[Federal Register Volume 75, Number 149 (Wednesday, August 4, 2010)]
[Pages 46912-46914]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2010-19143]



National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XW72

Draft 2010 Marine Mammal Stock Assessment Reports

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

ACTION:  Notice; request for comments.


SUMMARY:  NMFS reviewed the Alaska, Atlantic, and Pacific regional 
marine mammal stock assessment reports (SARs) in accordance with the 
Marine Mammal Protection Act. SARs for marine mammals in the Alaska, 
Atlantic, and Pacific regions were revised according to new 
information. NMFS solicits public comments on draft 2010 SARs.

DATES:  Comments must be received by November 2, 2010.

ADDRESSES:  The 2010 draft SARs, summaries of them, and references 
cited in this notice are available in electronic form via the Internet 
at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/sars/.
    Copies of the Alaska Regional SARs may be requested from Robyn 
Angliss, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, NMFS, 7600 Sand Point Way, NE 
BIN 15700, Seattle, WA 98115-0070.
    Copies of the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico Regional SARs may be 
requested from Gordon Waring, Northeast Fisheries Science Center, 166 
Water St., Woods Hole, MA 02543.
    Copies of the Pacific Regional SARs may be requested from Jim 
Carretta, Southwest Fisheries Science Center, 8604 La Jolla Shores 
Drive, La Jolla, CA 92037-1508.
    Send comments or requests for copies of reports to: Chief, Marine 
Mammal and Sea Turtle Conservation Division, Office of Protected 
Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, 
Silver Spring, MD 20910-3226, Attn: Stock Assessments. Comments may 
also be sent via facsimile (fax) to 301-427-2522 or via email to 
[email protected].

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:  Tom Eagle, Office of Protected 
Resources, 301-713-2322, ext. 105, e-mail [email protected]; Robyn 
Angliss 206- 526-4032, e-mail [email protected], regarding Alaska 
regional stock assessments; Gordon Waring, 508-495-2311, e-mail 
[email protected], regarding Atlantic regional stock assessments; 
or Jim Carretta, 858-546-7171, e-mail [email protected], regarding 
Pacific regional stock assessments.



    Section 117 of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) (16 U.S.C. 
1361 et seq.) requires NMFS and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
(FWS) to prepare stock assessments for each stock of marine mammals 
occurring in waters

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under the jurisdiction of the United States. These reports must contain 
information regarding the distribution and abundance of the stock, 
population growth rates and trends, estimates of annual human-caused 
mortality and serious injury from all sources, descriptions of the 
fisheries with which the stock interacts, and the status of the stock. 
Initial reports were completed in 1995.
    The MMPA requires NMFS and FWS to review the SARs at least annually 
for strategic stocks and stocks for which significant new information 
is available, and at least once every 3 years for non-strategic stocks. 
NMFS and the FWS are required to revise a SAR if the status of the 
stock has changed or can be more accurately determined. NMFS, in 
conjunction with the Alaska, Atlantic, and Pacific Scientific Review 
Groups (SRGs), reviewed the status of marine mammal stocks as required 
and revised reports in the Alaska, Atlantic, and Pacific regions to 
incorporate new information. NMFS solicits public comments on the draft 
2010 SARs.

Alaska Reports

    In the Alaska region, SARs for 23 stocks (14 strategic and 9 non-
strategic) were updated; 13 SARs were not updated. Most revisions 
included updates of abundance and/or mortality estimates. None of the 
updates resulted in change of status of a stock. Estimates of mortality 
and serious injury incidental to observed Federally-managed fisheries 
remain based on information obtained during the period, 2002-2006. 
Preliminary results from 2007 and 2008 are discussed in the section 
related to fishery mortality; however, these preliminary estimates have 
not yet been fully reviewed and are not combined with the previous 
estimates to obtain a new 5-year average.
    After receiving increasing reports of sightings of narwhal in 
waters under U.S. jurisdiction, a new SAR for narwhal has been added in 
the Alaska region. Narwhals observed in Alaskan waters likely belong to 
populations outside U.S. waters, and the stock of origin is unknown. 
Therefore, the SAR is for an unidentified stock of narwhal.
    As recommended by the Alaska SRG, the draft 2010 SAR for Cook Inlet 
beluga whales alters the way that abundance and the minimum estimate of 
abundance (Nmin) are reported. The abundance reported in the 2010 draft 
SAR is the mean of estimates from 2007 (375), 2008 (375), and 2009 
(321) and is 375. Nmin, which is a function of the abundance estimate 
and the coefficient of variation (CV) of that estimate, is 326. Nmin is 
used within the SAR only for calculating PBR, which remains 
undetermined for this stock.
    A new abundance estimate for the 2006/2007 survey is reported in 
the eastern North Pacific gray whale SAR. After realizing that early 
estimates of abundance of this stock were calculated from models using 
different parameters, NMFS scientists re-analyzed the entire history of 
abundance estimates for this stock using consistent methods (Laake et 
al. 2009). Punt and Wade (2009) used the new abundance estimates to 
evaluate the status and trend of the stock. These new analyses are 
included in the SAR and reaffirm that the stock remains within its 
Optimum Sustainable Population limits.
    NMFS scientists also considered guidance included in Taylor et al. 
(2003) to evaluate the potential to adjust recovery factors for stocks 
of endangered marine mammals in Alaska. This evaluation noted that for 
the central North Pacific (CNP) stock of humpback whales, Nmin exceeded 
5,000 and the trend was increasing. For endangered stocks with such 
abundance and trend that have a CV of 0.5 or less, Taylor et al. (2003) 
suggest a recovery factor of 0.5; however, the CV reported in the CNP 
humpback whale SAR (0.3) is an assumed value. Accordingly, the recovery 
factor was increased from 0.1 to 0.3, which is the value recommended 
for those cases when CV of the abundance estimate is larger than 0.5. 
As has been reported in previous CNP humpback SARs, the PBR is reported 
for the entire stock as well as for feeding aggregations in AK, two of 
which retain 0.1 as the recovery factor in the PBR calculation.

Atlantic Reports

    The draft 2010 SARs for 17 Atlantic Stocks were updated (9 
strategic and 8 non-strategic) and 4 Gulf of Mexico stocks (2 strategic 
and 2 non-strategic). The updates included revised abundance and/or 
mortality estimates for these stocks, and one update resulted in a 
modified status of a stock (long-fined pilot whale).
    In a SAR prepared in 2008 seven stocks of Atlantic coastal 
bottlenose dolphins were grouped into a single report. For the draft 
2010 SARs, each stock of coastal bottlenose dolphins is presented in a 
separate report. Stock structure was revised due to additional 
information into five stocks of coastal bottlenose dolphins in the 
Atlantic Ocean: Northern Migratory stock, Southern Migratory stock, 
South Carolina/Georgia Coastal stock, Northern Florida Coastal stock, 
and Central Florida Coastal stock. All of these stocks are strategic 
due to their origins of the previously identified, depleted coastal 
migratory stock.
    Three stocks of coastal bottlenose dolphins had been included in a 
single SAR for Northern Gulf of Mexico Coastal stocks in 2007-2009. 
These stocks are each described in a separate report in 2010, and are 
identified as the Gulf of Mexico Eastern Coastal stock, Gulf of Mexico 
Northern Coastal stock, and Gulf of Mexico Western Coastal stock. From 
2007-2009, each of these stocks was considered a strategic stock 
because the abundance estimate was outdated, PBR was undetermined, and 
human-caused mortality was occurring. Aerial surveys conducted in 2007 
provided abundance estimates for the Eastern and Northern Coastal 
stocks, which in turn led to the status becoming non-strategic. The 
Western Coastal stock was not surveyed in 2007. PBR remains 
undetermined, and status remains strategic.
    Among the Gulf of Mexico, Bay, Sound, and Estuary stocks of 
bottlenose dolphins, two previously separated stocks were combined into 
a single stock (Sarasota Bay/Little Sarasota Bay). Accordingly, this 
SAR describes the status of 32, rather than 33, stocks of bottlenose 
dolphins. The abundance estimate of one of these stocks (Barataria Bay) 
became outdated, and that stock's PBR was changed to undetermined.
    Analysis of the geographical separation in summer of long and 
short-finned pilot whale stocks in the Atlantic has been completed, and 
preliminary abundance estimates for the two stocks are included in the 
revised pilot whale reports. Similar analyses have not been completed 
for mortality and serious injury estimates; therefore, each of these 
SARs reports the combined mortality and serious injury estimate. The 
short-finned pilot whale stock remains non-strategic, but the status of 
the long-finned pilot whale stock is now considered strategic.
    A new SAR is included for a Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands stock of 
sperm whales in the Caribbean Sea. The abundance estimate for the 
Western North Atlantic stock of harbor seals became outdated in 2010, 
and PBR for the stock was changed to undetermined. The harbor seal 
stock remains non-strategic.

Pacific Reports

    In the Pacific region, SARs were revised for 51 stocks, and 12 SARs 
were added for a total of 63 draft 2010 SARs, including 12 
``strategic'' stocks, 48 ``non-strategic'' stocks, and three stocks of 
unknown status. The remaining 12 Pacific region stocks were not 

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General updates are as follows. Abundance estimates were updated for 41 
stocks, and these updates did not change the status of most stocks. The 
new abundance for short-finned pilot whales increased the PBR so that 
the status of this stock was changed from strategic to non-strategic. 
Information updates for longline fisheries in the Pacific Islands 
region are also included in a fishery description appendix. Where 
available, information on subspecies designations has been included in 
these reports to reflect local taxonomic and conservation issues 
(Perrin et al. 2009).
    The former Hawaii stock of spinner dolphin was renamed as the 
Hawaii pelagic stock, and five new near-shore stocks of spinner 
dolphins were identified in the Hawaiian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). 
These new spinner dolphin stocks are the Hawaii (Island) stock, Oahu, 
Four Islands (Maui, Molokai, Lanai, and Kahoolawe) stock, Niihau stock, 
Kure-Midway stock, and the Pearl and Hermes stock.
    The SAR for the Hawaii stock of bottlenose dolphin was renamed the 
Hawaii pelagic stock, and four new near-shore stocks were identified. 
The new bottlenose dolphin stocks are the Kauai-Niihau stock, Oahu 
stock, Four Islands stock, and the Hawaii (Island) stock.
    Three new reports are added for dolphin stocks incidentally taken 
in longline fisheries or identified during nearshore surveys around 
American Samoa. American Samoa stocks are added for spinner dolphins, 
false killer whales, and rough-tooth dolphins. Estimates of mortality 
and serious injury are provided for false killer whales and rough-
toothed dolphins, but there are no abundance estimates for the new 
American Samoa stocks. Accordingly, the status of each of the three new 
American Samoa stocks is unknown.
    There is a substantial revision of the SAR for the Pacific Islands 
Stock Complex of false killer whales. Key revisions include stock 
identity and range, a newly recognized fishery, proration of incidental 
mortality and serious injury among stocks and fisheries, and abundance 
estimates for animals south of the U.S. EEZ around Hawaii. Revisions 
related to stock identity and geographic range include evidence that 
there is overlap in the ranges of the HI insular and pelagic stocks, 
both of which are exposed to commercial fishing operations of the 
Hawaii-based longline fisheries. The identity of the pelagic stock was 
revised to clarify that the stock occupies international waters as well 
as the U.S. EEZ around Hawaii; however, the geographic limits of the 
stock's range are unknown. The SAR also describes a new commercial 
fishery, the HI shortline fishery, for which there are anecdotal 
reports of interactions with false killer whales. Mortality and serious 
injury of false killer whales incidental to longline fishing are 
allocated among false killer whale stocks and fisheries by a 
statistical algorithm, as recommended by the Pacific SRG. The revised 
SAR also includes an abundance estimate (and PBR) calculated from a 
2005 survey south of the HI EEZ, including international waters and the 
U.S. EEZ surrounding Johnston Atoll.

    Dated: July 29, 2010.
James H. Lecky,
Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries 
[FR Doc. 2010-19143 Filed 8-3-10; 8:45 am]