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:

Enviros Sue NOAA/NMFS Over Cook Inlet Take rules

On September 4, 2019, Cook Inletkeeper and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit challenging NOAA/NMFS’ issuance of Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) “Take” rules for Hilcorp Alaska LLC’s offshore oil and gas operations in Cook Inlet, Alaska. The complaint alleges violations of the MMPA, NEPA, and the Endangered Species Act. The filed complaint is available here.

 

“Breaking through the noise: Sound and Marine Life JIP sponsorsmarine research conference”

An International Association of Oil & Gas Producers website posted the above-titled article, which reads as follows:

“Sound and Marine Life Joint Industry Programme (JIP) recently sponsored the ‘Effects of Noise on Aquatic Life 2019 conference’, which took place in Den Haag in The Netherlands.

‘We were pleased to sponsor this conference as its key focus closely matches ours – scientific research into marine animals and potential effects of sound, and several of the JIP funded scientists presented their work,’ says Wendy Brown, IOGP Environment Director. ‘It provided us with the opportunity to promote a number of our recently published scientific research projects.’

“Congressman Johnson seeks to end ‘government overregulation’ with reintroduction of Sea Act”

Editor’s note: the International Association of Geophysical contractors published the above-titled article, which was originally published in the Bossier Press-Tribune.  The article reads as follows:

“WASHINGTON – U.S. Representative Mike Johnson (LA-04) reintroduced the Streamlining Environmental Approvals Act (SEA Act) to increase efficiency in the lengthy permit approval processes that have caused setbacks and delays for those working to preserve America’s rapidly deteriorating coastline, interrupted U.S. Naval operations and deterred offshore oil and gas exploration.

The bill reduces excessive government regulations developed over more than 45 years under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA).

Court Denies Without Prejudice Preliminary Injunction Motions in Atlantic IHA Litigation

Various groups of plaintiffs challenged NOAA/NMFS’ issuance of Marine Mammal Protection Act Incidental Harassment Authorizations for oil and gas exploration in the Atlantic Ocean. The plaintiffs’ challenges were filed in the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina. The plaintiffs filed motions for preliminary injunctions against the Government. On August 26, 2019, the court entered an order denying all the preliminary injunction motions without prejudice to file again. The court dismissed the motions because the plaintiffs’ had not demonstrated imminent harm.  In the court’s own words: