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Notice

Taking and Importing Marine Mammals; Navy Training and Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation Activities Conducted Within the Southern California Range Complex

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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AGENCY:

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

ACTION:

Notice; receipt of application for letter of authorization; request for comments and information.

SUMMARY:

NMFS has received a request from the U.S. Navy (Navy) for authorization to take marine mammals incidental to military readiness training events and research, development, testing and evaluation (RDT&E) to be conducted in the Southern California Range Complex (SOCAL) for the period beginning January 2009 and ending January 2014. Pursuant to the implementing regulations of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), NMFS is announcing our receipt of the Navy's request for the development and implementation of regulations governing the incidental taking of marine mammals and inviting information, suggestions, and comments on the Navy's application and request.

DATES:

Comments and information must be received no later than May 19, 2008.

ADDRESSES:

Comments on the application should be addressed to Michael Payne, Chief, Permits, Conservation and Education Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910-3225. The mailbox address for providing email comments is PR1.050107L@noaa.gov. NMFS is not responsible for e-mail comments sent to addresses other than the one provided here. Comments sent via e-mail, including all attachments, must not exceed a 10-megabyte file size.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Jolie Harrison, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, (301) 713-2289, ext. 166.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Availability

A copy of the Navy's application may be obtained by writing to the address specified above (See ADDRESSES), telephoning the contact listed above (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT), or visiting the internet at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/​pr/​permits/​incidental.htm. The Navy's Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for SOCAL was made available to the public on April 4, 2008, and may be viewed at http://www.socalrangecomplexeis.com/​. Because NMFS is participating as a cooperating agency in the development of the Navy's DEIS for SOCAL, NMFS staff will be present at the associated public meetings and prepared to discuss NMFS' participation in the development of the EIS as well as the MMPA process for the issuance of incidental take authorizations. The dates and times of the public meetings may be viewed at: http://www.socalrangecomplexeis.com/​.

Background

In the case of military readiness activities, sections 101(a)(5)(A) and (D) of the MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) direct 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) if certain findings are made and regulations are issued or, if the taking is limited to harassment, notice of a proposed authorization is provided to the public for review.

Authorization for incidental takings may be granted if NMFS finds that the taking will have no more than a negligible impact on the species or stock(s), 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 mitigation, monitoring and reporting of such taking are set forth.

NMFS has defined “negligible impact” in 50 CFR 216.103 as:

an impact resulting from the specified activity that cannot be reasonably expected to, and is not reasonably likely to, adversely Start Printed Page 20919affect the species or stock through effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival.

With respect to military readiness activities, the MMPA defines “harassment” as:

(i) any act that injures or has the significant potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild [Level A Harassment]; or (ii) any act that disturbs or is likely to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of natural behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, surfacing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering, to a point where such behavioral patterns are abandoned or significantly altered [Level B Harassment].

Summary of Request

On March 31, 2008, NMFS received an application from the Navy requesting authorization for the take of 24 species of marine mammals (4 pinniped and 20 cetacean) incidental to upcoming training activities to be conducted off the coast of southern California and farther off the coast of northern Mexico (in SOCAL) over the course of 5 years. These training activities are classified as military readiness activities. The Navy states that these training activities may expose some of the marine mammals present in the area to sound from various mid-frequency and high-frequency active tactical sonar sources or to pressure from underwater detonations. The Navy requests authorization to take individuals of 24 species of marine mammals by Level B Harassment. Further, the Navy requests authorization to take 10 individual beaked whales over the course of 5 years by serious injury or mortality.

Specified Activities

In the application submitted to NMFS, the Navy requests authorization to take marine mammals incidental to conducting operations utilizing mid- and high frequency active sonar sources and explosive detonations. These sonar and explosive sources will be utilized during Naval Surface Fire Support Exercises, Bombing Exercsises, Sink Exercises, Antisubmarine Warfare (ASW) Tracking Exercises, ASW Torpedo Exercises, Major Integrated ASW Training Exercises, and Mine Neutralization Exercises. Table 1-1 in the application lists the activity types, the equipment and platforms involved, and the duration and potential locations of the activities.

Information Solicited

Interested persons may submit information, suggestions, and comments concerning the Navy's request (see ADDRESSES). All information, suggestions, and comments related to the Navy's SOCAL request and NMFS' potential development and implementation of regulations governing the incidental taking of marine mammals by the Navy's SOCAL activities will be considered by NMFS in developing, if appropriate, the most effective regulations governing the issuance of letters of authorization.

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Dated: April 10, 2008.

James H. Lecky,

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

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[FR Doc. E8-8283 Filed 4-16-08; 8:45 am]

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