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Small Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Missile Launch Operations from San Nicolas Island, California

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AGENCY:

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

ACTION:

Notice of receipt of application and proposed authorization for a small take exemption; request for comments.

SUMMARY:

NMFS has received an application from the U.S. Navy, Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD), Point Mugu, CA for an incidental harassment authorization (IHA) to take small numbers of marine mammals by harassment incidental to missile launch operations from the western end of San Nicolas Island, CA (SNI). Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), NMFS is requesting comments on its proposal to authorize NAWCWD to incidentally take, by harassment, small numbers of pinnipeds on SNI during 15 launches of Vandal (or similar) vehicles and 5 launches of smaller subsonic targets per year commencing in 2001.

DATES:

Comments and information must be received no later than May 23, 2001.

ADDRESSES:

Comments on the application should be addressed to Donna Wieting, Chief, Marine Mammal Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910-3225. A copy of the NAWCWD Point Mugu application and a list of references used in this document are available upon request from the same address. In addition, supporting documentation is available for review during regular business hours in the following offices: Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910, and the Southwest Region, NMFS, 501 West Ocean Boulevard, Suite 4200, Long Beach, CA 90802.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Simona P. Roberts, NMFS, (301) 713-2322, ext. 106 or Christina Fahy, NMFS, (562) 980-4023.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

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 U.S. citizens who engage in a specified activity (other than commercial fishing) within a specified geographical region if certain findings are made and either regulations are issued or, if the taking is limited to harassment, notice of a proposed authorization is provided to the public for review.

Permission may be granted if NMFS finds that the taking will have no more than a negligible impact on the species or stock(s) and will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of the species or stock(s) for subsistence uses and that the permissible methods of taking and requirements pertaining to the monitoring and reporting of such taking are set forth.

On April 10, 1996 (61 FR 15884), NMFS published an interim rule establishing, among other things, procedures for issuing incidental harassment authorizations (IHAs) under section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA for activities in Arctic waters. For additional information on the procedures to be followed for this authorization, please refer to that document.

Summary of Request

On February 5, 2001, NMFS received an application from NAWCWD Point Mugu requesting an authorization for the harassment of small numbers of three species of marine mammals incidental to target missile launch operations on SNI, one of the Channel Islands in the Southern California Bight. These operations may occur at any time during the year depending on test and training requirements and meteorological and logistical limitations. On occasion, two or three launches may occur in quick succession on a single day. The NAWCWD Point Mugu's request for an authorization to incidentally harass small numbers of marine mammals on SNI anticipates 15 launches of Vandal (or similar sized) vehicles from the Alpha Launch Complex on SNI and 5 launches of smaller subsonic targets from either the Alpha Launch Complex or Building 807 for 1 year and commencing as early in 2001 as possible. A detailed description of the operations is contained in the application (LGL Ltd. Environmental Research Associates 2001) which is available upon request (see ADDRESSES).

Measurement of Airborne Sound Levels

The types of sounds discussed in NAWCWD Point Mugu's IHA application are airborne and impulsive. For this reason, the applicant has referenced both pressure and energy measurements for sound levels. For pressure, the sound pressure level (SPL) is described in terms of decibels (dB) re micro-Pascal (micro-Pa), and for energy, the sound exposure level (SEL) is described in terms of dB re micro-Pa2 -second. In other words, SEL is the squared instantaneous sound pressure over a specified time interval, where the sound pressure is averaged over 5 percent to 95 percent of the duration of the sound (in this case, one second).

Airborne noise measurements are usually expressed relative to a reference pressure of 20 micro-Pa, which is 26 dB above the underwater sound pressure reference of 1 micro-Pa. However, the conversion from air to water intensities is more involved than this (Buck, 1995) and beyond the scope of this document. Also, airborne sounds are often expressed as broadband A-weighted sound levels (dBA). A-weighting refers to frequency-dependent weighting factors applied to sound in accordance with the sensitivity of the human ear to different frequencies. While it is unknown whether the pinniped ear responds similar to the human ear, a study by C. Malme (pers. commun. to NMFS, March 5, 1998) found that for predicting noise effects, A-weighted is better than unweighted pressure levels because the pinniped's highest hearing sensitivity is at higher frequencies than that of humans. As a result, whenever possible, NMFS provides both A-weighted and unweighted sound pressure levels; where not specified for in-air sounds, A-weighting is implied (ANSI, 1994). In this document, all sound levels have been provided with A-weighting.

Description of the Specified Activity

Target missile launches from SNI are used to support test and training activities associated with operations on the NAWCWD Point Mugu Sea Range. In general, two types of launch vehicles are used, the Vandal and the smaller subsonic targets. Other vehicles used would be similar in size and weight or slightly smaller and would have characteristics generally similar to the Vandal.

Vandal Target Missiles

The Vandal target missile is a relatively large, air-breathing (ramjet) vehicle with no explosive warhead that is designed to provide a realistic simulation of the mid-course and terminal phase of a supersonic anti-ship cruise missile. These missiles are 7.7 meters (m) (25.2 feet (ft)) in length with a mass at launch of 3,674 kilograms (kg) Start Printed Page 20436(8,100 pounds (lbs)) including the solid propellant booster. The three variants of the Vandal (standard, ER and ERR) all have the same dimensions but differ in their operational range. The Vandals are remotely-controlled, non-recoverable missiles that are launched from a land-based launch site (hereafter referred to as Alpha Launch Complex) on the western part of SNI. The Alpha Launch Complex is 153 m (502 ft) above sea level and is approximately 6 kilometers (km) (3.7 miles (mi)) from the nearest pinniped haul-out site. Launch trajectories from Alpha Launch Complex vary from a near-vertical liftoff, crossing the west end of SNI at an altitude of approximately 3,962 m (13,000 ft) to a nearly horizontal liftoff, crossing the west end of SNI at an altitude of approximately 305 m (1,000 ft).

Vandal launches produce the strongest noise source originating from aircraft or missiles in flight over SNI beaches. Sound measurements were collected during two Vandal launches in 1997 and 1999 and are reported in Burgess and Greene (1998) and Greene (1999). Greene (1999) reported that received A-weighted SPL were found to range from 123 dB (re 20 micro-Pa) (SEL of 126 dB re 20 micro-Pa2-sec) at 945 m (3,100 ft) to 136 dB (re 20 micro-Pa) (SEL of 131 dB re 20 micro-Pa2-sec) at 370 m (1,215 ft). The most intense sound exposure occurred during the first 0.3 to 1.9 seconds after launch.

Subsonic Targets and Other Missiles

The subsonic targets and other missiles are small unmanned aircraft that are launched using jet-assisted take-off (JATO) rocket bottles. Once launched, they continue offshore where they are used in training exercises to simulate various types of subsonic threat missiles and aircraft. The larger target, BQM-34, is 7 m (23 ft) long and has a mass of approximately 1,134 kg (2,500 lbs) plus the JATO bottle. The smaller BQM-74, is 420 centimeters (cm) (165.5 inches (in)) long and has a mass of approximately 250 kg (550 lbs) plus the JATO bottle. Other types of small missiles that may be launched include the Exocet, Tomahawk, and Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM). All of these smaller targets are launched from either the Alpha Launch Complex or from Building 807, a second launch site on the west end of SNI. Building 807 is approximately 3 m (10 ft) above sea level and accommodates several fixed and mobile launchers that range from 30 m (98 ft) to 150 m (492 ft) from the nearest shoreline. Launch trajectories from Building 807 range from 6 to 45 degrees and cross over the nearest beach at altitudes from 9 to 183 m (30 to 600 ft).

Sound measurements were collected from the launch of a BQM-34S at Naval Air Station (NAS) Point Mugu in 1997. Burgess and Greene (1998) found that for this launch, the A-weighted SPL ranged from 92 dB (re 20 micro-Pa) (SEL of 102.2 dB re 20 micro-Pa2-sec) at 370 m (1,200 ft) to 145 dB (re 20 micro-Pa) (SEL of 142.2 dB re 20 micro-Pa2 -sec) at 15 m (50 ft). These estimates are approximately 20 dB lower than that of a Vandal launch at similar distances (Greene, 1999).

General Launch Operations

Aircraft and helicopter flights between NAS Point Mugu on the mainland, the airfield on SNI and the target sites in the Sea Range will be a routine part of any planned launch operation. These operational flights do not pass at low level over the beaches where pinnipeds are expected to be hauled out. In addition, movements of personnel are restricted near the launch sites two hours prior to a launch, no personnel are allowed on the western end of SNI during Vandal launches and various environmental protection restrictions exist near the island's beaches during other times of the year.

Description of Habitat and Marine Mammals Affected by the Activity

A detailed description of the Channel Islands/southern California Bight ecosystem and its associated marine mammals can be found in several documents (Le Boeuf and Brownell, 1980; Bonnell et al., 1981; Lawson et al., 1980; Stewart, 1985; Stewart and Yochem, 2000; Sydeman and Allen, 1999) and does not need to be repeated here.

Marine Mammals

Many of the beaches in the Channel Islands provide resting, molting or breeding places for species of pinnipeds including: northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris), harbor seals (Phoca vitulina), California sea lions (Zalophus californianus), northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus), Guadalupe fur seals (Arctocephalus townsendi), and Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus). On SNI, three of these species, northern elephant seals, harbor seals, and California sea lions, can be expected to occur on land in the area of the proposed activity either regularly or in large numbers during certain times of the year. Descriptions of the biology and distribution of these three species and the others can be found in Stewart and Yochem (2000, 1994), Sydeman and Allen (1999), Barlow et al. (1993), Lowry et al. (1996), Schwartz (1994), Lowry (1999) and several other documents (Barlow et al., 1997; NMFS, 2000; NMFS, 1992; Koski et al., 1998; Gallo-Reynoso, 1994; Stewart et al., 1987). Please refer to those documents and the application for further information on these species.

Potential Effects of Target Missile Launches and Associated Activities on Marine Mammals

Sounds generated by the launches of Vandal target missiles (including the standard, ER, and ERR variants) and smaller subsonic targets and missiles (BQM-34 or BQM-74 type) as they depart sites on SNI towards operational areas in the Point Mugu Sea Range have the potential to take marine mammals by harassment. Taking by harassment will potentially result from these launches when pinnipeds on the beaches near the launch sites are exposed to the sounds produced by the rocket boosters and the high-speed passage of the missiles as they depart the island on their routes to the Sea Range. Extremely rapid departure of the Vandal and smaller targets means that pinnipeds would be exposed to increased sound levels for very short time intervals (i.e., a few seconds). Noise generated from aircraft and helicopter activities associated with the launches may provide a potential secondary source of marine mammal harassment. The physical presence of aircraft could also lead to non-acoustic effects on marine mammals involving visual or other cues. There are no anticipated effects from human presence on the beaches, since movements of personnel are restricted near the launch sites two hours prior to launches for safety reasons.

Reactions of pinnipeds on the western end of SNI to Vandal target launches have not been well-studied, but based on studies of other rocket launch activities and their effects on pinnipeds in the Channel Islands (Stewart et al., 1993), anticipated impacts can be predicted. In general, other studies have shown that responses of pinnipeds on beaches to acoustic disturbance arising from rocket and target missile launches are highly variable. This variability may be due to many factors, including species, age class, and time of year. Among species, northern elephant seals seem very tolerant of acoustic disturbances (Stewart, 1981), whereas harbor seals (particularly outside the breeding season) seem more easily disturbed. Research and monitoring at Vandenberg Air Force Base found that prolonged or repeated sonic booms, very strong sonic booms or sonic booms Start Printed Page 20437accompanying a visual stimulus, such as a passing aircraft, are most likely to stimulate seals to leave the haul-out area and move into the water. During three launches of Vandal missiles from SNI, California sea lions near the launch track line were observed from video recordings to be disturbed and to flee (both up and down the beach) from their former resting positions. Launches of the smaller BQM-34 targets from NAS Point Mugu have not normally resulted in harbor seals leaving their haul-out area at the mouth of Mugu Lagoon, which is approximately 3.2 km (2 mi) from the launch site. An Exocet missile launched from the west end of SNI appeared to cause far less disturbance to hauled out California sea lions than Vandal launches. Given the variability in pinniped response to acoustic disturbance, the Navy conservatively assumes that biologically significant disturbance (i.e. takes by harassment) will sometimes occur upon exposure to launch sounds with SEL's of 100 dBA (re 20 micro-Pa2-sec) or higher.

From Lawson et al. (1998), the Navy determined a conservative estimate of the SEL at which the disturbance known as temporary threshold shift (TTS) may be elicited in harbor seals and California sea lions (SEL of 145 dB re 20 micro-Pa2 -sec) and northern elephant seals (SEL of 165 dB re 20 micro-Pa2-sec). The sound levels necessary to elicit mild TTS in captive California sea lions and harbor seals exposed to impulse noises, such as sonic booms, were tens of decibels higher (Bowles et al., 1999) than sound levels measured during Vandal launches (Burgess and Greene, 1998; Greene, 1999). This evidence, in combination with the known sound levels produced by missiles launched from SNI (see below), suggests that no pinnipeds will be exposed to TTS-inducing SELs during planned launches.

Based on modeling of sound propagation in a free field situation, Burgess and Greene (1998) data were used by the Navy to predict that Vandal target launches from SNI could produce a 100 dBA acoustic contour that extends an estimated 4,263 m (13,986 ft) perpendicular to its launch track. In other words, Vandal target launch sounds are predicted to exceed the SEL (100 dBA) disturbance criteria out to a distance of 4,263 m from the Alpha Launch Complex. Northern elephant seals, harbor seals, and California sea lions haul out in areas within the perimeter of this 100 dBA contour for Vandal launches. For BQM-34 launches from Alpha Launch Complex, the Navy assumes that the 100 dBA contour extends an estimated 1,372 m (4,500 ft), perpendicular to its launch track (C. Malme, Engineering and Scientific Services, Hingham, MA, unpublished data). Along the launch track and ahead of the BQM-34, the 100 dBA contour extends a shorter distance (549 m or 1,800 ft). For the smaller BQM-74 and Exocet missiles, the Navy predicts that the 100 dBA contours will be smaller still. The free field modeling scenario used to predict these acoustic contours does not account for transmission losses caused by wind, intervening topography, and variations in launch trajectory or azimuth. Therefore, the predicted 100 dBA contours may be smaller at certain beach locations and for different launch trajectories.

In general, the extremely rapid departure of the Vandal and smaller targets means that pinnipeds could be exposed to increased sound levels for very short time intervals (a few seconds) potentially leading to alert and startle responses from individuals on haul out sites in the vicinity of launches. Since preliminary observations of the responses of pinnipeds to Vandal launches at SNI have not shown injury, mortality, or extended disturbance, the Navy anticipates that the effects of the planned target launches will have no more than a negligible impact on pinniped populations.

Given that this activity will happen infrequently, and will produce only brief, rapid-onset sounds, it is unlikely that pinnipeds hauled out on beaches at the western end of SNI will exhibit much, if any, habituation to target missile launch activities. In addition, the infrequent and brief nature of these sounds will cause masking for not more than a very small fraction of the time (usually less than 2 seconds per launch) during any single day. Therefore, the Navy assumes that these occasional and brief episodes of masking will have no significant effects on the abilities of pinnipeds to hear one another or to detect natural environmental sounds that may be relevant to the animals.

Numbers of Marine Mammals Expected to Be Taken by Harassment

NAWCWD Point Mugu estimates that the following numbers of marine mammals may be subject to Level B harassment, as defined in 50 CFR 216.3:

Species by MMPA Stock DesignationMinimum Abundance Estimate of Stock1Harassment Takes in 2001
Northern Elephant Seal (California Stock)51,625< 2,390
Harbor Seal (California Stock)27,962< 457
California Sea Lion (U.S. Stock)109,8549,614-10,086
Northern Fur Seal (San Miguel Stock)2,3363
1. From 1999-2000 NMFS Marine Mammal Stock Assessment Reports.

In their original request, NAWCWD Point Mugu estimated the take of 3 Guadalupe fur seals by harassment incidental to missile launch operations on SNI. On March 19, 2001, the U.S. Navy sent NMFS a modified request eliminating the incidental take of Guadalupe fur seals on SNI. Based on their observational records, the Navy found that when Guadalupe fur seals do occur on SNI, they are found on beaches not affected by missile launch activities.

Effects of Target Missile Launches and Associated Activities on Subsistence Needs

There are no subsistence uses for these pinniped species in California waters, and thus there are no anticipated effects on subsistence needs.

Effects of Target Missile Launches and Associated Activities on Marine Mammal Habitat on San Nicolas Island

During the period of proposed activity, harbor seals, California sea lions, and northern elephant seals will use various beaches around SNI as places to rest, molt, and breed. These beaches consist of sand (e.g., Red Eye Beach), rock ledges (e.g., Corral Beach) and rocky cobble (e.g., Vizcaino Beach). The pinnipeds do not feed when hauled out on these beaches, and the airborne launch sounds will not persist in the water near the island for more than a few seconds. Therefore, the Navy does not expect that launch activities will have any impact on the food or feeding success of these animals. The solid rocket booster from the Vandal target and the JATO bottles from the BMQs are jettisoned shortly after launch and fall Start Printed Page 20438into the sea west of SNI. While it is theoretically possible that one of these boosters might instead land on a beach, the probability of this occurring is very low. Fuel contained in the boosters and JATO bottles is consumed rapidly and completely, so there would be no risk of contamination even if a booster or bottle did land on the beach. Overall, the proposed target missile launches and associated activities are not expected to cause significant impacts on habitats or on food sources used by pinnipeds on SNI.

Mitigation

To avoid additional harassment to the pinnipeds on beach haul out sites and to avoid any possible sensitizing or predisposing of pinnipeds to greater responsiveness towards the sights and sounds of a launch, NAWCWD Point Mugu will limit its activities near the beaches in advance of launches. Existing safety protocols for Vandal launches provide a built-in mitigation measure. That is, personnel are normally not allowed near any of the pinniped beaches close to the flight track on the western end of SNI within two hours prior to a launch. Where practicable, NAWCWD Point Mugu will adopt the following additional mitigation measures when doing so will not compromise operational safety requirements or mission goals: (1) The Navy will limit launch activities during pinniped pupping seasons, particularly harbor seal pupping season; (2) the Navy will not launch target missiles at low elevation on launch azimuths that pass close to beach haul-out site(s); (3) the Navy will avoid multiple target launches in quick succession over haul-out sites, especially when young pups are present; and, (4) the Navy will limit launch activities during the night.

Monitoring

As part of its application, NAWCWD Point Mugu provided a proposed monitoring plan for assessing impacts to marine mammals from Vandal and smaller subsonic target and missile launch activities on SNI. This monitoring plan is described in LGL Ltd. Environmental Research Associates (2001).

NAWCWD Point Mugu proposes to conduct the following monitoring:

Land-Based Monitoring

The Navy, in conjunction with a biological contractor, proposes to establish a land-based monitoring program to assess effects on the three common pinniped species on SNI: northern elephant seals, harbor seals, and California sea lions. This monitoring would occur at three different sites of varying distance from the launch site before, during, and after each launch. The monitoring would be via autonomous digital video cameras or, when possible, through direct visual observation.

During the day of each missile launch, the observer would place three digital video cameras on tripods overlooking chosen haul out sites. Each camera would be set to record a focal subgroup within the haul out aggregation for a maximum of 4 hours or as permitted by the videotape capacity.

Two hours prior to the launch, the observer would circulate among the tripod-mounted cameras to change videocassettes, to adjust camera fields of view (as required by changes in the geometry of the focal groups), and to record visual observations in a field logbook. Following the launch, the observer would return to the site when access is permitted.

During smaller launches when personnel are allowed to remain near one or more haul out beaches that might be impacted, a marine mammal observer would observe pinnipeds at one of those beaches in a systematic manner before, during, and after the launch. The observer(s) would scan the selected haul out site(s) from one end to the other at a rate of once per minute. Seven x 50 reticle binoculars would be used during the daytime for scanning and supplemented by night vision equipment if launches occur at night.

Following each launch, a biologist would review and code the videotapes as they are played back to a high-resolution color monitor. A VCR with high-resolution freeze-frame and jog shuttle will be used to facilitate distance estimation, event timing, and characterization of behavior. Details of analysis methods can be found in LGL Ltd. Environmental Research Associates (2001).

Acoustical Measurements

During each launch, the Navy (in conjunction with an acoustical contractor) would obtain calibrated recordings of the levels and characteristics of the received launch sounds. Acoustic data would be acquired using three Autonomous Terrestrial Acoustic Recorders (ATAR) at three different sites of varying distances from the target's flight path. ATARs can record sounds for extended periods (dependent on sampling rate) without intervention by a technician, giving them the advantage over traditional digital audio tape (DAT) recorders should there be prolonged launch delays of as long as 10 days. Insofar as possible, acoustic recording locations would correspond with the sites where video monitoring is taking place. The collection of acoustic data would provide information on the magnitude, characteristics, and duration of sounds that pinnipeds may be exposed to during a launch. In addition, the acoustic data can be combined with the behavioral data collected via the land-based monitoring program to determine if there is a dose-response relationship between received sound levels and pinniped behavioral reactions.

For further details regarding the installation and calibration of the acoustic instruments and analysis methods refer to LGL Ltd. Environmental Research Associates (2001).

Reporting

If the IHA is granted, NAWCWD Point Mugu will provide an initial report on activities to NMFS after the first 90 days of the authorization period. This report will summarize the timing and nature of the launch operation(s), summarize pinniped behavioral observations, and estimate the amount and nature of all takes by harassment or in other ways. In the event that any cases of pinniped mortality are judged to result from launch activities, this information will be reported to NMFS immediately.

A draft final technical report will be submitted to NMFS 120 days prior to the expiration of the IHA. This technical report will provide full documentation of methods, results, and interpretation of all monitoring tasks for launches during the first 6 months of the IHA period, plus preliminary information for launches during months 7 and 8. This draft final report will be reviewed by NMFS, and based on comments, revised as necessary.

The revised final technical report, including all monitoring results during the authorization, will be due 90 days after the end of the 1-year IHA period.

Consultation

NAWCWD Point Mugu has not requested the take of any listed species. Therefore, NMFS has determined that a section 7 consultation under the Endangered Species Act is not required at this time.

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

In July 2000, NAWCWD Point Mugu issued a Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Overseas Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) to assess the effects of its ongoing and proposed operations in the Sea Range off Point Start Printed Page 20439Mugu. While this DEIS analyzes other activities beyond the scope of this IHA request, Section 4.7 describes launches of target missiles from SNI and notes that these launches sometimes cause pinnipeds hauled out on beaches on the western end of SNI to move into the water. Accordingly, the U.S. Navy determined that it should request this 1-year IHA to ensure that its planned missile launch operations are conducted in full compliance with the MMPA.

Preliminary Conclusions

NMFS has preliminarily determined that the short-term impact of conducting missile launch operations from SNI in the Channel Islands off southern California will result, at worst, in a temporary modification in behavior by certain species of pinnipeds. While behavioral modifications may be made by these species as a result of launch activities, this behavioral change is expected to have a negligible impact on the animals.

While the number of potential incidental harassment takes will depend on the distribution and abundance of marine mammals in the vicinity of launch operations, the number of potential harassment takings is estimated to be small. In addition, no take by injury and/or death is anticipated, and the potential for temporary or permanent hearing impairment is low and will be avoided through the incorporation of the mitigation measures mentioned in this document.

Proposed Authorization

NMFS proposes to issue an IHA for 15 launches of Vandal (or similar) missiles and 5 launches of smaller subsonic targets from San Nicolas Island, CA westward towards the Point Mugu Sea Range for a 1-year period, provided the previously mentioned mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements are incorporated. NMFS has preliminarily determined that the proposed activity would result in the harassment of only small numbers of northern elephant seals, harbor seals, California sea lions, and northern fur seals; would have no more than a negligible impact on these marine mammal stocks; and, would not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of marine mammal stocks for subsistence uses.

Information Solicited

NMFS requests interested persons to submit comments and information concerning this request (see ADDRESSES).

Start Signature

Dated: April 16, 2001.

Donald Knowles,

Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service.

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[FR Doc. 01-9870 Filed 4-20-01; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 3510-22-S