[Federal Register Volume 61, Number 29 (Monday, February 12, 1996)]
[Pages 5384-5385]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 96-3013]


National Oceanic and Atmospheric Admiistration
[I.D. 020696D]

Gulf of Maine Take Reduction Team Meeting

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

ACTION: Notice of public meeting.


SUMMARY: The Take Reduction Team (TRT) for the Gulf of Maine (GME) 
harbor porpoise/sink-gillnet fishery will hold a meeting to develop a 
Take Reduction Plan (TRP) as described in the Marine Mammal Protection 
Act (MMPA) focusing on reducing bycatch in the sink-gillnet fisheries 
of the GME and the Bay of Fundy, Canada.

DATES: The meeting will be held on February 14 and 15, 1996, 8:30 a.m. 
until 4:30 p.m.

ADDRESSES: The TRT meeting will be held at the King's Grant Inn/Quality 
Inn, on Route 128, Danvers, MA 01923, (508) 774-6800.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kevin Chu, (508) 281-9254, or Michael 
Payne, (301) 713-2322

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: On April 30, 1994, the 1994 Amendments to 
the MMPA were signed into law. Section 117 of the MMPA requires that 
NMFS complete stock assessment reports for all marine mammal stocks 
within U.S. waters. Each stock assessment report is required to 
categorize the status of the stock as one that either has a level of 
human-caused mortality and serious injury that is not likely to cause 
the stock to be reduced below its optimum sustainable population; or is 
a strategic stock, with a description of the reasons therefore; and 
estimate the potential biological removal (PBR) level for the stock, 
describing the information used to calculate it, including the recovery 
factor. The Stock Assessment Report and the calculated PBR was 
published by NMFS in July 1995.
    The MMPA defines a ``strategic stock'' as a marine mammal stock for 
which the level of direct human-caused mortality exceeds the PBR level; 
which, based on the best available scientific information, is declining 
and is likely to be listed as a threatened species under the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973 (ESA) within the foreseeable future; or which is 
listed as a threatened species or endangered species under the ESA, or 
is designated as depleted under the MMPA. The MMPA further defines the 
term ``potential biological removal,'' or PBR, as ``the maximum number 
of animals, not including natural mortalities, that may be removed from 
a marine mammal stock while allowing that stock to reach or maintain 
its optimum sustainable population.'' The GME harbor porpoise 
population was proposed as threatened under the ESA on January 7, 1993, 
and the bycatch of the GME population of harbor porpoise (approximately 
1,300 per year in 1992 and 1993) is significantly greater (an order of 
magnitude greater) than the calculated PBR (approximately 400). The GME 
population of harbor porpoise, therefore, is considered ``strategic'' 
under the MMPA.
    For a strategic stock, section 118(f) of the MMPA requires NMFS to 
appoint a TRT, and this TRT must develop a TRP designed to assist in 
the recovery or 

[[Page 5385]]
prevent the depletion of each strategic stock of marine mammal and 
which interacts with a commercial fishery. Section 118(f)(6)(C) states 
that members of the TRTs shall have expertise regarding the 
conservation or biology of the marine mammal species that the take 
reduction plan will address, or the fishing practices that result in 
the incidental mortality and serious injury of such species.
    The MMPA further specifies that members of the TRT shall include 
representatives of Federal agencies, each coastal state with fisheries 
that interact with the species or stock, appropriate Regional Fishery 
Management Councils, interstate fisheries commissions, academic and 
scientific organizations, environmental groups, all commercial and 
recreational fisheries groups and gear types that incidentally take the 
species or stock, Alaska Native organizations, or Indian tribal 
organizations, and others as the Secretary of Commerce deems 
    As a result of draft stock assessment reviews developed under 
section 117 of the MMPA, and as a result of an extended interview 
process conducted by a NMFS-contracted facilitator, NMFS, through a 
letter dated November 1995, has asked the following individuals to be a 
member of a TRT focusing on reducing bycatch of harbor porpoise in the 
GME sink-gillnet fishery:
    Erik Anderson, New Hampshire Commercial Fishermens Association; 
Janice Anderson-Comeau, Massachusetts Netter's Association; Jennifer 
Atkinson, Conservation Law Foundation; Tina Berger, Atlantic States 
Marine Fisheries Commission; Jeannette Bubar, Maine Gillnetter's 
Association; Kevin Chu, NMFS Regional Office; Paul Cohan, Cape Ann 
Gillnetter's Association; Jeremy Conway, Department of Fisheries and 
Oceans-Canada; Russell DeConti, Center for Coastal Studies; Chris 
Finlayson, Maine Department of Natural Resources; Patricia Fiorelli, 
New England Fishery Management Council; James Gilbert, University of 
Maine; Cathy Homstead, Maine Gillnetter's Association; Scott Kraus, New 
England Aquarium; David Laist, Marine Mammal Commission; Robert 
MacKinnon, Massachusetts Netter's Association; Michael Payne, NMFS 
Office of Protected Resources; David Pierce, Massachusetts Division of 
Marine Fisheries; Andrew Read, Duke University; Bruce Smith, New 
Hampshire Fish and Game; Ron Smolowitz, East Falmouth, MA; Terry 
Stockwell, Maine Gillnetter's Association; April Valliere, Rhode Island 
Division of Fish and Wildllife; David Wiley, International Wildlife 
Coalition; John Williamson, New Hampshire Commercial Fishermen's 
Association; Nina Young, Center for Marine Conservation; Sharon Young, 
The Humane Society of the United States. The TRT will be facilitated by 
Abby Arnold, RESOLVE-Center for Environmental Dispute Resolution, 
Washington, D.C.
    NMFS fully intends to convene a TRT process in a way that provides 
for national consistency yet accommodates the unique regional needs and 
characteristics of any one team. TRTs are not subject to the Federal 
Advisory Committee Act (5 App. U.S.C.). Meetings are open to the 
    Section 118 (6)(A)(ii) also requires NMFS to publish the range of 
the strategic marine mammal stock, and all commercial fisheries that 
cause incidental mortality and serious injury from such stock. The GME 
population (stock) of harbor porpoise ranges from the Bay of Fundy, 
Canada (summer distribution), south to at least North Carolina in the 
winter until late spring. The GME sink- gillnet fishery interacts with 
this stock throughout the year, but the estimated bycatch from this 
fishery is greatest during fall and spring. The interactions (estimated 
bycatch) by this fishery with harbor porpoise are greater than those of 
all other fisheries combined.
    Harbor porpoise are also known to interact with a series of coastal 
gillnet fisheries that operate, primarily, in state waters from New 
Jersey south to North Carolina. The extent (number of takes) of these 
interactions is not known; however, the greatest number of interactions 
(based on strandings data) in these fisheries occurs from mid-March 
through May in North Carolina and Virginia. These interactions will not 
be considered by this TRT, because they occur in markedly different 
fisheries from the GME sink-gillnet fishery and primarily in state 
waters, which are under a different jurisdiction from the GME sink- 
gillnet fishery. Another TRT, or a different management process 
focusing on management of state fisheries, will address the bycatch of 
harbor porpoise in the mid-Atlantic coastal gillnet fisheries.

    Dated: February 6, 1996.
Patricia A. Montanio,
Acting Deputy Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 96-3013 Filed 2-9-96; 8:45 am]