NMFS Issues IHA for LNG

The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service has issued an Incidental Harassment Authorization to the Northeast Gateway® Energy Bridge TM, L.P., and Algonquin Gas Transmission, L.L.C., to take, by harassment, small numbers of 14 species of marine mammals incidental to operating, maintaining, and repairing a liquefied natural gas port and the Algonquin Pipeline Lateral facilities, in Massachusetts Bay, between December 22, 2014, through December 21, 2015. This IHA is effective through December 21, 2015. It is issued pursuant to the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act. Click here to read Federal Register notice of this IHA.

New Paper on Monitoring Acoustic Habitats

The following paper will be published: Merchant, N.D., Fristrup, K.M., Johnson, M.P., Tyack, P.L., Witt, M.J., Blondel, P., Parks, S.E. (2015). Measuring acoustic habitats. Methods in Ecology and Evolution. This paper reviews methods for monitoring acoustic habitats, both terrestrial and aquatic, and includes codes in MATLAB and R to produce calibrated acoustic measurements. A pre-proof version is available here.

This paper’s abstract follows:

NOAA/NMFS Seeks Comments on Proposed ESA Information Collection

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration /National Marine Fisheries Service requests comments on its proposed extension of a currently approved Information Collection Request under the Paperwork Reduction Act. This proposed ICR collects information relevant to NOAA’s regulations under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

This request is for a representative of a group of potential permit applicants, rather than requiring each entity to apply for and receive a permit. The required information is used to evaluate the impacts of the proposed activity on endangered species, to make the determinations required by the ESA prior to issuing a permit, and to establish appropriate permit conditions.

NMFS Publishes New Schedule for MMPA Permit Regulation Revisions

The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service recently published a Semiannual Regulatory Agenda that provides a revised rulemaking schedule for NMFS’ Marine Mammal Protection Act Permit Regulation Revisions. These rules would revise the implementing regulations governing the issuance of permits for activities under section 104 of the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act.

The intent of this action would be to streamline and update (using plain language) the general permitting information and the specific requirements for the four categories of permits: scientific research (including the General Authorization);enhancement; educational and commercial photography; and public display. The revisions would also simplify procedures for collection, possession, and transfer of marine mammals parts collected before the effective date of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and also clarify reporting requirements for public display facilities holding marine mammals.

Princeton Professor Defends Seismic Airguns

Princeton emeritus professor Lincoln Hollister for years was associated with the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory-managed research vessel Maurice Ewing as it maneuvered in and out of the inland waterways of southeast Alaska and British Columbia, towing seismic airguns for a project called ACCRETE.

According to an article posted in the SandPaper.Net, “Hollister…believes that it is without scientific merit to say the acoustic pulses from airguns cause excessive harm to marine mammals, fish and invertebrates….Seventy percent of Earth is under water, said Hollister, and seismic airguns are ‘the best tool’ scientists have to seek answers about, for example, the pace of sea level rise.

BSEE Alaska region Director Attends Arctic Council Task Force Meeting

Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement Alaska Region Director Mark Fesmire traveled to Helsinki, Finland, this week for the fifth meeting of the Arctic Council’s Task Force for Oil Pollution Prevention on November 24 and 25, 2014. This task force provides an opportunity for member nation representatives to share best practices, processes, and regulatory approaches for oil pollution prevention.

CRE Comments to OMB/OIRA on BOEM’s Requested Seismic ICR

On December 8, 2014, the Center for Regulatory Effectiveness filed comments with Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. These comments were on the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Environmental Management’s Information Collection Request under the Paperwork Reduction Act. The requested ICR covers information collection requirements for offshore oil and gas geological and geophysical Activities, including the use of seismic air guns. CRE’s comments made the following and other points.

CRE does not oppose this ICR because it only covers and authorizes current, time-tested monitoring and reporting requirements.

CRE Comments on Long Term Monitoring Plan

On December 8, 2014, the Center for Regulatory Effectiveness filed Comments on the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s Request for Information on the Development of a Long Term Monitoring Plan for Marine Mammals in the Gulf of Mexico. CRE’s comments made the following and other points.

BOEM and NMFS should not proceed with the LTMP.  BOEM and NMFS have correctly concluded that seismic and other Geological and Geophysical activities in the GOM are not hurting marine mammals under current regulation.  The Government has successfully regulated GOM G&G for decades without an LTMP. There is no need for one now.

Air Force Applies for Gulf of Mexico Take Authorization

The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service NMFS has received an application from the U.S. Department of the Air Force, Headquarters 96th Air Base Wing, Eglin Air Force Base, requesting an Incidental Harassment Authorization to take marine mammals, by harassment, incidental to a Maritime Weapon Systems Evaluation Program within the Eglin Gulf Test and Training Range in the Gulf of Mexico.

Eglin AFB’s activities are military readiness activities per the Marine Mammal Protection Act, as amended by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004. Per the MMPA, NMFS requests comments on its proposal to issue an Authorization to Eglin AFB to take, by harassment, two species of marine mammals during the specified activity for a period of one year. Comments are due to NMFS byJan 7, 2015.

NMFS’ Website for MMPA Permitting

The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service maintains a website devoted to applications under the Marine Mammal Protection Act for authorization to engage in operations that will incidentally “take” marine mammals.  This website identifies and links to applications in process at NMFS; applications that are issued and active; applications that have expired; and applications that have been withdrawn.

This website is useful for anyone interested in the record for a particular permit action.

This website is available here.