[Federal Register Volume 73, Number 245 (Friday, December 19, 2008)]
[Pages 77631-77632]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E8-30240]



National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XM07

Taking and Importing Marine Mammals; Undersea Warfare Training 
Range Activities

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

ACTION: Notice; receipt of application for letter of authorization; 
request for comments and information.


SUMMARY: NMFS has received a request from the U.S. Navy (Navy) for 
authorization for the take of marine mammals incidental to Navy 
training activities conducted in the Undersea Warfare Training Range 
(USWTR) off the east coast of the United States. Pursuant to the 
implementing regulations of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), 
NMFS is announcing our receipt of the Navy's request for the 
development and implementation of regulations governing the incidental 
taking of marine mammals and inviting information, suggestions, and 
comments on the Navy's application and request.

DATES: Comments and information must be received no later than January 
20, 2009.

ADDRESSES: Comments on the application should be addressed to Michael 
Payne, Chief, Permits, Conservation and Education Division, Office of 
Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West 
Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910-3225. The mailbox address for 
providing email comments is [email protected]. NMFS is not 
responsible for e-mail comments sent to addresses other than the one 
provided here. Comments sent via e-mail, including all attachments, 
must not exceed a 10-megabyte file size.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jolie Harrison, Office of Protected 
Resources, NMFS, (301) 713-2289, ext. 166.



    A copy of the Navy's application may be obtained by writing to the 
address specified above (See ADDRESSES), telephoning the contact listed 
above (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT), or visiting the internet 
at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental.htm. On September 
12, 2008, the Navy made available to the public,

[[Page 77632]]

the Draft Overseas Environmental Impact Statement (OEIS) / 
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for USWTR. The Draft OEIS/EIS is 
available at http://projects.earthtech.com/USWTR/EIS/DOEIS-EIS_2008/DOEIS_2008.htm. During the 45-day public comment period, the Navy 
hosted four public hearings on the proposed action and the potential 
environmental impact of the construction and operation of an USWTR.


    In the case of military readiness activities, sections 101(a)(5)(A) 
and (D) of the MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) direct the Secretary of 
Commerce (Secretary) to allow, upon request, the incidental, but not 
intentional taking of marine mammals by U.S. citizens who engage in a 
specified activity (other than commercial fishing), during periods of 
not more than five consecutive years each, if certain findings are made 
and regulations are issued or, if the taking is limited to harassment 
of no more than one year, The Secretary shall issue a notice of 
proposed authorization for public review.
    Authorization for incidental takings may be granted if NMFS finds 
that the taking will have no more than a negligible impact on the 
affected species or stock(s), will not have an unmitigable adverse 
impact on the availability of the species or stock(s) for subsistence 
uses, and that the permissible methods of taking and requirements 
pertaining to the mitigation, monitoring and reporting of such taking 
are set forth.
    NMFS has defined ``negligible impact'' in 50 CFR 216.103 as:
    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.
    With respect to military readiness activities, the MMPA defines 
``harassment'' as:
    (i) any act that injures or has the significant potential to 
injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild [Level A 
Harassment]; or (ii) any act that disturbs or is likely to disturb a 
marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing 
disruption of natural behavioral patterns, including, but not 
limited to, migration, surfacing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or 
sheltering, to a point where such behavioral patterns are abandoned 
or significantly altered [Level B Harassment].

Summary of Request

    In February 2008, NMFS received an application from the Navy 
requesting authorization for the take of 20 species of marine mammals 
incidental to upcoming Navy training activities to be conducted in the 
USWTR located in an area offshore of northeast Florida. These training 
activities will occur over the course of 5 years and are classified as 
military readiness activities. The Navy states that USWTR training 
activities may expose some of the marine mammals present in the area to 
sound from various mid-frequency and high-frequency active tactical 
sonar sources. The Navy requests authorization to take individuals of 
20 species of marine mammals by Level B behavioral harassment.

Specified Activities

    In the application submitted to NMFS, the Navy requests 
authorization for take of marine mammals incidental to antisubmarine 
warfare (ASW) training activities conducted in the USWTR, located 
within a 500-square-nautical mile (NM\2\) (1,713 square-kilometer 
(km\2\)) area offshore of northeast Florida. The edge of the range 
would be approximately 94 km (51 NM) from shore. The depth of water at 
the proposed site ranges from 37 to 366 meters (m) (120 to 1,200 feet 
    ASW training would involve up to three vessels and two aircraft 
using the range for any one training event, although events would 
typically involve fewer units. The proposed action would require 
logistical support for ASW training, including the handling (launch and 
recovery) of exercise torpedoes (non-explosive) and submarine target 
simulators. Table 1-1 in the Navy's application lists the activity 
types and the equipment and platforms involved in USWTR activities.

Information Solicited

    Interested persons may submit information, suggestions, and 
comments concerning the Navy's request (see ADDRESSES). All 
information, suggestions, and comments related to the Navy's USWTR 
request and NMFS' potential development and implementation of 
regulations governing the incidental taking of marine mammals by the 
Navy's USWTR activities will be considered by NMFS in developing, if 
appropriate, the most effective regulations governing the issuance of 
letters of authorization.

    Dated: December 16, 2008.
James H. Lecky,
Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries 
[FR Doc. E8-30240 Filed 12-18-08; 8:45 am]