[Federal Register Volume 83, Number 136 (Monday, July 16, 2018)]
[Pages 32845-32846]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2018-15064]



National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XG299

Nominations to the Marine Mammal Scientific Review Groups

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

ACTION: Notice; request for nominations.


SUMMARY: As required by of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), the 
Secretary of Commerce established three independent regional scientific 
review groups (SRGs) to provide advice on a range of marine mammal 
science and management issues. NMFS conducted a membership review of 
the Alaska, Atlantic, and Pacific SRGs, and is soliciting nominations 
for new members to fill vacancies and gaps in expertise.

DATES: Nominations must be received by August 15, 2018.

ADDRESSES: Nominations can be emailed to [email protected], or 
mailed to: 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: SRGs.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Shannon Bettridge, Office of Protected 
Resources, 301-427-8402, [email protected]. Information about 
the SRGs, including the SRG Terms of Reference, is available at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/scientific-review-groups.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Section 117(d) of the MMPA (16 U.S.C. 
1386(d)) directs the Secretary of Commerce to establish three 
independent regional SRGs to advise the Secretary (authority delegated 
to NMFS). The Alaska SRG advises on marine mammals that occur in waters 
off Alaska that are under the jurisdiction of the United States. The 
Pacific SRG advises on marine mammals that occur in waters off the U.S. 
West Coast, Hawaiian Islands, and the U.S. Territories in the Central 
and Western Pacific that are under the jurisdiction of the United 
States. The Atlantic SRG advises on marine mammals that occur in waters 
off the Atlantic coast, Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. Territories in the 
Caribbean that are under the jurisdiction of the United States.
    SRGs members are highly qualified individuals with expertise in 
marine mammal biology and ecology, population dynamics and modeling, 
commercial fishing technology and practices, and stocks taken under 
section 101(b) of the MMPA. The SRGs provide expert reviews of draft 
marine mammal stock assessment reports and other information related to 
the matters identified in section 117(d)(1) of the MMPA, including:
    A. Population estimates and the population status and trends of 
marine mammal stocks;
    B. Uncertainties and research needed regarding stock separation, 
abundance, or trends, and factors affecting the distribution, size, or 
productivity of the stock;
    C. Uncertainties and research needed regarding the species, number, 
ages, gender, and reproductive status of marine mammals;
    D. Research needed to identify modifications in fishing gear and 
practices likely to reduce the incidental mortality and serious injury 
of marine mammals in commercial fishing operations;
    E. The actual, expected, or potential impacts of habitat 
destruction, including marine pollution and natural environmental 
change, on specific marine mammal species or stocks, and for strategic 
stocks, appropriate conservation or management measures to alleviate 
any such impacts; and
    F. Any other issue which the Secretary or the groups consider 
    SRG members collectively serve as independent advisors to NMFS and 
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and provide their expert review and 
recommendations through participation in the SRG. Members attend annual 
meetings and undertake activities as independent persons providing 
expertise in their subject areas. Members are not appointed as 
representatives of professional organizations or particular stakeholder 
groups, including government entities, and are not permitted to 
represent or advocate for those organizations, groups, or entities 
during SRG meetings, discussions, and deliberations.
    SRG membership is voluntary; and, except for reimbursable travel 
and related expenses, service is without pay. The term of service for 
SRG members is three years, and members may serve up to three 
consecutive terms if reappointed.
    NMFS annually reviews the expertise available on the SRG and 
identifies gaps in the expertise that is needed to provide advice 
pursuant to section 117(d) of the MMPA. In conducting the reviews, NMFS 
attempts to achieve, to

[[Page 32846]]

the maximum extent practicable, a balanced representation of viewpoints 
among the individuals on each SRG.

Expertise Solicited

    For the Atlantic SRG (including waters off the Atlantic coast, Gulf 
of Mexico, and U.S. Territories in the Caribbean), NMFS seeks 
individuals with expertise in one or more of the following priority 
areas (not in order of priority): Acoustics methodology and 
anthropogenic effects of sound on cetaceans; line-transect methodology, 
mark-recapture methods and survey design, and quantitative ecology; 
Gulf of Mexico/southeast U.S. bottlenose dolphin population dynamics; 
and manatees. Additional areas of expertise areas include marine mammal 
bycatch reduction, Caribbean marine mammal species, and genetics.
    For the Pacific SRG (including waters off the Pacific coast, 
Hawaiian Islands and the U.S. Territories in the Central and Western 
Pacific), NMFS seeks individuals with expertise in one or more of the 
following areas (not in order of priority): Marine mammal stock 
definition and assessment under the MMPA and ESA; abundance estimation, 
especially distance sampling and mark-recapture methods and survey 
design; West Coast and Alaska fishing gear/techniques; West Coast 
pinnipeds, including assessment, life history, ecology, and human-
pinniped interactions; large whales, particularly with regard to 
entanglement issues; ocean health and veterinary expertise, especially 
relative to disease and habitat change; fisheries oceanography and 
ecology, particularly decadal and long-term understanding; quantitative 
ecology, population dynamics, modeling, and statistics, especially as 
related to abundance and bycatch estimation, Bayesian methods, 
applications of new technologies, and methods for data-limited 
circumstances; State, Tribal, or regional/local fishery and/or marine 
mammal entanglement issues in the Pacific Islands and West Coast 
states; sea otters; science-management interface, such as management 
approaches with imperfect data; and interdisciplinary skills combining 
different fields of research.
    For the Alaska SRG, NMFS seeks individuals with expertise in one or 
more of the following areas, in order of priority: The Alaska 
commercial fishing industry and commercial fishery methods/gear, 
particularly fisheries with marine mammal bycatch interactions; 
population dynamics, modeling, and statistics; and abundance 
estimation, especially distance sampling and mark-recapture methods and 
survey design; and knowledge of the MMPA and processing of marine 
mammal stock assessments.

Submitting a Nomination

    Nominations for new members should be sent to Dr. Shannon Bettridge 
in the NMFS Office of Protected Resources (see ADDRESSES) and must be 
received by August 15, 2018. Nominations should be accompanied by the 
individual's curriculum vitae and detailed information regarding how 
the recommended person meets the minimum selection criteria for SRG 
members (see below). Nominations should also include the nominee's 
name, address, telephone number, and email address. Self-nominations 
are acceptable.

Selection Criteria

    Although the MMPA does not explicitly prohibit Federal employees 
from serving as SRG members, NMFS interprets MMPA section 117(d)'s 
reference to the SRGs as ``independent'' bodies that are exempt from 
Federal Advisory Committee Act requirements to mean that SRGs are 
intended to augment existing Federal expertise and are not composed of 
Federal employees or contractors. Therefore, NMFS will not consider any 
nominee who is currently a Federal employee or a full-time contractor 
supporting a Federal agency.
    When reviewing nominations, NMFS, in consultation with the U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, will consider the following six criteria:
    (1) Ability to make time available for the purposes of the SRG;
    (2) Knowledge of the species (or closely related species) of marine 
mammals in the SRG's region;
    (3) Scientific or technical achievement in a relevant discipline, 
particularly the areas of expertise identified above, to be considered 
an expert peer reviewer for the topic;
    (4) Demonstrated experience working effectively on teams;
    (5) Expertise relevant to current and expected needs of the SRG, in 
particular, expertise required to provide adequate review and 
knowledgeable feedback on current or developing stock assessment 
issues, techniques, etc. In practice, this means that each member 
should have expertise in more than one topic as the species and 
scientific issues discussed in SRG meetings are diverse; and
    (6) No conflict of interest with respect to their duties as a 
member of the SRG.

Next Steps

    Following review, nominees who are identified by NMFS as potential 
new members must be vetted and cleared in accordance with Department of 
Commerce policy. NMFS will contact these individuals and ask them to 
provide written confirmation that they are not registered Federal 
lobbyists or registered foreign agents, and to complete a confidential 
financial disclosure form, which will be reviewed by the Ethics Law and 
Programs Division within the U.S. Department of Commerce's Office of 
General Counsel. All nominees will be notified of a selection decision 
in advance of the 2019 SRG meetings.

    Dated: July 10, 2018.
Donna S. Wieting,
Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries 
[FR Doc. 2018-15064 Filed 7-13-18; 8:45 am]