Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to a Geohazard Survey in the Beaufort Sea, Alaska, 36769-36782 [2014-15239]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 125 / Monday, June 30, 2014 / Notices any other aspect of the notice of proposed IHA for ExxonMobil’s proposed installation of conductor pipes via hydraulic hammer driving at Harmony Platform, Santa Ynez Production Unit, located in the Santa Barbara Channel offshore of California. Please include with your comments any supporting data or literature citations to help inform our final decision on ExxonMobil’s request for an MMPA authorization. Concurrent with the publication of this notice in the Federal Register, NMFS is forwarding copies of this application to the Marine Mammal Commission and its Committee of Scientific Advisors. Dated: June 25, 2014. Perry F. Gayaldo, Deputy Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2014–15224 Filed 6–27–14; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XD229 Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to a Geohazard Survey in the Beaufort Sea, Alaska National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; issuance of an incidental harassment authorization. AGENCY: In accordance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) regulations, notice is hereby given that NMFS has issued an Incidental Harassment Authorization (IHA) to BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. (BP) to take marine mammals, by harassment, incidental to conducting a shallow geohazard survey in Foggy Island Bay, Beaufort Sea, Alaska, during the 2014 open water season. DATES: Effective July 1, 2014, through September 30, 2014. ADDRESSES: Electronic copies of the IHA, application, and associated Environmental Assessment (EA) and Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) may be obtained by writing to Jolie Harrison, Supervisor, Incidental Take Program, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910, mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: VerDate Mar<15>2010 19:01 Jun 27, 2014 Jkt 232001 telephoning the contact listed below (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT), or visiting the Internet at: https://www. nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/ incidental.htm. Documents cited in this notice may also be viewed, by appointment, during regular business hours, at the aforementioned address. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Candace Nachman, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, (301) 427–8401. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background Sections 101(a)(5)(A) and (D) of the MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) direct the Secretary of Commerce to allow, upon request, the incidental, but not intentional, taking of small numbers of marine mammals by U.S. citizens who engage in a specified activity (other than commercial fishing) within a specified geographical region if certain findings are made and either regulations are issued or, if the taking is limited to harassment, a notice of a proposed authorization is provided to the public for review. Authorization for incidental takings shall be granted if NMFS finds that the taking will have a negligible impact on the species or stock(s), will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of the species or stock(s) for subsistence uses (where relevant), and if the permissible methods of taking, other means of effecting the least practicable impact on the species or stock and its habitat, and requirements pertaining to the mitigation, monitoring and reporting of such takings are set forth. NMFS has defined ‘‘negligible impact’’ in 50 CFR 216.103 as ‘‘. . . an impact resulting from the specified activity that cannot be reasonably expected to, and is not reasonably likely to, adversely affect the species or stock through effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival.’’ Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, the MMPA defines ‘‘harassment’’ as: ‘‘any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance which (i) has the potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild [Level A harassment]; or (ii) has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering [Level B harassment].’’ Summary of Request On February 4, 2014, NMFS received an application from BP for the taking of marine mammals incidental to conducting a shallow geohazard survey. PO 00000 Frm 00051 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 36769 NMFS determined that the application was adequate and complete on March 6, 2014. BP proposes to conduct a shallow geohazard survey in Federal and state waters of Foggy Island Bay in the Beaufort Sea during the open-water season of 2014. The activity would occur between July 1 and September 30; however, airgun and other sound source equipment operations would cease on August 25. The following specific aspects of the activity are likely to result in the take of marine mammals: Airguns and scientific sonars/devices. Take, by Level B harassment only, of 9 marine mammal species is anticipated to result from the specified activity. Description of the Specified Activity Overview BP’s proposed shallow geohazard survey would consist of two phases: A site survey and a sonar survey. During the first phase, the Site Survey, the emphasis is on obtaining shallow geohazard data using an airgun array and a towed streamer. During the second phase, the Sonar Survey, data will be acquired both in the Site Survey location and subsea pipeline corridor area (see Figure 1 in BP’s application) using the multibeam echosounder, sidescan sonar, subbottom profiler, and the magnetometer. The total discharge volume of the airgun array will not exceed 30 cubic inches (in3). The purpose of the proposed shallow geohazard survey is to evaluate development of the Liberty field. The Liberty reservoir is located in federal waters in Foggy Island Bay about 8 miles (mi) east of the Endicott Satellite Drilling Island. The project’s preferred alternative is to build a gravel island situated over the reservoir. In support of the preferred alternative, a Site Survey is planned with an emphasis on obtaining two-dimensional highresolution shallow geohazard data using an airgun array and a towed streamer. Additional infrastructure required for the preferred alternative would include a subsea pipeline. A Sonar Survey, using multibeam echosounder, sidescan sonar, subbottom profiler, and magnetometer is proposed over the Site Survey location and subsea pipeline corridor area. The purpose of this proposed survey is to evaluate the existence and location of archaeological resources and potential geologic hazards on the seafloor and in the shallow subsurface. Dates and Duration The planned start date is approximately July 1, 2014, with data E:\FR\FM\30JNN1.SGM 30JNN1 36770 Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 125 / Monday, June 30, 2014 / Notices acquisition beginning when open water conditions allow. The survey is expected to take approximately 20 days to complete, not including weather downtime. Each phase of the survey (i.e., site survey and sonar survey) has an expected duration of 7.5 days based on a 24-hour workday. Between the first and second phase, the operations will be focused on changing equipment for about 5 days (i.e., no active sound sources would be used to acquire data during this time). To limit potential impacts to the bowhead whale fall migration and subsistence hunting, airgun and sonar operations will conclude by midnight on August 25. Demobilization of equipment would continue after airgun and sonar operations end but would be completed by September 30. Therefore, the dates for the IHA are July 1 through September 30, 2014. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Specified Geographic Region The proposed shallow geohazards survey would occur in Federal and state waters of Foggy Island Bay in the Beaufort Sea, Alaska. The project area lies mainly within the Liberty Unit but also includes portions of the Duck Island Unit, as well as non-unit areas. Figure 1 in BP’s application outlines the proposed survey acquisition areas, including proposed boundaries for the two phases of the project. The Phase 1 Site Survey, focused on obtaining shallow geohazard data using an airgun array and towed streamer, will occur within approximately 12 mi2. The Phase 2 Sonar Survey will occur over the Site Survey area and over approximately 5 mi2 within the 29 mi2 area identified in Figure 1 of BP’s application. Water depth in this area ranges from about 2– 24 ft. Activity outside the area delineated in Figure 1 of BP’s application may include vessel turning while using airguns, vessel transit, and other vessel movements for project support and logistics. The approximate boundaries of the two survey areas are between 70°14′10″ N. and 70°20′20″ N. and between 147°29′05″ W. and 148°52′30″ W. Detailed Description of Activities The activities associated with the proposed shallow geohazard survey include vessel mobilization, navigation and data management, housing and logistics, and data acquisition. The Notice of Proposed IHA (79 FR 21522, April 16, 2014) contains a full detailed description of the shallow geohazard survey, including sound source information. That information has not changed and is therefore not repeated here. VerDate Mar<15>2010 19:01 Jun 27, 2014 Jkt 232001 Comments and Responses A Notice of Proposed IHA was published in the Federal Register on April 16, 2014 (79 FR 21522) for public comment. During the 30-day public comment period, NMFS received three comment letters from the following: The Marine Mammal Commission (MMC) and two private citizens. All of the public comments received on the Notice of Proposed IHA are available on the Internet at: https://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/ pr/pdfs/permits/bp_liberty_ comments.pdf. Following is a summary of the comments and NMFS’ responses. Comment 1: One private citizen letter requested denial of the IHA because of the harm to the environment. The other private citizen letter requested denial of the IHA because of the pollution that would be caused by the activity. Response: As described in detail in the proposed IHA notice and summarized here, the only anticipated impacts from the shallow geohazard survey is short-term changes in behavior of a few marine mammal species. BP has designed the survey to avoid the peak times of year when cetaceans are present in the vicinity. Moreover, seismic surveys will not cause long-term harm to or cause pollution of the marine environment. BP is required to implement mitigation and monitoring measures (described later in this document) to minimize impacts to marine mammals and their habitats. Comment 2: The MMC states that NMFS has proposed takes associated with the use of the seismic airguns; however, no takes were proposed for the use of the other sound sources, including the multibeam echosounder, sidescan sonar, and sub-bottom profiler. Of particular concern to the MMC is the lack of proposed takes associated with the sub-bottom profiler, a nonimpulsive, intermittent sound source. Researchers have observed that various species of marine mammals, including harbor porpoises, respond to sound from sources with characteristics similar to a sub-bottom profiler and at received levels below 160 dB re 1 mPa. The temporal and spectral characteristics of such sources suggest that a precautionary Level B harassment threshold of 120 dB re 1 mPa should be used when establishing harassment zones, estimating takes, and developing mitigation measures. The MMC recommends that NMFS require BP to (1) include take estimates resulting from the use of the sub-bottom profiler based on the 120-dB re 1 mPa threshold and (2) revise its monitoring measures as necessary to include monitoring of subbottom profiler activities. PO 00000 Frm 00052 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Response: Intermittent sounds can be defined as either impulsive or nonimpulsive. Impulsive sounds have been defined as sounds which are typically transient, brief (<1 sec), broadband, and consist of a high peak pressure with rapid rise time and rapid decay (ANSI, 1986; NIOSH, 1998). Sub-bottom profiler signals have durations that are typically very brief (<1 sec), with temporal characteristics that more closely resemble those of impulsive sounds than non-impulsive sounds, which typically have more gradual rise times and longer decays (ANSI, 1995; NIOSH, 1998). With regard to behavioral thresholds, we therefore consider the temporal and spectral characteristics of sub-bottom profiler signals to more closely resemble those of an impulse sound. Additionally, a sub-bottom profiler’s ‘‘rapid staccato’’ of pulse trains is emitted in a similar fashion as odontocete echolocation click trains. Research indicates that marine mammals, in general, have extremely fine auditory temporal resolution and can detect each signal separately (e.g., Au et al., 1988; Dolphin et al., 1995; Supin and Popov, 1995; Mooney et al., 2009), especially for species with echolocation capabilities. Therefore, marine mammals would likely perceive sub-bottom profiler signals as being impulsive. Consequently, the 160-dB threshold (typically associated with impulsive sources) is more appropriate than the 120-dB threshold (typically associated with continuous sources) for estimating takes by behavioral harassment incidental to use of such sources. Regardless of which threshold is used to estimate Level B harassment take, based on the 160 dB and 120 dB radii, less than 0.1 beluga whales and less than 0.1 bowhead whales would be exposed at either sound level. Based on this information, any take that may potentially occur from the sub-bottom profiler is already accounted for in the authorized take estimates. Therefore, NMFS has not increased the take estimates. Moreover, NMFS determined that additional monitoring measures are not necessary to include monitoring specifically for sub-bottom profilers. Protected Species Observers (PSOs) will be on-duty during all daylight hours (with no periods of darkness anticipated until mid-August). The distances to the 160- and 120-dB isopleths from the subbottom profiler are 30 m and 450 m, respectively. Therefore, additional monitoring measures beyond those already required are not needed to observe this zone. Comment 3: According to the MMC, an accurate characterization of the size E:\FR\FM\30JNN1.SGM 30JNN1 Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 125 / Monday, June 30, 2014 / Notices mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES of the harassment zone is necessary for obtaining reliable estimates of the numbers of animals taken. The MMC disagrees with using the area of a circle to estimate the size of the ensonified area. According to the MMC, this would only be correct if the sound source were stationary. For surveys in which the source is moving (i.e., towed airgun arrays), the ensonified area should instead be based on the total linear distance surveyed by the vessel in a day, taking into account the distance to the Level B harassment threshold, which would presumably produce an area greater than that calculated by using the area of a circle. BP and NMFS should use that revised estimate of the ensonified area to determine the numbers of animals that could be taken. The MMC recommends that NMFS require BP to recalculate take estimates for beluga and bowhead whales and ringed, bearded, and spotted seals incidental to seismic airguns using the revised ensonified area estimate for a moving sound source. The MMC further recommends that NMFS require BP to estimate take incidental to the use of the sub-bottom profiler based on an ensonified area for the sub-bottom profiler for a moving sound source. VerDate Mar<15>2010 19:01 Jun 27, 2014 Jkt 232001 Response: In shallow water heterogeneous environments (such as that for the proposed survey), propagation conditions change as the vessel moves; therefore, using the total linear distance surveyed by the vessel in a day would not necessarily result in estimates that are any more accurate than the method of using the area of a circle. In deeper water with more constant oceanographic and bathymetric conditions, a complex polygon based on propagation modeling is likely a better method to employ. However, BP will conduct surveys in extremely shallow water (generally less than about 30 ft). NMFS agrees that the methods used to calculate take provide an accurate representation of the numbers of marine mammals that may potentially occur in the Level B harassment zone. As explained in the response to Comment 2, NMFS determined that additional takes do not need to be added as a result of use of the sub-bottom profiler. Comment 4: The MMC states that BP has proposed that observers would monitor for marine mammals 30 minutes before and during the proposed activities. NMFS agreed with that approach but did not include a requirement for post-activity PO 00000 Frm 00053 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 36771 monitoring. The MMC states, in general, post-activity monitoring is needed to ensure that marine mammals are not taken in unexpected or unauthorized ways or in unanticipated numbers. Some types of taking (e.g., taking by death or serious injury) may not be observed until after the activity has ceased. Post-activity monitoring is the best way, and in some situations may be the only reliable way, to detect certain impacts. Accordingly, the MMC recommends that NMFS require BP to monitor for marine mammals 30 minutes before, during, and 30 minutes after the proposed activities. Response: NMFS has included a requirement in the IHA that observers monitor for marine mammals 30 minutes before, during, and 30 minutes after the use of the seismic airguns and other active sound sources. Description of Marine Mammals in the Area of the Specified Activity The Beaufort Sea supports a diverse assemblage of marine mammals. Table 1 lists the 12 marine mammal species under NMFS jurisdiction with confirmed or possible occurrence in the proposed project area. E:\FR\FM\30JNN1.SGM 30JNN1 Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 125 / Monday, June 30, 2014 / Notices The highlighted (grayed out) species in Table 1 are so rarely sighted in the central Alaskan Beaufort Sea that their presence in the proposed project area, and therefore take, is unlikely. Minke whales are relatively common in the Bering and southern Chukchi seas and have recently also been sighted in the northeastern Chukchi Sea (Aerts et al., 2013; Clarke et al., 2013). Minke whales are rare in the Beaufort Sea. They have not been reported in the Beaufort Sea during the Bowhead Whale Aerial VerDate Mar<15>2010 19:01 Jun 27, 2014 Jkt 232001 Survey Project/Aerial Surveys of Arctic Marine Mammals (BWASP/ASAMM) surveys (Clarke et al., 2011, 2012; 2013; Monnet and Treacy, 2005), and there was only one observation in 2007 during vessel-based surveys in the region (Funk et al., 2010). Humpback whales have not generally been found in the Arctic Ocean. However, subsistence hunters have spotted humpback whales in low numbers around Barrow, and there have been several confirmed sightings of humpback whales in the PO 00000 Frm 00054 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 northeastern Chukchi Sea in recent years (Aerts et al., 2013; Clarke et al., 2013). The first confirmed sighting of a humpback whale in the Beaufort Sea was recorded in August 2007 (Hashagen et al., 2009) when a cow and calf were observed 54 mi east of Point Barrow. No additional sightings have been documented in the Beaufort Sea. Narwhal are common in the waters of northern Canada, west Greenland, and in the European Arctic, but rarely occur in the Beaufort Sea (COSEWIC, 2004). E:\FR\FM\30JNN1.SGM 30JNN1 EN30JN14.066</GPH> mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES 36772 Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 125 / Monday, June 30, 2014 / Notices mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Only a handful of sightings have occurred in Alaskan waters (Allen and Angliss, 2013). These three species are not considered further in this IHA notice. Both the walrus and the polar bear could occur in the U.S. Beaufort Sea; however, these species are managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and are not considered further in this IHA. The Beaufort Sea is a main corridor of the bowhead whale migration route. The main migration periods occur in spring from April to June and in fall from late August/early September through October to early November. During the fall migration, several locations in the U.S. Beaufort Sea serve as feeding grounds for bowhead whales. Small numbers of bowhead whales that remain in the U.S. Arctic Ocean during summer also feed in these areas. The U.S. Beaufort Sea is not a main feeding or calving area for any other cetacean species. Ringed seals breed and pup in the Beaufort Sea; however, this does not occur during the summer or early fall. Further information on the biology and local distribution of these species can be found in BP’s application (see ADDRESSES) and the NMFS Marine Mammal Stock Assessment Reports, which are available online at: https:// www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/. Potential Effects of the Specified Activity on Marine Mammals This section includes a summary and discussion of the ways that the types of stressors associated with the specified activity (e.g., seismic airgun, sidescan sonar, subbottom profiler, vessel movement) have been observed to or are thought to impact marine mammals. This section may include a discussion of known effects that do not rise to the level of an MMPA take (for example, with acoustics, we may include a discussion of studies that showed animals not reacting at all to sound or exhibiting barely measurable avoidance). The discussion may also include reactions that we consider to rise to the level of a take and those that we do not consider to rise to the level of a take. This section is intended as a background of potential effects and does not consider either the specific manner in which this activity will be carried out or the mitigation that will be implemented or how either of those will shape the anticipated impacts from this specific activity. The ‘‘Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment’’ section later in this document will include a quantitative analysis of the number of individuals that are expected to be taken by this activity. The ‘‘Negligible Impact Analysis’’ section will include the VerDate Mar<15>2010 19:01 Jun 27, 2014 Jkt 232001 analysis of how this specific activity will impact marine mammals and will consider the content of this section, the ‘‘Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment’’ section, the ‘‘Mitigation’’ section, and the ‘‘Anticipated Effects on Marine Mammal Habitat’’ section to draw conclusions regarding the likely impacts of this activity on the reproductive success or survivorship of individuals and from that on the affected marine mammal populations or stocks. Operating active acoustic sources, such as airgun arrays, has the potential for adverse effects on marine mammals. The majority of anticipated impacts would be from the use of acoustic sources. The effects of sound from airgun pulses might include one or more of the following: Tolerance, masking of natural sounds, behavioral disturbance, and temporary or permanent hearing impairment or non-auditory effects (Richardson et al., 1995). However, for reasons discussed in the proposed IHA, it is unlikely that there would be any cases of temporary, or especially permanent, hearing impairment resulting from BP’s activities. As outlined in previous NMFS documents, the effects of noise on marine mammals are highly variable, often depending on species and contextual factors (based on Richardson et al., 1995). In the ‘‘Potential Effects of the Specified Activity on Marine Mammals’’ section of the Notice of Proposed IHA (79 FR 21522, April 16, 2014), NMFS included a qualitative discussion of the different ways that BP’s 2014 shallow geohazard survey program may potentially affect marine mammals. The discussion focused on information and data regarding potential acoustic and non-acoustic effects from survey activities (i.e., use of airguns, sonar systems, and aircraft). Marine mammals may experience masking and behavioral disturbance. The information contained in the ‘‘Potential Effects of Specified Activities on Marine Mammals’’ section from the proposed IHA has not changed. Please refer to the proposed IHA for the full discussion (79 FR 21522, April 16, 2014). A short summary is provided here. Marine mammals may behaviorally react when exposed to anthropogenic sound. These behavioral reactions are often shown as: Changing durations of surfacing and dives, number of blows per surfacing, or moving direction and/ or speed; reduced/increased vocal activities; changing/cessation of certain behavioral activities (such as socializing or feeding); visible startle response or aggressive behavior (such as tail/fluke PO 00000 Frm 00055 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 36773 slapping or jaw clapping); avoidance of areas where sound sources are located; and/or flight responses (e.g., pinnipeds flushing into water from haulouts or rookeries). Masking is the obscuring of sounds of interest by other sounds, often at similar frequencies. Marine mammals use acoustic signals for a variety of purposes, which differ among species, but include communication between individuals, navigation, foraging, reproduction, avoiding predators, and learning about their environment (Erbe and Farmer, 2000; Tyack, 2000). Masking, or auditory interference, generally occurs when sounds in the environment are louder than, and of a similar frequency as, auditory signals an animal is trying to receive. Masking is a phenomenon that affects animals that are trying to receive acoustic information about their environment, including sounds from other members of their species, predators, prey, and sounds that allow them to orient in their environment. Masking these acoustic signals can disturb the behavior of individual animals, groups of animals, or entire populations. For the airgun sound generated from the proposed survey, sound will consist of low frequency (under 500 Hz) pulses with extremely short durations (less than one second). There is little concern regarding masking near the sound source due to the brief duration of these pulses and relatively longer silence between airgun shots (approximately 3– 4 seconds). Masking from airguns is more likely in low-frequency marine mammals like mysticetes (which are not expected to occur in high numbers in the survey area in July and August). It is less likely for mid- to high-frequency cetaceans and pinnipeds. Hearing impairment (either temporary or permanent) is unlikely. Given the higher level of sound necessary to cause permanent threshold shift as compared with temporary threshold shift, it is considerably less likely that permanent threshold shift would occur during the survey in Foggy Island Bay. Cetaceans generally avoid the immediate area around operating seismic vessels, as do some other marine mammals. Some pinnipeds show avoidance reactions to airguns, but their avoidance reactions are generally not as strong or consistent as those of cetaceans, and occasionally they seem to be attracted to operating seismic vessels (NMFS, 2010). Serious injury or mortality is not anticipated from use of the equipment. To date, there is no evidence that serious injury, death, or stranding by marine mammals can occur from exposure to airgun pulses, even in the E:\FR\FM\30JNN1.SGM 30JNN1 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES 36774 Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 125 / Monday, June 30, 2014 / Notices case of large airgun arrays. Additionally, BP’s project will use an extremely small-sized airgun array in shallow water. NMFS does not expect any marine mammals will incur serious injury or mortality in the shallow waters of Foggy Island Bay or strand as a result of the proposed geohazard survey. Active acoustic sources other than airguns (i.e., sonar systems) are proposed for BP’s 2014 shallow geohazard survey in Foggy Island Bay, Beaufort Sea, Alaska. The multibeam echosounder does not produce frequencies within the hearing range of marine mammals. Exposure to sounds generated by this instrument, therefore, does not present a risk of potential physiological damage, hearing impairment, and/or behavioral responses. The sidescan sonar does not produce frequencies within the hearing range of mysticetes and ice seals, but when operating at 110–135 kHz could be audible by mid- and high-frequency cetaceans, depending on the strength of the signal. However, when it operates at the much higher frequencies greater than 400 kHz, it is outside of the hearing range of all marine mammals. Masking is unlikely to occur due to the nature of the signal and because beluga whales and ice seals generally vocalize at frequencies lower than 100 kHz. Any behavioral reactions are anticipated to be short-term and temporary in nature. No hearing impairment or death is anticipated from use of this equipment. Subbottom profilers will be audible to all three hearing classes of marine mammals that occur in the project area. Based on previous measurements of various subbottom profilers, the rms sound pressure level does not reach 180 dB re 1mPa (Funk et al., 2008; Ireland et al., 2009; Warner and McCrodan, 2011). Masking is unlikely due to the low duty cycle, directionality, and brief period when an individual mammal is likely to be within the beam. Additionally, the higher frequencies of the instrument are unlikely to overlap with the lower frequency calls by mysticetes. Some stranding events of mid-frequency cetaceans were attributed to the presence of sonar surveys in the area (e.g., Southall et al., 2006). Recently, an independent scientific review panel concluded that the mass stranding of approximately 100 melon-headed whales in northwest Madagascar in 2008 was primarily triggered by a multibeam echosounder system (Southall et al., 2013), acknowledging that it was difficult to find evidence showing a direct cause-effect relationships. The multibeam echosounder proposed in this survey VerDate Mar<15>2010 19:01 Jun 27, 2014 Jkt 232001 will operate at much higher frequencies, outside the hearing range of any marine mammal. The sidescan sonar and subbottom profiler are much less powerful. Considering the acoustic specifics of these instruments, the shallow water environment, the unlikely presence of toothed whales in the area, and planned mitigation measures, no marine mammal stranding or mortality are expected. Vessel activity and noise associated with vessel activity will temporarily increase in the action area during BP’s survey as a result of the operation of one vessel. To minimize the effects of the vessel and noise associated with vessel activity, BP will alter speed if a marine mammal gets too close to a vessel. In addition, the vessel will be operating at slow speed (3–4 knots) when conducting surveys. Marine mammal monitoring observers will alert the vessel captain as animals are detected to ensure safe and effective measures are applied to avoid coming into direct contact with marine mammals. Therefore, NMFS neither anticipates nor authorizes takes of marine mammals from ship strikes. Anticipated Effects on Marine Mammal Habitat The primary potential impacts to marine mammal habitat and other marine species are associated with elevated sound levels produced by airguns and other active acoustic sources. The proposed IHA contains a full discussion of the potential impacts to marine mammal habitat and prey species in the project area. No changes have been made to that discussion. Please refer to the proposed IHA for the full discussion of potential impacts to marine mammal habitat (79 FR 21522, April 16, 2014). NMFS has determined that BP’s shallow geohazard survey program is not expected to have any habitat-related effects that could cause significant or long-term consequences for individual marine mammals or their populations. Mitigation In order to issue an incidental take authorization (ITA) under section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA, NMFS must set forth the permissible methods of taking pursuant to such activity, and other means of effecting the least practicable impact on such species or stock and its habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance, and on the availability of such species or stock for taking for certain subsistence uses (where relevant). This section PO 00000 Frm 00056 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 summarizes the required mitigation measures contained in the IHA. Mitigation Measures in BP’s Application BP described general mitigation measures that apply throughout the survey and specific mitigation measures that apply to airgun operations. The protocols are discussed next and can also be found in Section 11 of BP’s application (see ADDRESSES). 1. General Mitigation Measures These general mitigation measures apply at all times to the vessel involved in the Liberty geohazard survey. This vessel would also operate under an additional set of specific mitigation measures during airgun operations (described a bit later in this document). The general mitigation measures include: (1) Adjusting speed to avoid collisions with whales and during periods of low visibility; (2) checking the waters immediately adjacent to the vessel to ensure that no marine mammals will be injured when the vessel’s propellers (or screws) are engaged; (3) avoiding concentrations of groups of whales and not operating vessels in a way that separates members of a group; (4) reducing vessel speeds to less than 10 knots in the presence of feeding whales; (5) reducing speed and steering around groups of whales if circumstances allow (but never cutting off a whale’s travel path) and avoiding multiple changes in direction and speed when within 900 ft of whales; (6) maintaining an altitude of at least 1,000 ft when flying helicopters, except in emergency situations or during take-offs and landings; and (7) not hovering or circling with helicopters above or within 0.3 mi of groups of whales. 2. Seismic Airgun Mitigation Measures BP will establish and monitor Level A harassment exclusion zones for all marine mammal species. These zones will be monitored by PSOs (more detail later). Should marine mammals enter these exclusion zones, the PSOs will call for and implement the suite of mitigation measures described next. Ramp-up Procedure: Ramp-up procedures of an airgun array involve a step-wise increase in the number of operating airguns until the required discharge volume is achieved. The purpose of a ramp-up (sometimes referred to as ‘‘soft-start’’) is to provide marine mammals in the vicinity of the activity the opportunity to leave the area and to avoid the potential for injury or impairment of their hearing abilities. During ramp-up, BP will implement the common procedure of doubling the number of operating airguns at 5-minute E:\FR\FM\30JNN1.SGM 30JNN1 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 125 / Monday, June 30, 2014 / Notices intervals, starting with the smallest gun in the array. Ramp-up of the 30 in3 array from a shutdown will therefore take 10 min for the three-airgun array option and 5 min for the two-airgun array option. First the smallest gun in the array will be activated (10 in3) and after 5 min, the second airgun (10 in3 or 20 in3). For the three-airgun array, an additional 5 min are then required to activate the third 10 in3 airgun. During ramp-up, the exclusion zone for the full airgun array will be observed. The ramp-up procedures will be applied as follows: 1. A ramp-up, following a cold start, can be applied if the exclusion zone has been free of marine mammals for a consecutive 30-minute period. The entire exclusion zone must have been visible during these 30 minutes. If the entire exclusion zone is not visible, then ramp-up from a cold start cannot begin. 2. Ramp-up procedures from a cold start will be delayed if a marine mammal is sighted within the exclusion zone during the 30-minute period prior to the ramp-up. The delay will last until the marine mammal(s) has been observed to leave the exclusion zone or until the animal(s) is not sighted for at least 15 minutes (seals) or 30 minutes (cetaceans). 3. A ramp-up, following a shutdown, can be applied if the marine mammal(s) for which the shutdown occurred has been observed to leave the exclusion zone or until the animal(s) has not been sighted for at least 15 minutes (seals) or 30 minutes (cetaceans). This assumes there was a continuous observation effort prior to the shutdown and the entire exclusion zone is visible. 4. If, for any reason, power to the airgun array has been discontinued for a period of 10 minutes or more, rampup procedures need to be implemented. Only if the PSO watch has been suspended, a 30-minute clearance of the exclusion zone is required prior to commencing ramp-up. Discontinuation of airgun activity for less than 10 minutes does not require a ramp-up. 5. The seismic operator and PSOs will maintain records of the times when ramp-ups start and when the airgun arrays reach full power. Power Down Procedure: A power down is the immediate reduction in the number of operating airguns such that the radii of the 190 dB and 180 dB (rms) zones are decreased to the extent that an observed marine mammal is not in the applicable exclusion zone of the full array. For this geohazard survey, the operation of one airgun continues during a power down. The continued operation of one airgun is intended to (a) alert marine mammals to the VerDate Mar<15>2010 19:01 Jun 27, 2014 Jkt 232001 presence of airgun activity, and (b) retain the option of initiating a ramp up to full operations under poor visibility conditions. 1. The array will be immediately powered down whenever a marine mammal is sighted approaching close to or within the applicable exclusion zone of the full array, but is outside the applicable exclusion zone of the single airgun; 2. Likewise, if a mammal is already within the exclusion zone of the full array when first detected, the airgun array will be powered down to one operating gun immediately; 3. If a marine mammal is sighted within or about to enter the applicable exclusion zone of the single airgun, it too will be shut down; and 4. Following a power down, ramp-up to the full airgun array will not resume until the marine mammal has cleared the applicable exclusion zone. The animal will be considered to have cleared the exclusion zone if it has been visually observed leaving the exclusion zone of the full array, or has not been seen within the zone for 15 minutes (seals) or 30 minutes (cetaceans). Shut-down Procedures: The operating airgun(s) will be shut down completely if a marine mammal approaches or enters the 190 or 180 dB (rms) exclusion radius of the smallest airgun. Airgun activity will not resume until the marine mammal has cleared the applicable exclusion radius of the full array. The animal will be considered to have cleared the exclusion radius as described above under ramp-up procedures. Poor Visibility Conditions: BP plans to conduct 24-hr operations. PSOs will not be on duty during ongoing seismic operations during darkness, given the very limited effectiveness of visual observation at night (there will be no periods of darkness in the survey area until mid-August). The provisions associated with operations at night or in periods of poor visibility include the following: • If during foggy conditions, heavy snow or rain, or darkness (which may be encountered starting in late August), the full 180 dB exclusion zone is not visible, the airguns cannot commence a ramp-up procedure from a full shutdown; and • If one or more airguns have been operational before nightfall or before the onset of poor visibility conditions, they can remain operational throughout the night or poor visibility conditions. In this case ramp-up procedures can be initiated, even though the exclusion zone may not be visible, on the assumption that marine mammals will PO 00000 Frm 00057 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 36775 be alerted by the sounds from the single airgun and have moved away. BP is aware that available techniques to more effectively detect marine mammals during limited visibility conditions (darkness, fog, snow, and rain) are in need of development and has in recent years supported research and field trials intended to improve methods of detecting marine mammals under these conditions. Additional Mitigation Measures Required by NMFS The mitigation airgun will be operated at approximately one shot per minute and will not be operated for longer than three hours in duration during daylight hours and good visibility. In cases when the next startup after the turn is expected to be during lowlight or low visibility, use of the mitigation airgun may be initiated 30 minutes before darkness or low visibility conditions occur and may be operated until the start of the next seismic acquisition line. The mitigation gun must still be operated at approximately one shot per minute. NMFS clarified or refined some of the mitigation measures contained in BP’s application (and listed earlier in this section). In low visibility conditions, NMFS requires BP to reduce speeds to 9 knots or less. Separately, NMFS has defined a group or concentration of whales as five or more individuals. Mitigation Conclusions NMFS has carefully evaluated BP’s mitigation measures and considered a range of other measures in the context of ensuring that NMFS prescribes the means of effecting the least practicable impact on the affected marine mammal species and stocks and their habitat. Our evaluation of potential measures included consideration of the following factors in relation to one another: • The manner in which, and the degree to which, the successful implementation of the measures are expected to minimize adverse impacts to marine mammals; • The proven or likely efficacy of the specific measure to minimize adverse impacts as planned; and • The practicability of the measure for applicant implementation. Based on our evaluation of the applicant’s proposed measures, as well as other measures considered by NMFS and those recommended by the public, NMFS has determined that the required mitigation measures provide the means of effecting the least practicable impact on marine mammals species or stocks and their habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, E:\FR\FM\30JNN1.SGM 30JNN1 36776 Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 125 / Monday, June 30, 2014 / Notices and areas of similar significance. Measures to ensure availability of such species or stock for taking for certain subsistence uses are discussed later in this document (see ‘‘Impact on Availability of Affected Species or Stock for Taking for Subsistence Uses’’ section). Monitoring and Reporting In order to issue an ITA for an activity, section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA states that NMFS must set forth ‘‘requirements pertaining to the monitoring and reporting of such taking’’. The MMPA implementing regulations at 50 CFR 216.104(a)(13) indicate that requests for ITAs must include the suggested means of accomplishing the necessary monitoring and reporting that will result in increased knowledge of the species and of the level of taking or impacts on populations of marine mammals that are expected to be present in the proposed action area. BP submitted information regarding marine mammal monitoring to be conducted during seismic operations as part of the IHA application. That information can be found in Sections 11 and 13 of the application. Monitoring Measures mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES 1. Visual Monitoring Two observers referred to as PSOs will be present on the vessel. Of these two PSOs, one will be on watch at all times to monitor the 190 and 180 dB exclusion zones for the presence of marine mammals during airgun operations. The main objectives of the vessel-based marine mammal monitoring are as follows: (1) To implement mitigation measures during seismic operations (e.g. course alteration, airgun power down, shutdown and ramp-up); and (2) to record all marine mammal data needed to estimate the number of marine mammals potentially affected, which must be reported to NMFS within 90 days after the survey. BP intends to work with experienced PSOs. At least one Alaska Native resident, who is knowledgeable about Arctic marine mammals and the subsistence hunt, is expected to be included as one of the team members aboard the vessel. Before the start of the survey, the vessel crew will be briefed on the function of the PSOs, their monitoring protocol, and mitigation measures to be implemented. At least one observer will monitor for marine mammals at any time during daylight hours (there will be no periods of total darkness until mid-August). PSOs will be on duty in shifts of a VerDate Mar<15>2010 19:01 Jun 27, 2014 Jkt 232001 maximum of 4 hours at a time, although the exact shift schedule will be established by the lead PSO in consultation with the other PSOs. In response to a public comment, language has been included in the IHA to clarify that the on-duty PSO must monitor for marine mammals 30 minutes before, during, and 30 minutes after the use of the seismic airguns and other active sound sources. The vessel will offer a suitable platform for marine mammal observations. Observations will be made from locations where PSOs have the best view around the vessel. During daytime, the PSO(s) will scan the area around the vessel systematically with reticle binoculars and with the naked eye. Because the main purpose of the PSO on board the vessel is detecting marine mammals for the implementation of mitigation measures according to specific guidelines, BP prefers (and NMFS agrees) to keep the information to be recorded as concise as possible, allowing the PSO to focus on detecting marine mammals. The following information will be collected by the PSOs: • Environmental conditions— consisting of sea state (in Beaufort Wind force scale according to NOAA), visibility (in km, with 10 km indicating the horizon on a clear day), and sun glare (position and severity). These will be recorded at the start of each shift, whenever there is an obvious change in one or more of the environmental variables, and whenever the observer changes shifts; • Project activity—consisting of airgun operations (on or off), number of active guns, line number. This will be recorded at the start of each shift, whenever there is an obvious change in project activity, and whenever the observer changes shifts; and • Sighting information—consisting of the species (if determinable), group size, position and heading relative to the vessel, behavior, movement, and distance relative to the vessel (initial and closest approach). These will be recorded upon sighting a marine mammal or group of animals. When marine mammals in the water are detected within or about to enter the designated exclusion zones, the airgun(s) power down or shut-down procedures will be implemented immediately. To assure prompt implementation of power downs and shut-downs, multiple channels of communication between the PSOs and the airgun technicians will be established. During the power down and shutdown, the PSO(s) will continue to PO 00000 Frm 00058 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 maintain watch to determine when the animal(s) are outside the exclusion radius. Airgun operations can resume with a ramp-up procedure (depending on the extent of the power down) if the observers have visually confirmed that the animal(s) moved outside the exclusion zone, or if the animal(s) were not observed within the exclusion zone for 15 minutes (seals) or for 30 minutes (cetaceans). Direct communication with the airgun operator will be maintained throughout these procedures. All marine mammal observations and any airgun power down, shut-down, and ramp-up will be recorded in a standardized format. Data will be entered into or transferred to a custom database. The accuracy of the data entry will be verified daily through QA/QC procedures. Recording procedures will allow initial summaries of data to be prepared during and shortly after the field program, and will facilitate transfer of the data to other programs for further processing and archiving. 2. Fish and Airgun Sound Monitoring BP proposes to conduct research on fish species in relation to airgun operations, including prey species important to ice seals, during the proposed seismic survey. The Liberty shallow geohazard survey, along with another seismic survey BP is conducting this summer in Prudhoe Bay, offers a unique opportunity to assess the impacts of airgun sounds on fish, specifically on changes in fish abundance in fyke nets that have been sampled in the area for more than 30 years. The monitoring study would occur over a 2-month period during the open-water season. During this time, fish are counted and sized every day, unless sampling is prevented by weather, the presence of bears, or other events. Fish mortality is also noted. The fish-sampling period coincides with the shallow geohazard survey, resulting in a situation where each of the four fyke nets will be exposed to varying daily exposures to airgun sounds. That is, as source vessels move back and forth across the project area, fish caught in nets will be exposed to different sounds levels at different nets each day. To document relationships between fish catch in each fyke net and received sound levels, BP will attempt to instrument each fyke net location with a recording hydrophone. Recording hydrophones, to the extent possible, will have a dynamic range that extends low enough to record near ambient sounds and high enough to capture sound levels during relatively close approaches by the airgun array (i.e., likely levels as high as about 200 dB re E:\FR\FM\30JNN1.SGM 30JNN1 Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 125 / Monday, June 30, 2014 / Notices 1 uPa). Bandwidth will extend from about 10 Hz to at least 500 Hz. In addition, because some fish (especially salmonids) are likely to be sensitive to particle velocity instead of or in addition to sound pressure level, BP will attempt to instrument each fyke net location with a recording particle velocity meter. Acoustic and environmental data will be used in statistical models to assess relationships between acoustic and fish variables. Additional information on the details of the fish monitoring study can be found in Section 13.1 of BP’s application (see ADDRESSES). Monitoring Plan Peer Review The MMPA requires that monitoring plans be independently peer reviewed ‘‘where the proposed activity may affect the availability of a species or stock for taking for subsistence uses’’ (16 U.S.C. 1371(a)(5)(D)(ii)(III)). Regarding this requirement, NMFS’ implementing regulations state, ‘‘Upon receipt of a complete monitoring plan, and at its discretion, [NMFS] will either submit the plan to members of a peer review panel for review or within 60 days of receipt of the proposed monitoring plan, schedule a workshop to review the plan’’ (50 CFR 216.108(d)). Because of the extremely short duration of BP’s survey, the fact that activities will be completed prior to any fall bowhead whale subsistence hunts, and that seal hunts occur more than 50 mi from the survey activities, NMFS determined that the survey did not meet the trigger for requiring an independent peer review of the monitoring plan. Reporting Measures mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES 1. 90-Day Technical Report A report will be submitted to NMFS within 90 days after the end of the shallow geohazard survey. The report will summarize all activities and monitoring results conducted during inwater seismic surveys. The Technical Report will include the following: • Summary of project start and end dates, airgun activity, number of guns, and the number and circumstances of implementing ramp-up, power down, shutdown, and other mitigation actions; • Summaries of monitoring effort (e.g., total hours, total distances, and marine mammal distribution through the study period, accounting for sea state and other factors affecting visibility and detectability of marine mammals); • Analyses of the effects of various factors influencing detectability of marine mammals (e.g., sea state, number of observers, and fog/glare); VerDate Mar<15>2010 19:01 Jun 27, 2014 Jkt 232001 • Species composition, occurrence, and distribution of marine mammal sightings, including date, water depth, numbers, age/size/gender categories (if determinable), and group sizes; • Analyses of the effects of survey operations; • Sighting rates of marine mammals during periods with and without seismic survey activities (and other variables that could affect detectability), such as: (i) Initial sighting distances versus survey activity state; (ii) closest point of approach versus survey activity state; (iii) observed behaviors and types of movements versus survey activity state; (iv) numbers of sightings/ individuals seen versus survey activity state; (v) distribution around the source vessels versus survey activity state; and (vi) estimates of exposures of marine mammals to Level B harassment thresholds based on presence in the 160 dB harassment zone. 2. Fish and Airgun Sound Report BP will present the results of the fish and airgun sound study to NMFS in a detailed report. BP proposes to also submit that report to a peer reviewed journal for publication and present the results at a scientific conference and in Barrow and Nuiqsut. 3. Notification of Injured or Dead Marine Mammals In the unanticipated event that the specified activity clearly causes the take of a marine mammal in a manner prohibited by the IHA, such as an injury (Level A harassment), serious injury or mortality (e.g., ship-strike, gear interaction, and/or entanglement), BP would immediately cease the specified activities and immediately report the incident to the Chief of the Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the Alaska Regional Stranding Coordinators. The report would include the following information: • Time, date, and location (latitude/ longitude) of the incident; • Name and type of vessel involved; • Vessel’s speed during and leading up to the incident; • Description of the incident; • Status of all sound source use in the 24 hours preceding the incident; • Water depth; • Environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, Beaufort sea state, cloud cover, and visibility); • Description of all marine mammal observations in the 24 hours preceding the incident; • Species identification or description of the animal(s) involved; • Fate of the animal(s); and PO 00000 Frm 00059 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 36777 • Photographs or video footage of the animal(s) (if equipment is available). Activities would not resume until NMFS is able to review the circumstances of the prohibited take. NMFS would work with BP to determine what is necessary to minimize the likelihood of further prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. BP would not be able to resume their activities until notified by NMFS via letter, email, or telephone. In the event that BP discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the lead PSO determines that the cause of the injury or death is unknown and the death is relatively recent (i.e., in less than a moderate state of decomposition as described in the next paragraph), BP would immediately report the incident to the Chief of the Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the NMFS Alaska Stranding Hotline and/or by email to the Alaska Regional Stranding Coordinators. The report would include the same information identified in the paragraph above. Activities would be able to continue while NMFS reviews the circumstances of the incident. NMFS would work with BP to determine whether modifications in the activities are appropriate. In the event that BP discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the lead PSO determines that the injury or death is not associated with or related to the activities authorized in the IHA (e.g., carcass with moderate to advanced decomposition, or scavenger damage), BP would report the incident to the Chief of the Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the NMFS Alaska Stranding Hotline and/or by email to the Alaska Regional Stranding Coordinators, within 24 hours of the discovery. BP would provide photographs or video footage (if available) or other documentation of the stranded animal sighting to NMFS and the Marine Mammal Stranding Network. Activities may continue while NMFS reviews the circumstances of the incident. Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, the MMPA defines ‘‘harassment’’ as: Any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance which (i) has the potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild [Level A harassment]; or (ii) has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, E:\FR\FM\30JNN1.SGM 30JNN1 36778 Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 125 / Monday, June 30, 2014 / Notices feeding, or sheltering [Level B harassment]. Only take by Level B behavioral harassment of some species is anticipated as a result of the shallow geohazard survey. Anticipated impacts to marine mammals are associated with noise propagation from the sound sources (e.g., airguns, sidescan sonar, and subbottom profiler) used in the survey. No take is expected to result from vessel strikes because of the slow speed of the vessel (3–4 knots while acquiring data) and because of mitigation measures to reduce collisions with marine mammals. Additionally, no take is expected to result from helicopter operations (if any occur) because of altitude restrictions. No take is expected from the multibeam echosounder and when the sidescan sonar is operated at frequencies above 400 kHz because the frequencies are outside the hearing ranges of marine mammals. Moreover, when the sidescan sonar is operated at frequencies of 110– 135 kHz, it is outside the hearing ranges of low-frequency cetaceans and ice seals. Therefore, take has not been estimated from use of these sources for these species. BP requested take of 11 marine mammal species by Level B harassment. However, for reasons mentioned earlier in this document, we have determined it is highly unlikely that humpback and minke whales would occur in the survey area. Therefore, NMFS has not authorized take of these two species. The species for which take, by Level B harassment only, is authorized include: Bowhead, beluga, gray, and killer whales; harbor porpoise; and ringed, bearded, spotted, and ribbon seals. The airguns and sub-bottom profiler produce impulsive sounds. The current acoustic thresholds used by NMFS to estimate Level B and Level A harassment are presented in Table 2. TABLE 2—CURRENT ACOUSTIC EXPOSURE CRITERIA USED BY NMFS Criterion Criterion definition Threshold Level A Harassment (Injury) ........... Permanent Threshold Shift (PTS) (Any level above that which is known to cause TTS). Behavioral Disruption (for impulse noises) ............... Behavioral Disruption (for continuous, noise) ........... 180 dB re 1 microPa-m (cetaceans)/190 dB re 1 microPa-m (pinnipeds) root mean square (rms). 160 dB re 1 microPa-m (rms). 120 dB re 1 microPa-m (rms). Level B Harassment ........................ Level B Harassment ........................ mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Section 6 of BP’s application contains a description of the methodology used by BP to estimate takes by harassment, including calculations for the 160 dB (rms) isopleth and marine mammal densities in the areas of operation (see ADDRESSES), which was also provided in the proposed IHA notice (79 FR 21522, April 16, 2014). NMFS verified BP’s methods, and used the density and sound isopleth measurements in estimating take. However, after initiating ESA section 7 consultation on this action, NMFS noticed that BP used the average distance to the 180 and 190 dB (rms) isopleths rounded to the nearest 100 or 10, respectively, but used the maximum distance to the 160 dB (rms) isopleth rounded to the nearest 100. This resulted in a 160 dB isopleth about 40% greater than the average expected distance of the isopleth. Table 7A in BP’s application presented the average 160 dB isopleth as 944 m but calculated take assuming a 160 dB isopleth as 1,602 m. To remain consistent with the estimation of the other isopleths, NMFS has only rounded the average 160 dB isopleth for the 30 in3 array to 1,000 m. However, for reasons explained below this only changed the estimated take level for bowhead whales. Also, as noted later in this section, NMFS authorized the maximum number of estimated takes for all species, not just for cetaceans as presented by BP in order to ensure that exposure estimates are not underestimated for pinnipeds. The shallow geohazard survey will take place in two phases and has an estimated duration of approximately 20 days, including 5 days between the two phases where operations will be focused on changing equipment. Data acquisition will conclude by the start of the Cross Island fall bowhead whale hunt. During phase 1 of the project, 2D high resolution seismic data will be acquired in about 12 mi2 of the Site Survey area. The duration is estimated at about 7.5 days, based on a continuous 24-hr operation and not including downtime. During phase 2, data will be acquired in the Site Survey area (11 mi2) and over approximately 5 mi2 of the 29 mi2 Sonar Survey area using the multibeam echosounder, sidescan sonar, subbottom profiler, and magnetometer. The total duration of Phase 2 is also expected to be 7.5 days, based on a continuous 24hr operation and not including downtime. Marine Mammal Density Estimates The Notice of Proposed IHA (79 FR 21522, April 16, 2014) contained a complete description of the derivation of the marine mammal density estimates. That discussion has not changed and is therefore not repeated here. Level A and Level B Harassment Zone Distances For the proposed 2014 shallow geohazard survey, BP used existing sound source verification (SSV) measurements to establish distances to received sound pressure levels (SPLs). The Notice of Proposed IHA (79 FR 21522, April 16, 2014) contained a complete description of the derivation of the Level A and Level B harassment zone distances. With the exception of slightly altering the distances of the Level B harassment zone, as described above, nothing in the discussion has changed. Therefore, the entire discussion is not repeated here. Table 3 in this document presents the radii used to estimate take (160 dB isopleth) and to implement mitigation measures (180 dB and 190 dB isopleths) from the full airgun array and the 5 in3 mitigation gun. However, take is only estimated using the larger radius of the full airgun array. TABLE 3—DISTANCES (IN METERS) TO BE USED FOR ESTIMATING TAKE BY LEVEL B HARASSMENT AND FOR MITIGATION PURPOSES DURING THE PROPOSED 2014 FOGGY ISLAND BAY SHALLOW GEOHAZARD SURVEY Airgun discharge volume (in3) 190 dB re 1 μPa 30 in3 ........................................................................................... VerDate Mar<15>2010 19:01 Jun 27, 2014 Jkt 232001 PO 00000 Frm 00060 180 dB re 1 μPa 70 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 E:\FR\FM\30JNN1.SGM 160 dB re 1 μPa 200 30JNN1 1,000 36779 Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 125 / Monday, June 30, 2014 / Notices TABLE 3—DISTANCES (IN METERS) TO BE USED FOR ESTIMATING TAKE BY LEVEL B HARASSMENT AND FOR MITIGATION PURPOSES DURING THE PROPOSED 2014 FOGGY ISLAND BAY SHALLOW GEOHAZARD SURVEY—Continued Airgun discharge volume (in3) 190 dB re 1 μPa 5 in3 ............................................................................................. 180 dB re 1 μPa 20 160 dB re 1 μPa 50 Numbers of Marine Mammals Potentially Taken by Harassment these sources is already accounted for in the airgun exposure estimates. The potential number of marine mammals that might be exposed to the 160 dB re 1 mPa (rms) SPL was calculated differently for cetaceans and pinnipeds, as described in Section 6.3 of BP’s application and the Notice of Proposed IHA (79 FR 21522, April 16, 2014). The change to the 160 dB isopleth for the full array only had implications for the take estimate for bowhead whales. Because of the method used to calculate takes for pinnipeds, the isopleth change did not change the pinniped takes described in those earlier documents. Additionally, the change did not alter the proposed take estimates for other cetacean species. Therefore, those discussions are not repeated here. BP did not calculate take from the subbottom profiler or from the sidescan sonar for toothed whales. Based on the distance to the 160 dB re 1 mPa (rms) isopleths for these sources and the fact that NMFS has authorized the maximum estimated exposure estimate, the extremely minimal number of exposures (less than one animal for each species) that would result from use of 1. Number of Cetaceans Potentially Taken by Harassment The potential number of bowhead whales that might be exposed to the 160 dB re 1 mPa (rms) SPL was calculated by multiplying: • The expected bowhead density as provided in Table 5 in BP’s application; • The anticipated area around each source vessel that is ensonified by the 160 dB re 1 mPa (rms) SPL; and • The estimated number of 24-hr days that the source vessels are operating. The area expected to be ensonified by the 30 in3 array was determined based on the average distance to the 160 dB re 1 mPa (rms) SPL rounded to the nearest 100 as determined from the maximum 20–40 in3 array measurements (Table 7A in BP’s application), which is 1 km. Based on a radius of 1 km, the 160 dB ensonified area used in the exposure calculations was 3.14 km2. The estimated number of 24-hr days of airgun operations is 7.5 days (180 hours), not including downtime. Downtime is related to weather, equipment maintenance, mitigation implementation, and other circumstances. 500 Based on this revision to the 160 dB isopleth, the average and maximum number of bowhead whales potentially exposed to sound levels of 160 dB re 1mPa (rms) or more is estimated at 0.04 and 0.13, respectively. Because a fraction of an exposure is impossible, we rounded up the maximum estimate to account for one bowhead whale exposure to the Level B harassment threshold. These estimated exposures do not take into account the required mitigation measures, such as PSOs watching for animals, shutdowns or power downs of the airguns when marine mammals are seen within defined ranges, and ramp-up of airguns. Estimated Take by Harassment Summary Table 4 here outlines the density estimates used to estimate Level B takes, the authorized Level B harassment take levels, the abundance of each species in the Beaufort Sea, the percentage of each species or stock estimated to be taken, and current population trends. As explained earlier in this document, NMFS authorized the maximum estimates of exposures. Additionally, density estimates are not available for species that are uncommon in the proposed survey area. TABLE 4—DENSITY ESTIMATES OR SPECIES SIGHTING RATES, AUTHORIZED LEVEL B HARASSMENT TAKE LEVELS, SPECIES OR STOCK ABUNDANCE, PERCENTAGE OF POPULATION PROPOSED TO BE TAKEN, AND SPECIES TREND STATUS Beluga whale ........................... Killer whale .............................. Harbor porpoise ....................... Bowhead whale ....................... Gray whale .............................. Bearded seal ........................... Ringed seal .............................. Spotted seal ............................. Ribbon seal .............................. 0.107 0.397 0.126 NA mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Negligible Impact Negligible impact is ‘‘an impact resulting from the specified activity that cannot be reasonably expected to, and is not reasonably likely to, adversely affect the species or stock through effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival’’ 19:01 Jun 27, 2014 Authorized Level B take 0.0105 NA NA 0.0055 NA Analysis and Determinations VerDate Mar<15>2010 Sighting rate (ind/hr) Density (#/km2) Species Jkt 232001 75 1 1 1 1 19 71 23 1 Abundance 39,258 552 48,215 16,892 19,126 155,000 300,000 141,479 49,000 (50 CFR 216.103). A negligible impact finding is based on the lack of likely adverse effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival (i.e., populationlevel effects). An estimate of the number of Level B harassment takes, alone, is not enough information on which to base an impact determination. In addition to considering estimates of the PO 00000 Frm 00061 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Percentage of population 0.19 0.18 >0.01 0.01 0.01 0.01 0.02 0.02 >0.01 Trend No reliable information. Stable. No reliable information. Increasing. Increasing. No reliable information. No reliable information. No reliable information. No reliable information. number of marine mammals that might be ‘‘taken’’ through behavioral harassment, NMFS must consider other factors, such as the likely nature of any responses (their intensity, duration, etc.), the context of any responses (critical reproductive time or location, migration, etc.), as well as the number and nature of estimated Level A E:\FR\FM\30JNN1.SGM 30JNN1 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES 36780 Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 125 / Monday, June 30, 2014 / Notices harassment takes, the number of estimated mortalities, effects on habitat, and the status of the species. No injuries or mortalities are anticipated to occur as a result of BP’s shallow geohazard survey, and none are authorized. Additionally, animals in the area are not expected to incur hearing impairment or non-auditory physiological effects. The number of takes that are anticipated and authorized are expected to be limited to short-term Level B behavioral harassment. While the airguns will be operated continuously for about 7.5 days, the project time frame will occur when cetacean species are typically not found in the project area or are found only in low numbers. While pinnipeds are likely to be found in the project area more frequently, their distribution is dispersed enough that they likely will not be in the Level B harassment zone continuously. As mentioned previously, pinnipeds appear to be more tolerant of anthropogenic sound than mystiectes. The use of sidescan sonar, multibeam echosounder, and subbottom profiler continuously for 7.5 days will not negatively impact marine mammals as the majority of these instruments are operated outside of the hearing frequencies of marine mammals. The Alaskan Beaufort Sea is part of the main migration route of the Western Arctic stock of bowhead whales. However, the geohazard survey has been planned to occur when the majority of the population is found in the Canadian Beaufort Sea. Operation of airguns and other sound sources will conclude by midnight on August 25 before the main fall migration begins and well before cow/calf pairs begin migrating through the area. Additionally, several locations within the Beaufort Sea serve as feeding grounds for bowhead whales. However, as mentioned earlier in this document, the primary feeding grounds are not found in Foggy Island Bay. The majority of bowhead whales feed in the Alaskan Beaufort Sea during the fall migration period, which will occur after the cessation of the survey. Belugas that migrate through the U.S. Beaufort Sea typically do so farther offshore (more than 37 mi [60 km]) and in deeper waters (more than 656 ft [200 m]) than where the survey activities would occur. Gray whales are rarely sighted this far east in the U.S. Beaufort Sea. Additionally, there are no known feeding grounds for gray whales in the Foggy Island Bay area. The most northern feeding sites known for this species are located in the Chukchi Sea. The other cetacean species for which take is authorized are uncommon in Foggy Island Bay, and no known feeding VerDate Mar<15>2010 19:01 Jun 27, 2014 Jkt 232001 or calving grounds occur in Foggy Island Bay for these species. Based on these factors, exposures of cetaceans to anthropogenic sounds are not expected to last for prolonged periods (i.e., several days) since they are not known to remain in the area for extended periods of time in July and August. Also, the shallow water location of the survey makes it unlikely that cetaceans would remain in the area for prolonged periods. Based on all of this information, the survey is not anticipated to affect annual rates of recruitment or survival for cetaceans in the area. Ringed seals breed and pup in the Alaskan Beaufort Sea; however, the survey will occur outside of the breeding and pupping seasons. The Beaufort Sea does not provide suitable habitat for the other three ice seal species for breeding and pupping. Based on this information, the survey is not anticipated to affect annual rates of recruitment or survival for pinnipeds in the area. Of the nine marine mammal species for which take is authorized, one is listed as endangered under the ESA— the bowhead whale—and two are listed as threatened—ringed and bearded seals. Schweder et al. (2009) estimated the yearly growth rate for bowhead whales to be 3.2% (95% CI = 0.5–4.8%) between 1984 and 2003 using a sightresight analysis of aerial photographs. There are currently no reliable data on trends of the ringed and bearded seal stocks in Alaska. The ribbon seal is listed as a species of concern under the ESA. Certain stocks or populations of gray, killer, and beluga whales and spotted seals are listed as endangered or are proposed for listing under the ESA; however, none of those stocks or populations occur in the activity area. There is currently no established critical habitat in the project area for any of these nine species. Based on the analysis contained herein of the likely effects of the specified activity on marine mammals and their habitat, and taking into consideration the implementation of the required monitoring and mitigation measures, NMFS finds that the total marine mammal take from BP’s shallow geohazard survey in Foggy Island Bay, Beaufort Sea, Alaska, will have a negligible impact on the affected marine mammal species or stocks. Small Numbers The requested takes authorized represent less than 1% of all populations or stocks (see Table 4 in this document). These take estimates represent the percentage of each species PO 00000 Frm 00062 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 or stock that could be taken by Level B behavioral harassment if each animal is taken only once. The numbers of marine mammals taken are small relative to the affected species or stock sizes. In addition, the mitigation and monitoring measures (described previously in this document) required in the IHA are expected to reduce even further any potential disturbance to marine mammals. NMFS finds that small numbers of marine mammals will be taken relative to the populations of the affected species or stocks. Impact on Availability of Affected Species or Stock for Taking for Subsistence Uses Relevant Subsistence Uses The disturbance and potential displacement of marine mammals by sounds from the survey are the principal concerns related to subsistence use of the area. Subsistence remains the basis for Alaska Native culture and community. Marine mammals are legally hunted in Alaskan waters by coastal Alaska Natives. In rural Alaska, subsistence activities are often central to many aspects of human existence, including patterns of family life, artistic expression, and community religious and celebratory activities. Additionally, the animals taken for subsistence provide a significant portion of the food that will last the community throughout the year. The main species that are hunted include bowhead and beluga whales, ringed, spotted, and bearded seals, walruses, and polar bears. (As mentioned previously in this document, both the walrus and the polar bear are under the USFWS’ jurisdiction.) The importance of each of these species varies among the communities and is largely based on availability. Residents of the village of Nuiqsut are the primary subsistence users in the project area. The communities of Barrow and Kaktovik also harvest resources that pass through the area of interest but do not hunt in or near the Foggy Island Bay area. Subsistence hunters from all three communities conduct an annual hunt for autumnmigrating bowhead whales. Barrow also conducts a bowhead hunt in spring. Residents of all three communities hunt seals. Other subsistence activities include fishing, waterfowl and seaduck harvests, and hunting for walrus, beluga whales, polar bears, caribou, and moose. Nuiqsut is the community closest to the survey area (approximately 73 mi [117.5 km] southwest). Nuiqsut hunters harvest bowhead whales only during the fall whaling season (Long, 1996). In recent years, Nuiqsut whalers have E:\FR\FM\30JNN1.SGM 30JNN1 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 125 / Monday, June 30, 2014 / Notices typically landed three or four whales per year. Nuiqsut whalers concentrate their efforts on areas north and east of Cross Island, generally in water depths greater than 66 ft (20 m; Galginaitis, 2009). Cross Island is the principal base for Nuiqsut whalers while they are hunting bowheads (Long, 1996). Cross Island is located approximately 10 mi (16 km) from the closest boundary of the survey area. Kaktovik whalers search for whales east, north, and occasionally west of Kaktovik. Kaktovik is located approximately 91 mi (146.5 km) east of Foggy Island Bay. The western most reported harvest location was about 13 mi (21 km) west of Kaktovik, near 70 °10′ N., 144 °11′ W. (Kaleak, 1996). That site is about 80 mi (129 km) east of the proposed survey area. Barrow whalers search for whales much farther from the Foggy Island Bay area—about 200+ mi (322+ km) to the west. Barrow hunters have expressed concerns about ‘‘downstream’’ effects to bowhead whales during the westward fall migration; however, BP will cease airgun operations prior to the start of the fall migration. Beluga whales are not a prevailing subsistence resource in the communities of Kaktovik and Nuiqsut. Kaktovik hunters may harvest one beluga whale in conjunction with the bowhead hunt; however, it appears that most households obtain beluga through exchanges with other communities. Although Nuiqsut hunters have not hunted belugas for many years while on Cross Island for the fall hunt, this does not mean that they may not return to this practice in the future. Data presented by Braund and Kruse (2009) indicate that only 1% of Barrow’s total harvest between 1962 and 1982 was of beluga whales and that it did not account for any of the harvested animals between 1987 and 1989. Ringed seals are available to subsistence users in the Beaufort Sea year-round, but they are primarily hunted in the winter or spring due to the rich availability of other mammals in the summer. Bearded seals are primarily hunted during July in the Beaufort Sea; however, in 2007, bearded seals were harvested in the months of August and September at the mouth of the Colville River Delta, which is approximately 50+ mi (80+ km) from the proposed survey area. However, this sealing area can reach as far east as Pingok Island, which is approximately 20 mi (32 km) west of the survey area. An annual bearded seal harvest occurs in the vicinity of Thetis Island (which is a considerable distance from Foggy Island Bay) in July through August. VerDate Mar<15>2010 19:01 Jun 27, 2014 Jkt 232001 Approximately 20 bearded seals are harvested annually through this hunt. Spotted seals are harvested by some of the villages in the summer months. Nuiqsut hunters typically hunt spotted seals in the nearshore waters off the Colville River Delta. The majority of the more established seal hunts that occur in the Beaufort Sea, such as the Colville delta area hunts, are located a significant distance (in some instances 50 mi [80 km] or more) from the project area. Potential Impacts to Subsistence Uses NMFS has defined ‘‘unmitigable adverse impact’’ in 50 CFR 216.103 as: ‘‘. . . an impact resulting from the specified activity: (1) That is likely to reduce the availability of the species to a level insufficient for a harvest to meet subsistence needs by: (i) Causing the marine mammals to abandon or avoid hunting areas; (ii) Directly displacing subsistence users; or (iii) Placing physical barriers between the marine mammals and the subsistence hunters; and (2) That cannot be sufficiently mitigated by other measures to increase the availability of marine mammals to allow subsistence needs to be met.’’ Noise and general activity during BP’s shallow geohazard survey have the potential to impact marine mammals hunted by Native Alaskan. In the case of cetaceans, the most common reaction to anthropogenic sounds (as noted previously) is avoidance of the ensonified area. In the case of bowhead whales, this often means that the animals divert from their normal migratory path by several kilometers. Helicopter activity, although not really anticipated, also has the potential to disturb cetaceans and pinnipeds by causing them to vacate the area. Additionally, general vessel presence in the vicinity of traditional hunting areas could negatively impact a hunt. Native knowledge indicates that bowhead whales become increasingly ‘‘skittish’’ in the presence of seismic noise. Whales are more wary around the hunters and tend to expose a much smaller portion of their back when surfacing (which makes harvesting more difficult). Additionally, natives report that bowheads exhibit angry behaviors in the presence of seismic, such as tailslapping, which translate to danger for nearby subsistence harvesters. Plan of Cooperation or Measures To Minimize Impacts to Subsistence Hunts Regulations at 50 CFR 216.104(a)(12) require IHA applicants for activities that take place in Arctic waters to provide a Plan of Cooperation or information that identifies what measures have been PO 00000 Frm 00063 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 36781 taken and/or will be taken to minimize adverse effects on the availability of marine mammals for subsistence purposes. BP signed the 2014 Conflict Avoidance Agreement (CAA) with the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission (AEWC), which is developed to minimize potential interference with bowhead subsistence hunting. BP also attended and participated in meetings with the AEWC on December 13, 2013, and additional meetings in 2014. The CAA describes measures to minimize any adverse effects on the availability of bowhead whales for subsistence uses. The North Slope Borough Department of Wildlife Management (NSB–DWM) was consulted, and BP presented the project to the NSB Planning Commission in 2014. BP held meetings in the community of Nuiqsut to present the proposed project, address questions and concerns from community members, and provide them with contact information of project management to which they can direct concerns during the survey. During the NMFS Open-Water Meeting in Anchorage in 2013, BP presented their proposed projects to various stakeholders that were present during this meeting. BP will continue to engage with the affected subsistence communities regarding its Beaufort Sea activities. As in previous years, BP will meet formally and/or informally with several stakeholder entities: The NSB Planning Department, NSB–DWM, NMFS, AEWC, Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope, Inupiat History Language and Culture Center, USFWS, Nanuq and Walrus Commissions, and Alaska Department of Fish & Game. Project information was provided to and input on subsistence obtained from the AEWC and Nanuq Commission at the following meetings: • AEWC, October 17, 2013; and • Nanuq Commission, October 17, 2013. BP will implement several mitigation measures to reduce impacts on the availability of marine mammals for subsistence hunts in the Beaufort Sea. Many of these measures were developed from the 2013 CAA and previous NSB Development Permits. In addition to the measures listed next, BP will conclude all airgun operations by midnight on August 25 to allow time for the Beaufort Sea communities to prepare for their fall bowhead whale hunts prior to the beginning of the fall westward migration through the Beaufort Sea. Some of the measures mentioned next have been mentioned previously in this document: • PSOs on board vessels are tasked with looking out for whales and other E:\FR\FM\30JNN1.SGM 30JNN1 36782 Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 125 / Monday, June 30, 2014 / Notices mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES marine mammals in the vicinity of the vessel to assist the vessel captain in avoiding harm to whales and other marine mammals; • Vessels and aircraft will avoid areas where species that are sensitive to noise or vessel movements are concentrated; • Communications and conflict resolution are detailed in the CAA. BP will participate in the Communications Center that is operated annually during the bowhead subsistence hunt; • Communications with the village of Nuiqsut to discuss community questions or concerns including all subsistence hunting activities. Preproject meeting(s) with Nuiqsut representatives will be held at agreed times with groups in the community of Nuiqsut. If additional meetings are requested, they will be set up in a similar manner; • Contact information for BP will be provided to community members and distributed in a manner agreed at the community meeting; • BP has contracted with a liaison from Nuiqsut who will help coordinate meetings and serve as an additional contact for local residents during planning and operations; and • Inupiat Communicators will be employed and work on seismic source vessels. They will also serve as PSOs. Unmitigable Adverse Impact Analysis and Determination BP has adopted a spatial and temporal strategy for its Foggy Island Bay survey that should minimize impacts to subsistence hunters. First, BP’s activities will not commence until after the spring hunts have occurred. Second, BP will conclude all airgun and other active sound source operations by midnight on August 25 prior to the start of the bowhead whale fall westward migration and any fall subsistence hunts by Beaufort Sea communities. Foggy Island Bay is not commonly used for subsistence hunts. Although some seal hunting co-occurs temporally with BP’s survey, the locations do not overlap. BP’s presence will not place physical barriers between the sealers and the seals. Additionally, BP will work closely with the closest affected communities and support Communications Centers and employ local Inupiat Communicators. Based on the description of the specified activity, the measures described to minimize adverse effects on the availability of marine mammals for subsistence purposes, and the required mitigation and monitoring measures, NMFS has determined that there will not be an unmitigable adverse impact on subsistence uses from BP’s activities. VerDate Mar<15>2010 19:01 Jun 27, 2014 Jkt 232001 Endangered Species Act (ESA) DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE Within the project area, the bowhead whale is listed as endangered and the ringed and bearded seals are listed as threatened under the ESA. The NMFS Office of Protected Resources Permits and Conservation Division consulted with the NMFS Alaska Regional Office (AKRO) Protected Resources Division (PRD) on the issuance of an IHA under Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA because the action of issuing the IHA may affect threatened and endangered species under NMFS’ jurisdiction. On June 19, 2014, NMFS AKRO PRD issued a Biological Opinion, which concluded that the issuance of an IHA to BP for the shallow geohazard survey is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the endangered bowhead whale, threatened Arctic subspecies of ringed seal, or the threatened Beringia distinct population segment of bearded seal. There is no critical habitat for any of these species in the survey area. United States Patent and Trademark Office National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) NMFS prepared an EA that includes an analysis of potential environmental effects associated with NMFS’ issuance of an IHA to BP to take marine mammals incidental to conducting a shallow geohazard survey program in the Beaufort Sea, Alaska. NMFS has finalized the EA and prepared a FONSI for this action. Therefore, preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement is not necessary. Authorization As a result of these determinations, NMFS has issued an IHA to BP for conducting a shallow geohazard survey in the Foggy Island Bay area of the Beaufort Sea, Alaska, during the 2014 open-water season, provided the previously mentioned mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements are incorporated. Dated: June 25, 2014. Perry F. Gayaldo, Deputy Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2014–15239 Filed 6–27–14; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P PO 00000 Frm 00064 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Admission To Practice and Roster of Registered Patent Attorneys and Agents Admitted To Practice Before the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) ACTION: Notice. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), as part of its continuing effort to reduce paperwork and respondent burden, invites the general public and other Federal agencies to take this opportunity to comment on the continuing information collection, as required by the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, Public Law 104– 13 (44 U.S.C. 3506(c)(2)(A)). DATES: Written comments must be submitted on or before August 29, 2014. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by any of the following methods: • Email: InformationCollection@ uspto.gov. Include ‘‘0651–0012 comment’’ in the subject line of the message. • Mail: Susan K. Fawcett, Records Officer, Office of the Chief Information Officer, United States Patent and Trademark Office, P.O. Box 1450, Alexandria, VA 22313–1450. • Federal Rulemaking Portal: https:// www.regulations.gov. SUMMARY: FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Requests for additional information should be directed to Dahlia George, Office of Enrollment and Discipline, United States Patent and Trademark Office, Mail Stop OED, P.O. Box 1450, Alexandria, VA 22313–1450; by telephone at 571–272–4097; or by email to Dahlia.George@uspto.gov. Additional information about this collection is also available at https://www.reginfo.gov under ‘‘Information Collection Review.’’ SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: I. Abstract This collection of information is required by 35 U.S.C. 2(b)(2)(D), which permits the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to establish regulations governing the recognition and conduct of agents, attorneys or other persons representing applicants or other parties before the USPTO. This statute also permits the USPTO to require information from applicants that shows that they are of good moral character and reputation and have the necessary qualifications to assist applicants with the patent process and to represent them before the USPTO. E:\FR\FM\30JNN1.SGM 30JNN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 125 (Monday, June 30, 2014)]
[Notices]
[Pages 36769-36782]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-15239]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XD229


Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; 
Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to a Geohazard Survey in the Beaufort 
Sea, Alaska

AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and 
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

ACTION: Notice; issuance of an incidental harassment authorization.

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SUMMARY: In accordance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) 
regulations, notice is hereby given that NMFS has issued an Incidental 
Harassment Authorization (IHA) to BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. (BP) to 
take marine mammals, by harassment, incidental to conducting a shallow 
geohazard survey in Foggy Island Bay, Beaufort Sea, Alaska, during the 
2014 open water season.

DATES: Effective July 1, 2014, through September 30, 2014.

ADDRESSES: Electronic copies of the IHA, application, and associated 
Environmental Assessment (EA) and Finding of No Significant Impact 
(FONSI) may be obtained by writing to Jolie Harrison, Supervisor, 
Incidental Take Program, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of 
Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West 
Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910, telephoning the contact listed below 
(see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT), or visiting the Internet at: 
https://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental.htm. Documents cited in 
this notice may also be viewed, by appointment, during regular business 
hours, at the aforementioned address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Candace Nachman, Office of Protected 
Resources, NMFS, (301) 427-8401.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    Sections 101(a)(5)(A) and (D) of the MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) 
direct the Secretary of Commerce to allow, upon request, the 
incidental, but not intentional, taking of small numbers of marine 
mammals by U.S. citizens who engage in a specified activity (other than 
commercial fishing) within a specified geographical region if certain 
findings are made and either regulations are issued or, if the taking 
is limited to harassment, a notice of a proposed authorization is 
provided to the public for review.
    Authorization for incidental takings shall be granted if NMFS finds 
that the taking will have a negligible impact on the species or 
stock(s), will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the 
availability of the species or stock(s) for subsistence uses (where 
relevant), and if the permissible methods of taking, other means of 
effecting the least practicable impact on the species or stock and its 
habitat, and requirements pertaining to the mitigation, monitoring and 
reporting of such takings are set forth. NMFS has defined ``negligible 
impact'' in 50 CFR 216.103 as ``. . . an impact resulting from the 
specified activity that cannot be reasonably expected to, and is not 
reasonably likely to, adversely affect the species or stock through 
effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival.''
    Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, the 
MMPA defines ``harassment'' as: ``any act of pursuit, torment, or 
annoyance which (i) has the potential to injure a marine mammal or 
marine mammal stock in the wild [Level A harassment]; or (ii) has the 
potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild 
by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not 
limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or 
sheltering [Level B harassment].''

Summary of Request

    On February 4, 2014, NMFS received an application from BP for the 
taking of marine mammals incidental to conducting a shallow geohazard 
survey. NMFS determined that the application was adequate and complete 
on March 6, 2014.
    BP proposes to conduct a shallow geohazard survey in Federal and 
state waters of Foggy Island Bay in the Beaufort Sea during the open-
water season of 2014. The activity would occur between July 1 and 
September 30; however, airgun and other sound source equipment 
operations would cease on August 25. The following specific aspects of 
the activity are likely to result in the take of marine mammals: 
Airguns and scientific sonars/devices. Take, by Level B harassment 
only, of 9 marine mammal species is anticipated to result from the 
specified activity.

Description of the Specified Activity

Overview

    BP's proposed shallow geohazard survey would consist of two phases: 
A site survey and a sonar survey. During the first phase, the Site 
Survey, the emphasis is on obtaining shallow geohazard data using an 
airgun array and a towed streamer. During the second phase, the Sonar 
Survey, data will be acquired both in the Site Survey location and 
subsea pipeline corridor area (see Figure 1 in BP's application) using 
the multibeam echosounder, sidescan sonar, subbottom profiler, and the 
magnetometer. The total discharge volume of the airgun array will not 
exceed 30 cubic inches (in\3\).
    The purpose of the proposed shallow geohazard survey is to evaluate 
development of the Liberty field. The Liberty reservoir is located in 
federal waters in Foggy Island Bay about 8 miles (mi) east of the 
Endicott Satellite Drilling Island. The project's preferred alternative 
is to build a gravel island situated over the reservoir. In support of 
the preferred alternative, a Site Survey is planned with an emphasis on 
obtaining two-dimensional high-resolution shallow geohazard data using 
an airgun array and a towed streamer. Additional infrastructure 
required for the preferred alternative would include a subsea pipeline. 
A Sonar Survey, using multibeam echosounder, sidescan sonar, subbottom 
profiler, and magnetometer is proposed over the Site Survey location 
and subsea pipeline corridor area. The purpose of this proposed survey 
is to evaluate the existence and location of archaeological resources 
and potential geologic hazards on the seafloor and in the shallow 
subsurface.

Dates and Duration

    The planned start date is approximately July 1, 2014, with data

[[Page 36770]]

acquisition beginning when open water conditions allow. The survey is 
expected to take approximately 20 days to complete, not including 
weather downtime. Each phase of the survey (i.e., site survey and sonar 
survey) has an expected duration of 7.5 days based on a 24-hour 
workday. Between the first and second phase, the operations will be 
focused on changing equipment for about 5 days (i.e., no active sound 
sources would be used to acquire data during this time). To limit 
potential impacts to the bowhead whale fall migration and subsistence 
hunting, airgun and sonar operations will conclude by midnight on 
August 25. Demobilization of equipment would continue after airgun and 
sonar operations end but would be completed by September 30. Therefore, 
the dates for the IHA are July 1 through September 30, 2014.

Specified Geographic Region

    The proposed shallow geohazards survey would occur in Federal and 
state waters of Foggy Island Bay in the Beaufort Sea, Alaska. The 
project area lies mainly within the Liberty Unit but also includes 
portions of the Duck Island Unit, as well as non-unit areas. Figure 1 
in BP's application outlines the proposed survey acquisition areas, 
including proposed boundaries for the two phases of the project. The 
Phase 1 Site Survey, focused on obtaining shallow geohazard data using 
an airgun array and towed streamer, will occur within approximately 12 
mi\2\. The Phase 2 Sonar Survey will occur over the Site Survey area 
and over approximately 5 mi\2\ within the 29 mi\2\ area identified in 
Figure 1 of BP's application. Water depth in this area ranges from 
about 2-24 ft. Activity outside the area delineated in Figure 1 of BP's 
application may include vessel turning while using airguns, vessel 
transit, and other vessel movements for project support and logistics. 
The approximate boundaries of the two survey areas are between 
70[deg]14'10'' N. and 70[deg]20'20'' N. and between 147[deg]29'05'' W. 
and 148[deg]52'30'' W.

Detailed Description of Activities

    The activities associated with the proposed shallow geohazard 
survey include vessel mobilization, navigation and data management, 
housing and logistics, and data acquisition. The Notice of Proposed IHA 
(79 FR 21522, April 16, 2014) contains a full detailed description of 
the shallow geohazard survey, including sound source information. That 
information has not changed and is therefore not repeated here.

Comments and Responses

    A Notice of Proposed IHA was published in the Federal Register on 
April 16, 2014 (79 FR 21522) for public comment. During the 30-day 
public comment period, NMFS received three comment letters from the 
following: The Marine Mammal Commission (MMC) and two private citizens. 
All of the public comments received on the Notice of Proposed IHA are 
available on the Internet at: https://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/pdfs/permits/bp_liberty_comments.pdf. Following is a summary of the comments and 
NMFS' responses.
    Comment 1: One private citizen letter requested denial of the IHA 
because of the harm to the environment. The other private citizen 
letter requested denial of the IHA because of the pollution that would 
be caused by the activity.
    Response: As described in detail in the proposed IHA notice and 
summarized here, the only anticipated impacts from the shallow 
geohazard survey is short-term changes in behavior of a few marine 
mammal species. BP has designed the survey to avoid the peak times of 
year when cetaceans are present in the vicinity. Moreover, seismic 
surveys will not cause long-term harm to or cause pollution of the 
marine environment. BP is required to implement mitigation and 
monitoring measures (described later in this document) to minimize 
impacts to marine mammals and their habitats.
    Comment 2: The MMC states that NMFS has proposed takes associated 
with the use of the seismic airguns; however, no takes were proposed 
for the use of the other sound sources, including the multibeam 
echosounder, sidescan sonar, and sub-bottom profiler. Of particular 
concern to the MMC is the lack of proposed takes associated with the 
sub-bottom profiler, a non-impulsive, intermittent sound source. 
Researchers have observed that various species of marine mammals, 
including harbor porpoises, respond to sound from sources with 
characteristics similar to a sub-bottom profiler and at received levels 
below 160 dB re 1 [mu]Pa. The temporal and spectral characteristics of 
such sources suggest that a precautionary Level B harassment threshold 
of 120 dB re 1 [mu]Pa should be used when establishing harassment 
zones, estimating takes, and developing mitigation measures. The MMC 
recommends that NMFS require BP to (1) include take estimates resulting 
from the use of the sub-bottom profiler based on the 120-dB re 1 [mu]Pa 
threshold and (2) revise its monitoring measures as necessary to 
include monitoring of sub-bottom profiler activities.
    Response: Intermittent sounds can be defined as either impulsive or 
non-impulsive. Impulsive sounds have been defined as sounds which are 
typically transient, brief (<1 sec), broadband, and consist of a high 
peak pressure with rapid rise time and rapid decay (ANSI, 1986; NIOSH, 
1998). Sub-bottom profiler signals have durations that are typically 
very brief (<1 sec), with temporal characteristics that more closely 
resemble those of impulsive sounds than non-impulsive sounds, which 
typically have more gradual rise times and longer decays (ANSI, 1995; 
NIOSH, 1998). With regard to behavioral thresholds, we therefore 
consider the temporal and spectral characteristics of sub-bottom 
profiler signals to more closely resemble those of an impulse sound. 
Additionally, a sub-bottom profiler's ``rapid staccato'' of pulse 
trains is emitted in a similar fashion as odontocete echolocation click 
trains. Research indicates that marine mammals, in general, have 
extremely fine auditory temporal resolution and can detect each signal 
separately (e.g., Au et al., 1988; Dolphin et al., 1995; Supin and 
Popov, 1995; Mooney et al., 2009), especially for species with 
echolocation capabilities. Therefore, marine mammals would likely 
perceive sub-bottom profiler signals as being impulsive. Consequently, 
the 160-dB threshold (typically associated with impulsive sources) is 
more appropriate than the 120-dB threshold (typically associated with 
continuous sources) for estimating takes by behavioral harassment 
incidental to use of such sources.
    Regardless of which threshold is used to estimate Level B 
harassment take, based on the 160 dB and 120 dB radii, less than 0.1 
beluga whales and less than 0.1 bowhead whales would be exposed at 
either sound level. Based on this information, any take that may 
potentially occur from the sub-bottom profiler is already accounted for 
in the authorized take estimates. Therefore, NMFS has not increased the 
take estimates. Moreover, NMFS determined that additional monitoring 
measures are not necessary to include monitoring specifically for sub-
bottom profilers. Protected Species Observers (PSOs) will be on-duty 
during all daylight hours (with no periods of darkness anticipated 
until mid-August). The distances to the 160- and 120-dB isopleths from 
the sub-bottom profiler are 30 m and 450 m, respectively. Therefore, 
additional monitoring measures beyond those already required are not 
needed to observe this zone.
    Comment 3: According to the MMC, an accurate characterization of 
the size

[[Page 36771]]

of the harassment zone is necessary for obtaining reliable estimates of 
the numbers of animals taken. The MMC disagrees with using the area of 
a circle to estimate the size of the ensonified area. According to the 
MMC, this would only be correct if the sound source were stationary. 
For surveys in which the source is moving (i.e., towed airgun arrays), 
the ensonified area should instead be based on the total linear 
distance surveyed by the vessel in a day, taking into account the 
distance to the Level B harassment threshold, which would presumably 
produce an area greater than that calculated by using the area of a 
circle. BP and NMFS should use that revised estimate of the ensonified 
area to determine the numbers of animals that could be taken. The MMC 
recommends that NMFS require BP to recalculate take estimates for 
beluga and bowhead whales and ringed, bearded, and spotted seals 
incidental to seismic airguns using the revised ensonified area 
estimate for a moving sound source. The MMC further recommends that 
NMFS require BP to estimate take incidental to the use of the sub-
bottom profiler based on an ensonified area for the sub-bottom profiler 
for a moving sound source.
    Response: In shallow water heterogeneous environments (such as that 
for the proposed survey), propagation conditions change as the vessel 
moves; therefore, using the total linear distance surveyed by the 
vessel in a day would not necessarily result in estimates that are any 
more accurate than the method of using the area of a circle. In deeper 
water with more constant oceanographic and bathymetric conditions, a 
complex polygon based on propagation modeling is likely a better method 
to employ. However, BP will conduct surveys in extremely shallow water 
(generally less than about 30 ft). NMFS agrees that the methods used to 
calculate take provide an accurate representation of the numbers of 
marine mammals that may potentially occur in the Level B harassment 
zone. As explained in the response to Comment 2, NMFS determined that 
additional takes do not need to be added as a result of use of the sub-
bottom profiler.
    Comment 4: The MMC states that BP has proposed that observers would 
monitor for marine mammals 30 minutes before and during the proposed 
activities. NMFS agreed with that approach but did not include a 
requirement for post-activity monitoring. The MMC states, in general, 
post-activity monitoring is needed to ensure that marine mammals are 
not taken in unexpected or unauthorized ways or in unanticipated 
numbers. Some types of taking (e.g., taking by death or serious injury) 
may not be observed until after the activity has ceased. Post-activity 
monitoring is the best way, and in some situations may be the only 
reliable way, to detect certain impacts. Accordingly, the MMC 
recommends that NMFS require BP to monitor for marine mammals 30 
minutes before, during, and 30 minutes after the proposed activities.
    Response: NMFS has included a requirement in the IHA that observers 
monitor for marine mammals 30 minutes before, during, and 30 minutes 
after the use of the seismic airguns and other active sound sources.

Description of Marine Mammals in the Area of the Specified Activity

    The Beaufort Sea supports a diverse assemblage of marine mammals. 
Table 1 lists the 12 marine mammal species under NMFS jurisdiction with 
confirmed or possible occurrence in the proposed project area.

[[Page 36772]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TN30JN14.066

    The highlighted (grayed out) species in Table 1 are so rarely 
sighted in the central Alaskan Beaufort Sea that their presence in the 
proposed project area, and therefore take, is unlikely. Minke whales 
are relatively common in the Bering and southern Chukchi seas and have 
recently also been sighted in the northeastern Chukchi Sea (Aerts et 
al., 2013; Clarke et al., 2013). Minke whales are rare in the Beaufort 
Sea. They have not been reported in the Beaufort Sea during the Bowhead 
Whale Aerial Survey Project/Aerial Surveys of Arctic Marine Mammals 
(BWASP/ASAMM) surveys (Clarke et al., 2011, 2012; 2013; Monnet and 
Treacy, 2005), and there was only one observation in 2007 during 
vessel-based surveys in the region (Funk et al., 2010). Humpback whales 
have not generally been found in the Arctic Ocean. However, subsistence 
hunters have spotted humpback whales in low numbers around Barrow, and 
there have been several confirmed sightings of humpback whales in the 
northeastern Chukchi Sea in recent years (Aerts et al., 2013; Clarke et 
al., 2013). The first confirmed sighting of a humpback whale in the 
Beaufort Sea was recorded in August 2007 (Hashagen et al., 2009) when a 
cow and calf were observed 54 mi east of Point Barrow. No additional 
sightings have been documented in the Beaufort Sea. Narwhal are common 
in the waters of northern Canada, west Greenland, and in the European 
Arctic, but rarely occur in the Beaufort Sea (COSEWIC, 2004).

[[Page 36773]]

Only a handful of sightings have occurred in Alaskan waters (Allen and 
Angliss, 2013). These three species are not considered further in this 
IHA notice. Both the walrus and the polar bear could occur in the U.S. 
Beaufort Sea; however, these species are managed by the U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service (USFWS) and are not considered further in this IHA.
    The Beaufort Sea is a main corridor of the bowhead whale migration 
route. The main migration periods occur in spring from April to June 
and in fall from late August/early September through October to early 
November. During the fall migration, several locations in the U.S. 
Beaufort Sea serve as feeding grounds for bowhead whales. Small numbers 
of bowhead whales that remain in the U.S. Arctic Ocean during summer 
also feed in these areas. The U.S. Beaufort Sea is not a main feeding 
or calving area for any other cetacean species. Ringed seals breed and 
pup in the Beaufort Sea; however, this does not occur during the summer 
or early fall. Further information on the biology and local 
distribution of these species can be found in BP's application (see 
ADDRESSES) and the NMFS Marine Mammal Stock Assessment Reports, which 
are available online at: https://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/.

Potential Effects of the Specified Activity on Marine Mammals

    This section includes a summary and discussion of the ways that the 
types of stressors associated with the specified activity (e.g., 
seismic airgun, sidescan sonar, subbottom profiler, vessel movement) 
have been observed to or are thought to impact marine mammals. This 
section may include a discussion of known effects that do not rise to 
the level of an MMPA take (for example, with acoustics, we may include 
a discussion of studies that showed animals not reacting at all to 
sound or exhibiting barely measurable avoidance). The discussion may 
also include reactions that we consider to rise to the level of a take 
and those that we do not consider to rise to the level of a take. This 
section is intended as a background of potential effects and does not 
consider either the specific manner in which this activity will be 
carried out or the mitigation that will be implemented or how either of 
those will shape the anticipated impacts from this specific activity. 
The ``Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment'' section later in this 
document will include a quantitative analysis of the number of 
individuals that are expected to be taken by this activity. The 
``Negligible Impact Analysis'' section will include the analysis of how 
this specific activity will impact marine mammals and will consider the 
content of this section, the ``Estimated Take by Incidental 
Harassment'' section, the ``Mitigation'' section, and the ``Anticipated 
Effects on Marine Mammal Habitat'' section to draw conclusions 
regarding the likely impacts of this activity on the reproductive 
success or survivorship of individuals and from that on the affected 
marine mammal populations or stocks.
    Operating active acoustic sources, such as airgun arrays, has the 
potential for adverse effects on marine mammals. The majority of 
anticipated impacts would be from the use of acoustic sources.
    The effects of sound from airgun pulses might include one or more 
of the following: Tolerance, masking of natural sounds, behavioral 
disturbance, and temporary or permanent hearing impairment or non-
auditory effects (Richardson et al., 1995). However, for reasons 
discussed in the proposed IHA, it is unlikely that there would be any 
cases of temporary, or especially permanent, hearing impairment 
resulting from BP's activities. As outlined in previous NMFS documents, 
the effects of noise on marine mammals are highly variable, often 
depending on species and contextual factors (based on Richardson et 
al., 1995).
    In the ``Potential Effects of the Specified Activity on Marine 
Mammals'' section of the Notice of Proposed IHA (79 FR 21522, April 16, 
2014), NMFS included a qualitative discussion of the different ways 
that BP's 2014 shallow geohazard survey program may potentially affect 
marine mammals. The discussion focused on information and data 
regarding potential acoustic and non-acoustic effects from survey 
activities (i.e., use of airguns, sonar systems, and aircraft). Marine 
mammals may experience masking and behavioral disturbance. The 
information contained in the ``Potential Effects of Specified 
Activities on Marine Mammals'' section from the proposed IHA has not 
changed. Please refer to the proposed IHA for the full discussion (79 
FR 21522, April 16, 2014). A short summary is provided here.
    Marine mammals may behaviorally react when exposed to anthropogenic 
sound. These behavioral reactions are often shown as: Changing 
durations of surfacing and dives, number of blows per surfacing, or 
moving direction and/or speed; reduced/increased vocal activities; 
changing/cessation of certain behavioral activities (such as 
socializing or feeding); visible startle response or aggressive 
behavior (such as tail/fluke slapping or jaw clapping); avoidance of 
areas where sound sources are located; and/or flight responses (e.g., 
pinnipeds flushing into water from haulouts or rookeries).
    Masking is the obscuring of sounds of interest by other sounds, 
often at similar frequencies. Marine mammals use acoustic signals for a 
variety of purposes, which differ among species, but include 
communication between individuals, navigation, foraging, reproduction, 
avoiding predators, and learning about their environment (Erbe and 
Farmer, 2000; Tyack, 2000). Masking, or auditory interference, 
generally occurs when sounds in the environment are louder than, and of 
a similar frequency as, auditory signals an animal is trying to 
receive. Masking is a phenomenon that affects animals that are trying 
to receive acoustic information about their environment, including 
sounds from other members of their species, predators, prey, and sounds 
that allow them to orient in their environment. Masking these acoustic 
signals can disturb the behavior of individual animals, groups of 
animals, or entire populations. For the airgun sound generated from the 
proposed survey, sound will consist of low frequency (under 500 Hz) 
pulses with extremely short durations (less than one second). There is 
little concern regarding masking near the sound source due to the brief 
duration of these pulses and relatively longer silence between airgun 
shots (approximately 3-4 seconds). Masking from airguns is more likely 
in low-frequency marine mammals like mysticetes (which are not expected 
to occur in high numbers in the survey area in July and August). It is 
less likely for mid- to high-frequency cetaceans and pinnipeds.
    Hearing impairment (either temporary or permanent) is unlikely. 
Given the higher level of sound necessary to cause permanent threshold 
shift as compared with temporary threshold shift, it is considerably 
less likely that permanent threshold shift would occur during the 
survey in Foggy Island Bay. Cetaceans generally avoid the immediate 
area around operating seismic vessels, as do some other marine mammals. 
Some pinnipeds show avoidance reactions to airguns, but their avoidance 
reactions are generally not as strong or consistent as those of 
cetaceans, and occasionally they seem to be attracted to operating 
seismic vessels (NMFS, 2010).
    Serious injury or mortality is not anticipated from use of the 
equipment. To date, there is no evidence that serious injury, death, or 
stranding by marine mammals can occur from exposure to airgun pulses, 
even in the

[[Page 36774]]

case of large airgun arrays. Additionally, BP's project will use an 
extremely small-sized airgun array in shallow water. NMFS does not 
expect any marine mammals will incur serious injury or mortality in the 
shallow waters of Foggy Island Bay or strand as a result of the 
proposed geohazard survey.
    Active acoustic sources other than airguns (i.e., sonar systems) 
are proposed for BP's 2014 shallow geohazard survey in Foggy Island 
Bay, Beaufort Sea, Alaska. The multibeam echosounder does not produce 
frequencies within the hearing range of marine mammals. Exposure to 
sounds generated by this instrument, therefore, does not present a risk 
of potential physiological damage, hearing impairment, and/or 
behavioral responses.
    The sidescan sonar does not produce frequencies within the hearing 
range of mysticetes and ice seals, but when operating at 110-135 kHz 
could be audible by mid- and high-frequency cetaceans, depending on the 
strength of the signal. However, when it operates at the much higher 
frequencies greater than 400 kHz, it is outside of the hearing range of 
all marine mammals. Masking is unlikely to occur due to the nature of 
the signal and because beluga whales and ice seals generally vocalize 
at frequencies lower than 100 kHz. Any behavioral reactions are 
anticipated to be short-term and temporary in nature. No hearing 
impairment or death is anticipated from use of this equipment.
    Subbottom profilers will be audible to all three hearing classes of 
marine mammals that occur in the project area. Based on previous 
measurements of various subbottom profilers, the rms sound pressure 
level does not reach 180 dB re 1[mu]Pa (Funk et al., 2008; Ireland et 
al., 2009; Warner and McCrodan, 2011). Masking is unlikely due to the 
low duty cycle, directionality, and brief period when an individual 
mammal is likely to be within the beam. Additionally, the higher 
frequencies of the instrument are unlikely to overlap with the lower 
frequency calls by mysticetes. Some stranding events of mid-frequency 
cetaceans were attributed to the presence of sonar surveys in the area 
(e.g., Southall et al., 2006). Recently, an independent scientific 
review panel concluded that the mass stranding of approximately 100 
melon-headed whales in northwest Madagascar in 2008 was primarily 
triggered by a multibeam echosounder system (Southall et al., 2013), 
acknowledging that it was difficult to find evidence showing a direct 
cause-effect relationships. The multibeam echosounder proposed in this 
survey will operate at much higher frequencies, outside the hearing 
range of any marine mammal. The sidescan sonar and subbottom profiler 
are much less powerful. Considering the acoustic specifics of these 
instruments, the shallow water environment, the unlikely presence of 
toothed whales in the area, and planned mitigation measures, no marine 
mammal stranding or mortality are expected.
    Vessel activity and noise associated with vessel activity will 
temporarily increase in the action area during BP's survey as a result 
of the operation of one vessel. To minimize the effects of the vessel 
and noise associated with vessel activity, BP will alter speed if a 
marine mammal gets too close to a vessel. In addition, the vessel will 
be operating at slow speed (3-4 knots) when conducting surveys. Marine 
mammal monitoring observers will alert the vessel captain as animals 
are detected to ensure safe and effective measures are applied to avoid 
coming into direct contact with marine mammals. Therefore, NMFS neither 
anticipates nor authorizes takes of marine mammals from ship strikes.

Anticipated Effects on Marine Mammal Habitat

    The primary potential impacts to marine mammal habitat and other 
marine species are associated with elevated sound levels produced by 
airguns and other active acoustic sources. The proposed IHA contains a 
full discussion of the potential impacts to marine mammal habitat and 
prey species in the project area. No changes have been made to that 
discussion. Please refer to the proposed IHA for the full discussion of 
potential impacts to marine mammal habitat (79 FR 21522, April 16, 
2014). NMFS has determined that BP's shallow geohazard survey program 
is not expected to have any habitat-related effects that could cause 
significant or long-term consequences for individual marine mammals or 
their populations.

Mitigation

    In order to issue an incidental take authorization (ITA) under 
section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA, NMFS must set forth the permissible 
methods of taking pursuant to such activity, and other means of 
effecting the least practicable impact on such species or stock and its 
habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and 
areas of similar significance, and on the availability of such species 
or stock for taking for certain subsistence uses (where relevant). This 
section summarizes the required mitigation measures contained in the 
IHA.

Mitigation Measures in BP's Application

    BP described general mitigation measures that apply throughout the 
survey and specific mitigation measures that apply to airgun 
operations. The protocols are discussed next and can also be found in 
Section 11 of BP's application (see ADDRESSES).
1. General Mitigation Measures
    These general mitigation measures apply at all times to the vessel 
involved in the Liberty geohazard survey. This vessel would also 
operate under an additional set of specific mitigation measures during 
airgun operations (described a bit later in this document).
    The general mitigation measures include: (1) Adjusting speed to 
avoid collisions with whales and during periods of low visibility; (2) 
checking the waters immediately adjacent to the vessel to ensure that 
no marine mammals will be injured when the vessel's propellers (or 
screws) are engaged; (3) avoiding concentrations of groups of whales 
and not operating vessels in a way that separates members of a group; 
(4) reducing vessel speeds to less than 10 knots in the presence of 
feeding whales; (5) reducing speed and steering around groups of whales 
if circumstances allow (but never cutting off a whale's travel path) 
and avoiding multiple changes in direction and speed when within 900 ft 
of whales; (6) maintaining an altitude of at least 1,000 ft when flying 
helicopters, except in emergency situations or during take-offs and 
landings; and (7) not hovering or circling with helicopters above or 
within 0.3 mi of groups of whales.
2. Seismic Airgun Mitigation Measures
    BP will establish and monitor Level A harassment exclusion zones 
for all marine mammal species. These zones will be monitored by PSOs 
(more detail later). Should marine mammals enter these exclusion zones, 
the PSOs will call for and implement the suite of mitigation measures 
described next.
    Ramp-up Procedure: Ramp-up procedures of an airgun array involve a 
step-wise increase in the number of operating airguns until the 
required discharge volume is achieved. The purpose of a ramp-up 
(sometimes referred to as ``soft-start'') is to provide marine mammals 
in the vicinity of the activity the opportunity to leave the area and 
to avoid the potential for injury or impairment of their hearing 
abilities.
    During ramp-up, BP will implement the common procedure of doubling 
the number of operating airguns at 5-minute

[[Page 36775]]

intervals, starting with the smallest gun in the array. Ramp-up of the 
30 in\3\ array from a shutdown will therefore take 10 min for the 
three-airgun array option and 5 min for the two-airgun array option. 
First the smallest gun in the array will be activated (10 in\3\) and 
after 5 min, the second airgun (10 in\3\ or 20 in\3\). For the three-
airgun array, an additional 5 min are then required to activate the 
third 10 in\3\ airgun. During ramp-up, the exclusion zone for the full 
airgun array will be observed. The ramp-up procedures will be applied 
as follows:
    1. A ramp-up, following a cold start, can be applied if the 
exclusion zone has been free of marine mammals for a consecutive 30-
minute period. The entire exclusion zone must have been visible during 
these 30 minutes. If the entire exclusion zone is not visible, then 
ramp-up from a cold start cannot begin.
    2. Ramp-up procedures from a cold start will be delayed if a marine 
mammal is sighted within the exclusion zone during the 30-minute period 
prior to the ramp-up. The delay will last until the marine mammal(s) 
has been observed to leave the exclusion zone or until the animal(s) is 
not sighted for at least 15 minutes (seals) or 30 minutes (cetaceans).
    3. A ramp-up, following a shutdown, can be applied if the marine 
mammal(s) for which the shutdown occurred has been observed to leave 
the exclusion zone or until the animal(s) has not been sighted for at 
least 15 minutes (seals) or 30 minutes (cetaceans). This assumes there 
was a continuous observation effort prior to the shutdown and the 
entire exclusion zone is visible.
    4. If, for any reason, power to the airgun array has been 
discontinued for a period of 10 minutes or more, ramp-up procedures 
need to be implemented. Only if the PSO watch has been suspended, a 30-
minute clearance of the exclusion zone is required prior to commencing 
ramp-up. Discontinuation of airgun activity for less than 10 minutes 
does not require a ramp-up.
    5. The seismic operator and PSOs will maintain records of the times 
when ramp-ups start and when the airgun arrays reach full power.
    Power Down Procedure: A power down is the immediate reduction in 
the number of operating airguns such that the radii of the 190 dB and 
180 dB (rms) zones are decreased to the extent that an observed marine 
mammal is not in the applicable exclusion zone of the full array. For 
this geohazard survey, the operation of one airgun continues during a 
power down. The continued operation of one airgun is intended to (a) 
alert marine mammals to the presence of airgun activity, and (b) retain 
the option of initiating a ramp up to full operations under poor 
visibility conditions.
    1. The array will be immediately powered down whenever a marine 
mammal is sighted approaching close to or within the applicable 
exclusion zone of the full array, but is outside the applicable 
exclusion zone of the single airgun;
    2. Likewise, if a mammal is already within the exclusion zone of 
the full array when first detected, the airgun array will be powered 
down to one operating gun immediately;
    3. If a marine mammal is sighted within or about to enter the 
applicable exclusion zone of the single airgun, it too will be shut 
down; and
    4. Following a power down, ramp-up to the full airgun array will 
not resume until the marine mammal has cleared the applicable exclusion 
zone. The animal will be considered to have cleared the exclusion zone 
if it has been visually observed leaving the exclusion zone of the full 
array, or has not been seen within the zone for 15 minutes (seals) or 
30 minutes (cetaceans).
    Shut-down Procedures: The operating airgun(s) will be shut down 
completely if a marine mammal approaches or enters the 190 or 180 dB 
(rms) exclusion radius of the smallest airgun.
    Airgun activity will not resume until the marine mammal has cleared 
the applicable exclusion radius of the full array. The animal will be 
considered to have cleared the exclusion radius as described above 
under ramp-up procedures.
    Poor Visibility Conditions: BP plans to conduct 24-hr operations. 
PSOs will not be on duty during ongoing seismic operations during 
darkness, given the very limited effectiveness of visual observation at 
night (there will be no periods of darkness in the survey area until 
mid-August). The provisions associated with operations at night or in 
periods of poor visibility include the following:
     If during foggy conditions, heavy snow or rain, or 
darkness (which may be encountered starting in late August), the full 
180 dB exclusion zone is not visible, the airguns cannot commence a 
ramp-up procedure from a full shut-down; and
     If one or more airguns have been operational before 
nightfall or before the onset of poor visibility conditions, they can 
remain operational throughout the night or poor visibility conditions. 
In this case ramp-up procedures can be initiated, even though the 
exclusion zone may not be visible, on the assumption that marine 
mammals will be alerted by the sounds from the single airgun and have 
moved away.
    BP is aware that available techniques to more effectively detect 
marine mammals during limited visibility conditions (darkness, fog, 
snow, and rain) are in need of development and has in recent years 
supported research and field trials intended to improve methods of 
detecting marine mammals under these conditions.

Additional Mitigation Measures Required by NMFS

    The mitigation airgun will be operated at approximately one shot 
per minute and will not be operated for longer than three hours in 
duration during daylight hours and good visibility. In cases when the 
next start-up after the turn is expected to be during lowlight or low 
visibility, use of the mitigation airgun may be initiated 30 minutes 
before darkness or low visibility conditions occur and may be operated 
until the start of the next seismic acquisition line. The mitigation 
gun must still be operated at approximately one shot per minute.
    NMFS clarified or refined some of the mitigation measures contained 
in BP's application (and listed earlier in this section). In low 
visibility conditions, NMFS requires BP to reduce speeds to 9 knots or 
less. Separately, NMFS has defined a group or concentration of whales 
as five or more individuals.

Mitigation Conclusions

    NMFS has carefully evaluated BP's mitigation measures and 
considered a range of other measures in the context of ensuring that 
NMFS prescribes the means of effecting the least practicable impact on 
the affected marine mammal species and stocks and their habitat. Our 
evaluation of potential measures included consideration of the 
following factors in relation to one another:
     The manner in which, and the degree to which, the 
successful implementation of the measures are expected to minimize 
adverse impacts to marine mammals;
     The proven or likely efficacy of the specific measure to 
minimize adverse impacts as planned; and
     The practicability of the measure for applicant 
implementation.
    Based on our evaluation of the applicant's proposed measures, as 
well as other measures considered by NMFS and those recommended by the 
public, NMFS has determined that the required mitigation measures 
provide the means of effecting the least practicable impact on marine 
mammals species or stocks and their habitat, paying particular 
attention to rookeries, mating grounds,

[[Page 36776]]

and areas of similar significance. Measures to ensure availability of 
such species or stock for taking for certain subsistence uses are 
discussed later in this document (see ``Impact on Availability of 
Affected Species or Stock for Taking for Subsistence Uses'' section).

Monitoring and Reporting

    In order to issue an ITA for an activity, section 101(a)(5)(D) of 
the MMPA states that NMFS must set forth ``requirements pertaining to 
the monitoring and reporting of such taking''. The MMPA implementing 
regulations at 50 CFR 216.104(a)(13) indicate that requests for ITAs 
must include the suggested means of accomplishing the necessary 
monitoring and reporting that will result in increased knowledge of the 
species and of the level of taking or impacts on populations of marine 
mammals that are expected to be present in the proposed action area. BP 
submitted information regarding marine mammal monitoring to be 
conducted during seismic operations as part of the IHA application. 
That information can be found in Sections 11 and 13 of the application.

Monitoring Measures

1. Visual Monitoring
    Two observers referred to as PSOs will be present on the vessel. Of 
these two PSOs, one will be on watch at all times to monitor the 190 
and 180 dB exclusion zones for the presence of marine mammals during 
airgun operations. The main objectives of the vessel-based marine 
mammal monitoring are as follows: (1) To implement mitigation measures 
during seismic operations (e.g. course alteration, airgun power down, 
shut-down and ramp-up); and (2) to record all marine mammal data needed 
to estimate the number of marine mammals potentially affected, which 
must be reported to NMFS within 90 days after the survey.
    BP intends to work with experienced PSOs. At least one Alaska 
Native resident, who is knowledgeable about Arctic marine mammals and 
the subsistence hunt, is expected to be included as one of the team 
members aboard the vessel. Before the start of the survey, the vessel 
crew will be briefed on the function of the PSOs, their monitoring 
protocol, and mitigation measures to be implemented.
    At least one observer will monitor for marine mammals at any time 
during daylight hours (there will be no periods of total darkness until 
mid-August). PSOs will be on duty in shifts of a maximum of 4 hours at 
a time, although the exact shift schedule will be established by the 
lead PSO in consultation with the other PSOs. In response to a public 
comment, language has been included in the IHA to clarify that the on-
duty PSO must monitor for marine mammals 30 minutes before, during, and 
30 minutes after the use of the seismic airguns and other active sound 
sources.
    The vessel will offer a suitable platform for marine mammal 
observations. Observations will be made from locations where PSOs have 
the best view around the vessel. During daytime, the PSO(s) will scan 
the area around the vessel systematically with reticle binoculars and 
with the naked eye. Because the main purpose of the PSO on board the 
vessel is detecting marine mammals for the implementation of mitigation 
measures according to specific guidelines, BP prefers (and NMFS agrees) 
to keep the information to be recorded as concise as possible, allowing 
the PSO to focus on detecting marine mammals. The following information 
will be collected by the PSOs:
     Environmental conditions--consisting of sea state (in 
Beaufort Wind force scale according to NOAA), visibility (in km, with 
10 km indicating the horizon on a clear day), and sun glare (position 
and severity). These will be recorded at the start of each shift, 
whenever there is an obvious change in one or more of the environmental 
variables, and whenever the observer changes shifts;
     Project activity--consisting of airgun operations (on or 
off), number of active guns, line number. This will be recorded at the 
start of each shift, whenever there is an obvious change in project 
activity, and whenever the observer changes shifts; and
     Sighting information--consisting of the species (if 
determinable), group size, position and heading relative to the vessel, 
behavior, movement, and distance relative to the vessel (initial and 
closest approach). These will be recorded upon sighting a marine mammal 
or group of animals.
    When marine mammals in the water are detected within or about to 
enter the designated exclusion zones, the airgun(s) power down or shut-
down procedures will be implemented immediately. To assure prompt 
implementation of power downs and shut-downs, multiple channels of 
communication between the PSOs and the airgun technicians will be 
established.
    During the power down and shut-down, the PSO(s) will continue to 
maintain watch to determine when the animal(s) are outside the 
exclusion radius. Airgun operations can resume with a ramp-up procedure 
(depending on the extent of the power down) if the observers have 
visually confirmed that the animal(s) moved outside the exclusion zone, 
or if the animal(s) were not observed within the exclusion zone for 15 
minutes (seals) or for 30 minutes (cetaceans). Direct communication 
with the airgun operator will be maintained throughout these 
procedures.
    All marine mammal observations and any airgun power down, shut-
down, and ramp-up will be recorded in a standardized format. Data will 
be entered into or transferred to a custom database. The accuracy of 
the data entry will be verified daily through QA/QC procedures. 
Recording procedures will allow initial summaries of data to be 
prepared during and shortly after the field program, and will 
facilitate transfer of the data to other programs for further 
processing and archiving.
2. Fish and Airgun Sound Monitoring
    BP proposes to conduct research on fish species in relation to 
airgun operations, including prey species important to ice seals, 
during the proposed seismic survey. The Liberty shallow geohazard 
survey, along with another seismic survey BP is conducting this summer 
in Prudhoe Bay, offers a unique opportunity to assess the impacts of 
airgun sounds on fish, specifically on changes in fish abundance in 
fyke nets that have been sampled in the area for more than 30 years. 
The monitoring study would occur over a 2-month period during the open-
water season. During this time, fish are counted and sized every day, 
unless sampling is prevented by weather, the presence of bears, or 
other events. Fish mortality is also noted.
    The fish-sampling period coincides with the shallow geohazard 
survey, resulting in a situation where each of the four fyke nets will 
be exposed to varying daily exposures to airgun sounds. That is, as 
source vessels move back and forth across the project area, fish caught 
in nets will be exposed to different sounds levels at different nets 
each day. To document relationships between fish catch in each fyke net 
and received sound levels, BP will attempt to instrument each fyke net 
location with a recording hydrophone. Recording hydrophones, to the 
extent possible, will have a dynamic range that extends low enough to 
record near ambient sounds and high enough to capture sound levels 
during relatively close approaches by the airgun array (i.e., likely 
levels as high as about 200 dB re

[[Page 36777]]

1 uPa). Bandwidth will extend from about 10 Hz to at least 500 Hz. In 
addition, because some fish (especially salmonids) are likely to be 
sensitive to particle velocity instead of or in addition to sound 
pressure level, BP will attempt to instrument each fyke net location 
with a recording particle velocity meter. Acoustic and environmental 
data will be used in statistical models to assess relationships between 
acoustic and fish variables. Additional information on the details of 
the fish monitoring study can be found in Section 13.1 of BP's 
application (see ADDRESSES).

Monitoring Plan Peer Review

    The MMPA requires that monitoring plans be independently peer 
reviewed ``where the proposed activity may affect the availability of a 
species or stock for taking for subsistence uses'' (16 U.S.C. 
1371(a)(5)(D)(ii)(III)). Regarding this requirement, NMFS' implementing 
regulations state, ``Upon receipt of a complete monitoring plan, and at 
its discretion, [NMFS] will either submit the plan to members of a peer 
review panel for review or within 60 days of receipt of the proposed 
monitoring plan, schedule a workshop to review the plan'' (50 CFR 
216.108(d)).
    Because of the extremely short duration of BP's survey, the fact 
that activities will be completed prior to any fall bowhead whale 
subsistence hunts, and that seal hunts occur more than 50 mi from the 
survey activities, NMFS determined that the survey did not meet the 
trigger for requiring an independent peer review of the monitoring 
plan.

Reporting Measures

1. 90-Day Technical Report
    A report will be submitted to NMFS within 90 days after the end of 
the shallow geohazard survey. The report will summarize all activities 
and monitoring results conducted during in-water seismic surveys. The 
Technical Report will include the following:
     Summary of project start and end dates, airgun activity, 
number of guns, and the number and circumstances of implementing ramp-
up, power down, shutdown, and other mitigation actions;
     Summaries of monitoring effort (e.g., total hours, total 
distances, and marine mammal distribution through the study period, 
accounting for sea state and other factors affecting visibility and 
detectability of marine mammals);
     Analyses of the effects of various factors influencing 
detectability of marine mammals (e.g., sea state, number of observers, 
and fog/glare);
     Species composition, occurrence, and distribution of 
marine mammal sightings, including date, water depth, numbers, age/
size/gender categories (if determinable), and group sizes;
     Analyses of the effects of survey operations;
     Sighting rates of marine mammals during periods with and 
without seismic survey activities (and other variables that could 
affect detectability), such as: (i) Initial sighting distances versus 
survey activity state; (ii) closest point of approach versus survey 
activity state; (iii) observed behaviors and types of movements versus 
survey activity state; (iv) numbers of sightings/individuals seen 
versus survey activity state; (v) distribution around the source 
vessels versus survey activity state; and (vi) estimates of exposures 
of marine mammals to Level B harassment thresholds based on presence in 
the 160 dB harassment zone.
2. Fish and Airgun Sound Report
    BP will present the results of the fish and airgun sound study to 
NMFS in a detailed report. BP proposes to also submit that report to a 
peer reviewed journal for publication and present the results at a 
scientific conference and in Barrow and Nuiqsut.
3. Notification of Injured or Dead Marine Mammals
    In the unanticipated event that the specified activity clearly 
causes the take of a marine mammal in a manner prohibited by the IHA, 
such as an injury (Level A harassment), serious injury or mortality 
(e.g., ship-strike, gear interaction, and/or entanglement), BP would 
immediately cease the specified activities and immediately report the 
incident to the Chief of the Permits and Conservation Division, Office 
of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the Alaska Regional Stranding 
Coordinators. The report would include the following information:
     Time, date, and location (latitude/longitude) of the 
incident;
     Name and type of vessel involved;
     Vessel's speed during and leading up to the incident;
     Description of the incident;
     Status of all sound source use in the 24 hours preceding 
the incident;
     Water depth;
     Environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, 
Beaufort sea state, cloud cover, and visibility);
     Description of all marine mammal observations in the 24 
hours preceding the incident;
     Species identification or description of the animal(s) 
involved;
     Fate of the animal(s); and
     Photographs or video footage of the animal(s) (if 
equipment is available).
    Activities would not resume until NMFS is able to review the 
circumstances of the prohibited take. NMFS would work with BP to 
determine what is necessary to minimize the likelihood of further 
prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. BP would not be able to 
resume their activities until notified by NMFS via letter, email, or 
telephone.
    In the event that BP discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, 
and the lead PSO determines that the cause of the injury or death is 
unknown and the death is relatively recent (i.e., in less than a 
moderate state of decomposition as described in the next paragraph), BP 
would immediately report the incident to the Chief of the Permits and 
Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the 
NMFS Alaska Stranding Hotline and/or by email to the Alaska Regional 
Stranding Coordinators. The report would include the same information 
identified in the paragraph above. Activities would be able to continue 
while NMFS reviews the circumstances of the incident. NMFS would work 
with BP to determine whether modifications in the activities are 
appropriate.
    In the event that BP discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, 
and the lead PSO determines that the injury or death is not associated 
with or related to the activities authorized in the IHA (e.g., carcass 
with moderate to advanced decomposition, or scavenger damage), BP would 
report the incident to the Chief of the Permits and Conservation 
Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the NMFS Alaska 
Stranding Hotline and/or by email to the Alaska Regional Stranding 
Coordinators, within 24 hours of the discovery. BP would provide 
photographs or video footage (if available) or other documentation of 
the stranded animal sighting to NMFS and the Marine Mammal Stranding 
Network. Activities may continue while NMFS reviews the circumstances 
of the incident.

Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment

    Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, the 
MMPA defines ``harassment'' as: Any act of pursuit, torment, or 
annoyance which (i) has the potential to injure a marine mammal or 
marine mammal stock in the wild [Level A harassment]; or (ii) has the 
potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild 
by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not 
limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding,

[[Page 36778]]

feeding, or sheltering [Level B harassment]. Only take by Level B 
behavioral harassment of some species is anticipated as a result of the 
shallow geohazard survey. Anticipated impacts to marine mammals are 
associated with noise propagation from the sound sources (e.g., 
airguns, sidescan sonar, and subbottom profiler) used in the survey. No 
take is expected to result from vessel strikes because of the slow 
speed of the vessel (3-4 knots while acquiring data) and because of 
mitigation measures to reduce collisions with marine mammals. 
Additionally, no take is expected to result from helicopter operations 
(if any occur) because of altitude restrictions. No take is expected 
from the multibeam echosounder and when the sidescan sonar is operated 
at frequencies above 400 kHz because the frequencies are outside the 
hearing ranges of marine mammals. Moreover, when the sidescan sonar is 
operated at frequencies of 110-135 kHz, it is outside the hearing 
ranges of low-frequency cetaceans and ice seals. Therefore, take has 
not been estimated from use of these sources for these species.
    BP requested take of 11 marine mammal species by Level B 
harassment. However, for reasons mentioned earlier in this document, we 
have determined it is highly unlikely that humpback and minke whales 
would occur in the survey area. Therefore, NMFS has not authorized take 
of these two species. The species for which take, by Level B harassment 
only, is authorized include: Bowhead, beluga, gray, and killer whales; 
harbor porpoise; and ringed, bearded, spotted, and ribbon seals.
    The airguns and sub-bottom profiler produce impulsive sounds. The 
current acoustic thresholds used by NMFS to estimate Level B and Level 
A harassment are presented in Table 2.

        Table 2--Current Acoustic Exposure Criteria Used by NMFS
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                       Criterion
            Criterion                 definition           Threshold
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Level A Harassment (Injury).....  Permanent           180 dB re 1
                                   Threshold Shift     microPa-m
                                   (PTS) (Any level    (cetaceans)/190
                                   above that which    dB re 1 microPa-m
                                   is known to cause   (pinnipeds) root
                                   TTS).               mean square
                                                       (rms).
Level B Harassment..............  Behavioral          160 dB re 1
                                   Disruption (for     microPa-m (rms).
                                   impulse noises).
Level B Harassment..............  Behavioral          120 dB re 1
                                   Disruption (for     microPa-m (rms).
                                   continuous,
                                   noise).
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Section 6 of BP's application contains a description of the 
methodology used by BP to estimate takes by harassment, including 
calculations for the 160 dB (rms) isopleth and marine mammal densities 
in the areas of operation (see ADDRESSES), which was also provided in 
the proposed IHA notice (79 FR 21522, April 16, 2014). NMFS verified 
BP's methods, and used the density and sound isopleth measurements in 
estimating take. However, after initiating ESA section 7 consultation 
on this action, NMFS noticed that BP used the average distance to the 
180 and 190 dB (rms) isopleths rounded to the nearest 100 or 10, 
respectively, but used the maximum distance to the 160 dB (rms) 
isopleth rounded to the nearest 100. This resulted in a 160 dB isopleth 
about 40% greater than the average expected distance of the isopleth. 
Table 7A in BP's application presented the average 160 dB isopleth as 
944 m but calculated take assuming a 160 dB isopleth as 1,602 m. To 
remain consistent with the estimation of the other isopleths, NMFS has 
only rounded the average 160 dB isopleth for the 30 in\3\ array to 
1,000 m. However, for reasons explained below this only changed the 
estimated take level for bowhead whales. Also, as noted later in this 
section, NMFS authorized the maximum number of estimated takes for all 
species, not just for cetaceans as presented by BP in order to ensure 
that exposure estimates are not underestimated for pinnipeds.
    The shallow geohazard survey will take place in two phases and has 
an estimated duration of approximately 20 days, including 5 days 
between the two phases where operations will be focused on changing 
equipment. Data acquisition will conclude by the start of the Cross 
Island fall bowhead whale hunt.
    During phase 1 of the project, 2D high resolution seismic data will 
be acquired in about 12 mi\2\ of the Site Survey area. The duration is 
estimated at about 7.5 days, based on a continuous 24-hr operation and 
not including downtime.
    During phase 2, data will be acquired in the Site Survey area (11 
mi\2\) and over approximately 5 mi\2\ of the 29 mi\2\ Sonar Survey area 
using the multibeam echosounder, sidescan sonar, subbottom profiler, 
and magnetometer. The total duration of Phase 2 is also expected to be 
7.5 days, based on a continuous 24-hr operation and not including 
downtime.

Marine Mammal Density Estimates

    The Notice of Proposed IHA (79 FR 21522, April 16, 2014) contained 
a complete description of the derivation of the marine mammal density 
estimates. That discussion has not changed and is therefore not 
repeated here.

Level A and Level B Harassment Zone Distances

    For the proposed 2014 shallow geohazard survey, BP used existing 
sound source verification (SSV) measurements to establish distances to 
received sound pressure levels (SPLs). The Notice of Proposed IHA (79 
FR 21522, April 16, 2014) contained a complete description of the 
derivation of the Level A and Level B harassment zone distances. With 
the exception of slightly altering the distances of the Level B 
harassment zone, as described above, nothing in the discussion has 
changed. Therefore, the entire discussion is not repeated here.
    Table 3 in this document presents the radii used to estimate take 
(160 dB isopleth) and to implement mitigation measures (180 dB and 190 
dB isopleths) from the full airgun array and the 5 in\3\ mitigation 
gun. However, take is only estimated using the larger radius of the 
full airgun array.

 Table 3--Distances (In Meters) To Be Used for Estimating Take by Level B Harassment and for Mitigation Purposes
                       During the Proposed 2014 Foggy Island Bay Shallow Geohazard Survey
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
   Airgun discharge volume  (in\3\)     190 dB re 1 [micro]Pa    180 dB re 1 [micro]Pa    160 dB re 1 [micro]Pa
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
30 in\3\.............................                       70                      200                    1,000

[[Page 36779]]

 
5 in\3\..............................                       20                       50                      500
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Numbers of Marine Mammals Potentially Taken by Harassment

    The potential number of marine mammals that might be exposed to the 
160 dB re 1 [micro]Pa (rms) SPL was calculated differently for 
cetaceans and pinnipeds, as described in Section 6.3 of BP's 
application and the Notice of Proposed IHA (79 FR 21522, April 16, 
2014). The change to the 160 dB isopleth for the full array only had 
implications for the take estimate for bowhead whales. Because of the 
method used to calculate takes for pinnipeds, the isopleth change did 
not change the pinniped takes described in those earlier documents. 
Additionally, the change did not alter the proposed take estimates for 
other cetacean species. Therefore, those discussions are not repeated 
here.
    BP did not calculate take from the subbottom profiler or from the 
sidescan sonar for toothed whales. Based on the distance to the 160 dB 
re 1 [micro]Pa (rms) isopleths for these sources and the fact that NMFS 
has authorized the maximum estimated exposure estimate, the extremely 
minimal number of exposures (less than one animal for each species) 
that would result from use of these sources is already accounted for in 
the airgun exposure estimates.
1. Number of Cetaceans Potentially Taken by Harassment
    The potential number of bowhead whales that might be exposed to the 
160 dB re 1 [mu]Pa (rms) SPL was calculated by multiplying:
     The expected bowhead density as provided in Table 5 in 
BP's application;
     The anticipated area around each source vessel that is 
ensonified by the 160 dB re 1 [mu]Pa (rms) SPL; and
     The estimated number of 24-hr days that the source vessels 
are operating.
    The area expected to be ensonified by the 30 in\3\ array was 
determined based on the average distance to the 160 dB re 1 [mu]Pa 
(rms) SPL rounded to the nearest 100 as determined from the maximum 20-
40 in\3\ array measurements (Table 7A in BP's application), which is 1 
km. Based on a radius of 1 km, the 160 dB ensonified area used in the 
exposure calculations was 3.14 km\2\.
    The estimated number of 24-hr days of airgun operations is 7.5 days 
(180 hours), not including downtime. Downtime is related to weather, 
equipment maintenance, mitigation implementation, and other 
circumstances.
    Based on this revision to the 160 dB isopleth, the average and 
maximum number of bowhead whales potentially exposed to sound levels of 
160 dB re 1[mu]Pa (rms) or more is estimated at 0.04 and 0.13, 
respectively. Because a fraction of an exposure is impossible, we 
rounded up the maximum estimate to account for one bowhead whale 
exposure to the Level B harassment threshold. These estimated exposures 
do not take into account the required mitigation measures, such as PSOs 
watching for animals, shutdowns or power downs of the airguns when 
marine mammals are seen within defined ranges, and ramp-up of airguns.

Estimated Take by Harassment Summary

    Table 4 here outlines the density estimates used to estimate Level 
B takes, the authorized Level B harassment take levels, the abundance 
of each species in the Beaufort Sea, the percentage of each species or 
stock estimated to be taken, and current population trends. As 
explained earlier in this document, NMFS authorized the maximum 
estimates of exposures. Additionally, density estimates are not 
available for species that are uncommon in the proposed survey area.

  Table 4--Density Estimates or Species Sighting Rates, Authorized Level B Harassment Take Levels, Species or Stock Abundance, Percentage of Population
                                                     Proposed To Be Taken, and Species Trend Status
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                        Density
              Species                 (/    Sighting rate    Authorized       Abundance     Percentage of                  Trend
                                        km\2\)         (ind/hr)      Level B take                     population
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Beluga whale......................          0.0105                              75          39,258            0.19  No reliable information.
Killer whale......................              NA                               1             552            0.18  Stable.
Harbor porpoise...................              NA                               1          48,215           >0.01  No reliable information.
Bowhead whale.....................          0.0055                               1          16,892            0.01  Increasing.
Gray whale........................              NA                               1          19,126            0.01  Increasing.
Bearded seal......................                           0.107              19         155,000            0.01  No reliable information.
Ringed seal.......................                           0.397              71         300,000            0.02  No reliable information.
Spotted seal......................                           0.126              23         141,479            0.02  No reliable information.
Ribbon seal.......................                              NA               1          49,000           >0.01  No reliable information.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Analysis and Determinations

Negligible Impact

    Negligible impact is ``an impact resulting from the specified 
activity that cannot be reasonably expected to, and is not reasonably 
likely to, adversely affect the species or stock through effects on 
annual rates of recruitment or survival'' (50 CFR 216.103). A 
negligible impact finding is based on the lack of likely adverse 
effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival (i.e., population-
level effects). An estimate of the number of Level B harassment takes, 
alone, is not enough information on which to base an impact 
determination. In addition to considering estimates of the number of 
marine mammals that might be ``taken'' through behavioral harassment, 
NMFS must consider other factors, such as the likely nature of any 
responses (their intensity, duration, etc.), the context of any 
responses (critical reproductive time or location, migration, etc.), as 
well as the number and nature of estimated Level A

[[Page 36780]]

harassment takes, the number of estimated mortalities, effects on 
habitat, and the status of the species.
    No injuries or mortalities are anticipated to occur as a result of 
BP's shallow geohazard survey, and none are authorized. Additionally, 
animals in the area are not expected to incur hearing impairment or 
non-auditory physiological effects. The number of takes that are 
anticipated and authorized are expected to be limited to short-term 
Level B behavioral harassment. While the airguns will be operated 
continuously for about 7.5 days, the project time frame will occur when 
cetacean species are typically not found in the project area or are 
found only in low numbers. While pinnipeds are likely to be found in 
the project area more frequently, their distribution is dispersed 
enough that they likely will not be in the Level B harassment zone 
continuously. As mentioned previously, pinnipeds appear to be more 
tolerant of anthropogenic sound than mystiectes. The use of sidescan 
sonar, multibeam echosounder, and subbottom profiler continuously for 
7.5 days will not negatively impact marine mammals as the majority of 
these instruments are operated outside of the hearing frequencies of 
marine mammals.
    The Alaskan Beaufort Sea is part of the main migration route of the 
Western Arctic stock of bowhead whales. However, the geohazard survey 
has been planned to occur when the majority of the population is found 
in the Canadian Beaufort Sea. Operation of airguns and other sound 
sources will conclude by midnight on August 25 before the main fall 
migration begins and well before cow/calf pairs begin migrating through 
the area. Additionally, several locations within the Beaufort Sea serve 
as feeding grounds for bowhead whales. However, as mentioned earlier in 
this document, the primary feeding grounds are not found in Foggy 
Island Bay. The majority of bowhead whales feed in the Alaskan Beaufort 
Sea during the fall migration period, which will occur after the 
cessation of the survey.
    Belugas that migrate through the U.S. Beaufort Sea typically do so 
farther offshore (more than 37 mi [60 km]) and in deeper waters (more 
than 656 ft [200 m]) than where the survey activities would occur. Gray 
whales are rarely sighted this far east in the U.S. Beaufort Sea. 
Additionally, there are no known feeding grounds for gray whales in the 
Foggy Island Bay area. The most northern feeding sites known for this 
species are located in the Chukchi Sea. The other cetacean species for 
which take is authorized are uncommon in Foggy Island Bay, and no known 
feeding or calving grounds occur in Foggy Island Bay for these species. 
Based on these factors, exposures of cetaceans to anthropogenic sounds 
are not expected to last for prolonged periods (i.e., several days) 
since they are not known to remain in the area for extended periods of 
time in July and August. Also, the shallow water location of the survey 
makes it unlikely that cetaceans would remain in the area for prolonged 
periods. Based on all of this information, the survey is not 
anticipated to affect annual rates of recruitment or survival for 
cetaceans in the area.
    Ringed seals breed and pup in the Alaskan Beaufort Sea; however, 
the survey will occur outside of the breeding and pupping seasons. The 
Beaufort Sea does not provide suitable habitat for the other three ice 
seal species for breeding and pupping. Based on this information, the 
survey is not anticipated to affect annual rates of recruitment or 
survival for pinnipeds in the area.
    Of the nine marine mammal species for which take is authorized, one 
is listed as endangered under the ESA--the bowhead whale--and two are 
listed as threatened--ringed and bearded seals. Schweder et al. (2009) 
estimated the yearly growth rate for bowhead whales to be 3.2% (95% CI 
= 0.5-4.8%) between 1984 and 2003 using a sight-resight analysis of 
aerial photographs. There are currently no reliable data on trends of 
the ringed and bearded seal stocks in Alaska. The ribbon seal is listed 
as a species of concern under the ESA. Certain stocks or populations of 
gray, killer, and beluga whales and spotted seals are listed as 
endangered or are proposed for listing under the ESA; however, none of 
those stocks or populations occur in the activity area. There is 
currently no established critical habitat in the project area for any 
of these nine species.
    Based on the analysis contained herein of the likely effects of the 
specified activity on marine mammals and their habitat, and taking into 
consideration the implementation of the required monitoring and 
mitigation measures, NMFS finds that the total marine mammal take from 
BP's shallow geohazard survey in Foggy Island Bay, Beaufort Sea, 
Alaska, will have a negligible impact on the affected marine mammal 
species or stocks.

Small Numbers

    The requested takes authorized represent less than 1% of all 
populations or stocks (see Table 4 in this document). These take 
estimates represent the percentage of each species or stock that could 
be taken by Level B behavioral harassment if each animal is taken only 
once. The numbers of marine mammals taken are small relative to the 
affected species or stock sizes. In addition, the mitigation and 
monitoring measures (described previously in this document) required in 
the IHA are expected to reduce even further any potential disturbance 
to marine mammals. NMFS finds that small numbers of marine mammals will 
be taken relative to the populations of the affected species or stocks.

Impact on Availability of Affected Species or Stock for Taking for 
Subsistence Uses

Relevant Subsistence Uses

    The disturbance and potential displacement of marine mammals by 
sounds from the survey are the principal concerns related to 
subsistence use of the area. Subsistence remains the basis for Alaska 
Native culture and community. Marine mammals are legally hunted in 
Alaskan waters by coastal Alaska Natives. In rural Alaska, subsistence 
activities are often central to many aspects of human existence, 
including patterns of family life, artistic expression, and community 
religious and celebratory activities. Additionally, the animals taken 
for subsistence provide a significant portion of the food that will 
last the community throughout the year. The main species that are 
hunted include bowhead and beluga whales, ringed, spotted, and bearded 
seals, walruses, and polar bears. (As mentioned previously in this 
document, both the walrus and the polar bear are under the USFWS' 
jurisdiction.) The importance of each of these species varies among the 
communities and is largely based on availability.
    Residents of the village of Nuiqsut are the primary subsistence 
users in the project area. The communities of Barrow and Kaktovik also 
harvest resources that pass through the area of interest but do not 
hunt in or near the Foggy Island Bay area. Subsistence hunters from all 
three communities conduct an annual hunt for autumn-migrating bowhead 
whales. Barrow also conducts a bowhead hunt in spring. Residents of all 
three communities hunt seals. Other subsistence activities include 
fishing, waterfowl and seaduck harvests, and hunting for walrus, beluga 
whales, polar bears, caribou, and moose.
    Nuiqsut is the community closest to the survey area (approximately 
73 mi [117.5 km] southwest). Nuiqsut hunters harvest bowhead whales 
only during the fall whaling season (Long, 1996). In recent years, 
Nuiqsut whalers have

[[Page 36781]]

typically landed three or four whales per year. Nuiqsut whalers 
concentrate their efforts on areas north and east of Cross Island, 
generally in water depths greater than 66 ft (20 m; Galginaitis, 2009). 
Cross Island is the principal base for Nuiqsut whalers while they are 
hunting bowheads (Long, 1996). Cross Island is located approximately 10 
mi (16 km) from the closest boundary of the survey area.
    Kaktovik whalers search for whales east, north, and occasionally 
west of Kaktovik. Kaktovik is located approximately 91 mi (146.5 km) 
east of Foggy Island Bay. The western most reported harvest location 
was about 13 mi (21 km) west of Kaktovik, near 70 [deg]10' N., 144 
[deg]11' W. (Kaleak, 1996). That site is about 80 mi (129 km) east of 
the proposed survey area.
    Barrow whalers search for whales much farther from the Foggy Island 
Bay area--about 200+ mi (322+ km) to the west. Barrow hunters have 
expressed concerns about ``downstream'' effects to bowhead whales 
during the westward fall migration; however, BP will cease airgun 
operations prior to the start of the fall migration.
    Beluga whales are not a prevailing subsistence resource in the 
communities of Kaktovik and Nuiqsut. Kaktovik hunters may harvest one 
beluga whale in conjunction with the bowhead hunt; however, it appears 
that most households obtain beluga through exchanges with other 
communities. Although Nuiqsut hunters have not hunted belugas for many 
years while on Cross Island for the fall hunt, this does not mean that 
they may not return to this practice in the future. Data presented by 
Braund and Kruse (2009) indicate that only 1% of Barrow's total harvest 
between 1962 and 1982 was of beluga whales and that it did not account 
for any of the harvested animals between 1987 and 1989.
    Ringed seals are available to subsistence users in the Beaufort Sea 
year-round, but they are primarily hunted in the winter or spring due 
to the rich availability of other mammals in the summer. Bearded seals 
are primarily hunted during July in the Beaufort Sea; however, in 2007, 
bearded seals were harvested in the months of August and September at 
the mouth of the Colville River Delta, which is approximately 50+ mi 
(80+ km) from the proposed survey area. However, this sealing area can 
reach as far east as Pingok Island, which is approximately 20 mi (32 
km) west of the survey area. An annual bearded seal harvest occurs in 
the vicinity of Thetis Island (which is a considerable distance from 
Foggy Island Bay) in July through August. Approximately 20 bearded 
seals are harvested annually through this hunt. Spotted seals are 
harvested by some of the villages in the summer months. Nuiqsut hunters 
typically hunt spotted seals in the nearshore waters off the Colville 
River Delta. The majority of the more established seal hunts that occur 
in the Beaufort Sea, such as the Colville delta area hunts, are located 
a significant distance (in some instances 50 mi [80 km] or more) from 
the project area.

Potential Impacts to Subsistence Uses

    NMFS has defined ``unmitigable adverse impact'' in 50 CFR 216.103 
as: ``. . . an impact resulting from the specified activity: (1) That 
is likely to reduce the availability of the species to a level 
insufficient for a harvest to meet subsistence needs by: (i) Causing 
the marine mammals to abandon or avoid hunting areas; (ii) Directly 
displacing subsistence users; or (iii) Placing physical barriers 
between the marine mammals and the subsistence hunters; and (2) That 
cannot be sufficiently mitigated by other measures to increase the 
availability of marine mammals to allow subsistence needs to be met.''
    Noise and general activity during BP's shallow geohazard survey 
have the potential to impact marine mammals hunted by Native Alaskan. 
In the case of cetaceans, the most common reaction to anthropogenic 
sounds (as noted previously) is avoidance of the ensonified area. In 
the case of bowhead whales, this often means that the animals divert 
from their normal migratory path by several kilometers. Helicopter 
activity, although not really anticipated, also has the potential to 
disturb cetaceans and pinnipeds by causing them to vacate the area. 
Additionally, general vessel presence in the vicinity of traditional 
hunting areas could negatively impact a hunt. Native knowledge 
indicates that bowhead whales become increasingly ``skittish'' in the 
presence of seismic noise. Whales are more wary around the hunters and 
tend to expose a much smaller portion of their back when surfacing 
(which makes harvesting more difficult). Additionally, natives report 
that bowheads exhibit angry behaviors in the presence of seismic, such 
as tail-slapping, which translate to danger for nearby subsistence 
harvesters.

Plan of Cooperation or Measures To Minimize Impacts to Subsistence 
Hunts

    Regulations at 50 CFR 216.104(a)(12) require IHA applicants for 
activities that take place in Arctic waters to provide a Plan of 
Cooperation or information that identifies what measures have been 
taken and/or will be taken to minimize adverse effects on the 
availability of marine mammals for subsistence purposes. BP signed the 
2014 Conflict Avoidance Agreement (CAA) with the Alaska Eskimo Whaling 
Commission (AEWC), which is developed to minimize potential 
interference with bowhead subsistence hunting. BP also attended and 
participated in meetings with the AEWC on December 13, 2013, and 
additional meetings in 2014. The CAA describes measures to minimize any 
adverse effects on the availability of bowhead whales for subsistence 
uses.
    The North Slope Borough Department of Wildlife Management (NSB-DWM) 
was consulted, and BP presented the project to the NSB Planning 
Commission in 2014. BP held meetings in the community of Nuiqsut to 
present the proposed project, address questions and concerns from 
community members, and provide them with contact information of project 
management to which they can direct concerns during the survey. During 
the NMFS Open-Water Meeting in Anchorage in 2013, BP presented their 
proposed projects to various stakeholders that were present during this 
meeting.
    BP will continue to engage with the affected subsistence 
communities regarding its Beaufort Sea activities. As in previous 
years, BP will meet formally and/or informally with several stakeholder 
entities: The NSB Planning Department, NSB-DWM, NMFS, AEWC, Inupiat 
Community of the Arctic Slope, Inupiat History Language and Culture 
Center, USFWS, Nanuq and Walrus Commissions, and Alaska Department of 
Fish & Game.
    Project information was provided to and input on subsistence 
obtained from the AEWC and Nanuq Commission at the following meetings:
     AEWC, October 17, 2013; and
     Nanuq Commission, October 17, 2013.
    BP will implement several mitigation measures to reduce impacts on 
the availability of marine mammals for subsistence hunts in the 
Beaufort Sea. Many of these measures were developed from the 2013 CAA 
and previous NSB Development Permits. In addition to the measures 
listed next, BP will conclude all airgun operations by midnight on 
August 25 to allow time for the Beaufort Sea communities to prepare for 
their fall bowhead whale hunts prior to the beginning of the fall 
westward migration through the Beaufort Sea. Some of the measures 
mentioned next have been mentioned previously in this document:
     PSOs on board vessels are tasked with looking out for 
whales and other

[[Page 36782]]

marine mammals in the vicinity of the vessel to assist the vessel 
captain in avoiding harm to whales and other marine mammals;
     Vessels and aircraft will avoid areas where species that 
are sensitive to noise or vessel movements are concentrated;
     Communications and conflict resolution are detailed in the 
CAA. BP will participate in the Communications Center that is operated 
annually during the bowhead subsistence hunt;
     Communications with the village of Nuiqsut to discuss 
community questions or concerns including all subsistence hunting 
activities. Pre-project meeting(s) with Nuiqsut representatives will be 
held at agreed times with groups in the community of Nuiqsut. If 
additional meetings are requested, they will be set up in a similar 
manner;
     Contact information for BP will be provided to community 
members and distributed in a manner agreed at the community meeting;
     BP has contracted with a liaison from Nuiqsut who will 
help coordinate meetings and serve as an additional contact for local 
residents during planning and operations; and
     Inupiat Communicators will be employed and work on seismic 
source vessels. They will also serve as PSOs.

Unmitigable Adverse Impact Analysis and Determination

    BP has adopted a spatial and temporal strategy for its Foggy Island 
Bay survey that should minimize impacts to subsistence hunters. First, 
BP's activities will not commence until after the spring hunts have 
occurred. Second, BP will conclude all airgun and other active sound 
source operations by midnight on August 25 prior to the start of the 
bowhead whale fall westward migration and any fall subsistence hunts by 
Beaufort Sea communities. Foggy Island Bay is not commonly used for 
subsistence hunts. Although some seal hunting co-occurs temporally with 
BP's survey, the locations do not overlap. BP's presence will not place 
physical barriers between the sealers and the seals. Additionally, BP 
will work closely with the closest affected communities and support 
Communications Centers and employ local Inupiat Communicators. Based on 
the description of the specified activity, the measures described to 
minimize adverse effects on the availability of marine mammals for 
subsistence purposes, and the required mitigation and monitoring 
measures, NMFS has determined that there will not be an unmitigable 
adverse impact on subsistence uses from BP's activities.

Endangered Species Act (ESA)

    Within the project area, the bowhead whale is listed as endangered 
and the ringed and bearded seals are listed as threatened under the 
ESA. The NMFS Office of Protected Resources Permits and Conservation 
Division consulted with the NMFS Alaska Regional Office (AKRO) 
Protected Resources Division (PRD) on the issuance of an IHA under 
Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA because the action of issuing the IHA 
may affect threatened and endangered species under NMFS' jurisdiction. 
On June 19, 2014, NMFS AKRO PRD issued a Biological Opinion, which 
concluded that the issuance of an IHA to BP for the shallow geohazard 
survey is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the 
endangered bowhead whale, threatened Arctic subspecies of ringed seal, 
or the threatened Beringia distinct population segment of bearded seal. 
There is no critical habitat for any of these species in the survey 
area.

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

    NMFS prepared an EA that includes an analysis of potential 
environmental effects associated with NMFS' issuance of an IHA to BP to 
take marine mammals incidental to conducting a shallow geohazard survey 
program in the Beaufort Sea, Alaska. NMFS has finalized the EA and 
prepared a FONSI for this action. Therefore, preparation of an 
Environmental Impact Statement is not necessary.

Authorization

    As a result of these determinations, NMFS has issued an IHA to BP 
for conducting a shallow geohazard survey in the Foggy Island Bay area 
of the Beaufort Sea, Alaska, during the 2014 open-water season, 
provided the previously mentioned mitigation, monitoring, and reporting 
requirements are incorporated.

    Dated: June 25, 2014.
Perry F. Gayaldo,
Deputy Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2014-15239 Filed 6-27-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P