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Soundings Archive

NMFS Grants Seismic Survey IHA for the Chukchi
On August 13, 2010, the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service intends to publish in the Federal Register a public notice that NMFS has granted Statoil USA E&P, Inc. an Incidental Harassment Authorization under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. This IHA authorizes Statoil to take, by harassment, small numbers of 12 species of marine mammals incidental to a marine seismic survey program in the Chukchi Sea, Alaska, during the 2010 Arctic open water season. This IHA is effective August 6, 2010, through November 30, 2010.

This marine seismic survey will use two towed airgun arrays consisting of 26 active (10 spare) airguns with a maximum discharge volume of 3,000 cubic inch (in3). The 3D survey will take place in a 915 mi2 (2,370 km2) 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.

The project area encompasses approximately 915 mi2 (2,370 km2) in Statoil lease holdings in the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement's (BOEMRE) (formerly the Minerals Management Service) Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Lease Sale 193 area in the northern Chukchi Sea.

This IHA is controversial. NMFS published a notice of NMFS' intent to issue an IHA to Statoil in the Federal Register on June 8, 2010 (75 FR 32379). That notice described in detail Statoil's proposed activity, the marine mammal species that may be affected by the activity, and the anticipated effects on marine mammals. During the 30-day public comment period, NMFS received five comment letters from the following: the Marine Mammal Commission; the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission; the North Slope Borough Office of the Mayor; and Alaska Wilderness League, Audubon Alaska, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, Greenpeace, Natural Resources Defense Council, Northern Alaska Environmental Center, Ocean Conservancy, Oceana, Pacific Environment, Sierra Club, and World Wildlife Fund, along with an attached letter from Dr. David E. Bain, a contract scientist for NMFS.

This IHA is available for viewing now at

This IHA includes NMFS' response to comments.

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