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Taking and Importing Marine Mammals; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Conducting Oil and Gas Exploration Activities in the Gulf of Mexico

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


Notice of extension of comment deadline.


Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), on March 3, 2003, NMFS published a notice of receipt of an application for the harassment of marine mammals incidental to conducting seismic surveys by the U.S. oil and gas industry in the Gulf of Mexico. By this document, NMFS announces an extension of the comment deadline.


Comments and information must be postmarked no later than April 16, 2003.


Comments should be addressed to the Chief, Marine Mammal Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Start Printed Page 16263Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910-3226. A copy of the application and a list of references used in this document may be obtained by writing to this address, or by telephoning the contact listed here (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). Comments will not be accepted if submitted via e-mail or the Internet.

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Kenneth R. Hollingshead, NMFS, 301-713-2055, ext 128.

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Section 101(a)(5)(A) of the MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) directs the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) to allow, upon request, the incidental, but not intentional taking 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 regulations are issued.

On March 3, 2003 (68 FR 9991), NMFS announced that it had received a request from the U.S. Minerals Management Service of the Department of the Interior, for authorization to harass small numbers of marine mammals, principally the sperm whale, incidental to conducting seismic surveys in the GOM. As a result of that request, NMFS is considering whether to propose regulations that would govern the incidental taking of small numbers of marine mammals under Letters of Authorization (LOAs) issued to members of the seismic industry that might have interactions with sperm whales. In order to promulgate regulations and issue LOAs, NMFS must determine that these takings will have a negligible impact on the affected species and stocks of marine mammals. By this document, NMFS extends the comment period on the preliminary application and suggestions on the content of the regulations comment until April 16, 2003.

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Dated: March 28, 2003.

Laurie K. Allen,

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

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[FR Doc. 03-8119 Filed 3-31-03; 3:45 pm]