NMFS Proposes Changes to Harbor Porpoise Take Reduction Plan

NMFS proposes to amend its regulations implementing the Harbor Porpoise Take Reduction Plan.  This proposed rule would revise the Plan by eliminating the consequence closure strategy enacted in 2010. NMFS says that this change is necessary to prevent the improper triggering of consequence closure areas based on target harbor porpoise bycatch rates that no longer accurately reflect actual bycatch in New England sink gillnets due to fishery-wide changes in fishing practices. Comments on the proposed rule are due to NMFS on or before September 10, 2013.


Click here to read NMFS’ Federal Register notice of proposed rule.


NMFS Says Dolphin Deaths Caused by Virus

As of August 26, 333 dolphins have washed up dead or dying on beaches from New York to North Carolina. These deaths are likely due to a disease outbreak called cetacean morbillivirus, NMFS announced on August 27, 2013. Cetacean morbillivirus is in the same family as the virus that causes measles in people. But this group of viruses tends not to jump from species to species. Even so, NMFS officials are warning the public not to approach stranded dolphins as they could have secondary bacterial or fungal infections that could pose a risk to people, especially those with open wounds.

NMFS Says PTS is not a Serious Injury

The National Marine Fisheries Service has issued an Incidental Harassment Authorization under the Marine Mammal Protection Act to the U.S. Air Force. This IHA authorizes the Air Force to take marine mammals,by harassment, incidental to Maritime Strike Operations in the Gulf of Mexico.  This IHA is effective August 19, 2013, through August 18, 2014.

The Marine Mammal Commission commented on the proposed IHA that all permanent hearing loss should be considered a serious injury and recommended that NMFS  propose to issue regulations under section 101(a)(5)(A) of the MMPA and a letter of authorization, rather than anincidental harassment authorization, for any proposed activities expected to cause a permanent threshold shift (PTS).

NMFS Publishes ESA Report

The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service issues an Endangered Species Act Biennial Report to Congress on the Recovery Program for Threatened and Endangered Species.  This report summarizes efforts to recover all domestic species under NMFS’ jurisdiction. NMFS’ current report spans October 1, 2010 to September 30, 2012. It includes 14 marine mammals. Click here to read NMFS’ ESA report.


NMFS Denies Petition to Delist Southern Resident Killer Whale DPS

On August 5, 2013, NMFS issued its 12-month finding on a petition to delist the Southern Resident killer whale (Orcinus orca) Distinct Population Segment under the Endangered Species Act. NMFS listed the Southern Resident killer whale DPS as endangered under the ESA in 2005. NMFS accepted the petition to delist the Southern Resident killer whale DPS on November 27, 2012, initiating a public comment period and a status review. Based on NMFS’ review of the petition, public comments, and the best available scientific information, NMFS found that delisting the Southern Resident killer whale DPS is not warranted. NMFS’ finding and supporting information are available on NMFS’ Web page at: http://www.nwr.noaa.gov/protected_species/marine_mammals/killer_whale/delist_petition.html .

NMFS Issues IHA for Navy Florida Operations

NMFS has issued an Incidental Harassment Authorization to the U.S. Navy to take marine mammals, by harassment, incidental to conducting research, development, test and evaluation activities at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division.

This IHA is issued under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and it is effective July 27, 2013, through July 26, 2014. This IHA is supported by an “Environmental Assessment for the Issuance of an Incidental Harassment Authorization to Take Marine Mammals by Harassment Incidental to Conducing High-Frequency Sonar Testing Activities in the Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division,’’ and by a Finding of No Significant Impact, both prepared by NMFS.