Daily Rules, Proposed Rules, and Notices of the Federal Government
After receiving the permit application from NMFS, we provided a public notice and summary background information and solicited public comments on the DEA in January 2012 (77 FR 1501). We have now considered comments, finalized our analysis, and selected an alternative that meets the purpose and need of our action (issuance of a permit under the MBTA). We have determined that issuing a permit will not result in significant impacts to the human environment.
We evaluated several alternatives for the proposed issuance of a permit under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) for incidental take of seabirds in the shallow-set longline fishery based in Hawaii. The analysis of alternatives is documented in a final environmental assessment (FEA), which is available to the public on our Web site or by request (see
We analyzed three alternatives in the FEA:
1. No action. Under the No Action alternative, we would deny the permit application and not issue a permit to NMFS. We rejected consideration of a separate alternative of literally taking no action, and not even responding to the permit application, because it is our policy to process all applications received as quickly as possible (50 CFR 13.11(c)).
2. Issue permit as requested (
3. Issue permit with additional conditions to conduct research and to increase conservation benefit to seabirds. Rather than analyze existing and future observer data and elicit additional information from observers and fishers (as in Alternative 2), Alternative 3 would require research and field trials of new deterrent methods and technologies or those already in use in the industry to develop means to reduce take in the fishery during the 3-year term of the permit. Alternative 3 is otherwise the same as Alternative 2.
We solicited comments on an internal draft of the EA from other programs within the Service, and provided responses in a final draft EA (DEA) that was available to the public from January 10 through February 9, 2012 (77 FR 1501). During the public comment period, we received a total of eight comment letters: One from a federal agency, one from a Fishery Management Council, one from a fishery industry organization, two from conservation organizations, and three from private citizens. The final EA incorporates minor changes to address technical comments and provides narrative responses to substantive comments. Some of these comments touch on policy and legal questions that are raised or implied by, but that do not themselves affect, our permitting action. However, none of the commenters provided additional information that (1) changed the outcome of our analysis or (2) required a finding that our action would have a significant impact.
The Impacts Analysis in the EA considered direct, indirect, and cumulative effects of the alternatives on seabirds, the fishery and economic environment, and cultural resources. We found that none of the alternatives would have significant impacts to any of these aspects of the human environment. The alternatives would not have significant adverse impacts to seabirds, because the take of seabirds in this fishery is low. Laysan and Black-footed albatrosses comprise roughly 99 percent of all take of migratory birds in the fishery. The projected take of these species in each year of the 3-year term of a permit, and the slightly greater amount of annual take that would be authorized in a permit (a total of no more than 191 Black-footed and 430 Laysan albatrosses over the 3-year permit term), would constitute less than 1 percent of the total estimated breeding population of each species each year. This level of take does not contribute substantially to the cumulative total take of these seabirds estimated to occur each year in all North Pacific longline fisheries. The other three seabird species analyzed in the FEA are the Sooty Shearwater, Northern Fulmar, and the endangered Short-tailed Albatross. The shearwater and fulmar are represented by one individual bird each in the data on observed take in the fishery. We would authorize take of no more than 10 birds annually of each of these two species. Although no Short-tailed Albatrosses have been reported taken in the fishery, impacts of the fishery to this species have been evaluated under the Endangered Species Act, and take at a rate of one bird every 5 years has been authorized in the Service's Biological Opinion.
The beneficial impacts of the action involve only seabirds. These beneficial impacts are minor. Although either Alternative 2 or 3 would result in improved information about sources of take in the fishery and means of reducing take, neither would result in an additional reduction in take in the fishery during the 3-year permit term. However, the long-term goal of this (and any subsequent) permitting action is the eventual further reduction of seabird take in this fishery.
The alternatives do not have a significant impact on the fishery or economic environment. Although the alternatives variously may result in slight changes in costs to NMFS (for example, to analyze data or conduct field trials), none of the alternatives would result in any major change in the operation of the fishery. No cultural resources as defined under the National Historic Preservation Act are significantly affected by the alternatives because the fishery operates in the 200-mile U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone and on the high seas, far from historic sites.
Alternative 2 will meet fully the purposes and needs of the proposed permitting action described above (and described in more detail in Chapter 1 of the FEA). This alternative also represents initial steps toward the long-term goal of reducing take of seabirds in this fishery. We determine that implementation of Alternative 2 does not constitute a major Federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment under the meaning of section 102(2)(c) of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (as amended). As such, an environmental impact statement is not required.
We provide this notice under section 668a of the Act (16 U.S.C. 668-668c) and NEPA regulations (40 CFR 1506.6).