NMFS Seeks Comment on Seismic IHA for Atlantic Eastern Seaboard

The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has received an application from the U.S. Geological Survey, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, and National Science Foundation for an Incidental Harassment Authorization to take marine mammals, by harassment, incidental to conducting a marine geophysical survey in the Atlantic Ocean off the Eastern Seaboard, August to September 2014, and April to August 2015. Pursuant to the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act, NMFS requests comments on its proposal to issue an IHA to USGS to incidentally harass, by Level B harassment only, 34 species of marine mammals during the specified activity.

BOEM Intends to Publish Chukchi SEIS in Response to Court Order

The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has published notice of BOEM’s intent to prepare a Supplemental EIS for OCS Oil and Gas Lease Sale 193 in the Chukchi Sea Planning Area, Alaska. This SEIS will provide new analysis in response to a remand by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  This SEIS will supplement the analysis from the Oil and Gas Lease Sale 193 Final EIS (OCS EIS/EA MMS 2007–0026) and the Oil and Gas Lease Sale 193 Final Supplemental EIS (OCS EIS/EA BOEMRE 2011–041) by providing an updated oil and gas exploration, development and production scenario and associated environmental effects analysis.

BOEM Seeks Comment on Preparing 2017-2022 OCS Leasing Program

The U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has published a Request for Information and Comments (RFI) on BOEM’s preparation of the 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program. This RFI is the initial step in the multi-year planning process.  It does not identify any specific course of action. Per statute and consistent with previous efforts, BOEM will evaluate all of the OCS planning areas during this first stage.

Comments on this RFI are due to BOEM by July 31, 2014. Substantial public involvement and extensive analysis will accompany all stages of the planning process, which will take up to three years to complete.

NOAA’s Public Meetings Before 65th International Whaling Commission Meeting

 The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has published notice of the date, time, and location of the public meeting being held prior to the 65th International Whaling Commission meeting. The public meeting will be held August 7, 2014, at 2 p.m. The meeting will be held in the NOAA Science Center Room, 1301 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910.

NMFS and Navy Funded Underwater Hearing Workshop: Report Available

A workshop on the status and future of underwater hearing research was convened from September 10-12, 2013 in San Diego, California. The workshop was held to evaluate recent and current research, and to identify future research avenues with the greatest potential for advancing the state of knowledge on underwater hearing in marine mammals.

The workshop consisted of three days of presentations by members of the scientific community actively involved in the study of marine mammal hearing.  These presentations included research into the relationship between sound exposure and temporary threshold shift, masking, anatomically-based modeling of marine mammal auditory systems, and behavioral and evoked potential audiometry. The workshop was funded by the Living Marine Resources, by the National Marine Fisheries Service, and by the Office of Naval Research.

BOEM Plans on Publishing New Chukchi SEIS ROD in March 2015

In January, 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed an Alaska District Court decision which held that BOEM arbitrarily used an estimate of 1 billion barrels of economically recoverable oil from the Chukchi in assessing the potential environmental impacts of the 2008 Chukchi Sea oil and gas lease sale. BOEM has filed a status report with the district court.  The agency told the court that it anticipates issuing a new record of decision, or ROD, in March 2015, after the completion of a new supplementary environmental impact statement, or SEIS, for the sale.

Navy Sonar Exposures Don’t Disturb Marine Mammals

The U.S. Navy exposed satellite-tagged animals to estimated received levels of 149 to 168 dB for a bottlenose dolphin, and 141 to 162 dB for a short-finned pilot whale.  The bottlenose dolphin showed no large scale movements out of the area despite these relatively high predicted received levels, and the short-finned pilot whale actually moved towards areas of higher exposures during the third day of a 3-day period of regular MFAS use.

Click here to read the report of these sonar exposure experiments.



OMB Reviewing Proposed Critical Habitat Designation for Ringed Seals

The U.S. Office of Management and Budget is reviewing the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service’s proposed rule designating critical habitat for ringed seals.  NMFS’ proposed rules would be issued under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.  OMB is reviewing the proposals pursuant to OMB’s authority under Executive Order 12866. Stakeholders including oil and gas companies have met with OMB regarding these proposals.  Click here for OMB’s website regarding its review.