50 CFR § 223.210 - Green sturgeon.

§ 223.210 Green sturgeon.

(a) Prohibitions. The prohibitions of section 9(a)(1) of the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1538(a)(1)) relating to endangered species apply to the threatened Southern Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of green sturgeon listed in § 223.102.

(b) Exceptions. Exceptions to the take prohibitions described in section 9(a)(1) of the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1538(a)(1)) applied in paragraph (a) of this section to the threatened Southern DPS listed in § 223.102 are described in the following paragraphs (b)(1) through (b)(3).

(1) Scientific research and monitoring exceptions. The prohibitions of paragraph (a) of this section relating to the threatened Southern DPS listed in § 223.102 do not apply to ongoing or future Federal, state, or private-sponsored scientific research or monitoring activities if:

(1) Scientific Research and Monitoring Exceptions. The prohibitions of paragraph (a) of this section relating to the threatened Southern DPS listed in § 223.102(c)(1) do not apply to ongoing or future Federal, state, or private-sponsored scientific research or monitoring activities if:

(i) The scientific research or monitoring activity complies with required state reviews or permits;

(ii) The research or monitoring activity is directed at the Southern DPS and is not incidental to research or monitoring of another species;

(iii) Take of live mature adults in the lower Feather River from the confluence with the Sacramento River to the Oroville Dam (rkm 116), the lower Yuba River from the confluence with the Feather River to the Daguerre Dam (rkm 19), or Suisun, San Pablo, and San Francisco Bays or the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta from the Golden Gate Bridge up into the Sacramento River to Keswick Dam (rkm 483) occurs from July 1 through March 1 so as to substantially increase the likelihood that uninterrupted upstream spawning migrations of adults will occur;

(iv) Take is non-lethal;

(v) Take involving the removal of any life stage of the Southern DPS from the wild does not exceed 60 minutes;

(vi) Take does not involve artificial spawning or enhancement activities;

(vii) A description of the study objectives and justification, a summary of the study design and methodology, estimates of the total non-lethal take of Southern DPS fish anticipated, estimates of incidental take of other ESA listed species anticipated and proof that those takes have been authorized by NMFS or the USFWS, identification of funding sources, and a point of contact is reported to the NMFS Southwest Regional Office in Long Beach at least 60 days prior to the start of the study, or by August 31, 2010 for ongoing studies;

(viii) Reports that include the total number of Southern DPS and any other ESA listed species taken, information that supports that take was non-lethal, and a summary of the project results is submitted to the NMFS Southwest Regional Office in Long Beach on a schedule to be determined by NMFS; and

(ix) Research or monitoring that involves action, permitting, or funding by a Federal agency still complies with the requirements of ESA section 7(a)(2) in order to ensure that the action will not jeopardize the continued existence of the threatened Southern DPS.

(2) Enforcement exception. The prohibitions of paragraph (a) of this section relating to the threatened Southern DPS listed in § 223.102 do not apply to any employee of NMFS, when the employee, acting in the course of his or her official duties, takes a Southern DPS fish listed in § 223.102 without a permit, if such action is necessary for purposes of enforcing the ESA or its implementing regulations.

(3) Emergency fish rescue and salvage exceptions. The prohibitions of paragraph (a) of this section relating to the threatened Southern DPS listed in § 223.102 do not apply to emergency fish rescue and salvage activities that include aiding sick, injured, or stranded fish, disposing of dead fish, or salvaging dead fish for use in scientific studies, if:

(i) The activity complies with required state or other Federal reviews or permits;

(ii) The activity is conducted by an employee or designee of NMFS or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), any Federal land management agency, or California Department of Fish and Game, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, or Alaska Department of Fish and Game;

(iii) The activity benefits the Southern DPS; and

(iv) Those carrying out the activity submit a report to the NMFS Southwest Regional Office in Long Beach that includes, at a minimum, the number and status of fish handled, the location of rescue and/or salvage operations, and the potential causes(s) of the emergency situation within 10 days after conducting the emergency rescue.

(4) Habitat restoration exceptions. The prohibitions of paragraph (a) of this section relating to the threatened Southern DPS listed in § 223.102 do not apply to habitat restoration activities including barrier removal or modification to restore water flows, riverine or estuarine bed restoration, natural bank stabilization, restoration of native vegetation, removal of non-native species, or removal of contaminated sediments, that reestablish self-sustaining habitats for the Southern DPS, if:

(i) The activity complies with required state and Federal reviews and permits;

(ii) Those carrying out the activity submit a detailed description of the restoration activity to the NMFS Southwest Regional Office in Long Beach at least 60 days prior to the start of the restoration project, or, for ongoing studies, by August 31, 2010, which includes: the geographic area affected; when activities will occur; how they will be conducted; and the severity of direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts of activities on the Southern DPS; identification of funding sources; demonstration that all state and Federal regulatory requirements have been met; a description of methods used to ensure that the likelihood of survival or recovery of the listed species is not reduced; a plan for minimizing and mitigating any adverse impacts to Southern DPS spawning or rearing habitat; an estimate of the amount of incidental take of the listed species that may occur and a description of how that estimate was made; a plan for effective monitoring and adaptive management; a pledge to use best available science and technology when conducting restoration activities; and a point of contact;

(iii) Those carrying out the activity submit progress reports that include the total number of Southern DPS fish taken, information regarding whether the take was lethal or non-lethal, a summary of the status of the project, and any changes in the methods being used, to the NMFS Southwest Regional Office in Long Beach on a schedule to be determined by NMFS; and

(iv) An activity that involves action, permitting, or funding by a Federal agency complies with the requirements of ESA section 7(a)(2) in order to ensure that the action will not jeopardize the continued existence of the threatened Southern DPS.

(c) Exemptions via ESA 4(d) Program Approval. Exemptions from the take prohibitions described in section 9(a)(1) of the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1538(a)(1)) applied in paragraph (a) of this section to the threatened Southern DPS listed in § 223.102 are described in the following paragraphs:

(1) Scientific research and monitoring exemptions. The prohibitions of paragraph (a) of this section relating to the threatened Southern DPS listed in § 223.102 do not apply to ongoing or future state-sponsored scientific research or monitoring activities that are part of a NMFS-approved, ESA-compliant state 4(d) research program conducted by, or in coordination with, state fishery management agencies (California Department of Fish and Game, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, or Alaska Department of Fish and Game), or as part of a monitoring and research program overseen by, or coordinated by, one of these agencies. State 4(d) research programs must meet the following criteria:

(i) Descriptions of the ongoing and future 4(d) research or monitoring activity, as described in paragraph (c)(1)(ii) of this section, must be received by the NMFS Southwest Regional Office in Long Beach during the mid-September through mid-October 2010 application period. This exception to the section 9 take prohibitions expires if the proposal is rejected as insufficient or is denied. If the state 4(d) research program package is received during the mid-September to mid-October application period, ongoing state-supported scientific research activities may continue until NMFS issues a written decision of approval or denial. If approved, the state 4(d) program authorization will cover one calendar year and state-supported researchers would have to renew authorizations annually during subsequent application periods.

(ii) Descriptions of ongoing and future state-supported research activities must include the following information and should be submitted to NMFS by the State: an estimate of total direct or incidental take; a description of the study design and methodology; a justification for take and the techniques employed; and a point of contact.

(iii) NMFS will provide written approval of a state 4(d) research program.

(iv) The State agency will provide an annual report to NMFS that, at a minimum, summarizes the number of Southern DPS green sturgeon taken directly or incidentally, and summarizes the results of the project.

(2) Fisheries exemptions. The prohibitions of paragraph (a) of this section relating to the threatened Southern DPS listed in § 223.102 do not apply to fisheries activities that are conducted in accordance with a NMFS-approved Fishery Management and Evaluation Plan (FMEP). If NMFS finds that an FMEP meets the criteria listed below, a letter of concurrence which sets forth the terms of the FMEP's implementation and the duties of the parties pursuant to the FMEP, will be issued to the applicant.

(i) An FMEP must prohibit retention of green sturgeon (i.e., zero bag limit); set maximum incidental take levels, include restrictions to minimize incidental take of the green sturgeon (e.g., temporal/spatial restrictions, size of fish, gear used); provide a biologically based rationale demonstrating that the incidental take management strategy will not significantly reduce the likelihood of survival or recovery of the Southern DPS; include effective monitoring and evaluation plans; provide for evaluating monitoring data and making revisions to the FMEP; provide for effective enforcement and education; provide a timeframe for FMEP implementation; and report the amount of incidental take and summarize the effectiveness of the FMEP to NMFS on a biannual basis.

(ii) The ESA section 9(a)(1)(B) and (a)(1)(C) take prohibitions will not apply to ongoing commercial and recreational fisheries activities until September 30, 2010 if a letter of intent to develop an FMEP that is protective of green sturgeon has been received by NMFS by July 2, 2010. The exemption will expire if the letter of intent is rejected without further review of a FMEP. If the letter of intent is received by August 31, 2010, a draft FMEP must be received by NMFS within 6 months from the date of receipt of the letter of intent. A final FMEP must be received by NMFS within 3 months from the date of receipt of NMFS' comments on the draft FMEP. Ongoing commercial and recreational fisheries activities may continue until NMFS issues a letter of concurrence or denial for final FMEPs.

(iii) NMFS will provide a public comment period (≥30 days) before approval of new or amended FMEPs; provide a letter of concurrence for approved FMEPs that specifies the implementation and reporting requirements; evaluate FMEPs every 5 years and identify changes that would improve their effectiveness; and provide a public comment period (≥30 days) before withdrawing approval of an FMEP.

(3) Tribal exemptions. The prohibitions of paragraph (a) of this section relating to the threatened Southern DPS listed in § 223.102 do not apply to fishery harvest or other activities undertaken by a tribe, tribal member, tribal permittee, tribal employee, or tribal agent in Willapa Bay, WA, Grays Harbor, WA, Coos Bay, OR, Winchester Bay, OR, Humboldt Bay, CA, and any other area where tribal treaty fishing occurs, if those activities are compliant with a tribal resource management plan (Tribal Plan), provided that the Secretary determines that implementation of such Tribal Plan will not appreciably reduce the likelihood of survival and recovery of the Southern DPS. In making that determination the Secretary shall use the best available biological data (including any tribal data and analysis) to determine the Tribal Plan's impact on the biological requirements of the species, and will assess the effect of the Tribal Plan on survival and recovery, consistent with legally enforceable tribal rights and with the Secretary's trust responsibilities to tribes.

(i) A Tribal Plan may include, but is not limited to, plans that address fishery harvest, artificial production, research, or water or land management, and may be developed by one tribe or jointly with other tribes. The Secretary will consult on a government-to-government basis with any tribe that so requests and will provide, to the maximum extent practicable, technical assistance in examining impacts on the Southern DPS as tribes develop Tribal Plans. A Tribal Plan must specify the procedures by which the tribe will enforce its provisions.

(ii) Where there exists a Federal court proceeding with continuing jurisdiction over the subject matter of a Tribal Plan, the plan may be developed and implemented within the ongoing Federal Court proceeding. In such circumstances, compliance with the Tribal Plan's terms shall be determined within that Federal Court proceeding.

(iii) The Secretary shall seek comment from the public on the Secretary's pending determination whether implementation of a Tribal Plan will appreciably reduce the likelihood of survival and recovery of the listed Southern DPS.

(iv) The Secretary shall publish notification in the Federal Register of any determination regarding a Tribal Plan and the basis for that determination.

(d) ESA section 10 permits. The exceptions of section 10 of the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1539) and other exceptions under the ESA relating to endangered species, including regulations in part 222 of this chapter II implementing such exceptions, also apply to the threatened Southern DPS listed in § 223.102. Federal, state, and private-sponsored research activities for scientific research or enhancement purposes that are not covered under Scientific Research and Monitoring Exceptions as described in paragraph (b)(1) of this section or Scientific Research and Monitoring Exemptions as described in paragraph (c)(1) of this section, may take Southern DPS fish pursuant to the specifications of an ESA section 10 permit.

(e) Affirmative defense. In connection with any action alleging a violation of the prohibitions of paragraph (a) of this section with respect to the threatened Southern DPS listed in § 223.102, any person claiming that his or her take is excepted via methods listed in paragraph (b) of this section shall have a defense where the person can demonstrate that the exception is applicable and was in force, and that the person fully complied with the exception's requirements at the time of the alleged violation. This defense is an affirmative defense that must be raised, pleaded, and proven by the proponent. If proven, this defense will be an absolute defense to liability under section 9(a)(1)(G) of the ESA with respect to the alleged violation.

[75 FR 30728, June 2, 2010, as amended at 79 FR 20813, Apr. 14, 2014]