The Marine Mammal Commission, in consultation with its Committee ofScientific Advisors on Marine Mammals, filed comments on the December 2013 application from BP Exploration (Alaska), Inc. (BP), seeking an incidental harassment authorization under the Marine Mammal Protection Act to take small numbers of marine mammals by harassment incidental to a three-dimensional (3D) seismic survey in North Prudhoe Bay, Beaufort Sea, Alaska during the 2014 Arctic open-water season. MMC filed these comments in response to the National Marine Fisheries Service’s 15 May 2014 notice (79 Fed. Reg. 21354) announcing receipt of the application and proposing to issue the authorization, subject to certain conditions.
In its comments, the MMC “recommends that NMFS require BP to deploy a minimum of two protected species observers to 1) increase the probability of detecting all marine mammals in or approaching the Level B harassment zones and 2) assist in the collection of data on activities, behavior, and movements of marine mammals around the source.”
The MMC also recommends “that NMFS use species-specific maximum density estimates as the basis for estimating the numbers of marine mammals to be taken.”
The MMC also recommends “that NMFS require BP to conduct sound source and sound propagation measurements for the proposed seismic survey to ensure that the exclusion and harassment zones have not been underestimated. The methods used to calculate the zones should be reviewed and cross-checked before they are implemented. In at least one previous incidental harassment authorization, the methods and calculations were not reviewed and the zones were reduced during the survey. After the calculations were reviewed post-survey, it became apparent that the zones were reduced incorrectly. Therefore, the Commission recommends that NMFS only authorize an adjustment in the size of the exclusion and/or harassment zones during the open-water season if the size(s) of the estimated zones are determined to be too small.”
The MMC also recommends “that NMFS require BP to recalculate take estimates for beluga and bowhead whales and ringed, bearded, and spotted seals using the revised ensonified area estimate for a moving sound source. “
The MMC also recommends “that NMFS require BP to monitor for marine mammals 30 minutes before, during, and 30 minutes after the proposed activities.”
Click here to read the MMC’s entire comments.