50 CFR 403.04 - Determinations and hearings under section 109(c) of the MMPA.
(a) Introduction. In order to gain approval of its marine mammal management program the state must provide for a process, consistent with section 109(c) of the Act, to determine the optimum sustainable population of the species and the maximum number of animals that may be taken from populations it manages without reducing the species below OSP. The state process must be completed before the state may exercise any management authority over the subject marine mammals, and it must include the elements set forth below.
(b) Basis, purpose, and scope. The process set forth in this section is applicable to and required for only the determination of the OSP of the species and maximum number that may be taken without reducing it below its OSP and, in the case of Alaska if the species is below OSP, the maximum number of animals that may be taken, if any, for subsistence uses without preventing the species from increasing toward its OSP. The state need not allow the maximum take, as determined in accordance with this process, that is biologically permissible. The state may change regulations establishing bag limits, quotas, seasons, areas, manner of take, etc. within the maximum biologically permissible take pursuant to its other rulemaking criteria, authority, and procedures. Compliance with the process set forth in this section would not be required again unless the state proposes to modify its determinations of the status of the species with respect to its OSP or the maximum permissible take from that species.
(c) Initial determination by the State. The state agency with responsibility for managing the species in the event management authority is transferred to the state shall make initial determinations on the basis of the best scientific evidence available of:
(1) Whether or not it is at its OSP; (2) if so, the maximum number of that species that nay be taken without reducing it below its OSP; and (3) if not, in the case of Alaska, the maximum number of animals that may be taken, if any, for subsistence uses without preventing the species from increasing toward its OSP.
(d) Notice and review of initial determinations and request for hearing. The state agency shall provide notice of its initial determinations to the Service and the public and shall provide access to or copies of the documentation supporting its determinations to the Service and the public. The state agency shall indicate, in the notice of its initial determinations, the location(s) and hours during which such documentation may be inspected, and the costs, if any of copies of such documentation. The state agency shall also indicate in the notice that any interested person may request a hearing regarding the initial determinations, and the state shall provide a reasonable time, not less than 30 days, for making the request, taking into account the time required to advise the public of the initial determinations and to make the supporting documentation readily available to interested persons for their consideration. If a request for a hearing is not made within the prescribed time period, the initial determinations shall be treated as final.
(e) Notice of hearing. If a request for a hearing is made within the prescribed time period by any interested person, the state agency shall provide notice of the hearing to the Service and the public not less than 30 days in advance of the scheduled date(s) of the hearing(s). The notice shall include the date(s), location(s), and purpose of the hearing, a recitation of the initial determinations, the name(s) of the person(s) who will preside at the hearing, and the manner and date by which interested persons must notify the state agency or presiding officer(s) of their desire to participate in the hearing. The state shall also make available and distribute upon request a list of witnesses and description of the documentation and other evidence that will be relied upon by the state's witnesses in support of its initial determinations sufficiently in advance of the hearing date so as to allow interested persons to prepare questions and supporting or rebuttal testimony for the hearing.
(f) Conduct of the hearing. (1) The hearing shall be publicly conducted and reported verbatim by an official reporter.
(2) The state shall sponsor all written documentation in support of its determinations with witnesses who are able, by virtue of training and experience, to respond fully to cross-examination regarding the facts and conclusions contained therein provided that, except by agreement of the parties, the state agency may not call any witnesses or introduce any documentation into the record unless the advance notice requirements of paragraph (e) of this section are met with respect to such witnesses or documentation.
(3) Any interested person who has notificed the state agency of his desire to participate in the hearing pursuant to paragraph (e) of this section may participate in the hearing by presenting oral or written testimony or cross-examining the witnesses or other parties with respect to matters relevant to the state's initial determinations, provided that any such written documentation must be sponsored by a witness who is able, by virtue of training and experience, to respond fully to cross-examination regarding the facts and conclusions contained therein.
(4) The presiding officer(s) shall conduct the hearing in accordance with such other rules of evidence, criteria, and procedures as are necessary and appropriate for the expeditious and effective determination of the issues. The presiding officer(s) may provide for oral argument and/or written briefs at the end of the hearing.
(5) Final determinations on the issues specified in paragraph (c) of this section must be supported by the best available scientific information so as to insure that any taking will be consistent with the maintenance of OSP.
(g) Review of the hearing record and final determinations. (1) The state agency shall provide for either:
(i) Review and evaluation of the hearing record by the presiding officer(s) and transmittal by the presiding officer(s) of recommended final determinations to the decision-maker(s) in the state agency; or
(ii) Review and evaluation of the hearing record and final determinations by the state agency without benefit of any recommendations by the presiding officer(s). In any event, the final determinations by the state agency must be made solely on the basis of the record developed at the hearing. The state agency in making its final determinations, and/or presiding officer(s) in making his (their) recommended determinations, may not rely on oral or written evidence which was not presented at the hearing and made available to the parties for cross-examination and rebuttal testimony. Any such oral or written information transmitted to the presiding officer(s) or other members of the state agency responsible for the final determinations shall be treated as ex parte communications and may not be considered part of the record for decision.
(2) The state agency shall make final determinations of the issues set forth in paragraph (c) of this section and shall include in its statement of final determinations a statement of findings and conclusions and the reasons or basis therefor.
(3) The state agency shall advise the Service and the public of its final determinations and shall provide access to or copies of its decision document and Hearing Record.
(h) Judicial review. The state agency's final determinations after a hearing must be supported by substantial evidence in the record of the hearing. Opportunity for judicial review of the state agency's final determinations must be available under state law. The scope of judicial review shall be equivalent to that provided for in 5 U.S.C. 706(2) (A) through (E).