The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has published notice that the National Ocean Service, which is part of NOAA, is preparing a programmatic environmental assessment under the National Environmental Policy Act to evaluate the environmental impacts of NOS hydroacoustic surveys, mapping, and other related data gathering activities. NOS offices that conduct hydroacoustic surveys, mapping, and other related data-gathering activities which may be covered under this PEA include: Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, Office of Coast Survey, Office for Coastal Management, Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, Office of Response and Restoration, Office of National Geodetic Survey, and the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System Program Office.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which is part of the U.S. Department of Interior, has published its Record of Decision for the proposed oil and gas Gulf of Mexico Central Planning Area Lease Sale 247. This ROD identifies BOEM’s selected alternative for proposed CPA Lease Sale 247, which is analyzed in the Gulf of Mexico OCS Oil and Gas Lease Sales: 2017; Central Planning Area Lease Sale 247; Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. The ROD and associated information are available on BOEM’s Web site. Click here.
On December 20, 2016, U.S. President Obama issued a statement, which reads in part as follows:
“due to the important, irreplaceable values of its Arctic waters for Indigenous, Alaska Native and local communities’ subsistence and cultures, wildlife and wildlife habitat, and scientific research; the vulnerability of these ecosystems to an oil spill; and the unique logistical, operational, safety, and scientific challenges and risks of oil extraction and spill response in Arctic waters – the United States is designating the vast majority of U.S. waters in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas as indefinitely off limits to offshore oil and gas leasing, and Canada will designate all Arctic Canadian waters as indefinitely off limits to future offshore Arctic oil and gas licensing, to be reviewed every five years through a climate and marine science-based life-cycle assessment.”
The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service has received a revised application for Incidental Take Regulations from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management on behalf of oil and gas industry operators. The specified activity considered in the application is geophysical survey activity conducted in the Gulf of Mexico over the course of five years from the date of issuance.
The original notice announcing receipt of the revised application (81 FR 88664; December 8, 2016) indicated that comments and information must be received by NMFS no later than January 9, 2017, which allowed 30 days for public input. NMFS subsequently received a request to extend the comment period by a period of 14 days. NMFS has granted that request.
Brandon Southall, Doug Nowacek, Patrick Miller, and Peter Tyack have published a paper in Endangered Species Research. This Open Access paper is entitled “Experimental field studies to measure behavioral responses of cetaceans to sonar,” and it was published as a contribution to the ESR Theme Section ” 21st Century Paradigms for Measuring and Managing the Effects of Anthropogenic Ocean Noise.”
On October 11, 2016, The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service published and sought public comment on draft 2016 Alaska, Atlantic, and Pacific regional marine mammal stock assessment reports. NMFS subsequently became aware that due to technical errors in converting between electronic formats, the draft Atlantic SARs contained incorrect information in some instances. NMFS has published corrected Atlantic SARs.
Comments must be received by January 9, 2017. If members of the public need additional time to review the draft Atlantic 2016 SARs, contact Shannon Bettridge, Office of Protected Resources, 301–427–8402, Shannon.Bettridge@noaa.gov.
On December 8, 2016, the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service We, published Federal Register notice of NMFS’ 12- month finding and listing determination on a petition to list the Gulf of Mexico Bryde’s whale (Balaenoptera edeni) as threatened or endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. This NMFS Status Review report of the Gulf of Mexico Bryde’s whale responds to a petition submitted by the Natural Resources Defense Council.
NMFS has determined that the Gulf of Mexico Bryde’s whale is taxonomically a subspecies of the Bryde’s whale thus meeting the ESA’s definition of a species. Based on the Gulf of Mexico Bryde’s whale’s small population (likely fewer than 100 individuals), its life history characteristics, its extremely limited distribution, and its vulnerability to existing threats, we believe that the species faces a high risk of extinction.
The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service has published Federal Register notice that NMFS has received a revised application for incidental take regulations from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management on behalf of oil and gas industry operators. The specified activity considered in the application is geophysical survey activity conducted in the Gulf of Mexico over the course of five years from the date of issuance.
NMFS invites the public to provide information, suggestions, and comments on BOEM’s application. Any comments and information must be received by NMFS no later than January 9, 2017.