NMFS proposes to grant BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc., an Incidental Harassment Authorization to take marine mammals, by harassment, incidental to conducting a shallow geohazard survey in Foggy Island Bay, Beaufort Sea, Alaska, during the 2014 open water season. Pursuant to the Marine Mammal Protection Act, NMFS is requesting comments on its proposal to issuance of this IHA. NMFS must receive any comments and information no later than May 16, 2014.
NMFS’ Federal Register notice of this proposed IHA is interesting for several reasons. First, NMFS states on page 21531 that: “To date, there is no evidence that serious injury, death, or stranding by marine mammals can occur from exposure to airgun pulses, even in the case of large airgun arrays.”
Second, NMFS states on page 21535 that: “Based on the preceding discussion, the proposed activity is not expected to have any habitat-related effects that could cause significant or long term consequences for individual marine mammals or their populations.”
Third, NMFS continues to use its historical acoustic exposure criteria (e.g., 160 and 180 dB) in this proposed IHA.
Fourth, on page 21536, NMFS provides the following analysis for determining mitigation measures in IHAs under the Marine Mammal Protection Act:
“NMFS has carefully evaluated BP’s proposed mitigation measures and considered a range of other measures in the context of ensuring that NMFS
prescribes the means of effecting the least practicable impact on the affected marine mammal species and stocks and their habitat. Our evaluation of potential measures included consideration of the following factors in relation to one another:
• The manner in which, and the degree to which, the successful
implementation of the measures are expected to minimize adverse impacts
to marine mammals;
• The proven or likely efficacy of the specific measure to minimize adverse
impacts as planned; and
• The practicability of the measure for applicant implementation. Any mitigation measure(s) prescribed by NMFS should be able to accomplish,
have a reasonable likelihood of accomplishing (based on current
science), or contribute to the accomplishment of one or more of the
general goals listed below:
1. Avoidance or minimization of injury or death of marine mammals
wherever possible (goals 2, 3, and 4 may contribute to this goal).
2. A reduction in the numbers of marine mammals (total number or
number at biologically important time or location) exposed to received levels
of seismic airguns, or other activities expected to result in the take of marine
mammals (this goal may contribute to 1, above, or to reducing harassment takes only).
3. A reduction in the number of times (total number or number at biologically
important time or location) individuals would be exposed to received levels of
seismic airguns or other activities expected to result in the take of marine
mammals (this goal may contribute to 1, above, or to reducing harassment takes
4. A reduction in the intensity of exposures (either total number or number at biologically
important time or location) to received levels of seismic airguns or other activities expected to result in the take of marine mammals
(this goal may contribute to 1, above, or to reducing the severity of harassment
5. Avoidance or minimization of adverse effects to marine mammal
habitat, paying special attention to the food base, activities that block or limit
passage to or from biologically important areas, permanent destruction
of habitat, or temporary destruction/disturbance of habitat during a biologically important time.
6. For monitoring directly related to mitigation—an increase in the
probability of detecting marine mammals, thus allowing for more
effective implementation of the mitigation.”
Click here to read NMFS’ Federal Register notice of this proposed IHA.