Much has happened in the last few weeks regarding sound and marine mammals.
The Minerals Management Service ("MMS") and the National Marine Fisheries Service ("NMFS") have both requested public comment on significant regulatory actions.
The Natural Resources Defense Council has sued MMS and NMFS in federal court, claiming they illegally withheld documents that are responsive to NRDC's Freedom of Information Act request for documents about Navy sonar's effects on marine mammals.
MMS's EA Notice for the Gulf of Mexico
On June 3, 2005, MMS published in the Federal Register notice of its intent to prepare a NEPA Environmental Assessment for proposed Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas Lease Sale 198 in the Central Gulf of Mexico. This EA will consider any new information regarding potential environmental impacts and issues that was not available when MMS addressed NEPA issues for Multisale leases in 2002.
The EA for Lease Sale 198 will probably consider any new information regarding the effects of anthropogenic sound on marine mammals. Acoustic effects were a major issue in MMS's 2002 Multisale EIS for the Gulf.
MMS requests public comment by July 3 "regarding any new information or issues that should be addressed in the EA."
Click here for MMS's request for public comment on its EA.
Click here for MMS's 2002 Gulf Multisale EIS.
NMFS's Extension of Comment Period on its Draft Alaska Beluga Whale Conservation Plan
On May 27, 2005, NMFS extended the public comment period on its Draft Conservation Plan for the Cook Inlet Population of Beluga Whales.
The draft Conservation Plan has a chapter on "Noise" (beginning at page 60). The Noise chapter references and discusses the NMFS's marine mammal acoustic criteria, which are still under development, and explains how the acoustic criteria should be applied.
Comments on the Draft Conservation Plan are now due June 27, 2005.
for NMFS's extension of the public comment period on its draft Beluga Whale Conservation Plan.
Click here for Draft Conservation Plan.
NRDC Sues MMS/NMFS on Navy Sonar Documents
On June 1, 2005, NRDC sued MMS/NMFS claiming that the agencies withheld documents on navy sonar's effects on marine mammals that should have been disclosed pursuant to NRDC's FOIA requests. Their court complaint alleges that the agencies withheld documents showing that sonar caused recent whale strandings.
for NRDC press release and court complaint.
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