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Endangered and Threatened Species; Initiation of 5-Year Review for Southern Resident Killer Whales

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


Notice of initiation of 5-year review; request for information.


NMFS announces a 5-year review of Southern Resident killer whales (Orcinus orca) under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA). A 5-year review is a periodic process conducted to ensure that the listing classification of a species is accurate. A 5-year review is based on the best scientific and commercial data available at the time of the review; therefore, we are requesting submission of any such information on Southern Resident killer whales that has become available since their original listing as endangered in November 2005. Based on the results of this 5-year review, we will make the requisite finding under the ESA.


To allow us adequate time to conduct this review, we must receive your information no later than July 6, 2010. However, we will continue to accept new information about any listed species at any time.


Please submit information on Southern Resident killer whales to Lynne Barre, NMFS Northwest Region, 7600 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115. Information may also be submitted via email to Information received in response to this notice will be available for public inspection by appointment, during normal business hours, at the above address. We will consider all comments and information received during the comment period in preparing a 5-year review.

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Lynne Barre, Northwest Regional Office, 206-526-4745; or Susan Pultz, Office of Protected Resources, 301-713-1401.

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Under the ESA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service maintains a list of endangered and threatened wildlife and plant species at 50 CFR 17.11 (for animals) and 17.12 (for plants). Section 4(c)(2)(A) of the ESA requires that we conduct a review of listed species at least once every five years. On the basis of such reviews under section 4(c)(2)(B), we determine whether or not any species should be removed from the List (delisted), or reclassified from endangered to threatened or from threatened to endangered. Delisting a species must be supported by the best scientific and commercial data available and only considered if such data substantiates that the species is neither endangered nor threatened for one or more of the following reasons: (1) the species is considered extinct; (2) the species is considered to be recovered; and/or (3) the original data available when the species was listed, or the interpretation of such data, were in error. Any change in Federal classification would require a separate rulemaking process. The regulations in 50 CFR 424.21 require that we publish a notice in the Federal Register announcing those species currently under active review. This notice announces our active review of the Southern Resident killer whale distinct population segment (DPS) currently listed as endangered (70 FR 69903; November 18, 2005).

Background information on Southern Resident killer whales including the endangered listing, critical habitat designation, recovery planning and Start Printed Page 17378protective regulations is available on the NMFS Northwest Region Web site at​. Critical habitat was designated in November 2006 (71 FR 69054) and includes 2,560 square miles (6,630 sq km) of marine habitat in Haro Strait and waters around the San Juan Islands, Puget Sound, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The final Recovery Plan was released in January 2008 (73 FR 4176), and contains detailed information on status, threats and recovery actions for Southern Residents, including updates since the ESA listing in 2005. Proposed regulations to protect Southern Resident killer whales from vessel effects were released in July 2009 (74 FR 37674).

Determining if a Species is Threatened or Endangered

Section 4(a)(1) of the ESA requires that we determine whether a species is endangered or threatened based on one or more of the five following factors: (1) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range; (2) overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes; (3) disease or predation; (4) the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or (5) other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence. Section 4(b) also requires that our determination be made on the basis of the best scientific and commercial data available after taking into account those efforts, if any, being made by any State or foreign nation, to protect such species.

Public Solicitation of New Information

To ensure that the 5-year review is complete and based on the best available scientific and commercial information, we are soliciting new information from the public, governmental agencies, Tribes, the scientific community, industry, environmental entities, and any other interested parties concerning the status of Southern Resident killer whales. The 5-year review considers the best scientific and commercial data and all new information that has become available since the listing determination or most recent status review. Categories of requested information include: (1) species biology including, but not limited to, population trends, distribution, abundance, demographics, and genetics; (2) habitat conditions including, but not limited to, amount, distribution, and suitability; (3) conservation measures that have been implemented that benefit the species; (4) status and trends of threats; and (5) other new information, data, or corrections including, but not limited to, taxonomic or nomenclatural changes, identification of erroneous information contained in the List, and improved analytical methods.

Any new information will be considered during the 5-year review and will also be useful in evaluating the ongoing recovery program for Southern Resident killer whales. For example, information on conservation measures will assist in tracking implementation of recovery actions. Habitat information received during the 5-year review process will also be useful in any future consideration of amending the designated critical habitat for Southern Resident killer whales. At the time critical habitat was designated (71 FR 69054; November 26, 2006), we concluded there was insufficient data to identify specific areas in offshore waters in which essential habitat features are found and stated we would consider any new information on coastal and offshore habitats that becomes available.

If you wish to provide information for this 5-year review, you may submit your information and materials to Lynne Barre (see ADDRESSES section). Our practice is to make submissions of information, including names and home addresses of respondents, available for public review on the Northwest Regional Web page and in our office during regular business hours. Respondents may request that we withhold a respondent's identity, as allowable by law. If you wish us to withhold your name or address, you must state this request prominently at the beginning of your submission. We will not, however, consider anonymous submissions. To the extent consistent with applicable law, we will make all submissions from organizations or businesses, and from individuals identifying themselves as representatives or officials of organizations or businesses, available for public inspection in their entirety. Information and materials received will be available for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours (see ADDRESSES section).

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Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.

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Dated: March 30, 2010.

Angela Somma,

Chief, Endangered Species Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service.

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[FR Doc. 2010-7766 Filed 4-5-10; 8:45 am]