The US Fish and Wildlife Service, Headquarters Region 7 intends to award a single source Cooperative Agreement as authorized by 505 DM 2.14.B to Far East Whale Research. This notice is not a request for proposals and the Government does not intend to accept proposals. Award will be made 15 days after this notice. PURPOSE: This agreement will support the continued monitoring, management, and study of factors affecting the abundance of northern sea otters in the Commander Islands, Russia. The trend of this population has been stable in the past, but data from 2009 indicate that a substantial decline in numbers may have taken place. This study is needed to confirm population status. At sea surveys of sea otters will monitor changes in distribution and relative abundance over time and space. Beach surveys for sea otter carcasses will monitor annual changes in the sex and age structure of the part of the population that does not survive. This information is critical for the US Fish and Wildlife Service, as it will increase our understanding of sea otter population dynamics in the Bering Sea, where the SW stock of the northern sea otter on the US side is listed as Threatened under the US Endangered Species Act. This agreement will support studies to aid the US Fish and Wildlife Service in sea otter management and recovery. OBJECTIVES: In 2012 or 2013, we are planning to conduct a complete sea otter survey on the Commander Islands, both Bering and Medniy islands, depending on weather and availability of funding. One year of surveys will be completed. Surveys will be conducted by skiff with the support of a larger vessel, especially around Medniy Island. Weather in this area can be extreme, with very high waves and strong currents making surveying difficult and dangerous. For each survey track, the locations of all sea otter groups in the water or hauled out on land will be recorded and georeferenced using GIS applications. Additionally, the number of sea otters in each group, sex and age composition of each group, distance from the shore line, and water depth in each location will be recorded. To obtain comparable data and ensure consistency among years, sea otter distribution will also be recorded using the same system of sectors that was developed about 30 years ago, so that changes in distribution and relative abundance can be tracked over time and space. Sea otter carcasses will be collected by searching along the high tide line on beaches on Bering Island. Carcasses will be enumerated, and location will be georeferenced. When possible, carcasses will be evaluated for sex and age. This part of the project monitors annual changes in the sex and age structure of the part of the population that does not survive. Monitoring these parameters relative to population size will provide information on mortality rates for adults and pups and may provide information on cause of death. Samples will also be collected from carcasses for an on going collaborative genetics study of sea otter stock structure, and other biological samples will be collected as feasible. REASON FOR SINGLE SOURCE: 1. Continuation, The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service has the primary responsibility for managing sea otter populations, and has conducted research on sea otters for many years. Since the late 1970s, sea otter surveys have been conducted regularly in the Commander Islands using consistent methods. Data from the Commander Islands comprise the longest and most complete time series of sea otter population estimates in the entirety of the sea otters range. This study is particularly important because this sea otter population has been stable. The survey conducted in 2009, however, showed a reduction in sea otter numbers to about 15 percent of earlier estimates. The reason for this decline in numbers is unclear. This Russian population borders the declining population along the Aleutian Islands and Alaska Peninsula, which is listed as Threatened under the US Endangered Species Act. On going studies on both populations will help determine the cause of the decline on the US side. A group of Russian biologists, including Alexander Burdin, Far East Whale Research, has conducted Commander Island studies for many years, which is critical for maintaining consistent methods for comparability. To obtain comparable data and ensure consistency among years, sea otter distribution will also be recorded using the same system of sectors that was developed about 30 years ago, so that changes in distribution and relative abundance can be tracked over time and space. 2. Unique Qualifications, Additionally, Far East Whale Research has the unique capacity, understanding of previous survey techniques, access to a support vessel on Bering Island, knowledge and experience boating in this area, good working relationships with Commander Islands Nature Reserve staff, to effectively work in this isolated and remote location. This experienced team will be able to accomplish the sea otter surveys while keeping safety concerns to a minimum. USFWS and USGS have supported these surveys and other sea otter work in the Commander Islands in the past. To our knowledge, no other sea otter specialists are prepared to do these surveys.