NMFS Includes Seismic in Proposed Navy Atlantic Take Authorizations

The U. S. National Marine Fisheries Service has received a request from the U.S. Navy for authorization to take marine mammals incidental to the Navy’s training and testing activities conducted in the Atlantic Fleet Training and Study Area. Pursuant to the Marine Mammal Protection Act,NMFS requests comments on its proposal to issue regulations and subsequent Letters of Authorization to the Navy to incidentally take marine mammals during the specified activities. Comments and information must be received by NMFS no later than April 26, 2018.

These proposed authorizations extensively discuss regulation of seismic sound sources.

Comments Due on Cook Inlet Pipeline IHAs

The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service has received a requestfrom Harvest Alaska, LLC, a subsidiary of Hilcorp, for authorization to take marine mammals incidental toinstalling two pipelines in Cook Inlet.

Pursuant to the Marine Mammal Protection Act, comments are due on to NMFS on or before March 29, 2018, on NMFS’ proposal toissue an incidental harassment authorization to incidentally takemarine mammals during the specifiedactivities.

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CRE Requests that Commerce Stop NOAA/NMFS’ Use of Acoustic Guidance

The Center for Regulatory Effectiveness sent the Department of Commerce a letter requesting that Commerce stop NOAA/NMFS’ use of their Technical Memorandum NMFS-OPR-55 of July 2016 (“Acoustic Guidance”). CRE’s letter included the following paragraphs:

“NOAA/NMFS continue to use their Technical Memorandum NMFS-OPR-55 of July 2016 (“Acoustic Guidance”) for several purposes. This continued regulatory use conflicts with several Presidential Executive Orders and other regulatory requirements such as the Paperwork Reduction Act. On behalf of the Center for Regulatory Effectiveness (“CRE”), I request that you bring these conflicts to the attention of the appropriate Commerce staff and officials so they can stop this improper use of the Acoustic Guidance.

NMFS Seeks Comment on Statoil Wind Take Authorization Offshore New York

The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service has received a request from Statoil Wind U.S. LLC (Statoil) for authorization to take marine mammals incidental to marine site characterization surveys off the coast of New York as part of the Empire Wind Project in the area of the Commercial Lease of Submerged Lands for Renewable Energy Development on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS-A 0512) (Lease Area) and coastal waters where one or more cable route corridors will be established. Pursuant to the Marine Mammal Protection Act NMFS is requesting comments on its proposal to issue an incidental harassment authorization to incidentally take marine mammals during the specified activities. NMFS will consider public comments prior to making any final decision on the issuance of the requested MMPA authorizations and agency responses will be summarized in the final notice of our decision.

BOEM, NMFS Discuss Ways to Improve G&G Permitting

The International Association of Geophysical Contractors published the following article on IAGC’s website:

“Leaders and staff members from the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the National Marine Fisheries Service have been discussing ways to streamline offshore oil and gas geologic and geophysical (G&G) permit application reviews for the last 6 months, BOEM Acting Director Walter D. Cruickshank told a House Natural Resources subcommittee.

The BOEM-led team, which also includes US Department of the Interior solicitors and US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement staff members, was assembled in response to US President Donald Trump’s Apr. 28, 2017, executive order, ‘Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy,’ Cruickshank said during the Energy and Mineral Resources subcommittee’s Jan. 19 hearing to examine offshore seismic permitting problems.

NMFS Issues IHA to Navy for Beaufort Sea and Arctic Ocean

The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service has issued an incidental harassment authorization to the United States Department of the Navy to incidentally harass, by Level B harassment, marine mammals during Ice Exercise 2018 activities within the Beaufort Sea and Arctic Ocean north of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. This IHA is issued under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The Navy’s activities are considered a military readiness activity pursuant MMPA, as amended by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004. This authorization is applicable from February 1, 2018 through May 1, 2018.

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OCS Leasing Benefits America 

The International Association of Oil and Gas Contractors published the following article on their website:

“Under the current offshore energy program developed during the Obama years, 94% of the nation’s Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) is off limits to leasing and drilling. Under the Draft Proposed Program (DPP) announced January 4 by Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, over 90% of OCS acreage and 98% of ‘undiscovered, technically recoverable oil and gas resources’ in these federal offshore areas (beyond the 3-mile limit of state waters) will be considered for possible future leasing, exploration and development.

NMFS Issus Regulations Authorizing the Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Testing and Training Activities Conducted in the Eglin Gulf Test and Training Range in the Gulf of Mexico

The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service has published regulations under the Marine Mammal Protection Act for the taking of marine mammals incidental to conducting testing and training activities in the Eglin Gulf Test and Training Range in the Gulf of Mexico over the course of five years.These regulations allow NMFS to issue a Letter of Authorization (LOA) for the incidental take of marine mammals during the specified testing and training activities carried out during the rule’s period of effectiveness, set forth the permissible methods of taking, set forth other means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact on marine mammal species or stocks and their habitat, and set forth requirements pertaining to the monitoring and reporting of the incidental take. NMFS has issued these regulations to the U.S. Air Force.

32nd Annual European Cetacean Society Conference

The 32nd annual European Cetacean Society conference will be taking place in La Spezia, Italy in April 2018. The theme of this year’s conference is: ‘Marine Conservation – Forging Effective Strategic Partnerships.’

The achievement of effective marine conservation measures requires more than good science and the theme of the 2018 ECS conference is intended to help explore the role that partnerships with all other stakeholders have in this.

Participants in the 2018 conference are encouraged to bring presentations that relate to this theme or otherwise consider how this issue affects their work, although as usual scientific submissions on all issues relating to marine mammals are welcome. Keynote speakers will help to elaborate the theme along with special focal sessions.

5-Year Reviews for the Endangered Fin Whale, the Endangered Gray Whale Western North Pacific Distinct Population Segment, and the Endangered Sei Whale

The U.S. National Marine Fisheries seeks comment on NMFS’ 5-year reviews for the endangered fin whale (Baleaenopteraphysalus), the endangered gray whale (Eschrichtiusrobustus) Western North Pacific distinct population segment (DPS), and the endangered sei whale ((Baleaenoptera borealis).

NMFS is required by the Endangered Species Act to conduct 5-year reviews to ensure that the listing classifications of the species are accurate. The 5-year reviews must be based on the best scientific and commercial data available at the time.