[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 173 (Friday, September 6, 2013)]
[Pages 54905-54906]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-21718]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R7-ES-2013-N145; 70120-1337-C4]

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Southwest Alaska 
Distinct Population Segment of the Northern Sea Otter (Enhydra lutris 
kenyoni): Availability of Recovery Plan

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of document availability.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of our recovery plan for the southwest Alaska Distinct 
Population Segment (DPS) of the northern sea otter (Enhydra lutris 
kenyoni), listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act of 
1973, as amended (Act). Our recovery plan describes the status, current 
management, recovery objectives and criteria, and specific actions 
needed to enable us to delist the southwest Alaska DPS of the northern 
sea otter.

ADDRESSES: Copies of the recovery plan are available by request from 
the Service, Marine Mammals Management Office, 1011 East Tudor Road, 
MS-341, Anchorage, AK 99503; telephone (907) 786-3800; facsimile (907) 
786-3816. If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), 
call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-877-8339. An 
electronic copy of the draft recovery plan is also available at: http://alaska.fws.gov/fisheries/mmm/seaotters/recovery.htm.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Frances Mann, Sea Otter Program Lead, 
at the above address or telephone number.


Previous Federal Action

    We listed the southwest Alaska DPS of the northern sea otter as 
threatened on August 9, 2005 (70 FR 46366). For a description of the 
taxonomy, distribution, status, breeding biology and habitat, and a 
summary of factors affecting the species, please see the final listing 
rule. We designated critical habitat for this DPS on October 8, 2009 
(74 FR 51988). On October 12, 2010, the Service published in the 
Federal Register a notice of the availability of the draft recovery 
plan for the southwest Alaska DPS of the northern sea otter (75 FR 
62562) and requested comments on the draft recovery plan. We received 
six comments in response. On April 26, 2013, we announced our active 
status review for the southwest Alaska DPS of the northern sea otter in 
the Federal Register and invited comments and new information to assist 
us in our review (78 FR 24767).
    The Service carefully considered the comments, recommendations, and 
suggestions provided by the State of Alaska, the Marine Mammal 
Commission, nongovernmental organizations, and others on the draft 
recovery plan. We revised the recovery plan, as appropriate, to address 
the comments, recommendations, and suggestions received.


    The southwest Alaska DPS of the northern sea otter's range extends 
from Attu Island at the western end of the

[[Page 54906]]

Near Islands in the Aleutians, east to Kamishak Bay on the western side 
of lower Cook Inlet, and includes waters adjacent to the Aleutian 
Islands, the Alaska Peninsula, the Kodiak Archipelago, and the Barren 
Islands (see Figure 3 of the Proposed Listing Rule; 69 FR 6605; 
February 11, 2004). Within this range, sea otters generally occur in 
nearshore, shallow waters less than 100 meters (328 feet) in depth. 
This population experienced a rapid decline in abundance of more than 
50 percent since the late 1980s. At the time of our 2005 final listing 
rule, the DPS consisted of approximately 42,000 sea otters.
    Recovery of endangered or threatened animals and plants to the 
point where they are again secure, self-sustaining members of their 
ecosystems is a primary goal of our endangered species program. The Act 
requires us to develop recovery plans for listed species, unless such a 
plan would not promote the conservation of a particular species. We 
prepare recovery plans for most listed species native to the United 
States. Recovery plans describe actions necessary for the conservation 
and survival of the species, establish criteria for reclassifying or 
delisting listed species, and estimate time and cost for implementing 
needed recovery measures. Section 4(f) of the Act requires us to 
provide public notice and an opportunity for public review and comment 
during recovery plan development.
    In March 2006, the Regional Director for the Alaska Region of the 
Service formed a recovery team to serve in an advisory capacity to 
develop a draft recovery plan for the southwest Alaska DPS of the 
northern sea otter.

Current Range and Threats

    The current range of the southwest Alaska DPS of the northern sea 
otter extends from west to east across more than 2400 kilometers 
(approximately 1,500 miles) of shoreline. The magnitude of the 
population decline has varied over the range. In some areas, numbers 
have declined by more than an order of magnitude, while in other areas 
no decline has been detected. To address such differences, this 
recovery plan identifies five management units (MUs) within the DPS: 
(1) Western Aleutian Islands; (2) Eastern Aleutian Islands; (3) South 
Alaska Peninsula; (4) Bristol Bay; and (5) Kodiak Archipelago, Kamishak 
Bay, and Alaska Peninsula.
    The cause of the overall decline is not known with certainty, but 
the weight of evidence points to increased predation, most likely by 
the killer whale, as the most likely cause. Predation is therefore 
considered a threat to the recovery of this DPS, but other threats, 
including infectious disease, biotoxins, contaminants, oil spills, food 
limitation, disturbance, bycatch in fisheries, subsistence harvest, 
loss of habitat, and illegal take, are also considered in this recovery 
plan. Threats are summarized in general, and their relative importance 
is assessed for each of the five MUs. Most threats are assessed to be 
of low importance to recovery of the DPS; the threats judged to be most 
important are predation (moderate to high importance) and oil spills 
(low to moderate importance). Threats from subsistence harvest, illegal 
take, and infectious disease are assessed to be of moderate importance 
in the Kodiak, Kamishak, and Alaska Peninsula MU, but of low importance 

Goals of Recovery Plan

    The goal of the recovery plan is to control or reduce threats to 
the southwest Alaska DPS of the northern sea otter to the extent that 
this DPS no longer requires the protections afforded by the Act and 
therefore can be delisted. To achieve this goal, the recovery plan 
identifies three objectives: (1) Achieve and maintain a self-sustaining 
population of sea otters in each MU; (2) maintain enough sea otters to 
ensure that they are playing a functional role in their nearshore 
ecosystem; and (3) mitigate threats sufficiently to ensure persistence 
of sea otters. Each of these objectives includes objective, measurable 
criteria to determine if the objective has been met; these are known as 
``delisting criteria.'' They require that, in order for the DPS to be 
removed from the Endangered and Threatened Species List, at least three 
of the five MUs must have met the delisting criteria. The plan also 
contains criteria to determine if the DPS should be considered for 
reclassification as endangered; these are known as ``uplisting 
criteria.'' Delisting should not be considered if any MU meets the 
criteria specified for uplisting to endangered.
    Site-specific management actions to achieve recovery and delisting 
of the DPS are specified in the recovery action outline and narrative. 
As demographic characteristics of the population constitute one of the 
three types of delisting criteria, population monitoring and population 
modeling are high priorities. Monitoring the status of the kelp forest 
ecosystem in the Western Aleutian and Eastern Aleutian management units 
is also a high priority, as results from such monitoring will be needed 
to evaluate the ecosystem-based delisting criteria. Other high-priority 
actions include identifying characteristics of sea otter habitat, and 
ensuring that adequate oil spill response capability exists in 
southwest Alaska. As predation is considered to be the most important 
threat to recovery, additional research on that topic is also a high 
priority. The recovery implementation schedule provides details 
regarding the timing, costs, and agencies or entities responsible for 
implementing each recovery action necessary to achieve the recovery 
plan's objectives and goal.
    We welcome continuing input on this recovery plan, and we will 
consider information received on an ongoing basis to inform the 
implementation of recovery activities and any future updates to the 
recovery plan.

    Authority: The authority for this action is section 4(f) of the 
Act, 16 U.S.C. 1533(f).

    Dated: August 29, 2013.
Geoffrey L. Haskett,
Regional Director, Alaska Region, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2013-21718 Filed 9-5-13; 8:45 am]