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Taking and Importing Marine Mammals; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Rocket Launches

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


Notice of issuance of a Letter of Authorization.


In accordance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), as amended, and implementing regulations, notification is hereby given that a 1-year letter of authorization (LOA) has been issued to the 30th Space Wing, U.S. Air Force to harass seals and sea lions incidental to rocket and missile launches on Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB), California. The LOA was issued on February 25, 2004.


The letter of authorization and supporting documentation are 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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Kimberly Skrupky, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, (301) 713-2322, or Monica DeAngelis, NMFS, (562) 980-4023.

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Section 101(a)(5)(A) of the MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) directs NMFS to allow, on 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 regulations are issued. Under the MMPA, the term “taking” means to harass, hunt, capture, or kill or to attempt to harass, hunt, capture or kill marine mammals.

Permission may be granted for periods up to 5 years if NMFS finds, after notification and opportunity for public comment, that the taking will have a negligible impact on the species or stock(s) of marine mammals and will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of the species or stock(s) for subsistence uses. In addition, NMFS must prescribe regulations that include permissible methods of taking and other means effecting the least practicable adverse impact on the species and its habitat and on the availability of the species for subsistence uses, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance. The regulations must include requirements pertaining to the monitoring and reporting of such taking. Regulations governing the taking of seals and sea lions incidental to missile and rocket launches, aircraft flight test operations, and helicopter operations at Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA were published on February 06, 2004 (69 FR 5720), and remain in effect until February 06, 2009.

Issuance of this letter of authorization is based on a finding, made in the final rulemaking, that the total takings will have no more than a negligible impact on the seal and sea lion populations off Start Printed Page 9811the Vandenberg coast and on the Northern Channel Islands.

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Dated: February 25, 2004.

Laurie K. Allen,

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

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[FR Doc. 04-4611 Filed 3-1-04; 8:45 am]