Recent NOAA notices: beluga whales listed; Gulf of Maine salmon DPS hearing; white abalone recovery plan available
73 Fed. Reg. 62919 (Wednesday, October 22, 2008)(DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; 50 CFR Part 224 ocket No. 08101413578137101 RIN 0648XL30; Endangered And Threatened Species; Endangered Status for the Cook Inlet Beluga Whale; Final rule).
The results of a 2008 abundance survey found the abundance unchanged from 2007, estimating 375 whales. Thus, the trend for the period 1999 to 2008 is a negative 1.45 percent annually. This number is not significantly different from zero, but is significantly less than the expected growth for an un-harvested population (24 percent). Alaska Native hunters from the Native Village of Tyonek agreed to step down from their subsistence hunting for the Cook Inlet distinct population segment in 2007, although other subsistence hunting continues. Photo from NOAA
SUMMARY: We, NMFS, issue a final determination to list a Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of the beluga whale, Delphinapterus leucas, found in Cook Inlet, Alaska, as endangered under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA). Following completion of a Status Review of this DPS (the Cook Inlet beluga whale) under the ESA, we published a proposed rule to list this DPS as an endangered species on April 20, 2007. We subsequently extended the date for final determination on the proposed action by 6 months, until October 20, 2008, as provided for by the ESA. After consideration of public comments received on the proposed rule and other available information, we have determined that the Cook Inlet beluga whale is in danger of extinction throughout its range, and should be listed as an endangered species. We will propose to designate critical habitat for the Cook Inlet beluga whale in a future rulemaking.
KEITHINKING: Previously, Defenders of Wildlife had decried the Bush administration's inaction on this listing as politics beating science; evidently, science won out in the end. The timing is noteworthy given the opposition to the listing by Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin, and the related October 2008 Federal Register announcement of other subsistence hunting for separate populations of the species. In addition, NMFS also announced the availability of the final conservation plan for the Cook Inlet Beluga Whale pursuant to the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. 73 Fed. Reg. 62961 (Wednesday, October 22, 2008).
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73 Fed. Reg 62459 (Tuesday, October 21, 2008)(DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; 50 CFR Parts 224 and 226; RIN 0648–XJ93; RIN 0648–AW77; Endangered and Threatened Species; Proposed Endangered Status for the Gulf of Maine Distinct Population Segment of Atlantic Salmon; Proposed Critical Habitat for the Gulf of Maine Distinct Population Segment of Atlantic Salmon; Notice of two public hearings; notice of extension of public comment period).
Even with current conservation efforts, returns of adult Atlantic salmon to the Gulf of Maine DPS rivers remain extremely low. The 2006 status review reports an estimated extinction risk of 19% to 75% within the next 100 years for the Gulf of Maine DPS even when current levels of hatchery supplementation are considered. A recovery plan is also available.
SUMMARY: We (NMFS) will hold two public hearings in Maine in November 2008 for the purposes of answering questions on the proposal to list the Gulf of Maine (GOM) Atlantic salmon distinct population segment (DPS) as endangered under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA) and the NMFS proposal to designate critical habitat for the GOM DPS of Atlantic salmon. NMFS also extends the public comment period for the proposed critical habitat designation.
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73 Fed. Reg. 62257 (Monday, October 20, 2008)(DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; RIN 0648–XK57 Endangered and Threatened Species; Recovery Plan for White Abalone; Notice of availability).
The most significant threat to white abalone is related to the long-term effects that overfishing has had on the species. A short-lived commercial fishery began in the early 1970s, peaked mid-decade, and collapsed in the 1980s. Overfishing reduced white abalone densities to such low levels that males and females were too far apart from one another to successfully reproduce. The low densities of the animals in nature, resulting in repeated reproductive failure, make it unlikely that the species will recover on its own. Without human intervention, it was estimated that the remaining white abalone in the wild would disappear by 2010. Because current populations are only small fractions of former numbers, recovery of the species will be complicated by genetic drift, founder effects, and a loss of genetic diversity. White Abalone (Haliotis sorenseni) photo from John Butler, NOAA.
SUMMARY: The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announces the availability of a final recovery plan for the white abalone (Haliotis sorenseni). This endangered gastropod is a longlived, slow moving bottom dweller and is a member of the California Haliotids. Currently, isolated survivors have been identified along the mainland coast in Santa Barbara County and at some of the offshore islands and banks along the central California coast. NMFS’ ultimate goal is to increase white abalone abundance to viable and self-sustaining levels such that the species can be downlisted to threatened status and eventually removed from the Endangered Species List.