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Soundings Archive

NMFS Receives Adverse Comments on its Proposed Shell IHA for the Arctic
On June 1, 2009, the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service announced in the Federal Register that NMFS had received an application from Shell Offshore Inc. and Shell Gulf of Mexico Inc., for an Incidental Harassment Authorization (IHA). The IHA would authorize Shell to take incidentally take, by harassment, small numbers of several species of marine mammals during the Arctic open-water seasons between August 2009, and July, 2010. The take would be incidental to an open-water marine survey program. This program includes shallow hazards and site clearance work and strudel scour surveys in the Chukchi Sea, Alaska. NMFS proposes to issue the IHA pursuant to the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA)/

NMFS received many comments on this proposed IHA. Most of the comments were adverse to the IHA. The commenters included: North Slope Borough, Office of the Mayor; Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope; U.S. Marine Mammal Commission; Alaska Wilderness League; Center for Biological Diversity; Defenders of Wildlife; Earthjustice; Natural Resources Defense Council; Northern Alaska Environmental Center; Pacific Environment; Sierra Club; the Wilderness Society; and World Wildlife Fund.

Their comments included the following:

  • 160 db is too high a regulatory level.
  • Visual monitoring is inadequate, inaccurate and unreliable.
  • NMFS' stock assessments and marine mammal density levels are inaccurate.
  • NMFS' small takes and negligible impact determinations are arbitrary and unlawful.
  • NMFS has not allowed sufficient public participation in its NEPA review.
  • NMFS has violated the Section 7 consultation provisions of the Endangered Species Act.
  • NMFS is violating NEPA by issuing IHAs for the Arctic before NMFS has completed its programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for the Arctic.
  • NMFS has inadequately considered the impacts of this IHA on subsistence users.
  • There is considerable uncertainty about the effects of anthropogenic sound on marine mammals, and in the face of uncertainty the MMPA requires NMFS to restrict commercial activities.
  • The IHA is for activities under lease sale 193, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit vacated the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act five-year plan that authorized lease sale 193.
In addition, the Marine Mammal Commission requested that NMFS "conduct a more extensive analysis of the potential or likely effects of currently authorized and proposed oil and gas activities, climate change, and additional anthropogenic risk factors (e.g., industrial operations) and the possible cumulative effects of all these activities over time...."
  • Click here to read comments on Shell IHA

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