50 CFR § 218.65 - Requirements for monitoring and reporting.

§ 218.65 Requirements for monitoring and reporting.

(a) Holders of LOAs issued pursuant to § 218.66 for activities described in § 218.60(a) are required to cooperate with NMFS, and any other Federal, state, or local agency with authority to monitor the impacts of the activity on marine mammals. If the authorized activity identified in § 218.60(a) is thought to have resulted in the mortality or injury of any marine mammals or take of marine mammals not identified in § 218.60(b), then the Holder of the LOA must notify the Director, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, or designee, by telephone (301) 427-8401, and the Southeast Regional Office (phone within 24 hours of the injury or death).

(b) Monitoring shall be conducted by personnel who have completed Eglin's Marine Species Observer Training Course, which was developed in cooperation with the National Marine Fisheries Service.

(c) The Holder of the LOA shall use mission-reporting forms to track their use of the EGTTR for testing and training missions and to track marine mammal observations.

(d) Depending on the mission category, visual aerial-based, vessel-based, or video-based marine mammal surveys shall be conducted before and after live ordnance mission activities each day.

(e) Vessel-based surveys shall begin approximately one and one-half hour prior to live weapon deployment and shall be completed 30 minutes prior to the start of mission.

(f) Surveys shall continue for approximately one hour or until the entire ZOI has been adequately surveyed, whichever comes first.

(g) Post-mission monitoring surveys shall commence once the mission has ended or as soon as the mission area is declared safe.

(h) Vessel-based post-mission surveys shall be conducted for 30 minutes after completion of live ordnance missions.

(i) Any marine mammals detected in the ZOI during post-mission surveys, for which take are authorized, shall be counted as takes by Level B harassment. Any marine mammals detected in the ZOI during post-mission surveys, for which take is not authorized, shall be reported immediately to the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS.

(j) A minimum of two dedicated observers shall be stationed on each vessel.

(k) Observers shall utilize optical equipment with sufficient magnification to allow observation of surfaced animals.

(l) The size of the survey area for each mission shall be determined according to the radius of impact for the given threshold of each munition/detonation scenario. These ranges shall be monitored during pre-mission surveys for each activity.

(m) Some missions shall be delayed to allow survey platforms to evacuate the human safety zone after pre-missions surveys are completed.

(n) Any aerial-based pre-mission surveys shall be conducted by observers aboard non-mission aircraft or mission aircraft who have completed the Marine Species Observer Training.

(o) Gunship standard procedures initiated prior to initiation of live-firing events shall require at least two complete orbits around the survey mission site at the appropriate airspeed and monitoring altitude and include the following:

(1) Monitoring for marine mammals shall continue throughout the mission by mission crew;

(2) Where applicable aircraft optical and electronic sensors shall be used for marine mammal observation;

(3) If any marine mammals are detected during pre-mission surveys or during the mission, activities shall be immediately halted until the ZOI area is clear of all marine mammals, or the mission shall be relocated to another target area. If the mission is relocated, the pre-mission survey procedures shall be repeated;

(4) If multiple firing missions are conducted within the same flight, standard clearance procedures shall precede each mission; and

(5) Gunship crews shall conduct a post-mission survey beginning at the operational altitude and proceeding through a spiraling descent to the designated monitoring altitude.

(p) Video-based monitoring from the GRATV shall be conducted where appropriate via live high-definition video feed.

(1) Supplemental video monitoring shall be conducted through the employment of additional aerial assets including aerostats and drones when available.

(2) [Reserved]

(q) Acoustic Monitoring:

(1) Eglin AFB shall conduct a passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) study as an initial step towards understanding acoustic impacts from underwater detonations, if funding is approved;

(2) Eglin AFB shall conduct PAM for marine mammal vocalizations before, during, and after live missions in the EGTTR, once funding is approved; and

(3) The results of the PAM study shall be submitted to NMFS OPR as a draft monitoring report within 90 days of completion of the study.

(r) The Holder of the LOA is required to:

(1) Submit an annual draft report to NMFS OPR on all monitoring conducted under the LOA within 90 days of the completion of marine mammal monitoring, or 60 days prior to the issuance of any subsequent LOA for projects at the EGTTR, whichever comes first. A final report shall be prepared and submitted within 30 days following resolution of comments on the draft report from NMFS. This report must contain, at a minimum, the following information:

(i) Date and time of each EGTTR mission;

(ii) A complete description of the pre-mission and post-mission activities related to mitigating and monitoring the effects of EGTTR missions on marine mammal populations; and

(iii) Results of the monitoring program, including numbers by species/stock of any marine mammals noted injured or killed as a result of the EGTTR mission and number of marine mammals (by species if possible) that may have been harassed due to presence within the zone of influence.

(2) The draft report shall be subject to review and comment by NMFS. Any recommendations made by NMFS must be addressed in the final report prior to acceptance by NMFS. The draft report shall be considered the final report for this activity under the LOA if NMFS has not provided comments and recommendations within 90 days of receipt of the draft report.

(s) Reporting injured or dead marine mammals:

(1) In the unanticipated event that the specified activity clearly causes the take of a marine mammal in a manner prohibited by the LOA, such as an injury for species not authorized (Level A harassment), serious injury, or mortality, Eglin AFB shall immediately cease the specified activities and report the incident to the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the Southeast Regional Office, NMFS. The report must include the following information:

(i) Time and date of the incident;

(ii) Description of the incident;

(iii) Environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, Beaufort sea state, cloud cover, and visibility);

(iv) Description of all marine mammal observations in the 24 hours preceding the incident;

(v) Species identification or description of the animal(s) involved;

(vi) Fate of the animal(s); and

(vii) Photographs or video footage of the animal(s).

(2) Activities shall not resume until NMFS is able to review the circumstances of the prohibited take. NMFS shall work with Eglin AFB to determine what measures are necessary to minimize the likelihood of further prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. Eglin AFB may not resume their activities in the EGTTR until notified by NMFS.

(3) In the event that Eglin AFB discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the lead observer determines that the cause of the injury or death is unknown and the death is relatively recent (e.g., in less than a moderate state of decomposition), Eglin AFB shall immediately report the incident to the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the Southeast Regional Office, NMFS. The report must include the same information identified in paragraph (p)(1) of this section. Activities may continue while NMFS reviews the circumstances of the incident. NMFS shall work with Eglin AFB to determine whether additional mitigation measures or modifications to the activities are appropriate.

(4) In the event that Eglin AFB discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the lead observer determines that the injury or death is not associated with or related to the activities authorized in the LOA (e.g., previously wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced decomposition, scavenger damage), Eglin AFB shall report the incident to the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the Southeast Regional Office, NMFS, within 24 hours of the discovery. Eglin AFB shall provide photographs or video footage or other documentation of the stranded animal sighting to NMFS.

(5) Additional Conditions:

(i) The Holder of the LOA must inform the Director, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, (301-427-8401) or designee prior to the initiation of any changes to the monitoring plan for a specified mission activity.

(ii) A copy of the LOA must be in the possession of the safety officer on duty each day that EGTTR missions are conducted.

(iii) The LOA may be modified, suspended or withdrawn if the holder fails to abide by the conditions prescribed herein, or if NMFS determines the authorized taking is having more than a negligible impact on the species or stock of affected marine mammals.

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