[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 193 (Thursday, October 4, 2012)]
[Pages 60679-60680]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-24538]



National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XC090

Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; U.S. 
Navy Training and Testing Activities in the Atlantic Fleet Training and 
Testing Study Area

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 to take marine mammals incidental to the training and 
testing activities conducted in the Atlantic Fleet Training and Testing 
(AFTT) study area from January 2014 through January 2019. Pursuant to 
the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), NMFS announces our receipt of 
the Navy's request for the development and implementation of 
regulations governing the incidental taking of marine mammals and 
invites information, suggestions, and comments on the Navy's 
application and request.

DATES: Comments and information must be received no later than November 
5, 2012.

ADDRESSES: Comments on the application should be addressed to Michael 
Payne, Chief, Permits and Conservation 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 email 
comments sent to addresses other than the one provided here. Comments 
sent via email, including all attachments, must not exceed a 10-
megabyte file size.
    Instructions: All comments received are a part of the public record 
and will generally be posted to http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental.htm without change. All Personal Identifying Information 
(for example, name, address, etc.) voluntarily submitted by the 
commenter may be publicly accessible. Do not submit Confidential 
Business Information or otherwise sensitive or protected information.
    An electronic copy of the Navy's application may be obtained by 
writing to the address specified above, telephoning the contact listed 
below (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT), or visiting the internet 
at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental.htm. The Navy's 
Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for AFTT was made available 
to the public on May 11, 2012 (77 FR 27742). NMFS is a cooperating 
agency in the development of the Navy's DEIS for AFTT. The dates and 
times of the public meetings may be viewed at: http://www.aftteis.com. 
Documents cited in this notice may also be viewed, by appointment, 
during regular business hours, at the aforementioned address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Brian D. Hopper, Office of Protected 
Resources, NMFS, (301) 427-8401.



    Sections 101(a)(5)(A) and (D) of the MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) 
direct the Secretary of Commerce to allow, upon request, the 
incidental, but not intentional, taking of small numbers of marine 
mammals by United States citizens who engage in a specified activity 
(other than commercial fishing) within a specific geographical region 
if certain findings are made and either regulations are issued or, if 
the taking is

[[Page 60680]]

limited to harassment, a notice of a proposed authorization is provided 
to the public for review.
    Authorization for incidental takings shall be granted if NMFS finds 
that the taking will have a negligible impact on the species or 
stock(s), will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the 
availability of the species or stock(s) for subsistence uses (where 
relevant), and if the permissible methods of taking and requirements 
pertaining to the mitigation, monitoring and reporting of such takings 
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 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

    On April 13, 2012, NMFS received an application from the Navy 
requesting two letters of authorization (LOAs) for the take of 40 
species of marine mammals incidental to Navy training and testing 
activities to be conducted in the AFTT Study Area over 5 years. The 
Navy requests a 5-year LOA for training activities and a 5-year LOA for 
testing activities, each proposed to be conducted from 2014 through 
2019. The Study Area includes the following range complexes: the 
Northeast Range Complexes (consisting of the Boston, Narragansett Bay, 
and Atlantic City Ranges Complexes); the Naval Undersea Warfare Center 
Division, Newport Testing Range; the Virginia Capes Range Complex 
(VACAPES); the Navy Cherry Point Range Complex (CHPT); the Jacksonville 
Range Complex (JAX), the South Florida Ocean Measurement Facility 
Testing Range; the Undersea Warfare Training Range; the Key West Range 
Complex; the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Panama City Division Testing 
Range; and the Gulf of Mexico Range Complex (GOMEX) (see Figure 1-1 in 
the Navy's LOA application for a map of the AFTT Study Area). In 
addition, the Study Area includes Navy pierside locations and areas on 
the high seas where maintenance, training, or testing may occur. These 
activities are classified as military readiness activities. The Navy 
states that these activities may expose some of the marine mammals 
present within the Study Area to sound from active sonar, underwater 
detonations, and pile driving and removal. In addition, incidental 
takes of marine mammals may occur from ship strikes.

Description of the Specified Activity

    In the application submitted to NMFS, the Navy requests 
authorization to take marine mammals incidental to conducting training 
and testing operations that involve the use of active acoustics and 
underwater detonations. These non-impulsive (sonar) and impulsive 
(explosives) sources would be used during the following training and 
testing activities: amphibious warfare; anti-surface warfare; anti-
submarine warfare; mine warfare; naval special warfare; Naval Air 
Systems Command (NAVAIR) testing; Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) 
testing; Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) testing; and 
Office of Naval Research (ONR) and Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) 
testing. Detailed descriptions of these activities are included in the 
LOA application.

Information Solicited

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

    Dated: September 27, 2012.
Helen M. Golde,
Acting Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2012-24538 Filed 10-3-12; 8:45 am]