File No. 17670.The subject permit is requested under the authority of the MMPA, and the regulations governing the taking and importing of marine mammals (50 CFR part 216). The applicant requests a five-year permit to take harbor seals (Phoca vitulina concolor), gray seals (Halichoerus grypus), harp seals (Pagophilus groenlandicus), and hooded seals (Cystophora cristata) during conduct of stock assessment research, including estimation of distribution and abundance, determination of stock structure, habitat requirements, foraging ecology, health assessment and effects of natural and anthropogenic factors. Types of take include harassment during shipboard, skiff, and aircraft transect and photo-identification surveys, and scat collection; and capture with tissue sampling and instrument or tag attachment. The applicant proposes to capture up to 175 harbor seals and 225 gray seals annually for measurement of body condition, collection of tissue samples (e.g., blood, blubber biopsy, skin, hair, swab samples, vibrissae), and attachment of telemetry devices. Up to 200 harp seals, 50 hooded seals, 59,000 harbor seals, and 67,000 gray seals could be harassed annually incidental to surveys, scat collections and capture operations. The applicant also requests research-related mortality of up to 8 gray seals, 8 harbor seals, 2 harp seals, and 2 hooded seals per year. Permission is also sought to import and export pinniped specimen material (including soft and hard tissue, blood, extracted DNA, and whole dead animals or parts thereof) to/from any country. The study area includes waters within or proximal to the U.S. EEZ from North Carolina northward to Maine, and Canadian waters in the Gulf of Maine.
In compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321et seq.), an initial determination has been made that the activity proposed is categorically excluded from the requirement to prepare an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement.
Dated: October 18, 2012.
P. Michael Payne,
Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service.