[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 166 (Friday, August 26, 2016)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 58895-58901]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-20478]



National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Parts 223 and 224

[Docket No. 160614518-6518-01]
RIN 0648-XE685

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife; 90-Day Finding on a Petition 
To List Chambered Nautilus as Threatened or Endangered Under the 
Endangered Species Act

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

ACTION: 90-Day petition finding, request for information.


SUMMARY: We, NMFS, announce a 90-day finding on a petition to list the 
chambered nautilus (Nautilus pompilius) as a threatened species or an 
endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). We find that 
the petition, along with information readily available in our files, 
presents substantial scientific or commercial information indicating 
that the petitioned action may be warranted. We will conduct a status 
review of this species to determine whether the petitioned action is in 
fact warranted. To ensure that the status review is comprehensive, we 
are soliciting scientific and commercial information pertaining to the 
chambered nautilus from any interested party.

DATES: Information and comments on the subject action must be received 
by October 25, 2016.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, information, or data on this 
document, identified by the code NOAA-NMFS-2016-0098, by either of the 
following methods:
     Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2016-0098. Click the ``Comment Now'' icon, 
complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit written comments to Maggie Miller, NMFS 
Office of Protected Resources (F/PR3), 1315 East West Highway, Silver 
Spring, MD 20910, USA.
    Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other 
address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, 
may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the 
public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business 
information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily 
by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous 
comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you wish to remain 
    Copies of the petition and related materials are available on our 
Web site at http://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/pr/species/invertebrates/chambered-nautilus.html.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Maggie Miller, Office of Protected 
Resources, 301-427-8403.



    On May 31, 2016, we received a petition from the Center for 
Biological Diversity to list the chambered nautilus (N. pompilius) as a 
threatened species or an endangered species under the ESA. Copies of 
the petition are available upon request (see ADDRESSES).

ESA Statutory, Regulatory, and Policy Provisions and Evaluation 

    Section 4(b)(3)(A) of the ESA of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 
et seq.), requires, to the maximum extent practicable, that within 90 
days of receipt of a petition to list a species as threatened or 
endangered, the Secretary of Commerce make a finding on whether that 
petition presents substantial scientific or commercial information 
indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted, and to promptly 
publish such finding in the Federal Register (16 U.S.C. 1533(b)(3)(A)). 
When it is found that substantial scientific or commercial information 
in a petition indicates the petitioned action may be warranted (a 
``positive 90-day finding''), we are required to promptly commence a 
review of the status of the species concerned during which we will 
conduct a comprehensive review of the best available scientific and 
commercial information. In such cases, we conclude the review with a 
finding as to whether, in fact, the petitioned action is warranted 
within 12 months of receipt of the petition. Because the finding at the 
12-month stage is based on a more thorough review of the available 
information, as compared to the narrow scope of review at the 90-day 
stage, a ``may be warranted'' finding does not prejudge the outcome of 
the status review.
    Under the ESA, a listing determination may address a species, which 
is defined to also include subspecies and, for any vertebrate species, 
any distinct population segment (DPS) that interbreeds when mature (16 
U.S.C. 1532(16)). Because the chambered nautilus is an invertebrate, 
the DPS option does not apply. Under the ESA, a species or subspecies 
is ``endangered'' if it is in danger of extinction throughout all or a 
significant portion of its range, or ``threatened'' if it is likely to 
become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a 
significant portion of its range (ESA sections 3(6) and 3(20), 
respectively, 16 U.S.C. 1532(6) and (20)). Pursuant to the ESA

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and our implementing regulations, we determine whether species are 
threatened or endangered based on any one or a combination of the 
following five section 4(a)(1) factors: The present or threatened 
destruction, modification, or curtailment of habitat or range; 
overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes; disease or predation; inadequacy of existing 
regulatory mechanisms; and any other natural or manmade factors 
affecting the species' existence (16 U.S.C. 1533(a)(1), 50 CFR 
    ESA-implementing regulations issued jointly by NMFS and the U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service (50 CFR 424.14(b)) define ``substantial 
information'' in the context of reviewing a petition to list, delist, 
or reclassify a species as the amount of information that would lead a 
reasonable person to believe that the measure proposed in the petition 
may be warranted. In evaluating whether substantial information is 
contained in a petition, we must consider whether the petition: (1) 
Clearly indicates the administrative measure recommended and gives the 
scientific and any common name of the species involved; (2) contains 
detailed narrative justification for the recommended measure, 
describing, based on available information, past and present numbers 
and distribution of the species involved and any threats faced by the 
species; (3) provides information regarding the status of the species 
over all or a significant portion of its range; and (4) is accompanied 
by the appropriate supporting documentation in the form of 
bibliographic references, reprints of pertinent publications, copies of 
reports or letters from authorities, and maps (50 CFR 424.14(b)(2)).
    At the 90-day finding stage, we evaluate the petitioners' request 
based upon the information in the petition including its references 
considered together with the information readily available in our 
files. We do not conduct additional research, and we do not solicit 
information from parties outside the agency to help us in evaluating 
the petition. We will accept the petitioners' sources and 
characterizations of the information presented if they appear to be 
based on accepted scientific principles, unless we have specific 
information in our files that indicates the petition's information is 
incorrect, unreliable, obsolete, or otherwise irrelevant to the 
requested action. Information that is susceptible to more than one 
interpretation or that is contradicted by other available information 
will not be dismissed at the 90-day finding stage, so long as it is 
reliable and a reasonable person would conclude it supports the 
petitioners' assertions. In other words, conclusive information 
indicating the species may meet the ESA's requirements for listing is 
not required to make a positive 90-day finding. We will not conclude 
that a lack of specific information alone precludes a positive 90-day 
finding if a reasonable person would conclude that the unknown 
information itself suggests an extinction risk of concern for the 
species at issue.
    To make a 90-day finding on a petition to list a species, we 
evaluate whether the petition presents substantial scientific or 
commercial information indicating the subject species may be either 
threatened or endangered, as defined by the ESA. First, we evaluate 
whether the information presented in the petition, along with the 
information readily available in our files, indicates that the 
petitioned entity constitutes a ``species'' eligible for listing under 
the ESA. Next, we evaluate whether the information indicates that the 
species faces an extinction risk that is cause for concern; this may be 
indicated in information expressly discussing the species' status and 
trends, or in information describing impacts and threats to the 
species. We evaluate any information on specific demographic factors 
pertinent to evaluating extinction risk for the species (e.g., 
population abundance and trends, productivity, spatial structure, age 
structure, sex ratio, diversity, current and historical range, habitat 
integrity or fragmentation), and the potential contribution of 
identified demographic risks to extinction risk for the species. We 
then evaluate the potential links between these demographic risks and 
the causative impacts and threats identified in section 4(a)(1).
    Information presented on impacts or threats should be specific to 
the species and should reasonably suggest that one or more of these 
factors may be operative threats that act or have acted on the species 
to the point that it may warrant protection under the ESA. Broad 
statements about generalized threats to the species, or identification 
of factors that could negatively impact a species, do not constitute 
substantial information indicating that listing may be warranted. We 
look for information indicating that not only is the particular species 
exposed to a factor, but that the species may be responding in a 
negative fashion; then we assess the potential significance of that 
negative response.
    Many petitions identify risk classifications made by 
nongovernmental organizations, such as the International Union for 
Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the American Fisheries Society, or 
NatureServe, as evidence of extinction risk for a species. Risk 
classifications by other organizations or made under other Federal or 
state statutes may be informative, but such classification alone may 
not provide the rationale for a positive 90-day finding under the ESA. 
For example, as explained by NatureServe, their assessments of a 
species' conservation status do ``not constitute a recommendation by 
NatureServe for listing under the U.S. Endangered Species Act'' because 
NatureServe assessments ``have different criteria, evidence 
requirements, purposes and taxonomic coverage than government lists of 
endangered and threatened species, and therefore these two types of 
lists should not be expected to coincide'' (http://www.natureserve.org/prodServices/pdf/NatureServeStatusAssessmentsListing-Dec%202008.pdf). 
Additionally, species classifications under IUCN and the ESA are not 
equivalent; data standards, criteria used to evaluate species, and 
treatment of uncertainty are also not necessarily the same. Thus, when 
a petition cites such classifications, we will evaluate the source of 
information that the classification is based upon in light of the 
standards on extinction risk and impacts or threats discussed above.

Taxonomy of the Petitioned Chambered Nautilus

    The petition notes that the taxonomy of the nautiloids is 
controversial. Based on the Integrated Taxonomic Information System, 
which has a disclaimer that it ``is based on the latest scientific 
consensus available . . . [but] is not a legal authority for statutory 
or regulatory purposes,'' there are presently five recognized species 
within the genus Nautilus: N. belauensis (Saunders, 1981), N. 
macromphalus (Sowerby, 1849), N. pompilius (Linnaeus, 1758), N. 
repertus (Iredale, 1944), and N. stenomphalus (Sowerby, 1849). However, 
a review and analysis of recent genetic and morphological data suggests 
that perhaps only two of these five species are valid: N. pompilius and 
N. macromphalus, with the other three species more parsimoniously 
placed within N. pompilius (Ward et al., 2016). While the taxonomy of 
the Nautilus genus may not be fully resolved, we find that the 
information provided by the petitioner and readily available in our 
files presents substantial scientific or commercial information 
indicating that the petitioned entity, N. pompilius, constitutes a 
valid ``species'' and is thus

[[Page 58897]]

is a type of entity that may be eligible for listing under the ESA.

Range, Distribution and Life History

    The chambered nautilus is found in tropical, coastal reef, deep-
water habitats of the Indo-Pacific. Its known range includes waters off 
American Samoa, Australia, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, New 
Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu, 
and it may also potentially occur in waters off China, Myanmar, Western 
Samoa, Thailand, and Vietnam (Convention on International Trade in 
Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) 2016). Within its 
range, the chambered nautilus has a patchy distribution and is 
unpredictable in its area of occupancy. Based on multiple research 
studies, the presence of suitable habitat on coral reefs does not 
necessarily indicate the likelihood of chambered nautilus occurrence 
(CITES 2016). Additionally, the chambered nautilus is limited in its 
horizontal and vertical distribution throughout its range due to 
physiological constraints. Physiologically, the chambered nautilus 
cannot tolerate temperatures above approximately 25 [deg]C or depths 
exceeding around 750-800 meters (m) (Ward et al., 1980; Carlson 2010). 
At depths greater than 800 m, the hydrostatic pressure will cause the 
shell of the nautilus to implode, thereby killing the animal (Ward et 
al., 1980). Based on these physiological constraints, the chambered 
nautilus is considered to be an extreme habitat specialist, found in 
association with steep-sloped forereefs with sandy, silty, or muddy-
bottomed substrates. Within these habitats, the species ranges from 
around 100 m depths (which may vary depending on the water temperature) 
to around 500 m depths (CITES 2016). The chambered nautilus does not 
swim in the open water column (likely due to its vulnerability to 
predation), but rather remains near the reef slopes and bottom 
substrate, and thus can be best characterized as a nektobenthic or 
epibenthic species (Barord et al., 2014; CITES 2016).
    Chambered nautiluses are described as deep-sea scavenging 
generalists and opportunistic predators. They have up to 90 retractable 
appendages, or tentacles, that they use to dig in the substrate and 
feed on a variety of organisms, including fish, crustaceans, echinoids, 
nematodes, cephalopods, other marine invertebrates, and detrital matter 
(Saunders and Ward 2010). The chambered nautilus also has an acute 
sense of olfaction and can easily smell odors (such as prey) from 
significant distances (Basil et al., 2000).
    The general life history characteristics of the chambered nautilus 
are that of a rare, long-lived, late-maturing, and slow-growing marine 
invertebrate species, with likely low reproductive output. 
Circumferential growth rate for the chambered nautilus has been 
estimated to range from 0.053 mm/day to 0.23 mm/day, with growth rates 
slowing as the animal approaches maturity (Dunstan et al., 2010; 
Dunstan et al., 2011b); however, overall shell size appears to vary 
among regions, with smaller shell diameters (170-180 mm) noted around 
Fiji and the Philippines (Tanabe et al., 1990), and larger diameters 
(up to 222 mm) off Western Australia. Additionally, the species 
exhibits sexual dimorphism, with males consistently growing to larger 
sizes than females (Saunders and Ward 2010). Males also tend to 
dominate the sex ratios in populations, with observed proportions 
ranging from 69 to 95 percent in observed populations (Saunders and 
Ward 2010).
    Chambered nautilus longevity is at least 20 years, with age to 
maturity between 10 and 17 years (Dunstan et al., 2011b; Ward et al., 
2016). Very little is known regarding nautilus reproduction in the 
wild. Observations of captive animals suggest that nautiluses reproduce 
sexually and have multiple reproductive cycles over the course of their 
lifetime. Based on data from captive N. belauensis and N. macromphalus 
individuals, female nautiluses may lay up to 10 to 20 eggs per year, 
which hatch after a lengthy embryonic period of around 10 to 12 months 
(Uchiyama and Tanabe 1999; Barord and Basil 2014). There is no larval 
phase, with juveniles hatching at around 22-23 mm in diameter, and 
potentially migrating to deeper and cooler waters (Barord and Basil 
2014); however, live hatchlings have rarely been observed in the wild.
    Overall, given the life history traits and physiological habitat 
constraints of N. pompilius, chambered nautilus populations (discussed 
in more detail below) are extremely susceptible to depletion and 
vulnerable to local extirpations (CITES 2016).

Analysis of Information Presented in the Petition Along With 
Information Readily Available in NMFS' Files

    The petition contains information on the chambered nautilus, 
including its taxonomy, morphological characteristics, geographic 
distribution, habitat, population abundance and trends, and factors 
contributing to the species' decline. According to the petition, all 
five causal factors in section 4(a)(1) of the ESA are adversely 
affecting the continued existence of the chambered nautilus: (A) The 
present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its 
habitat or range; (B) overutilization for commercial, recreational, 
scientific, or educational purposes; (C) disease or predation; (D) 
inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; and (E) other natural or 
manmade factors.
    In the following sections, we summarize and evaluate the 
information presented in the petition, which we consider together with 
information readily available in our files on the status of N. 
pompilius, including demographic factors, and the ESA section 4(a)(1) 
factors that may be affecting its risk of global extinction. Based on 
this evaluation, we determine whether a reasonable person would 
conclude that an endangered or threatened listing under the ESA may be 
warranted for this species.

Abundance and Population Trends

    The global abundance of the chambered nautilus is unknown, with no 
available historical baseline population data. In fact, the first study 
to estimate baseline population size and density for the species, in a 
given area, was only recently conducted by Dunstan et al., (2011a). 
This study examined the N. pompilius population at Osprey Reef, an 
isolated coral seamount off Australia's northeastern coast, with no 
history of nautilus exploitation. Based on data collected from 2000 to 
2006, the authors estimated that the population at Osprey Reef 
consisted of between 844 and 4,467 individuals, with a density estimate 
of 13.6 individuals per square kilometer (km\2\) (Dunstan et al., 
2011a). Subsequent research, conducted by Barord et al., (2014), 
provided density estimates of nautiluses (species not identified) from 
four locations in the Indo-Pacific: The Panglao region of the Bohol 
Sea, Philippines, with 0.03 individuals per km\2\, Taena Bank near Pago 
Pago harbor, American Samoa, with 0.16 individuals per km\2\, the Beqa 
Passage in Viti Levu, Fiji, with 0.21 individuals per km\2\, and the 
Great Barrier Reef along a transect from Cairns to Lizard Island, 
Australia, with 0.34 individuals per km\2\. With the exception of the 
Bohol Sea, these populations are located in areas where fishing for 
nautilus does not occur, suggesting that nautiluses may be naturally 
rare, or that other unknown factors, besides fishing, may be affecting 
abundance of these species. The authors also indicate that the 
population estimates from this study

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may, in fact, be overestimates as they used baited remote underwater 
video systems to attract individuals to the observation area (Barord et 
al., 2014). In either case, these very low population estimates suggest 
that chambered nautiluses are especially vulnerable to exploitation, 
with limited capacity to recover from depletion. This theory is further 
supported by the comparison between the population size in the Panglao 
region of the Bohol Sea, where nautilus fishing is occurring, and the 
unfished sites in American Samoa, Fiji, and Australia, with the Bohol 
Sea population estimated to be less than 20 percent of the smallest 
unfished population (Barord et al., 2014).
    In terms of current trends in abundance, populations are considered 
to be stable in areas where fisheries are absent (e.g., Fiji and 
Solomon Islands), although data to confirm this are lacking (CITES 
2016). In the Osprey Reef population discussed above, Dunstan et al. 
(2010) used mark-and-recapture methods to examine the trend in the 
catch per unit effort (CPUE) of individuals over a 12-year period. 
Analysis of the CPUE data showed a slight increase of 28 percent from 
1997 to 2008, and while this increase was not statistically 
significant, the results indicate a stable N. pompilius population in 
this unexploited area (Dunstan et al., 2010). However, in locations 
where fisheries have operated or currently operate, anecdotal declines 
and observed decreases in catches of nautilus species are reported. 
Citing multiple personal communications, the 2016 proposal to include 
the Family Nautilidae in Appendix II of CITES (CITES 2016) noted 
declines of N. pompilius in Indian and New Caledonian waters, where 
commercial harvest occurred in the past for several decades, and in 
Indonesian waters, where harvest is suspected to be increasing. In 
fact, traders in Indonesia have observed a significant decrease in the 
number of nautiluses collected over the past 10 years, which may be an 
indication of a declining and depleted population (Freitas and 
Krishnasamy 2016). In the Philippines, Dunstan et al. (2010) estimated 
that the CPUE of Nautilus spp. from four main nautilus fishing 
locations in the Palawan region has decreased by around 80 percent over 
a period of less than 30 years. Furthermore, in Tawi Tawi, 
Cayangacillo, and Ta[ntilde]on Strait/Cebu, Philippines, fisheries that 
once existed for chambered nautilus have since been discontinued due to 
the rarity of the species, with Alcala and Russ (2002) noting the 
likely extirpation of N. pompilius from Ta[ntilde]on Strait in the late 
1980s. The fact that the species has not yet recovered in the 
Ta[ntilde]on Strait, despite an absence of nautilus fishing in over two 
decades, further supports the susceptibility of the species to 
exploitation and its limited capability to repopulate an area after 
    Overall, given the species' natural rarity throughout its range, 
its presence as small, sparsely distributed, and highly fragmented 
populations, and its low fecundity and limited dispersal capability, 
with geographic barriers to movement and strict habitat requirements, 
we find that even a small number of mortalities could potentially have 
significant negative population-level effects that may lead to regional 
extirpations (as may have already occurred in Ta[ntilde]on Strait) and 
potentially extinction. As such, we find that these current demographic 
risks could increase the species' vulnerability to present and future 
threats to the point where the species may be at a risk of extinction 
and thus warrant further investigation.

Analysis of ESA Section 4(a)(1) Factors

    While the petition presents information on each of the ESA section 
4(a)(1) factors, we find that the information presented in the 
petition, together with information readily available within our files, 
regarding the overutilization of the chambered nautilus for commercial 
purposes is substantial enough to make a determination that a 
reasonable person would conclude that this species may warrant listing 
as endangered or threatened based on this factor alone. As such, we 
focus our discussion below on the evidence of overutilization for 
commercial purposes, with comments on the inadequacy of existing 
regulatory mechanisms to control the exploitation of chambered 
nautiluses, and present our evaluation of the information regarding 
these factors and their impact on the extinction risk of the species. 
However, we note that in the status review for this species, we will 
evaluate all ESA section 4(a)(1) factors to determine whether any one 
or a combination of these factors are causing declines in the species 
or likely to substantially negatively affect the species within the 
foreseeable future to such a point that the chambered nautilus is at 
risk of extinction or likely to become so in the foreseeable future.

Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or 
Educational Purposes

    Information presented in the petition and readily available in our 
files suggests that the primary threat to the chambered nautilus is 
overutilization for commercial purposes--mainly, harvest for the 
international nautilus shell trade. Chambered nautilus shells, which 
have a distinctive coiled interior, are traded as souvenirs to tourists 
and shell collectors and also used in jewelry and home d[eacute]cor 
items (where either the whole shell is sold as a decorative object or 
parts are used to create shell-inlay designs) (CITES 2016). The trade 
in the species is largely driven by the international demand for their 
shells and shell products since fishing for nautiluses has been found 
to have no cultural or historical relevance (Dunstan et al., 2010; De 
Angelis 2012; CITES 2016; Freitas and Krishnasamy 2016). Nautilus meat 
is also not locally in demand (or used for subsistence) but rather sold 
or consumed as a by-product of fishing for the nautilus shells (De 
Angelis 2012; CITES 2016). While all species of nautiluses are found in 
international trade, N. pompilius, being the most widely distributed, 
is the species most commonly traded (CITES 2016).
    Although most of the trade in chambered nautiluses originates from 
the range countries where fisheries exist or have existed for the 
species, particularly the Philippines and Indonesia, commodities also 
come from those areas with no known fisheries (such as Fiji and Solomon 
Islands). Other countries of origin for N. pompilius products include 
Australia, China, Taiwan, India, Malaysia, New Caledonia, Papua New 
Guinea, Vanuatu, and Vietnam (Freitas and Krishnasamy 2016). Known 
consumer markets for chambered nautilus products include the Middle 
East (United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia), Australia, Singapore, 
Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Hong Kong, Russia, Korea, Japan, 
China, Taiwan and India, with major consumer markets noted in the 
European Union (Italy, France, Portugal), the United Kingdom, and the 
United States (Freitas and Krishnasamy 2016). In fact, between 2005 and 
2014, the United States imported more than 900,000 chambered nautilus 
products, comprising at least 104,476 individuals and equating to a 
little over 1,000 individuals traded annually (CITES 2016). The vast 
majority of these U.S. imports originated from the Philippines (85 
percent of the traded commodities), followed by Indonesia (12 percent), 
China (1.4 percent), and India (1.3 percent) (CITES 2016).
    Because harvest of the chambered nautilus is primarily demand-
driven for the international shell trade, with no historical or 
cultural importance, the

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intensive nautilus fisheries that develop to meet this demand tend to 
follow a boom-bust cycle that lasts around a decade or two before 
becoming commercially nonviable (Dunstan et al., 2010; De Angelis 2012; 
CITES 2016). Given that the chambered nautilus exists as small, 
isolated populations, harvest of the species may continue for many 
years within a region, with the fisheries serially depleting each 
population until the species is essentially extirpated from that region 
(CITES 2016). Commercial harvest of the species is presently occurring 
or has occurred in the Philippines, Indonesia, New Caledonia, Papua New 
Guinea, and also potentially in China, Palau, Thailand and Vanuatu 
(CITES 2016). However, based on the number of commodities entering the 
international trade, it is likely that the Philippines and Indonesia 
have the largest commercial fisheries for chambered nautilus, with 
multiple harvesting sites throughout these nations (CITES 2016). 
Although information on harvest levels and the status of chambered 
nautilus populations within this portion of its range is limited, the 
available data, discussed below, do provide evidence of the negative 
impact of these fisheries and overutilization of the species that speak 
to the likelihood of its risk of extinction in the future.
    As mentioned previously, significant declines of N. pompilius have 
been observed in both the Philippines and Indonesia, primarily a result 
of overutilization of the species. For example, in 1971, Haven (1972 
cited in Haven (1977)) found that Ta[ntilde]on Strait, Philippines, was 
an abundant source of N. pompilius. From 1971 to 1972, around 3,200 
individuals were captured for study (Haven 1977). Filipino fisherman 
also began fishing this location for nautilus shells around this time, 
with the numbers of fishermen tripling during subsequent years; 
however, by 1975, the impact of this harvest on the species was already 
evident (Haven 1977). Fishermen in 1975 reported having to move 
operations to deeper water as catches were now rare at shallower 
depths, and the number of individuals per trap had also decreased 
(Haven 1977). Additionally, although the number of fishermen had 
tripled in those 3 years, and therefore fishing effort for the species 
intensified, the catch did not see an associated increase, indicating a 
likely decrease in the abundance of the species within the area (Haven 
1977). From October to November of 1975, fishermen reported around 220 
trapped individuals, a number similar to the 300 individuals caught by 
Haven (1977) in the month of October in 1971 and prior to the 
establishment of the nautilus fishery. By the early 1980s, CITES (2016) 
reports that around 5,000 chambered nautiluses were trapped per year in 
Ta[ntilde]on Strait, but by 1987, the population was estimated to have 
declined by 97 percent, with the species considered to be commercially 
extinct and potentially extirpated from the area (Alcala and Russ 
    This level of harvest (5,000 chambered nautilus individuals/year), 
which, based on the information from the Ta[ntilde]on Strait, appears 
to lead to local extirpations, is being greatly exceeded in a number of 
other areas throughout the chambered nautilus' range. In Tibiao, 
Antique province, in northwestern Panay Island, Philippines, del Norte-
Campos (2005) estimated annual yield of the chambered nautilus to be 
around 12,200 individuals for the entire fishery (based on data from 
2001-2002). Based on personal communication provided in CITES (2016), 
in the Palawan, Philippines nautilus fishery, 9,091 nautiluses were 
harvested in 2013 and 37,341 in 2014. This level of harvest is 
particularly concerning given the significant declines already observed 
in the Palawan nautilus fisheries. In four of the five main nautilus 
fishing areas in this province, Dunstan et al. (2010) estimated a 
decline in CPUE of the species ranging from 70 to 90 percent (depending 
on the fishing site) over the course of 6 to 24 years. Based on 
interviews of fishermen, when they began fishing for nautiluses, 
initial harvest in the majority of the fishing sites was estimated to 
be over 20,000 nautiluses/year (Dunstan et al., 2010), a level that was 
clearly unsustainable for the species and consequently led to 
significant declines in abundance of the species within these areas. 
The one main fishing region in Palawan that did not show a decline was 
the municipality of Balabac; however, the authors note that this 
fishery is relatively new (active for less than 8 years), with fewer 
fishermen, and, as such, may not have yet reached the point where the 
population crashes or declines become evident in catch rates (Dunstan 
et al., 2010). Given that the estimated annual catches in the Balabac 
municipality ranged from 4,000 to 42,000 individuals in 2008 (Dunstan 
et al., 2010), with more recent Palawan harvest levels reportedly over 
37,000 in 2014 (CITES 2016), this level of annual harvest, based on the 
trends from the other Palawan fishing sites (Dunstan et al., 2010), may 
likely lead to significant population declines in chambered nautilus in 
the near future, increasing the species' risk of extirpation from this 
portion of its range. Already, ``crashed fisheries'' and, hence, 
severely depleted populations of nautiluses have been identified at 
Tawi Tawi (an island province in southwestern Philippines) and 
Cagayancillo (an island in the Palawan province) (Dunstan et al., 
2010). From the available data in the petition and readily available in 
our files on the life history of the species, including current trends 
and evidence of a lack of recovery in populations that have not been 
fished for over 30 years, we find that present utilization of the 
species in this portion of its range may have significant negative 
effects on the viability of the chambered nautilus populations and, 
consequently, contribute to an extinction risk that is cause for 
concern and warrants further investigation.
    Overutilization of the chambered nautilus populations off Indonesia 
may also be a threat contributing to the species' risk of extinction 
that is cause for concern. Despite Indonesia's current prohibition 
(implemented in 1999) on the harvest and trade of the species, both 
domestic and internationally, it is apparent that both are still 
occurring throughout Indonesia (Nijman et al., 2015; Freitas and 
Krishnasamy 2016). In fact, based on the increasing number of chambered 
nautilus commodities originating from Indonesia, it is suggested that 
nautilus fishing has potentially shifted to Indonesian waters due to 
depletion of the species in the Philippines (CITES 2016). However, 
similar to the trend observed in the Philippines, a pattern of serial 
depletion of nautiluses due to harvesting in Indonesia is emerging, 
with both fishermen and traders noting a significant decline in the 
numbers of chambered nautiluses over the last 10 years (CITES 2016; 
Freitas and Krishnasamy 2016). For example, fishermen in North Lombok 
note that they used to trap around 10 to 15 nautiluses in one night, 
but currently catch only 1 to 3 a night (Freitas and Krishnasamy 2016). 
Similarly, in Bali, fishermen reported nightly catches of around 10 to 
20 nautiluses until 2005, after which yields have been much less 
(Freitas and Krishnasamy 2016). While fishing for chambered nautiluses 
has essentially decreased in western Indonesia (likely due to a 
depletion of the stocks), the main trade centers for nautilus 
commodities are still located here (i.e., Java, Bali, Sulawesi and 
Lombok). The sources of nautilus shells for these centers now appears 

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originate from eastern Indonesian waters (including northeastern 
Central Java, East Java, and West Nusa Tengarra eastward) where it is 
thought that nautilus populations may still be abundant enough to 
support economically viable fisheries, and where enforcement of the 
current N. pompilius prohibition appears to be weaker (Nijman et al., 
2015; Freitas and Krishnasamy 2016). Data collected from two large open 
markets in Indonesia (Pangandaran and Pasir Putih) and wholesale 
traders indicate that chambered nautiluses are still being offered for 
sale as of 2013, with one of the wholesalers noting that he exports 
merchandise to Malaysia and Saudi Arabia on a bimonthly basis (Nijman 
et al., 2015). Based on seizure data from 2005 to 2013, over 3,000 
chambered nautiluses were confiscated by Indonesian authorities (Nijman 
et al., 2015). Additionally, De Angelis (2012), citing a personal 
communication, estimated that around 25,000 nautilus specimens were 
exported from Indonesia to China for the Asian meat market between 2007 
and 2010. Given the ongoing demand for chambered nautilus products, the 
apparent disregard of current prohibition regulations by collectors and 
traders and lack of enforcement, the observed declining trends in N. 
pompilius fisheries, and the increasing number of nautilus commodities 
originating from Indonesia, we find that the available information in 
the petition, together with information readily available in our files, 
suggest current N. pompilius harvest levels within this portion of its 
range may be contributing to the overutilization of the species and 
increasing its risk of extinction that is cause for concern.
    Active nautilus fisheries also existed and still exist throughout 
most of the remaining extent of the species' known range, including in 
India, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, and potentially Papua New Guinea. In 
India, CITES (2016) states that the chambered nautilus has been 
exploited for decades. A 2007 survey found the species was being sold 
in 20 percent of the major coastal tourist markets in southern India, 
despite the species being protected from capture and trade by domestic 
law since 2000 (CITES 2016). In New Caledonia, intensive nautilus 
fisheries reportedly existed in the past. It is unclear whether 
commercial fisheries still exist today for the species; however, based 
on data from 2008, N. pompilius shells are still being sold to tourists 
(CITES 2016). In Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea, targeted chambered 
nautilus fisheries may be present; however, these fisheries have yet to 
be investigated (NMFS 2014; CITES 2016). Overall, out of the 11 nations 
in which N. pompilius is known to occur, over half historically or 
current have targeted nautilus fisheries.
    We note that, while the species is afforded some protection in the 
southern portion of its range, particularly in waters off Australia 
where there is no commercial harvest for the species (CITES 2016), it 
is unclear whether these populations may be enough to protect the 
species from potential extinction throughout all or a significant 
portion of its range. This conclusion is based on the considerations 
described above, including the significant uncertainties associated 
with the species' life history and its high demographic risks, as 
supported by information presented in the petition together with 
information readily available in our files. The potential contribution 
of these populations to the species will be investigated further during 
the status review of the species.
    Although the petition identifies numerous other threats to the 
chambered nautilus, including habitat degradation, predation, climate 
change, and ocean acidification, we find that the information presented 
in the petition, together with information readily available in our 
files, suggest that overutilization of the species for commercial 
purposes, in and of itself, may be a threat impacting the chambered 
nautilus to such a degree that raises concern that this species may be 
at risk of extinction presently or in the foreseeable future. Due to 
the apparent lack of enforcement and the inadequacy of existing 
regulatory mechanisms, particularly throughout the northern portion of 
the species' range, the ongoing demand for the species in the 
international shell trade, the significant demographic risks faced by 
the species (including extremely low productivity and rare, fragmented, 
and isolated populations with limited dispersal capability) and the 
evidence of substantial declines in populations and potential 
extirpations, we find that present harvest levels and associated 
mortality may be placing the species at such a risk of extinction that 
would lead a reasonable person to conclude that N. pompilius may 
warrant listing as a threatened or endangered species throughout all or 
a significant portion of its range.

Petition Finding

    After reviewing the information presented in the petition, and 
considering information readily available in our files, and based on 
the above analysis, we conclude the petition presents substantial 
scientific information indicating that the petitioned action of listing 
the chambered nautilus as a threatened or endangered species may be 
warranted. Therefore, in accordance with section 4(b)(3)(B) of the ESA 
and NMFS' implementing regulations (50 CFR 424.14(b)(3)), we will 
commence a status review of this species.
    During the status review, we will determine whether the chambered 
nautilus is in danger of extinction (endangered) or likely to become so 
(threatened) throughout all or a significant portion of its range. We 
now initiate this review, and thus, N. pompilius is considered to be a 
candidate species (69 FR 19975; April 15, 2004). Within 12 months of 
the receipt of the petition (May 31, 2017), the statute requires that 
we make a finding as to whether listing the chambered nautilus as an 
endangered or threatened species is warranted as required by section 
4(b)(3)(B) of the ESA. If listing is warranted, we will publish a 
proposed rule and solicit public comments before developing and 
publishing a final rule.

Information Solicited

    To ensure that the status review is based on the best available 
scientific and commercial data, we are soliciting information on 
whether the chambered nautilus is endangered or threatened. 
Specifically, we are soliciting information in the following areas: (1) 
Historical and current distribution and abundance of this species 
throughout its range; (2) historical and current population trends; (3) 
life history in marine environments; (4) historical and current data on 
nautilus catch and bycatch in industrial, commercial, artisanal, and 
recreational fisheries worldwide; (5) impacts to known chambered 
nautilus habitats; (5) data on the trade of chambered nautilus 
products, including shells, meat, and live specimens; (6) impacts of 
the ecotourism industry on chambered nautilus behavior and survival; 
(7) predation rates on chambered nautilus; (8) any current or planned 
activities that may adversely impact the chambered nautilus or its 
habitat; (9) ongoing or planned efforts to protect and restore this 
species and its habitat; (10) population structure information, such as 
genetics data; and (11) management, regulatory, and enforcement 
information. We request that all information be accompanied by: (1) 
Supporting documentation such as

[[Page 58901]]

maps, bibliographic references, or reprints of pertinent publications; 
and (2) the submitter's name, address, and any association, 
institution, or business that the person represents.

References Cited

    A complete list of references is available upon request to the 
Office of Protected Resources (see ADDRESSES).


    The authority for this action is the Endangered Species Act of 
1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

    Dated: August 22, 2016.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2016-20478 Filed 8-25-16; 8:45 am]