NMFS Authorizes Navy’s Taking of Marine Mammals Incidental to the U.S. Navy’s Training and Testing Activities in the Atlantic Fleet Training and Testing Study Area

The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service has issued final Letters of Authorization pursuant to the Marine Mammal Protection Act to govern the U.S. Navy’s taking of marine mammals incidental to the training and testing activities conducted in the Atlantic Fleet Training and Testing Study Area over the course of seven years, effectively extending the time period from November 13, 2023, to November 13, 2025. In August 2018, the MMPA was amended by the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2019 to allow for seven-year authorizations for military readiness activities, as compared to the previously allowed five years. The Navy’s activities qualify as military readiness activities pursuant to the MMPA as amended by the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2004.

BOEM Rescinds Notice of Intent to Prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for GOM

The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has notified  the public that BOEM is rescinding the Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the OCS Gulf of Mexico (GOM) lease sales for 2020 and subsequent GOM lease sales through 2022

Cambria’s notice of this action reads in part as follows:

“On December 26, 2018, BOEM published a NOI to initiate the environmental review to inform the decisions for the two proposed lease sales scheduled in 2020 and the subsequent lease sales through 2022. The proposed lease sales include the Western and Central Planning Areas, and a small portion of the Eastern Planning Area not subject to Congressional moratorium.

CRE Comments on BOEM’s Seismic Permit ICR

The Center for Regulatory Effectiveness filed comments on the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s Information Collection Request to implement BOEM’s permitting program for oil and gas seismic operations in the Outer Continental Shelf. For reasons explained in these comments, CRE asked BOEM to withdraw its petition to the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service to issue a regulation governing the taking of marine mammals in the Gulf of Mexico. This requested BOEM action is required not only by the Information Quality Act but also by the Paperwork Reduction Act, which governs the issuance of the Information Collection Request for which BOEM is seeking public comment.  Click here to read all of CRE’s comments.

Comment on Changes in Atlantic Seismic IHA

On November 30, 2018, the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service issued an IHA in the Atlantic Ocean to ION GeoVentures, pursuant to the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). NMFS has received a request, co-signed by officers from ION GeoVentures (ION) and GX Technology Corporation (GXT), to administratively change the name of the holder of the subject IHA from ION to GXT. No other changes are proposed. NMFS is inviting comments on the proposed change.  NMFS must receive comments by January 2, 2020.  Click here for more details and relevant links.

Comment on NMFS’ New SARs

The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service NMFS has reviewed the Alaska, Atlantic, and Pacific regional marine mammal stock assessment reports (SARs) under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). SARs for marine mammals in the Alaska, Atlantic, and Pacific regions were revised according to new information.  NMFS solicits public comments on the draft 2019 SARs.

In addition to releasing draft 2019 Pacific SARs for public comment, NMFS is also providing an opportunity to comment on the final 2018 Western North Pacific (WNP) gray whale SAR previously published in the Federal Register on June 19, 2019 (84 FR 28489). NMFS is also requesting new information for strategic stocks that were not updated in 2019. Comments must be received by NMFS by February 25, 2020.

Extended Deadline for GOM Seismic Take Rules

A New Orleans federal district court has extended until December 5, 2019, the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service’s deadline for publishing final Take rules for Marine Mammals in the Gulf of Mexico.  These rules would be published under the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act.  In their stipulated motion to the court, the parties to the case characterize this as an “interim” extension to allow for discussions that may culminate in a stipulated and presumably longer extension of the settlement agreement.  Click here to read the parties’ motion for an extension, which the court granted.

“A Seismic Shift Towards Quieter Surveys”

Editor’s note: Marine Technology posted the above-titled article by Elaine Maslin.  The article reads as follows:

“Since the earliest days of offshore oil and gas exploration, the need to “shoot” seismic surveys has been helping companies to find the hydrocarbons they can then produce.

Seismic data helps geophysicists and geologists understand the rock formations in the earth, what might be happening in them and, crucially, if they might contain oil and gas. Similar to acquiring seismic data onshore, it means emitting sound energy (a source) then detecting its return and interpreting that information to image the subsurface.

NMFS Should Defer the Issuance of Gulf of Mexico Take Rules Until Ongoing Litigation Is Finalized

The National Marine Fisheries Service (“NMFS”) Should Defer Final Take Rules for Oil and Gas Marine Mammal Take Authorizations in the Gulf of Mexico  Until After Courts Decide Related Issues in Pending Litigation over NMFS’  Take Authorizations for Oil and Gas Exploration off the Atlantic Coast and Alaska

NMFS currently intends to publish final Marine Mammal Protection Act (“MMPA”) Rules for oil and gas geophysical surveys in the Gulf of Mexico by November 5, 2019  (“GOM Take Rules”).  These GOM Take Rules were originally requested by the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy management (“BOEM”). There is no legal deadline requiring this or any other publication date.[1] No statute or settlement agreement requires NMFS to promulgate final GOM Take rules by this date. Oil and gas operations have been and will continue to be heavily regulated under OCSLA, NEPA and the ESA, which also protect marine mammals.

NMFS Issues Navy a Marine Mammal Harassment Authorization for Beaufort and Chukchi

The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service has issued an incidental harassment authorization to the U.S.  Office of Naval Research to incidentally harass, by Level B harassment only, marine mammals during Arctic Research Activities in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.  ONR’s activities are considered military readiness activities pursuant to the MMPA, as amended by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004 . This Authorization is effective from September 10, 2019 through September 9, 2020. It is issued under the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Click here for more information and relevant links.

Comment on MMPA Rules for Navy Operations in the Hawaii-Southern California Area

The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service has received a request from the U.S. Navy (Navy) to extend the time period from December 2023 to December 2025 for Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) regulations authorizing the take of marine mammals incidental to Navy training and testing activities conducted in the Hawaii-Southern California Training and Testing Study Area. NMFS has published Federal Register notice of its intent to grant the Navy’s request. NMFS’ notice reads in part as follows: