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Soundings Archive

NMFS Proposes Take Authorization for Oil and Gas Seismic in the Chukchi
Despite the controversy over offshore oil and gas, the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service has proposed issuance of an Incidental Harassment Authorization for marine mammals during an Open Water Marine Seismic Survey in the Chukchi Sea, Alaska.

The IHA would be issued under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. NMFS published it in the June 8, 2010, Federal Register. It would authorize Statoil USA E&P Inc, to take, by Level B harassment only, twelve species of marine mammals during a proposed open water marine seismic survey in the Chukchi Sea, Alaska, between July through November 2010. Public comments and information must be received by NMFS no later than July 8, 2010.

This proposed marine seismic survey will use two towed airgun array consisting of 26 active (10 spare) airguns with a maximum discharge volume of 3,000 cubic inch (in\3\). The proposed 3D survey will take place in a 915 mi\2\ (2,370 km\2\) survey area approximately 150 mi (241 km) west of Barrow in water depth of approximately 100 to 165 ft (30 to 50 m). The seismic survey is designed to collect 3D data of the deep sub-surface in Statoil's Chukchi leases in support of future oil and gas development within the area of coverage. The data will help identify source rocks, migration pathways, and play types. In addition, a 2D tie line survey has been designed as a second priority program to acquire useful information in the region. The four stand alone 2D lines (with a total length of approximately 420 mi or 675 km) are designed to tie the details of the new high resolution 3D image to the surrounding regional geology to facilitate interpretation of more regional trends. The number of 2D km acquired will to some degree be dependent on the 2010 season's restrictive ice coverage and the 3D data acquisition progress.

Statoil intends to conduct these marine surveys during the 2010 Arctic open-water season (July through November). Impacts to marine mammals may occur from noise produced by airgun sources used in the surveys.

Eight cetacean and four pinniped species under NMFS jurisdiction could occur in the general area of Statoil's open water marine seismic survey area in the Chukchi Sea. These species most likely to occur in the general area project vicinity include two cetacean species: beluga (Delphinapterus leucas) and bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus), and three seal species: ringed (Phoca hispida), spotted (P. largha), and bearded seals (Erignathus barbatus). Most encounters are likely to occur in nearshore shelf habitats or along the ice edge. The marine mammal species that is likely to be encountered most widely (in space and time) throughout the period of the open water seismic survey is the ringed seal. Encounters with bowhead and beluga whales are expected to be limited to particular regions and seasons,as discussed in NMFS' Federal Register notice.

  • Click here to read NMFS' Federal Register notice of the permit

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