NMFS Issues On-Ice Seismic IHA for Seals, and Says that FWS Is Still Reviewing Polar Bear/Walrus Component
On April 19, 2007, the National Marine Fisheries Service notified the public that the Agency has issued a final Incidental Hazard Authorization to ConocoPhillips Alaska, Inc. ("CPAI"). The IHA authorizes the taking of ringed seals through harassment during on-ice geotechnical operations in the U.S. Beaufort Sea effective from April 15, 2007, until April 14, 2008. NMFS issued the IHA pursuant to the Agency's authority under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA).
The Fish and Wildlife Service has MMPA authority over polar bears and the pacific walrus. The Marine Mammal Commission filed comments on CPAI's application which, according, to NMFS, stated that
"The Commission assumes that CPAI has explored the need for an authorization from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to take polar bears (Ursus maritimus) incidental to the proposed activities. If not, the Commission states, MMS may wish to advise CPAI to do so."
The NMFS responded to this MMC comment as follows, "CPAI states that it has
applied for an IHA for the incidental takes of polar bears from the FWS, and that permit is pending."
As of April 19, 2007, the FWS website shows no pending action on a CPAI polar bear and pacific walrus IHA for the Beaufort Sea. The FWS website does show a number of approved CPAI IHA requests for the Beaufort Sea. The FWS website also shows a number of pending IHA requests for the Chukchi Sea, including one for CPAI.
Click to read NMFS Federal Register notice
Click to access FWS IHA website