Editor’s Note: CRE, in its role as a regulatory watchdog, routinely comments on the comments sent to regulatory agencies. These expost analyses are posted on this Interactive Public Docket (IPD) and the public and all stakeholders are invited to offer their comments. A copy of this post has been forwarded to NMFS.
The four leading trade associations of the petroleum industry the American Petroleum Institute, the Independent Petroleum Association of America, the International Association of Geophysical Contractors, and the National Ocean Industries Association responded to a proposal to list sperm whales as distinct population segment.
The industry response is precise, complete and well reasoned.
Highlights of the response include:
“Sperm whales in the GoM are not markedly separate from species in the Atlantic, Caribbean, or elsewhere. WEG’s petition offers no credible genetic, biological, physiological, behavioral, ecological, or regulatory evidence to demonstrate separation – much less marked separation. To the contrary, the evidence cited here demonstrate the existence of a single undivided genetic population of sperm whales from the GoM to northern Europe, if not beyond. (p. 3)
“In 1996, NMFS and FWS established a new, more encompassing DPS policy that, like the ESU policy and consistent with congressional intent, maintained a high bar to designate a DPS.56 For a population segment to be considered a DPS under the 1996 Policy, the segment must meet two criteria: (1) it must be discrete; and, (2) it must be significant.57 Discreteness requires conspicuous separation from the remainder of the species, but separation alone is not enough to be a DPS.58 Even if the species is markedly discrete, the listing agencies, at Congress’s direction, instruct that the discrete segment be significant in some unique biological manner or that the segment provide some significant role in the species as a whole.59 The “significance” element of the DPS Policy is critical to the evaluation of population segments for DPS status. Indeed, the listing agencies have found several populations to be distinct, but declined to extend DPS status because the discrete segment was not significant.” (p. 13)
See the industry response below.
The aforementioned comments complement CRE comments made on the same petition:
In fact, NMFS recently explained
“There is no specific evidence that exposure to pulses of airgun sound can cause PTS in any marine mammal, even with large arrays of airguns.”
“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.” (p. 5 )
CRE concluded that a DPS Listing for GOM sperm whales based on the current record would be premature and would not meet Information Quality Guidelines