both common and uncommon pinniped species found at VAFB and knowledge of approved count methodology and experience in observing pinniped behavior, as specified in the Letter of Authorization, to monitor and document pinniped activity as described below:


(1) For any launches of space launch vehicles or recoveries of the Falcon 9 First Stage occurring from January 1 through July 31, pinniped activity at VAFB must be monitored in the vicinity of the haulout nearest the launch platform, or, in the absence of pinnipeds at that location, at another nearby haulout, for at least 72 hours prior to any planned launch, and continue for a period of time not less than 48 hours subsequent to the launch;


(2) For any launches of new space launch vehicles that have not been monitored during at least 3 previous launches occurring from August 1 through December 31, pinniped activity at VAFB must be monitored in the vicinity of the haulout nearest the launch or landing platform, or, in the absence of pinnipeds at that location, at another nearby haulout, for at least 72 hours prior to any planned launch, and continue for a period of time not less than 48 hours subsequent to launching;


(3) For any launches of existing space launch vehicles that are expected to result in a louder launch noise or sonic boom than previous launches of the same vehicle type occurring from August 1 through December 31, pinniped activity at VAFB must be monitored in the vicinity of the haulout nearest the launch or landing platform, or, in the absence of pinnipeds at that location, at another nearby haulout, for at least 72 hours prior to any planned launch, and continue for a period of time not less than 48 hours subsequent to launching;


(4) For any launches of new types of missiles occurring from August 1 through December 31, pinniped activity at VAFB must be monitored in the vicinity of the haulout nearest the launch or landing platform, or, in the absence of pinnipeds at that location, at another nearby haulout, for at least 72 hours prior to any planned launch, and continue for a period of time not less than 48 hours subsequent to launching;


(5) For any recoveries of the Falcon 9 First Stage occurring from August 1 through December 31 that are predicted to result in a sonic boom of 1.0 pounds per square foot (psf) or above at VAFB, pinniped activity at VAFB must be monitored in the vicinity of the haulout nearest the launch or landing platform, or, in the absence of pinnipeds at that location, at another nearby haulout, for at least 72 hours prior to any planned launch, and continue for a period of time not less than 48 hours subsequent to launching;


(6) For any launches or Falcon 9 First Stage recoveries occurring from January 1 through July 31, follow-up surveys must be conducted within 2 weeks of the launch;


(7) For any launches or Falcon 9 First Stage recoveries, pinniped activity at the Northern Channel Islands must be monitored, if it is determined by modeling that a sonic boom of greater than 2.0 psf is predicted to impact one of the islands between March 1 and July 31, greater than 3.0 psf between August 1 and September 30, and greater than 4.0 psf between October 1 and February 28. Monitoring will be conducted at the haulout site closest to the predicted sonic boom impact area, or, in the absence of pinnipeds at that location, at another nearby haulout;


(8) For any launches or Falcon 9 First Stage recoveries for which marine mammal monitoring is required, acoustic measurements must be made; and


(9) Marine mammal monitoring must include multiple surveys each day that record the species, number of animals, general behavior, presence of pups, age class, gender and reaction to launch noise, sonic booms or other natural or human caused disturbances, in addition to recording environmental conditions such as tide, wind speed, air temperature, and swell. Number of marine mammals hauled out must be recorded immediately prior to the launch, unless weather conditions prevent accurate recording or it is technologically infeasible. When flushing behavior is observed, the amount of time for animals to return to the haulout must be recorded.


(10) Marine mammal monitoring of activities that occur during darkness at VAFB must include night video monitoring, when feasible.


(b) The USAF must submit a report to the Administrator, West Coast Region, NMFS, and Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, within 90 days after each launch. This report must contain the following information:


(1) Date(s) and time(s) of the launch;


(2) Design of the monitoring program; and


(3) Results of the monitoring program, including, but not necessarily limited to:


(i) Numbers of pinnipeds present on the haulout prior to commencement of the launch;


(ii) Numbers of pinnipeds that may have been harassed as noted by the number of pinnipeds estimated to have moved in response to the source of disturbance, ranging from short withdrawals at least twice the animal’s body length to longer retreats over the beach, or if already moving a change of direction of greater than 90 degree, or, entered the water as a result of launch noise;


(iii) For any marine mammals that entered the water, the length of time they remained off the haulout;


(iv) Description of behavioral modifications by pinnipeds that were likely the result of launch noise or sonic boom; and


(v) Results of acoustic monitoring, including the intensity of any sonic boom (psf) and sound levels in SELs, SPLpeak and SPLrms.


(c) If the authorized activity identified in § 217.60(a) is thought to have resulted in the mortality or injury of any marine mammals or in any take of marine mammals not authorized in LOAs, then the USAF must notify the Director, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the stranding coordinator, West Coast Region, NMFS, within 48 hours of the discovery of the injured or dead marine mammal or of the take of marine mammals not authorized in an LOA.


(d) An annual report must be submitted on March 1 of each year to the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS.


(e) A final report must be submitted at least 180 days prior to expiration of these regulations to the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS. This report will:


(1) Summarize the activities undertaken and the results reported in all previous reports;


(2) Assess the impacts at each of the major rookeries;


(3) Assess the cumulative impacts on pinnipeds and other marine mammals from the activities specified in § 217.60(a); and


(4) State the date(s), location(s), and findings of any research activities related to monitoring the effects on launch noise, sonic booms, and harbor activities on marine mammal populations.


§ 217.66 Letters of Authorization.

(a) To incidentally take marine mammals pursuant to these regulations, the USAF must apply for and obtain an LOA.


(b) An LOA, unless suspended or revoked, may be effective for a period of time not to exceed the expiration date of these regulations.


(c) If an LOA expires prior to the expiration date of these regulations, the USAF may apply for and obtain a renewal of the LOA.


(d) In the event of projected changes to the activity or to mitigation and monitoring measures required by an LOA, the USAF must apply for and obtain a modification of the LOA as described in § 217.67.


(e) The LOA will set forth:


(1) Permissible methods of incidental taking;


(2) Means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact (i.e., mitigation) on the species, its habitat, and on the availability of the species for subsistence uses; and


(3) Requirements for monitoring and reporting.


(f) Issuance of the LOA shall be based on a determination that the level of taking will be consistent with the findings made for the total taking allowable under these regulations.


(g) Notice of issuance or denial of an LOA shall be published in the Federal Register within 30 days of a determination.


§ 217.67 Renewals and modifications of Letters of Authorization.

(a) An LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.66 for the activity identified in § 217.60(a) shall be renewed or modified upon request by the applicant, provided that:


(1) The specified activity and mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures, as well as the anticipated impacts, are the same as those described and analyzed for these regulations (excluding changes made pursuant to the adaptive management provision in § 217.67(c)(1)); and


(2) NMFS determines that the mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures required by the previous LOA under these regulations were implemented.


(b) For LOA modification or renewal requests by the applicant that include changes to the activity or the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting (excluding changes made pursuant to the adaptive management provision in § 217.67(c)(1)) that do not change the findings made for the regulations or result in no more than a minor change in the total estimated number of takes (or distribution by species or years), NMFS may publish a notice of proposed LOA in the Federal Register, including the associated analysis of the change, and solicit public comment before issuing the LOA.


(c) An LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.66 for the activity identified in § 217.60(a) may be modified by NMFS under the following circumstances:


(1) Adaptive Management – NMFS may modify (including augment) the existing mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures (after consulting with the USAF regarding the practicability of the modifications) if doing so creates a reasonable likelihood of more effectively accomplishing the goals of the mitigation and monitoring set forth in the preamble for these regulations.


(i) Possible sources of data that could contribute to the decision to modify the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures in an LOA:


(A) Results from the USAF’s monitoring from the previous year(s).


(B) Results from other marine mammal and/or sound research or studies.


(C) Any information that reveals marine mammals may have been taken in a manner, extent or number not authorized by these regulations or subsequent LOAs.


(ii) If, through adaptive management, the modifications to the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures are substantial, NMFS will publish a notice of proposed LOA in the Federal Register and solicit public comment.


(2) Emergencies – If NMFS determines that an emergency exists that poses a significant risk to the well-being of the species or stocks of marine mammals specified in § 217.62(c), an LOA may be modified without prior notice or opportunity for public comment. Notice would be published in the Federal Register within 30 days of the action.


§§ 217.68-217.69 [Reserved]

Subpart H – Taking of Marine Mammals Incidental to Space Vehicle and Missile Launches


Source:82 FR 15003, Mar. 24, 2017, unless otherwise noted.


Effective Date Note:At 82 FR 15003, Mar. 24, 2017, subpart H was added, effective from Apr. 24, 2017, through Apr. 25, 2022.

§ 217.70 Specified activity and specified geographical region.

(a) Regulations in this subpart apply only to the Alaska Aerospace Corporation (AAC) and those persons it authorizes to conduct activities on its behalf for the taking of marine mammals that occurs in the area identified in paragraph (b) of this section and that occurs incidental to conducting up to nine space vehicle launches each year from PSCA, for a total of 45 launches over the period of these regulations.


(b) The taking of marine mammals by AAC may be authorized in a Letter of Authorization (LOA) only if it occurs at the Pacific Spaceport Alaska Complex (PSCA) on Kodiak Island, AK.


§ 217.71 Effective dates.

Regulations in this subpart are effective from April 24, 2017, through April 25, 2022.


§ 217.72 Permissible methods of taking.

Under an LOA issued pursuant to § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.70, the Holder of the LOA (hereinafter “AAC”) and its contractors may incidentally, but not intentionally, take harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) by Level B harassment in the course of conducting space vehicle and missile launch operations within the area described in § 217.70(b), provided the activity is in compliance with all terms, conditions, and requirements of the regulations in this subpart and the applicable LOA.


§ 217.73 Prohibitions.

Notwithstanding authorization under these regulations and any LOA issued under § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.76, no person conducting the activities described in § 217.70 may:


(a) Violate, or fail to comply with, the terms, conditions, and requirements of this subpart or an LOA issued under § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.76;


(b) Take any marine mammal not specified in such LOA;


(c) Take any marine mammal specified in such LOA in any manner other than as specified;


(d) Take a marine mammal specified in such LOA if NMFS determines such taking results in more than a negligible impact on the species or stocks of such marine mammal; or


(e) Take a marine mammal specified in such LOA if NMFS determines such taking results in an unmitigable adverse impact on the species or stock of such marine mammal for taking for subsistence uses.


§ 217.74 Mitigation.

(a) When conducting operations identified in § 217.70(a), the mitigation measures contained in any LOA issued under § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.76 must be implemented. These mitigation measures include:


(1) Security overflights immediately associated with the launch shall not approach pinniped haulouts on Ugak Island by closer than 0.25 mi (0.4 km), and shall maintain a vertical distance of 1,000 ft (305 m) from the haulouts when within 0.5 mi (0.8 km), unless indications of human presence or activity warrant closer inspection of the area to assure that national security interests are protected in accordance with law; and


(2) All Castor 120 equivalent launches shall be conducted at LP1.


(b) [Reserved]


§ 217.75 Requirements for monitoring and reporting.

(a) If the authorized activity identified in § 217.70(a) is thought to have resulted in the mortality or injury of any marine mammals or take of marine mammals not identified in § 217.70(b), then the Holder of the LOA must notify NMFS Office of Protected Resources and NMFS Alaska Regional Office, within 48 hours of the injury or death.


(b) Holders of LOAs must designate qualified, on-site individuals, technical experts who have implemented time-lapsed photography technology for wildlife studies, approved in advance by NMFS Office of Protected Resources to:


(1) Install time-lapsed photography systems designed to monitor pinniped abundance and detect pinniped responses to rocket launches at each of the pinniped haulout locations around Ugak Island. The number of camera systems, equipment capabilities, placement of the systems to be used, and the daily photo frequency shall be determined through a cooperative effort between AAC, NMFS Office of Protected Resources, and the technical experts;


(2) Ensure the time-lapsed photography systems shall be in place and operating in locations that allow for visual monitoring of all pinniped haulouts during launches;


(3) Relocate the time-lapsed photography systems in cooperation with NMFS after five launches if the system is not accurately capturing all pinniped haulouts and total pinniped abundance during the launches;


(4) Monitor and review the effectiveness of these systems, comparing the results to aerial surveys for pinniped presence, abundance, behavior, and re-occupation time from the data obtained from the time-lapsed photography systems for the first five launches and report results to NMFS Office of Protected Resources within 90 days (after the 5th launch); and


(5) Conduct a study in coordination with NMFS Office of Protected Resources to evaluate the effectiveness of the time-lapsed photography systems (specifically, the accuracy of the photography systems compared with aerial count surveys). The results of this study shall determine the need to continue aerial surveys. The study shall be conducted through a minimum of five launches.


(c) AAC shall conduct one pre-launch aerial survey and one post-launch aerial survey for each launch to obtain data on pinniped presence, abundance, and behavior at all pinniped haulouts. Results of these pre- and post-launch surveys shall be reported to NMFS Office of Protected Resources once as part of the year-end summary report required under paragraph (e) of this section.


(d) AAC shall conduct quarterly aerial surveys, ideally during mid-day coinciding with low tide, to obtain data on pinniped presence, abundance, and behavior within the action area to determine long-term trends in pinniped haulout use capturing all pinniped haulouts. Results of these quarterly surveys shall be reported to NMFS Office of Protected Resources once as part of the year-end summary report required under paragraph (e) of this section.


(e) A year-end summary report must be submitted on March 1 of each year to NMFS Office of Protected Resources that shall include results of the pre- and post-launch aerial surveys, quarterly aerial survey trend counts of pinnipeds, and comparison of the results using the time-lapsed photography systems on Ugak Island. Future aerial surveys may be reduced if the time-lapsed photography systems capture similar or better data than aerial surveys. This report must contain the following information:


(1) Date(s) and time(s) of the launches;


(2) Locations of the time-lapsed photography systems;


(3) Design of the monitoring program for the time-lapsed photography systems and a description of how data is stored and analyzed; and


(4) Results of the monitoring program for pre- and post-launch aerial surveys, quarterly aerial surveys, and the time-lapsed photography systems, including, but not necessarily limited to:


(i) Numbers of pinnipeds, by species and age class (if possible), present on the haulout prior to commencement of the launch;


(ii) Numbers of pinnipeds, by species and age class (if possible), that may have been harassed, including the number that entered the water as a result of launch noise;


(iii) The length of time pinnipeds remained off the haulout during post-launch monitoring;


(iv) Number of harbor seal pups that may have been injured or killed as a result of the launch; and


(v) Other behavioral modifications by pinnipeds that were likely the result of launch noise.


(f) A final 5-year report must be submitted to NMFS Office of Protected Resources at least 90 days prior to expiration of these regulations if new regulations are sought or 180 days after expiration of regulations. This report shall:


(1) Summarize the activities undertaken and the results reported in all previous reports;


(2) Assess the impacts of launch activities on pinnipeds within the action area, including potential for pup injury and mortality;


(3) Assess the cumulative impacts on pinnipeds and other marine mammals from multiple rocket launches; and


(4) State the date(s), location(s), and findings of any research activities related to monitoring using time-lapsed photography systems on marine mammal populations


(g) AAC shall conduct quarterly aerial surveys in the event no launch occurs during a calendar year. These quarterly surveys shall be reported in the year-end summary report as described in paragraph (e) of this section; and


(h) If NMFS believes that launch monitoring or quarterly aerial surveys indicate that the distribution, size, or productivity of the potentially affected pinniped populations has been affected due to the specified activity, the launch procedures and the monitoring methods shall be reviewed in cooperation with NMFS, and, if necessary, appropriate changes may be made through modifications to a given LOA, prior to conducting the next launch of the same vehicle under that LOA.


§ 217.76 Letters of Authorization.

(a) To incidentally take marine mammals pursuant to these regulations, AAC must apply for and obtain an LOA.


(b) An LOA, unless suspended or revoked, may be effective for a period of time not to exceed the expiration date of these regulations.


(c) If an LOA expires prior to the expiration date of these regulations, AAC must apply for and obtain a renewal of the LOA.


(d) In the event of projected changes to the activity or to mitigation and monitoring measures required by an LOA, AAC must apply for and obtain a modification of the LOA as described in § 217.77.


(e) The LOA shall set forth:


(1) The number of marine mammals, by species, authorized to be taken;


(2) Permissible methods of incidental taking;


(3) Means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact (i.e., mitigation) on the species of marine mammals authorized for taking, its habitat, and on the availability of the species for subsistence uses; and


(4) Requirements for monitoring and reporting.


(f) Issuance of an LOA shall be based on a determination that the level of taking shall be consistent with the findings made for the total taking allowable under these regulations.


(g) Notice of issuance or denial of an LOA shall be published in the Federal Register within 30 days of a determination.


§ 217.77 Renewals and modifications of Letters of Authorization.

(a) An LOA issued under § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.76 for the activity identified in § 217.70(a) shall be renewed or modified upon request by the applicant, provided that:


(1) The specified activity and mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures, as well as the anticipated impacts, are the same as those described and analyzed for these regulations (excluding changes made pursuant to the adaptive management provision in paragraph (c)(1) of this section), and


(2) NMFS determines that the mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures required by the previous LOA under these regulations were implemented.


(b) For an LOA modification or renewal request by the applicant that includes changes to the activity or the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting (excluding changes made pursuant to the adaptive management provision in paragraph (c)(1) of this section) that do not change the findings made for the regulations or result in no more than a minor change in the total estimated number of takes (or distribution by species or years), NMFS may publish a notice of proposed LOA in the Federal Register, including the associated analysis of the change, and solicit public comment before issuing the LOA.


(c) An LOA issued under § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.76 for the activity identified in § 217.70(a) may be modified by NMFS under the following circumstances:


(1) Adaptive Management – NMFS may modify (including augment) the existing mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures (after consulting with AAC regarding the practicability of the modifications) if doing so creates a reasonable likelihood of more effectively accomplishing the goals of the mitigation and monitoring set forth in the preamble for these regulations:


(i) Possible sources of data that could contribute to the decision to modify the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures in an LOA:


(A) Results from AAC’s monitoring from the previous year(s);


(B) Results from other marine mammal and/or sound research or studies; and


(C) Any information that reveals marine mammals may have been taken in a manner, extent or number not authorized by these regulations or any LOA issued under §§ 216.106 and 217.76 of this chapter.


(ii) If, through adaptive management, the modifications to the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures are substantial, NMFS shall publish a notice of proposed LOA in the Federal Register and solicit public comment.


(2) Emergencies – If NMFS determines that an emergency exists that poses a significant risk to the well-being of the species or stocks of marine mammals specified in §§ 217.70(b) and 217.72(a), an LOA may be modified without prior notice or opportunity for public comment. A notice shall be published in the Federal Register within 30 days of the action.


§ 217.78-217.79 [Reserved]

Subpart I – Taking of Marine Mammals Incidental to Naval Explosive Ordnance Disposal School (NEODS) Training Operations


Source:77 FR 16736, Mar. 22, 2012, unless otherwise noted.

§ 217.80 Specified activity and specified geographical region.

(a) Regulations in this subpart apply only to the incidental taking of those marine mammals specified in paragraph (b) of this section by the United States Air Force, Headquarters 96th Air Base Wing, Eglin Air Force Base, and those persons who engage in activities described in paragraphs (a)(1) through (7) of this section and the area set forth in paragraph (b) of this section.


(1) NEODS missions involving underwater detonations of small, live explosive charges adjacent to inert mines in order to disable the mine function,


(2) Live training events occurring eight times annually, averaging one event occurring every 6 to 7 weeks,


(3) Four of the training events involving 5-lb charges, and four events involving 10-lb charges,


(4) Up to 20 5-lb detonations and twenty 10-lb detonations annually, for a total of 40 detonations,


(5) The five charges occurring for each training event shall be detonated individually with a maximum separation time of 20 minutes between each detonation,


(6) Mine shapes and debris shall be recovered and removed from the Gulf of Mexico waters when training is completed, and


(7) Each training team has two days to complete their entire evolution (i.e., detonation of five charges). If operations cannot be completed on the first live demolition day, the second live demolition day shall be utilized to complete the evolution.


(b) The incidental take of marine mammals at Eglin Air Force Base, within the Eglin Military Complex, including three sites in the Eglin Gulf Test and Training Range at property off Santa Rosa Island, Florida, in the northern Gulf of Mexico, under the activity identified in paragraph (a) of this section, is limited to the following species: Atlantic bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus).


(1) The latitude/longitude of corners of W-151 in the Eglin Gulf Test and Training Range are:


(i) 30.24006° North, −86.808838° West


(ii) 29.539011° North, −84.995536° West


(iii) 28.03949° North, −85.000147° West


(iv) 28.027598° North, −85.199395° West


(v) 28.505304° North, −86.799043° West


(2) The latitude/longitude of corners of W-151A in the Eglin Gulf Test and Training Range are:


(i) 30.24006° North, −86.808838° West


(ii) 30.07499° North, −85.999327° West


(iii) 29.179968° North, −85.996341° West


(iv) 29.384439° North, −86.802579° West


§ 217.81 Effective dates.

Regulations in this subpart are effective from April 23, 2012, through April 24, 2017.


§ 217.82 Permissible methods of taking.

(a) Under Letters of Authorization issued pursuant to § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.87, the U.S. Department of the Air Force, Headquarters 96th Air Base Wing, Eglin Air Force Base (U.S. Air Force), its contractors, and clients, may incidentally, but not intentionally, take marine mammals by Level B harassment, within the area described in § 217.80, provided the activity is in compliance with all terms, conditions, and requirements of these regulations and the appropriate Letter of Authorization.


(b) The incidental taking of marine mammals is authorized for the species listed in § 217.80(b) and is limited to Level B harassment.


(c) The incidental taking of an average of 10 individuals annually and 50 individuals during the 5-year rule, for Atlantic bottlenose dolphins.


(d) The U.S. Air Force shall suspend NEODS training operations until it obtains additional authorization for the take of marine mammals if:


(1) A marine mammal is injured, seriously injured, or killed during training operations;


(2) The injury, serious injury, or death could be associated with the activities; and


(3) After coordination and concurrence with NMFS, the U.S. Air Force determines that supplementary measures are unlikely to reduce the risk of injury, serious injury or death to a very low level, require the U.S. Air Force to suspend its activities until an authorization for such taking has been obtained.


§ 217.83 Prohibitions.

Notwithstanding takings contemplated in § 217.80 and authorized by a Letter of Authorization issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.87, no person in connection with the activities described in § 217.80 may:


(a) Take any marine mammal not specified in § 217.80(b);


(b) Take any marine mammal specified in § 217.80(b) other than by incidental take as specified in § 217.82(a) through (d);


(c) Take a marine mammal specified in § 217.80(b) if such taking results in more than a negligible impact on the species or stocks of such marine mammal; or


(d) Violate, or fail to comply with, the terms, conditions, and requirements of this subpart or a Letter of Authorization issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.87.


§ 217.84 Mitigation.

(a) The activity identified in § 217.80(a) must be conducted in a manner that minimizes, to the greatest extent practicable, adverse impacts on marine mammals and their habitats. When conducting operations identified in § 217.80(a), the mitigation measures contained in the Letter of Authorization issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.87 must be implemented. These mitigation measures include (but are not limited to):


(1) Underwater detonations using timed delay devices will only be conducted during daylight hours. The time of detonation shall be limited to an hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset.


(2) NEODS missions shall be postponed if:


(i) The Beaufort sea state is greater than scale number three. Such a delay would maximize detection of marine mammals.


(ii) Large concentrations of fish, jellyfish, and/or large Sargassum rafts are observed within the mitigation-monitoring zone. The delay would continue until the fish, jellyfish, and/or Sargassum rafts that cause the postponement are confirmed to be outside the mitigation-monitoring zone.


(3) Time delays longer than 10 minutes will not be used. Initiation of the timer device will not start until the mitigation-monitoring zone is clear of marine mammals for 30 minutes.


(4) A calculated mitigation-monitoring zone will be established around each underwater detonation location based on charge weight and length of time-delay used. When conducting surveys within the mitigation-monitoring zone radius (but always outside the detonation plume radius/human safety zone) and travel in a circular pattern around the detonation point, surveying the inner (toward the detonation site) and outer (away from the detonation site) areas. For a survey radius of 914.4 meters, the boat will be positioned at 457.2 meters from the detonation point. Similarly, for a survey radius of 1,280.2 meters, boats will be positioned at 640.1 meter distance.


(5) For a survey radius of 914.4 meters, two boats are required. For a radius of 1,280.2 meters, either three boats or two boats/one helicopter are required.


(6) When using two boats, each boat will be positioned on opposite sides of the detonation location, separated by 180 degrees. When using three boats, each boat will be separated by 120 degrees (equidistant from each other).


(7) Two observers in each boat will conduct continuous visual surveys of the mitigation-monitoring zone for the entire duration of the training event, including at least 30 minutes prior to detonation. Observers will search the mitigation-monitoring zone for the presence of marine mammals, and other marine species such as sea turtles, diving birds, large concentrations of fish or jellyfish, and large Sargassum mats. The presence of diving birds, fish, jellyfish, and Sargassum may indicate an increased likelihood of dolphin presence.


(8) To the extent practicable, boats will maintain 18.5 kilometer per hour search speed. This search speed is expected to ensure adequate coverage of the buffer zone. While weather conditions and sea state may require slower speeds in some instances, 18.5 kilometers per hour is considered a prudent, safe, and executable speed that will allow adequate surveillance. For a 914.4 meter survey zone, a boat traveling at 18.5 kilometers per hour and 457.2 meters from the detonation point would circle the point approximately 3.2 times during a 30 minute survey period. By using two boats, approximately 6.4 circles would be completed in total. Similarly, for a 1,280.2 meter radius, each boat would circle the detonation point approximately 2.3 times within 30 minutes, and use of three boats would result in 6.9 total circles.


(9) If available, a U.S. Navy helicopter can be used in lieu of one of the survey boats, so long as safety of flight is not jeopardized. U.S. Navy helicopter pilots are trained to conduct searches for relatively small objects in the water, such as a missing person. A helicopter search pattern is dictated by standard U.S. Navy protocols and accounts for multiple variables, such as size and shape of the search area, size of the object, and environmental conditions, among others.


(10) The mitigation-monitoring zone will be surveyed for 30 minutes prior to detonation and continue for 30 minutes after detonation (concentrated on the area down current of the test site), in order to monitor for marine mammals and other protected species. It is the U.S. Air Force’s (on behalf of the U.S. Navy) intent to conduct five successive detonations with a maximum time of 20 minutes between detonations, although a variety of factors can cause a delay of longer than 20 minutes between detonations, although a variety of factors can cause a delay of longer than 20 minutes, including a delay until the following day. Monitoring would continue during the 20 minutes time between detonations, and would serve as both post-detonation monitoring as well as pre-mission monitoring for the next detonation. If the time between detonations is delayed beyond 20 minutes, post-mission monitoring will be conducted for 30 minutes. At the conclusion of the final detonation, post-monitoring will be conducted for 30 minutes.


(11) Other personnel besides designated observers shall also maintain situational awareness of the presence of marine mammals within the mitigation-monitoring zone to the extent practicable given dive safety considerations.


(12) Divers placing the charges on mines will observe the immediate underwater area around the detonation site for marine mammals and other marine species such as diving birds, sea turtles, and Gulf sturgeon, and report sightings to surface observers.


(13) If a marine mammal is sighted within an established mitigation-monitoring zone or moving towards it, underwater detonation events will be postponed or suspended until the marine mammal that caused the postponement/suspension of training operations has voluntarily left the area and the area is clear of marine mammals for at least 30 minutes.


(14) If a marine mammal is detected within or about to enter an established mitigation-monitoring zone and subsequently cannot be reacquired, the mission will be postponed or suspended until the last verified location is outside the mitigation-monitoring zone, the animals is moving away from the area, and the area is clear of marine mammals for at least 30 minutes.


(15) Any marine mammal observed after an underwater detonation either injured or exhibiting signs of distress will be reported to Eglin Air Force Base. Eglin Air Force Base will coordinate with other members of marine mammal stranding networks, as appropriate, and report these events to NMFS or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The report will contain date and time of sighting, location, species description, and indications of the animal’s status.


(16) Training operations shall be suspended if the conditions of § 217.83(a)-(d) regarding the injury, serious injury, or death of a marine mammal during NEODS training operations are met.


(17) Additional mitigation measures as contained in a Letter of Authorization.


(b) [Reserved]


§ 217.85 Requirements for monitoring and reporting.

(a) Holders of Letters of Authorization pursuant to § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.87 for activities described in § 216.80(a) are required to cooperate with NMFS, and any other Federal, state, or local agency with authority to monitor the impacts of the activity on marine mammals. Unless specified otherwise in the Letter of Authorization, the Holder of the Letter of Authorization must notify the Administrator, Southeast Region, NMFS, by letter or telephone, prior to activities possibly involving the taking of marine mammals. If the authorized activity identified in § 217.80(a) is thought to have resulted in the mortality or injury of any marine mammals or in any take of marine mammals not identified in § 217.80(b), then the Holder of the Letter of Authorization must, in addition to complying with the requirements of § 217.82(a)-(d), notify the Director, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, or designee, by telephone (301-427-8400), within 24 hours of the discovery of the injured or dead animal.


(b) Holders of Letters of Authorization must designate trained, qualified, on-site individuals approved in advance by NMFS, as specified in the Letter of Authorization, to perform the following monitoring requirements:


(1) For NEODS testing, areas to be used in missions shall be visually monitored for marine mammal presence from a surface support vessel prior to detonation of mine neutralization charges. Monitoring shall be conducted 30 minutes before missions to clear the mitigation-monitoring zone. Post-mission monitoring shall also be conducted for 30 minutes after the final detonation (concentrated on the area down current of the test site). If marine mammals are inside the mitigation-monitoring zone, detonations shall be postponed until they have left the area. The observer on the vessel must be equipped with the proper optical equipment and lines of communication in order to recommend the decision to move forward with the mission.


(2) Monitoring shall occur pre-mission (for 30 minutes), throughout the mission, and post-mission (for 30 minutes). Post-mission monitoring shall concentrate on the area down current of the test site.


(3) Survey clearance procedures shall be conducted using best operational methods possible. After the mitigation-monitoring zone is cleared, all dolphins and protected species indicators (e.g., Sargassum rafts) shall be avoided to the maximum extent possible.


(4) Clearance procedures shall be re-conducted if dolphins or protected species indicators (e.g., Sargassum rafts) are encountered.


(5) After conducting post-mission monitoring, NEODS training operations data as required by Eglin Air Force Base’s Natural Resources Section, 96 CEG/CEVSN shall be reported. Post-mission monitoring shall commence immediately following each detonation and shall be concentrated on the area down current of the test site. If any injured or dead marine mammals are observed, that information will be reported and coordinated with marine animals stranding networks.


(6) An annual summary (coordinated through 96 CEG/CEVSN) of mission observations shall be submitted to: NMFS, Southeast Regional Office, Protected Resources Division, 9721 Executive Center Drive North, St. Petersburg, Florida 33702; and NMFS, Office of Protected Resources, 1315 East West Highway, Silver Spring, Maryland 20910.


(c) Holders of Letters of Authorization must conduct additional monitoring as required under an annual Letter of Authorization.


(d) Holders of Letters of Authorization must submit an annual report summarizing the specified activity as well as monitoring and mitigation data to the Southeast Regional Administrator and Director of the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, within 90 days after the conclusion of the NEODS training operations. This report must contain the following information:


(1) Date(s), time(s), and location(s) of explosive activities,


(2) Design of the monitoring program,


(3) Results of the monitoring program including, but not necessarily limited to:


(i) Species counts,


(ii) Numbers of observed disturbances,


(iii) Descriptions of the disturbance behaviors before, during, and after explosive activities,


(iv) Bearing and distances,


(v) Observations of unusual behaviors, numbers, or distributions of marine mammals in the activity area shall be reported to NMFS and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service so that any potential follow-up observations can be conducted by the appropriate personnel. In addition, observations of tag-bearing marine mammals, sea turtles, and fish carcasses as well as any rare or unusual species of marine mammals and fish shall be reported to NMFS and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.


(e) An annual report (referred to in § 217.85(d)) must be submitted at the time of notification of the renewal of the Letter of Authorization.


(f) A draft comprehensive final report must be submitted at least 180 days prior to expiration of these regulations. This comprehensive technical report shall provide full documentation of methods, results, and interpretation of all monitoring during the first four and a half years of the Letter of Authorization. A revised final comprehensive technical report, including all monitoring results during the entire period of the Letters of Authorization, must be submitted 90 days after the end of the period of effectiveness of the regulations. This report shall summarize the activities undertaken and the results reported in all previous reports.


(g)(1) In the unanticipated event that the specified activity clearly causes the take of a marine mammal in a manner prohibited by a Letter of Authorization, such as an injury, serious injury, or mortality, Eglin Air Force Base will immediately cease the specified activities and immediately report the incident to the Chief of the Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS at 301-427-8401 and/or by email to [email protected] and [email protected], and the NMFS Southeast Regional Marine Mammal Stranding Network at 877-433-8299 ([email protected] and [email protected]) (Florida Marine Mammal Stranding Hotline at 888-404-3922). The report must include the following information:


(i) Time, date, and location (latitude/longitude) of the incident;


(ii) Description of the incident;


(iii) Status of all noise-generating source use in the 24 hours preceding the incident;


(iv) Water depth;


(v) Environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, Beaufort sea state, cloud cover, and visibility);


(vi) Description of all marine mammal observations in the 24 hours preceding the incident;


(vii) Species identification or description of the animal(s) involved;


(viii) Fate of the animal(s); and


(ix) Photographs or video footage of the animal(s) (if equipment is available).


Activities shall not resume until NMFS is able to review the circumstances of the prohibited take. NMFS shall work with Eglin Air Force Base to determine what is necessary to minimize the likelihood of further prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. Eglin Air Force Base may not resume their activities until notified by NMFS via letter or email, or telephone.


(2) In the event that Eglin Air Force Base discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the lead observer determines that the cause of injury or death is unknown and the death is relatively recent (i.e., less than a moderate state of decomposition as described in the next paragraph), Eglin Air Force Base will immediately report the incident to the Chief of the Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, at 301-427-8401, and/or by email to [email protected] and [email protected] and the NMFS Southeast Region Marine Mammal Stranding Network (877-433-8299) and/or by email to the Southeast Regional Stranding Coordinator ([email protected]) and Southeast Regional Stranding Program Administrator ([email protected]). The report must include the same information identified in the paragraph above. Activities may continue while NMFS reviews the circumstances of the incident, NMFS will work with Eglin Air Force Base to determine whether modifications in the activities are appropriate.


(3) In the event that Eglin Air Force Base discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the lead observer determines that the injury or death is not associated with or related to the activities authorized in the Letter of Authorization (e.g., previously wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced decomposition, or scavenger damage), Eglin Air Force Base will report the incident to the Chief of the Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, at 301-427-8401, and/or by email to [email protected] and [email protected], and the NMFS Southeast Regional Marine Mammal Stranding Network (877-433-8299), and/or by email to the Southeast Regional Stranding Coordinator ([email protected]) and Southeast Regional Stranding Program Administrator ([email protected]aa.gov), within 24 hours of discovery. Eglin Air Force Base will provide photographs or video footage (if available) or other documentation of the stranded animals sighting to NMFS and the Marine Mammal Stranding Network.


§ 217.86 Applications for Letters of Authorization.

(a) To incidentally take marine mammals pursuant to these regulations, the U.S. citizen (as defined by § 216.103) conducting the activity identified in § 217.80(a) must apply for and obtain either an initial Letter of Authorization in accordance with § 217.87 or a renewal under § 217.88.


(b) The application must be submitted to NMFS at least 30 days before the activity is scheduled to begin.


(c) Application for a Letter of Authorization and for renewals of Letters of Authorization must include the following:


(1) Name of the U.S. citizen requesting the authorization;


(2) A description of the activity, the dates of the activity, and the specific location of the activity; and


(3) Plans to monitor the behavior and effects of the activity on marine mammals.


(d) A copy of the Letter of Authorization must be in the possession of the persons conducting activities that may involve incidental takings of marine mammals.


(e) [Reserved]


§ 217.87 Letters of Authorization.

(a) A Letter of Authorization, unless suspended or revoked, shall be valid for a period of time not to exceed the period of validity of this subpart.


(b) The Letter of Authorization shall set forth:


(1) Permissible methods of incidental taking;


(2) Means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact on the species, its habitat, and on the availability of the species for subsistence uses (i.e., mitigation); and


(3) Requirements for mitigation, monitoring, and reporting.


(c) Issuance and renewal of the Letter of Authorization shall be based on a determination that the total number of marine mammals taken by the activity as a whole shall have no more than a negligible impact on the affected species or stock of marine mammal(s).


§ 217.88 Renewal of Letters of Authorization and adaptive management.

(a) A Letter of Authorization issued under § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.87 for the activity identified in § 217.80(a) shall be renewed upon a request by the applicant or determination by NMFS and the applicant that modifications are appropriate pursuant to the adaptive management component of these regulations, provided that:


(1) NMFS is notified that the activity described in the application submitted under § 217.86 shall be undertaken and there shall not be a substantial modification to the described work, mitigation or monitoring undertaken during the upcoming 12 months;


(2) NMFS has received, reviewed, and accepted the monitoring reports required under § 217.85(d) and (e) and the Letter of Authorization issued under § 217.87;


(3) NMFS determines that the mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures required under §§ 217.84 and 217.85 and the Letter of Authorization issued under §§ 216.106 and 217.87 of this chapter, were undertaken and shall be undertaken during the upcoming annual period of validity of a renewed Letter of Authorization; and


(4) NMFS makes the determination required by § 217.87(c).


(b) If either a request for a renewal of a Letter of Authorization issued under § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.88, or a determination by NMFS and the applicant that modifications are appropriate pursuant to the adaptive management component of these regulations indicates that a substantial modification, as determined by NMFS, to the described work, mitigation or monitoring undertaken during the upcoming season shall occur, NMFS shall publish a proposed modification to the Letter of Authorization in the Federal Register and provide the public a period of 30 days for review and comment. Review and comment on renewals or modifications of Letters of Authorization are restricted to:


(1) New cited information and data indicating that the determinations made in this document are in need of reconsideration, and


(2) Proposed substantive changes to the mitigation and monitoring requirements contained in these regulations or in the current Letter of Authorization.


(c) A notice of issuance or denial of a renewal of a Letter of Authorization shall be published in the Federal Register.


(d) Adaptive Management – NMFS may modify or augment the existing mitigation or monitoring measures (after consulting with the U.S. Air Force regarding the practicability of the modifications) if doing so creates a reasonable likelihood of more effectively accomplishing the goals of mitigation and monitoring set forth in the preamble of these regulations. Below are some of the possible sources of new data that could contribute to the decision to modify the mitigation or monitoring measures:


(1) Results from the U.S. Air Force’s monitoring from the previous year;


(2) Results from marine mammal and sound research; or


(3) Any information which reveals that marine mammals may have been taken in a manner, extent or number not authorized by these regulations or subsequent Letters of Authorization.


§ 217.89 Modifications of Letters of Authorization.

(a) Except as provided in paragraph (b) of this section, no substantive modification (including withdrawal or suspension) to the Letter of Authorization by NMFS issued pursuant to § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.87 of this chapter and subject to the provisions of this subpart shall be made until after notification and an opportunity for public comment has been provided. For purposes of this paragraph, a renewal of a Letter of Authorization under § 217.88, without modification (except for the period of validity), is not considered a substantive modification.


(b) If the Assistant Administrator determines that an emergency exists that poses a significant risk to the well-being of the species or stocks of marine mammals specified in § 217.80(b), a Letter of Authorization issued pursuant to § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.87 of this chapter may be substantively modified without prior notification and an opportunity for public comment. Notification shall be published in the Federal Register within 30 days subsequent to the action.


Subpart J – Taking and Importing Marine Mammals; U.S. Navy’s Submarine Base New London Pier Construction


Source:83 FR 36788, July 31, 2018, unless otherwise noted.


Effective Date Note:At 83 FR 36788, July 31, 2018, subpart J was added, effective Mar. 1, 2020, until Feb. 28, 2025.

§ 217.90 Specified activity and specified geographical region.

(a) Regulations in this subpart apply only to the U.S. Navy (Navy) and those persons it authorizes or funds to conduct activities on its behalf for the taking of marine mammals that occurs in the area outlined in paragraph (b) of this section and that occurs incidental to the activities described in paragraph (c) of this section.


(b) The taking of marine mammals by the Navy may be authorized in Letters of Authorization (LOAs) only if it occurs within the Navy Submarine Base New London Study Area, which is located in the towns of Groton and Ledyard in New London County, Connecticut.


(c) The taking of marine mammals by the Navy is only authorized if it occurs incidental to the Navy’s conducting in-water pier construction or demolition activities.


§ 217.91 Effective dates and definitions.

Regulations in this subpart are effective March 1, 2020 through February 28, 2025.


§ 217.92 Permissible methods of taking.

Under LOAs issued pursuant to § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.96, the Holder of the LOAs (hereinafter “Navy”) may incidentally, but not intentionally, take marine mammals within the area described in § 217.90(b) by Level A harassment and Level B harassment associated with in-water pile driving and pile removal activities, provided the activity is in compliance with all terms, conditions, and requirements of the regulations in this subpart and the applicable LOAs.


§ 217.93 Prohibitions.

Notwithstanding takings contemplated in § 217.92 and authorized by LOAs issued under § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.96, no person in connection with the activities described in § 217.90 may:


(a) Violate, or fail to comply with, the terms, conditions, and requirements of this subpart or a LOA issued under § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.96;


(b) Take any marine mammal not specified in such LOAs;


(c) Take any marine mammal specified in such LOAs in any manner other than as specified;


(d) Take a marine mammal specified in such LOAs if NMFS determines such taking results in more than a negligible impact on the species or stocks of such marine mammal; or


(e) Take a marine mammal specified in such LOAs if NMFS determines such taking results in an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of such species or stock of marine mammal for taking for subsistence uses.


§ 217.94 Mitigation requirements.

When conducting the activities identified in § 217.90(c), the mitigation measures contained in any LOAs issued under § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.96 must be implemented. These mitigation measures shall include but are not limited to:


(a) Time restriction. In-water construction and demolition work shall occur only during daylight hours.


(b) Establishment of monitoring and shutdown zones. (1) For all relevant in-water construction and demolition activity, the Navy shall designate Level A harassment zones with radial distances as identified in any LOA issued under § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.96.


(2) For all relevant in-water construction and demolition activity, the Navy shall designate Level B harassment zones with radial distances as identified in any LOA issued under § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.96.


(3) For all in-water construction and demolition activity, the Navy shall implement a minimum shutdown zone of a 10-m radius around the pile. If a marine mammal comes within or approaches the shutdown zone, such operations shall cease.


(c) Monitoring visibility. Pile driving shall only take place when the shutdown and Level A zones are visible and can be adequately monitored. If conditions (e.g., fog) prevent the visual detection of marine mammals, activities with the potential to result in Level A harassment shall not be initiated. If such conditions arise after the activity has begun, pile driving or pile removal activities shall be halted if the 10-m shutdown zone is not visible.


(d) Shutdown measures. (1) The Navy shall deploy three protected species observers (PSOs) to monitor marine mammals during in-water pile driving and pile removal. One PSO shall be located on land and two shall be located in a boat to monitor the farther locations.


(2) Monitoring shall take place from 15 minutes prior to initiation of pile driving or removal activity through 30 minutes post-completion of pile driving or removal activity. Pre-activity monitoring shall be conducted for 15 minutes to ensure that the shutdown zone is clear of marine mammals, and pile driving or removal may commence when observers have declared the shutdown zone clear of marine mammals. In the event of a delay or shutdown of activity resulting from marine mammals in the shutdown zone, animals shall be allowed to remain in the shutdown zone (i.e., must leave of their own volition) and their behavior shall be monitored and documented. Monitoring shall occur throughout the time required to drive or remove a pile. A determination that the shutdown zone is clear must be made during a period of good visibility (i.e., the entire shutdown zone and surrounding waters must be visible to the naked eye).


(3) If a marine mammal approaches or enters the shutdown zone, or if a marine mammal not specified in the LOAs enters the Level B harassment zone, or if the take of a marine mammal species or stock has reached the take limits specified in any LOA issued under § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.96 and enters the Level B harassment zone, all pile driving or removal activities at that location shall be halted. If pile driving or removal is halted or delayed due to the presence of a marine mammal, the activity may not commence or resume until either the animal has voluntarily left and been visually confirmed beyond the shutdown zone or fifteen minutes have passed without re-detection of the animal.


(4) The Navy shall implement shutdown measures if the number of authorized takes for any particular species reaches the limit under the applicable LOA and if such marine mammals are sighted within the vicinity of the project area and are approaching the Level B harassment zone during in-water construction or demolition activities.


(e) Soft start. (1) The Navy shall implement soft start techniques for impact pile driving. The Navy shall conduct an initial set of three strikes from the impact hammer at 40 percent energy, followed by a 1-minute waiting period, then two subsequent three strike sets.


(2) Soft start shall be required for any impact driving, including at the beginning of the day, and at any time following a cessation of impact pile driving of 30 minutes or longer.


§ 217.95 Requirements for monitoring and reporting.

(a) Marine mammal monitoring – (1) General requirements. The Navy shall employ trained protected species observers (PSOs) to conduct marine mammal monitoring for its Submarine Base New London pier construction project. The PSOs shall observe and collect data on marine mammals in and around the project area for 15 minutes before, during, and for 30 minutes after all pile removal and pile installation work. PSOs shall have no other assigned tasks during monitoring periods, and shall be placed at the best vantage point(s) practicable to monitor for marine mammals and implement shutdown or delay procedures when applicable through communication with the equipment operator.


(2) Protected species observer qualifications. NMFS-approved PSOs shall meet the following requirements:


(i) Independent observers (i.e., not construction personnel) are required;


(ii) At least one observer must have prior experience working as an observer;


(iii) Other observers may substitute education (undergraduate degree in biological science or related field) or training for experience;


(iv) Where a team of three or more observers are required, one observer should be designated as lead observer or monitoring coordinator. The lead observer must have prior experience working as an observer; and


(v) NMFS will require submission and approval of observer CVs.


(3) Marine mammal monitoring protocols. (i) The Navy shall conduct briefings between construction supervisors and crews and the PSO team prior to the start of all pile driving activities, and when new personnel join the work, in order to explain responsibilities, communication procedures, marine mammal monitoring protocol, and operational procedures. All personnel working in the project area shall watch the Navy’s Marine Species Awareness Training video. An informal guide shall be included with the monitoring plan to aid in identifying species if they are observed in the vicinity of the project area.


(ii) The Navy shall monitor the Level A and Level B harassment zones before, during, and after pile driving activities for all in-water constructions. The Marine Mammal Monitoring Plan shall include the following procedures:


(A) PSO location. PSOs will be primarily located on boats, docks, and piers at the best vantage point(s) in order to properly see the entire shutdown zone(s).


(B) PSO vantage point. PSOs will be located at the best vantage point(s) to observe the zone associated with behavioral impact thresholds.


(C) Observation equipment. During all observation periods, PSOs will use high-magnification (25X), as well as standard handheld (7X) binoculars, and the naked eye to search continuously for marine mammals.


(D) Ranging equipment. Monitoring distances will be measured with range finders. Distances to animals will be based on the best estimate of the PSO, relative to known distances to objects in the vicinity of the PSO.


(E) Bearing. Bearings to animals will be determined using a compass.


(F) Pre-activity monitoring. The shutdown zone will be monitored for 15 minutes prior to in-water construction/demolition activities. If a marine mammal is present within the 10-m shutdown zone, the activity will be delayed until the animal(s) leaves the shutdown zone. Activity will resume only after the PSO has determined that, through sighting or by waiting 15 minutes, the animal(s) has moved outside the shutdown zone. If a marine mammal is observed approaching the shutdown zone, the PSO who sighted that animal will notify all other PSOs of its presence.


(G) During activity monitoring. If a marine mammal is observed entering the Level A or Level B harassment zones outside the 10-m shutdown zone, the pile segment being worked on will be completed without cessation, unless the animal enters or approaches the shutdown zone, at which point all pile driving activities will be halted. If an animal is observed within the shutdown zone during pile driving, then pile driving will be stopped as soon as it is safe to do so. Pile driving can only resume once the animal has left the shutdown zone of its own volition or has not been re-sighted for a period of 15 minutes.


(H) Post-activity monitoring. Monitoring of all zones will continue for 30 minutes following the completion of the activity.


(b) Acoustic monitoring – (1) Sound source verification. (i) The Navy shall conduct pile driving sound source verification for the following types and sizes of piles:


(A) Vibratory and impact installation of at least 5 16-in fiberglass reinforced plastic piles; and


(B) Rock socket drilling of at least 3 30-in and 3 16-in piles.


(ii) Sound source measurements of these piles sound shall be conducted at distances approximately 10 m from the source.


(iii) For vibratory pile driving/removal source level measurements, reports shall include 1-s sound exposure level (SEL), source spectrum, duration of recordings used to derived the SEL, and 24-hour cumulative SEL extrapolated from measurements.


(iv) For impact pile driving source level measurements, report should include peak sound pressure level (SPLpk), root-mean-square SPL (SPLrms), single strike SEL (SELss), integration time for SPLrms, SELss spectrum, and 24-hour cumulative SEL extrapolated from measurements.


(2) Level B harassment distance verification. (i) The Navy shall empirically determine the Level B harassment distance either by extrapolating from in situ measurements conducted at several points between 10 and 500 m from the source, or by direct measurements to locate the distance where the received levels reach 120 dB or below, or at the ambient noise level.


(ii) Level B harassment zones to be empirically verified include:


(A) Rock socket drilling of at least 3 30-in and 3 16-in piles;


(B) Vibratory installation of at least 3 36-in steel piles; and


(C) Vibratory removal of at least 3 24-in concrete and 3 33-in concrete piles.


(iii) For extent of Level B harassment zone verification, the Navy shall report the measured or extrapolated distances where the received levels SPLrms decay to 120-dB or to the ambient noise level, whichever is higher, as well as integration time for such SPLrms.


(3) Source level calculation. The sound levels reported should be in median and linear average (i.e., taking averages of sound intensity before converting to dB).


(4) Sediment type. The passive acoustic monitoring reports shall also include sediment type where measurements are made.


(c) Reporting measures – (1) Annual reports. (i) The Navy shall submit an annual report within 90 days after each activity year, starting from the date when the LOA is issued (for the first annual report) or from the date when the previous annual report ended.


(ii) Annual reports shall detail the monitoring protocol, summarize the data recorded during monitoring, and estimate the number of marine mammals that may have been harassed during the period of the report.


(iii) Annual reports shall also include results from acoustic monitoring detailed in paragraph (b) of this section.


(iv) NMFS shall provide comments within 30 days after receiving annual reports, and the Navy shall address the comments and submit revisions within 30 days after receiving NMFS comments. If no comment is received from the NMFS within 30 days, the annual report is considered completed.


(2) Final report. (i) The Navy shall submit a comprehensive summary report to NMFS not later than 90 days following the conclusion of marine mammal monitoring efforts described in this subpart.


(ii) The final report shall synthesize all data recorded during marine mammal monitoring, and estimate the number of marine mammals that may have been harassed through the entire project.


(iii) NMFS would provide comments within 30 days after receiving this report, and the Navy shall address the comments and submit revisions within 30 days after receiving NMFS comments. If no comment is received from the NMFS within 30 days, the final report is considered as final.


(3) Reporting of injured or dead marine mammals. (i) In the unanticipated event that the construction or demolition activities clearly cause the take of a marine mammal in a prohibited manner, such as an injury, serious injury, or mortality, the Navy shall immediately cease all operations and immediately report the incident to the NMFS Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the Greater Atlantic Region Stranding Coordinators. The report must include the following information:


(A) Time, date, and location (latitude/longitude) of the incident;


(B) Description of the incident;


(C) Status of all sound source use in the 24 hours preceding the incident;


(D) Environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, sea state, cloud cover, visibility, and water depth);


(E) Description of marine mammal observations in the 24 hours preceding the incident;


(F) Species identification or description of the animal(s) involved;


(G) The fate of the animal(s); and


(H) Photographs or video footage of the animal (if equipment is available).


(ii) Activities shall not resume until NMFS is able to review the circumstances of the prohibited take. NMFS shall work with the Navy to determine what is necessary to minimize the likelihood of further prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. The Navy may not resume their activities until notified by NMFS via letter, email, or telephone.


(iii) In the event that the Navy discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the lead PSO determines that the cause of the injury or death is unknown and the death is relatively recent (i.e., in less than a moderate state of decomposition as described in the next paragraph), the Navy will immediately report the incident to the NMFS Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the Greater Atlantic Regional Stranding Coordinators. The report must include the same information identified in paragraph (c)(3)(i)(A) of this section. Activities may continue while NMFS reviews the circumstances of the incident. NMFS will work with the Navy to determine whether modifications in the activities are appropriate.


(iv) In the event that the Navy discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the lead protected species observer determines that the injury or death is not associated with or related to the activities authorized in the IHA (e.g., previously wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced decomposition, or scavenger damage), the Navy shall report the incident to the NMFS Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the Greater Atlantic Regional Stranding Coordinators, within 24 hours of the discovery. The Navy shall provide photographs or video footage (if available) or other documentation of the stranded animal sighting to NMFS and the Marine Mammal Stranding Network. The Navy can continue its operations under such a case.


§ 217.96 Letters of Authorization.

(a) To incidentally take marine mammals pursuant to these regulations, the Navy must apply for and obtain LOAs in accordance with § 216.106 of this chapter for conducting the activity identified in § 217.90(c).


(b) LOAs, unless suspended or revoked, may be effective for a period of time not to extend beyond the expiration date of these regulations.


(c) If an LOAs expires prior to the expiration date of these regulations, the Navy may apply for and obtain a renewal of the LOAs.


(d) In the event of projected changes to the activity or to mitigation, monitoring, reporting (excluding changes made pursuant to the adaptive management provision of § 217.97(c)(1)) required by an LOA, the Navy must apply for and obtain a modification of LOAs as described in § 217.97.


(e) Each LOA shall set forth:


(1) Permissible methods of incidental taking;


(2) Means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact (i.e., mitigation) on the species, their habitat, and the availability of the species for subsistence uses; and


(3) Requirements for monitoring and reporting.


(f) Issuance of the LOAs shall be based on a determination that the level of taking shall be consistent with the findings made for the total taking allowable under these regulations.


(g) Notice of issuance or denial of the LOAs shall be published in the Federal Register within 30 days of a determination.


§ 217.97 Renewals and modifications of Letters of Authorization.

(a) An LOA issued under § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.96 for the activity identified in § 217.90(c) shall be renewed or modified upon request by the applicant, provided that:


(1) The proposed specified activity and mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures, as well as the anticipated impacts, are the same as those described and analyzed for these regulations (excluding changes made pursuant to the adaptive management provision in paragraph (c)(1) of this section); and


(2) NMFS determines that the mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures required by the previous LOAs under these regulations were implemented.


(b) For LOA modification or renewal requests by the applicant that include changes to the activity or the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures (excluding changes made pursuant to the adaptive management provision in paragraph (c)(1) of this section) that do not change the findings made for the regulations or result in no more than a minor change in the total estimated number of takes (or distribution by species or years), NMFS may publish a notice of proposed LOA in the Federal Register, including the associated analysis of the change, and solicit public comment before issuing the LOA.


(c) An LOA issued under § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.96 for the activity identified in § 217.90(c) may be modified by NMFS under the following circumstances:


(1) Adaptive management. After consulting with the Navy regarding the practicability of the modifications, NMFS may modify (including by adding or removing measures) the existing mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures if doing so creates a reasonable likelihood of more effectively accomplishing the goals of the mitigation and monitoring set forth in the preamble for these regulations.


(i) Possible sources of data that could contribute to the decision to modify the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures in an LOA:


(A) Results from the Navy’s monitoring from the previous year(s);


(B) Results from other marine mammal and/or sound research or studies; or


(C) Any information that reveals marine mammals may have been taken in a manner, extent or number not authorized by these regulations or subsequent LOAs.


(ii) If, through adaptive management, the modifications to the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures are substantial, NMFS shall publish a notice of proposed LOA in the Federal Register and solicit public comment.


(2) Emergencies. If NMFS determines that an emergency exists that poses a significant risk to the well-being of the species or stocks of marine mammals specified in LOAs issued pursuant to § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.96, an LOA may be modified without prior notice or opportunity for public comment. Notice would be published in the Federal Register within thirty days of the action.


§§ 217.98-217.99 [Reserved]

Subpart K – Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Rocky Intertidal Monitoring Surveys Along the Oregon and California Coasts


Source:85 FR 18467, Apr. 2, 2020, unless otherwise noted.


Effective Date Note:At 85 FR 18467, Apr. 2, 2020, subpart K was added, effective Apr. 12, 2020, through Apr. 11, 2021. At 85 FR 20201, Apr. 10, 2020, the end date was corrected to Apr. 11, 2025.

§ 217.100 Specified activity and specified geographical region.

(a) Regulations in this subpart apply only to the University of California Santa Cruz’s Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans (UCSC/PISCO) and those persons it authorizes or funds to conduct activities on its behalf for the taking of marine mammals that occurs in the areas outlined in paragraph (b) of this section and that occur incidental to rocky intertidal monitoring research surveys.


(b) The taking of marine mammals by UCSC/PISCO may be authorized in a Letter of Authorization (LOA) only if it occurs on the coasts of Oregon or California.


§ 217.101 Effective dates.

Regulations in this subpart are effective from April 12, 2020 through April 11, 2025.


§ 217.102 Permissible methods of taking.

Under LOAs issued pursuant to §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.106, the Holder of the LOA (hereinafter “UCSC/PISCO”) may incidentally, but not intentionally, take marine mammals within the area described in § 217.100(b) by Level B harassment associated with rocky intertidal monitoring activities, provided the activity is in compliance with all terms, conditions, and requirements of the regulations in this subpart and the appropriate LOA.


§ 217.103 Prohibitions.

Notwithstanding takings contemplated in § 217.100 and authorized by a LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.106, no person in connection with the activities described in § 217.100 may:


(a) Violate, or fail to comply with, the terms, conditions, and requirements of this subpart or a LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.106;


(b) Take any marine mammal not specified in such LOA;


(c) Take any marine mammal specified in such LOA in any manner other than as specified in § 217.102;


(d) Take a marine mammal specified in such LOA if NMFS determines such taking results in more than a negligible impact on the species or stocks of such marine mammal; or


(e) Take a marine mammal specified in such LOA if NMFS determines such taking results in an unmitigable adverse impact on the species or stock of such marine mammal for taking for subsistence uses.


§ 217.104 Mitigation requirements.

When conducting the activities identified in § 217.100(a), the mitigation measures contained in any LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.106 must be implemented. These mitigation measures shall include but are not limited to:


(a) General conditions. (1) Researchers must observe a site from a distance for at least five minutes, using binoculars if necessary, to detect any marine mammals prior to approach to determine if mitigation is required (i.e., site surveys will not be conducted if other species of pinnipeds are present, researchers will approach with caution, walking slowly, quietly, and close to the ground to avoid surprising any hauled-out individuals and to reduce flushing/stampeding of individuals).


(2) Researchers must avoid pinnipeds along access ways to sites by locating and taking a different access way. Researchers must keep a safe distance from and not approach any marine mammal while conducting research, unless it is absolutely necessary to approach a marine mammal in order to continue conducting research (i.e., if a site cannot be accessed or sampled due to the presence of pinnipeds).


(3) Researchers must avoid making loud noises (i.e., using hushed voices) and keep bodies low to the ground in the visual presence of pinnipeds.


(4) Researchers must monitor the offshore area for predators (such as killer whales and white sharks) and avoid flushing of pinnipeds when predators are observed in nearshore waters.


(5) Researchers must promptly vacate sites at the conclusion of sampling.


(b) Pup protection measure. Intentional approach must not occur if dependent pups are present to avoid mother/pup separation and trampling of pups. Staff shall reschedule work at sites where pups are present, unless other means of accomplishing the work can be done without causing disturbance to mothers and dependent pups.


§ 217.105 Requirements for monitoring and reporting.

(a) Visual monitoring program. (1) Standard information recorded must include species counts (with numbers of pups/juveniles when possible) of animals present before approaching, numbers of observed disturbances, and descriptions of the disturbance behaviors during the monitoring surveys, including location, date, and time of the event.


(2) UCSC/PISCO must note observations of:


(i) Unusual behaviors, numbers, or distributions of pinnipeds, such that any potential follow-up research can be conducted by the appropriate personnel;


(ii) Tag-bearing carcasses of pinnipeds, allowing transmittal of the information to appropriate agencies and personnel; and


(iii) Rare or unusual species of marine mammals for agency follow-up.


(3) For consistency, any reactions by pinnipeds to researchers will be recorded according to a three-point scale shown in Table 1 to this paragraph (a)(3). Only observations of disturbance Levels 2 and 3 should be recorded as takes.


Table 1 to Paragraph (a)(3) – Levels of Pinniped Behavioral Disturbance

Level
Type of response
Definition
1AlertSeal head orientation or brief movement in response to disturbance, which may include turning head towards the disturbance, craning head and neck while holding the body rigid in a u-shaped position, changing from a lying to a sitting position, or brief movement of less than twice the animal’s body length.
2MovementMovements in response to the source of disturbance, ranging from short withdrawals at least twice the animal’s body length to longer retreats over the beach, or if already moving a change of direction of greater than 90 degrees.
3FlushAll retreats (flushes) to the water.

(4) Information regarding physical and biological conditions pertaining to a site, as well as the date and time that research was conducted are also noted.


(b) Prohibited take. (1) If at any time the specified activity clearly causes the take of a marine mammal in a manner prohibited by this subpart or LOA, such as an injury (Level A harassment), serious injury, or mortality, UCSC/PISCO shall immediately cease the specified activities and report the incident to the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the West Coast Regional Stranding Coordinator, NMFS. The report must include the following information:


(i) Time and date of the incident;


(ii) Description of the incident;


(iii) Environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, Beaufort sea state, cloud cover, and visibility);


(iv) Description of all marine mammal observations in the 24 hours preceding the incident;


(v) Species identification or description of the animal(s) involved;


(vi) Fate of the animal(s); and


(vii) Photographs or video footage of the animal(s) (if equipment is available).


(2) Activities shall not resume until NMFS is able to review the circumstances of the prohibited take. NMFS will work with UCSC/PISCO to determine what measures are necessary to minimize the likelihood of further prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. UCSC/PISCO may not resume the activities until notified by NMFS via letter, email, or telephone.


(c) Notification of dead or injured marine mammals. (1) In the event that UCSC/PISCO discovers an injured or dead marine mammal and determines that the cause of the injury or death is unknown and the death is relatively recent (e.g., in less than a moderate state of decomposition), UCSC/PISCO shall immediately report the incident to the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the West Coast Regional Stranding Coordinator, NMFS. The report must include the information identified in paragraph (b)(1) of this section. Activities may continue while NMFS reviews the circumstances of the incident. NMFS will work with UCSC/PISCO to determine whether additional mitigation measures or modifications to the activities are appropriate.


(2) In the event that an injured or dead marine mammal is discovered and it is determined that the injury or death is not associated with or related to the activities authorized in this subpart and LOA (e.g., previously wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced decomposition, or scavenger damage), UCSC/PISCO shall report the incident to the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the West Coast Regional Stranding Coordinator, NMFS, within 24 hours of the discovery. UCSC/PISCO shall provide photographs, video footage (if available), or other documentation of the stranded animal sighting to NMFS and the Marine Mammal Stranding Network. Activities may continue while NMFS reviews the circumstances of the incident.


(d) Annual report. (1) A draft annual report shall be submitted to NMFS Office of Protected Resources within 90 days after the conclusion of each annual field season. The final annual report after year five may be included as part of the final report (see paragraph (e) of this section). The report must include a summary of the information gathered pursuant to the monitoring requirements set forth in paragraph (a) of this section and in the LOA.


(2) A final annual report shall be submitted to the Director of the NMFS Office of Protected Resources within 30 days after receiving comments from NMFS on the draft annual report. If no comments are received from NMFS, the draft annual report will be considered the final report.


(e) Final report. A draft final report shall be submitted to NMFS Office of Protected Resources within 60 days after the conclusion of the fifth year. A final report shall be submitted to the Director of the NMFS Office of Protected Resources and to the NMFS West Coast Regional Administrator within 30 days after receiving comments from NMFS on the draft final report. If no comments are received from NMFS, the draft final report will be considered the final report.


§ 217.106 Letters of Authorization.

(a) To incidentally take marine mammals pursuant to this subpart, UCSC/PISCO must apply for and obtain an LOA.


(b) An LOA, unless suspended or revoked, may be effective for a period of time not to exceed the expiration date of this subpart.


(c) If an LOA expires prior to the expiration date of this subpart, UCSC/PISCO may apply for and obtain a renewal of the LOA.


(d) In the event of projected changes to the activity or to mitigation and monitoring measures required by an LOA, UCSC/PISCO must apply for and obtain a modification of the LOA as described in § 217.107.


(e) The LOA shall set forth:


(1) Permissible methods and numbers of incidental taking;


(2) Means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact (i.e., mitigation) on the species, its habitat, and on the availability of the species for subsistence uses; and


(3) Requirements for monitoring and reporting.


(f) Issuance of the LOA shall be based on a determination that the level of taking will be consistent with the findings made for the total taking allowable under this subpart.


(g) Notice of issuance or denial of an LOA shall be published in the Federal Register within 30 days of a determination.


§ 217.107 Renewals and modifications of Letters of Authorization.

(a) An LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.106 for the activity identified in § 217.100(a) shall be renewed or modified upon request by the applicant, provided that:


(1) The proposed specified activity and mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures, as well as the anticipated impacts, are the same as those described and analyzed for this subpart (excluding changes made pursuant to the adaptive management provision in paragraph (c)(1) of this section); and


(2) NMFS’ Office of Protected Resources determines that the mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures required by the previous LOA under this subpart were implemented.


(b) For an LOA modification or renewal requests by the applicant that include changes to the activity or the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting (excluding changes made pursuant to the adaptive management provision in paragraph (c)(1) of this section) that do not change the findings made for this subpart or result in no more than a minor change in the total estimated number of takes (or distribution by species or years), NMFS’ Office of Protected Resources may publish a notice of proposed LOA in the Federal Register, including the associated analysis of the change, and solicit public comment before issuing the LOA.


(c) An LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.106 for the activity identified in § 217.100(a) may be modified by NMFS’ Office of Protected Resources under the following circumstances:


(1) Adaptive management. NMFS’ Office of Protected Resources may modify (including augment) the existing mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures (after consulting with UCSC/PISCO regarding the practicability of the modifications) if doing so creates a reasonable likelihood of more effectively accomplishing the goals of the mitigation and monitoring set forth in this subpart.


(i) Possible sources of data that could contribute to the decision to modify the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures in an LOA:


(A) Results from UCSC/PISCO’s monitoring from the previous year(s).


(B) Results from other marine mammal and/or sound research or studies.


(C) Any information that reveals marine mammals may have been taken in a manner, extent, or number not authorized by this subpart or subsequent LOAs.


(ii) If, through adaptive management, the modifications to the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures are substantial, NMFS’ Office of Protected Resources will publish a notice of proposed LOA in the Federal Register and solicit public comment.


(2) Emergencies. If NMFS’ Office of Protected Resources determines that an emergency exists that poses a significant risk to the well-being of the species or stocks of marine mammals specified in LOAs issued pursuant to §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.106, an LOA may be modified without prior notice or opportunity for public comment. Notice would be published in the Federal Register within thirty days of the action.


§§ 217.108–217.109 [Reserved]

Subpart L – Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Conducting Precision Strike Weapon and Air-to-Surface Gunnery Missions at Eglin Gulf Test and Training Range (EGTTR) in the Gulf of Mexico


Source:79 FR 13588, Mar. 11, 2014, unless otherwise noted.

§ 217.110 Specified activity and specified geographical region.

(a) Regulations in this subpart apply only to the U.S. Air Force for the incidental taking of marine mammals that occurs in the area outlined in paragraph (b) of this section and that occur incidental to the activities described in paragraph (c) of this section.


(b) The taking of marine mammals by the Air Force is only authorized if it occurs within the Eglin Air Force Base Gulf Test and Training Range (as depicted in Figure 1-9 of the Air Force’s Request for a Letter of Authorization). The EGTTR is the airspace over the Gulf of Mexico beyond 3 nm from shore that is controlled by Eglin Air Force Base. The specified activities will take place within the boundaries of Warning Area W-151. The inshore and offshore boundaries of W-151 are roughly parallel to the shoreline contour. The shoreward boundary is 3 nm from shore, while the seaward boundary extends approximately 85 to 100 nm offshore, depending on the specific location. W-151 has a surface area of approximately 10,247 nm
2 (35,145 km
2), and includes water depths ranging from approximately 20 to 700 m.


(c) The taking of marine mammals by the Air Force is only authorized of it occurs incidental to the following activities within the designated amounts of use:


(1) The use of the following Precision Strike Weapons (PSWs) for PSW training activities, in the amounts indicated below:


(i) Joint Air-to-Surface Stand-Off Missile (JASSM) AGM-158 A and B – two live shots (single) and 4 inert shots (single) per year;


(ii) Small-diameter bomb (SDB) GBU-39/B – six live shots per year, with two of the shots occurring simultaneously, and 12 inert shots per year, with up to two occurring simultaneously.


(2) The use of the following ordnance for daytime Air-to-Surface (AS) Gunnery training activities, in the amounts indicated below:


(i) 105 mm HE Full Up (FU) – 25 missions per year with 30 rounds per mission;


(ii) 40 mm HE – 25 missions per year with 64 rounds per mission;


(iii) 25 mm HE – 25 mission per year with 560 rounds per mission.


(3) The use of the following ordnance for nighttime Air-to-Surface (AS) Gunnery training activities, in the amounts indicated below:


(i) 105 mm HE Training Round (TR) – 45 missions per year with 30 rounds per mission;


(ii) 40 mm HE – 45 missions per year with 64 rounds per mission;


(iii) 25 mm HE – 45 mission per year with 560 rounds per mission.


§ 217.111 Effective dates.

Regulations in this subpart are effective March 11, 2014 and applicable to Eglin AFB March 5, 2014, through March 4, 2019.


§ 217.112 Permissible methods of taking.

(a) Under a Letter of Authorization issued pursuant to §§ 216.106 and 217.117 of this chapter, the Holder of the Letter of Authorization may incidentally, but not intentionally, take marine mammals by Level A and Level B harassment within the area described in § 217.110(b) of this chapter, provided the activity is in compliance with all terms, conditions, and requirements of this subpart and the appropriate Letter of Authorization.


(b) The activities identified in § 217.110(c) of this chapter must be conducted in a manner that minimizes, to the greatest extent practicable, any adverse impact on marine mammals and their habitat.


(c) The incidental take of marine mammals under the activities identified in § 217.110(c) is limited to the following species, by the indicated method of take and the indicated number:


(1) Level B Harassment:


(i) Atlantic bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) – 2,200 (an average of 444 annually);


(ii) Atlantic spotted dolphin (Stenella frontalis) – 1,765 (an average of 353 annually);


(iii) Pantropical spotted dolphin (S. attenuate) – 15 (an average of 3 annually);


(iv) Spinner dolphin (S. longirostris) – 15 (an average of 3 annually);


(v) Dwarf or pygmy sperm whale (Kogia simus or Kogia breviceps) – 10 (an average of 2 annually).


(2) Level A Harassment:


(i) Atlantic bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) – 25 (an average of 5 annually);


(ii) Atlantic spotted dolphin (Stenella frontalis) – 20 (an average of 4 annually).


§ 217.113 Prohibitions.

No person in connection with the activities described in § 217.110 shall:


(a) Take any marine mammal not specified in § 217.112(c);


(b) Take any marine mammal specified in § 217.112(c) other than by incidental take as specified in § 217.112(c)(1) and (c)(2);


(c) Take a marine mammal specified in § 217.112(c) if such taking results in more than a negligible impact on the species or stocks of such marine mammal; or


(d) Violate, or fail to comply with, the terms, conditions, and requirements of this subpart or a Letter of Authorization issued under §§ 216.106 and 217.117 of this chapter.


§ 217.114 Mitigation.

(a) The activities identified in § 217.110(c) must be conducted in a manner that minimizes, to the greatest extent practicable, adverse impacts on marine mammals and their habitats. When conducting operations identified in § 217.110(c), the mitigation measures contained in the Letter of Authorization issued under §§ 216.106 and 217.117 of this chapter must be implemented.


(b) Precision Strike Weapon Missions:


(1) Safety Zones;


(i) For the JASSM, the Air Force must establish and monitor a safety zone for marine mammals with a radius of 2.0 nm (3.7 km) from the center of the detonation and a buffer zone with a radius of 1.0 nm (1.85 km) radius from the outer edge of the safety zone.,


(ii) For the SDB, the holder of the Letter of Authorization must establish and monitor a safety zone for marine mammals with a radius of no less than 5 nm (9.3 km) for single bombs and 10 nm (18.5 km) for double bombs and a buffer zone from the outer edge of the safety zone with a radius of at least 2.5 nm (4.6 km) for single bombs and 5 nm (18.5 km) for double bombs.


(2) For PSW missions, the holder of the Letter of Authorization must comply with the monitoring requirements, including pre-mission monitoring, set forth in § 217.115(c).


(3) When detonating explosives:


(i) If any marine mammals or sea turtles are observed within the designated safety zone or the buffer zone prescribed in the condition in paragraph (b)(1) of this section or that are on a course that will put them within the safety zone prior to JASSM or SDB launch, the launching must be delayed until all marine mammals are no longer within the designated safety zone.


(ii) If any marine mammals are detected in the buffer zone and subsequently cannot be reacquired, the mission launch will not continue until the next verified location is outside of the safety zone and the animal is moving away from the mission area.


(iii) If large Sargassum rafts or large concentrations of jellyfish are observed within the safety zone, the mission launch will not continue until the Sargassum rafts or jellyfish that caused the postponement are confirmed to be outside of the safety zone due to the current and/or wind moving them out of the mission area.


(iv) If weather and/or sea conditions preclude adequate aerial surveillance for detecting marine mammals or sea turtles, detonation must be delayed until adequate sea conditions exist for aerial surveillance to be undertaken. Adequate sea conditions means the sea state does not exceed Beaufort sea state 3.5 (i.e., whitecaps on 33 to 50 percent of surface; 0.6 m (2 ft) to 0.9 m (3 ft) waves), the visibility is 5.6 km (3 nm) or greater, and the ceiling is 305 m (1,000 ft) or greater.


(v) To ensure adequate daylight for pre- and post-detonation monitoring, mission launches may not take place earlier than 2 hours after sunrise, and detonations may not take place later than 2 hours prior to sunset, or whenever darkness or weather conditions will preclude completion of the post-test survey effort described in § 217.115.


(vi) If post-detonation surveys determine that a serious injury or lethal take of a marine mammal has occurred, the test procedure and the monitoring methods must be reviewed with the National Marine Fisheries Service and appropriate changes to avoid unauthorized take must be made prior to conducting the next mission detonation.


(vii) Mission launches must be delayed if aerial or vessel monitoring programs described under § 217.115 cannot be fully carried out.


(c) Air-to-Surface Gunnery Missions:


(1) Sea State Restrictions:


(i) If daytime weather and/or sea conditions preclude adequate aerial surveillance for detecting marine mammals and other marine life, air-to-surface gunnery exercises must be delayed until adequate sea conditions exist for aerial surveillance to be undertaken. Daytime air-to-surface gunnery exercises will be conducted only when sea surface conditions do not exceed Beaufort sea state 4 (i.e., wind speed 13-18 mph (11-16 knots); wave height 1 m (3.3 ft)), the visibility is 5.6 km (3 nm) or greater, and the ceiling is 305 m (1,000 ft) or greater.


(ii) [Reserved]


(2) Pre-mission and Mission Monitoring:


(i) The aircrews of the air-to-surface gunnery missions will initiate location and surveillance of a suitable firing site immediately after exiting U.S. territorial waters (>12 nm).


(ii) Prior to each firing event, the aircraft crew will conduct a visual and/or instrument survey of the 5-nm (9.3-km) wide prospective target area to locate any marine mammals that may be present.


(A) The AC-130 gunship will conduct at least two complete orbits at a minimum safe airspeed around a prospective target area at an altitude of approximately 6,000 ft (1,829 m).


(B) If marine mammals are not detected, the AC-130 can then continue orbiting the selected target point as it climbs to the mission testing altitude.


(C) During the low altitude orbits and the climb to testing altitude, aircraft crew will scan the sea surface within the aircraft’s orbit circle for the presence of marine mammals.


(D) The AC-130’s optical and electronic sensors must be employed for target detection, especially at night when visibility will be poor.


(E) If any marine mammals are detected within the AC-130’s orbit circle, either during initial clearance or after commencement of live firing, the mission will be immediately halted and relocated as necessary or suspended until the marine mammal has left the area. If relocated to another target area, the clearance procedures described in paragraph (c)(2)(ii) of this section must be repeated.


(F) If multiple firing events occur within the same flight, these clearance procedures must precede each event.


(iii) If no marine mammals are detected, gunnery exercises may begin with the deployment of MK-25 flares into the center of the designated 5-nm target area.


(3) Operational Mitigation Measures:


(i) Ramp-up air-to-surface gunnery firing activities by beginning with the lowest caliber monition and proceeding to the highest, which means the munitions would be fired in the following order: 25 mm; 40 mm; and 105 mm.


(ii) Air-to-surface gunnery exercises conducted after sunset must use the 105-mm training round instead of the 105-mm full up round.


(iii) One mission per year may be conducted beyond the 200 m isobaths, which is south of a line delineating the shelf break with coordinates of 29°42.73′ N, 86°48.27′ W and 29°12.73′ N, 85°59.88′ W (Figure 1-12 in Eglin AFB’s LOA application). The single mission beyond the shelf break will occur during daylight hours only.


(4) Post-mission Monitoring:


(i) Aircrews will initiate the post-mission clearance procedures beginning at the operational altitude of approximately 15,000 to 20,000 ft (4572 to 6096 m) elevation, and then initiate a spiraling descent down to an observation altitude of approximately 6,000 ft (1,829 m) elevation. Rates of descent will occur over a 3- to 5-minute time frame.


(ii) If post-detonation surveys determine that an injury or lethal take of a marine mammal has occurred, the test procedure and the monitoring methods must be reviewed with the National Marine Fisheries Service and appropriate changes to avoid unauthorized take must be made, prior to conducting the next air-to-surface gunnery exercise.


§ 217.115 Requirements for monitoring and reporting.

(a) The Holder of the Letter of Authorization issued pursuant to §§ 216.106 and 217.117 of this chapter for activities described in § 217.110(c) is required to conduct the monitoring and reporting measures specified in this section and § 217.114 and any additional monitoring measures contained in the Letter of Authorization.


(b) The Holder of the Letter of Authorization is required to cooperate with the National Marine Fisheries Service, and any other Federal, state or local agency monitoring the impacts of the activity on marine mammals. Unless specified otherwise in the Letter of Authorization, the Holder of the Letter of Authorization must notify the Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, or designee, by letter or telephone (301-427-8401), at least 2 weeks prior to any modification to the activity identified in § 217.110(c) that has the potential to result in the serious injury, mortality or Level A or Level B harassment of a marine mammal that was not identified and addressed previously.


(c) Monitoring Procedures for PSW Missions:


(1) The Holder of this Authorization must:


(i) Designate qualified on-site individual(s) to record the effects of mission launches on marine mammals that inhabit the northern Gulf of Mexico;


(ii) Have on-site individuals, approved in advance by the National Marine Fisheries Service, to conduct the mitigation, monitoring and reporting activities specified in this subpart and in the Letter of Authorization issued pursuant to §§ 216.106 and 217.117 of this chapter.


(iii) Conduct aerial surveys to reduce impacts on protected species. The aerial survey/monitoring team will consist of two experienced marine mammal observers, approved in advance by the Southeast Region, National Marine Fisheries Service. The aircraft will also have a data recorder who would be responsible for relaying the location, the species if possible, the direction of movement, and the number of animals sighted.


(iv) Conduct shipboard monitoring to reduce impacts to protected species. Trained observers will conduct monitoring from the highest point possible on each mission or support vessel(s). The observer on the vessel must be equipped with optical equipment with sufficient magnification (e.g., 25x power “Big-Eye” binoculars).


(2) The aerial and shipboard monitoring teams will maintain proper lines of communication to avoid communication deficiencies. The observers from the aerial team and operations vessel will have direct communication with the lead scientist aboard the operations vessel.


(3) Pre-mission Monitoring: Approximately 5 hours prior to the mission, or at daybreak, the appropriate vessel(s) would be on-site in the primary test site near the location of the earliest planned mission point. Observers onboard the vessel will assess the suitability of the test site, based on visual observation of marine mammals and sea turtles, the presence of large Sargassum mats, seabirds and jellyfish aggregations and overall environmental conditions (visibility, sea state, etc.). This information will be relayed to the lead scientist.


(4) Three Hours Prior to Mission:


(i) Approximately three hours prior to the mission launch, aerial monitoring will commence within the test site to evaluate the test site for environmental suitability. Evaluation of the entire test site would take approximately 1 to 1.5 hours. The aerial monitoring team will begin monitoring the safety zone and buffer zone around the target area.


(ii) Shipboard observers will monitor the safety and buffer zone, and the lead scientist will enter all marine mammals and sea turtle sightings, including the time of sighting and the direction of travel, into a marine animal tracking and sighting database.


(5) One to 1.5 Hours Prior to Mission Launch:


(i) Depending upon the mission, aerial and shipboard viewers will be instructed to leave the area and remain outside the safety area. The aerial team will report all marine animals spotted and their directions of travel to the lead scientist onboard the vessel.


(ii) The shipboard monitoring team will continue searching the buffer zone for protected species as it leaves the safety zone. The surface vessels will continue to monitor from outside of the safety area until after impact.


(6) Post-mission monitoring:


(i) The vessels will move into the safety zone from outside the safety zone and continue monitoring for at least two hours, concentrating on the area down current of the test site.


(ii) The holder of the Letter of Authorization will closely coordinate mission launches with marine animal stranding networks.


(iii) The monitoring team will document any dead or injured marine mammals or turtles and, if practicable, recover and examine any dead animals.


(d) Monitoring Procedures for A-S Gunnery Missions:


(1) In addition to the monitoring requirements in 217.114(c), the holder of the Letter of Authorization must:


(i) Cooperate with the National Marine Fisheries Service and any other Federal, state or local agency monitoring the impacts of the activity on marine mammals.


(ii) Require aircrews to initiate the post-mission clearance procedures beginning at the operational altitude of approximately 15,000 to 20,000 ft (4572 to 6096 m) elevation, and then initiate a spiraling descent down to an observation altitude of approximately 6,000 ft (1,829 m) elevation. Rates of descent will occur over a 3- to 5-minute time frame.


(iii) Track their use of the EGTTR for test firing missions and marine mammal observations, through the use of mission reporting forms.


(iv) Coordinate air-to-surface gunnery exercises with future flight activities to provide supplemental post-mission observations of marine mammals in the operations area of the exercise.


(2) [Reserved]


(e) In accordance with provisions in § 217.118(b)(2), the Holder of the Letter of Authorization must conduct the research required under the Letter of Authorization.


(f) Reporting:


(1) Unless specified otherwise in the Letter of Authorization, the Holder of the Letter of Authorization must conduct all of the monitoring and reporting required under the LOA and submit an annual report to the Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service by a date certain specified in the LOA. This report must include the following information:


(i) Date and time of each PSW/air-to-surface gunnery exercise;


(ii) A complete description of the pre-exercise and post-exercise activities related to mitigating and monitoring the effects of PSW/air-to-surface gunnery exercises on marine mammal populations;


(iii) Results of the monitoring program, including numbers by species/stock of any marine mammals noted injured or killed as a result of the training exercises and number of marine mammals (by species if possible) that may have been harassed due to presence within the applicable safety zone;


(iv) A detailed assessment of the effectiveness of sensor-based monitoring in detecting marine mammals in the area of air-to-surface gunnery operations; and


(v) Results of coordination with coastal marine mammal stranding networks.


(2) The final comprehensive report on all marine mammal monitoring and research conducted during the applicability period of this subpart must be submitted to the Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service at least 240 days prior to expiration of applicability of this subpart or 240 days after the expiration of applicability of this subpart if new regulations will not be requested.


§ 217.116 Applications for Letters of Authorization.

To incidentally take marine mammals pursuant to this subpart, the U.S. citizen (as defined at § 216.103 of this chapter) conducting the activities identified in § 217.110(c) must apply for and obtain either an initial Letter of Authorization in accordance with §§ 216.106 and 217.117 of this chapter or a renewal under § 217.118.


§ 217.117 Letters of Authorization.

(a) A Letter of Authorization, unless suspended or revoked, will be valid for a period of time not to exceed the period of validity of this subpart.


(b) Each Letter of Authorization will set forth:


(1) Permissible methods of incidental taking;


(2) Means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact on the species, its habitat, and on the availability of the species for subsistence uses; and


(3) Requirements for monitoring and reporting.


(c) Issuance and renewal of the Letter of Authorization will be based on a determination that the total number of marine mammals taken by the activity as a whole will have no more than a negligible impact on the species or stock of affected marine mammals.


§ 217.118 Renewals and Modifications of Letters of Authorization.

(a) A Letter of Authorization issued under § 216.106 and § 217.117 of this chapter for the activities identified in § 217.110(c) will be renewed or modified upon request of the applicant, provided that:


(1) The proposed specified activity and mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures, as well as the anticipated impacts, are the same as those described and analyzed for this subpart (excluding changes made pursuant to adaptive management) and


(2) NMFS determines that the mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures required by the previous Letter of Authorization under this subpart were implemented.


(b) For Letter of Authorization modifications or renewal requests by the applicant that include changes to the activity or the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting (excluding changes made pursuant to adaptive management) that do not change the findings made for the regulations or result in no more than a minor change in the total estimated number of takes (or distribution by species or years), NMFS may publish a notice of a proposed Letter of Authorization in the Federal Register, including the associate analysis illustrating the change, and solicit public comment before issuing the Letter of Authorization.


(c) A Letter of Authorization issued under §§ 216.106 and 217.117 of this chapter for the activity identified in § 217.110(c) may be modified by NMFS under the following circumstances:


(1) Adaptive Management – NMFS may modify or augment the existing mitigation or monitoring measures (after consulting with the U.S. Air Force regarding the practicability of the modifications) if doing so creates a reasonable likelihood of more effectively accomplishing the goals of mitigation and monitoring. Below are some of the possible sources of new data that could contribute to the decision to modify the mitigation or monitoring measures:


(i) Results from the U.S. Air Force’s monitoring from the previous year;


(ii) Results from marine mammal and sound research; or


(iii) Any information which reveals that marine mammals may have been taken in a manner, extent or number not authorized by this subpart or subsequent Letters of Authorization.


(2) Emergencies. If NMFS determines that an emergency exists that poses a significant risk to the well-being of the species or stocks of marine mammals specified in § 217.112(c), a Letter of Authorization issued pursuant to §§ 216.106 and 217.117 of this chapter may be substantively modified without prior notification and an opportunity for public comment. Notification will be published in the Federal Register within 30 days subsequent to the action.


Subpart M – Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Seabird Research Activities in Central California


Source:86 FR 27998, May 25, 2021, unless otherwise noted.


Effective Date Note:At 86 FR 27998, May 25, 2021, subpart M was added, effective July 1, 2021, through June 30, 2026.

§ 217.120 Specified activity and specified geographical region.

(a) Regulations in this subpart apply only to the incidental taking of marine mammals during seabird research activities by Point Blue Conservation Science (Point Blue) and those persons it authorizes or funds to conduct activities on its behalf in the areas outlined in paragraph (b) of this section.


(b) The incidental taking of marine mammals by Point Blue may only occur in California on Southeast Farallon Island, Año Nuevo Island, and Point Reyes National Seashore in accordance with a Letter of Authorization (LOA) issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.126.


§ 217.121 Effective dates.

Regulations in this subpart are effective from July 1, 2021, through June 30, 2026.


§ 217.122 Permissible methods of taking.

Under LOAs issued pursuant to §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.126, the Holder of the LOA (hereinafter “Point Blue”) may incidentally, but not intentionally, take marine mammals within the area described in § 217.120(b) by Level B harassment associated with seabird research activities, provided the activity is in compliance with all terms, conditions, and requirements of the regulations in this subpart and the appropriate LOA.


§ 217.123 Prohibitions.

Except for the takings contemplated in § 217.120 and authorized by a LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.126, it is unlawful for any person to do any of the following in connection with the activities described in § 217.120 may:


(a) Violate, or fail to comply with, the terms, conditions, and requirements of this subpart or a LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.126;


(b) Take any marine mammal not specified in such LOA;


(c) Take any marine mammal specified in such LOA in any manner other than as specified in § 217.122;


(d) Take a marine mammal specified in such LOA if NMFS determines such taking results in more than a negligible impact on the species or stocks of such marine mammal; or


(e) Take a marine mammal specified in such LOA if NMFS determines such taking results in an unmitigable adverse impact on the species or stock of such marine mammal for taking for subsistence uses.


§ 217.124 Mitigation requirements.

When conducting the activities identified in § 217.120(a), the mitigation measures contained in any LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.126 must be implemented. These mitigation measures shall include but are not limited to the following general conditions:


(a) All persons must slowly approach beaches for boat landings. Boat landings must avoid causing stampede and provide marine mammals with an opportunity to safely enter the water. Vessel strikes are prohibited.


(b) All persons must observe a site from a distance, using binoculars if necessary, to detect any marine mammals prior to approach to determine if mitigation is required (i.e., if pinnipeds are present, researchers must approach with caution, walking slowly, quietly, and close to the ground to avoid surprising any hauled-out marine mammals and to reduce flushing/stampeding of individuals).


(c) All persons must avoid pinnipeds along access ways to sites by locating and taking a different access way. Researchers must keep a safe distance from and not approach any marine mammal while conducting research, unless it is absolutely necessary to flush a marine mammal in order to continue conducting research (i.e., if a site cannot be accessed or sampled due to the presence of pinnipeds).


(d) All persons must avoid visits to sites when pups are present, if the number of takes that have been authorized are met, or if species for which authorization has not been granted are present.


(e) All persons must monitor for offshore predators and must not approach hauled out pinnipeds if great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) or killer whales (Orcinus orca) are observed to be present. If Point Blue and/or its designees see pinniped predators in the area, they must not disturb the pinnipeds until the lead biologist determines the area is free of predators based on best professional judgment.


(f) All persons must keep voices hushed and bodies low to the ground in the visual presence of pinnipeds.


(g) All persons must conduct seabird observations at North Landing on Southeast Farallon Island in an observation blind, shielded from the view of hauled out pinnipeds.


(h) All persons must crawl slowly to access seabird nest boxes on Año Nuevo Island if pinnipeds are within view.


(i) Researchers must coordinate research visits to intertidal areas of Southeast Farallon Island and coordinate research activities for Año Nuevo Island to minimize the number of trips to these areas.


§ 217.125 Requirements for monitoring and reporting.

(a) Visual monitoring. When conducting activities under an LOA, Point Blue must conduct a visual monitoring program and record information as required by the LOA and this subpart.


(1) Standard information recorded must include species counts (with age/sex classes noted when possible) of animals present before approaching, numbers of observed disturbances, and descriptions of the disturbance behaviors during the monitoring surveys, including location, date, and time of the event.


(2) The lead biologist must serve as an observer to record incidental take.


(3) The lead biologist must record the following:


(i) The date, time, and location (or closest point of ingress) of each visit to the research site;


(ii) Composition of the marine mammals sighted, such as species, sex, and life history stage (e.g., adult, sub-adult, pup);


(iii) The number (by species) of marine mammals observed during the activities;


(iv) Estimated number of marine mammals (by species) that may have been disturbed during the activities, using a three-point scale of disturbance contained in an LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.126. Disturbance Levels 2 and 3 must be recorded as takes;


(v) Behavioral responses or modifications in behaviors that may be attributed to the specific activities and a description of the specific activities occurring during that time (e.g., pedestrian approach, vessel approach);


(vi) Information on the weather, including the tidal state and horizontal visibility; and


(vii) If applicable, note the presence of any offshore predators (date, time, number, and species).


(4) Point Blue must report observations of unusual behaviors, numbers, or distributions of pinnipeds, or of tag-bearing carcasses, to the NMFS West Coast Regional Office.


(b) Prohibited take. (1) In the event that personnel discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, Point Blue shall report the incident to the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the West Coast Regional Stranding Coordinator, NMFS as soon as feasible. If the death or injury was caused by Point Blue’s activities, Point Blue must immediately cease activities conducted under its LOA until NMFS is able to review the circumstances of the incident and determine what, if any, additional measures are appropriate to ensure compliance with the terms of the LOA. Point Blue must not resume their activities until notified by NMFS. The report must include the following information:


(i) Time, date, and location (latitude/longitude) of the first discovery (and updated location information if known and applicable);


(ii) Species identification (if known) or description of the animal(s) involved;


(iii) Condition of the animal(s) (including carcass condition if the animal is dead);


(iv) Observed behaviors of the animal(s), if alive;


(v) If available, photographs or video footage of the animal(s); and


(vi) General circumstances under which the animal was discovered.


(c) Annual report. (1) A draft annual report covering the period of January 1 through December 31 of each year must be submitted to NMFS Office of Protected Resources by April 1 of each year. The final annual report after year five may be included as part of the final report (see below). The report must include the information gathered pursuant to the monitoring requirements set forth above and in the LOA at minimum, and must also include raw sightings data.


(2) A final annual report must be submitted to the Director of the NMFS Office of Protected Resources within 30 days after receiving comments from NMFS on the draft annual report. If no comments are received from NMFS, the draft annual report will be considered the final report.


(d) Final report. A draft final report must be submitted to NMFS Office of Protected Resources within 60 days after the conclusion of the fifth year. A final report must be submitted to the Director of the NMFS Office of Protected Resources within 30 days after receiving comments from NMFS on the draft final report. If no comments are received from NMFS, the draft final report will be considered the final report.


§ 217.126 Letters of Authorization.

(a) To incidentally take marine mammals pursuant to these regulations, Point Blue must apply for and obtain an LOA.


(b) An LOA, unless suspended or revoked, may be effective for a period of time not to exceed the expiration date of these regulations.


(c) If an LOA expires prior to the expiration date of these regulations, Point Blue may apply for and obtain a renewal of the LOA.


(d) In the event of projected changes to the activity or to mitigation and monitoring measures required by an LOA, Point Blue must apply for and obtain a modification of the LOA as described in § 217.127.


(e) The LOA shall set forth:


(1) Permissible methods and numbers of incidental taking;


(2) Means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact (i.e., mitigation) on the species, its habitat, and on the availability of the species for subsistence uses; and


(3) Requirements for monitoring and reporting.


(f) Issuance of the LOA shall be based on a determination that the level of taking will be consistent with the findings made for the total taking allowable under these regulations.


(g) Notice of issuance or denial of an LOA shall be published in the Federal Register within thirty days of a determination.


§ 217.127 Renewals and modifications of Letters of Authorization.

(a) An LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.126 for the activity identified in § 217.120(a) shall be renewed or modified upon request by the applicant, provided that:


(1) The proposed specified activity and mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures, as well as the anticipated impacts, are the same as those described and analyzed for these regulations (excluding changes made pursuant to the adaptive management provision in paragraph (c)(1) of this section), and


(2) NMFS’ Office of Protected Resources determines that the mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures required by the previous LOA under these regulations were implemented.


(b) For an LOA modification or renewal requests by the applicant that includes changes to the activity or the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting (excluding changes made pursuant to the adaptive management provision in paragraph (c)(1) of this section) that do not change the findings made for the regulations or result in no more than a minor change in the total estimated number of takes (or distribution by species or years), NMFS’ Office of Protected Resources may publish a notice of proposed LOA in the Federal Register, including the associated analysis of the change, and solicit public comment before issuing the LOA.


(c) An LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.126 for the activity identified in § 217.120(a) may be modified by NMFS’ Office of Protected Resources under the following circumstances:


(1) Adaptive management – NMFS’ Office of Protected Resources may modify (including augment) the existing mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures (after consulting with Point Blue regarding the practicability of the modifications) if doing so creates a reasonable likelihood of more effectively accomplishing the goals of the mitigation and monitoring set forth in the preamble for these regulations.


(i) Possible sources of data that could contribute to the decision to modify the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures in an LOA include:


(A) Results from Point Blue’s monitoring from the previous year(s);


(B) Results from other marine mammal and/or sound research or studies; and


(C) Any information that reveals marine mammals may have been taken in a manner, extent or number not authorized by these regulations or subsequent LOAs.


(ii) If, through adaptive management, the modifications to the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures are substantial, NMFS’ Office of Protected Resources will publish a notice of proposed LOA in the Federal Register and solicit public comment.


(2) Emergencies. If NMFS’ Office of Protected Resources determines that an emergency exists that poses a significant risk to the well-being of the species or stocks of marine mammals specified in LOAs issued pursuant to §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.126, an LOA may be modified without prior notice or opportunity for public comment. Notice would be published in the Federal Register within thirty days of the action.


§§ 217.128-217.129 [Reserved]

Subpart N [Reserved}

Subpart P – Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Ice Roads and Ice Trails Construction and Maintenance on Alaska’s North Slope


Source:85 FR 83471, Dec. 22, 2020, unless otherwise noted.


Effective Date Note:At 85 FR 83471, Dec. 22, 2020, subpart P was added, effective Dec. 22, 2020, through Nov. 30, 2025

§ 217.150 Specified activity and specified geographical region.

(a) Regulations in this subpart apply only to Hilcorp Alaska, LLC (Hilcorp) and Eni US Operating Co. Inc. (Eni) and those persons they authorize or fund to conduct activities on their behalf for the taking of marine mammals that occurs in the areas outlined in paragraph (b) of this section and that occurs incidental to construction and maintenance of ice roads and ice trails.


(b) The taking of marine mammals by Hilcorp and Eni may be authorized in two Letters of Authorization (LOAs) only if it occurs on Alaska’s North Slope.


§ 217.151 Effective dates.

Regulations in this subpart are effective from December 22, 2020 through November 30, 2025.


§ 217.152 Permissible methods of taking.

Under LOAs issued pursuant to §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.156, the Holders of the LOAs (hereinafter “Hilcorp” and “Eni”) may incidentally, but not intentionally, take marine mammals within the area described in § 217.150(b) by mortality, serious injury, Level A harassment, or Level B harassment associated with ice road and ice trail construction and maintenance activities, provided the activities are in compliance with all terms, conditions, and requirements of the regulations in this subpart and the appropriate LOAs.


§ 217.153 Prohibitions.

Notwithstanding takings contemplated in § 217.152 and authorized by the LOAs issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.156, no person in connection with the activities described in § 217.150 may:


(a) Violate, or fail to comply with, the terms, conditions, and requirements of this subpart or an LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.156;


(b) Take any marine mammal not specified in such LOAs;


(c) Take any marine mammal specified in such LOAs in any manner other than as specified;


(d) Take a marine mammal specified in such LOAs if NMFS determines such taking results in more than a negligible impact on the species or stocks of such marine mammal; or


(e) Take a marine mammal specified in such LOAs if NMFS determines such taking results in an unmitigable adverse impact on the species or stock of such marine mammal for taking for subsistence uses.


§ 217.154 Mitigation requirements.

When conducting the activities identified in § 217.150(a), the mitigation measures contained in any LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.156 must be implemented. These mitigation measures shall include but are not limited to:


(a) General conditions. (1) Hilcorp and Eni must renew, on an annual basis, the Plans of Cooperation (POCs), throughout the life of the regulations;


(2) Copies of any issued LOAs must be in the possession of Hilcorp and Eni, their designees, and work crew personnel operating under the authority of the issued LOAs; and


(3) Prior to initiation of sea ice road- and ice trail-related activities, project personnel associated with ice road construction, maintenance, use or decommissioning must receive annual training on implementing mitigation and monitoring measures:


(i) Personnel must be advised that interactions with, or approaching, any wildlife is prohibited;


(ii) Annual training must also include reviewing Hilcorp and Eni’s Wildlife Management Plan; and


(iii) In addition to the mitigation and monitoring plans, other topics in the training must include:


(A) Ringed seal identification and brief life history;


(B) Physical environment (habitat characteristics and how to potentially identify habitat);


(C) Ringed seal use in the ice road region (timing, location, habitat use, birthing lairs, breathing holes, basking, etc.);


(D) Potential effects of disturbance; and


(E) Importance of lairs, breathing holes and basking to ringed seals.


(b) General mitigation measures throughout the Ice Road/Trail Season (December through May). (1) Ice road/trail speed limits must be no greater than 72.4 km (45 miles) per hour (mph); speed limits must be determined on a case-by-case basis based on environmental, road conditions and ice road/trail longevity considerations;


(2) Following existing safety measures, delineators must mark the roadway in a minimum of 0.4 km (
1/4-mile) increments on both sides of the ice road to delineate the path of vehicle travel and areas of planned on-ice activities (e.g., emergency response exercises). Following existing safety measures currently used for ice trails, delineators must mark one side of an ice trail a minimum of every 0.4 km (
1/4 mile). Delineators must be color-coded, following existing safety protocol, to indicate the direction of travel and location of the ice road or trail;


(3) Corners of rig mats, steel plates, and other materials used to bridge sections of hazardous ice, must be clearly marked or mapped using GPS coordinates of the locations; and


(4) Personnel must be instructed to remain in the vehicle and safely continue, if they encounter a ringed seal while driving on the road.


(c) Additional mitigation measures after March 1st. In addition to the general mitigation measures listed in § 217.154(b), the following measures must also be implemented after March 1st:


(1) Ice road/trail construction, maintenance and decommissioning must be performed within the boundaries of the road/trail and shoulders, with most work occurring within the driving lane. To the extent practicable and when safety of personnel is ensured, equipment must travel within the driving lane and shoulder areas.


(2) Blading and snow blowing of ice roads must be limited to the previously disturbed ice road/shoulder areas to the extent safe and practicable. Snow must be plowed or blown from the ice road surface.


(3) In the event snow is accumulating on a road within a 50 m (164 ft) radius of an identified downwind seal or seal lair, operational measures must be used to avoid seal impacts, such as pushing snow further down the road before blowing it off the roadway. Vehicles must not stop within 50 m (164 ft) of identified seals or within 150 m (500 ft) of known seal lairs.


(4) To the extent practicable and when safety of personnel is ensured, tracked vehicle operation must be limited to the previously disturbed ice trail areas. When safety requires a new ice trail to be constructed after March 1st, construction activities such as drilling holes in the ice to determine ice quality and thickness, must be conducted only during daylight hours with good visibility.


(5) Ringed seal structures must be avoided by a minimum of 50 m (164 ft) during ice testing and new trail construction.


(6) Once the new ice trail is established, tracked vehicle operation must be limited to the disturbed area to the extent practicable and when safety of personnel is ensured.


(7) If a seal is observed on ice within 50 m (164 ft) of the centerline of the ice road/trail, the following mitigation measures must be implemented:


(i) Construction, maintenance or decommissioning activities associated with ice roads and trails must not occur within 50 m (164 ft) of the observed ringed seal, but may proceed as soon as the ringed seal, of its own accord, moves farther than 50 m (164 ft) distance away from the activities or has not been observed within that area for at least 24 hours; and


(ii) Transport vehicles (i.e., vehicles not associated with construction, maintenance or decommissioning) may continue their route within the designated road/trail without stopping.


§ 217.155 Requirements for monitoring and reporting.

(a) All marine mammal monitoring must be conducted in accordance with Hilcorp and Eni’s Marine Mammal Mitigation and Monitoring Plan (4MP). This plan may be modified throughout the life of the regulations upon NMFS review and approval.


(b) General monitoring measures will be implemented through the entire ice road/trail season including during construction, maintenance, use and decommissioning.


(1) If a ringed seal is observed within 50 m (164 ft) of the center of an ice road or trail, the operator’s Environmental Specialist must be immediately notified with the information provided in paragraph (e) of this section.


(i) The Environmental Specialist must relay the seal sighting location information to all ice road personnel and the company’s office personnel responsible for wildlife interaction, following notification protocols described in the company-specific Wildlife Management Plan. All other data will be recorded and logged.


(ii) The Environmental Specialist or designated person must monitor the ringed seal to document the animal’s location relative to the road/trail. All work that is occurring when the ringed seal is observed and the behavior of the seal during those activities must be documented until the animal is at least 50 m (150 ft) away from the center of the road/trail or is no longer observed.


(2) [Reserved]


(c) Additional monitoring measures after March 1st. In addition to the general monitoring measures listed in § 217.155(b), the following measures must also be implemented after March 1st:


(1) If an ice road or trail is being actively used, under daylight conditions with good visibility, a dedicated observer (not the vehicle operator) must conduct a survey along the sea ice road/trail to observe if any ringed seals are within 150 m (500 ft) of the roadway corridor. The following survey protocol must be implemented:


(i) Surveys must be conducted every other day during daylight hours;


(ii) Observers for ice road activities must have received the training described in § 217.154(a) and understand the applicable sections of the Wildlife Interaction Plan;


(iii) Observers for ice road activities must be capable of detecting, observing and monitoring ringed seal presence and behaviors, and accurately and completely recording data;


(iv) Observers must have no other primary duty than to watch for and report observations related to ringed seals during this survey; and


(v) If weather conditions become unsafe, the observer may be removed from the monitoring activity.


(2) If a ringed seal structure (i.e., breathing hole or lair) is observed within 50 m (150 ft) of the ice road/trail, the location of the structure must be reported to the Environmental Specialist and:


(i) An observer must monitor the structure every 6 hours on the day of the initial sighting to determine whether a ringed seal is present.


(ii) Monitoring for the seal must occur every other day the ice road is being used unless it is determined the structure is not actively being used (i.e., a seal is not sighted at that location during monitoring).


(d) Engaging with subsistence hunters for monitoring recommendations.


(1) Hilcorp and Eni must engage local hunters through the Ice Seal Committee point of contact to gather recommendations on methods for ringed seal detection along sea ice roads/trails within the exposure areas.


(2) Hilcorp and Eni must incorporate these recommendations into Hilcorp and Eni’s training materials provided to personnel responsible for monitoring for ringed seals along sea ice roads/trails.


(e) Reporting requirement at the end-of-season.


(1) A final end-of-season report compiling all ringed seal observations must be submitted to NMFS Office of Protected Resources within 90 days of decommissioning the ice roads/trails annually. The report must include:


(i) Date, time, location of observation;


(ii) Ringed seal characteristics (i.e., adult or pup, behavior (avoidance, resting, etc.));


(iii) Activities occurring during observation including equipment being used and its purpose, and approximate distance to ringed seal(s);


(iv) Actions taken to mitigate effects of interaction emphasizing:


(A) Which mitigation and/or monitoring measures were successful;


(B) Which mitigation and/or monitoring measures may need to be improved to reduce interactions with ringed seals;


(C) The effectiveness and practicality of implementing mitigation and monitoring measures;


(D) Any issues or concerns regarding implementation of mitigation and/or monitoring measures; and


(E) Potential effects of interactions based on observation data;


(v) Proposed updates (if any) to Wildlife Interaction Plan(s) or Mitigation and Monitoring Measures; and


(vi) The methods used for detection of seals and seal structures with an assessment of their effectiveness.


(2) In the event a seal is killed or seriously injured by ice road/trail activities, Hilcorp or Eni must immediately cease the specified activities and report the incident to the NMFS Office of Protected Resources (301-427-8401) and Alaska Region Stranding Coordinator (877-925-7773). The report must include the following information:


(i) Time and date of the incident;


(ii) Description of the incident;


(iii) Environmental conditions (e.g., cloud over, and visibility);


(iv) Description of all marine mammal observations in the 24 hours preceding the incident;


(v) Species identification or description of the animal(s) involved;


(vi) Fate of the animal(s); and


(vii) Photographs or video footage of the animal(s).


(3) In the event ice road/trail personnel discover a dead or injured seal but the cause of injury or death is unknown or believed not to be related to ice road/trail activities, Hilcorp or Eni must report the incident to the NMFS Office of Protected Resources (301-427-8401) and Alaska Region Stranding Coordinator (877-925-7773) within 48 hours of discovery.


§ 217.156 Letters of Authorization.

(a) To incidentally take marine mammals pursuant to these regulations, Hilcorp and Eni must apply for and obtain an LOA.


(b) An LOA, unless suspended or revoked, may be effective for a period of time not to exceed the expiration date of these regulations.


(c) If an LOA expires prior to the expiration date of these regulations, Hilcorp or Eni may apply for and obtain a renewal of the LOA.


(d) In the event of projected changes to the activity or to mitigation and monitoring measures required by an LOA, Hilcorp and Eni must apply for and obtain a modification of the LOA as described in § 217.57.


(e) The LOAs shall set forth:


(1) Permissible methods of incidental taking;


(2) Means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact (i.e., mitigation) on the species, its habitat, and on the availability of the species for subsistence uses; and


(3) Requirements for monitoring and reporting.


(f) Issuance of the LOAs shall be based on a determination that the level of taking will be consistent with the findings made for the total taking allowable under these regulations.


(g) Notice of issuance or denial of an LOA shall be published in the Federal Register within 30 days of a determination.


§ 217.157 Renewals and modifications of Letters of Authorization.

(a) An LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.156 for the activity identified in § 217.150(a) shall be renewed or modified upon request by the applicant, provided that:


(1) The proposed specified activity and mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures, as well as the anticipated impacts, are the same as those described and analyzed for these regulations (excluding changes made pursuant to the adaptive management provision in paragraph (c)(1) of this section); and


(2) NMFS determines that the mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures required by the previous LOAs under these regulations were implemented.


(b) For LOAs modification or renewal requests by the applicants that include changes to the activity or the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting (excluding changes made pursuant to the adaptive management provision in paragraph (c)(1) of this section) that do not change the findings made for the regulations or result in no more than a minor change in the total estimated number of takes (or distribution by species or years), NMFS may publish a notice of proposed LOAs in the Federal Register, including the associated analysis of the change, and solicit public comment before issuing the LOA.


(c) The LOAs issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.156 for the activity identified in § 217.150(a) may be modified by NMFS under the following circumstances:


(1) Adaptive management. NMFS may modify (including augment) the existing mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures (after consulting with Hilcorp or Eni regarding the practicability of the modifications) if doing so creates a reasonable likelihood of more effectively accomplishing the goals of the mitigation and monitoring set forth in the preamble for these regulations.


(i) Possible sources of data that could contribute to the decision to modify the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures in an LOA:


(A) Results from Hilcorp or Eni’s monitoring from the previous year(s).


(B) Results from other marine mammal and/or sound research or studies.


(C) Any information that reveals marine mammals may have been taken in a manner, extent or number not authorized by these regulations or subsequent LOAs.


(ii) If, through adaptive management, the modifications to the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures are substantial, NMFS will publish a notice of proposed LOA in the Federal Register and solicit public comment.


(2) Emergencies. If NMFS determines that an emergency exists that poses a significant risk to the well-being of the species or stocks of marine mammals specified in LOAs issued pursuant to §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.156, an LOA may be modified without prior notice or opportunity for public comment. Notice would be published in the Federal Register within 30 days of the action.


§§ 217.158–217.159 [Reserved]

Subpart Q – Taking and Importing Marine Mammals; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Oil and Gas Activities in Cook Inlet, Alaska.


Source:84 FR 37502, July 31, 2019, unless otherwise noted.


Effective Date Note:At 84 FR 37502, July 31, 2019, subpart Q was added, effective from July 30, 2019, to July 30, 2024.

§ 217.160 Specified activity and specified geographical region.

(a) Regulations in this subpart apply only to Hilcorp Alaska LLC (Hilcorp) and those persons it authorizes or funds to conduct activities on its behalf for the taking of marine mammals that occurs in the area outlined in paragraph (b) of this section and that occurs incidental to the activities described in paragraph (c) of this section.


(b) The taking of marine mammals by Hilcorp may be authorized in Letters of Authorization (LOAs) only if it occurs within the action area defined in Cook Inlet, Alaska.


(c) The taking of marine mammals by Hilcorp is only authorized if it occurs incidental to Hilcorp’s oil and gas activities including use of seismic airguns, sub-bottom profiler, vertical seismic profiling, pile driving, conductor pipe driving, and water jets.


§ 217.161 Effective dates.

Regulations in this subpart are effective July 30, 2019, through July 30, 2024.


§ 217.162 Permissible methods of taking.

Under LOAs issued pursuant to §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.166, the Holder of the LOAs (hereinafter “Hilcorp”) may incidentally, but not intentionally, take marine mammals within the area described in § 217.160(b) by Level A harassment and Level B harassment associated with oil and gas activities, provided the activity is in compliance with all terms, conditions, and requirements of the regulations in this subpart and the applicable LOAs.


§ 217.163 Prohibitions.

Notwithstanding takings contemplated in § 217.162 and authorized by LOAs issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.166, no person in connection with the activities described in § 217.160 may:


(a) Violate, or fail to comply with, the terms, conditions, and requirements of this subpart or a LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.166;


(b) Take any marine mammal not specified in such LOAs;


(c) Take any marine mammal specified in such LOAs in any manner other than as specified;


(d) Take a marine mammal specified in such LOAs if NMFS determines such taking results in more than a negligible impact on the species or stocks of such marine mammal; or


(e) Take a marine mammal specified in such LOAs if NMFS determines such taking results in an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of such species or stock of marine mammal for taking for subsistence uses.


§ 217.164 Mitigation requirements.

When conducting the activities identified in § 217.160(c), the mitigation measures contained in any LOAs issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.166 must be implemented. These mitigation measures must include but are not limited to:


(a) Hilcorp must conduct a sound source verification (SSV) for 3D seismic and sub-bottom profiler use. Results of this SSV must be sent to NMFS and mitigation and monitoring zones may be adjusted based on the results of the SSV.


(b) If any marine mammal species for which take is not authorized are sighted within or entering the relevant zones within which they are be exposed to sound above the 120 dB re 1 µPa (rms) threshold for continuous (e.g., vibratory pile-driving, drilling) sources or the 160 dB re 1 µPa (rms) threshold for non-explosive impulsive (e.g., seismic airguns) or intermittent (e.g., scientific sonar) sources, Hilcorp must take appropriate action to avoid such exposure (e.g., by altering speed or course or by shutdown of the sound source).


(c) If the allowable number of takes in an LOA listed for any marine mammal species is met or exceeded, Hilcorp must immediately cease survey operations involving the use of active sound source(s), record the observation, and notify NMFS Office of Protected Resources.


(d) Hilcorp must notify NMFS Office of Protected Resources at least 48 hours prior to the start of oil and gas activities each year.


(e) Hilcorp must conduct briefings as necessary between vessel crews, marine mammal monitoring team, and other relevant personnel prior to the start of all survey activity, and when new personnel join the work, in order to explain responsibilities, communication procedures, marine mammal monitoring protocol, and operational procedures.


(f) Hilcorp must establish monitoring and exclusion zones.


(1) For all relevant in-water activity, Hilcorp must implement shutdown zones/exclusion zones (EZs) with radial distances as identified in any LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.166. If a marine mammal is sighted within or entering the EZ, such operations must cease.


(2) For all relevant in-water activity, Hilcorp must designate safety zones for monitoring (SZ) with radial distances as identified in any LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.166 and record and report occurrence of marine mammals within these zones.


(3) For all relevant in-water activity, Hilcorp must implement a minimum EZ of a 10 m radius around the source.


(g) Hilcorp must implement shutdown measures.


(1) Hilcorp must deploy protected species observers (PSO) and PSOs must be posted to monitor marine mammals within the monitoring zones during use of active acoustic sources and pile driving in water.


(2) Monitoring must begin 15 minutes prior to initiation of stationary source activity and 30 minutes prior to initiation of mobile source activity, occur throughout the time required to complete the activity, and continue through 30 minutes post-completion of the activity. Pre-activity monitoring must be conducted to ensure that the EZ is clear of marine mammals, and activities may only commence once observers have declared the EZ clear of marine mammals. In the event of a delay or shutdown of activity resulting from marine mammals in the EZ, the marine mammals’ behavior must be monitored and documented.


(3) A determination that the EZ is clear must be made during a period of good visibility (i.e., the entire EZ must be visible to the naked eye).


(4) If a marine mammal is observed within or entering the EZ, Hilcorp must halt all noise producing activities for which take is authorized at that location. If activity is delayed due to the presence of a marine mammal, the activity may not commence or resume until either the animal has voluntarily left and been visually confirmed outside the EZ or the required amount of time (15 for porpoises and pinnipeds, 30 minutes for cetaceans) have passed without re-detection of the animal.


(5) Monitoring must be conducted by trained observers, who must have no other assigned tasks during monitoring periods. Trained observers must be placed at the best vantage point(s) practicable to monitor for marine mammals and implement shutdown or delay procedures when applicable through communication with the equipment operator. Hilcorp must adhere to the following additional observer qualifications:


(i) Hilcorp must use independent, dedicated, trained visual PSOs, meaning that the PSOs must be employed by a third-party observer provider, must not have tasks other than to conduct observational effort, collect data, and communicate with and instruct relevant vessel crew with regard to the presence of protected species and mitigation requirements (including brief alerts regarding maritime hazards), and must have successfully completed an approved PSO training course appropriate for their designated task.


(ii) Hilcorp must submit PSO resumes for NMFS review and approval. Resumes must be accompanied by a relevant training course information packet that includes the name and qualifications (i.e., experience, training completed, or educational background) of the instructor(s), the course outline or syllabus, and course reference material as well as a document stating successful completion of the course. NMFS will approve or disapprove PSOs within one week from the time that the necessary information is received by NMFS, after which PSOs meeting the minimum requirements will automatically be considered approved.


(iii) To the maximum extent practicable, the lead PSO must devise the duty schedule such that experienced PSOs are on duty with those PSOs with appropriate training but who have not yet gained relevant experience.


(6) Operations must shut down completely if a beluga whale is sighted within the relevant Level B harassment isopleth.


(h) Hilcorp must implement soft start techniques for impact pile driving.


(1) Hilcorp must conduct an initial set of three strikes from the impact hammer 30 seconds apart, at 40 percent energy, followed by a 1-minute waiting period, then two subsequent three strike sets.


(2) Soft start is required for any impact driving, including at the beginning of the day, after 30 minutes of pre-activity monitoring, and at any time following a cessation of impact pile driving of 30 minutes or longer.


(i) Hilcorp must implement ramp ups for seismic airgun use.


(1) Ramp up must be used at the start of airgun operations, including after a shutdown, and after any period greater than 30 minutes in duration without airgun operations.


(2) The rate of ramp up must be no more than 6 dB per 5-minute period.


(3) Ramp up must begin with the smallest gun in the array that is being used for all airgun array configurations.


(4) During the ramp up, the EZ for the full airgun array must be implemented.


(5) If the complete EZ has not been visible for at least 30 minutes prior to the start of operations, ramp up must not commence.


(6) Ramp up of the airguns must not be initiated if a marine mammal is sighted within or entering the EZ at any time.


(j) Hilcorp must use aircraft for mitigation.


(1) Hilcorp must use aircraft daily to survey the planned seismic survey area prior to the start of seismic surveying. Surveying must not begin unless the aerial flights confirm the planned survey area for that day is clear of beluga whales. If weather conditions make flying before the start of seismic in daylight unsafe, Hilcorp may delay the aerial survey until weather conditions improve and it is safe to fly.


(2) If beluga whales are sighted during flights, start of seismic surveying must be delayed until it is confirmed the area is free of beluga whales.


(k) Hilcorp must implement exclusion zones for beluga whales.


(1) Hilcorp must not operate with noise producing activity within 10 miles (16 km) of the mean higher high water (MHHW) line of the Susitna Delta (Beluga River to the Little Susitna River) between April 15 and October 15. Hilcorp must not conduct seismic activity within the Level B isopleth distance of the mouth of the Kasilof River between January 1 and May 31.


(m) Hilcorp must abide by all mitigation measures described in the Biological Opinion for Hilcorp Alaska and Harvest Alaska Oil and Gas Activities, Cook Inlet, Alaska.


§ 217.165 Requirements for monitoring and reporting.

(a) Marine mammal monitoring protocols. Hilcorp must conduct briefings between construction supervisors and crews and the observer team prior to the start of all pile driving and removal activities, and when new personnel join the work. Trained observers must receive a general environmental awareness briefing conducted by Hilcorp staff. At minimum, training must include identification of marine mammals that may occur in the project vicinity and relevant mitigation and monitoring requirements. All observers must have no other construction-related tasks while conducting monitoring.


(b) Visibility. Activities must only commence when the entire exclusion zone (EZ) is visible to the naked eye and can be adequately monitored. If conditions (e.g., fog) prevent the visual detection of marine mammals, activities must not be initiated. For activities other than seismic surveying, activity must be halted in low visibility but vibratory pile driving or removal will be allowed to continue if started in good visibility.


(c) Monitoring periods. Monitoring must begin 15 minutes prior to initiation of stationary source activity and 30 minutes prior to initiation of mobile source activity, occur throughout the time required to complete the activity, and continue through 30 minutes post-completion of the activity. Pre-activity monitoring must be conducted to ensure that the EZ is clear of marine mammals, and activities may only commence once observers have declared the EZ clear of marine mammals. In the event of a delay or shutdown of activity resulting from marine mammals in the EZ, the animals’ behavior must be monitored and documented.


(d) Placement of PSOs. (1) At least one on-duty PSO must be placed on the source vessel (for seismic and geohazard surveys) or drill rig (for pipe driving and VSP).


(2) During seismic surveys a mitigation vessel must be used with at least one on-duty PSO aboard the vessel monitoring for marine mammal occurrence.


(e) Reporting measures – (1) Take limits. Hilcorp must contact NMFS when they have reached the limit of authorized takes of beluga whale within a year.


(2) Monthly reports. Monthly reports must be submitted to NMFS for all months during which in-water seismic activities take place. The monthly report must contain and summarize the following information: Dates, times, locations, heading, speed, weather, sea conditions (including Beaufort sea state and wind force), and associated activities during all seismic operations and marine mammal sightings; Species, number, location, distance from the vessel, and behavior of any sighted marine mammals, as well as associated seismic activity (number of power-downs and shutdowns), observed throughout all monitoring activities; An estimate of the number (by species) exposed to the seismic activity (based on visual observation) at received levels greater than or equal to the NMFS thresholds discussed above with a discussion of any specific behaviors those individuals exhibited; A description of the implementation and effectiveness of the terms and conditions of the Biological Opinion’s Incidental Take Statement (ITS) and mitigation measures of the LOA.


(3) Annual reports. (i) Hilcorp must submit an annual report within 90 days after each activity year, starting from the date when the LOA is issued (for the first annual report) or from the date when the previous annual report ended.


(ii) Annual reports will detail the monitoring protocol, summarize the data recorded during monitoring, and estimate the number of marine mammals that may have been harassed during the period of the report.


(iii) NMFS will provide comments within 30 days after receiving annual reports, and Hilcorp must address the comments and submit revisions within 30 days after receiving NMFS comments. If no comment is received from the NMFS within 30 days, the annual report will be considered completed.


(4) Final report. (i) Hilcorp must submit a comprehensive summary report to NMFS not later than 90 days following the conclusion of marine mammal monitoring efforts described in this subpart.


(ii) The final report must synthesize all data recorded during marine mammal monitoring, and estimate the number of marine mammals that may have been harassed through the entire project.


(iii) NMFS will provide comments within 30 days after receiving this report, and Hilcorp must address the comments and submit revisions within 30 days after receiving NMFS comments. If no comment is received from the NMFS within 30 days, the final report will be considered as final.


(5) Reporting of injured or dead marine mammals. (i) In the event that personnel involved in the survey activities discover an injured or dead marine mammal, Hilcorp must report the incident to the Office of Protected Resources (OPR), NMFS (301-427-8401) and to regional stranding network (877- 925-7773) as soon as feasible. The report must include the following information:


(A) Time, date, and location (latitude/longitude) of the first discovery (and updated location information if known and applicable);


(B) Species identification (if known) or description of the animal(s) involved;


(C) Condition of the animal(s) (including carcass condition if the animal is dead);


(D) Observed behaviors of the animal(s), if alive;


(E) If available, photographs or video footage of the animal(s); and


(F) General circumstances under which the animal was discovered.


(ii) In the event of a ship strike of a marine mammal by any vessel involved in the survey activities, Hilcorp must report the incident to OPR, NMFS and to regional stranding networks as soon as feasible. The report must include the following information:


(A) Time, date, and location (latitude/longitude) of the incident;


(B) Species identification (if known) or description of the animal(s) involved;


(C) Vessel’s speed during and leading up to the incident;


(D) Vessel’s course/heading and what operations were being conducted (if applicable);


(E) Status of all sound sources in use;


(F) Description of avoidance measures/requirements that were in place at the time of the strike and what additional measures were taken, if any, to avoid strike;


(G) Environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, Beaufort sea state, cloud cover, visibility) immediately preceding the strike;


(H) Estimated size and length of animal that was struck;


(I) Description of the behavior of the marine mammal immediately preceding and following the strike;


(J) If available, description of the presence and behavior of any other marine mammals immediately preceding the strike;


(K) Estimated fate of the animal (e.g., dead, injured but alive, injured and moving, blood or tissue observed in the water, status unknown, disappeared); and


(L) To the extent practicable, photographs or video footage of the animal(s).


(iii) In the event of a live stranding (or near-shore atypical milling) event within 50 km of the survey operations, where the NMFS stranding network is engaged in herding or other interventions to return animals to the water, the Director of OPR, NMFS (or designee) will advise Hilcorp of the need to implement shutdown procedures for all active acoustic sources operating within 50 km of the stranding. Shutdown procedures for live stranding or milling marine mammals include the following:


(A) If at any time, the marine mammal(s) die or are euthanized, or if herding/intervention efforts are stopped, the Director of OPR, NMFS (or designee) will advise Hilcorp that the shutdown around the animals’ location is no longer needed.


(B) Otherwise, shutdown procedures must remain in effect until the Director of OPR, NMFS (or designee) determines and advises Hilcorp that all live animals involved have left the area (either of their own volition or following an intervention).


(C) If further observations of the marine mammals indicate the potential for re-stranding, additional coordination with Hilcorp must occur to determine what measures are necessary to minimize that likelihood (e.g., extending the shutdown or moving operations farther away) and Hilcorp must implement those measures as appropriate.


(iv) If NMFS determines that the circumstances of any marine mammal stranding found in the vicinity of the activity suggest investigation of the association with survey activities is warranted, and an investigation into the stranding is being pursued, NMFS will submit a written request to Hilcorp indicating that the following initial available information must be provided as soon as possible, but no later than 7 business days after the request for information.


(A) Status of all sound source use in the 48 hours preceding the estimated time of stranding and within 50 km of the discovery/notification of the stranding by NMFS; and


(B) If available, description of the behavior of any marine mammal(s) observed preceding (i.e., within 48 hours and 50 km) and immediately after the discovery of the stranding.


(C) In the event that the investigation is still inconclusive, the investigation of the association of the survey activities is still warranted, and the investigation is still being pursued, NMFS may provide additional information requests, in writing, regarding the nature and location of survey operations prior to the time period above.


§ 217.166 Letters of Authorization.

(a) To incidentally take marine mammals pursuant to these regulations, Hilcorp must apply for and obtain (LOAs) in accordance with § 216.106 of this chapter for conducting the activity identified in § 217.160(c).


(b) LOAs, unless suspended or revoked, may be effective for a period of time not to extend beyond the expiration date of these regulations.


(c) An LOA application must be submitted to the Director, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, by March 1st of the year preceding the desired start date.


(d) An LOA application must include the following information:


(1) The date(s), duration, and the area(s) where the activity will occur;


(2) The species and/or stock(s) of marine mammals likely to be found within each area;


(3) The estimated number of takes for each marine mammal stock potentially affected in each area for the period of effectiveness of the Letter of Authorization.


(4) An updated Stakeholder Engagement Plan detailing Hilcorp’s meetings with stakeholders and any concerns raised that relate to marine mammals or subsistence activities.


(e) In the event of projected changes to the activity or to mitigation, monitoring, reporting (excluding changes made pursuant to the adaptive management provision of § 217.97(c)(1)) required by an LOA, Hilcorp must apply for and obtain a modification of LOAs as described in § 217.167.


(f) Each LOA must set forth:


(1) Permissible methods of incidental taking;


(2) Means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact (i.e., mitigation) on the species, their habitat, and the availability of the species for subsistence uses; and


(3) Requirements for monitoring and reporting.


(g) Issuance of the LOA(s) must be based on a determination that the level of taking must be consistent with the findings made for the total taking allowable under these regulations.


(h) If NMFS determines that the level of taking is resulting or may result in more than a negligible impact on the species or stocks of such marine mammal, the LOA may be modified or suspended after notice and a public comment period.


(i) Notice of issuance or denial of the LOA(s) must be published in the Federal Register within 30 days of a determination.


§ 217.167 Renewals and modifications of Letters of Authorization and adaptive management.

(a) An LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.166 for the activity identified in § 217.160(c) may be renewed or modified upon request by the applicant, provided that the following are met:


(1) Notification to NMFS that the activity described in the application submitted under § 217.160(a) will be undertaken and that there will not be a substantial modification to the described work, mitigation or monitoring undertaken during the upcoming or remaining LOA period;


(2) Timely receipt (by the dates indicated) of monitoring reports, as required under § 217.165(C)(3);


(3) A determination by the NMFS that the mitigation, monitoring and reporting measures required under § 217.165(c) and the LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.166, were undertaken and are expected to be undertaken during the period of validity of the LOA.


(b) If a request for a renewal of a Letter of Authorization indicates that a substantial modification, as determined by NMFS, to the described work, mitigation or monitoring undertaken during the upcoming season will occur, NMFS will provide the public a period of 30 days for review and comment on the request as well as the proposed modification to the LOA. Review and comment on renewals of Letters of Authorization are restricted to:


(1) New cited information and data indicating that the original determinations made for the regulations are in need of reconsideration; and


(2) Proposed changes to the mitigation and monitoring requirements contained in these regulations or in the current Letter of Authorization.


(c) A notice of issuance or denial of a renewal of a Letter of Authorization will be published in the Federal Register within 30 days of a determination.


(d) An LOA issued under §§ 216.16 of this chapter and 217.166 for the activity identified in § 217.160 may be modified by NMFS under the following circumstances:


(1) Adaptive management. NMFS, in response to new information and in consultation with Hilcorp, may modify the mitigation or monitoring measures in subsequent LOAs if doing so creates a reasonable likelihood of more effectively accomplishing the goals of mitigation and monitoring set forth in the preamble of these regulations.


(i) Possible sources of new data that could contribute to the decision to modify the mitigation or monitoring measures include:


(A) Results from Hilcorp’s monitoring from the previous year(s).


(B) Results from marine mammal and/or sound research or studies.


(C) Any information that reveals marine mammals may have been taken in a manner, extent or number not authorized by these regulations or subsequent LOAs.


(ii) If, through adaptive management, the modifications to the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures are substantial, NMFS will publish a notice of proposed LOA in the Federal Register and solicit public comment.


(2) Withdrawal or suspension. NMFS will withdraw or suspend an LOA if, after notice and opportunity for public comment, NMFS determines these regulations are not being substantially complied with or that the taking allowed is or may be having more than a negligible impact on an affected species or stock specified in § 217.162(b) or an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of the species or stock for subsistence uses. The requirement for notice and comment will not apply if NMFS determines that an emergency exists that poses a significant risk to the well-being of the species or stocks of marine mammals. Notice will be published in the Federal Register within 30 days of such action.


§§ 217.168–217.169 [Reserved]

Subpart R [Reserved]

Subpart S – Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Geophysical Survey Activities in the Gulf of Mexico


Source:86 FR 5444, Jan. 19, 2021, unless otherwise noted.


Effective Date Note:At 86 FR 5444, Jan. 19, 2021, subprt S was added, effective Apr. 19, 2021, through Apr. 19, 2026.

§ 217.180 Specified activity and specified geographical region.

(a) Regulations in this subpart apply only to oil and gas industry operators (LOA-holders), and those persons authorized to conduct activities on their behalf, for the taking of marine mammals that occurs in the area outlined in paragraph (b) of this section and that occurs incidental to geophysical survey activities.


(b) The taking of marine mammals by oil and gas industry operators may be authorized in a Letter of Authorization (LOA) only if it occurs within U.S. waters in the Gulf of Mexico, outside the area subject to a Congressional leasing moratorium under the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) (Pub L. 109-432, § 104) as of the effective date of these regulations.


§ 217.181 Effective dates.

Regulations in this subpart are effective from April 19, 2021 through April 19, 2026.


§ 217.182 Permissible methods of taking.

Under LOAs issued pursuant to §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.186, LOA-holders may incidentally, but not intentionally, take marine mammals within the area described in § 217.180(b) by Level A and Level B harassment associated with geophysical survey activities, provided the activity is in compliance with all terms, conditions, and requirements of the regulations in this subpart and the appropriate LOA.


§ 217.183 Prohibitions.

Notwithstanding takings contemplated in §§ 217.180 and 217.182, and authorized by a LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.186, no person in connection with the activities described in § 217.180 may:


(a) Violate, or fail to comply with, the terms, conditions, and requirements of this subpart or a LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.186;


(b) Take any marine mammal not specified in such LOAs;


(c) Take any marine mammal specified in such LOAs in any manner other than as specified; or


(d) Take a marine mammal specified in such LOAs if NMFS determines such taking results in more than a negligible impact on the species or stocks of such marine mammal.


§ 217.184 Mitigation requirements.

When conducting the activities identified in § 217.180, the mitigation measures contained in any LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.186 must be implemented. These mitigation measures shall include but are not limited to:


(a) General conditions. (1) A copy of any issued LOA must be in the possession of the LOA-holder, vessel operator, other relevant personnel, the lead protected species observer (PSO), and any other relevant designees operating under the authority of the LOA.


(2) The LOA-holder must instruct relevant vessel personnel with regard to the authority of the protected species monitoring team (PSO team), and must ensure that relevant vessel personnel and PSO team participate in a joint onboard briefing, led by the vessel operator and lead PSO, prior to beginning work to ensure that responsibilities, communication procedures, protected species monitoring protocols, operational procedures, and LOA requirements are clearly understood. This briefing must be repeated when relevant new personnel join the survey operations before work involving those personnel commences.


(3) The acoustic source must be deactivated when not acquiring data or preparing to acquire data, except as necessary for testing. Unnecessary use of the acoustic source must be avoided. For surveys using airgun arrays as the acoustic source, notified operational capacity (i.e., total array volume) (not including redundant backup airguns) must not be exceeded during the survey, except where unavoidable for source testing and calibration purposes. All occasions where activated source volume exceeds notified operational capacity must be communicated to the PSO(s) on duty and fully documented. The lead PSO must be granted access to relevant instrumentation documenting acoustic source power and/or operational volume.


(4) PSOs must be used as specified in this paragraph (a)(4).


(i) LOA-holders must use independent, dedicated, qualified PSOs, meaning that the PSOs must be employed by a third-party observer provider, must have no tasks other than to conduct observational effort, collect data, and communicate with and instruct relevant vessel crew with regard to the presence of protected species and mitigation requirements (including brief alerts regarding maritime hazards), and must be qualified pursuant to § 217.185(a) (except as specified at § 217.184(d)(2)(iii-iv)). Acoustic PSOs are required to complete specialized training for operating passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) systems and are encouraged to have familiarity with the vessel on which they will be working. PSOs may act as both acoustic and visual observers (but not simultaneously), so long as they demonstrate that their training and experience are sufficient to perform each task.


(ii) The LOA-holder must submit PSO resumes for NMFS review and approval prior to commencement of the survey (except as specified at § 217.184(d)(2)(iii)). Resumes should include dates of training and any prior NMFS approval, as well as dates and description of last experience, and must be accompanied by information documenting successful completion of an acceptable training course. NMFS is allowed one week to approve PSOs from the time that the necessary information is received by NMFS, after which PSOs meeting the minimum requirements will automatically be considered approved.


(iii) At least one visual PSO and two acoustic PSOs (when required) aboard each acoustic source vessel must have a minimum of 90 days at-sea experience working in those roles, respectively, with no more than eighteen months elapsed since the conclusion of the at-sea experience (except as specified at § 217.184(d)(2)(iii)). One visual PSO with such experience must be designated as the lead for the entire PSO team. The lead must coordinate duty schedules and roles for the PSO team and serve as the primary point of contact for the vessel operator. (Note that the responsibility of coordinating duty schedules and roles may instead be assigned to a shore-based, third-party monitoring coordinator.) To the maximum extent practicable, the lead PSO must devise the duty schedule such that experienced PSOs are on duty with those PSOs with appropriate training but who have not yet gained relevant experience.


(b) Deep penetration surveys. (1) Deep penetration surveys are defined as surveys using airgun arrays with total volume greater than 1,500 in
3.


(2) Visual monitoring must be conducted as specified in this paragraph (b)(2).


(i) During survey operations (i.e., any day on which use of the acoustic source is planned to occur, and whenever the acoustic source is in the water, whether activated or not), a minimum of two PSOs must be on duty and conducting visual observations at all times during daylight hours (i.e., from 30 minutes prior to sunrise through 30 minutes following sunset).


(ii) Visual monitoring must begin not less than 30 minutes prior to ramp-up and must continue until one hour after use of the acoustic source ceases or until 30 minutes past sunset.


(iii) Visual PSOs must coordinate to ensure 360° visual coverage around the vessel from the most appropriate observation posts, and must conduct visual observations using binoculars and the naked eye while free from distractions and in a consistent, systematic, and diligent manner.


(iv) Visual PSOs must immediately communicate all observations of marine mammals to the on-duty acoustic PSO, including any determination by the PSO regarding species identification, distance, and bearing and the degree of confidence in the determination.


(v) Any observations of marine mammals by crew members aboard any vessel associated with the survey must be relayed to the PSO team.


(vi) During good conditions (e.g., daylight hours; Beaufort sea state (BSS) 3 or less), visual PSOs must conduct observations when the acoustic source is not operating for comparison of sighting rates and behavior with and without use of the acoustic source and between acquisition periods, to the maximum extent practicable.


(vii) Visual PSOs may be on watch for a maximum of two consecutive hours followed by a break of at least one hour between watches and may conduct a maximum of 12 hours of observation per 24-hour period. NMFS may grant an exception for LOA applications that demonstrate such a “two hours on/one hour off” duty cycle is not practicable, in which case visual PSOs will be subject to a maximum of four consecutive hours on watch followed by a break of at least two hours between watches. Combined observational duties (visual and acoustic but not at the same time) must not exceed 12 hours per 24-hour period for any individual PSO.


(3) Acoustic monitoring must be conducted as specified in this paragraph (b)(3).


(i) All source vessels must use a towed PAM system at all times when operating in waters deeper than 100 m, which must be monitored by a minimum of one acoustic PSO beginning at least 30 minutes prior to ramp-up, at all times during use of the acoustic source, and until one hour after use of the acoustic source ceases. “PAM system” refers to calibrated hydrophone arrays with full system redundancy to detect, identify, and estimate distance and bearing to vocalizing cetaceans, coupled with appropriate software to aid monitoring and listening by a PAM operator skilled in bioacoustics analysis and computer system specifications capable of running appropriate software. The PAM system must have at least one calibrated hydrophone (per each deployed hydrophone type and/or set) sufficient for determining whether background noise levels on the towed PAM system are sufficiently low to meet performance expectations. Applicants must provide a PAM plan including description of the hardware and software proposed for use prior to proceeding with any survey where PAM is required.


(ii) Acoustic PSOs must immediately communicate all detections of marine mammals to visual PSOs (when visual PSOs are on duty), including any determination by the PSO regarding species identification, distance, and bearing, and the degree of confidence in the determination.


(iii) Acoustic PSOs may be on watch for a maximum of four consecutive hours followed by a break of at least two hours between watches, and may conduct a maximum of 12 hours of observation per 24-hour period. Combined observational duties (visual and acoustic but not at the same time) must not exceed 12 hours per 24-hour period for any individual PSO.


(iv) Survey activity may continue for 30 minutes when the PAM system malfunctions or is damaged, while the PAM operator diagnoses the issue. If the diagnosis indicates that the PAM system must be repaired to solve the problem, operations may continue for an additional two hours without acoustic monitoring during daylight hours only under the following conditions:


(A) Sea state is less than or equal to BSS 4;


(B) No marine mammals (excluding delphinids) detected solely by PAM in the applicable exclusion zone in the previous two hours;


(C) NMFS is notified via email as soon as practicable with the time and location in which operations began occurring without an active PAM system; and


(D) Operations with an active acoustic source, but without an operating PAM system, do not exceed a cumulative total of four hours in any 24-hour period.


(4) PSOs must establish and monitor applicable exclusion and buffer zones. These zones must be based upon the radial distance from the edges of the airgun array (rather than being based on the center of the array or around the vessel itself). During use of the acoustic source (i.e., anytime the acoustic source is active, including ramp-up), occurrence of marine mammals within the relevant buffer zone (but outside the exclusion zone) should be communicated to the operator to prepare for the potential shutdown of the acoustic source.


(i) Two exclusion zones are defined, depending on the species and context. A standard exclusion zone encompassing the area at and below the sea surface out to a radius of 500 meters from the edges of the airgun array (0-500 m) is defined. For special circumstances (defined at § 217.184(b)(9)(v)), the exclusion zone encompasses an extended distance of 1,500 meters (0-1,500 m).


(ii) During pre-start clearance monitoring (i.e., before ramp-up begins), the buffer zone acts as an extension of the exclusion zone in that observations of marine mammals within the buffer zone would also preclude airgun operations from beginning (i.e., ramp-up). For all marine mammals (except where superseded by the extended 1,500-m exclusion zone), the buffer zone encompasses the area at and below the sea surface from the edge of the 0-500 meter exclusion zone out to a radius of 1,000 meters from the edges of the airgun array (500-1,000 m). The buffer zone is not applicable when the exclusion zone is greater than 500 meters, i.e., the observational focal zone is not increased beyond 1,500 meters.


(5) A ramp-up procedure, involving a step-wise increase in the number of airguns firing and total active array volume until all operational airguns are activated and the full volume is achieved, is required at all times as part of the activation of the acoustic source. A 30-minute pre-start clearance observation period must occur prior to the start of ramp-up. The LOA-holder must adhere to the following pre-start clearance and ramp-up requirements:


(i) The operator must notify a designated PSO of the planned start of ramp-up as agreed upon with the lead PSO; the notification time should not be less than 60 minutes prior to the planned ramp-up.


(ii) Ramp-ups must be scheduled so as to minimize the time spent with source activated prior to reaching the designated run-in.


(iii) A designated PSO must be notified again immediately prior to initiating ramp-up procedures and the operator must receive confirmation from the PSO to proceed.


(iv) Ramp-up must not be initiated if any marine mammal is within the applicable exclusion or buffer zone. If a marine mammal is observed within the exclusion zone or the buffer zone during the 30-minute pre-start clearance period, ramp-up must not begin until the animal(s) has been observed exiting the zones or until an additional time period has elapsed with no further sightings (15 minutes for small delphinids and 30 minutes for all other species).


(v) Ramp-up must begin by activating a single airgun of the smallest volume in the array and shall continue in stages by doubling the number of active elements at the commencement of each stage, with each stage of approximately the same duration. Total duration must not be less than 20 minutes. The operator must provide information to the PSO documenting that appropriate procedures were followed.


(vi) Ramp-up must cease and the source shut down upon observation of marine mammals within the applicable exclusion zone. Once ramp-up has begun, observations of marine mammals within the buffer zone do not require shutdown.


(vii) Ramp-up may occur at times of poor visibility, including nighttime, if appropriate acoustic monitoring has occurred with no detections of a marine mammal other than delphinids in the 30 minutes prior to beginning ramp-up. Acoustic source activation may only occur at night where operational planning cannot reasonably avoid such circumstances.


(viii) If the acoustic source is shut down for brief periods (i.e., less than 30 minutes) for reasons other than implementation of prescribed mitigation (e.g., mechanical difficulty), it may be activated again without ramp-up if PSOs have maintained constant visual and/or acoustic observation and no visual or acoustic detections of any marine mammal have occurred within the applicable exclusion zone. For any longer shutdown, pre-start clearance observation and ramp-up are required. For any shutdown at night or in periods of poor visibility (e.g., BSS 4 or greater), ramp-up is required, but if the shutdown period was brief and constant observation maintained, pre-start clearance watch is not required.


(ix) Testing of the acoustic source involving all elements requires ramp-up. Testing limited to individual source elements or strings does not require ramp-up but does require the pre-start clearance observation period.


(6) Shutdowns must be implemented as specified in this paragraph (b)(6).


(i) Any PSO on duty has the authority to delay the start of survey operations or to call for shutdown of the acoustic source pursuant to the requirements of this subpart.


(ii) The operator must establish and maintain clear lines of communication directly between PSOs on duty and crew controlling the acoustic source to ensure that shutdown commands are conveyed swiftly while allowing PSOs to maintain watch.


(iii) When both visual and acoustic PSOs are on duty, all detections must be immediately communicated to the remainder of the on-duty PSO team for potential verification of visual observations by the acoustic PSO or of acoustic detections by visual PSOs.


(iv) When the airgun array is active (i.e., anytime one or more airguns is active, including during ramp-up) and (1) a marine mammal appears within or enters the applicable exclusion zone and/or (2) a marine mammal (excluding delphinids) is detected acoustically and localized within the applicable exclusion zone, the acoustic source must be shut down. When shutdown is called for by a PSO, the acoustic source must be immediately deactivated and any dispute resolved only following deactivation.


(v) The extended 1,500-m exclusion zone must be applied upon detection (visual or acoustic) of a baleen whale, sperm whale, beaked whale, or Kogia spp. within the zone.


(vi) Shutdown requirements are waived for dolphins of the following genera: Tursiops, Stenella, Steno, and Lagenodelphis. If a delphinid is visually detected within the exclusion zone, no shutdown is required unless the PSO confirms the individual to be of a genus other than those listed above, in which case a shutdown is required. Acoustic detection of delphinids does not require shutdown.


(vii) If there is uncertainty regarding identification or localization, PSOs may use best professional judgment in making the decision to call for a shutdown.


(viii) Upon implementation of shutdown, the source may be reactivated after the marine mammal(s) has been observed exiting the applicable exclusion zone or following a 30-minute clearance period with no further detection of the marine mammal(s).


(c) Shallow penetration surveys. (1) Shallow penetration surveys are defined as surveys using airgun arrays with total volume equal to or less than 1,500 in
3, single airguns, boomers, or equivalent sources.


(2) LOA-holders conducting shallow penetration surveys must follow the requirements defined for deep penetration surveys at § 217.184(b), with the following exceptions:


(i) Acoustic monitoring is not required for shallow penetration surveys.


(ii) Ramp-up for small airgun arrays must follow the procedure described above for large airgun arrays, but may occur over an abbreviated period of time. Ramp-up is not required for surveys using only a single airgun. For non-airgun sources, power should be increased as feasible to effect a ramp-up.


(iii) Two exclusion zones are defined, depending on the species and context. A standard exclusion zone encompassing the area at and below the sea surface out to a radius of 100 meters from the edges of the airgun array (if used) or from the acoustic source (0-100 m) is defined. For special circumstances (§ 217.184(b)(6)(v)), the exclusion zone encompasses an extended distance of 500 meters (0-500 m).


(iv) The buffer zone encompasses the area at and below the sea surface from the edge of the 0-100 meter exclusion zone out to a radius of 200 meters from the edges of the airgun array (if used) or from the acoustic source (100-200 meters). The buffer zone is not applicable when the exclusion zone is greater than 100 meters.


(d) High-resolution geophysical (HRG) surveys. (1) HRG surveys are defined as surveys using an electromechanical source that operates at frequencies less than 180 kHz, other than those defined at § 217.184(c)(1) (e.g., side-scan sonar, multibeam echosounder, or chirp sub-bottom profiler).


(2) LOA-holders conducting HRG surveys must follow the requirements defined for shallow penetration surveys at § 217.184(c), with the following exceptions:


(i) No shutdowns are required for HRG surveys. Pre-start clearance watch is required as defined at § 217.184(c), i.e., for a period of 30 minutes and over a 200-m radius from the acoustic source.


(ii) During survey operations (e.g., any day on which use of the acoustic source is planned to occur, and whenever the acoustic source is in the water, whether activated or not), a minimum of one trained and experienced independent PSO must be on duty and conducting visual observations at all times during daylight hours (i.e., from 30 minutes prior to sunrise through 30 minutes following sunset) when operating in waters deeper than 100 m.


(iii) When operating in waters shallower than 100 m, LOA-holders must employ one trained visual PSO, who may be a crew member, only for purposes of conducting pre-start clearance monitoring. If PSOs are crew members, i.e., are not independent PSOs, the PSOs are not subject to NMFS’ approval. In these circumstances, LOA requests must describe the training that will be provided to crew members filling the role of PSO.


(iv) PSOs are not required during survey operations in which the active acoustic source(s) are deployed on an autonomous underwater vehicle.


(e) Time-area closure. From January 1 through May 31, no use of airguns may occur shoreward of the 20-m isobath and between 90-84° W.


(f) Entanglement avoidance. To avoid the risk of entanglement, LOA-holders conducting surveys using ocean-bottom nodes or similar gear must:


(1) Use negatively buoyant coated wire-core tether cable;


(2) Retrieve all lines immediately following completion of the survey; and


(3) Attach acoustic pingers directly to the coated tether cable; acoustic releases should not be used.


(g) Vessel strike avoidance. LOA-holders must adhere to the following requirements:


(1) Vessel operators and crews must maintain a vigilant watch for all marine mammals and must slow down, stop their vessel, or alter course, as appropriate and regardless of vessel size, to avoid striking any marine mammal. A visual observer aboard the vessel must monitor a vessel strike avoidance zone around the vessel, which shall be defined according to the parameters stated in this subsection. Visual observers monitoring the vessel strike avoidance zone may be third-party observers (i.e., PSOs) or crew members, but crew members responsible for these duties must be provided sufficient training to distinguish marine mammals from other phenomena and broadly to identify a marine mammal as a baleen whale, sperm whale, or other marine mammal;


(2) Vessel speeds must be reduced to 10 kn or less when mother/calf pairs, pods, or large assemblages of marine mammals are observed near a vessel;


(3) All vessels must maintain a minimum separation distance of 500 m from baleen whales;


(4) All vessels must maintain a minimum separation distance of 100 m from sperm whales;


(5) All vessels must, to the maximum extent practicable, attempt to maintain a minimum separation distance of 50 m from all other marine mammals, with an exception made for those animals that approach the vessel; and


(6) When marine mammals are sighted while a vessel is underway, the vessel must take action as necessary to avoid violating the relevant separation distance, e.g., attempt to remain parallel to the animal’s course, avoid excessive speed or abrupt changes in direction until the animal has left the area. If marine mammals are sighted within the relevant separation distance, the vessel must reduce speed and shift the engine to neutral, not engaging the engines until animals are clear of the area. This does not apply to any vessel towing gear or any vessel that is navigationally constrained.


(7) These requirements do not apply in any case where compliance would create an imminent and serious threat to a person or vessel or to the extent that a vessel is restricted in its ability to maneuver and, because of the restriction, cannot comply.


§ 217.185 Requirements for monitoring and reporting.

(a) PSO qualifications. (1) PSOs must successfully complete relevant, acceptable training, including completion of all required coursework and passing (80 percent or greater) a written and/or oral examination developed for the training program.


(2) PSOs must have successfully attained a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university with a major in one of the natural sciences, a minimum of 30 semester hours or equivalent in the biological sciences, and at least one undergraduate course in math or statistics. The educational requirements may be waived if the PSO has acquired the relevant skills through alternate experience. Requests for such a waiver must be submitted to NMFS and shall include written justification. Requests will be granted or denied (with justification) by NMFS within one week of receipt of submitted information. Alternate experience that may be considered includes, but is not limited to:


(i) Secondary education and/or experience comparable to PSO duties;


(ii) Previous work experience conducting academic, commercial, or government-sponsored marine mammal surveys; or


(iii) Previous work experience as a PSO; the PSO should demonstrate good standing and consistently good performance of PSO duties.


(b) Equipment. LOA-holders are required to:


(i) Provide PSOs with bigeye binoculars (e.g., 25 x 150; 2.7 view angle; individual ocular focus; height control) of appropriate quality solely for PSO use. These must be pedestal-mounted on the deck at the most appropriate vantage point that provides for optimal sea surface observation, PSO safety, and safe operation of the vessel.


(ii) For each vessel required to use a PAM system, provide a PAM system that has been verified and tested by an experienced acoustic PSO who will be using it during the trip for which monitoring is required;


(iii) Work with the selected third-party observer provider to ensure PSOs have all equipment (including backup equipment) needed to adequately perform necessary tasks, including accurate determination of distance and bearing to observed marine mammals. (Equipment specified in A. through G. below may be provided by an individual PSO, the third-party observer provider, or the LOA-holder, but the LOA-holder is responsible for ensuring PSOs have the proper equipment required to perform the duties specified herein.) Such equipment, at a minimum, must include:


(A) Reticle binoculars (e.g., 7 x 50) of appropriate quality (at least one per PSO, plus backups);


(B) Global Positioning Unit (GPS) (plus backup);


(C) Digital camera with a telephoto lens (the camera or lens should also have an image stabilization system) that is at least 300 mm or equivalent on a full-frame single lens reflex (SLR) (plus backup);


(D) Compass (plus backup);


(E) Radios for communication among vessel crew and PSOs (at least one per PSO, plus backups); and


(F) Any other tools necessary to adequately perform necessary PSO tasks.


(c) Data collection. PSOs must use standardized electronic data forms. PSOs must record detailed information about any implementation of mitigation requirements, including the distance of marine mammals to the acoustic source and description of specific actions that ensued, the behavior of the animal(s), any observed changes in behavior before and after implementation of mitigation, and if shutdown was implemented, the length of time before any subsequent ramp-up or activation of the acoustic source. If required mitigation was not implemented, PSOs must record a description of the circumstances. At a minimum, the following information should be recorded:


(1) Vessel names (source vessel and other vessels associated with survey), vessel size and type, maximum speed capability of vessel, port of origin, and call signs;


(2) PSO names and affiliations;


(3) Dates of departures and returns to port with port name;


(4) Dates of and participants in PSO briefings;


(5) Dates and times (Greenwich Mean Time) of survey effort and times corresponding with PSO effort;


(6) Vessel location (latitude/longitude) when survey effort began and ended and vessel location at beginning and end of visual PSO duty shifts;


(7) Vessel location at 30-second intervals (if software capability allows) or 5-minute intervals (if location must be manually recorded);


(8) Vessel heading and speed at beginning and end of visual PSO duty shifts and upon any line change;


(9) Environmental conditions while on visual survey (at beginning and end of PSO shift and whenever conditions changed significantly), including Beaufort sea state and any other relevant weather conditions including cloud cover, fog, sun glare, and overall visibility to the horizon;


(10) Vessel location when environmental conditions change significantly;


(11) Factors that may have contributed to impaired observations during each PSO shift change or as needed as environmental conditions change (e.g., vessel traffic, equipment malfunctions);


(12) Survey activity information, such as acoustic source power output while in operation, number and volume of airguns operating in an array, tow depth of an acoustic source, and any other notes of significance (i.e., pre-start clearance, ramp-up, shutdown, testing, shooting, ramp-up completion, end of operations, streamers, etc.); and


(13) Upon visual observation of a marine mammal, the following information:


(i) Watch status (sighting made by PSO on/off effort, opportunistic, crew, alternate vessel/platform);


(ii) PSO who sighted the animal and PSO location (including height above water) at time of sighting;


(iii) Time of sighting;


(iv) Vessel coordinates at time of sighting;


(v) Water depth;


(vi) Direction of vessel’s travel (compass direction);


(vii) Speed of the vessel(s) from which the observation was made;


(viii) Direction of animal’s travel relative to the vessel;


(ix) Pace of the animal;


(x) Estimated distance to the animal (and method of estimating distance) and its heading relative to vessel at initial sighting;


(xi) Identification of the animal (e.g., genus/species, lowest possible taxonomic level, or unidentified), PSO confidence in identification, and the composition of the group if there is a mix of species;


(xii) Estimated number of animals (high/low/best);


(xiii) Estimated number of animals by cohort (adults, juveniles, group composition, etc.);


(xiv) Description (as many distinguishing features as possible of each individual seen, including length, shape, color, pattern, scars or markings, shape and size of dorsal fin, shape of head, and blow characteristics);


(xv) Detailed behavior observations (e.g., number of blows/breaths, number of surfaces, breaching, spyhopping, diving, feeding, traveling; as explicit and detailed as possible; note any observed changes in behavior), including an assessment of behavioral responses to survey activity;


(xvi) Animal’s closest point of approach (CPA) and/or closest distance from any element of the acoustic source;


(xvii) Platform activity at time of sighting (e.g., deploying, recovering, testing, shooting, data acquisition, other); and


(xviii) Description of any actions implemented in response to the sighting (e.g., delays, shutdown, ramp-up) and time and location of the action.


(14) Upon acoustic detection of a marine mammal using a PAM system, the following information:


(i) An acoustic encounter identification number, and whether the detection was linked with a visual sighting;


(ii) Date and time when first and last heard;


(iii) Types and nature of sounds heard (e.g., clicks, whistles, creaks, burst pulses, continuous, sporadic, strength of signal); and


(iv) Any additional information recorded such as water depth of the hydrophone array, bearing of the animal to the vessel (if determinable), species or taxonomic group (if determinable), spectrogram screenshot, and any other notable information.


(d) Reporting. (1) Annual reporting must be submitted as specified in this paragraph.


(i) LOA-holders must submit a summary report to NMFS on all activities and monitoring results within 90 days of the completion of the survey or expiration of the LOA, whichever comes sooner, and must include all information described above under § 217.185(c). If an issued LOA is valid for greater than one year, the summary report must be submitted on an annual basis.


(ii) The report must describe activities conducted and sightings of marine mammals, must provide full documentation of methods, results, and interpretation pertaining to all monitoring, and must summarize the dates and locations of survey operations and all marine mammal sightings (dates, times, locations, activities, associated survey activities, and information regarding locations where the acoustic source was used). In addition to the report, all raw observational data must be made available to NMFS.


(iii) For operations requiring the use of PAM, the report must include a validation document concerning the use of PAM, which should include necessary noise validation diagrams and demonstrate whether background noise levels on the PAM deployment limited achievement of the planned detection goals. Copies of any vessel self-noise assessment reports must be included with the report.


(iv) The LOA-holder must provide geo-referenced time-stamped vessel tracklines for all time periods in which airguns (full array or single) were operating. Tracklines must include points recording any change in airgun status (e.g., when the airguns began operating, when they were turned off). GIS files must be provided in ESRI shapefile format and include the UTC date and time, latitude in decimal degrees, and longitude in decimal degrees. All coordinates must be referenced to the WGS84 geographic coordinate system.


(v) The draft report must be accompanied by a certification from the lead PSO as to the accuracy of the report, and the lead PSO may submit directly to NMFS a statement concerning implementation and effectiveness of the required mitigation and monitoring.


(vi) A final report must be submitted within 30 days following resolution of any comments on the draft report.


(2) Comprehensive reporting must be submitted as specified in this paragraph. LOA-holders must contribute to the compilation and analysis of data for inclusion in an annual synthesis report addressing all data collected and reported through annual reporting in each calendar year. The synthesis period shall include all annual reports deemed to be final by NMFS in a given one-year reporting period. The report must be submitted to NMFS within 90 days following the end of a given one-year reporting period.


(e) Reporting of injured or dead marine mammals. (1) In the event that personnel involved in the survey activities discover an injured or dead marine mammal, the LOA-holder must report the incident to the Office of Protected Resources (OPR), NMFS and to the Southeast Regional Stranding Network as soon as feasible. The report must include the following information:


(i) Time, date, and location (latitude/longitude) of the first discovery (and updated location information if known and applicable);


(ii) Species identification (if known) or description of the animal(s) involved;


(iii) Condition of the animal(s) (including carcass condition if the animal is dead);


(iv) Observed behaviors of the animal(s), if alive;


(v) If available, photographs or video footage of the animal(s); and


(vi) General circumstances under which the animal was discovered.


(2) In the event of a ship strike of a marine mammal by any vessel involved in the survey activities, the LOA-holder must report the incident to OPR, NMFS and to the Southeast Regional Stranding Network as soon as feasible. The report must include the following information:


(i) Time, date, and location (latitude/longitude) of the incident;


(ii) Species identification (if known) or description of the animal(s) involved;


(iii) Vessel’s speed during and leading up to the incident;


(iv) Vessel’s course/heading and what operations were being conducted (if applicable);


(v) Status of all sound sources in use;


(vi) Description of avoidance measures/requirements that were in place at the time of the strike and what additional measures were taken, if any, to avoid strike;


(vii) Environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, Beaufort sea state, cloud cover, visibility) immediately preceding the strike;


(viii) Estimated size and length of animal that was struck;


(ix) Description of the behavior of the marine mammal immediately preceding and following the strike;


(x) If available, description of the presence and behavior of any other marine mammals immediately preceding the strike;


(xi) Estimated fate of the animal (e.g., dead, injured but alive, injured and moving, blood or tissue observed in the water, status unknown, disappeared); and


(xii) To the extent practicable, photographs or video footage of the animal(s).


(3) For deep penetration surveys, in the event of a live stranding (or near-shore atypical milling) event within 50 km of the survey operations, where the NMFS stranding network is engaged in herding or other interventions to return animals to the water, the Director of OPR, NMFS (or designee) will advise the LOA-holder of the need to implement shutdown procedures for all active acoustic sources operating within 50 km of the stranding. Shutdown procedures for live stranding or milling marine mammals include the following:


(i) If at any time, the marine mammal(s) die or are euthanized, or if herding/intervention efforts are stopped, the Director of OPR, NMFS (or designee) will advise the LOA-holder that the shutdown around the animals’ location is no longer needed.


(ii) Otherwise, shutdown procedures will remain in effect until the Director of OPR, NMFS (or designee) determines and advises the LOA-holder that all live animals involved have left the area (either of their own volition or following an intervention).


(iii) If further observations of the marine mammals indicate the potential for re-stranding, additional coordination with the LOA-holder will be required to determine what measures are necessary to minimize that likelihood (e.g., extending the shutdown or moving operations farther away) and to implement those measures as appropriate.


(4) If NMFS determines that the circumstances of any marine mammal stranding found in the vicinity of the activity suggest investigation of the association with survey activities is warranted, and an investigation into the stranding is being pursued, NMFS will submit a written request to the LOA-holder indicating that the following initial available information must be provided as soon as possible, but no later than 7 business days after the request for information. In the event that the investigation is still inconclusive, the investigation of the association of the survey activities is still warranted, and the investigation is still being pursued, NMFS may provide additional information requests, in writing, regarding the nature and location of survey operations prior to the time period above.


(i) Status of all sound source use in the 48 hours preceding the estimated time of stranding and within 50 km of the discovery/notification of the stranding by NMFS; and


(ii) If available, description of the behavior of any marine mammal(s) observed preceding (i.e., within 48 hours and 50 km) and immediately after the discovery of the stranding.


[86 FR 5444, Jan. 19, 2021; 86 FR 18476, Apr. 9, 2021]


§ 217.186 Letters of Authorization.

(a) To incidentally take marine mammals pursuant to these regulations, prospective LOA-holders must apply for and obtain an LOA.


(b) An LOA, unless suspended or revoked, may be effective for a period not to exceed the expiration date of these regulations.


(c) In the event of projected changes to the activity or to mitigation and monitoring measures required by an LOA, the LOA-holder must apply for and obtain a modification of the LOA as described in § 217.187.


(d) The LOA shall set forth:


(1) Permissible methods of incidental taking;


(2) Means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact (i.e., mitigation) on the species or stock and its habitat; and


(3) Requirements for monitoring and reporting.


(e) Issuance of the LOA shall be based on a determination that the level of taking will be consistent with the findings made for the total taking allowable under these regulations and a determination that the amount of take authorized under the LOA is of no more than small numbers.


(f) For LOA issuance, where either (1) the conclusions put forth in an application (e.g., take estimates) are based on analytical methods that differ substantively from those used in the development of the rule, or (2) the proposed activity or anticipated impacts vary substantively in scope or nature from those analyzed for the rule, NMFS may publish a notice of proposed LOA in the Federal Register, including the associated analysis of the differences, and solicit public comment before making a decision regarding issuance of the LOA.


(g) Notice of issuance or denial of an LOA shall be published in the Federal Register within thirty days of a determination.


§ 217.187 Renewals and modifications of Letters of Authorization (LOA).

(a) An LOA issued under § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.186 for the activity identified in § 217.180 shall be modified upon request by the applicant, provided that:


(1) The proposed specified activity and mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures, as well as the anticipated impacts, are the same as those described and analyzed for these regulations (excluding changes made pursuant to the adaptive management provision in paragraph (c)(1) of this section); and


(2) NMFS determines that the mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures required by the previous LOA under these regulations were implemented.


(b) For LOA modification requests by the applicant that include changes to the activity or the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting (excluding changes made pursuant to the adaptive management provision in paragraph (c)(1) of this section) that result in more than a minor change in the total estimated number of takes (or distribution by species or years), NMFS may publish a notice of proposed LOA in the Federal Register, including the associated analysis of the change, and solicit public comment before issuing the LOA.


(c) An LOA issued under § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.186 for the activity identified in § 217.180 may be modified by NMFS under the following circumstances:


(1) NMFS may modify (including adding or removing measures) the existing mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures (after consulting with the LOA-holder regarding the practicability of the modifications) if doing so is practicable and creates a reasonable likelihood of more effectively accomplishing the goals of the mitigation and monitoring set forth in the preamble for these regulations;


(i) Possible sources of data that could contribute to the decision to modify the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures in an LOA:


(A) Results from monitoring from previous years;


(B) Results from other marine mammal and/or sound research or studies; and


(C) Any information that reveals marine mammals may have been taken in a manner, extent or number not authorized by these regulations or subsequent LOAs.


(ii) If, through adaptive management, the modifications to the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures are substantial, NMFS will publish a notice of proposed LOA in the Federal Register and solicit public comment.


(2) If NMFS determines that an emergency exists that poses a significant risk to the well-being of the species or stocks of marine mammals specified in an LOA issued pursuant to § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.186, an LOA may be modified without prior notice or opportunity for public comment. Notice would be published in the Federal Register within thirty days of the action.


§§ 217.188-217.189 [Reserved]

Subpart T [Reserved]

Subpart U – Taking Of Marine Mammals Incidental To The Port of Anchorage Marine Terminal Redevelopment Project

§ 217.200 Specified activities and specified geographical region.

(a) Regulations in this subpart apply only to the incidental taking of those marine mammals specified in § 217.202(b) by the Port of Anchorage and the U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration (MARAD), and those persons it authorizes to engage in construction activities associated with the Port of Anchorage Marine Terminal Redevelopment Project, specifically in-water pile driving, at the Port of Anchorage, Alaska.


(b) [Reserved]


§ 217.201 Effective dates.

Regulations in this subpart are effective from July 15, 2009, through July 14, 2014.


§ 217.202 Permissible methods of taking.

(a) Under Letters of Authorization issued pursuant to § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.207, the Port of Anchorage and MARAD, and persons under their authority, may incidentally, but not intentionally, take marine mammals by harassment, within the area described in § 217.200, provided the activity is in compliance with all terms, conditions, and requirements of these regulations and the appropriate Letter of Authorization.


(b) The taking of marine mammals under a Letter of Authorization is limited to the incidental take, by Level B harassment only, of the following species under the activities identified in § 217.200(a): Cook Inlet beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas), harbor seals (Phoca vitulina), harbor porpoises (Phocoena phocoena), and killer whales (Orcinus orca).


(c) The taking by injury or death of the species listed in paragraph (b) of this section or the taking by Level B harassment, injury or death of any other marine mammal species is prohibited and may result in the modification, suspension, or revocation of a Letter of Authorization.


§ 217.203 Prohibitions.

Notwithstanding takings contemplated in § 217.202(b) and authorized by a Letter of Authorization issued under § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.207, no person in connection with the activities described in § 217.200 may:


(a) Take any marine mammal not specified in § 217.202(b);


(b) Take any marine mammal specified in § 217.202(b) other than by incidental, unintentional Level B harassment;


(c) Take a marine mammal specified in § 217.202(b) if such taking results in more than a negligible impact on the species or stocks of such marine mammal; or


(d) Violate, or fail to comply with, the terms, conditions, and requirements of this subpart or a Letter of Authorization issued under § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.207.


§ 217.204 Mitigation.

(a) When conducting operations identified in § 217.200(a), the mitigation measures contained in the Letter of Authorization, issued under § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.207, must be implemented. These mitigation measures are:


(1) Through monitoring described under § 217.205, the Holder of a Letter of Authorization will ensure that no marine mammal is subjected to a sound pressure levels of 190 or 180 dB re: 1 microPa or greater for pinnipeds and cetaceans, respectively. If a marine mammal is detected within or approaching a distance 200 m from in-water pile driving or in-water chipping, operations shall be immediately delayed or suspended until the marine mammal moves outside these designated zones or the animal is not detected within 15 minutes of the last sighting.


(2) If a marine mammal is detected within or approaching the Level B harassment zone designated for impact pile driving (350 m) prior to in-water impact pile driving, operations shall not commence until the animal moves outside this zone or it is not detected within 15 minutes of the last sighting.


(3) If a marine mammal is detected within or approaching the Level B harassment zone designated for vibratory pile driving (1,300 m) prior to in-water vibratory pile driving, operations shall not commence until the marine mammal moves outside this zone or it is not detected within 15 minutes of the last sighting.


(4) A start” technique shall be used at the beginning of each day’s in-water pile driving activities or if pile driving has ceased for more than one hour to allow any marine mammal that may be in the immediate area to leave before piling driving reaches full energy. For vibratory hammers, the soft start requires the holder of the Letter of Authorization to initiate noise from the hammers for 15 seconds at reduced energy followed by 1-minute waiting period and repeat the procedure two additional times. If an impact hammer is used, the soft start requires an initial set of three strikes from the impact hammer at 40 percent energy, followed by a one minute waiting period, then two subsequent 3 strike sets.


(5) In-water pile driving or chipping shall not occur when conditions restrict clear, visible detection of all waters within the appropriate harassment zones or the 200 m safety zone. Such conditions that can impair sightibility include, but are not limited to, fog and rough sea state.


(6) In-water piles will be driven with a vibratory hammer to the maximum extent possible (i.e., until a desired depth is achieved or to refusal) prior to using an impact hammer.


(7) In-water impact pile driving shall not occur during the period from two hours before low tide until two hours after low tide.


(8) The following measures apply to all in-water pile driving, except during the “stabbing” phase, and all in-water chipping associated with demolition of the existing dock:


(i) No in-water pile driving (impact or vibratory) or chipping shall occur if any marine mammal is located within 200m of the hammer in any direction. If any marine mammal is sighted within or approaching this 200m safety zone, pile-driving or chipping must be suspended until the animal has moved outside the 200m safety zone or the animal is not resighted within 15 minutes.


(ii) If a group of more than 5 beluga whales is sighted within the Level B harassment isopleths, in-water pile driving shall be suspended. If the group is not re-sighted within 15 minutes, pile driving may resume.


(iii) If a beluga whale calf or group with a calf is sighted within or approaching a harassment zone, in-water pile driving shall cease and shall not be resumed until the calf or group is confirmed to be outside of the harassment zone and moving along a trajectory away from such zone. If the calf or group with a calf is not re-sighted within 15 minutes, pile driving may resume.


(9) If maximum authorized take is reached or exceeded for a particular species, any marine mammal of that species entering into the harassment or safety isopleths will trigger mandatory in-water pile driving shut down.


(10) For Port of Anchorage operated in-water heavy machinery work other than pile driving or chipping (i.e., dredging, dump scowles, tug boats used to move barges, barge mounted hydraulic excavators, or clamshell equipment used to place or remove material), if a marine mammal comes within 50 m, those operations will cease and vessels will reduce to the slowest speed practicable while still maintaining control of the vessel and safe working conditions.


(11) In the event the Port of Anchorage conducts out-of-water blasting, detonation of charges will be delayed if a marine mammal is detected anywhere within a visible distance from the detonation site.


(12) Additional mitigation measures as contained in a Letter of Authorization.


(b) [Reserved]


§ 217.205 Requirements for monitoring and reporting.

(a) The Holder of a Letter of Authorization issued pursuant to § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.207, for activities described in § 217.200(a) is required to cooperate with NMFS, and any other Federal, state or local agency with authority to monitor the impacts of the activity on marine mammals. Unless specified otherwise in the Letter of Authorization, the Holder of the Letter of Authorization must notify the Administrator, Alaska Region, NMFS, by letter, e-mail, or telephone, at least 2 weeks prior to commencement of seasonal activities and dock demolition possibly involving the taking of marine mammals. If the activity identified in § 217.200(a) is thought to have resulted in the mortality or injury of any marine mammals or in any take of marine mammals not identified in § 217.202(b), the Holder of the Letter of Authorization must notify the Director, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, or designee, by e-mail or telephone (301-713-2289), within 24 hours of the discovery of the injured or dead animal.


(b) The Holder of a Letters of Authorization must designate qualified, on-site marine mammal observers (MMOs), approved in advance by NMFS, as specified in the Letter of Authorization, to:


(1) Conduct visual marine mammal monitoring at the Port of Anchorage beginning 30 minutes prior to and during all in-water pile driving or chipping and out-of-water blasting.


(2) Record the following information on NMFS-approved marine mammal sighting sheets whenever a marine mammal is detected:


(i) Date and time of initial sighting to end of sighting, tidal stage, and weather conditions (including Beaufort Sea State);


(ii) Species, number, group composition, initial and closest distance to pile driving hammer, and behavior (e.g., activity, group cohesiveness, direction and speed of travel, etc.) of animals throughout duration of sighting;


(iii) Any discrete behavioral reactions to in-water work;


(iv) The number (by species) of marine mammals that have been taken;


(v) Pile driving, chipping, or out of water blasting activities occurring at the time of sighting and if and why shut down was or was not implemented.


(3) Employ a scientific marine mammal monitoring team separate from the on-site MMOs to characterize beluga whale abundance, movements, behavior, and habitat use around the Port of Anchorage and observe, analyze, and document potential changes in behavior in response to in-water construction work. This monitoring team is not required to be present during all in-water pile driving operations but will continue monitoring one-year post in-water construction. The on-site MMOs and this marine mammal monitoring team shall remain in contact to alert each other to marine mammal presence when both teams are working.


(c) The Holder of a Letter of Authorization must conduct additional monitoring as required under an annual Letter of Authorization.


(d) The Holder of a Letter of Authorization shall submit a monthly report to NMFS’ Headquarters Permits, Education and Conservation Division and the Alaska Region, Anchorage for all months in-water pile driving or chipping takes place. This report must contain the information listed in paragraph (b)(2) of this section.


(e) An annual report must be submitted at the time of application for renewal of a Letter of Authorization. This report will summarize all in-water construction activities and marine mammal monitoring from January 1- December 31, annually, and any discernable short or long term impacts from the Marine Terminal Expansion Project.


(f) A final report must be submitted to NMFS upon application for a subsequent incidental take authorization or, if no future authorization is requested, no later than 90 days post expiration of these regulations. This report will:


(1) Summarize the activities undertaken and the results reported in all previous reports;


(2) Assess the impacts to marine mammals from the port expansion project; and


(3) Assess the cumulative impacts on marine mammals.


§ 217.206 Applications for Letters of Authorization.

(a) To incidentally take marine mammals pursuant to these regulations, the U.S. citizen (as defined by § 216.103 of this chapter) conducting the activity identified in § 217.200(a) (the Port of Anchorage and MARAD) must apply for and obtain either an initial Letter of Authorization in accordance with § 217.207 or a renewal under § 217.208.


(b) The application must be submitted to NMFS at least 60 days before the expiration of the initial or current Letter of Authorization.


(c) Applications for a Letter of Authorization and for renewals of Letters of Authorization must include the following:


(1) Name of the U.S. citizen requesting the authorization,


(2) The date(s), duration, and the specified geographic region where the activities specified in § 217.200 will occur; and


(3) The most current population estimate of Cook Inlet beluga whales and the estimated percentage of marine mammal populations potentially affected for the 12-month period of effectiveness of the Letter of Authorization;


(4) A summary of take levels, monitoring efforts and findings at the Port of Anchorage to date.


(d) The National Marine Fisheries Service will review an application for a Letter of Authorization in accordance with this section and, if adequate and complete, issue a Letter of Authorization.


§ 217.207 Letters of Authorization.

(a) A Letter of Authorization, unless suspended or revoked, will be valid for a period of time not to exceed the period of validity of this subpart, but must be renewed annually subject to annual renewal conditions in § 217.208.


(b) Each Letter of Authorization will set forth:


(1) Permissible methods of incidental taking; and


(2) Requirements for mitigation, monitoring and reporting, including, but not limited to, means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact on the species, its habitat, and on the availability of the species for subsistence uses.


(c) Issuance of a Letter of Authorization will be based on the determination that the number of marine mammals taken during the period the Letter of Authorization is valid will be small, that the total taking of marine mammals by the activities specified in § 217.200(a) will have no more than a negligible impact on the species or stock of affected marine mammal(s), and that the total taking will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of species or stocks of marine mammals for subsistence uses.


(d) Notice of issuance or denial of an application for a Letter of Authorization will be published in the Federal Register within 30 days of a determination.


§ 217.208 Renewal of Letters of Authorization.

(a) A Letter of Authorization issued under § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.207 for the activity identified in § 217.200(a) will be renewed annually upon:


(1) Notification to NMFS that the activity described in the application submitted under § 217.206 will be undertaken and that there will not be a substantial modification to the described work, mitigation or monitoring undertaken during the upcoming 12 months;


(2) Timely receipt of the monitoring reports required under § 217.205(d) and (e), and the Letter of Authorization issued under § 217.207, which has been reviewed and accepted by NMFS; and


(3) A determination by NMFS that the mitigation, monitoring and reporting measures required under §§ 217.204 and 217.205 and the Letter of Authorization issued under § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.207, were undertaken and will be undertaken during the upcoming annual period of validity of a renewed Letter of Authorization; and


(4) A determination by NMFS that the number of marine mammals taken during the period of the Letter of Authorization will be small, that the total taking of marine mammals by the activities specified in § 217.200(a) will have no more than a negligible impact on the species or stock of affected marine mammal(s), and that the total taking will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of species or stocks of marine mammals for subsistence uses.


(b) If a request for a renewal of a Letter of Authorization issued under § 216.106 of this chapter and this section indicates that a substantial modification to the described work, mitigation or monitoring undertaken during the upcoming season will occur, NMFS will provide the public a period of 30 days for review and comment on the request.


(c) Notice of issuance or denial of a renewal of a Letter of Authorization will be published in the Federal Register within 30 days of a determination.


§ 217.209 Modifications of Letters of Authorization.

(a) Except as provided in paragraph (b) of this section, no substantive modification (including withdrawal or suspension) to the Letter of Authorization by NMFS, issued pursuant to § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.207 and subject to the provisions of this subpart, shall be made until after notification and an opportunity for public comment has been provided. For purposes of this paragraph, a renewal of a Letter of Authorization under § 217.208, without modification (except for the period of validity), is not considered a substantive modification.


(b) If the Assistant Administrator determines that an emergency exists that poses a significant risk to the well-being of the species or stocks of marine mammals specified in § 217.202(b), a Letter of Authorization issued pursuant to § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.207 may be substantively modified without prior notification and an opportunity for public comment. Notification will be published in the Federal Register within 30 days subsequent to the action.


Subpart W – Taking and Importing Marine Mammals Incidental to Hampton Roads Connector Partners Construction at Norfolk, Virginia


Source:86 FR 17490, Apr. 2, 2021, unless otherwise noted.


Effective Date Note:At86 FR 17490, Apr. 2, 2021, subpart W was added, effective Apr. 2, 2021, through Apr. 1, 2026.

§ 217.210 Specified activity and geographical region.

(a) Regulations in this subpart apply only to the Hampton Roads Connector Partners (HRCP) and those persons it authorizes or funds to conduct activities on its behalf for the taking of marine mammals that occurs in the areas outlined in paragraph (b) of this section and that occurs incidental to construction activities including marine structure maintenance, pile replacement, and select waterfront improvements at the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel Expansion Project (HRBT).


(b) The taking of marine mammals by HRCP may be authorized in a Letter of Authorization (LOA) only if it occurs at the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel Expansion project location in the James River between Norfolk, VA and Hampton, VA.


§ 217.211 Effective dates.

Regulations in this subpart are effective from April 2, 2021 through April 2, 2026.


§ 217.212 Permissible methods of taking.

(a) Under an LOA issued pursuant to §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.216, the Holder of the LOA (hereinafter “HRCP”) may incidentally, but not intentionally, take marine mammals within the area described in § 217.210(b) by Level A and Level B harassment associated with construction activities, provided the activity is in compliance with all terms, conditions, and requirements of the regulations in this subpart and the applicable LOA.


(b) [Reserved]


§ 217.213 Prohibitions.

(a) Except for the takings contemplated in § 217.22 and authorized by an LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.216, it is unlawful for any person to do any of the following in connection with the activities described in § 217.210:


(1) Violate, or fail to comply with, the terms, conditions, and requirements of this subpart or a LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.216;


(2) Take any marine mammal not specified in such LOA;


(3) Take any marine mammal specified in such LOA in any manner that is not authorized by the LOA; or


(4) Take a marine mammal specified in such LOA if NMFS determines such taking results in more than a negligible impact on the species or stocks of such marine mammal.


(b) [Reserved]


§ 217.214 Mitigation requirements.

(a) When conducting the activities identified in § 217.210(a), the mitigation measures contained in any LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.216 must be implemented. These mitigation measures shall include but are not limited to:


(1) A copy of any issued LOA must be in the possession of HRCP, its designees, and work crew personnel operating under the authority of the issued LOA.


(2) HRCP shall conduct briefings for construction supervisors and crews, the monitoring team, and HRCP staff prior to the start of all pile driving activity, and when new personnel join the work, in order to explain responsibilities, communication procedures, the marine mammal monitoring protocol, and operational procedures.


(3) For in-water heavy machinery work other than pile driving, if a marine mammal comes within 10 meters (m), HRCP shall cease operations and reduce vessel speed to the minimum level required to maintain steerage and safe working conditions.


(4) For all pile driving activity, HRCP shall implement a minimum shutdown zone of a 10 m radius around the pile. If a marine mammal comes within or approaches the shutdown zone, such operations shall cease.


(5) For all pile driving activity, HRCP shall implement shutdown zones with radial distances as identified in a LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.216. If a marine mammal comes within or approaches the shutdown zone, such operations shall cease.


(6) HRCP shall deploy protected species observers (observers) as indicated in its Marine Mammal Monitoring Plan approved by NMFS.


(7) For all pile driving activities, between one and four observers shall be stationed at the best vantage points practicable to monitor for marine mammals and implement shutdown/delay procedures.


(8) Monitoring shall take place from 30 minutes prior to initiation of pile driving activity through 30 minutes post-completion of pile driving activity. Pre-activity monitoring shall be conducted for 30 minutes to ensure that the shutdown zone is clear of marine mammals, and pile driving may commence when observers have declared the shutdown zone clear of marine mammals. In the event of a delay or shutdown of activity resulting from marine mammals in the shutdown zone, animals shall be allowed to remain in the shutdown zone (i.e., must leave of their own volition) and their behavior shall be monitored and documented. If a marine mammal is observed within the shutdown zone, a soft-start cannot proceed until the animal has left the zone or has not been observed for 15 minutes. Monitoring shall occur throughout the time required to drive a pile. If in-water pile installation and removal work ceases for more than 30 minutes, the pre-activity monitoring of the shutdown zones must commence. A determination that the shutdown zone is clear must be made during a period of good visibility (i.e., the entire shutdown zone and surrounding waters must be visible to the naked eye).


(9) If a marine mammal approaches or enters the shutdown zone, all pile driving activities at that location shall be halted. In the event of a delay, the activity may not commence or resume until either the animal has voluntarily left and been visually confirmed beyond the shutdown zone or fifteen minutes have passed without re-detection of the animal.


(10) Pile driving activity must be halted upon observation of either a species for which incidental take is not authorized or a species for which incidental take has been authorized but the authorized number of takes has been met, entering or within the harassment zone.


(11) Should environmental conditions deteriorate (e.g., fog, heavy rain) such that observers are unable to visibly detect marine mammals within the entire shutdown zone then HRCP shall delay pile driving and removal until observers are confident marine mammals within the shutdown zone could be detected.


(12) Monitoring shall be conducted by trained observers, who shall have no other assigned tasks during monitoring periods. Trained observers shall be placed at the best vantage point(s) practicable to monitor for marine mammals and implement shutdown or delay procedures when applicable through communication with the equipment operator. HRCP shall adhere to the following additional observer qualifications:


(i) Independent observers are required;


(ii) At least one observer must have prior experience working as an observer;


(iii) Other observers may substitute education (degree in biological science or related field) or training for experience;


(iv) Where a team of three or more observers are required, one observer shall be designated as lead observer or monitoring coordinator. The lead observer must have prior experience working as an observer; and


(v) HRCP must submit PSO CVs for approval by NMFS prior to the beginning of pile driving and drilling.


(13) HRCP shall use soft start techniques for impact pile driving. Soft start for impact driving requires HRCP and those persons it authorizes to provide an initial set of three strikes at reduced energy, followed by a thirty-second waiting period, then two subsequent reduced energy three-strike sets. Soft start shall be implemented at the start of each day’s impact pile driving and at any time following cessation of impact pile driving for a period of thirty minutes or longer.


(14) HRCP shall employ bubble curtain systems during impact driving of steel piles except under conditions where the water depth is less than 20 feet in depth. Bubble curtains must meet the following requirements:


(i) The bubble curtain must distribute air bubbles around 100 percent of the piling perimeter for the full depth of the water column.


(ii) The lowest bubble ring must be in contact with the mudline and/or rock bottom for the full circumference of the ring, and the weights attached to the bottom ring shall ensure 100 percent mudline and/or rock bottom contact. No parts of the ring or other objects shall prevent full mudline and/or rock bottom contact.


(iii) The bubble curtain must be operated such that there is proper (equal) balancing of air flow to all bubblers.


(iv) HRCP shall require that construction contractors train personnel in the proper balancing of air flow to the bubblers and corrections to the attenuation device to meet the performance standards specified in an LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.216. This shall occur prior to the initiation of pile driving activities.


(b) [Reserved]


§ 217.215 Requirements for monitoring and reporting.

(a) HRCP shall submit a Marine Mammal Monitoring Plan to NMFS for approval in advance of construction.


(b) HRCP shall deploy observers as indicated in its approved Marine Mammal Monitoring Plan.


(c) Observers shall be trained in marine mammal identification and behaviors. Observers shall have no other construction-related tasks while conducting monitoring.


(d) HRCP shall monitor the Level B harassment zones and Level A harassment zones extending beyond the designated shutdown zones to the extent practicable.


(e) HRCP shall monitor the shutdown zones during all pile driving and removal activities.


(f) HRCP shall submit a draft annual monitoring report to NMFS within 90 work days of the completion of annual marine mammal monitoring. The report must detail the monitoring protocol and summarize the data recorded during monitoring. If no comments are received from NMFS within 30 days, the draft report will constitute the final report. If comments are received, a final report addressing NMFS comments must be submitted within 30 days after receipt of comments. Specifically, the report must include:


(1) Dates and times (begin and end) of all marine mammal monitoring;


(2) Construction activities occurring during each daily observation period, including how many and what type of piles were driven or removed and by what method (i.e., impact or vibratory);


(3) Environmental conditions during monitoring periods (at beginning and end of PSO shift and whenever conditions change significantly), including Beaufort sea state and any other relevant weather conditions including cloud cover, fog, sun glare, and overall visibility to the horizon, estimated observable distance (if less than the harassment zone distance), and percentages of Level A and Level B harassment zones that are not visible;


(4) The number of marine mammals observed, by species, relative to the pile location and if pile driving or removal was occurring at time of sighting;


(5) Age and sex class, if possible, of all marine mammals observed;


(6) PSO locations during marine mammal monitoring;


(7) Distances and bearings of each marine mammal observed to the pile being driven or removed for each sighting (if pile driving or removal was occurring at time of sighting);


(8) Description of any marine mammal behavior patterns during observation, including direction of travel and estimated time spent within the Level A and Level B harassment zones while the source was active;


(9) Number of marine mammals detected within the harassment zones, by species;


(10) Detailed information about any implementation of any mitigation triggered (e.g., shutdowns and delays), a description of specific actions that ensued, and resulting behavior of the animal, if any; and


(11) Description of attempts to distinguish between the number of individual animals taken and the number of incidences of take, such as ability to track groups or individuals;


(g) In the event that personnel involved in the construction activities discover an injured or dead marine mammal, HRCP shall report the incident to the Office of Protected Resources (OPR) (301-427-8401), NMFS and to the Greater Atlantic Region New England/Mid-Atlantic Regional Stranding Coordinator as soon as feasible. If the death or injury was clearly caused by the specified activity, HRCP must immediately cease the specified activities until NMFS is able to review the circumstances of the incident and determine what, if any, additional measures are appropriate to ensure compliance with the terms of the authorization. HRCP must not resume their activities until notified by NMFS. The report must include the following information:


(1) Time, date, and location (latitude/longitude) of the first discovery (and updated location information if known and applicable);


(2) Species identification (if known) or description of the animal(s) involved;


(3) Condition of the animal(s) (including carcass condition if the animal is dead);


(4) Observed behaviors of the animal(s), if alive;


(5) If available, photographs or video footage of the animal(s); and


(6) General circumstances under which the animal was discovered.


§ 217.216 Letters of Authorization.

(a) To incidentally take marine mammals pursuant to these regulations, HRCP must apply for and obtain an LOA.


(b) An LOA, unless suspended or revoked, may be effective for a period of time not to exceed the expiration date of these regulations.


(c) If an LOA expires prior to the expiration date of these regulations, HRCP may apply for and obtain a renewal of the LOA.


(d) In the event of projected changes to the activity or to mitigation and monitoring measures required by an LOA, HRCP must apply for and obtain a modification of the LOA as described in § 217.217.


(e) The LOA shall set forth the following information:


(1) Permissible methods of incidental taking;


(2) Means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact (i.e., mitigation) on the species, its habitat, and on the availability of the species for subsistence uses; and


(3) Requirements for monitoring and reporting.


(f) Issuance of the LOA shall be based on a determination that the level of taking will be consistent with the findings made for the total taking allowable under these regulations.


(g) Notice of issuance or denial of an LOA shall be published in the Federal Register within thirty days of a determination.


§ 217.217 Renewals and modifications of Letters of Authorization.

(a) An LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.216 for the activity identified in § 217.210(a) shall be renewed or modified upon request by the applicant, provided that:


(1) The planned specified activity and mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures, as well as the anticipated impacts, are the same as those described and analyzed for these regulations; and


(2) NMFS determines that the mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures required by the previous LOA under these regulations were implemented.


(b) For LOA modification or renewal requests by the applicant that include changes to the activity or the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting that do not change the findings made for the regulations or result in no more than a minor change in the total estimated number of takes (or distribution by species or years), NMFS may publish a notice of proposed LOA in the Federal Register, including the associated analysis of the change, and solicit public comment before issuing the LOA.


(c) An LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.216 for the activity identified in § 217.210(a) may be modified by NMFS under the following circumstances:


(1) HRCP may modify (including augment) the existing mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures (after consulting with NMFS regarding the practicability of the modifications) if doing so creates a reasonable likelihood of more effectively accomplishing the goals of the mitigation and monitoring set forth in the preamble for these regulations;


(i) Possible sources of data that could contribute to the decision to modify the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures in a LOA:


(A) Results from HRCP’s monitoring from previous years;


(B) Results from other marine mammal and/or sound research or studies; and


(C) Any information that reveals marine mammals may have been taken in a manner, extent or number not authorized by these regulations or subsequent LOAs;


(ii) If, through adaptive management, the modifications to the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures are substantial, NMFS will publish a notice of proposed LOA in the Federal Register and solicit public comment.


(2) If NMFS determines that an emergency exists that poses a significant risk to the well-being of the species or stocks of marine mammals specified in a LOA issued pursuant to §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.216, a LOA may be modified without prior notice or opportunity for public comment. Notice would be published in the Federal Register within thirty days of the action.


§§ 217.218-217.219 [Reserved]

Subpart X – Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Rehabilitation of the Jetty System at the Mouth of the Columbia River in Oregon and Washington


Source:82 FR 10306, Feb. 10, 2017, unless otherwise noted.


Effective Date Note:At 82 FR 10306, Feb. 10, 2017, subpart X was added, effective May 1, 2017, through Apr. 30, 2022.

§ 217.230 Specified activity and specified geographical region.

(a) Regulations in this subpart apply only to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and those persons it authorizes to conduct activities on its behalf for the taking of marine mammals that occurs in the area outlined in paragraph (b) of this section and that occurs incidental to the jetty rehabilitation program.


(b) The taking of marine mammals by the Corps may be authorized in a Letter of Authorization (LOA) only if it occurs within the nearshore marine environment at the Mouth of the Columbia River in Oregon and Washington.


§ 217.231 Effective dates.

Regulations in this subpart are effective May 1, 2017 through April 30, 2022.


§ 217.232 Permissible methods of taking.

Under LOAs issued pursuant to § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.236, the Holder of the LOA (hereinafter “Corps”) may incidentally, but not intentionally, take marine mammals within the area described in § 217.230(b), provided the activity is in compliance with all terms, conditions, and requirements of the regulations in this subpart and the appropriate LOA.


§ 217.233 Prohibitions.

(a) Notwithstanding takings contemplated in § 217.230 and authorized by an LOA issued under § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.236, no person in connection with the activities described in § 217.230 may:


(1) Take any marine mammal not specified in § 217.236;


(2) Take any marine mammal specified in § 217.236(a) other than by incidental Level B harassment;


(3) Take a marine mammal specified in § 217.236 if the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) determines such taking results in more than a negligible impact on the species or stocks of such marine mammal;


(4) Take a marine mammal specified in § 217.236 if NMFS determines such taking results in an unmitigable adverse impact on the species or stock of such marine mammal for taking for subsistence uses; or


(5) Violate, or fail to comply with, the terms, conditions, and requirements of this subpart or an LOA issued under § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.236.


(b) [Reserved]


§ 217.234 Mitigation requirements.

(a) When conducting the activities identified in § 217.130(a), the mitigation measures contained in any LOA issued under § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.236 must be implemented. These mitigation measures include, but are not limited to:


(1) General conditions:


(i) The Corps shall conduct briefings as necessary between vessel crews, the marine mammal monitoring team, and other relevant personnel prior to the start of all pile driving and removal activity, and when new personnel join the work, in order to explain responsibilities, communication procedures, marine mammal monitoring protocol, and operational procedures;


(ii) Each Marine Mammal Observer (MMO) will maintain a copy of the LOA at their respective monitoring location, as well as a copy in the main construction office;


(iii) Pile activities are limited to the use of a vibratory hammer. Impact hammers are prohibited;


(iv) Pile installation/maintenance/removal activities are limited to the time frame starting May 1 and ending September 30 each season; and


(v) The Corps must notify NMFS’ West Coast Regional Office (562-980-3232), at least 24-hours prior to start of activities impacting marine mammals.


(2) [Reserved]


(b) Establishment of Level B harassment zone:


(1) The Corps shall establish Level B behavioral harassment Zone of Influence (ZOI) where received underwater sound pressure levels (SPLs) are higher than 120 dB (rms) re 1 µPa for non-pulse sources (i.e., vibratory hammer). The ZOI delineates where Level B harassment would occur; and


(2) For vibratory driving, the level B harassment area is comprised of a radius between the shutdown zone for a specified species and 7.35 km from driving operations.


(c) Establishment of shutdown zone:


(1) Under LOAs issued pursuant to § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.236, the Corps shall establish shutdown zones that are in compliance with all terms, conditions, and requirements of the regulations in this subpart and the appropriate LOA;


(2) For in-water heavy machinery work other than pile driving (using, e.g., standard barges, tug boats, barge-mounted excavators, or clamshell equipment used to place or remove material), operations shall cease if a marine mammal comes within 20 m and vessels shall reduce speed to the minimum level required to maintain steerage and safe working conditions;


(3) If a marine mammal approaches or enters the shutdown zone during the course of vibratory pile driving operations, the activity will be halted and delayed until the animal has voluntarily left and been visually confirmed beyond the shutdown zone or 15 minutes have passed with the animal being resighted;


(4) If a marine mammal is seen above water within or approaching a shutdown zone then dives below, the contractor would wait 15 minutes. If no marine mammals are seen by the observer in that time it will be assumed that the animal has moved beyond the exclusion zone;


(5) If the shutdown zone is obscured by fog or poor lighting conditions, pile driving shall not be initiated until the entire shutdown zone is visible;


(6) Disturbance zones shall be established as described in paragraph (b) of this section, and shall encompass the Level B harassment zones established by LOAs issued pursuant to § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.236 provided the activity is in compliance with all terms, conditions, and requirements of the regulations in this subpart and the appropriate LOA. These zones shall be monitored to maximum line-of-sight distance from established vessel- and shore-based monitoring locations. If marine mammals other than those listed in § 216.106 and § 217.236 are observed within the disturbance zone, the observation shall be recorded and communicated as necessary to other MMOs responsible for implementing shutdown/power down requirements and any behaviors documented;


(7) Between May 1 and July 1, the observation of any killer whales within the ZOI shall result in immediate shut-down all of pile installation, removal, or maintenance activities. Pile driving shall not resume until all killer whales have moved outside of the ZOI; and


(8) After July 1, no shutdown is required for Level B killer whale take, but animals must be recorded as Level B take in the monitoring forms described below.


(d) If the allowable number of takes for any marine mammal species in § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.236 is exceeded, or if any marine mammal species not listed in § 216.236 is exposed to SPLs greater than or equal to 120 dB re 1 µPa (rms), the Corps shall immediately shutdown activities involving the use of active sound sources (e.g., vibratory pile driving equipment), record the observation, and notify NMFS Office of Protected Resources.


§ 217.235 Requirements for monitoring and reporting.

(a) Monitoring. (1) Qualified Marine Mammal Observers (MMOs) shall be used for both shore and vessel-based monitoring;


(2) All MMOs must be approved by NMFS;


(3) A qualified MMO is a third-party trained biologist with the following minimum qualifications:


(i) Visual acuity in both eyes (correction is permissible) sufficient to discern moving targets at the water’s surface with ability to estimate target size and distance. Use of binoculars or spotting scope may be necessary to correctly identify the target;


(ii) Advanced education in biological science, wildlife management, mammalogy or related fields (Bachelor’s degree or higher is preferred);


(iii) Experience and ability to conduct field observations and collect data according to assigned protocols (this may include academic experience);


(iv) Experience or training in the field identification of marine mammals (cetaceans and pinnipeds);


(v) Sufficient training, orientation or experience with vessel operation and pile driving operations to provide for personal safety during observations;


(vi) Writing skills sufficient to prepare a report of observations; and


(vii) Ability to communicate orally, by radio, or in-person with project personnel to provide real time information on marine mammals observed in the area, as needed.


(4) MMOs must be equipped with the following:


(i) Binoculars (10×42 or similar), laser rangefinder, GPS, big eye binoculars and/or spotting scope 20-60 zoom or equivalent; and


(ii) Camera and video capable of recording any necessary take information, including data required in the event of an unauthorized take; and


(5) MMOs shall conduct monitoring as follows;


(i) During all pile driving and removal activities;


(ii) Only during daylight hours from sunrise to sunset when it is possible to visually monitor mammals;


(iii) Scan the waters for 30 minutes before and during all pile driving. If any species for which take is not authorized are observed within the area of potential sound effects during or 30 minutes before pile driving, the MMO(s) will immediately notify the on-site supervisor or inspector, and require that pile driving either not initiate or temporarily cease until the animals have moved outside of the area of potential sound effects;


(iv) If weather or sea conditions restrict the observer’s ability to observe, or become unsafe for the monitoring vessel(s) to operate, pile installation shall not begin or shall cease until conditions allow for monitoring to resume;


(v) Trained land-based observers will be placed at the best vantage points practicable. The observers’ position(s) will either be from the top of jetty or adjacent barge at the location of the pile activities and from Cape Disappointment Visitors Center during work at North and South Jetty, and Clatsop Spit for work at Jetty A;


(vi) Vessel-based monitoring for marine mammals must be conducted for all pile-driving activities at the North Jetty and two South Jetty offloading facilities. Two vessels may be utilized as necessary to adequately monitor the offshore ensonified zone;


(vii) Any marine mammals listed in § 217.236 entering into the Level B harassment zone will be recorded as take by the MMO and listed on the appropriate monitoring forms described below;


(viii) During pedestrian surveys, personnel will avoid as much as possible direct approach towards pinnipeds that are hauled out. If it is absolutely necessary to make movements towards pinnipeds, personnel will approach in a slow and steady manner to reduce the behavioral harassment to the animals as much as possible; and


(ix) Hydroacoustic monitoring shall be performed using methodology described in the November 2016 Addendum containing the Hydroacoustic Monitoring Plan.


(b) Reporting. (1) MMOs must use NMFS-approved monitoring forms and shall record the following information when a marine mammal is observed:


(i) Date and time that pile removal and/or installation begins and ends;


(ii) Construction activities occurring during each observation period;


(iii) Weather parameters (e.g., percent cover, visibility);


(iv) Water conditions [e.g., sea state, tidal state (incoming, outgoing, slack, low, and high)];


(v) Species, numbers, and, if possible, sex and age class of marine mammals;


(vi) Marine mammal behavior patterns observed, including bearing and direction of travel, and, if possible, the correlation to SPLs;


(vii) Distance from pile removal and/or installation activities to marine mammals and distance from the marine mammal to the observation point;


(viii) Locations of all marine mammal observations; and


(ix) Other human activity in the area.


(2) [Reserved]


(c) Annual report. (1) The Corps shall submit a draft annual report to NMFS Office of Protected Resources covering a given calendar year within 90 days of the last day of pile driving operations. The annual report shall include summaries of the information described in paragraph (b)(1) of this section.


(2) The Corps shall submit a final annual report to the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, within 30 days after receiving comments from NMFS on the draft report.


(d) Notification of dead or injured marine mammals. (1) In the unanticipated event that the specified activity clearly causes the take of a marine mammal in a manner prohibited by this Authorization, such as an injury, serious injury, or mortality, The Corps shall immediately cease the specified activities and report the incident to the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the West Coast Regional Stranding Coordinator, NMFS.


(i) The report must include the following information:


(A) Time, date, and location (latitude/longitude) of the incident;


(B) Description of the incident;


(C) Environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, Beaufort sea state, cloud cover, and visibility);


(D) Description of marine mammal observations in the 24 hours preceding the incident;


(E) Species identification or description of the animal(s) involved;


(F) Status of all sound source use in the 24 hours preceding the incident;


(G) Fate of the animal(s); and


(H) Photographs or video footage of the animal(s). Activities shall not resume until NMFS is able to review the circumstances of the prohibited take. NMFS shall work with the Corps to determine what measures are necessary to minimize the likelihood of further prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. The Corps may not resume their activities until notified by NMFS.


(ii) In the event that the Corps discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the lead MMO determines that the cause of the injury or death is unknown and the death is relatively recent (e.g., in less than a moderate state of decomposition), the Corps shall immediately report the incident to the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the West Coast Regional Stranding Coordinator, NMFS. The report must include the same information identified in this paragraph (d). If the observed marine mammal is dead, activities may continue while NMFS reviews the circumstances of the incident. If the observed marine mammal is injured, measures described in this paragraph (d) must be implemented. NMFS will work with the Corps to determine whether additional mitigation measures or modifications to the activities are appropriate.


(iii) In the event that the Corps discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the lead MMO determines that the injury or death is not associated with or related to the activities authorized in the LOA (e.g., previously wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced decomposition, scavenger damage), the Corps shall report the incident to the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the West Coast Regional Stranding Coordinator, NMFS, within 24 hours of the discovery. The Corps shall provide photographs or video footage or other documentation of the stranded animal sighting to NMFS. If the observed marine mammal is dead, activities may continue while NMFS reviews the circumstances of the incident. If the observed marine mammal is injured, measures described in this paragraph (d) must be implemented. In this case, NMFS will notify the Corps when activities may resume.


§ 217.236 Letters of Authorization.

(a) To incidentally take marine mammals pursuant to these regulations, the Corps must apply for and obtain an LOA.


(b) An LOA, unless suspended or revoked, may be effective for a period of time not to exceed the expiration date of these regulations.


(c) If an LOA expires prior to the expiration date of these regulations, the Corps may apply for and obtain a renewal of the Letter of Authorization.


(d) In the event of projected changes to the activity or to mitigation and monitoring measures required by an LOA, the Corps must apply for and obtain a modification of the Letter of Authorization as described in § 217.237.


(e) The LOA shall set forth:


(1) Permissible methods of incidental taking;


(2) Means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact (i.e., mitigation) on the species, its habitat, and on the availability of the species for subsistence uses; and


(3) Requirements for monitoring and reporting.


(f) Issuance of the LOA shall be based on a determination that the level of taking will be consistent with the findings made for the total taking allowable under these regulations.


(g) Notice of issuance or denial of an LOA shall be published in the Federal Register within thirty days of a determination.


§ 217.237 Renewals and modifications of Letters of Authorization.

(a) An LOA issued under § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.236 for the activity identified in § 217.230(a) shall be renewed or modified upon request by the applicant, provided that:


(1) The specified activity and mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures, as well as the anticipated impacts, are the same as those described and analyzed for these regulations (excluding changes made pursuant to the adaptive management provision in paragraph (c)(1) of this section); and


(2) NMFS determines that the mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures required by the previous LOA under these regulations were implemented.


(b) For LOA modification or renewal requests by the applicant that include changes to the activity or the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting (excluding changes made pursuant to the adaptive management provision in § 217.247(c)(1)) that do not change the findings made for the regulations or result in no more than a minor change in the total estimated number of takes (or distribution by species or years), NMFS may publish a notice of LOA in the Federal Register, including the associated analysis of the change, and solicit public comment before issuing the LOA.


(c) An LOA issued under § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.236 for the activity identified in § 217.230(a) may be modified by NMFS under the following circumstances:


(1) Adaptive management – NMFS may modify (including augment) the existing mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures (after consulting with the Corps regarding the practicability of the modifications) if doing so creates a reasonable likelihood of more effectively accomplishing the goals of the mitigation and monitoring set forth in the preamble for these regulations;


(i) Possible sources of data that could contribute to the decision to modify the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures in an LOA:


(A) Results from the Corps’ monitoring from the previous year(s);


(B) Results from other marine mammal and/or sound research or studies; and


(C) Any information that reveals marine mammals may have been taken in a manner, extent or number not authorized by these regulations or subsequent LOAs; and


(ii) If, through adaptive management, the modifications to the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures are substantial, NMFS will publish a notice of LOA in the Federal Register and solicit public comment; and


(2) Emergencies – If NMFS determines that an emergency exists that poses a significant risk to the well-being of the species or stocks of marine mammals specified in § 217.236, an LOA may be modified without prior notice or opportunity for public comment. Notice will be published in the Federal Register within thirty days of the action.


Subpart Y [Reserved]


Effective Date Note:At 82 FR 26373, June 7, 2017, subpart Y was added, effective July 12, 2017, through July 11, 2022.

Subpart Z – Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Navy Waterfront Construction Activities at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay


Source:82 FR 26373, June 7, 2017, unless otherwise noted.


Effective Date Note:At 82 FR 26373, June 7, 2017, subpart Z was added, effective July 12, 2017, through July 11, 2022.

§ 217.250 Specified activity and specified geographical region.

(a) Regulations in this subpart apply only to the U.S. Navy (Navy), and those persons it authorizes or funds to conduct activities on its behalf, for the taking of marine mammals that occurs in the area outlined in paragraph (b) of this section and that occurs incidental to waterfront construction activities.


(b) The taking of marine mammals by Navy may be authorized in a Letter of Authorization (LOA) only if it occurs within waters adjacent to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay and Crab Island.


§ 217.251 Effective dates.

Regulations in this subpart are effective from July 12, 2017, through July 11, 2022.


§ 217.252 Permissible methods of taking.

Under LOAs issued pursuant to § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.256, the Holder of the LOA (hereinafter “Navy”) may incidentally, but not intentionally, take marine mammals within the area described in § 217.250(b) by Level B harassment associated with waterfront construction activities, provided the activity is in compliance with all terms, conditions, and requirements of the regulations in this subpart and the appropriate LOA.


§ 217.253 Prohibitions.

Notwithstanding takings contemplated in § 217.250 and authorized by a LOA issued under § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.256, no person in connection with the activities described in § 217.250 may:


(a) Violate, or fail to comply with, the terms, conditions, and requirements of this subpart or a LOA issued under § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.256;


(b) Take any marine mammal not specified in such LOAs;


(c) Take any marine mammal specified in such LOAs in any manner other than as specified;


(d) Take a marine mammal specified in such LOAs if NMFS determines such taking results in more than a negligible impact on the species or stocks of such marine mammal; or


(e) Take a marine mammal specified in such LOAs if NMFS determines such taking results in an unmitigable adverse impact on the species or stock of such marine mammal for taking for subsistence uses.


§ 217.254 Mitigation requirements.

When conducting the activities identified in § 217.250, the mitigation measures contained in any LOA issued under § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.256 must be implemented. These mitigation measures shall include but are not limited to:


(a) General conditions:


(1) A copy of any issued LOA must be in the possession of the Navy, its designees, and work crew personnel operating under the authority of the issued LOA.


(2) The Navy shall conduct briefings for construction supervisors and crews, marine mammal monitoring team, acoustic monitoring team, and Navy staff prior to the start of the first pile driving activity conducted pursuant to this chapter, and when new personnel join the work, in order to explain responsibilities, communication procedures, marine mammal monitoring protocol, and operational procedures.


(b) Except for pile driving covered under paragraphs (c) and (d) of this section, for all pile driving activity, the Navy shall implement a minimum shutdown zone of 15 m radius around the pile. If a marine mammal comes within or approaches the shutdown zone, such operations shall cease.


(c) For impact pile driving associated with Project 3F (Warping Wharf with Capstan), the Navy shall implement a minimum shutdown zone of 40 m radius around the pile. If a marine mammal comes within or approaches the shutdown zone, such operations shall cease.


(d) For impact pile driving associated with Project 4B (Small Craft Berth Site VI), the Navy shall implement a minimum shutdown zone of 20 m radius around the pile. If a marine mammal comes within or approaches the shutdown zone, such operations shall cease.


(e) The Navy shall deploy marine mammal observers as indicated in the final Marine Mammal Monitoring Plan and as described in § 217.255 of this chapter.


(1) For all pile driving activities, a minimum of one observer shall be stationed at the active pile driving rig or within reasonable proximity of the rig in order to monitor the shutdown zone.


(2) Monitoring shall take place from 15 minutes prior to initiation of pile driving activity through 30 minutes post-completion of pile driving activity. Pre-activity monitoring shall be conducted for 15 minutes to ensure that the shutdown zone is clear of marine mammals, and pile driving may commence when observers have declared the shutdown zone clear of marine mammals. In the event of a delay or shutdown of activity resulting from marine mammals in the shutdown zone, animals shall be allowed to remain in the shutdown zone (i.e., must leave of their own volition) and their behavior shall be monitored and documented. Monitoring shall occur throughout the time required to drive a pile. The entire shutdown zone must be visible before it can be deemed clear of marine mammals.


(3) If a marine mammal approaches or enters the shutdown zone, all pile driving activities at that location shall be halted. If pile driving is halted or delayed due to the presence of a marine mammal, the activity may not commence or resume until either the animal has voluntarily left and been visually confirmed beyond the shutdown zone or fifteen minutes have passed without re-detection of the animal.


(4) Monitoring shall be conducted by trained observers, who shall have no other assigned tasks during monitoring periods. Trained observers shall be placed from the best vantage point(s) practicable to monitor for marine mammals and implement shutdown or delay procedures when applicable through communication with the equipment operator.


(f) The Navy shall use soft start techniques for impact pile driving. Soft start for impact drivers requires contractors to provide an initial set of strikes at reduced energy, followed by a thirty-second waiting period, then two subsequent reduced energy strike sets. Soft start shall be implemented at the start of each day’s impact pile driving and at any time following cessation of impact pile driving for a period of thirty minutes or longer.


(g) Pile driving shall only be conducted during daylight hours.


§ 217.255 Requirements for monitoring and reporting.

(a) Trained observers shall complete applicable portions of the Navy’s Marine Species Awareness Training, as well as a general environmental awareness briefing conducted by Navy staff. At minimum, training shall include identification of bottlenose dolphins and relevant mitigation and monitoring requirements. All observers shall have no other construction-related tasks while conducting monitoring.


(b) For shutdown zone monitoring, the Navy shall report on implementation of shutdown or delay procedures, including whether the procedures were not implemented and why (when relevant).


(c) The Navy shall deploy additional observers to monitor disturbance zones according to the minimum requirements defined in this chapter. These observers shall collect sighting data and behavioral responses to pile driving for marine mammal species observed in the region of activity during the period of activity, and shall communicate with the shutdown zone observer as appropriate with regard to the presence of marine mammals. All observers shall be trained in identification and reporting of marine mammal behaviors.


(1) During Project 1A (Tug Pier), Navy shall deploy a minimum of three additional marine mammal monitoring observers on a minimum of ten days of vibratory pile driving activity.


(2) During Project 2 (UMC Layberth (P-661)), Navy shall deploy a minimum of two additional marine mammal monitoring observers on a minimum of three days of impact pile driving activity.


(3) During the fiscal year 2022 phase of Project 3A (Explosives Handling Wharf #2), Navy shall deploy a minimum of three additional marine mammal monitoring observers on a minimum of three days of vibratory pile driving activity.


(4) During Project 3B ((Dry Dock) Interface Wharf), Navy shall deploy a minimum of three additional marine mammal monitoring observers on a minimum of five days of vibratory pile driving activity.


(5) During Projects 3C, 3D, and 3E (Refit Wharves #1-3), Navy shall deploy a minimum of two additional marine mammal monitoring observers on all days of pile driving activity.


(6) During Project 3F (Warping Wharf with Capstan), Navy shall deploy a minimum of three additional marine mammal monitoring observers on a minimum of two days of vibratory pile driving activity.


(7) During Project 3G (Tug Pier), Navy shall deploy a minimum of three additional marine mammal monitoring observers on a minimum of four days of vibratory pile driving activity.


(8) During Project 4A (Transit Protection System (TPS) Pier), Navy shall deploy a minimum of four additional marine mammal monitoring observers on a minimum of eight days of vibratory pile driving activity.


(9) During Project 4B (Small Craft Berth Site VI), Navy shall deploy a minimum of four additional marine mammal monitoring observers on a minimum of three days of vibratory pile driving activity.


(10) During Project 5 (Magnetic Silencing Facility Repairs), Navy shall deploy a minimum of four additional marine mammal monitoring observers on a minimum of three days of vibratory pile driving activity.


(11) During Projects 6A (Demolition of TPS Pier) and 6B (Demolition of North Trestle), Navy shall deploy a minimum of five additional marine mammal monitoring observers on a minimum of twelve days of vibratory pile driving activity.


(d) The Navy shall conduct acoustic data collection (sound source verification and propagation loss), in accordance with NMFS’s guidelines, in conjunction with Project 1A (Tug Pier), Project 2 (Unspecified Minor Construction Layberth Fender Pile Modification), Project 4A (TPS Pier), and Project 5 (Magnetic Silencing Facility).


(e) Reporting:


(1) Annual reporting:


(i) Navy shall submit an annual summary report to NMFS not later than ninety days following the end of in-water work for each project. Navy shall provide a final report within thirty days following resolution of comments on the draft report.


(ii) These reports shall contain, at minimum, the following:


(A) Date and time that monitored activity begins or ends;


(B) Construction activities occurring during each observation period;


(C) Weather parameters (e.g., wind speed, percent cloud cover, visibility);


(D) Water conditions (e.g., sea state, tide state);


(E) Species, numbers, and, if possible, sex and age class of marine mammals;


(F) Description of any observable marine mammal behavior patterns, including bearing and direction of travel and distance from pile driving activity;


(G) Distance from pile driving activities to marine mammals and distance from the marine mammals to the observation point;


(H) Description of implementation of mitigation measures (e.g., shutdown or delay);


(I) Locations of all marine mammal observations; and


(J) Other human activity in the area.


(2) Navy shall submit a comprehensive summary report to NMFS no later than 90 days following the conclusion of marine mammal monitoring efforts described in this chapter.


(3) Navy shall submit acoustic monitoring reports as necessary pursuant to § 217.255(d).


(f) Reporting of injured or dead marine mammals:


(1) In the unanticipated event that the activity defined in § 217.250 clearly causes the take of a marine mammal in a prohibited manner, Navy shall immediately cease such activity and report the incident to the Office of Protected Resources (OPR), NMFS, and to the Southeast Regional Stranding Coordinator, NMFS. Activities shall not resume until NMFS is able to review the circumstances of the prohibited take. NMFS will work with Navy to determine what measures are necessary to minimize the likelihood of further prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. Navy may not resume their activities until notified by NMFS. The report must include the following information:


(i) Time, date, and location (latitude/longitude) of the incident;


(ii) Description of the incident;


(iii) Environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, Beaufort sea state, cloud cover, visibility);


(iv) Description of all marine mammal observations in the 24 hours preceding the incident;


(v) Species identification or description of the animal(s) involved;


(vi) Fate of the animal(s); and


(vii) Photographs or video footage of the animal(s). Photographs may be taken once the animal has been moved from the waterfront area.


(2) In the event that Navy discovers an injured or dead marine mammal and determines that the cause of the injury or death is unknown and the death is relatively recent (e.g., in less than a moderate state of decomposition), Navy shall immediately report the incident to OPR and the Southeast Regional Stranding Coordinator, NMFS. The report must include the information identified in paragraph (f)(1) of this section. Activities may continue while NMFS reviews the circumstances of the incident. NMFS will work with Navy to determine whether additional mitigation measures or modifications to the activities are appropriate.


(3) In the event that Navy discovers an injured or dead marine mammal and determines that the injury or death is not associated with or related to the activities defined in § 217.250 (e.g., previously wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced decomposition, scavenger damage), Navy shall report the incident to OPR and the Southeast Regional Stranding Coordinator, NMFS, within 24 hours of the discovery. Navy shall provide photographs or video footage or other documentation of the stranded animal sighting to NMFS. Photographs may be taken once the animal has been moved from the waterfront area.


§ 217.256 Letters of Authorization.

(a) To incidentally take marine mammals pursuant to these regulations, Navy must apply for and obtain a LOA.


(b) A LOA, unless suspended or revoked, may be effective for a period of time not to exceed the expiration date of these regulations.


(c) If a LOA expires prior to the expiration date of these regulations, Navy may apply for and obtain a renewal of the LOA.


(d) In the event of projected changes to the activity or to mitigation and monitoring measures required by a LOA, Navy must apply for and obtain a modification of the LOA as described in § 217.257.


(e) The LOA shall set forth:


(1) Permissible methods of incidental taking;


(2) Means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact (i.e., mitigation) on the species, its habitat, and on the availability of the species for subsistence uses; and


(3) Requirements for monitoring and reporting.


(f) Issuance of the LOA shall be based on a determination that the level of taking will be consistent with the findings made for the total taking allowable under these regulations.


(g) Notice of issuance or denial of a LOA shall be published in the Federal Register within thirty days of a determination.


§ 217.257 Renewals and modifications of Letters of Authorization.

(a) A LOA issued under § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.256 for the activity identified in § 217.250 shall be renewed or modified upon request by the applicant, provided that:


(1) The proposed specified activity and mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures, as well as the anticipated impacts, are the same as those described and analyzed for these regulations (excluding changes made pursuant to the adaptive management provision in paragraph (c)(1) of this section), and


(2) NMFS determines that the mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures required by the previous LOA under these regulations were implemented.


(b) For a LOA modification or renewal requests by the applicant that include changes to the activity or the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting (excluding changes made pursuant to the adaptive management provision in paragraph (c)(1) of this section) that do not change the findings made for the regulations or that result in no more than a minor change in the total estimated number of takes (or distribution by species or years), NMFS may publish a notice of proposed LOA in the Federal Register, including the associated analysis of the change, and solicit public comment before issuing the LOA.


(c) A LOA issued under § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.256 for the activity identified in § 217.250 may be modified by NMFS under the following circumstances:


(1) Adaptive Management – NMFS may modify (including augment) the existing mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures (after consulting with Navy regarding the practicability of the modifications) if doing so creates a reasonable likelihood of more effectively accomplishing the goals of the mitigation and monitoring set forth in the preamble for these regulations.


(i) Possible sources of data that could contribute to the decision to modify the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures in a LOA:


(A) Results from Navy’s monitoring from previous years.


(B) Results from other marine mammal and/or sound research or studies.


(C) Any information that reveals marine mammals may have been taken in a manner, extent or number not authorized by these regulations or subsequent LOAs.


(ii) If, through adaptive management, the modifications to the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures are substantial, NMFS will publish a notice of proposed LOA in the Federal Register and solicit public comment.


(2) Emergencies – If NMFS determines that an emergency exists that poses a significant risk to the well-being of the species or stocks of marine mammals specified in a LOA issued pursuant to § 216.106 of this chapter and § 217.256, a LOA may be modified without prior notice or opportunity for public comment. Notice would be published in the Federal Register within thirty days of the action.


§§ 217.258-217.259 [Reserved]

Subpart AA-XXX [Reserved]

PART 218 – REGULATIONS GOVERNING THE TAKING AND IMPORTING OF MARINE MAMMALS


Authority:16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq., unless otherwise noted.


Source:74 FR 28343, June 15, 2009, unless otherwise noted.


Effective Date Note:At 83 FR 5568, Feb. 8, 2018, the authority citation for part 218 was revised, effective Feb. 13, 2018, through Feb. 12, 2023.

Subpart A – Taking and Importing Marine Mammals Incidental to U.S. Navy Construction at Naval Station Norfolk in Norfolk, Virginia


Source:86 FR 24356, May 6, 2021, unless otherwise noted.


Effective Date Note:At 86 FR 24356, May 6, 2021, subpart A was added, effective June 7, 2021, to June 7, 2026.

§ 218.1 Specified activity and geographical region.

(a) Regulations in this subpart apply only to the U.S. Navy (Navy) and those persons it authorizes or funds to conduct activities on its behalf for the taking of marine mammals that occurs in the areas outlined in paragraph (b) of this section and that occurs incidental to construction activities including marine structure maintenance, pile replacement, and select waterfront improvements at Naval Station (NAVSTA) Norfolk.


(b) The taking of marine mammals by the Navy may be authorized in a Letter of Authorization (LOA) only if it occurs at NAVSTA Norfolk and adjacent Navy facilities.


§ 218.2 Effective dates.

Regulations in this subpart are effective from June 7, 2021 to June 7, 2026.


§ 218.3 Permissible methods of taking.

Under an LOA issued pursuant to §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 218.7, the Holder of the LOA (hereinafter “Navy”) may incidentally, but not intentionally, take marine mammals within the area described in § 218.1(b) by Level B harassment associated with construction activities, provided the activity is in compliance with all terms, conditions, and requirements of the regulations in this subpart and the applicable LOA.


§ 218.4 Prohibitions.

(a) Except for the takings contemplated in § 218.3 and authorized by a LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 218.7, it is unlawful for any person to do any of the following in connection with the activities described in § 218.1 may:


(1) Violate, or fail to comply with, the terms, conditions, and requirements of this subpart or a LOA issued under § 216.106 of this chapter and § 218.7;


(2) Take any marine mammal not specified in such LOA;


(3) Take any marine mammal specified in such LOA in any manner other than as specified;


(4) Take a marine mammal specified in such LOA if NMFS determines such taking results in more than a negligible impact on the species or stocks of such marine mammal; or


(5) Take a marine mammal specified in such LOA if NMFS determines such taking results in an unmitigable adverse impact on the species or stock of such marine mammal for taking for subsistence uses.


(b) [Reserved]


§ 218.5 Mitigation requirements.

(a) When conducting the activities identified in § 218.20(a), the mitigation measures contained in any LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 218.7 must be implemented. These mitigation measures shall include but are not limited to:


(1) A copy of any issued LOA must be in the possession of the Navy, its designees, and work crew personnel operating under the authority of the issued LOA;


(2) The Navy shall conduct briefings for construction supervisors and crews, the monitoring team, and Navy staff prior to the start of all pile driving activity, and when new personnel join the work, in order to explain responsibilities, communication procedures, the marine mammal monitoring protocol, and operational procedures;


(3) For in-water heavy machinery work other than pile driving, if a marine mammal comes within 10 m, the Navy shall cease operations and reduce vessel speed to the minimum level required to maintain steerage and safe working conditions;


(4) For all pile driving activity, the Navy shall implement a minimum shutdown zone of a 10 m radius around the pile. If a marine mammal comes within or approaches the shutdown zone, such operations shall cease;


(5) For all pile driving activity, the Navy shall implement shutdown zones with radial distances as identified in a LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 218.7. If a marine mammal comes within or approaches the shutdown zone, such operations shall cease;


(6) The Navy shall deploy protected species observers (observers) as indicated in its Marine Mammal Monitoring Plan approved by NMFS;


(7) A minimum of three PSOs shall be stationed at the best vantage points practicable to monitor for marine mammals and implement shutdown/delay procedures during vibratory pile driving at Pier 3, Pier 12, and Craney Island, and at least four PSOs must be stationed at the best vantage points practicable during vibratory pile driving at Lambert’s Point. For all other pile driving activities, a minimum of two observers shall be stationed at the best vantage points practicable to monitor for marine mammals and implement shutdown/delay procedures;


(8) Monitoring shall take place from 30 minutes prior to initiation of pile driving activity through 30 minutes post-completion of pile driving activity. Pre-activity monitoring shall be conducted for 30 minutes to ensure that the shutdown zone is clear of marine mammals, and pile driving may commence when observers have declared the shutdown zone clear of marine mammals. In the event of a delay or shutdown of activity resulting from marine mammals in the shutdown zone, animals shall be allowed to remain in the shutdown zone (i.e., must leave of their own volition) and their behavior shall be monitored and documented. If a marine mammal is observed within the shutdown zone, a soft-start cannot proceed until the animal has left the zone or has not been observed for 15 minutes. Monitoring shall occur throughout the time required to drive a pile. If work ceases for more than 30 minutes, the pre-activity monitoring of the shutdown zones must commence. A determination that the shutdown zone is clear must be made during a period of good visibility (i.e., the entire shutdown zone and surrounding waters must be visible to the naked eye);


(9) If a marine mammal approaches or enters the shutdown zone, all pile driving activities at that location shall be halted. If pile driving is halted or delayed due to the presence of a marine mammal, the activity may not commence or resume until either the animal has voluntarily left and been visually confirmed beyond the shutdown zone or fifteen minutes have passed without re-detection of the animal;


(10) Pile driving activity must be halted upon observation of either a species for which incidental take is not authorized or a species for which incidental take has been authorized but the authorized number of takes has been met, entering or within the harassment zone;


(11) Should environmental conditions deteriorate such that marine mammals within the entire shutdown zone would not be visible (e.g., fog, heavy rain, night), the Navy shall delay pile driving and removal until observers are confident marine mammals within the shutdown zone could be detected;


(12) Monitoring shall be conducted by trained observers, who shall have no other assigned tasks during monitoring periods. Trained observers shall be placed at the best vantage point(s) practicable to monitor for marine mammals and implement shutdown or delay procedures when applicable through communication with the equipment operator. The Navy shall adhere to the following additional observer qualifications:


(i) Independent observers are required;


(ii) At least one observer must have prior experience working as an observer;


(iii) Other observers may substitute education (degree in biological science or related field) or training for experience;


(iv) Where a team of three or more observers are required, one observer shall be designated as lead observer or monitoring coordinator. The lead observer must have prior experience working as an observer;


(v) Personnel who are engaged in construction activities may not serve as observers.


(13) The Navy shall use soft start techniques for impact pile driving. Soft start for impact drivers requires the Navy and those persons it authorizes or funds to provide an initial set of three strikes at reduced energy, followed by a 30-second waiting period, then two subsequent reduced energy three-strike sets. Soft start shall be implemented at the start of each day’s impact pile driving and at any time following cessation of impact pile driving for a period of thirty minutes or longer.


(b) [Reserved]


§ 218.6 Requirements for monitoring and reporting.

(a) The Navy shall submit a Marine Mammal Monitoring Plan to NMFS for approval in advance of construction.


(b) The Navy shall deploy at least three PSOs during vibratory pile driving at Pier 3, Pier 12, and Craney Island, and at least four PSOs during vibratory pile driving at Lambert’s Point. For all other pile driving activities, the Navy shall deploy a minimum of two PSOs.


(c) Observers shall be trained in marine mammal identification and behaviors. Observers shall have no other construction-related tasks while conducting monitoring.


(d) For all pile driving activities, a minimum of two observers shall be stationed at the active pile driving site or in reasonable proximity in order to monitor the shutdown zone.


(e) The Navy shall monitor the Level B harassment zones (areas where SPLs are equal to or exceed the 160 dB rms threshold for impact driving and the 120 dB rms threshold during vibratory pile driving) to the extent practicable and the shutdown zones. The Navy shall monitor at least a portion of the Level B harassment zone on all pile driving days.


(f) The Navy shall submit a draft monitoring report to NMFS within 45 work days of the completion of required monitoring for each marine structure maintenance, pile replacement, and upgrades project. The report must detail the monitoring protocol and summarize the data recorded during monitoring. If no comments are received from NMFS within 30 days, the draft report will constitute the final report. If comments are received, a final report addressing NMFS comments must be submitted within 30 days after receipt of comments. Specifically, the report must include:


(1) Dates and times (begin and end) of all marine mammal monitoring;


(2) Construction activities occurring during each daily observation period, including how many and what type of piles were driven or removed and by what method (i.e., impact or vibratory);


(3) Environmental conditions during monitoring periods (at beginning and end of observer shift and whenever conditions change significantly), including Beaufort sea state and any other relevant weather conditions including cloud cover, fog, sun glare, and overall visibility to the horizon, and estimated observable distance (if less than the harassment zone distance);


(4) The number of marine mammals observed, by species, relative to the pile location and if pile driving or removal was occurring at time of sighting;


(5) Age and sex class, if possible, of all marine mammals observed;


(6) Observer locations during marine mammal monitoring;


(7) Distances and bearings of each marine mammal observed to the pile being driven or removed for each sighting (if pile driving or removal was occurring at time of sighting);


(8) Description of any marine mammal behavior patterns during observation, including direction of travel and estimated time spent within the Level A and Level B harassment zones while the source was active;


(9) Number of marine mammals detected within the harassment zones, by species;


(10) Detailed information about any implementation of any mitigation triggered (e.g., shutdowns and delays), a description of specific actions that ensued, and resulting behavior of the animal, if any;


(11) Description of attempts to distinguish between the number of individual animals taken and the number of incidences of take, such as ability to track groups or individuals; and


(12) Estimated percentage of the Level B harassment zone that was not visible.


(g) In the event that personnel involved in the construction activities discover an injured or dead marine mammal, the Navy shall report the incident to the Office of Protected Resources (OPR) (301-427-8401), NMFS and to the Greater Atlantic Region New England/Mid-Atlantic Regional Stranding Coordinator as soon as feasible. If the death or injury was clearly caused by the specified activity, the Navy must immediately cease the specified activities until NMFS is able to review the circumstances of the incident and determine what, if any, additional measures are appropriate to ensure compliance with the terms of the authorization. The Navy must not resume their activities until notified by NMFS.


(1) The report must include the following information:


(i) Time, date, and location (latitude/longitude) of the first discovery (and updated location information if known and applicable);


(ii) Species identification (if known) or description of the animal(s) involved;


(iii) Condition of the animal(s) (including carcass condition if the animal is dead);


(iv) Observed behaviors of the animal(s), if alive;


(v) If available, photographs or video footage of the animal(s); and


(vi) General circumstances under which the animal was discovered.


(2) [Reserved]


§ 218.7 Letters of Authorization.

(a) To incidentally take marine mammals pursuant to these regulations, the Navy must apply for and obtain an LOA.


(b) An LOA, unless suspended or revoked, may be effective for a period of time not to exceed the expiration date of these regulations.


(c) If an LOA expires prior to the expiration date of these regulations, the Navy may apply for and obtain a renewal of the LOA.


(d) In the event of projected changes to the activity or to mitigation and monitoring measures required by an LOA, the Navy must apply for and obtain a modification of the LOA as described in § 218.8.


(e) The LOA shall set forth the following information:


(1) Permissible methods of incidental taking;


(2) Means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact (i.e., mitigation) on the species, its habitat, and on the availability of the species for subsistence uses; and


(3) Requirements for monitoring and reporting.


(f) Issuance of the LOA shall be based on a determination that the level of taking will be consistent with the findings made for the total taking allowable under these regulations.


(g) Notice of issuance or denial of an LOA shall be published in the Federal Register within 30 days of a determination.


§ 218.8 Renewals and modifications of Letters of Authorization.

(a) An LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 218.7 for the activity identified in § 218.1(a) shall be renewed or modified upon request by the applicant, provided that:


(1) The proposed specified activity and mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures, as well as the anticipated impacts, are the same as those described and analyzed for these regulations, and


(2) NMFS determines that the mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures required by the previous LOA under these regulations were implemented.


(b) For LOA modification or renewal requests by the applicant that include changes to the activity or the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting that do not change the findings made for the regulations or result in no more than a minor change in the total estimated number of takes (or distribution by species or years), NMFS may publish a notice of proposed LOA in the Federal Register, including the associated analysis of the change, and solicit public comment before issuing the LOA.


(c) An LOA issued under § 216.106 of this chapter and § 218.7 for the activity identified in § 218.1(a) may be modified by NMFS under the following circumstances:


(1) NMFS may modify (including augment) the existing mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures (after consulting with Navy regarding the practicability of the modifications) if doing so creates a reasonable likelihood of more effectively accomplishing the goals of the mitigation and monitoring set forth in the preamble for these regulations.


(i) Possible sources of data that could contribute to the decision to modify the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures in a LOA:


(A) Results from Navy’s monitoring from previous years;


(B) Results from other marine mammal and/or sound research or studies;


(C) Any information that reveals marine mammals may have been taken in a manner, extent or number not authorized by these regulations or subsequent LOAs; and


(ii) If, through adaptive management, the modifications to the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures are substantial, NMFS will publish a notice of proposed LOA in the Federal Register and solicit public comment.


(2) If NMFS determines that an emergency exists that poses a significant risk to the well-being of the species or stocks of marine mammals specified in a LOA issued pursuant to § 216.106 of this chapter and § 218.7, a LOA may be modified without prior notice or opportunity for public comment. Notice would be published in the Federal Register within 30 days of the action.


§ 218.9 [Reserved]

Subpart B [Reserved]

Subpart C – Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to U.S. Navy Marine Structure Maintenance and Pile Replacement in Washington


Source:84 FR 15983, Apr. 17, 2019, unless otherwise noted.


Effective Date Note:At 84 FR 15983, Apr. 17, 2019, subpart C was added, effective May 17, 2019, through May 17, 2024.

§ 218.20 Specified activity and specified geographical region.

(a) Regulations in this subpart apply only to the U.S. Navy (Navy) and those persons it authorizes or funds to conduct activities on its behalf for the taking of marine mammals that occurs in the areas outlined in paragraph (b) of this section and that occurs incidental to maintenance construction activities, as defined in a Letter of Authorization (LOA).


(b) The taking of marine mammals by the Navy may be authorized in a LOA only if it occurs within Washington inland waters in the vicinity of one of the following six naval installations: Naval Base Kitsap Bangor, Zelatched Point, Naval Base Kitsap Bremerton, Naval Base Kitsap Keyport, Naval Base Kitsap Manchester, and Naval Station Everett.


§ 218.21 Effective dates.

Regulations in this subpart are effective from May 17, 2019 through May 17, 2024.


§ 218.22 Permissible methods of taking.

Under LOAs issued pursuant to §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 218.26, the Holder of the LOA (hereinafter “Navy”) may incidentally, but not intentionally, take marine mammals within the area described in § 218.20(b) by Level A or Level B harassment associated with maintenance construction activities, provided the activity is in compliance with all terms, conditions, and requirements of the regulations in this subpart and the appropriate LOA.


§ 218.23 Prohibitions.

Notwithstanding takings contemplated in § 218.22 and authorized by a LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 218.26, no person in connection with the activities described in § 218.20 may:


(a) Violate, or fail to comply with, the terms, conditions, and requirements of this subpart or a LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 218.26;


(b) Take any marine mammal not specified in such LOAs;


(c) Take any marine mammal specified in such LOAs in any manner other than as specified;


(d) Take a marine mammal specified in such LOAs if NMFS determines such taking results in more than a negligible impact on the species or stocks of such marine mammal; or


(e) Take a marine mammal specified in such LOAs if NMFS determines such taking results in an unmitigable adverse impact on the species or stock of such marine mammal for taking for subsistence uses.


§ 218.24 Mitigation requirements.

When conducting the activities identified in § 218.20(a), the mitigation measures contained in any LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 218.26 must be implemented. These mitigation measures shall include but are not limited to:


(a) General conditions. (1) A copy of any issued LOA must be in the possession of the Navy, its designees, and work crew personnel operating under the authority of the issued LOA; and


(2) The Navy shall conduct briefings for construction supervisors and crews, the monitoring team, and Navy staff prior to the start of all pile driving activity, and when new personnel join the work, in order to explain responsibilities, communication procedures, the marine mammal monitoring protocol, and operational procedures.


(b) Shutdown zones. (1) For all pile driving activity, the Navy shall implement a minimum shutdown zone of a 10 m radius around the pile. If a marine mammal comes within or approaches the shutdown zone, such operations shall cease;


(2) For all pile driving activity, the Navy shall implement shutdown zones with radial distances as identified in any LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 218.26. If a marine mammal comes within or approaches the shutdown zone, such operations shall cease;


(3) For all pile driving activity, the Navy shall designate monitoring zones with radial distances as identified in any LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 218.26. Anticipated observable zones within the designated monitoring zones shall be identified in annual Marine Mammal Monitoring Plans, subject to approval by NMFS. If any cetacean is observed outside the shutdown zone identified pursuant to paragraphs (b)(1) and (2) of this section, but within the designated monitoring zone, such operations shall cease.


(c) Shutdown protocols. (1) The Navy shall deploy marine mammal observers as indicated in annual Marine Mammal Monitoring Plans, which shall be subject to approval by NMFS, and as described in § 218.25.


(2) For all pile driving activities, a minimum of one observer shall be stationed at the active pile driving rig or in reasonable proximity in order to monitor the shutdown zone.


(3) Prior to the start of pile driving on any day, the Navy shall take measures to ensure that southern resident killer whales are not located within the vicinity of the project area, including, but not limited to, contacting and/or reviewing the latest sightings data from the Orca Network and/or Center for Whale Research, including passive acoustic detections, to determine the location of the nearest marine mammal sightings.


(4) Monitoring shall take place from fifteen minutes prior to initiation of pile driving activity through thirty minutes post-completion of pile driving activity. Pre-activity monitoring shall be conducted for fifteen minutes to ensure that the shutdown zone is clear of marine mammals, and pile driving may commence only if observers have declared the shutdown zone clear of marine mammals during this period. In the event of a delay or shutdown of activity resulting from marine mammals in the shutdown zone, the marine mammals shall be allowed to remain in the shutdown zone (i.e., must leave of their own volition) and their behavior shall be monitored and documented. Monitoring shall occur throughout the time required to drive a pile. A determination that the shutdown zone is clear cannot be made unless the observer(s) have good visibility of the shutdown zone during the entire fifteen-minute observation period (i.e., the entire shutdown zone must be visible to the naked eye and unobscured by dark, rain, fog, poor lighting conditions, etc.).


(5) If a marine mammal approaches or enters the shutdown zone, the Navy shall halt all pile driving activities at that location. If pile driving is halted or delayed due to the presence of a marine mammal, the activity may not commence or resume until either the animal has voluntarily left and been visually confirmed beyond the shutdown zone or fifteen minutes have passed without re-detection of the animal.


(6) If a species for which authorization has not been granted, or a species for which authorization has been granted but the authorized takes are met, is observed approaching or within the monitoring zone, the Navy must halt pile driving activities immediately using delay and shutdown procedures. Activities must not resume until the animal has been confirmed to have left the area or the fifteen-minute observation period has elapsed.


(7) Monitoring shall be conducted by trained observers, who shall have no other assigned tasks during monitoring periods. Trained observers shall be placed at the best vantage point(s) practicable to monitor for marine mammals and implement shutdown or delay procedures when applicable through communication with the equipment operator. The Navy shall adhere to the following additional observer qualifications:


(i) Independent observers (i.e., not construction personnel) are required.


(ii) At least one observer must have prior experience working as an observer.


(iii) Other observers may substitute education (degree in biological science or related field) or training for experience.


(iv) Where a team of three or more observers are required, one observer shall be designated as lead observer or monitoring coordinator. The lead observer must have prior experience working as an observer.


(d) Soft start. The Navy shall use soft start techniques for impact pile driving. Soft start for impact drivers requires contractors to provide an initial set of three strikes at reduced energy, followed by a thirty-second waiting period, then two subsequent reduced energy three-strike sets. Soft start shall be implemented at the start of each day’s impact pile driving and at any time following cessation of impact pile driving for a period of thirty minutes or longer.


(e) Sound attenuation. The Navy shall employ a bubble curtain (or other sound attenuation device with proven typical performance of at least 8 decibels effective attenuation) during impact pile driving of steel piles greater than 14 inches diameter in water depths greater than 2 feet, except at Naval Base Kitsap Bremerton and Naval Base Kitsap Keyport. The Navy shall assess the potential for the use of bubble curtains at Keyport on a project-by-project basis. In addition, the Navy shall implement the following performance standards:


(1) The bubble curtain must distribute air bubbles around 100 percent of the piling perimeter for the full depth of the water column.


(2) The lowest bubble ring shall be in contact with the mudline for the full circumference of the ring, and the weights attached to the bottom ring shall ensure 100 percent mudline contact. No parts of the ring or other objects shall prevent full mudline contact.


(3) The Navy shall require that construction contractors train personnel in the proper balancing of air flow to the bubblers, and shall require that construction contractors submit an inspection/performance report for approval by the Navy within 72 hours following the performance test. Corrections to the attenuation device to meet the performance standards shall occur prior to impact driving.


§ 218.25 Requirements for monitoring and reporting.

(a) Not later than March 1 of each year, the Navy shall develop and submit for NMFS’s approval an installation-specific Marine Mammal Monitoring Plan for each year’s anticipated work. Final monitoring plans shall be prepared and submitted to NMFS within 30 days following receipt of comments on the draft plans from NMFS.


(b) During each in-water work period, the Navy shall update NMFS every two months on the progress of ongoing projects.


(c) Trained observers shall receive a general environmental awareness briefing conducted by Navy staff. At a minimum, training shall include identification of the marine mammals that may occur in the project vicinity and relevant mitigation and monitoring requirements. All observers shall have no other construction-related tasks while conducting monitoring.


(d) For shutdown zone monitoring, the Navy shall report on implementation of shutdown or delay procedures, including whether the procedures were not implemented and why (when relevant).


(e) The Navy shall deploy additional observers to monitor disturbance zones according to the minimum requirements defined in annual Marine Mammal Monitoring Plans, subject to approval by NMFS. These observers shall collect sighting data and behavioral responses to pile driving for marine mammal species observed in the region of activity during the period of activity, and shall communicate with the shutdown zone observer as appropriate with regard to the presence of marine mammals. All observers shall be trained in identification and reporting of marine mammal behaviors.


(f) The Navy must conduct hydroacoustic monitoring for a subset of impact-driven steel piles for projects that include more than three such piles. When this requirement for monitoring of impact-driven steel piles is triggered, the Navy must also conduct hydroacoustic monitoring of a subset of impact-driven plastic piles (if applicable).


(g) The Navy must submit annual summary, final, and comprehensive summary reports as described in this paragraph (g):


(1) Navy shall submit an annual summary report to NMFS not later than 90 days following the end of construction for that year. Navy shall provide a final report within 30 days following resolution of comments on the draft report. These reports shall contain, at minimum, the following:


(i) Date and time that monitored activity begins or ends;


(ii) Construction activities occurring during each observation period;


(iii) Weather parameters (e.g., wind speed, percent cloud cover, visibility);


(iv) Water conditions (e.g., sea state, tide state);


(v) Species, numbers, and, if possible, sex and age class of marine mammals;


(vi) Description of any observable marine mammal behavior patterns, including bearing and direction of travel and distance from pile driving activity;


(vii) Distance from pile driving activities to marine mammals and distance from the marine mammals to the observation point;


(viii) Description of implementation of mitigation measures (e.g., shutdown or delay);


(ix) Locations of all marine mammal observations; and


(x) Other human activity in the area.


(2) Navy shall submit a comprehensive summary report to NMFS not later than ninety days following the conclusion of marine mammal monitoring efforts described in this subpart.


(h) The Navy must submit reports of stranded, injured, or dead marine mammals as described in this paragraph (h):


(1) In the event that a live marine mammal is found stranded, whether on shore or in or on any structure or vessel, the following steps shall be taken:


(i) Project personnel who discover the marine mammal shall immediately notify the most appropriate onsite personnel with relevant expertise (e.g., marine mammal observers) as well as the Navy (if non-Navy project personnel initially discover the animal).


(ii) The Navy shall then immediately notify the West Coast Regional Stranding Coordinator, NMFS, and, in consultation with the Stranding Coordinator, shall immediately notify the most appropriate qualified individual (i.e., biologist or veterinarian) to respond to the event.


(iii) In the interim, or in the event that no qualified individual other than onsite marine mammal observers is available to respond to the event, the Navy shall manage the event response and shall take action to prevent any further deterioration of the animal’s condition, to the extent possible. Appropriate action may be specific to the event. At minimum, the Navy should provide shade for the animal (if possible), shall not move the animal or cause the animal to move, and shall suspend project activity until the situation is resolved.


(iv) The Navy shall report the incident to the Office of Protected Resources (OPR), NMFS, within 48 hours after discovery.


(2) In the unanticipated event that the activity defined in § 218.20 clearly causes the take of at least one marine mammal in a prohibited manner, the Navy shall immediately cease such activity and report the incident to OPR and the West Coast Regional Stranding Coordinator, NMFS. Activities shall not resume until NMFS is able to review the circumstances of the prohibited take. NMFS will work with the Navy to determine what measures are necessary to minimize the likelihood of further prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. The Navy may not resume their activities until notified by NMFS. The report must include the following information:


(i) Time, date, and location (latitude/longitude) of the incident;


(ii) Description of the incident;


(iii) Environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, Beaufort sea state, cloud cover, visibility);


(iv) Description of all marine mammal observations in the 24 hours preceding the incident;


(v) Species identification or description of the animal(s) involved;


(vi) Fate of the animal(s); and


(vii) Photographs or video footage of the animal(s). Photographs may be taken once the animal(s) have been moved from the waterfront area.


(3) In the event that the Navy discovers an injured or dead marine mammal and determines that the cause of the injury or death is unknown and the death is relatively recent (e.g., in less than a moderate state of decomposition), the Navy shall immediately report the incident to OPR and the West Coast Regional Stranding Coordinator, NMFS. The report must include the information identified in paragraph (h)(2) of this section. Activities may continue while NMFS reviews the circumstances of the incident. NMFS will work with the Navy to determine whether additional mitigation measures or modifications to the activities are appropriate.


(4) In the event that the Navy discovers an injured or dead marine mammal and determines that the injury or death is not associated with or related to the activities defined in § 218.20 (e.g., previously wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced decomposition, scavenger damage), Navy shall report the incident to OPR and the West Coast Regional Stranding Coordinator, NMFS, within 24 hours of the discovery. The Navy shall provide photographs or video footage or other documentation of the stranded animal sighting to NMFS. Photographs may be taken once the animal has been moved from the waterfront area.


§ 218.26 Letters of Authorization.

(a) To incidentally take marine mammals pursuant to the regulations in this subpart, the Navy must apply for and obtain an LOA.


(b) An LOA, unless suspended or revoked, may be effective for a period of time not to exceed the expiration date of the regulations in this subpart.


(c) If an LOA expires prior to the expiration date of the regulations in this subpart, the Navy may apply for and obtain a renewal of the LOA.


(d) In the event of projected changes to the activity or to mitigation and monitoring measures required by an LOA, the Navy must apply for and obtain a modification of the LOA as described in § 218.27.


(e) The LOA shall set forth:


(1) Permissible methods of incidental taking;


(2) Means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact (i.e., mitigation) on the species, its habitat, and on the availability of the species for subsistence uses; and


(3) Requirements for monitoring and reporting.


(f) Issuance of the LOA shall be based on a determination that the level of taking will be consistent with the findings made for the total taking allowable under the regulations in this subpart.


(g) Notice of issuance or denial of an LOA shall be published in the Federal Register within thirty days of a determination.


§ 218.27 Renewals and modifications of Letters of Authorization.

(a) An LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 218.26 for the activity identified in § 218.20(a) shall be renewed or modified upon request by the applicant, provided that:


(1) The proposed specified activity and mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures, as well as the anticipated impacts, are the same as those described and analyzed for the regulations in this subpart (excluding changes made pursuant to the adaptive management provision in paragraph (c)(1) of this section); and


(2) NMFS determines that the mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures required by the previous LOA under the regulations in this subpart were implemented.


(b) For LOA modification or renewal requests by the applicant that include changes to the activity or the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting (excluding changes made pursuant to the adaptive management provision in paragraph (c)(1) of this section) that do not change the findings made for the regulations in this subpart or result in no more than a minor change in the total estimated number of takes (or distribution by species or years), NMFS may publish a notice of proposed LOA in the Federal Register, including the associated analysis of the change, and solicit public comment before issuing the LOA.


(c) An LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 218.26 for the activity identified in § 218.20(a) may be modified by NMFS under the following circumstances:


(1) Adaptive management. NMFS may modify (including augment) the existing mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures (after consulting with the Navy regarding the practicability of the modifications) if doing so creates a reasonable likelihood of more effectively accomplishing the goals of the mitigation and monitoring set forth in the regulations in this subpart.


(i) Possible sources of data that could contribute to the decision to modify the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures in an LOA:


(A) Results from the Navy’s monitoring from the previous year(s).


(B) Results from other marine mammal and/or sound research or studies.


(C) Any information that reveals marine mammals may have been taken in a manner, extent or number not authorized by the regulations in this subpart or subsequent LOAs.


(ii) If, through adaptive management, the modifications to the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures are substantial, NMFS will publish a notice of proposed LOA in the Federal Register and solicit public comment.


(2) Emergencies. If NMFS determines that an emergency exists that poses a significant risk to the well-being of the species or stocks of marine mammals specified in LOAs issued pursuant to §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 218.26, an LOA may be modified without prior notice or opportunity for public comment. Notice would be published in the Federal Register within thirty days of the action.


§§ 218.28-218.29 [Reserved]

Subpart D – Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to U.S. Navy Construction Activities at Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach, California


Source:85 FR 10325, Feb. 24, 2020, unless otherwise noted.


Effective Date Note:At 85 FR 10325, Feb. 24, 2020, subpart D was added, effective Mar. 25, 2020, through Mar. 25, 2025.

§ 218.30 Specified activity and specified geographical region.

(a) Regulations in this subpart apply only to the U.S. Navy (Navy) and those persons it authorizes or funds to conduct activities on its behalf for the taking of marine mammals that occurs in the areas outlined in paragraph (b) of this section and that occurs incidental to maintenance construction activities.


(b) The taking of marine mammals by the Navy may be authorized in a Letter of Authorization (LOA) only if it occurs within California coastal waters in the vicinity of Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach.


§ 218.31 Effective dates.

Regulations in this subpart are effective from March 25, 2020, through March 25, 2025.


§ 218.32 Permissible methods of taking.

Under LOAs issued pursuant to §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 218.36, the Holder of the LOA (hereinafter “Navy”) may incidentally, but not intentionally, take marine mammals within the area described in § 218.30(b) by Level B harassment associated with construction activities, provided the activity is in compliance with all terms, conditions, and requirements of the regulations in this subpart and the appropriate LOA.


§ 218.33 Prohibitions.

Notwithstanding takings contemplated in § 218.32 and authorized by an LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 218.36, no person in connection with the activities described in § 218.30 may:


(a) Violate, or fail to comply with, the terms, conditions, and requirements of this subpart or an LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 218.36;


(b) Take any marine mammal not specified in such LOAs;


(c) Take any marine mammal specified in such LOAs in any manner other than as specified;


(d) Take a marine mammal specified in such LOAs if NMFS determines such taking results in more than a negligible impact on the species or stocks of such marine mammal; or


(e) Take a marine mammal specified in such LOAs if NMFS determines such taking results in an unmitigable adverse impact on the species or stock of such marine mammal for taking for subsistence uses.


§ 218.34 Mitigation requirements.

When conducting the activities identified in § 218.30(a), the mitigation measures contained in any LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 218.36 must be implemented. These mitigation measures shall include but are not limited to:


(a) General conditions. (1) A copy of any issued LOA must be in the possession of the Navy, its designees, and work crew personnel operating under the authority of the issued LOA.


(2) The Navy shall conduct briefings for construction supervisors and crews, the monitoring team, and Navy staff prior to the start of all pile driving activity, and when new personnel join the work, in order to explain responsibilities, communication procedures, the marine mammal monitoring protocol, and operational procedures.


(b) Shutdown zones. (1) For all pile driving activity, the Navy shall implement a minimum shutdown zone of a 10 m radius around the pile. If a marine mammal comes within or approaches the shutdown zone, such operations shall cease.


(2) For all pile driving activity, the Navy shall implement shutdown zones with radial distances as identified in any LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 218.36. If a marine mammal comes within or approaches the shutdown zone, such operations shall cease.


(3) For all pile driving activity, the Navy shall designate monitoring zones with radial distances as identified in any LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 218.36.


(c) Shutdown protocols. (1) The Navy shall deploy marine mammal observers as described in § 218.35.


(2) For all pile driving activities, a minimum of one observer shall be stationed at the active pile driving rig or in reasonable proximity in order to monitor the shutdown zone.


(3) Monitoring shall take place from 30 minutes prior to initiation of pile driving activity through 30 minutes post-completion of pile driving activity. Pre-activity monitoring shall be conducted for 30 minutes to ensure that the shutdown zone is clear of marine mammals, and pile driving may commence when observers have declared the shutdown zone clear of marine mammals. In the event of a delay or shutdown of activity resulting from marine mammals in the shutdown zone, animals shall be allowed to remain in the shutdown zone (i.e., must leave of their own volition) and their behavior shall be monitored and documented. Monitoring shall occur throughout the time required to drive a pile. A determination that the shutdown zone is clear must be made during a period of good visibility (i.e., the entire shutdown zone and surrounding waters must be visible to the naked eye).


(4) If a marine mammal approaches or enters the shutdown zone, all pile driving activities at that location shall be halted. If pile driving is halted or delayed due to the presence of a marine mammal, the activity may not commence or resume until either the animal has voluntarily left and been visually confirmed beyond the shutdown zone or 15 minutes have passed without re-detection of the animal.


(5) During conditions where the entire shutdown zone is not visible (e.g., dark, fog, heavy rain), impact pile driving must be delayed until the PSO is confident marine mammals within the shutdown zone could be detected.


(6) Monitoring shall be conducted by trained observers, who shall have no other assigned tasks during monitoring periods. Trained observers shall be placed at the best vantage point(s) practicable to monitor for marine mammals and implement shutdown or delay procedures when applicable through communication with the equipment operator. The Navy shall adhere to the following additional observer qualifications:


(i) Independent observers (i.e., not construction personnel) are required.


(ii) At least one observer must have prior experience working as an observer.


(iii) Other observers may substitute education (degree in biological science or related field) or training for experience.


(iv) Where a team of three or more observers are required, one observer shall be designated as lead observer or monitoring coordinator. The lead observer must have prior experience working as an observer.


(v) The Navy shall submit observer CVs for approval by NMFS.


(d) Soft start. The Navy shall use soft start techniques for impact pile driving. Soft start for impact drivers requires contractors to provide an initial set of three strikes at reduced energy, followed by a thirty-second waiting period, then two subsequent reduced energy three-strike sets. Soft start shall be implemented at the start of each day’s impact pile driving and at any time following cessation of impact pile driving for a period of thirty minutes or longer.


§ 218.35 Requirements for monitoring and reporting.

(a) Trained observers shall receive a general environmental awareness briefing conducted by Navy staff. At minimum, training shall include identification of marine mammals that may occur in the project vicinity and relevant mitigation and monitoring requirements. All observers shall have no other construction-related tasks while conducting monitoring.


(b) For shutdown zone monitoring, the Navy shall report on implementation of shutdown or delay procedures, including whether the procedures were not implemented and why (when relevant).


(c) The Navy shall deploy a minimum of one additional observer to aid in monitoring disturbance zones. This observer shall collect sighting data and behavioral responses to pile driving for marine mammal species observed in the region of activity during the period of activity, and shall communicate with the shutdown zone observer as appropriate with regard to the presence of marine mammals. All observers shall be trained in identification and reporting of marine mammal behaviors.


(d) The Navy must submit annual and summary reports.


(1) Navy shall submit an annual summary report to NMFS not later than 90 days following the end of each calendar year. Navy shall provide a final report within 30 days following resolution of comments on the draft report. These reports shall contain, at minimum, the following:


(i) Dates and times (begin and end) of all marine mammal monitoring;


(ii) Construction activities occurring during each daily observation period, including how many and what type of piles were driven or removed and by what method (i.e., impact or vibratory);


(iii) Weather parameters and water conditions during each monitoring period (e.g., wind speed, percent cover, visibility, sea state);


(iv) The number of marine mammals observed, by species, relative to the pile location and if pile driving or removal was occurring at time of sighting;


(v) Age and sex class, if possible, of all marine mammals observed;


(vi) PSO locations during marine mammal monitoring;


(vii) Distances and bearings of each marine mammal observed to the pile being driven or removed for each sighting (if pile driving or removal was occurring at time of sighting);


(viii) Description of any marine mammal behavior patterns during observation, including direction of travel;


(ix) Number of individuals of each species (differentiated by month as appropriate) detected within the monitoring zone, and estimates of number of marine mammals taken, by species (a correction factor may be applied to total take numbers, as appropriate);


(x) Detailed information about any implementation of any mitigation triggered (e.g., shutdowns and delays), a description of specific actions that ensued, and resulting behavior of the animal, if any;


(xi) Description of attempts to distinguish between the number of individual animals taken and the number of incidences of take, such as ability to track groups or individuals; and,


(xii) An extrapolation of the estimated takes by Level B harassment based on the number of observed exposures within the Level B harassment zone and the percentage of the Level B harassment zone that was not visible, when applicable.


(2) Navy shall submit a comprehensive summary report to NMFS not later than ninety days following the conclusion of marine mammal monitoring efforts described in this subpart.


(e) Reporting of injured or dead marine mammals: In the event that personnel involved in the survey activities discover an injured or dead marine mammal, the LOA-holder must report the incident to the Office of Protected Resources (OPR), NMFS and to the West Coast Regional Stranding Network as soon as feasible. The report must include the following information:


(1) Time, date, and location (latitude/longitude) of the first discovery (and updated location information if known and applicable);


(2) Species identification (if known) or description of the animal(s) involved;


(3) Condition of the animal(s) (including carcass condition if the animal is dead);


(4) Observed behaviors of the animal(s), if alive;


(5) If available, photographs or video footage of the animal(s); and


(6) General circumstances under which the animal was discovered.


§ 218.36 Letters of Authorization.

(a) To incidentally take marine mammals pursuant to these regulations, the Navy must apply for and obtain an LOA.


(b) An LOA, unless suspended or revoked, may be effective for a period of time not to exceed the expiration date of these regulations.


(c) If an LOA expires prior to the expiration date of these regulations, the Navy may apply for and obtain a renewal of the LOA.


(d) In the event of projected changes to the activity or to mitigation and monitoring measures required by an LOA, the Navy must apply for and obtain a modification of the LOA as described in § 218.37.


(e) The LOA shall set forth:


(1) Permissible methods of incidental taking;


(2) Means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact (i.e., mitigation) on the species, its habitat, and on the availability of the species for subsistence uses; and


(3) Requirements for monitoring and reporting.


(f) Issuance of the LOA shall be based on a determination that the level of taking will be consistent with the findings made for the total taking allowable under these regulations.


(g) Notice of issuance or denial of an LOA shall be published in the Federal Register within thirty days of a determination.


§ 218.37 Renewals and modifications of Letters of Authorization.

(a) An LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 218.36 for the activity identified in § 218.30(a) shall be renewed or modified upon request by the applicant, provided that:


(1) The proposed specified activity and mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures, as well as the anticipated impacts, are the same as those described and analyzed for these regulations (excluding changes made pursuant to the adaptive management provision in paragraph (c)(1) of this section), and


(2) NMFS determines that the mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures required by the previous LOA under these regulations were implemented.


(b) For LOA modification or renewal requests by the applicant that include changes to the activity or the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting (excluding changes made pursuant to the adaptive management provision in paragraph (c)(1) of this section) that do not change the findings made for the regulations or result in no more than a minor change in the total estimated number of takes (or distribution by species or years), NMFS may publish a notice of proposed LOA in the Federal Register, including the associated analysis of the change, and solicit public comment before issuing the LOA.


(c) An LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 218.36 for the activity identified in § 218.30(a) may be modified by NMFS under the following circumstances:


(1) Adaptive management – NMFS may modify (including augment) the existing mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures (after consulting with the Navy regarding the practicability of the modifications) if doing so creates a reasonable likelihood of more effectively accomplishing the goals of the mitigation and monitoring set forth in the preamble for these regulations.


(i) Possible sources of data that could contribute to the decision to modify the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures in an LOA:


(A) Results from the Navy’s monitoring from the previous year(s).


(B) Results from other marine mammal and/or sound research or studies.


(C) Any information that reveals marine mammals may have been taken in a manner, extent or number not authorized by these regulations or subsequent LOAs.


(ii) If, through adaptive management, the modifications to the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures are substantial, NMFS will publish a notice of proposed LOA in the Federal Register and solicit public comment.


(2) Emergencies. If NMFS determines that an emergency exists that poses a significant risk to the well-being of the species or stocks of marine mammals specified in LOAs issued pursuant to §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 218.36, an LOA may be modified without prior notice or opportunity for public comment. Notice would be published in the Federal Register within thirty days of the action.


§§ 218.38-218.39 [Reserved]

Subpart E [Reserved]

Subpart F – Taking of Marine Mammals Incidental to the U.S. Air Force 86 Fighter Weapons Squadron Conducting Long Range Strike Weapons System Evaluation Program at the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Kauai, Hawaii


Source:82 FR 39698, Aug. 22, 2017, unless otherwise noted.


Effective Date Note:At 82 FR 39698, Aug. 22, 2017, subpart F was added, effective Aug. 21, 2017, through Aug. 22, 2022.

§ 218.50 Specified activity and specified geographical region.

(a) Regulations in this subpart apply only to the 86 Fighter Weapons Squadron (86 FWS) and those persons it authorizes to conduct activities on its behalf, for the taking of marine mammals as outlined in paragraph (b) of this section and incidental to Long Range Strike Weapons System Evaluation Program (LRS WSEP) missions.


(b) The taking of marine mammals by 86 FWS pursuant to a Letter of Authorization (LOA) is authorized only if it occurs at the Barking Sands Underwater Range Expansion (BSURE) area of the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) off Kauai, Hawaii.


§ 218.51 Effective dates.

Regulations in this subpart are effective August 21, 2017, through August 22, 2022.


§ 218.52 Permissible methods of taking.

Under a LOA issued pursuant to § 216.106 of this chapter and § 218.56, the Holder of the LOA (herein after 86 FWS) may incidentally, but not intentionally, take marine mammals by Level A and Level B harassment associated with LRS WSEP activities within the area described in § 218.50, provided the activities are in compliance with all terms, conditions, and requirements of these regulations in this subpart and the associated LOA.


§ 218.53 Prohibitions.

Notwithstanding takings contemplated in § 218.50 and authorized by an LOA issued under § 216.106 of this chapter and § 218.56, no person in connection with the activities described in § 218.50 may:


(a) Violate, or fail to comply with, the terms, conditions, and requirements of this subpart or the LOA issued under § 216.106 of this chapter and § 218.56.


(b) Take a marine mammal species or stock not specified in the LOA; and


(c) Take a marine mammal species or stock specified in the LOA in any manner other than as specified.


§ 218.54 Mitigation requirements.

When conducting activities identified in § 218.50, the mitigation measures contained in the LOA issued under § 216.106 of this chapter and § 218.56 must be implemented. These mitigation measures shall include but are not limited to the following general conditions:


(a) Execute missions during day-light hours only, no more than four hours per day, no more than one day during 2017, no more than four days per year for 2018 through 2022 over a five-day period, on weekdays, and only during summer (June through August) or fall (September through November) months.


(b) Delay live munition detonations if a marine mammal is observed within the designated exclusion zone (2.3 mile (mi) (3,704 m) from the weapon impact site), resuming only after the animal is observed exiting the exclusion zone or the exclusion zone has been clear of any additional sightings for a period of 30 minutes.


(c) Delay live munition detonations if a marine mammal is observed in an impact zone but outside of the 2.3 mi exclusion zone and if the manner of taking is not authorized (e.g., animal is observed in Level A impact zone for that species and no Level A take is authorized), resuming only after the animal is observed exiting the zone.


(d) Shift the target site as far as possible from an observed marine mammal’s location (but within the two-mile wide weapon impact area) if a marine mammal is observed during the pre-mission survey or during missions and continuing the mission will not result in an unauthorized take of a marine mammal.


(e) Suspend live munition detonations if an unauthorized take of a marine mammal occurs, and report the incident to NMFS Office of Protected Resources (OPR), NMFS Pacific Islands Regional Office (PIRO), and the Pacific Islands Region Marine Mammal Stranding Network representative immediately followed by a report to NMFS within 24 hours.


(f) Implement a best management practice, on a daily basis, of conducting inert munition training or small bomb detonations prior to detonating large bombs if the Project Engineer/Commanding Office determines this practice does not interfere with mission training.


(g) Additional mitigation measures as contained in an LOA.


§ 218.55 Requirements for monitoring and reporting.

(a) Holders of LOAs issued pursuant to § 218.56 for activities described in § 218.50(a) are required to cooperate with NMFS, and any other Federal, state, or local agency with authority to monitor the impacts of the activity on marine mammals. Unless specified otherwise in the LOA, the Holder of the LOA must notify the Pacific Islands Region Stranding Coordinator, NMFS, by email, at least 72 hours prior to LRS WSEP missions.


(b) All marine mammal monitoring will be carried out in compliance with the 86 FWS Marine Mammal Mitigation and Monitoring Plan, dated August 2017.


(c) Aerial Surveys: The 86 FWS will conduct pre-, during, and post-training surveys each mission day.


(1) The marine mammal survey monitoring area will extend no less than approximately 8 mi (13 kilometers (km)) from the designated impact site.


(2) Surveys will utilize military aircraft equipped with advanced targeting sensor pods (e.g., SNIPER pods) at altitudes and speeds ideal for detecting marine mammals using such equipment; aircraft will fly transect lines covering the entire eight mi monitoring area. A helicopter-based survey may substitute the military aircraft survey platform and use of sensor pods only if a sensor pod is not be available.


(3) A pre-mission marine mammal survey will commence no later than 30 minutes prior to beginning training activities.


(4) Aircraft personnel will also observe for marine mammals during training (e.g., on approach to weapon launch location).


(5) Aircraft personnel will conduct a post-mission survey for marine mammals immediately following the end of training each mission day. A helicopter may be used in lieu of mission aircraft only if sensor pod is not available.


(d) Range Camera Surveys: 86 FWS personnel will use the Makaha Ridge range cameras to monitor for marine mammals within the weapon impact area at least 30 minutes prior to, during, and immediately after training activities.


(e) Helicopter surveys: If military aircraft equipped with a sensor pod cannot be used for marine mammal surveys, the 86 FWS may substitute a helicopter as the survey platform. The helicopter will fly at an approximately 200 feet altitude and will cover the 8 mi monitoring area. If adverse weather conditions preclude the ability for aircraft to safely operate, missions would either be delayed until the weather clears or cancelled for the day.


(f) Acoustic Monitoring:


(1) The 86 FWS will comply with all acoustic monitoring as described in the 86 FWS Mitigation and Monitoring Plan.


(2) Acoustic data from the PRMF hydrophones will be collected and stored by the 86 FWS. Data will be analyzed to better understand the effects of LRS WSEP missions. The results of the analysis will accompany any subsequent LOA request or, if no request is made, no later than 90 after expiration of the LOA.


(g) The 86 FWS will contact the Pacific Islands Region stranding coordinator, NMFS, by email, at least 72 hours prior to mission onset and one business day after completion of missions to declare that missions are complete.


(h) The Holder of the LOA is required to:


(1) Submit a draft report to NMFS OPR on all monitoring conducted under the LOA within 90 days of the completion of marine mammal monitoring or accompanying a subsequent application for regulations. A final report shall be prepared and submitted within 30 days following resolution of comments on the draft report from NMFS. This report must contain the informational elements described in the Monitoring Plan, and shall also include:


(i) Date and time of each LRS WSEP mission;


(ii) A complete description of the pre-exercise, exercise, and post-exercise activities related to mitigating and monitoring the effects of LRS WSEP missions on marine mammals; and;


(iii) Results of the monitoring program, including numbers by species/stock of any marine mammals noted injured or killed as a result of the LRS WSEP mission and number of marine mammals (by species if possible) that may have been harassed due to presence within the designated harassment zones.


(iv) The draft report will be subject to review and comment by NMFS. Any recommendations made by NMFS must be addressed in the final report prior to acceptance by NMFS. The draft report will be considered the final report for this activity under the LOA if NMFS has not provided comments and recommendations within 90 days of receipt of the draft report.


(2) Report injured or dead marine mammals:


(i) In the unanticipated event that the specified activity clearly causes the take of a marine mammal in a manner prohibited by the LOA, such as an injury for species not authorized (Level A harassment), serious injury, or mortality, the 86 FWS shall immediately cease the specified activities and immediately report the incident to Pacific Islands Regional Stranding Coordinator (888-256-9840), NMFS followed by a report submitted to NMFS Office of Protected Resources and the Pacific Islands Regional Office within 24 hours. The report must include the following information:


(A) Time and date of the incident;


(B) Description of the incident;


(C) Environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, Beaufort sea state, cloud cover, and visibility);


(D) Description of all marine mammal observations in the 24 hours preceding the incident;


(E) Species identification or description of the animal(s) involved;


(F) Fate of the animal(s); and


(G) Photographs or video footage of the animal(s).


(ii) Activities shall not resume until NMFS is able to review the circumstances of the prohibited take. NMFS will work with 86 FWS to determine what measures are necessary to minimize the likelihood of further prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. The 86 FWS may not resume their activities until notified by NMFS.


(iii) In the event that 86 FWS discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the lead observer determines that the cause of the injury or death is unknown and the death is relatively recent (e.g., in less than a moderate state of decomposition), 86 FWS shall immediately report the incident to the Pacific Islands Regional Stranding Coordinator, followed by a report to NMFS Office of Protected Resources and the Pacific Island Regional Office within 24 hours of the discovery. The report must include the same information identified in paragraph (h)(2)(i) of this section. Activities may continue while NMFS reviews the circumstances of the incident. NMFS will work with 86 FWS to determine whether additional mitigation measures or modifications to the activities are appropriate.


(iv) In the event that 86 FWS discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the lead observer determines that the injury or death is not associated with or related to the activities authorized in the LOA (e.g., previously wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced decomposition, scavenger damage), 86 FWS shall report the incident to the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the Pacific Islands Regional Stranding Coordinator, NMFS, within 24 hours of the discovery. The 86 FWS shall provide photographs or video footage or other documentation of the stranded animal sighting to NMFS.


(3) Additional Conditions:


(i) The Holder of the LOA must inform the Director, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, (301-427-8400) or designee (301-427-8401) prior to the initiation of any changes to the monitoring plan for a specified mission activity.


(ii) A copy of the LOA must be in the possession of the safety officer on duty each mission day.


(iii) The LOA may be modified, suspended or withdrawn if the holder fails to abide by the conditions prescribed herein, or if NMFS determines the authorized taking is having more than a negligible impact on the species or stock of affected marine mammals.


§ 218.56 Letters of Authorization.

(a) To incidentally take marine mammals pursuant to these regulations, 86 FWS must apply for and obtain an LOA.


(b) An LOA, unless suspended or revoked, may be effective for a period of time not to exceed the expiration date of these regulations.


(c) If an LOA expires prior to the expiration date of these regulations, 86 FWS must apply for and obtain a renewal of the LOA.


(d) In the event of projected changes to the activity or to mitigation and monitoring measures required by an LOA, 86 FWS must apply for and obtain a modification of the LOA as described in § 218.57.


(e) The LOA will set forth:


(1) Permissible methods of incidental taking;


(2) The number of marine mammals, by species and stock, authorized to be taken;


(3) Means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact (i.e., mitigation) on the species of marine mammals authorized for taking, on its habitat, and on the availability of the species for subsistence uses; and


(4) Requirements for monitoring and reporting.


(f) Issuance of an LOA shall be based on a determination that the level of taking will be consistent with the findings made for the total taking allowable under these regulations.


(g) Notice of issuance or denial of an LOA will be published in the Federal Register within 30 days of a determination.


§ 218.57 Renewals and Modifications of Letters of Authorization.

(a) An LOA issued under § 216.106 of this chapter and § 218.56 for the activity identified in § 218.50(a) will be renewed or modified upon request by the applicant, provided that:


(1) The proposed specified activity and mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures, as well as the anticipated impacts, are the same as those described and analyzed for these regulations (excluding changes made pursuant to the adaptive management provision in paragraph (c)(1) of this section), and


(2) NMFS determines that the mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures required by the previous LOA under these regulations were implemented.


(b) For an LOA modification or renewal request by the applicant that include changes to the activity or the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting (excluding changes made pursuant to the adaptive management provision in paragraph (c)(1) of this section) that do not change the findings made for the regulations or result in no more than a minor change in the total estimated number of takes (or distribution by species or years), NMFS may publish a notice of proposed LOA in the Federal Register, including the associated analysis illustrating the change, and solicit public comment before issuing the LOA.


(c) An LOA issued under § 216.106 of this chapter and § 218.56 for the activity identified in § 218.50(a) may be modified by NMFS under the following circumstances:


(1) Adaptive Management – NMFS may modify and augment the existing mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures (after consulting with the 86 FWS regarding the practicability of the modifications) if doing so creates a reasonable likelihood of more effectively accomplishing the goals of the mitigation and monitoring.


(i) Possible sources of data that could contribute to the decision to modify the mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures in an LOA include, but is not limited to:


(A) Results of new range-to-effects models based on maximum amount of weapons, by type, utilized during each mission;


(B) Results from 86 FWS’s monitoring from the previous year(s);


(C) Results from other marine mammal and/or sound research or studies; or


(D) Any information that reveals marine mammals may have been taken in a manner, extent, or number not authorized by the regulations or subsequent LOA.


(ii) If, through adaptive management, the modifications to the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures are substantial, NMFS will publish a notice of proposed LOA in the Federal Register and solicit public comment.


(2) Emergencies – If NMFS determines that an emergency exists that poses a significant risk to the well-being of the species or stocks of marine mammals specified in the LOA issued pursuant to § 216.106 of this chapter and § 218.50, an LOA may be modified without prior notice or opportunity for public comment. Notice would be published in the Federal Register within 30 days of the action.


§§ 218.58-218.59 [Reserved]

Subpart G – Taking of Marine Mammals Incidental to Testing and Training Activities Conducted at the Eglin Gulf Test and Training Range in the Gulf of Mexico


Source:83 FR 5568, Feb. 8, 2018, unless otherwise noted.


Effective Date Note:At 83 FR 5568, Feb. 8, 2018, subpart G was added, effective Feb. 13, 2018, through Feb. 12, 2023.

§ 218.60 Specified activity and specified geographical region.

(a) Regulations in this subpart apply only to Eglin Air Force Base (Eglin AFB) and those persons it authorizes to conduct activities on its behalf, for the taking of marine mammals as outlined in paragraph (b) of this section and incidental to testing and training missions in the Eglin Gulf Test and Training Range (EGTTR).


(b) The taking of marine mammals by Eglin AFB pursuant to a Letter of Authorization (LOA) is authorized only if it occurs at the EGTTR in the Gulf of Mexico.


§ 218.61 Effective dates.

Regulations in this subpart are effective February 13, 2018 through February 12, 2023.


§ 218.62 Permissible methods of taking.

Under a Letter of Authorization (LOA) issued pursuant to § 216.106 of this chapter and § 218.66, the Holder of the LOA (herein after Eglin AFB) may incidentally, but not intentionally, take marine mammals by Level A and Level B harassment associated with EGTTR activities within the area described in § 218.60 provided the activities are in compliance with all terms, conditions, and requirements of these regulations in this subpart and the appropriate LOA.


§ 218.63 Prohibitions.

Notwithstanding takings contemplated in § 218.60 and authorized by an LOA issued under § 216.106 of this chapter and § 218.66, no person in connection with the activities described in § 218.60 may:


(a) Violate, or fail to comply with, the terms, conditions, and requirements of this subpart or an LOA issued under § 216.106 of this chapter and § 218.66.


(b) Take any marine mammal not specified in such LOAs;


(c) Take any marine mammal specified in such LOAs in any manner other than as specified;


(d) Take a marine mammal specified in such LOAs if NMFS determines such taking results in more than a negligible impact on the species or stocks of such marine mammal; or


§ 218.64 Mitigation requirements.

When conducting activities identified in § 218.60, the mitigation measures contained in the LOA issued under § 216.106 of this chapter and § 218.66 must be implemented. These mitigation measures shall include but are not limited to the following general conditions:


(a) If daytime weather and/or sea conditions preclude adequate monitoring for detecting marine mammals and other marine life, EGTTR operations must be delayed until adequate sea conditions exist for monitoring to be undertaken.


(b) Restrictions on time of activities.


(1) Missions involving the use of live bombs, missiles and rockets shall only occur during daylight hours.


(2) Missions during daylight hours shall occur no earlier than two hours after sunrise and no later than two hours prior to sunset.


(c) Required delay of live ordnance mission activities shall occur if a protected species, large schools of fish or large flocks of birds feeding at the surface are observed within the ZOI. Mission activities cannot resume until one of the following conditions is met:


(1) Protected species marine mammal(s) is confirmed to be outside of the ZOI on a heading away from the target area; or


(2) Protected species marine mammal(s) is not seen again for 30 minutes and presumed to be outside the Level A harassment ZOI.


(3) Large groupings of fish or birds leading to required delay are confirmed outside of the ZOI.


(d) Gunnery operations shall require employment of the following mitigation measures.


(1) Use of 105-millimeter (mm) training rounds (TR) during nighttime missions.


(2) Ramp-up procedures requiring the use of the lowest caliber munition and proceeding to the highest, which means the munitions would be fired in the order of 25 mm, 40 mm, and 105 mm.


(3) Any pause in live fire activities greater than 10 minutes shall require reinitiation of protected species surveys.


(4) Missions shall be conducted within the 200-meter (m) isobaths to provide greater protection to several species.


(e) If one or more sperm or baleen whales are detected during pre-mission monitoring activities, mission activities shall be aborted/suspended for the remainder of the day.


(f) Additional mitigation measures as contained in an LOA.


§ 218.65 Requirements for monitoring and reporting.

(a) Holders of LOAs issued pursuant to § 218.66 for activities described in § 218.60(a) are required to cooperate with NMFS, and any other Federal, state, or local agency with authority to monitor the impacts of the activity on marine mammals. If the authorized activity identified in § 218.60(a) is tho