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Soundings Archive

FWS Publishes Final Polar Bear and Walrus rules
On August 4, 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Published final regulations authorizing the nonlethal, incidental, unintentional take of small numbers of polar bears and Pacific walruses during year-round oil and gas industry exploration, development, and production operations in the Beaufort Sea and adjacent northern coast of Alaska.

Industry operations for the covered period include types of activities similar to those covered by the previous 5-year Beaufort Sea incidental take regulations that were effective from August 2, 2006, through August 2, 2011.

FWS published these regulations after finding that the total expected takings of polar bears and Pacific walruses during oil and gas industry exploration, development, and production activities will have a negligible impact on these species and will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of these species for subsistence use by Alaska Natives.

FWS based this finding on the results of 17 years of data on the encounters and interactions between polar bears, Pacific walruses, and Industry; recent studies of potential effects of Industry on these species; oil spill risk assessments; potential and documented Industry impacts on these species; and current information regarding the natural history and status of polar bears and Pacific walruses.

These regulations are effective August 3, 2011, and remain effective through August 3, 2016. FWS found that it has good cause to make these regulations effective less than 30 days after publication. FWS stated that immediate promulgation of the regulations will ensure that Industry implements mitigation measures and monitoring programs in the geographic region that reduce the risk of lethal and nonlethal effects to polar bears and Pacific walruses by Industry activities.

  • Click here to read FWS' Federal Register notice
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