Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to a Marine Geophysical Survey in the Southwest Pacific Ocean, 2017/2018, 45116-45156 [2017-20696]

Download as PDF 45116 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 186 / Wednesday, September 27, 2017 / Notices DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XF456 Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to a Marine Geophysical Survey in the Southwest Pacific Ocean, 2017/2018 National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; proposed incidental harassment authorization; request for comments. AGENCY: NMFS has received a request from Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (L–DEO) for authorization to take marine mammals incidental to a WHEN OU marine geophysical survey in the southwest Pacific Ocean. Pursuant to the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), NMFS is requesting comments on its proposal to issue an incidental harassment authorization (IHA) to incidentally take marine mammals during the specified activities. NMFS will consider public comments prior to making any final decision on the issuance of the requested MMPA authorization and agency responses will be summarized in the notice of our final decision. DATES: Comments and information must be received no later than October 26, 2017. SUMMARY: Comments should be addressed to Jolie Harrison, Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. Physical comments should be sent to 1315 EastWest Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910 and electronic comments should be sent to ITP.Carduner@noaa.gov. Instructions: NMFS is not responsible for comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period. Comments received electronically, including all attachments, must not exceed a 25megabyte file size. Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word or Excel or Adobe PDF file formats only. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted online at www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/ incidental/research.htm without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address) voluntarily submitted by the commenter asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES ADDRESSES: VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:29 Sep 26, 2017 Jkt 241001 may be publicly accessible. Do not submit confidential business information or otherwise sensitive or protected information. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jordan Carduner, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, (301) 427–8401. Electronic copies of the application and supporting documents, as well as a list of the references cited in this document, may be obtained online at: www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/ incidental/research.htm. In case of problems accessing these documents, please call the contact listed above. 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 (as delegated to NMFS) 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. An 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 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. The MMPA states that the term ‘‘take’’ means to harass, hunt, capture, or kill, or attempt to harass, hunt, capture, or kill any marine mammal. 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). PO 00000 Frm 00002 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4703 National Environmental Policy Act To comply with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA; 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) and NOAA Administrative Order (NAO) 216–6A, NMFS must review our proposed action (i.e., the issuance of an incidental harassment authorization) with respect to potential impacts on the human environment. Accordingly, NMFS is preparing an Environmental Assessment (EA) to consider the environmental impacts associated with the issuance of the proposed IHA. NMFS’ EA is available at www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/ incidental/research.htm. We will review all comments submitted in response to this notice prior to concluding our NEPA process or making a final decision on the IHA request. Summary of Request On May 17, 2017, NMFS received a request from the L–DEO for an IHA to take marine mammals incidental to conducting a marine geophysical survey in the southwest Pacific Ocean. On September 13, 2017, we deemed L– DEO’s application for authorization to be adequate and complete. L–DEO’s request is for take of a small number of 38 species of marine mammals by Level B harassment and Level A harassment. Neither L–DEO nor NMFS expects mortality to result from this activity, and, therefore, an IHA is appropriate. The planned activity is not expected to exceed one year, hence, we do not expect subsequent MMPA incidental harassment authorizations would be issued for this particular activity. Description of Proposed Activity Overview Researchers from California State Polytechnic University, California Institute of Technology, Pennsylvania State University, University Southern California, University of Southern Mississippi (USM), University of Hawaii at Manoa, University of Texas, and University of Wisconsin Madison, with funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation, propose to conduct three high-energy seismic surveys from the research vessel (R/V) Marcus G. Langseth (Langseth) in the waters of New Zealand in the southwest Pacific Ocean in 2017/2018. The NSF-owned Langseth is operated by L–DEO. One proposed survey would occur east of North Island and would use an 18airgun towed array with a total discharge volume of ∼3300 cubic inches (in3). Two other proposed seismic surveys (one off the east coast of North Island and one south of South Island) E:\FR\FM\27SEN2.SGM 27SEN2 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 186 / Wednesday, September 27, 2017 / Notices would use a 36-airgun towed array with a discharge volume of ∼6600 in3. The surveys would take place in water depths from ∼50 to >5,000 m. Dates and Duration The North Island two-dimensional (2– D) survey would consist of approximately 35 days of seismic operations plus approximately 2 days of transit and towed equipment deployment/retrieval. The Langseth would depart Auckland on approximately October 26, 2017 and arrive in Wellington on December 1, 2017. The North Island threedimensional (3–D) survey is proposed for approximately January 5, 2018– February 8, 2018 and would consist of approximately 33 days of seismic operations plus approximately 2 days of transit and towed equipment deployment/retrieval. The Langseth would leave and return to port in Napier. The South Island 2–D survey is proposed for approximately February 15, 2018–March 15, 2018 and would consist of approximately 22 days of seismic operations, approximately 3 days of transit, and approximately 7 days of ocean bottom seismometer (OBS) deployment/retrieval. Specific Geographic Region The proposed surveys would occur within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and territorial sea of New Zealand. The proposed North Island 2– D survey would occur within ∼37–43° S. between 180° E. and the east coast of North Island along the Hikurangi margin. The proposed North Island 3–D survey would occur over a 15 x 60 kilometer (km) area offshore at the Hikurangi trench and forearc off North Island within ∼38–39.5° S., ∼178–179.5° E. The proposed South Island 2–D survey would occur along the Puysegur margin off South Island within ∼163– 168° E. between 50° S. and the south coast of South Island. Please see Figure 1 and Figure 2 in L–DEO’s IHA application for maps depicting the specified geographic region of the proposed surveys. Detailed Description of Specific Activity The proposed study consists of three seismic surveys off the coast of New Zealand in the southwest Pacific Ocean. The proposed surveys include: (1) A 2– D survey along the Hikurangi margin off the east coast of North Island; (2) a deep penetrating 3–D seismic reflection acquisition over a 15 x 60 km area offshore at the Hikurangi trench and forearc off the east coast of North Island; and (3) a 2–D survey along the Puysegur margin off the south coast of South Island. Water depths in the proposed survey areas range from ∼50 to >5000 m. The proposed surveys would be conducted within both the territorial sea of New Zealand (from 0–12 nautical miles (nm) from shore) and the EEZ of New Zealand (from 12 to 200 nm from shore). All planned geophysical data acquisition activities would be 45117 conducted by L–DEO with onboard assistance by the scientists who have proposed the studies. The vessel would be self-contained, and the crew would live aboard the vessel. Survey protocols generally involve a predetermined set of survey, or track lines. The seismic acquisition vessel (source vessel) travels down a linear track for some distance until a line of data is acquired, then turns and acquires data on a different track. Representative survey tracklines are shown in Figures 1 and 2 in L–DEO’s IHA; however, some deviation in actual track lines could be necessary for reasons such as science drivers, poor data quality, inclement weather, or mechanical issues with the research vessel and/or equipment. The proposed surveys would entail a total of approximately 13,299 km of track lines. During the two 2–D surveys, the Langseth would tow a full array, consisting of four strings with 36 airguns (plus 4 spares) and a total volume of approximately 6,600 in3. During the North Island 3–D survey, the Langseth would tow two separate 18airgun arrays that would fire alternately; each array would have a total discharge volume of approximately 3,300 in3. Specifications of the airgun arrays, trackline distances, and water depths of each of the three proposed surveys are shown in Table 1. Descriptions of the three proposed surveys are provided below. More detailed descriptions of the three proposed surveys are provided in the IHA application (LGL, 2017). TABLE 1—SPECIFICATIONS OF AIRGUN ARRAYS, TRACKLINE DISTANCES, AND WATER DEPTHS ASSOCIATED WITH THREE PROPOSED R/V LANGSETH SURVEYS OFF NEW ZEALAND North Island 2–D survey North Island 3–D survey South Island 2–D survey Airgun array configuration and total volume. 36 airguns, four strings, total volume of ∼6,600 in3. 36 airguns, four strings, total volume of ∼6,600 in3. Tow depth of arrays ....................... Shot point intervals ........................ Source velocity (tow speed) .......... Water depths ................................. 9 m ................................................ 37.5 m ........................................... 4.3 knots ....................................... 8%, 23%, and 69% of line km would take place in shallow (<100 m), intermediate (100– 1000 m), and deep water (>1000 m), respectively. 5,398 km ....................................... Approximately 9 percent ............... two separate 18-airgun arrays that would fire alternately; each array would have a total discharge volume of ∼3,300 in3. 9 m ................................................ 37.5 m ........................................... 4.5 knots ....................................... 0%, 42%, and 58% of line km would take place in shallow, intermediate, and deep water, respectively. 9 m. 50 m. 4.5 knots. 1%, 17%, and 82% of line km would take place in shallow, intermediate, and deep water, respectively. 3,025 km ....................................... Approximately 1 percent ............... 4,876 km. Approximately 6 percent. asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES Approximate trackline distance ...... Percentage of survey tracklines proposed in New Zealand Territorial Waters. North Island 2–D Survey During the proposed North Island 2– D survey, approximately 5,398 km of track lines would be surveyed, spanning an area off eastern North Island from the south coast to the Bay of Plenty. VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:29 Sep 26, 2017 Jkt 241001 Approximately 9 percent of the proposed North Island 2–D survey would occur within New Zealand’s territorial sea. The main goal of the proposed North Island 2–D survey is to collect seismic data to create images of PO 00000 Frm 00003 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4703 the plate boundary fault zone and to show other faults and folding of the upper New Zealand plate and the underlying Pacific plate. The data would improve scientific understanding of why the different parts of the same E:\FR\FM\27SEN2.SGM 27SEN2 45118 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 186 / Wednesday, September 27, 2017 / Notices plate boundary are behaving so differently to produce slow slip events and large stick-slip earthquakes. A better understanding of what causes the differences may help New Zealand government agencies in their efforts to mitigate danger posed by earthquakes in this area. To achieve the project goals of the North Island 2–D survey, the principal investigators (PIs) and co-PIs propose to use multi-channel seismic (MCS) reflection surveys and seismic refraction data recorded by OBSs to characterize the incoming Hikurangi Plateau and the seaward portion of the accretionary prism, and document subducted sediment variations. The project also includes an onshore/offshore seismic component. A total of 90 short-period seismometers would be deployed on the Raukumara Peninsula. The land seismometers would record seismic energy from the R/V Langseth during the North Island 2–D and 3–D surveys and would remain in place for three to four months to also record earthquakes. This instrumentation allows for very deep seismic sampling of the Hikurangi Subduction system to determine the structure of the upper plate and properties of the deeper plate boundary zone. asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES North Island 3–D Survey During the proposed North Island 3– D survey, approximately 3,025 km of track lines would be surveyed within a 15 x 60 km survey area that would begin at the Hikurangi trench and extend to within ∼20 km of the shoreline. Approximately 1 percent of the proposed North Island 3–D survey would occur within New Zealand’s territorial sea. The main goal of the proposed North Island 3–D survey is to determine what conditions are associated with slow slip behavior, how they differ from conditions associated with subduction zones that generate great earthquakes, and what controls the development of slow-slip faults instead of earthquake prone faults. The PI and co-PIs propose to use MCS surveys to acquire 3–D seismic reflection data offshore New Zealand’s Hikurangi trench and forearc. Although not funded through NSF, international collaborators would work with the PIs to achieve the research goals, providing assistance, such as through logistical support and data acquisition and exchange. This international collaborative experiment would record Langseth shots during seismic acquisition and develop the first ever high-resolution 3–D velocity models across a subduction zone using 3–D full-waveform inversion, VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:29 Sep 26, 2017 Jkt 241001 overlapping and extending beyond the 3–D volume. South Island 2–D Survey During the South Island 2–D survey, marine seismic refraction data would be collected along two east-west lines across the plate boundary. One 200-km line would cross the Puysegur Trench at 49° S., and would be occupied by 20 short-period OBSs. A second line at 47.3° S. would be 260 km long with 23 OBSs. MCS profiles would occur along these same two lines (thus each of the two lines would be surveyed twice) as well as in between and within ∼100 km north and south of the two OBS lines. Approximately 4,876 km of track lines would be surveyed during the proposed South Island 2–D survey. Approximately 6 percent of those track lines would be within New Zealand’s territorial sea. The main goal of the South Island 2– D survey is to test models for the formation of new subduction zones and to measure several fundamental aspects of this poorly understood process. The study would strive to (1) measure the angle of the new fault which forms the new plate boundary and test ideas of how the faults form; (2) measure the thickness of the oceanic crust at the Puysegur ridge and test models of how the force from the nascent slab is transmitted into the plate; and (3) measure the nature of the faults, especially the thrust faults, on the overriding plate and test models for how the forces on the over-riding plate change with time. In addition, the airguns would be used as a source of seismic waves that would be recorded onshore of the South Island, to test models for the tectonic evolution and nature of the shallow mantle directly below the plates. To achieve the project goals of the South Island 2–D survey, the PI and co-PIs propose to use MCS surveys to acquire a combination of 2–D MCS and refraction profiles with OBSs along the Puysegur Ridge and Trench south of South Island. Although not funded through NSF, international collaborators would work with the PIs to achieve the research goals, providing assistance, such as through logistical support and data acquisition and exchange. In addition, the collaborators would use land seismometers to record offshore airgun shots to determine the structure of the upper plate. In addition to the operations of the airgun array, the ocean floor would be mapped with a multibeam echosounder (MBES) and a sub-bottom profiler (SBP). An Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) would be used to measure water current velocities. These would operate PO 00000 Frm 00004 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4703 continuously during the proposed surveys, but not during transit to and from the survey areas. Proposed mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures are described in detail later in this document (please see ‘‘Proposed Mitigation’’ and ‘‘Proposed Monitoring and Reporting’’). Description of Marine Mammals in the Area of Specified Activities Section 4 of the IHA application summarizes available information regarding status and trends, distribution and habitat preferences, and behavior and life history of the potentially affected species. More general information about these species (e.g., physical and behavioral descriptions) may be found on NMFS’ Web site (www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/ mammals/). Table 2 lists all species with expected potential for occurrence in the Southwest Pacific Ocean off New Zealand and summarizes information related to the population, including regulatory status under the MMPA and ESA. The populations of marine mammals considered in this document do not occur within the U.S. EEZ and are therefore not assigned to stocks and are not assessed in NMFS’ Stock Assessment Reports (www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/sars/). As such, information on potential biological removal (PBR; defined by the MMPA as the maximum number of animals, not including natural mortalities, that may be removed from a marine mammal stock while allowing that stock to reach or maintain its optimum sustainable population) and on annual levels of serious injury and mortality from anthropogenic sources are not available for these marine mammal populations. In addition to the marine mammal species known to occur in proposed survey areas, there are 16 species of marine mammals with ranges that are known to potentially occur in the waters of the proposed survey areas, but they are categorized as ‘‘vagrant’’ under the New Zealand Threat Classification System (Baker et al., 2016). These species are: The ginkgo-toothed whale (Mesoplodon ginkgodens); pygmy beaked whale (M. peruvianus); dwarf sperm whale (Kogia sima); pygmy killer whale (Feresa attenuata); melon-headed whale (Peponocephala electra); Risso’s dolphin (Grampus griseus); Fraser’s dolphin (Lagenodelphis hosei), pantropical spotted dolphin (Stenella attenuata); striped dolphin (S. coeruleoalba); rough-toothed dolphin (Steno bredanensis); Antarctic fur seal (Arctocephalus gazelle); Subantarctic fur seal (A. tropicalis); leopard seal (Hydrurga leptonyx); Weddell seal E:\FR\FM\27SEN2.SGM 27SEN2 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 186 / Wednesday, September 27, 2017 / Notices (Leptonychotes weddellii); crabeater seal (Lobodon carcinophagus); and Ross seal (Ommatophoca rossi). Except for Risso’s dolphin and leopard seal, for which there have been several sightings and strandings reported in New Zealand (Clement 2010; Torres 2012; Berkenbusch et al. 2013; NZDOC 2017), the other ‘‘vagrant’’ species listed above are not expected to occur in the proposed survey areas and are therefore not considered further in this document. Marine mammal abundance estimates presented in this document represent 45119 the total number of individuals estimated within a particular study or survey area. All values presented in Table 2 are the most recent available at the time of publication. TABLE 2—MARINE MAMMALS THAT COULD OCCUR IN THE PROPOSED SURVEY AREAS Common name Scientific name Stock ESA/MMPA status; strategic (Y/N) 1 Population abundance 2 Order Cetartiodactyla—Cetacea—Superfamily Mysticeti (baleen whales) Family Balaenidae Southern right whale ............................................ Eubalaena australis ............................................. N/A E/D;N 3 12,000 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A -/-; N -/-; N -/-; N -/-; N E/D;E/D;E/D;- 3 42,000 N/A -/-; N N/A N/A E/D;- 5 30,000 N/A -/-; N N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A -/-; -/-; -/-; -/-; -/-; -/-; -/-; -/-; -/-; -/-; -/-; N N N N N N N N N N N 5 7 600,000 N/A N/A 8 12,000– 20,000 5 150,000 N/A N/A 9 14,849 10 55–63 N/A 5 80,000 5 200,000 N/A Family Balaenopteridae (rorquals) Humpback whale ................................................. Bryde’s whale ...................................................... Common minke whale ......................................... Antarctic minke whale .......................................... Sei whale ............................................................. Fin whale ............................................................. Blue whale ........................................................... Megaptera novaeangliae ..................................... Balaenoptera edeni ............................................. Balaenoptera acutorostrata ................................. Balaenoptera bonaerensis ................................... Balaenoptera borealis .......................................... Balaenoptera physalus ........................................ Balaenoptera musculus ....................................... 4 48,109 5 6 750,000 5 6 750,000 5 10,000 5 15,000 3 5 3,800 Family Cetotheriidae Pygmy right whale ............................................... Caperea marginata .............................................. Superfamily Odontoceti (toothed whales, dolphins, and porpoises) Family Physeteridae Sperm whale ........................................................ Physeter macrocephalus ..................................... Family Kogiidae Pygmy sperm whale ............................................ Kogia breviceps ................................................... Family Ziphiidae (beaked whales) Cuvier’s beaked whale ........................................ Arnoux’s beaked whale ....................................... Shepherd’s beaked whale ................................... Hector’s beaked whale ........................................ True’s beaked whale ........................................... Southern bottlenose whale .................................. Gray’s beaked whale ........................................... Andrew’s beaked whale ....................................... Strap-toothed beaked whale ................................ Blainville’s beaked whale ..................................... Spade-toothed beaked whale .............................. Ziphius cavirostris ................................................ Berardius arnuxii .................................................. Tasmacetus shepherdi ........................................ Mesoplodon hectori ............................................. Mesoplodon mirus ............................................... Hyperoodon planifrons ........................................ Mesoplodon grayi ................................................ Mesoplodon bowdoini .......................................... Mesoplodon layardii ............................................. Mesoplodon densirostris ...................................... Mesoplodon traversii ........................................... 5 7 600,000 5 7 600,000 5 7 600,000 N/A 5 7 600,000 5 7 600,000 5 7 600,000 5 7 600,000 5 7 600,000 5 7 600,000 Family Delphinidae asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES Bottlenose dolphin ............................................... Short-beaked common dolphin ............................ Dusky dolphin ...................................................... Tursiops truncatus ............................................... Delphinus delphis ................................................ Lagenorhynchus obscurus .................................. N/A N/A N/A -/-; N -/-; N -/-; N Hourglass dolphin ................................................ Southern right whale dolphin ............................... Risso’s dolphin ..................................................... South Island Hector’s dolphin .............................. Maui dolphin ........................................................ False killer whale ................................................. Killer whale .......................................................... Long-finned pilot whale ........................................ Short-finned pilot whale ....................................... Lagenorhynchus cruciger .................................... Lissodelphis peronii ............................................. Grampus griseus ................................................. Cephalorhynchus hectori hectori ......................... Cephalorhynchus hectori maui ............................ Pseudorca crassidens ......................................... Orcinus orca ........................................................ Globicephala melas ............................................. Globicephala macrorhynchus .............................. N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A -/-; N -/-; N -/-; N T/D;E/D;-/-; N -/-; N -/-; N -/-; N VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:29 Sep 26, 2017 Jkt 241001 PO 00000 Frm 00005 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4703 E:\FR\FM\27SEN2.SGM 27SEN2 45120 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 186 / Wednesday, September 27, 2017 / Notices TABLE 2—MARINE MAMMALS THAT COULD OCCUR IN THE PROPOSED SURVEY AREAS—Continued Common name Scientific name Stock ESA/MMPA status; strategic (Y/N) 1 Population abundance 2 Family Phocoenidae (porpoises) Spectacled porpoise ............................................ Phocoena dioptrica .............................................. N/A -/-; N N/A N/A N/A -/-; N -/-; N 8 200,000 N/A N/A -/-; N -/-; N 8 222,000 Order Carnivora—Superfamily Pinnipedia Family Otariidae (eared seals and sea lions) New Zealand fur seal .......................................... New Zealand sea lion .......................................... Arctocephalus forsteri .......................................... Phocarctos hookeri .............................................. 11 9,880 Family Phocidae (earless seals) Leopard seal ........................................................ Southern elephant seal ........................................ Hydrurga leptonyx ............................................... Mirounga leonina ................................................. 8 607,000 asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES N/A = Not available or not assessed. 1 Endangered Species Act (ESA) status: Endangered (E), Threatened (T)/MMPA status: Depleted (D). A dash (-) indicates that the species is not listed under the ESA or designated as depleted under the MMPA. Under the MMPA, a strategic stock is one for which the level of direct human-caused mortality exceeds PBR or which is determined to be declining and likely to be listed under the ESA within the foreseeable future. Any species or stock listed under the ESA is automatically designated under the MMPA as depleted and as a strategic stock. 2 Abundance for the Southern Hemisphere or Antarctic unless otherwise noted. 3 IWC (2016). 4 IWC (1981). 5 Boyd (2002). 6 Dwarf and Antarctic minke whales combined. 7 All Antarctic beaked whales combined. 8 Estimate for New Zealand; NZDOC 2017. 9 Estimate for New Zealand; MacKenzie and Clement 2016. 10 Estimate for New Zealand; Hamner et al. (2014) and Baker et al. (2016). 11 Geschke and Chilvers (2009). All species that could potentially occur in the proposed survey area are included in table 2. However, of the species described in Table 2, the temporal and/or spatial occurrence of one subspecies, the Maui dolphin, is such that take is not expected to occur as a result of the proposed project. The Maui dolphin is one of two subspecies of Hector’s dolphin (the other being the South Island Hector’s dolphin), both of which are endemic to New Zealand. The Maui dolphin has been demonstrated to be genetically distinct from the South Island subspecies of Hector’s dolphin based on studies of mitochondrial and nuclear DNA (Pichler et al. 1998). It is currently considered one of the rarest dolphins in the world with a population size estimated at just 55–63 individuals (Hamner et al. 2014; Baker et al. 2016). Historically, Hector’s dolphins are thought to have ranged along almost the entire coastlines of both the North and South Islands of New Zealand, though their present range is substantially smaller (Pichler 2002). The range of the Maui dolphin in particular has undergone a marked reduction (Dawson et al. 2001; Slooten et al. 2005), with the subspecies now restricted to the northwest coast of the North Island, between Maunganui Bluff in the north and Whanganui in the south (Currey et VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:29 Sep 26, 2017 Jkt 241001 al., 2012). Occasional sightings and strandings have also been reported from areas further south along the west coast as well as possible sightings in other areas such as Hawke’s Bay on the east coast of North Island (Baker 1978, Russell 1999, Ferreira and Roberts 2003, Slooten et al. 2005, DuFresne 2010, Berkenbusch et al. 2013; Torres et al. ´ ˜ 2013; Patino-Perez 2015; NZDOC 2017) though it is unclear whether those individuals may have originated from the South Island Hector’s dolphin populations. A 2016 NMFS Draft Status Review Report concluded the Maui dolphin is facing a high risk of extinction as a result of small population size, reduced genetic diversity, low theoretical population growth rates, evidence of continued population decline, and the ongoing threats of fisheries bycatch, disease, mining and seismic disturbances (Manning and Grantz, 2016). Due to its extremely low population size and the fact that the subspecies is not expected to occur in the proposed survey areas off the North Island, take of Maui dolphins is not expected to occur as a result of the proposed activities. Therefore the Maui dolphin is not discussed further beyond the explanation provided here. We have reviewed L–DEO’s species descriptions, including life history PO 00000 Frm 00006 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4703 information, distribution, regional distribution, diving behavior, and acoustics and hearing, for accuracy and completeness. We refer the reader to Section 4 of L–DEO’s IHA application, rather than reprinting the information here. Below, for the 38 species that are likely to be taken by the activities described, we offer a brief introduction to the species and relevant stock as well as available information regarding population trends and threats, and describe any information regarding local occurrence. Southern Right Whale The southern right whale occurs throughout the Southern Hemisphere between ∼20° S. and 60° S. (Kenney 2009). Southern right whales calve in nearshore coastal waters during the winter and typically migrate to offshore feeding grounds during summer (Patenaude 2003). Wintering populations off the subantarctic Auckland Islands of New Zealand spend the majority of their time resting or engaging in social interactions regardless of their group type (e.g. single whale, group, and mother-calf pair). Over 35% of mother-calf pairs in the area were seen traveling (Patenaude and Baker 2001). E:\FR\FM\27SEN2.SGM 27SEN2 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 186 / Wednesday, September 27, 2017 / Notices asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES Southern right whale sounds and their role in communication have been fully described by Clark (1983) and are categorized into three general classes (blow, slaps, and calls). Calls are generally low frequency (peak frequencies <500 Hertz (Hz)) and one common call—‘Up’—has been described to function as a way for individuals to find and make contact with each other. The available information suggests that southern right whales could be migrating near or within the proposed survey areas during October–March, with the possibility of some individuals calving in nearshore waters off eastern North Island during November. Habitat use (Torres et al. 2013c) and suitability ´ ˜ modeling (Patino-Perez 2015) for New Zealand showed that a large proportion of the proposed North and South Island survey areas (mainly in deeper water) has low habitat suitability for the southern right whale; sheltered coastal areas had the highest habitat suitability, especially in Foveaux Strait between South and Stewart Islands. Humpback Whale Humpback whales are found worldwide in all ocean basins. In winter, most humpback whales occur in the subtropical and tropical waters of the Northern and Southern Hemispheres (Muto et al., 2015). These wintering grounds are used for mating, giving birth, and nursing new calves. In the South Pacific Ocean, there are several distinct winter breeding grounds, including eastern Australia and Oceania (Anderson et al. 2010; Garrigue et al. 2011; Bettridge et al. 2013). Whales from Oceania migrate past New Zealand to Antarctic summer feeding areas (Constantine et al. 2007; Garrigue et al. 2000, 2010); migration from eastern Australia past New Zealand has also been reported (Franklin et al. 2014). The northern migration along the New Zealand coast occurs from May to August, with a peak in late June to midJuly; the southern migration occurs from September to December, with a peak in late October to late November (Dawbin 1956). It is likely that some humpback whales would be encountered in the survey area during November and December, as they migrate from winter breeding areas in the tropics to summer feeding grounds in the Antarctic. Fewer humpbacks are expected to occur in the proposed survey areas during January through March, as most individuals occur further south during the summer. Humpback whales were listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Conservation Act (ESCA) in June 1970. In 1973, the ESA replaced the ESCA, and humpbacks continued to VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:29 Sep 26, 2017 Jkt 241001 be listed as endangered. NMFS recently evaluated the status of the species, and on September 8, 2016, NMFS divided the species into 14 distinct population segments (DPS), removed the current species-level listing, and in its place listed four DPSs as endangered and one DPS as threatened (81 FR 62259; September 8, 2016). The remaining nine DPSs were not listed. The only DPSs with the potential to occur in the proposed survey areas would be the Oceania DPS and the Eastern Australia DPS; neither of these DPSs is listed under the ESA (81 FR 62259; September 8, 2016). Bryde’s Whale The Bryde’s whale occurs in all tropical and warm temperate waters in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian oceans, between 40° N. and 40° S. (Kato and Perrin 2009). It is one of the least known large baleen whales, and it remains uncertain how many species are represented in this complex (Kato and Perrin 2009). Bryde’s whales remain in warm (>16 °C) water year-round, and seasonal movements towards the Equator in winter and offshore in summer have been recorded (Kato and Perrin 2009). The Bryde’s whale is likely to occur in the Bay of Plenty in the proposed North Island survey area; it is unlikely to occur anywhere else in the North Island or South Island survey areas. Minke Whale The minke whale has a cosmopolitan distribution ranging from the tropics and sub-tropics to the ice edge in both hemispheres (Jefferson et al. 2015). Its distribution in the Southern Hemisphere is not well known (Jefferson et al. 2015). Populations of minke whales around New Zealand are migratory (Baker 1983). Clement (2010) noted that minke whales likely use East Cape to navigate along the east coast of New Zealand during the northern and southern migrations. Small groups of minke whales have been sighted off New Zealand (Baker 1999; Clement 2010; Berkenbusch et al. 2013; Torres et ´ ˜ al. 2013b; Patino-Perez 2015). Antarctic Minke Whale The Antarctic minke whale has a circumpolar distribution in coastal and offshore areas of the Southern Hemisphere from ∼7° S. to the ice edge (Jefferson et al. 2015). Antarctic minke whales are found between 60° S. and the ice edge during the austral summer (December to February); in the austral winter (June to August), they are mainly found at breeding grounds at mid latitudes, including 10° S.–30° S. and PO 00000 Frm 00007 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4703 45121 170° E.–100° W. in the Pacific, off eastern Australia (Perrin and Brownell 2009). Antarctic minke whales would be less likely to be encountered during the time of the proposed surveys, because they would be expected to be in their summer feeding areas further south. Sei Whale The sei whale occurs in all ocean basins (Horwood 2009) but appears to prefer mid-latitude temperate waters (Jefferson et al. 2008). It undertakes seasonal migrations to feed in subpolar latitudes during summer and returns to lower latitudes during winter to calve (Horwood 2009). The sei whale is pelagic and generally not found in coastal waters (Harwood and Wilson 2001). It occurs in deeper waters characteristic of the continental shelf edge region (Hain et al. 1985) and in other regions of steep bathymetric relief such as seamounts and canyons (Kenney and Winn 1987; Gregr and Trites 2001). In the South Pacific, sei whales typically concentrate between the sub-tropical and Antarctic convergences during the summer (Horwood 2009). The sei whale is likely to be uncommon in the proposed survey areas during October–March. Fin Whale Fin whales are found throughout all oceans from tropical to polar latitudes, however, their overall range and distribution is not well known (Jefferson et al. 2015). The fin whale most commonly occurs offshore but can also be found in coastal areas (Aguilar 2009). Most populations migrate seasonally between temperate waters where mating and calving occur in winter, and polar waters where feeding occurs in summer (Aguilar 2009). However, recent evidence suggests that some animals may remain at high latitudes in winter or low latitudes in summer (Edwards et al. 2015). Northern and southern fin whale populations are distinct and are sometimes recognized as different subspecies (Aguilar 2009). In the Southern Hemisphere, fin whales are usually distributed south of 50 °S. in the austral summer, and they migrate northward to breed in the winter (Gambell 1985). Blue Whale The blue whale has a cosmopolitan distribution and tends to be pelagic, only coming nearshore to feed and possibly to breed (Jefferson et al. 2008). Blue whale migration is less well defined than for some other rorquals, and their movements tend to be more closely linked to areas of high primary productivity, and hence prey, to meet E:\FR\FM\27SEN2.SGM 27SEN2 45122 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 186 / Wednesday, September 27, 2017 / Notices asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES their high energetic demands (Branch et al. 2007). Generally, blue whales are seasonal migrants between high latitudes in the summer, where they feed, and low latitudes in the winter, where they mate and give birth (Lockyer and Brown 1981). Some individuals may stay in low or high latitudes throughout the year (Reilly and Thayer 1990; Watkins et al. 2000). Three subspecies of blue whale are recognized: B. m. musculus in the Northern Hemisphere; B. m. intermedia (the true blue whale) in the Antarctic, and B. m. brevicauda (the pygmy blue whale) in the sub-Antarctic zone of the southern Indian Ocean and the southwestern Pacific Ocean (Sears and Perrin 2009). The pygmy and Antarctic blue whale occur in New Zealand (Branch et al. 2007). The blue whale is considered rare in the Southern Ocean (Sears and Perrin 2009). Most pygmy blue whales do not migrate south during summer; however, Antarctic blue whales are typically found south of 55° S. during summer, although some are known not to migrate (Branch et al. 2007). Blue whale calls have been detected in New Zealand waters year-round (Miller et al. 2014). Vocalizations have been recorded within 2 km from Great Barrier Island, northern New Zealand, from June to December 1997 (McDonald 2006), as well as off the tip of Northland (Miller et al. 2014). Blue whale vocalizations were also detected along the west and east coasts of South Island during January–March 2013; these included songs detected in four locations off the southwest tip of the South Island in early February and at multiple locations south of Stewart Island in mid-March (Miller et al. 2014). Southern Ocean blue whale songs were detected further offshore during May– July (McDonald 2006). Pygmy Right Whale The pygmy right whale is the smallest, most cryptic and least known of the living baleen whales. Pygmy right whales are found individually or in pairs, although groups of up to 80 whales have been observed. Although little is known about them, it is thought that pygmy right whales do not exhibit common behaviors of other whales such as breaching or displaying their flukes. In one case, a pygmy right whale was observed swimming by undulating the body from head to tail rather than swimming using movement of the tail area and flukes like other cetaceans. Pygmy right whales are strong, fast swimmers (Fordyce 2013). The pygmy right whale’s distribution is circumpolar in the Southern VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:29 Sep 26, 2017 Jkt 241001 Hemisphere between 30° S. and 55° S. in oceanic and coastal environments (Kemper 2009; Jefferson et al. 2015). Pygmy right whales appear to be nonmigratory, although there may be some movement inshore during spring and summer (Kemper 2002). Strandings appear to be associated with favorable feeding areas in New Zealand, including upwelling regions, along the Subtropical Convergence, and the Southland Current (Kemper 2002; Kemper et al. 2013). Despite the scarcity of sightings, Kemper (2009) noted that the number of strandings indicate that the pygmy right whale may be relatively common in Australia and New Zealand. Sperm Whale Sperm whales are found throughout the world’s oceans in deep waters from the tropics to the edge of the ice at both poles (Leatherwood and Reeves 1983; Rice 1989; Whitehead 2002). Sperm whales throughout the world exhibit a geographic social structure where females and juveniles of both sexes occur in mixed groups and inhabit tropical and subtropical waters. Males, as they mature, initially form bachelor groups but eventually become more socially isolated and more wide-ranging, inhabiting temperate and polar waters as well (Whitehead 2003). Females typically inhabit waters >1000 m deep and latitudes <40° (Rice 1989). Torres et al. (2013a) found that sperm whale distribution is associated with proximity to geomorphologic features, as well as surface temperature. Sperm whales are widely distributed throughout New Zealand waters, occurring in offshore and nearshore regions, with decreasing abundance away from New Zealand toward the central South Pacific Ocean (Gaskin 1973). Sperm whale sightings have been reported throughout the year in and near the proposed North Island survey area, including the Bay of Plenty and off East Cape (Clement 2010; Berkenbusch et al. 2013; Torres et al. 2013b; Blue Planet Marine 2016; NZDOC 2017b), as well as in and near the South Island survey area (Berkenbusch et al. 2013; NZDOC 2017b). Although sightings have been made during the summer in the proposed North Island survey area, no summer sightings were reported for the South Island survey area. However, sightings were made just to the south of the proposed survey area during summer (Kasamatsu and Joynce 1995). There have been at least 211 strandings reported for New Zealand (Berkenbusch et al. 2013), including along the coast of East Cape, in Hawke’s Bay, Cook Strait, and along the south coast of South Island (Brabyn 1991; NZDOC 2017b). PO 00000 Frm 00008 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4703 Pygmy Sperm Whale Pygmy sperm whales are found in tropical and warm-temperate waters throughout the world (Ross and Leatherwood 1994) and prefer deeper waters with observations of this species in greater than 4,000 m depth (Baird et al., 2013). Sightings are rare of this species. They are difficult to sight at sea, because of their dive behavior and perhaps because of their avoidance reactions to ships and behavior changes ¨ in relation to survey aircraft (Wursig et al. 1998). Both pygmy and dwarf sperm whales are sighted primarily along the continental shelf edge and slope and over deeper waters off the shelf (Hansen et al. 1994; Davis et al. 1998; Jefferson et al. 2008). There have been very few sightings of pygmy sperm whales in New Zealand. The lack of sightings is likely because of their subtle surface behavior and long dive times (Clement 2010). However, the pygmy sperm whale is one of the most regularly stranded cetacean species in New Zealand, suggesting that this species is relatively common in those waters (Clement 2010). Pygmy sperm whales are likely to occur near the North Island survey area but are less likely to occur in the South Island survey area. Cuvier’s Beaked Whale Cuvier’s beaked whale is the most widespread of the beaked whales occurring in almost all temperate, subtropical, and tropical waters and even some sub-polar and polar waters (MacLeod et al. 2006). It is found in deep water over and near the continental slope (Jefferson et al. 2008). New Zealand has been reported as a hotspot for beaked whales (MacLeod and Mitchell 2006), with both sightings and strandings of Cuvier’s beaked whales in the proposed survey area (MacLeod et al. 2006; Thompson et al. 2013a). Cuvier’s beaked whales strand relatively frequently in New Zealand; at least 82 strandings have been reported (Berkenbusch et al. 2013). For the North Island, strandings have been reported for the Bay of Plenty, East Cape, Mahia Peninsula, Hawke’s Bay, as well as Cook Strait; strandings have occurred along all coasts of South Island (Brabyn 1991; Clement 2010; Thompson et al. 2013a). Strandings have been reported throughout the year, with a peak during fall (Thompson et al. 2013a). Arnoux’s Beaked Whale Arnoux’s beaked whale is distributed in deep, temperate and subpolar waters of the Southern Hemisphere, with most E:\FR\FM\27SEN2.SGM 27SEN2 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 186 / Wednesday, September 27, 2017 / Notices records for southeast South America, the Antarctic Peninsula, South Africa, New Zealand, and southern Australia (Jefferson et al. 2015). It typically occurs south of 40° S., but it could reach latitudes of 34° S. or even farther north (Jefferson et al. 2015). Arnoux’s beaked whale strands frequently in New Zealand (Ross 2006), with strandings reported for the northwest coast of North Island, Bay of Plenty, Hawke’s Bay, and Cook Strait (Clement 2010; Thompson et al. 2013a). MacLeod et al. (2006) reported numerous strandings of Berardius spp. for New Zealand. One sighting has been made in the Bay of Plenty (Clement 2010). asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES Shepherd’s Beaked Whale Based on known records, it is likely that Shepherd’s beaked whale has a circumpolar distribution in the cold temperate waters of the Southern Hemisphere (Mead 1989a). This species is primarily known from strandings, most of which have been recorded in New Zealand (Mead 2009). Thus, MacLeod and Mitchell (2006) suggested that New Zealand may be a globally important area for Shepherd’s beaked whale. However, only a few sightings of live animals have been reported for New Zealand (MacLeod and Mitchell 2006). One possible sighting was made near Christchurch (Watkins 1976). In 2016, there were two sightings of Shepherd’s beaked whale on a winter survey offshore from the Otago Peninsula on the South Island (NZDOC 2017b). At least 20 specimens have stranded on the coast of New Zealand (Baker 1999), including in southern Taranaki Bight and Banks Peninsula (Brabyn 1991). Stranding records also exist for Mahia Peninsula and northeastern North Island (Thompson et al. 2013a). Hector’s Beaked Whale Hector’s beaked whale is thought to have a circumpolar distribution in deep oceanic temperate waters of the Southern Hemisphere (Pitman 2002). Based on the number of stranding records for the species, it appears to be relatively rare. One individual was observed swimming close to shore off southwestern Australia for periods of weeks before disappearing (Gales et al. 2002). This was the first live sighting in which species identity was confirmed. MacLeod and Mitchell (2006) suggested that New Zealand may be a globally important area for this species. There are sighting and stranding records of Hector’s beaked whales for New Zealand (MacLeod et al. 2006; Clement 2010). One sighting has been reported for the Bay of Plenty on the North Island (Clement 2010). At least 12 strandings VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:29 Sep 26, 2017 Jkt 241001 have been reported for New Zealand (Berkenbusch et al. 2013), including records for the Bay of Plenty, East Cape, Mahia Peninsula, Hawke’s Bay, Cook Strait, and the east coast of South Island (Brabyn 1991; Clement 2010; Thompson et al. 2013a; NZDOC 2017b). True’s Beaked Whale True’s beaked whale has a disjunct, antitropical distribution in the Northern and Southern hemispheres (Jefferson et al. 2015). In the Southern Hemisphere, it is known to occur in the Atlantic and Indian oceans, including Brazil, South Africa, Madagascar, and southern Australia (Jefferson et al. 2015). There is a single record of True’s beaked whale in New Zealand, which stranded on the west coast of South Island in November 2011 (Constantine et al. 2014). Southern Bottlenose Whale The southern bottlenose whale can be found throughout the Southern Hemisphere from 30° S. to the ice edge, with most sightings occurring from ∼57° S. to 70° S. (Jefferson et al. 2015). It is apparently migratory, occurring in Antarctic waters during summer (Jefferson et al. 2015). New Zealand has been reported as a hotspot for beaked whales (MacLeod and Mitchell 2006), with both sightings and strandings of southern bottlenose whales in the area (MacLeod et al. 2006). At least six sightings have been reported for waters around New Zealand, including one in Hauraki Gulf, one on the southwest coast of South Island, one off the east coast of North Island within the proposed survey area, one off the Otago Peninsula, and two sightings south of New Zealand within the EEZ (Berkenbusch et al. 2013; NZDOC 2017b). In addition, 24 strandings were reported for New Zealand between 1970 and 2013 (Berkenbusch et al. 2013). Strandings have been reported for Bay of Plenty, East Cape, Hawke’s Bay, southern North Island, northeastern South Island, and Cook Strait (Brabyn 1991; Clement 2010; Thompson et al. 2013a). Gray’s Beaked Whale Gray’s beaked whale is thought to have a circumpolar distribution in temperate waters of the Southern Hemisphere (Pitman 2002). Gray’s beaked whale primarily occurs in deep waters beyond the edge of the continental shelf (Jefferson et al. 2015). Some sightings have been made in very shallow water, usually of sick animals coming in to strand (Gales et al. 2002; Dalebout et al. 2004). One Gray’s beaked whale was observed within 200 m of the shore off southwestern Australia off and PO 00000 Frm 00009 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4703 45123 on for periods of weeks before disappearing (Gales et al. 2002). There are many sighting records from Antarctic and sub-Antarctic waters, and in summer months they appear near the Antarctic Peninsula and along the shores of the continent (sometimes in the sea ice). New Zealand has been reported as a hotspot for beaked whales (MacLeod and Mitchell 2006), with both sightings and strandings of Gray’s beaked whales in the proposed survey area (MacLeod et al. 2006; Thompson et al. 2013a). In particular, the area between the South Island of New Zealand and the Chatham Islands has been suggested to be a hotspot for sightings of this species (Dalebout et al. 2004). Andrew’s Beaked Whale Andrew’s beaked whale has a circumpolar distribution in temperate waters of the Southern Hemisphere (Baker 2001). This species is known only from stranding records between 32° S. and 55° S., with more than half of the strandings occurring in New Zealand (Jefferson et al. 2015). Thus, New Zealand may be a globally important area for Andrew’s beaked whale (MacLeod and Mitchell 2006). In particular, Clement (2010) suggested that the East Cape/Hawke’s Bay waters may be an important habitat for Andrew’s beaked whale. There have been at least 19 strandings in New Zealand (Berkenbusch et al. 2013), at least 10 of which have been reported in the spring and summer (Baker 1999). Strandings have occurred from the North Island to the subAntarctic Islands (Baker 1999), including East Cape, Hawke’s Bay, Cook Strait, and southeast of Stewart Island (Brabyn 1991; Clement 2010; Thompson et al. 2013a). Strap-Toothed Beaked Whale The strap-toothed beaked whale is thought to have a circumpolar distribution in temperate and subAntarctic waters of the Southern Hemisphere, mostly between 35° and 60° S. (Jefferson et al. 2015). Based on the number of stranding records, it appears to be fairly common. Straptoothed whales are thought to migrate northward from Antarctic and subAntarctic latitudes during April– September (Sekiguchi et al. 1996). New Zealand has been reported as a hotspot for beaked whales (MacLeod and Mitchell 2006), with both sightings and strandings of strap-toothed beaked whales adjacent to the proposed survey area (MacLeod et al. 2006; Clement 2010; Thompson et al. 2013a). Straptoothed whales commonly strand in E:\FR\FM\27SEN2.SGM 27SEN2 45124 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 186 / Wednesday, September 27, 2017 / Notices New Zealand, with at least 78 strandings reported (Berkenbusch et al. 2013). Most strandings occur between January and April, suggesting some seasonal austral summer inshore migration (Baker 1999; Thompson et al. 2013a). Strap-toothed whale strandings have been reported for the east coast of North Island and South Island, including the Bay of Plenty, East Cape, Hawke’s Bay, Cook Strait, the Otago Peninsula and along Foveaux Strait (Brabyn 1991; Clement 2010; Thompson et al. 2013a). Blainville’s Beaked Whale Blainville’s beaked whale is found in tropical and warm temperate waters of all oceans; it has the widest distribution throughout the world of all mesoplodont species and appears to be common (Pitman 2009b). In the western Pacific, strandings have been reported from Japan to Australia and New Zealand (MacLeod et al. 2006). There have been at least four strandings of Blainville’s beaked whale in New Zealand, including three strandings for the northwest coast of North Island and another for Hawke’s Bay, but none for the South Island (Thompson et al. 2013a). asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES Spade-Toothed Beaked Whale The spade-toothed beaked whale is the name proposed for the species formerly known as Bahamonde’s beaked whale (M. bahamondi). Recent genetic evidence has shown that they belong to the species first identified by Gray in 1874 (van Helden et al. 2002). The species is considered relatively rare and is known from only four records, three of which are from New Zealand (Thompson et al. 2012). One mandible was found at the Chatham Islands in 1872; two skulls were found at White Island, Bay of Plenty, in the 1950s; a skull was collected at Robinson Crusoe Island, Chile, in 1986; and most recently, two live whales, a female and a male, stranded at Opape, in the Bay of Plenty, and subsequently died (Thompson et al. 2012). MacLeod and Mitchell (2006) suggested that New Zealand may be a globally important area for the spade-toothed beaked whale. Bottlenose Dolphin Bottlenose dolphins are widely distributed throughout the world in tropical and warm-temperate waters (Perrin et al. 2009). Generally, there are two distinct bottlenose dolphin ecotypes: One mainly found in coastal waters and one mainly found in oceanic waters (Duffield et al. 1983; Hoelzel et al. 1998; Walker et al. 1999). As well as VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:29 Sep 26, 2017 Jkt 241001 inhabiting different areas, these ecotypes differ in their diving abilities (Klatsky 2004) and prey types (Mead and Potter 1995). Short-Beaked Common Dolphin The short-beaked common dolphin is found in tropical to cool temperate oceans around the world, and ranges as far south as ∼40° S. (Perrin 2009). It is generally considered an oceanic species (Jefferson et al. 2015), but Neumann (2001) noted that this species can be found in coastal and offshore habitats. Short-beaked common dolphins are found in shelf waters of New Zealand, generally north of Stewart Island; they are more commonly seen in waters along the northeastern coast of North Island (Stockin and Orams 2009; NABIS 2017) and may occur closer to shore during the summer (Neumann 2001; Stockin et al. 2008). They can be found all around New Zealand (Baker 1999) with abundance hotspots on the coasts of Northland, Hauraki Gulf, Mahia Peninsula, Cape Palliser, Cook Strait, Marlborough Sounds, and the northwest coast of South Island (NABIS 2017). The short-beaked common dolphin is likely the most common cetacean species in New Zealand waters, occurring there year-round (Clement 2010; Hutching 2015). Numerous sightings have been made in shelf waters of the east coast of North and South Islands, as well as farther offshore, throughout the year, including within the proposed survey areas (Clement 2010; Berkenbusch et al. 2013; ´ ˜ Torres et al. 2013b; Patino-Perez 2015; Blue Planet Marine 2016; NZDOC 2017b). Dusky Dolphin The dusky dolphin is found throughout the Southern Hemisphere, occurring in disjunct subpopulations in the waters off southern Australia, New Zealand (including some sub-Antarctic Islands), central and southern South America, and southwestern Africa (Jefferson et al. 2015). The species occurs in coastal and continental slope waters and is uncommon in waters ¨ >2000 m deep (Wursig et al 2007). The dusky dolphin is common in New Zealand (Hutching 2015) and occurs there year-round. Dusky dolphins migrate northward to warmer waters in winter and south during the summer (Gaskin 1968). Sightings of dusky dolphins exist for shelf as well as deep, offshore waters ¨ (Berkenbusch et al. 2013). Wursig et al. (2007) noted that dusky dolphins typically move into deeper waters during the winter. Sightings have been made in and near the proposed North PO 00000 Frm 00010 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4703 and South Island survey areas during summer (see Clement 2010; ´ ˜ Berkenbusch et al. 2013; Patino-Perez 2015; Blue Planet Marine 2016; NZDOC 2017b). Some sightings in the austral spring and summer have been made along Northland, Bay of Plenty, off East Cape, southeast coast of North Island, Cape Palliser, and Cook Strait (Berkenbusch et al. 2013; NZDOC 2017b). However, sightings off the entire coastline of South Island appear to be more common and are made throughout the year. Hourglass Dolphin The hourglass dolphin occurs in all parts of the Southern Ocean south of ∼45° S., with most sightings between 45° S. and 60° S. (Goodall 2009). Although it is pelagic, it is also sighted near banks and Islands (Goodall 2009). Baker (1999) noted that the hourglass dolphin is considered a rare coastal visitor to New Zealand. Berkenbusch et al. (2013) reported five sightings of hourglass dolphins in New Zealand waters, including one off Banks Peninsula, one off the southeast coast of South Island, two within the proposed South Island survey, and one southwest of the Auckland Islands. All sightings were made during November–February. In addition, there have been at least five strandings in New Zealand (Berkenbusch et al. 2013), including records for the South Island (Baker 1999). Due to these observations, the hourglass dolphin would likely be rare in the proposed North survey area and uncommon in the South Island survey area. Southern Right Whale Dolphin The southern right whale dolphin is distributed between the Subtropical and Antarctic Convergences in the Southern Hemisphere, generally between ∼30° S. and 65° S. (Jefferson et al. 2015). It is sighted most often in cool, offshore waters, although it is sometimes seen near shore where coastal waters are deep (Jefferson et al. 2015). The species has rarely been seen at sea in New Zealand (Baker 1999). Berkenbusch et al. (2013) reported five sightings for the EEZ of New Zealand, including one each off the southeast coast and southwest coast of South Island, and three to the southeast of Stewart Island; sightings were made during February and September. During August 1999, a group 500+ southern right whale dolphins including a calf were sighted southeast of Kaikoura in water >1500 m deep (Visser et al. 2004). There were five additional sightings in the OBIS database, including one sighting in the South Taranaki Bight, two sightings E:\FR\FM\27SEN2.SGM 27SEN2 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 186 / Wednesday, September 27, 2017 / Notices southeast of Kaikoura during 1985– 1986, and two sightings off the southwest coast of South Island (OBIS 2017). Several more sightings have also been reported off the southeast coast of South Island (NZDOC 2017b). At least 16 strandings have been reported for New Zealand (Berkenbusch et al. 2013). Most strandings have occurred along the north coast of South Island (Brabyn 1991), but strandings were also reported for Hawke’s Bay, southeast North Island, Banks Peninsula, and Foveaux Strait (Clement 2010; NZDOC 2017b). asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES Risso’s Dolphin Risso’s dolphins are found in tropical to warm-temperate waters (Carretta et al., 2016). The species occurs from coastal to deep water but is most often found in depths greater than 3,000 m with the highest sighting rate in depths greater than 4,500 m (Baird 2016) and is known to frequent seamounts and escarpments (Kruse et al. 1999). It occurs between 60° N. and 60° S. where surface water temperatures are at least 10 °C (Kruse et al. 1999). According to Jefferson et al. (2014, 2015), the range of the Risso’s dolphin includes the waters of New Zealand, although the number of records for that region is small. Nonetheless, a few records exist for the North Island, including the east coast (Clement 2010; Berkenbusch et al. 2013; Jefferson et al. 2014). Although some sightings have been reported in New Zealand, such as in South Taranaki Bight on the west coast of North Island (Torres 2012), only strandings are known for the east coast of North Island (Clement 2010). One stranding has been reported for the northwest coast of South Island (NZDOC 2017b). South Island Hector’s Dolphin Hector’s dolphins are endemic to New Zealand and have one of the most restricted distributions of any cetacean (Dawson and Slooten 1988); they occur in New Zealand waters year-round (Berkenbusch et al. 2013) and are found mainly in coastal waters, preferring ¨ depths of <90 m (Brager et al. 2003; Rayment et al. 2006; Slooten et al. 2006) within 10 km from shore (Hutching 2015). As described above, the South Island Hector’s dolphin (C. hectori hectori) is one of two subspecies of Hector’s dolphins that have been formally recognized on the basis of multiple morphological distinctions and genetic evidence of reproductive isolation (Baker et al., 2002; Pichler 2002, Hamner et al., 2012). Historically, Hector’s dolphins are thought to have ranged along almost the VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:29 Sep 26, 2017 Jkt 241001 entire coastlines of both the North and South Islands of New Zealand, though their present range is substantially smaller (Pichler 2002). The South Island Hector’s dolphin is found only off the coast of the South Island of New Zealand (L. Manning and K. Grantz, 2016). There are at least three genetically separate populations of Hector’s dolphin off South Island: Off the east coast (particularly around Banks Peninsula), off the west coast, and off the Southland coast of southern South Island (Baker et al. 2002). The majority of Hector’s dolphins off the South Island are found along the West Coast (between Farewell Spit and Milford Sound) with the remainder (about 1200 to 2900) found along the East Coast (from Farewell Spit to Nugget Point) and South Coast (from Nugget Point to Long Point) (Dawson et al. 2004). False Killer Whale The false killer whale is found in all tropical and warm temperate oceans of the world, with only occasional sightings in cold temperate waters (Baird 2009b). It is known to occur in deep, offshore waters (Odell and McClune 1999), but can also occur over the continental shelf and in nearshore shallow waters (Jefferson et al. 2015; Zaeschmar et al. 2014). In the western Pacific, the false killer whale is distributed from Japan south to Australia and New Zealand. Berkenbusch et al. (2013) reported at least 27 sightings of false killer whales in New Zealand during summer and fall, primarily along the coast of North Island, but also off South Island and in South Taranaki Bight. In addition, there have been at least 28 strandings in New Zealand (Zaeschmar 2014), including along East Cape, Hawke’s Bay, Cape Palliser, Cook Strait, Otago Peninsula, and Catlin’s coast (Brabyn 1991; Clement 2010; NZDOC 2017b). The strandings include a mass stranding on North Island (∼37 ° S.) of 231 whales in March 1978 (Baker 1999). Killer Whale Killer whales have been observed in all oceans and seas of the world (Leatherwood and Dahlheim 1978). Although reported from tropical and offshore waters (Heyning and Dahlheim 1988), killer whales prefer the colder waters of both hemispheres, with greatest abundances found within 800 km of major continents (Mitchell 1975). High densities of the species occur in high latitudes, especially in areas where prey is abundant. The killer whale has been reported to be common in New Zealand waters PO 00000 Frm 00011 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4703 45125 (Baker 1999), with a population of ∼200 individuals (Suisted and Neale 2004). Killer whales have been sighted in all months around North and South Islands (Berkenbusch et al. 2013; Torres 2012; NABIS 2017). Calves and juveniles occur there throughout the year (Visser 2000). Only the Type A killer whale is considered resident in New Zealand, while Types B, C, and D are vagrant and most common in the Southern Ocean (Visser 2000, 2007; Baker et al. 2010, 2016a). As sighting of killer whales have been made near and within the survey areas during austral spring and summer, killer whales could occur in small numbers near the project areas. Long-Finned Pilot Whale Long-finned pilot whales roam throughout the cold temperate waters of the Southern Hemisphere. They live in stable family groups, and offspring of both sexes stay in their mother’s pod throughout their lives. Each pod numbers 20–100 whales, though they can congregate in much larger numbers. Pilot whales are prolific stranders, and this behavior is not well understood. There are recordings of individual strandings all over New Zealand, and there are a few mass stranding ‘‘hotspots’’ at Golden Bay, Stewart Island, and the Chatham Islands. Due to this, it is possible for the proposed survey to encounter species. Short-Finned Pilot Whale Short finned pilot whales tend to inhabit more sub-tropical and tropical zones. Although long-finned and shortfinned pilot whales are readily distinguishable by differences in tooth count, flipper length, and skull morphology, it is almost impossible to distinguish between the two species at sea. The species prefers deeper waters, ranging from 324 m to 4,400 m, with most sightings between 500 m and 3,000 m (Baird 2016). Short-finned pilot whale stranding records exist for the Bay of Plenty, East Cape, Hawke’s Bay, off Banks Peninsula, and the southeast coast of South Island. While most pilot whales sighted south of ∼40° S., would likely be the longfinned variety, short-finned pilot whales could also be encountered during the survey, particularly off the northeast coast of North Island. Spectacled Porpoise The spectacled porpoise is circumpolar in cool temperate, subAntarctic, and low Antarctic waters (Goodall 2009). It is thought to be oceanic in temperate to sub-Antarctic waters and is often sighted in deep waters far from land (Goodall 2009). E:\FR\FM\27SEN2.SGM 27SEN2 45126 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 186 / Wednesday, September 27, 2017 / Notices asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES Little is known regarding the distribution and abundance of the species, but it is believed to be rare throughout most of its range (Goodall and Schiavini 1995). Only five sightings were made during 10 years (1978/79– 1987/88) of extensive Antarctic surveys for minke whales (Kasamatsu et al. 1990). An additional 23 at-sea sightings described in Sekiguchi et al. (2006) have expanded the knowledge of the species. The sightings were circumpolar, mostly in offshore waters with sea surface temperatures of 0.9–10.3 °C, with a concentration south of the Auckland Islands (Sekiguchi et al. 2006). Sightings have been reported for the west coast of Northland and off the southeast coast of South Island (NZDOC 2017b). Strandings have occurred along the Bay of Plenty, South Taranaki Bight, Banks Peninsula, Otago Peninsula, Catlins Coast, and the Auckland Islands (NZDOC 2017b). The spectacled porpoise is rare; it is not expected to occur in the proposed North Island survey area but could occur off South Island. New Zealand Fur Seal New Zealand fur seals are found on rocky shores around the mainland, Chatham Islands and the Subantarctic islands (including Macquarie Island) of New Zealand. They are also found much further afield in South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. Off Otago, New Zealand fur seal’s prey stay very deep underwater during the day, and then come closer to the surface at night. Here, fur seals feed almost exclusively at night, when prey is closer to the surface, as deep as 163 m during summer. Their summer foraging is concentrated over the continental shelf, or near the slope. They will dive continuously from sundown to sunrise. In autumn and winter, they dive much deeper with many dives greater than 100 m. At least some females dive deeper than 240 m, and from satellite tracking they may forage up to 200 km beyond the continental slope in water deeper than 1000 m (NZDOC 2017a). On the east coast of North Island, there are at least 15 haul-out sites and three breeding areas between Cape Palliser and Bay of Plenty, including haul out sites along Hawke’s Bay, on East Cape, and in the Bay of Plenty (Clement 2010). In addition, there are also at least two haul-out sites along the northeast coast of South Island (Taylor et al. 1995). Numerous nearshore and offshore sightings have been made within the proposed survey area east of North Island from seismic vessels off the southeast coast of North Island (Blue Planet Marine 2016; SIO n.d.). New VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:29 Sep 26, 2017 Jkt 241001 Zealand fur seals would likely be encountered during the proposed surveys off the North and South Islands. New Zealand Sea Lion The New Zealand sea lion is New Zealand’s only endemic pinniped. It is one of the world’s rarest pinnipeds, with a highly restricted breeding range between 50 ° S. and 53 ° S., primarily on the Auckland (50 ° S., 166 ° E.) and Campbell islands (52°33 S., 169°09 E.) (Gales & Fletcher 1999; McNally 2001; Childerhouse et al. 2005). Sea lions that were satellite-tracked in the Auckland Islands during January and February foraged over the entire shelf out to a water depth of 500 m (Chilvers 2009; Meynier et al. 2014) and beyond (Geschke and Chilvers 2009), including near the southeastern-most edge of the proposed survey area. New Zealand sea lions are also known to forage on arrow squid near Snares Islands (Lalas and Webster 2013). Numerous nearshore and offshore sightings have been made off South Island from seismic vessels, including off the southeast coast, east of Stewart Island, and east of Snares Island (Blue Planet Marine 2016). It is possible that New Zealand sea lions would be encountered during the proposed survey off South Island, but unlikely that they would be encountered in the proposed survey areas off North Island. Leopard Seal Adult leopard seals are normally found along the edge of the Antarctic pack ice but in winter, young animals move throughout the Southern Ocean and occasionally occur in New Zealand, including the Auckland and Campbell Islands, and the mainland (NZDOC 2017a). Auckland and Campbell islands are known to have leopard seals annually and the mainland regularly receives visitors (NZDOC 2017a). Numerous sightings have been made along the North and South Islands, not only in the winter but also during January–March (NZDOC 2017b). Sightings for the North Island include Cook Strait, Cape Palliser, the Bay of Plenty, and Hauruki Gulf; there is also one record for offshore waters of the study area off the southeast coast of North Island. For the South Island, sightings have been reported on all coasts, including Forveaux Strait and Stewart Island off the south coast, and in offshore waters off the southeast coast of Stewart Island during January–March. Southern Elephant Seal The southern elephant seal has a near circumpolar distribution in the Southern Hemisphere (Jefferson et al. PO 00000 Frm 00012 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4703 2015). However, the distribution of southern elephant seals does not typically extend to the proposed survey areas (NABIS 2017). Breeding colonies occur on some New Zealand subAntarctic Islands, including Antipodes and Campbell Islands (Suisted and Neale 2004); these are part of the Macquarie Island stock of southern elephant seals (Taylor and Taylor 1989). Pups are occasionally born during September–October on east coast beaches of the mainland, including the southern coast of South Island (between Oamaru and Nugget Point), Kaikoura Peninsula, and on the southeast coast of North Island (Taylor and Taylor 1989; Harcourt 2001). Even though mainland New Zealand is not part of their regular distribution, juvenile southern elephant seals are sometimes seen over the shelf of South Island (van den Hoff et al. 2002; Field et al. 2004); there are numerous sightings along the southeastern and southwestern coasts of South Island in the marine mammal sightings and strandings database (NZDOC 2017b). Most sightings occur during the haulout period in July and August and between November and January during the molt (van den Hoff 2001). Sightings have been made on the northeastern coast of South Island, including Kaikoura Peninsula (Harcourt 2001; van den Hoff 2001; NZDOC 2017b). Individuals have also occurred in the Bay of Plenty and Gisborne (Harcourt 2001); others have been seen in Wellington and other North Island beaches (Daniel 1971), and off Cape Palliser during the austral summer (NZDOC 2017b). Marine Mammal Hearing—Hearing is the most important sensory modality for marine mammals underwater, and exposure to anthropogenic sound can have deleterious effects. To appropriately assess the potential effects of exposure to sound, it is necessary to understand the frequency ranges marine mammals are able to hear. Current data indicate that not all marine mammal species have equal hearing capabilities (e.g., Richardson et al., 1995; Wartzok and Ketten, 1999; Au and Hastings, 2008). To reflect this, Southall et al. (2007) recommended that marine mammals be divided into functional hearing groups based on directly measured or estimated hearing ranges on the basis of available behavioral response data, audiograms derived using auditory evoked potential techniques, anatomical modeling, and other data. Note that no direct measurements of hearing ability have been successfully completed for mysticetes (i.e., low-frequency E:\FR\FM\27SEN2.SGM 27SEN2 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 186 / Wednesday, September 27, 2017 / Notices cetaceans). Subsequently, NMFS (2016) described generalized hearing ranges for these marine mammal hearing groups. Generalized hearing ranges were chosen based on the approximately 65 dB threshold from the normalized composite audiograms, with the exception for lower limits for lowfrequency cetaceans where the lower bound was deemed to be biologically implausible and the lower bound from Southall et al. (2007) retained. The functional groups and the associated frequencies are indicated below (note that these frequency ranges correspond to the range for the composite group, with the entire range not necessarily reflecting the capabilities of every species within that group): • Low-frequency cetaceans (mysticetes): Generalized hearing is estimated to occur between approximately 7 Hz and 35 kHz, with best hearing estimated to be from 100 Hz to 8 kHz; D Mid-frequency cetaceans (larger toothed whales, beaked whales, and most delphinids): Generalized hearing is estimated to occur between approximately 150 Hz and 160 kHz, with best hearing from 10 to less than 100 kHz; D High-frequency cetaceans (porpoises, river dolphins, and members of the genera Kogia and Cephalorhynchus; including two members of the genus Lagenorhynchus, on the basis of recent echolocation data and genetic data): Generalized hearing is 45127 estimated to occur between approximately 275 Hz and 160 kHz. D Pinnipeds in water; Phocidae (true seals): Generalized hearing is estimated to occur between approximately 50 Hz to 86 kHz, with best hearing between 1– 50 kHz; D Pinnipeds in water; Otariidae (eared seals): Generalized hearing is estimated to occur between 60 Hz and 39 kHz, with best hearing between 2–48 kHz. The pinniped functional hearing group was modified from Southall et al. (2007) on the basis of data indicating that phocid species have consistently demonstrated an extended frequency range of hearing compared to otariids, especially in the higher frequency range ¨ (Hemila et al., 2006; Kastelein et al., 2009; Reichmuth and Holt, 2013). TABLE 3—MARINE FUNCTIONAL MAMMAL HEARING GROUPS AND THEIR GENERALIZED HEARING RANGES Generalized hearing range * Hearing group Low frequency (LF) cetaceans (baleen whales) ................................................................................................................. Mid-frequency (MF) cetaceans (dolphins, toothed whales, beaked whales, bottlenose whales) ...................................... High-frequency (HF) cetaceans (true porpoises, Kogia, river dolphins, cephalorhynchid, Lagenorhynchus cruciger and L. australis). Phocid pinnipeds (PW) (underwater) (true seals) .............................................................................................................. Otariid pinnipeds (OW) (underwater) (sea lions and fur seals) .......................................................................................... 7 Hz to 35 kHz. 150 Hz to 160 kHz. 275 Hz to 160 kHz. 50 Hz to 86 kHz. 60 Hz to 39 kHz. * Represents the generalized hearing range for the entire group as a composite (i.e., all species within the group), where individual species’ hearing ranges are typically not as broad. Generalized hearing range chosen based on ∼65 dB threshold from normalized composite audiogram, with the exception for lower limits for LF cetaceans (Southall et al., 2007) and PW pinniped (approximation). asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES For more detail concerning these groups and associated frequency ranges, please see NMFS (2016) for a review of available information. Thirty-eight marine mammal species have the reasonable potential to co-occur with the proposed survey activities (Table 2). Of the cetacean species that may be present, 9 are classified as lowfrequency cetaceans (i.e., all mysticete species), 21 are classified as midfrequency cetaceans (i.e., all delphinid and ziphiid species and the sperm whale), and 4 are classified as highfrequency cetaceans (i.e., Kogia spp.). For the four pinniped species that may be present, 2 are otariids and 2 are classified as phocids. Potential Effects of Specified Activities on Marine Mammals and Their Habitat This section includes a summary and discussion of the ways that components of the specified activity may impact marine mammals and their habitat. The ‘‘Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment’’ section later in this document includes a quantitative analysis of the number of individuals that are expected to be taken by this activity. The ‘‘Negligible Impact Analysis and Determination’’ section considers the content of this section, the VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:29 Sep 26, 2017 Jkt 241001 ‘‘Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment’’ section, and the ‘‘Proposed Mitigation’’ section, to draw conclusions regarding the likely impacts of these activities on the reproductive success or survivorship of individuals and how those impacts on individuals are likely to impact marine mammal species or stocks. Description of Active Acoustic Sound Sources This section contains a brief technical background on sound, the characteristics of certain sound types, and on metrics used in this proposal inasmuch as the information is relevant to the specified activity and to a discussion of the potential effects of the specified activity on marine mammals found later in this document. Sound travels in waves, the basic components of which are frequency, wavelength, velocity, and amplitude. Frequency is the number of pressure waves that pass by a reference point per unit of time and is measured in Hz or cycles per second. Wavelength is the distance between two peaks or corresponding points of a sound wave (length of one cycle). Higher frequency sounds have shorter wavelengths than lower frequency sounds, and typically PO 00000 Frm 00013 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4703 attenuate (decrease) more rapidly, except in certain cases in shallower water. Amplitude is the height of the sound pressure wave or the ‘‘loudness’’ of a sound and is typically described using the relative unit of the decibel (dB). A sound pressure level (SPL) in dB is described as the ratio between a measured pressure and a reference pressure (for underwater sound, this is 1 microPascal (mPa)) and is a logarithmic unit that accounts for large variations in amplitude; therefore, a relatively small change in dB corresponds to large changes in sound pressure. The source level (SL) represents the SPL referenced at a distance of 1 m from the source (referenced to 1 mPa) while the received level is the SPL at the listener’s position (referenced to 1 mPa). Root mean square (rms) is the quadratic mean sound pressure over the duration of an impulse. Root mean square is calculated by squaring all of the sound amplitudes, averaging the squares, and then taking the square root of the average (Urick, 1983). Root mean square accounts for both positive and negative values; squaring the pressures makes all values positive so that they may be accounted for in the summation of pressure levels (Hastings and Popper, E:\FR\FM\27SEN2.SGM 27SEN2 asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES 45128 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 186 / Wednesday, September 27, 2017 / Notices 2005). This measurement is often used in the context of discussing behavioral effects, in part because behavioral effects, which often result from auditory cues, may be better expressed through averaged units than by peak pressures. Sound exposure level (SEL; represented as dB re 1 mPa2-s) represents the total energy contained within a pulse and considers both intensity and duration of exposure. Peak sound pressure (also referred to as zero-to-peak sound pressure or 0-p) is the maximum instantaneous sound pressure measurable in the water at a specified distance from the source and is represented in the same units as the rms sound pressure. Another common metric is peak-to-peak sound pressure (pk-pk), which is the algebraic difference between the peak positive and peak negative sound pressures. Peak-to-peak pressure is typically approximately 6 dB higher than peak pressure (Southall et al., 2007). When underwater objects vibrate or activity occurs, sound-pressure waves are created. These waves alternately compress and decompress the water as the sound wave travels. Underwater sound waves radiate in a manner similar to ripples on the surface of a pond and may be either directed in a beam or beams or may radiate in all directions (omnidirectional sources), as is the case for pulses produced by the airgun arrays considered here. The compressions and decompressions associated with sound waves are detected as changes in pressure by aquatic life and man-made sound receptors such as hydrophones. Even in the absence of sound from the specified activity, the underwater environment is typically loud due to ambient sound. Ambient sound is defined as environmental background sound levels lacking a single source or point (Richardson et al., 1995), and the sound level of a region is defined by the total acoustical energy being generated by known and unknown sources. These sources may include physical (e.g., wind and waves, earthquakes, ice, atmospheric sound), biological (e.g., sounds produced by marine mammals, fish, and invertebrates), and anthropogenic (e.g., vessels, dredging, construction) sound. A number of sources contribute to ambient sound, including the following (Richardson et al., 1995): • Wind and waves: The complex interactions between wind and water surface, including processes such as breaking waves and wave-induced bubble oscillations and cavitation, are a main source of naturally occurring ambient sound for frequencies between 200 Hz and 50 kHz (Mitson, 1995). In VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:29 Sep 26, 2017 Jkt 241001 general, ambient sound levels tend to increase with increasing wind speed and wave height. Surf sound becomes important near shore, with measurements collected at a distance of 8.5 km from shore showing an increase of 10 dB in the 100 to 700 Hz band during heavy surf conditions. D Precipitation: Sound from rain and hail impacting the water surface can become an important component of total sound at frequencies above 500 Hz, and possibly down to 100 Hz during quiet times. D Biological: Marine mammals can contribute significantly to ambient sound levels, as can some fish and snapping shrimp. The frequency band for biological contributions is from approximately 12 Hz to over 100 kHz. D Anthropogenic: Sources of ambient sound related to human activity include transportation (surface vessels), dredging and construction, oil and gas drilling and production, seismic surveys, sonar, explosions, and ocean acoustic studies. Vessel noise typically dominates the total ambient sound for frequencies between 20 and 300 Hz. In general, the frequencies of anthropogenic sounds are below 1 kHz and, if higher frequency sound levels are created, they attenuate rapidly. Sound from identifiable anthropogenic sources other than the activity of interest (e.g., a passing vessel) is sometimes termed background sound, as opposed to ambient sound. The sum of the various natural and anthropogenic sound sources at any given location and time—which comprise ‘‘ambient’’ or ‘‘background’’ sound—depends not only on the source levels (as determined by current weather conditions and levels of biological and human activity) but also on the ability of sound to propagate through the environment. In turn, sound propagation is dependent on the spatially and temporally varying properties of the water column and sea floor, and is frequency-dependent. As a result of the dependence on a large number of varying factors, ambient sound levels can be expected to vary widely over both coarse and fine spatial and temporal scales. Sound levels at a given frequency and location can vary by 10–20 dB from day to day (Richardson et al., 1995). The result is that, depending on the source type and its intensity, sound from a given activity may be a negligible addition to the local environment or could form a distinctive signal that may affect marine mammals. Details of source types are described in the following text. Sounds are often considered to fall into one of two general types: Pulsed PO 00000 Frm 00014 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4703 and non-pulsed (defined in the following). The distinction between these two sound types is important because they have differing potential to cause physical effects, particularly with regard to hearing (e.g., Ward, 1997 in Southall et al., 2007). Please see Southall et al. (2007) for an in-depth discussion of these concepts. Pulsed sound sources (e.g., airguns, explosions, gunshots, sonic booms, impact pile driving) produce signals that are brief (typically considered to be less than one second), broadband, atonal transients (ANSI, 1986, 2005; Harris, 1998; NIOSH, 1998; ISO, 2003) and occur either as isolated events or repeated in some succession. Pulsed sounds are all characterized by a relatively rapid rise from ambient pressure to a maximal pressure value followed by a rapid decay period that may include a period of diminishing, oscillating maximal and minimal pressures, and generally have an increased capacity to induce physical injury as compared with sounds that lack these features. Non-pulsed sounds can be tonal, narrowband, or broadband, brief or prolonged, and may be either continuous or non-continuous (ANSI, 1995; NIOSH, 1998). Some of these nonpulsed sounds can be transient signals of short duration but without the essential properties of pulses (e.g., rapid rise time). Examples of non-pulsed sounds include those produced by vessels, aircraft, machinery operations such as drilling or dredging, vibratory pile driving, and active sonar systems (such as those used by the U.S. Navy). The duration of such sounds, as received at a distance, can be greatly extended in a highly reverberant environment. Airgun arrays produce pulsed signals with energy in a frequency range from about 10–2,000 Hz, with most energy radiated at frequencies below 200 Hz. The amplitude of the acoustic wave emitted from the source is equal in all directions (i.e., omnidirectional), but airgun arrays do possess some directionality due to different phase delays between guns in different directions. Airgun arrays are typically tuned to maximize functionality for data acquisition purposes, meaning that sound transmitted in horizontal directions and at higher frequencies is minimized to the extent possible. As described above, a Kongsberg EM 122 MBES, a Knudsen Chirp 3260 SBP, and a Teledyne RDI 75 kHz Ocean Surveyor ADCP would be operated continuously during the proposed surveys, but not during transit to and from the survey areas. Due to the lower E:\FR\FM\27SEN2.SGM 27SEN2 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 186 / Wednesday, September 27, 2017 / Notices asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES source level of the Kongsberg EM 122 MBES relative to the Langseth’s airgun array (242 dB re 1 mPa · m for the MBES versus a minimum of 249.4 dB re 1 mPa · m (rms) for the 36 airgun array and a minimum of 243.6 dB re 1 mPa · m (rms) for the 18 airgun array) (NSF–USGS, 2011; Table 6), sounds from the MBES are expected to be effectively subsumed by the sounds from the airgun array. Thus, any marine mammal potentially exposed to sounds from the MBES would already have been exposed to sounds from the airgun array, which are expected to propagate further in the water. Each ping emitted by the MBES consists of eight (in water >1,000 m deep) or four (<1,000 m) successive fanshaped transmissions, each ensonifying a sector that extends 1° fore–aft. Given the movement and speed of the vessel, the intermittent and narrow downwarddirected nature of the sounds emitted by the MBES would result in no more than one or two brief ping exposures of any individual marine mammal, if any exposure were to occur. Due to the lower source levels of both the Knudsen Chirp 3260 SBP and the Teledyne RDI 75 kHz Ocean Surveyor ADCP relative to the Langseth’s airgun array (maximum SL of 222 dB re 1 mPa · m for the SBP and maximum SL of 224 dB re 1 mPa · m for the ADCP, versus a minimum of 249.4 dB re 1 mPa · m for the 36 airgun array and a minimum of 243.6 dB re 1 mPa · m for the 18 airgun array) (NSF–USGS, 2011; Table 6 above), sounds from the SBP and ADCP are expected to be effectively subsumed by sounds from the airgun array. Thus, any marine mammal potentially exposed to sounds from the SBP and/or the ADCP would already have been exposed to sounds from the airgun array, which are expected to propagate further in the water. As such, we conclude that the likelihood of marine mammal take resulting from exposure to sound from the MBES, SBP or ADCP is discountable and therefore we do not consider noise from the MBES, SBP or ADCP further in this analysis. Acoustic Effects Here, we discuss the effects of active acoustic sources on marine mammals. Potential Effects of Underwater Sound—Please refer to the information given previously (‘‘Description of Active Acoustic Sources’’) regarding sound, characteristics of sound types, and metrics used in this document. Anthropogenic sounds cover a broad range of frequencies and sound levels and can have a range of highly variable impacts on marine life, from none or minor to potentially severe responses, depending on received levels, duration VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:29 Sep 26, 2017 Jkt 241001 of exposure, behavioral context, and various other factors. The potential effects of underwater sound from active acoustic sources can potentially result in one or more of the following: Temporary or permanent hearing impairment, non-auditory physical or physiological effects, behavioral disturbance, stress, and masking (Richardson et al., 1995; Gordon et al., 2004; Nowacek et al., 2007; Southall et ¨ al., 2007; Gotz et al., 2009). The degree of effect is intrinsically related to the signal characteristics, received level, distance from the source, and duration of the sound exposure. In general, sudden, high level sounds can cause hearing loss, as can longer exposures to lower level sounds. Temporary or permanent loss of hearing will occur almost exclusively for noise within an animal’s hearing range. We first describe specific manifestations of acoustic effects before providing discussion specific to the use of airgun arrays. Richardson et al. (1995) described zones of increasing intensity of effect that might be expected to occur, in relation to distance from a source and assuming that the signal is within an animal’s hearing range. First is the area within which the acoustic signal would be audible (potentially perceived) to the animal, but not strong enough to elicit any overt behavioral or physiological response. The next zone corresponds with the area where the signal is audible to the animal and of sufficient intensity to elicit behavioral or physiological responsiveness. Third is a zone within which, for signals of high intensity, the received level is sufficient to potentially cause discomfort or tissue damage to auditory or other systems. Overlaying these zones to a certain extent is the area within which masking (i.e., when a sound interferes with or masks the ability of an animal to detect a signal of interest that is above the absolute hearing threshold) may occur; the masking zone may be highly variable in size. We describe the more severe nonauditory physical or physiological effects only briefly as we do not expect that use of the airgun arrays is reasonably likely to result in such effects (see below for further discussion). Potential effects from impulsive sound sources can range in severity from effects such as behavioral disturbance or tactile perception to physical discomfort, slight injury of the internal organs and the auditory system, or mortality (Yelverton et al., 1973). Non-auditory physiological effects or injuries that theoretically might occur in marine mammals exposed to high level underwater sound or as a secondary PO 00000 Frm 00015 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4703 45129 effect of extreme behavioral reactions (e.g., change in dive profile as a result of an avoidance reaction) caused by exposure to sound include neurological effects, bubble formation, resonance effects, and other types of organ or tissue damage (Cox et al., 2006; Southall et al., 2007; Zimmer and Tyack, 2007; Tal et al., 2015). The survey activities considered here do not involve the use of devices such as explosives or midfrequency tactical sonar that are associated with these types of effects. 1. Threshold Shift—Marine mammals exposed to high-intensity sound, or to lower-intensity sound for prolonged periods, can experience hearing threshold shift (TS), which is the loss of hearing sensitivity at certain frequency ranges (Finneran, 2015). TS can be permanent (PTS), in which case the loss of hearing sensitivity is not fully recoverable, or temporary (TTS), in which case the animal’s hearing threshold would recover over time (Southall et al., 2007). Repeated sound exposure that leads to TTS could cause PTS. In severe cases of PTS, there can be total or partial deafness, while in most cases the animal has an impaired ability to hear sounds in specific frequency ranges (Kryter, 1985). When PTS occurs, there is physical damage to the sound receptors in the ear (i.e., tissue damage), whereas TTS represents primarily tissue fatigue and is reversible (Southall et al., 2007). In addition, other investigators have suggested that TTS is within the normal bounds of physiological variability and tolerance and does not represent physical injury (e.g., Ward, 1997). Therefore, NMFS does not consider TTS to constitute auditory injury. Relationships between TTS and PTS thresholds have not been studied in marine mammals, and there is no PTS data for cetaceans but such relationships are assumed to be similar to those in humans and other terrestrial mammals. PTS typically occurs at exposure levels at least several decibels above (a 40-dB threshold shift approximates PTS onset; e.g., Kryter et al., 1966; Miller, 1974) that inducing mild TTS (a 6-dB threshold shift approximates TTS onset; e.g., Southall et al. 2007). Based on data from terrestrial mammals, a precautionary assumption is that the PTS thresholds for impulse sounds (such as airgun pulses as received close to the source) are at least 6 dB higher than the TTS threshold on a peakpressure basis and PTS cumulative sound exposure level thresholds are 15 to 20 dB higher than TTS cumulative sound exposure level thresholds (Southall et al., 2007). Given the higher level of sound or longer exposure E:\FR\FM\27SEN2.SGM 27SEN2 asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES 45130 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 186 / Wednesday, September 27, 2017 / Notices duration necessary to cause PTS as compared with TTS, it is considerably less likely that PTS could occur. For mid-frequency cetaceans in particular, potential protective mechanisms may help limit onset of TTS or prevent onset of PTS. Such mechanisms include dampening of hearing, auditory adaptation, or behavioral amelioration (e.g., Nachtigall and Supin, 2013; Miller et al., 2012; Finneran et al., 2015; Popov et al., 2016). TTS is the mildest form of hearing impairment that can occur during exposure to sound (Kryter, 1985). While experiencing TTS, the hearing threshold rises, and a sound must be at a higher level in order to be heard. In terrestrial and marine mammals, TTS can last from minutes or hours to days (in cases of strong TTS). In many cases, hearing sensitivity recovers rapidly after exposure to the sound ends. Few data on sound levels and durations necessary to elicit mild TTS have been obtained for marine mammals. Marine mammal hearing plays a critical role in communication with conspecifics, and interpretation of environmental cues for purposes such as predator avoidance and prey capture. Depending on the degree (elevation of threshold in dB), duration (i.e., recovery time), and frequency range of TTS, and the context in which it is experienced, TTS can have effects on marine mammals ranging from discountable to serious. For example, a marine mammal may be able to readily compensate for a brief, relatively small amount of TTS in a non-critical frequency range that occurs during a time where ambient noise is lower and there are not as many competing sounds present. Alternatively, a larger amount and longer duration of TTS sustained during time when communication is critical for successful mother/calf interactions could have more serious impacts. Finneran et al. (2015) measured hearing thresholds in three captive bottlenose dolphins before and after exposure to ten pulses produced by a seismic airgun in order to study TTS induced after exposure to multiple pulses. Exposures began at relatively low levels and gradually increased over a period of several months, with the highest exposures at peak SPLs from 196 to 210 dB and cumulative (unweighted) SELs from 193–195 dB. No substantial TTS was observed. In addition, behavioral reactions were observed that indicated that animals can learn behaviors that effectively mitigate noise exposures (although exposure patterns must be learned, which is less likely in wild animals than for the VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:29 Sep 26, 2017 Jkt 241001 captive animals considered in this study). The authors note that the failure to induce more significant auditory effects was likely due to the intermittent nature of exposure, the relatively low peak pressure produced by the acoustic source, and the low-frequency energy in airgun pulses as compared with the frequency range of best sensitivity for dolphins and other mid-frequency cetaceans. Currently, TTS data only exist for four species of cetaceans (bottlenose dolphin, beluga whale, harbor porpoise, and Yangtze finless porpoise) exposed to a limited number of sound sources (i.e., mostly tones and octave-band noise) in laboratory settings (Finneran, 2015). In general, harbor porpoises have a lower TTS onset than other measured cetacean species (Finneran, 2015). Additionally, the existing marine mammal TTS data come from a limited number of individuals within these species. There are no data available on noise-induced hearing loss for mysticetes. Critical questions remain regarding the rate of TTS growth and recovery after exposure to intermittent noise and the effects of single and multiple pulses. Data at present are also insufficient to construct generalized models for recovery and determine the time necessary to treat subsequent exposures as independent events. More information is needed on the relationship between auditory evoked potential and behavioral measures of TTS for various stimuli. For summaries of data on TTS in marine mammals or for further discussion of TTS onset thresholds, please see Southall et al. (2007), Finneran and Jenkins (2012), Finneran (2015), and NMFS (2016). 2. Behavioral Effects—Behavioral disturbance may include a variety of effects, including subtle changes in behavior (e.g., minor or brief avoidance of an area or changes in vocalizations), more conspicuous changes in similar behavioral activities, and more sustained and/or potentially severe reactions, such as displacement from or abandonment of high-quality habitat. Behavioral responses to sound are highly variable and context-specific and any reactions depend on numerous intrinsic and extrinsic factors (e.g., species, state of maturity, experience, current activity, reproductive state, auditory sensitivity, time of day), as well as the interplay between factors (e.g., Richardson et al., 1995; Wartzok et al., 2003; Southall et al., 2007; Weilgart, 2007; Archer et al., 2010). Behavioral reactions can vary not only among individuals but also within an individual, depending on previous PO 00000 Frm 00016 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4703 experience with a sound source, context, and numerous other factors (Ellison et al., 2012), and can vary depending on characteristics associated with the sound source (e.g., whether it is moving or stationary, number of sources, distance from the source). Please see Appendices B–C of Southall et al. (2007) for a review of studies involving marine mammal behavioral responses to sound. Habituation can occur when an animal’s response to a stimulus wanes with repeated exposure, usually in the absence of unpleasant associated events (Wartzok et al., 2003). Animals are most likely to habituate to sounds that are predictable and unvarying. It is important to note that habituation is appropriately considered as a ‘‘progressive reduction in response to stimuli that are perceived as neither aversive nor beneficial,’’ rather than as, more generally, moderation in response to human disturbance (Bejder et al., 2009). The opposite process is sensitization, when an unpleasant experience leads to subsequent responses, often in the form of avoidance, at a lower level of exposure. As noted, behavioral state may affect the type of response. For example, animals that are resting may show greater behavioral change in response to disturbing sound levels than animals that are highly motivated to remain in an area for feeding (Richardson et al., 1995; NRC, 2003; Wartzok et al., 2003). Controlled experiments with captive marine mammals have showed pronounced behavioral reactions, including avoidance of loud sound sources (Ridgway et al., 1997). Observed responses of wild marine mammals to loud pulsed sound sources (typically seismic airguns or acoustic harassment devices) have been varied but often consist of avoidance behavior or other behavioral changes suggesting discomfort (Morton and Symonds, 2002; see also Richardson et al., 1995; Nowacek et al., 2007). However, many delphinids approach acoustic source vessels with no apparent discomfort or obvious behavioral change (e.g., Barkaszi et al., 2012). Available studies show wide variation in response to underwater sound; therefore, it is difficult to predict specifically how any given sound in a particular instance might affect marine mammals perceiving the signal. If a marine mammal does react briefly to an underwater sound by changing its behavior or moving a small distance, the impacts of the change are unlikely to be significant to the individual, let alone the stock or population. However, if a sound source displaces marine E:\FR\FM\27SEN2.SGM 27SEN2 asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 186 / Wednesday, September 27, 2017 / Notices mammals from an important feeding or breeding area for a prolonged period, impacts on individuals and populations could be significant (e.g., Lusseau and Bejder, 2007; Weilgart, 2007; NRC, 2005). However, there are broad categories of potential response, which we describe in greater detail here, that include alteration of dive behavior, alteration of foraging behavior, effects to breathing, interference with or alteration of vocalization, avoidance, and flight. Changes in dive behavior can vary widely, and may consist of increased or decreased dive times and surface intervals as well as changes in the rates of ascent and descent during a dive (e.g., Frankel and Clark, 2000; Ng and Leung, 2003; Nowacek et al.; 2004; Goldbogen et al., 2013a, b). Variations in dive behavior may reflect interruptions in biologically significant activities (e.g., foraging) or they may be of little biological significance. The impact of an alteration to dive behavior resulting from an acoustic exposure depends on what the animal is doing at the time of the exposure and the type and magnitude of the response. Disruption of feeding behavior can be difficult to correlate with anthropogenic sound exposure, so it is usually inferred by observed displacement from known foraging areas, the appearance of secondary indicators (e.g., bubble nets or sediment plumes), or changes in dive behavior. As for other types of behavioral response, the frequency, duration, and temporal pattern of signal presentation, as well as differences in species sensitivity, are likely contributing factors to differences in response in any given circumstance (e.g., Croll et al., 2001; Nowacek et al.; 2004; Madsen et al., 2006; Yazvenko et al., 2007). A determination of whether foraging disruptions incur fitness consequences would require information on or estimates of the energetic requirements of the affected individuals and the relationship between prey availability, foraging effort and success, and the life history stage of the animal. Visual tracking, passive acoustic monitoring, and movement recording tags were used to quantify sperm whale behavior prior to, during, and following exposure to airgun arrays at received levels in the range 140–160 dB at distances of 7–13 km, following a phasein of sound intensity and full array exposures at 1–13 km (Madsen et al., 2006; Miller et al., 2009). Sperm whales did not exhibit horizontal avoidance behavior at the surface. However, foraging behavior may have been affected. The sperm whales exhibited 19 percent less vocal (buzz) rate during full VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:29 Sep 26, 2017 Jkt 241001 exposure relative to post exposure, and the whale that was approached most closely had an extended resting period and did not resume foraging until the airguns had ceased firing. The remaining whales continued to execute foraging dives throughout exposure; however, swimming movements during foraging dives were 6 percent lower during exposure than control periods (Miller et al., 2009). These data raise concerns that seismic surveys may impact foraging behavior in sperm whales, although more data are required to understand whether the differences were due to exposure or natural variation in sperm whale behavior (Miller et al., 2009). Variations in respiration naturally vary with different behaviors and alterations to breathing rate as a function of acoustic exposure can be expected to co-occur with other behavioral reactions, such as a flight response or an alteration in diving. However, respiration rates in and of themselves may be representative of annoyance or an acute stress response. Various studies have shown that respiration rates may either be unaffected or could increase, depending on the species and signal characteristics, again highlighting the importance in understanding species differences in the tolerance of underwater noise when determining the potential for impacts resulting from anthropogenic sound exposure (e.g., Kastelein et al., 2001, 2005, 2006; Gailey et al., 2007; Gailey et al., 2016). Marine mammals vocalize for different purposes and across multiple modes, such as whistling, echolocation click production, calling, and singing. Changes in vocalization behavior in response to anthropogenic noise can occur for any of these modes and may result from a need to compete with an increase in background noise or may reflect increased vigilance or a startle response. For example, in the presence of potentially masking signals, humpback whales and killer whales have been observed to increase the length of their songs (Miller et al., 2000; Fristrup et al., 2003; Foote et al., 2004), while right whales have been observed to shift the frequency content of their calls upward while reducing the rate of calling in areas of increased anthropogenic noise (Parks et al., 2007). In some cases, animals may cease sound production during production of aversive signals (Bowles et al., 1994). Cerchio et al. (2014) used passive acoustic monitoring to document the presence of singing humpback whales off the coast of northern Angola and to opportunistically test for the effect of PO 00000 Frm 00017 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4703 45131 seismic survey activity on the number of singing whales. Two recording units were deployed between March and December 2008 in the offshore environment; numbers of singers were counted every hour. Generalized Additive Mixed Models were used to assess the effect of survey day (seasonality), hour (diel variation), moon phase, and received levels of noise (measured from a single pulse during each ten minute sampled period) on singer number. The number of singers significantly decreased with increasing received level of noise, suggesting that humpback whale breeding activity was disrupted to some extent by the survey activity. Castellote et al. (2012) reported acoustic and behavioral changes by fin whales in response to shipping and airgun noise. Acoustic features of fin whale song notes recorded in the Mediterranean Sea and northeast Atlantic Ocean were compared for areas with different shipping noise levels and traffic intensities and during a seismic airgun survey. During the first 72 h of the survey, a steady decrease in song received levels and bearings to singers indicated that whales moved away from the acoustic source and out of the study area. This displacement persisted for a time period well beyond the 10-day duration of seismic airgun activity, providing evidence that fin whales may avoid an area for an extended period in the presence of increased noise. The authors hypothesize that fin whale acoustic communication is modified to compensate for increased background noise and that a sensitization process may play a role in the observed temporary displacement. Seismic pulses at average received levels of 131 dB re 1 mPa2-s caused blue whales to increase call production (Di Iorio and Clark, 2010). In contrast, McDonald et al. (1995) tracked a blue whale with seafloor seismometers and reported that it stopped vocalizing and changed its travel direction at a range of 10 km from the acoustic source vessel (estimated received level 143 dB pk-pk). Blackwell et al. (2013) found that bowhead whale call rates dropped significantly at onset of airgun use at sites with a median distance of 41–45 km from the survey. Blackwell et al. (2015) expanded this analysis to show that whales actually increased calling rates as soon as airgun signals were detectable before ultimately decreasing calling rates at higher received levels (i.e., 10-minute SELcum of ∼127 dB). Overall, these results suggest that bowhead whales may adjust their vocal output in an effort to compensate for noise before ceasing vocalization effort E:\FR\FM\27SEN2.SGM 27SEN2 asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES 45132 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 186 / Wednesday, September 27, 2017 / Notices and ultimately deflecting from the acoustic source (Blackwell et al., 2013, 2015). These studies demonstrate that even low levels of noise received far from the source can induce changes in vocalization and/or behavior for mysticetes. Avoidance is the displacement of an individual from an area or migration path as a result of the presence of a sound or other stressors, and is one of the most obvious manifestations of disturbance in marine mammals (Richardson et al., 1995). For example, gray whales are known to change direction—deflecting from customary migratory paths—in order to avoid noise from seismic surveys (Malme et al., 1984). Humpback whales showed avoidance behavior in the presence of an active seismic array during observational studies and controlled exposure experiments in western Australia (McCauley et al., 2000). Avoidance may be short-term, with animals returning to the area once the noise has ceased (e.g., Bowles et al., 1994; Goold, 1996; Stone et al., 2000; Morton and Symonds, 2002; Gailey et al., 2007). Longer-term displacement is possible, however, which may lead to changes in abundance or distribution patterns of the affected species in the affected region if habituation to the presence of the sound does not occur (e.g., Bejder et al., 2006; Teilmann et al., 2006). A flight response is a dramatic change in normal movement to a directed and rapid movement away from the perceived location of a sound source. The flight response differs from other avoidance responses in the intensity of the response (e.g., directed movement, rate of travel). Relatively little information on flight responses of marine mammals to anthropogenic signals exist, although observations of flight responses to the presence of predators have occurred (Connor and Heithaus, 1996). The result of a flight response could range from brief, temporary exertion and displacement from the area where the signal provokes flight to, in extreme cases, marine mammal strandings (Evans and England, 2001). However, it should be noted that response to a perceived predator does not necessarily invoke flight (Ford and Reeves, 2008), and whether individuals are solitary or in groups may influence the response. Behavioral disturbance can also impact marine mammals in more subtle ways. Increased vigilance may result in costs related to diversion of focus and attention (i.e., when a response consists of increased vigilance, it may come at the cost of decreased attention to other VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:29 Sep 26, 2017 Jkt 241001 critical behaviors such as foraging or resting). These effects have generally not been demonstrated for marine mammals, but studies involving fish and terrestrial animals have shown that increased vigilance may substantially reduce feeding rates (e.g., Beauchamp and Livoreil, 1997; Fritz et al., 2002; Purser and Radford, 2011). In addition, chronic disturbance can cause population declines through reduction of fitness (e.g., decline in body condition) and subsequent reduction in reproductive success, survival, or both (e.g., Harrington and Veitch, 1992; Daan et al., 1996; Bradshaw et al., 1998). However, Ridgway et al. (2006) reported that increased vigilance in bottlenose dolphins exposed to sound over a fiveday period did not cause any sleep deprivation or stress effects. Many animals perform vital functions, such as feeding, resting, traveling, and socializing, on a diel cycle (24-hour cycle). Disruption of such functions resulting from reactions to stressors such as sound exposure are more likely to be significant if they last more than one diel cycle or recur on subsequent days (Southall et al., 2007). Consequently, a behavioral response lasting less than one day and not recurring on subsequent days is not considered particularly severe unless it could directly affect reproduction or survival (Southall et al., 2007). Note that there is a difference between multi-day substantive behavioral reactions and multi-day anthropogenic activities. For example, just because an activity lasts for multiple days does not necessarily mean that individual animals are either exposed to activity-related stressors for multiple days or, further, exposed in a manner resulting in sustained multi-day substantive behavioral responses. Stone (2015) reported data from at-sea observations during 1,196 seismic surveys from 1994 to 2010. When large arrays of airguns (considered to be 500 in3 or more) were firing, lateral displacement, more localized avoidance, or other changes in behavior were evident for most odontocetes. However, significant responses to large arrays were found only for the minke whale and fin whale. Behavioral responses observed included changes in swimming or surfacing behavior, with indications that cetaceans remained near the water surface at these times. Cetaceans were recorded as feeding less often when large arrays were active. Behavioral observations of gray whales during a seismic survey monitored whale movements and respirations pre-, during and post-seismic survey (Gailey et al., 2016). Behavioral state and water depth were the best ‘natural’ PO 00000 Frm 00018 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4703 predictors of whale movements and respiration and, after considering natural variation, none of the response variables were significantly associated with seismic survey or vessel sounds. 3. Stress Responses—An animal’s perception of a threat may be sufficient to trigger stress responses consisting of some combination of behavioral responses, autonomic nervous system responses, neuroendocrine responses, or immune responses (e.g., Seyle, 1950; Moberg, 2000). In many cases, an animal’s first and sometimes most economical (in terms of energetic costs) response is behavioral avoidance of the potential stressor. Autonomic nervous system responses to stress typically involve changes in heart rate, blood pressure, and gastrointestinal activity. These responses have a relatively short duration and may or may not have a significant long-term effect on an animal’s fitness. Neuroendocrine stress responses often involve the hypothalamus-pituitaryadrenal system. Virtually all neuroendocrine functions that are affected by stress—including immune competence, reproduction, metabolism, and behavior—are regulated by pituitary hormones. Stress-induced changes in the secretion of pituitary hormones have been implicated in failed reproduction, altered metabolism, reduced immune competence, and behavioral disturbance (e.g., Moberg, 1987; Blecha, 2000). Increases in the circulation of glucocorticoids are also equated with stress (Romano et al., 2004). The primary distinction between stress (which is adaptive and does not normally place an animal at risk) and ‘‘distress’’ is the cost of the response. During a stress response, an animal uses glycogen stores that can be quickly replenished once the stress is alleviated. In such circumstances, the cost of the stress response would not pose serious fitness consequences. However, when an animal does not have sufficient energy reserves to satisfy the energetic costs of a stress response, energy resources must be diverted from other functions. This state of distress will last until the animal replenishes its energetic reserves sufficiently to restore normal function. Relationships between these physiological mechanisms, animal behavior, and the costs of stress responses are well-studied through controlled experiments and for both laboratory and free-ranging animals (e.g., Holberton et al., 1996; Hood et al., 1998; Jessop et al., 2003; Krausman et al., 2004; Lankford et al., 2005). Stress responses due to exposure to anthropogenic sounds or other stressors E:\FR\FM\27SEN2.SGM 27SEN2 asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 186 / Wednesday, September 27, 2017 / Notices and their effects on marine mammals have also been reviewed (Fair and Becker, 2000; Romano et al., 2002b) and, more rarely, studied in wild populations (e.g., Romano et al., 2002a). For example, Rolland et al. (2012) found that noise reduction from reduced ship traffic in the Bay of Fundy was associated with decreased stress in North Atlantic right whales. These and other studies lead to a reasonable expectation that some marine mammals will experience physiological stress responses upon exposure to acoustic stressors and that it is possible that some of these would be classified as ‘‘distress.’’ In addition, any animal experiencing TTS would likely also experience stress responses (NRC, 2003). 4. Auditory Masking—Sound can disrupt behavior through masking, or interfering with, an animal’s ability to detect, recognize, or discriminate between acoustic signals of interest (e.g., those used for intraspecific communication and social interactions, prey detection, predator avoidance, navigation) (Richardson et al., 1995; Erbe et al., 2016). Masking occurs when the receipt of a sound is interfered with by another coincident sound at similar frequencies and at similar or higher intensity, and may occur whether the sound is natural (e.g., snapping shrimp, wind, waves, precipitation) or anthropogenic (e.g., shipping, sonar, seismic exploration) in origin. The ability of a noise source to mask biologically important sounds depends on the characteristics of both the noise source and the signal of interest (e.g., signal-to-noise ratio, temporal variability, direction), in relation to each other and to an animal’s hearing abilities (e.g., sensitivity, frequency range, critical ratios, frequency discrimination, directional discrimination, age or TTS hearing loss), and existing ambient noise and propagation conditions. Under certain circumstances, marine mammals experiencing significant masking could also be impaired from maximizing their performance fitness in survival and reproduction. Therefore, when the coincident (masking) sound is man-made, it may be considered harassment when disrupting or altering critical behaviors. It is important to distinguish TTS and PTS, which persist after the sound exposure, from masking, which occurs during the sound exposure. Because masking (without resulting in TS) is not associated with abnormal physiological function, it is not considered a physiological effect, but rather a potential behavioral effect. VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:29 Sep 26, 2017 Jkt 241001 The frequency range of the potentially masking sound is important in determining any potential behavioral impacts. For example, low-frequency signals may have less effect on highfrequency echolocation sounds produced by odontocetes but are more likely to affect detection of mysticete communication calls and other potentially important natural sounds such as those produced by surf and some prey species. The masking of communication signals by anthropogenic noise may be considered as a reduction in the communication space of animals (e.g., Clark et al., 2009) and may result in energetic or other costs as animals change their vocalization behavior (e.g., Miller et al., 2000; Foote et al., 2004; Parks et al., 2007; Di Iorio and Clark, 2009; Holt et al., 2009). Masking can be reduced in situations where the signal and noise come from different directions (Richardson et al., 1995), through amplitude modulation of the signal, or through other compensatory behaviors (Houser and Moore, 2014). Masking can be tested directly in captive species (e.g., Erbe, 2008), but in wild populations it must be either modeled or inferred from evidence of masking compensation. There are few studies addressing real-world masking sounds likely to be experienced by marine mammals in the wild (e.g., Branstetter et al., 2013). Masking affects both senders and receivers of acoustic signals and can potentially have long-term chronic effects on marine mammals at the population level as well as at the individual level. Low-frequency ambient sound levels have increased by as much as 20 dB (more than three times in terms of SPL) in the world’s ocean from pre-industrial periods, with most of the increase from distant commercial shipping (Hildebrand, 2009). All anthropogenic sound sources, but especially chronic and lower-frequency signals (e.g., from vessel traffic), contribute to elevated ambient sound levels, thus intensifying masking. Other Potential Impacts Here, we discuss potential effects of the proposed activity on marine mammals other than sound. Ship Strike—Vessel collisions with marine mammals, or ship strikes, can result in death or serious injury of the animal. Wounds resulting from ship strike may include massive trauma, hemorrhaging, broken bones, or propeller lacerations (Knowlton and Kraus, 2001). An animal at the surface may be struck directly by a vessel, a surfacing animal may hit the bottom of PO 00000 Frm 00019 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4703 45133 a vessel, or an animal just below the surface may be cut by a vessel’s propeller. Superficial strikes may not kill or result in the death of the animal. These interactions are typically associated with large whales (e.g., fin whales), which are occasionally found draped across the bulbous bow of large commercial ships upon arrival in port. Although smaller cetaceans are more maneuverable in relation to large vessels than are large whales, they may also be susceptible to strike. The severity of injuries typically depends on the size and speed of the vessel, with the probability of death or serious injury increasing as vessel speed increases (Knowlton and Kraus, 2001; Laist et al., 2001; Vanderlaan and Taggart, 2007; Conn and Silber, 2013). Impact forces increase with speed, as does the probability of a strike at a given distance (Silber et al., 2010; Gende et al., 2011). Pace and Silber (2005) also found that the probability of death or serious injury increased rapidly with increasing vessel speed. Specifically, the predicted probability of serious injury or death increased from 45 to 75 percent as vessel speed increased from 10 to 14 kn, and exceeded 90 percent at 17 kn. Higher speeds during collisions result in greater force of impact, but higher speeds also appear to increase the chance of severe injuries or death through increased likelihood of collision by pulling whales toward the vessel (Clyne, 1999; Knowlton et al., 1995). In a separate study, Vanderlaan and Taggart (2007) analyzed the probability of lethal mortality of large whales at a given speed, showing that the greatest rate of change in the probability of a lethal injury to a large whale as a function of vessel speed occurs between 8.6 and 15 kn. The chances of a lethal injury decline from approximately 80 percent at 15 kn to approximately 20 percent at 8.6 kn. At speeds below 11.8 kn, the chances of lethal injury drop below 50 percent, while the probability asymptotically increases toward one hundred percent above 15 kn. The Langseth travels at a speed of ∼8.3 km/hour while towing seismic survey gear (LGL 2017). At this speed, both the possibility of striking a marine mammal and the possibility of a strike resulting in serious injury or mortality are discountable. At average transit speed, the probability of serious injury or mortality resulting from a strike is less than 50 percent. However, the likelihood of a strike actually happening is again discountable. Ship strikes, as analyzed in the studies cited above, generally involve commercial shipping, which is much more common in both E:\FR\FM\27SEN2.SGM 27SEN2 asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES 45134 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 186 / Wednesday, September 27, 2017 / Notices space and time than is geophysical survey activity. Jensen and Silber (2004) summarized ship strikes of large whales worldwide from 1975–2003 and found that most collisions occurred in the open ocean and involved large vessels (e.g., commercial shipping). Commercial fishing vessels were responsible for three percent of recorded collisions, while no such incidents were reported for geophysical survey vessels during that time period. It is possible for ship strikes to occur while traveling at slow speeds. For example, a hydrographic survey vessel traveling at low speed (5.5 kn) while conducting mapping surveys off the central California coast struck and killed a blue whale in 2009. The State of California determined that the whale had suddenly and unexpectedly surfaced beneath the hull, with the result that the propeller severed the whale’s vertebrae, and that this was an unavoidable event. This strike represents the only such incident in approximately 540,000 hours of similar coastal mapping activity (p = 1.9 × 10¥6; 95% CI = 0–5.5 × 10¥6; NMFS, 2013b). In addition, a research vessel reported a fatal strike in 2011 of a dolphin in the Atlantic, demonstrating that it is possible for strikes involving smaller cetaceans to occur. In that case, the incident report indicated that an animal apparently was struck by the vessel’s propeller as it was intentionally swimming near the vessel. While indicative of the type of unusual events that cannot be ruled out, neither of these instances represents a circumstance that would be considered reasonably foreseeable or that would be considered preventable. Although the likelihood of the vessel striking a marine mammal is low, we require a robust ship strike avoidance protocol (see ‘‘Proposed Mitigation’’), which we believe eliminates any foreseeable risk of ship strike. We anticipate that vessel collisions involving a seismic data acquisition vessel towing gear, while not impossible, represent unlikely, unpredictable events for which there are no preventive measures. Given the required mitigation measures, the relatively slow speed of the vessel towing gear, the presence of bridge crew watching for obstacles at all times (including marine mammals), and the presence of marine mammal observers, we believe that the possibility of ship strike is discountable and, further, that were a strike of a large whale to occur, it would be unlikely to result in serious injury or mortality. No incidental take resulting from ship strike is anticipated, and this potential effect of the specified VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:29 Sep 26, 2017 Jkt 241001 activity will not be discussed further in the following analysis. Stranding— When a living or dead marine mammal swims or floats onto shore and becomes ‘‘beached’’ or incapable of returning to sea, the event is a ‘‘stranding’’ (Geraci et al., 1999; Perrin and Geraci, 2002; Geraci and Lounsbury, 2005; NMFS, 2007). The legal definition for a stranding within the United States under the MMPA is that ‘‘(A) a marine mammal is dead and is (i) on a beach or shore of the United States; or (ii) in waters under the jurisdiction of the United States (including any navigable waters); or (B) a marine mammal is alive and is (i) on a beach or shore of the United States and unable to return to the water; (ii) on a beach or shore of the United States and, although able to return to the water, is in need of apparent medical attention; or (iii) in the waters under the jurisdiction of the United States (including any navigable waters), but is unable to return to its natural habitat under its own power or without assistance’’ (16 U.S.C. 1421h(3)). Marine mammals strand for a variety of reasons, such as infectious agents, biotoxicosis, starvation, fishery interaction, ship strike, unusual oceanographic or weather events, sound exposure, or combinations of these stressors sustained concurrently or in series. However, the cause or causes of most strandings are unknown (Geraci et al., 1976; Eaton, 1979; Odell et al., 1980; Best, 1982). Numerous studies suggest that the physiology, behavior, habitat relationships, age, or condition of cetaceans may cause them to strand or might pre-dispose them to strand when exposed to another phenomenon. These suggestions are consistent with the conclusions of numerous other studies that have demonstrated that combinations of dissimilar stressors commonly combine to kill an animal or dramatically reduce its fitness, even though one exposure without the other does not produce the same result (Chroussos, 2000; Creel, 2005; DeVries et al., 2003; Fair and Becker, 2000; Foley et al., 2001; Moberg, 2000; Relyea, 2005a; 2005b, Romero, 2004; Sih et al., 2004). Use of military tactical sonar has been implicated in a majority of investigated stranding events, although one stranding event was associated with the use of seismic airguns. This event occurred in the Gulf of California, coincident with seismic reflection profiling by the R/V Maurice Ewing operated by Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and involved two Cuvier’s beaked whales (Hildebrand, 2004). The vessel had been PO 00000 Frm 00020 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4703 firing an array of 20 airguns with a total volume of 8,500 in3 (Hildebrand, 2004; Taylor et al., 2004). Most known stranding events have involved beaked whales, though a small number have involved deep-diving delphinids or sperm whales (e.g., Mazzariol et al., 2010; Southall et al., 2013). In general, long duration (∼1 second) and highintensity sounds (>235 dB SPL) have been implicated in stranding events (Hildebrand, 2004). With regard to beaked whales, mid-frequency sound is typically implicated (when causation can be determined) (Hildebrand, 2004). Although seismic airguns create predominantly low-frequency energy, the signal does include a mid-frequency component. We have considered the potential for the proposed survey to result in marine mammal stranding and have concluded that, based on the best available information, stranding is not expected to occur. Entanglement and discharges—We are not aware of any records of marine mammal entanglement in towed arrays such as those considered here. The discharge of trash and debris is prohibited (33 CFR 151.51–77) unless it is passed through a machine that breaks up solids such that they can pass through a 25-mm mesh screen. All other trash and debris must be returned to shore for proper disposal with municipal and solid waste. Some personal items may be accidentally lost overboard. However, U.S. Coast Guard and Environmental Protection Act regulations require operators to become proactive in avoiding accidental loss of solid waste items by developing waste management plans, posting informational placards, manifesting trash sent to shore, and using special precautions such as covering outside trash bins to prevent accidental loss of solid waste. There are no meaningful entanglement risks posed by the described activity, and entanglement risks are not discussed further in this document. Marine mammals could be affected by accidentally spilled diesel fuel from a vessel associated with proposed survey activities. Quantities of diesel fuel on the sea surface may affect marine mammals through various pathways: Surface contact of the fuel with skin and other mucous membranes, inhalation of concentrated petroleum vapors, or ingestion of the fuel (direct ingestion or by the ingestion of oiled prey) (e.g., Geraci and St. Aubin, 1980, 1985, 1990). However, the likelihood of a fuel spill during any particular geophysical survey is considered to be remote, and the potential for impacts to marine mammals would depend greatly on the E:\FR\FM\27SEN2.SGM 27SEN2 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 186 / Wednesday, September 27, 2017 / Notices asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES size and location of a spill and meteorological conditions at the time of the spill. Spilled fuel would rapidly spread to a layer of varying thickness and break up into narrow bands or windrows parallel to the wind direction. The rate at which the fuel spreads would be determined by the prevailing conditions such as temperature, water currents, tidal streams, and wind speeds. Lighter, volatile components of the fuel would evaporate to the atmosphere almost completely in a few days. Evaporation rate may increase as the fuel spreads because of the increased surface area of the slick. Rougher seas, high wind speeds, and high temperatures also tend to increase the rate of evaporation and the proportion of fuel lost by this process (Scholz et al., 1999). We do not anticipate potentially meaningful effects to marine mammals as a result of any contaminant spill resulting from the proposed survey activities, and contaminant spills are not discussed further in this document. Anticipated Effects on Marine Mammal Habitat Effects to Prey—Marine mammal prey varies by species, season, and location and, for some, is not well documented. Fish react to sounds which are especially strong and/or intermittent low-frequency sounds. Short duration, sharp sounds can cause overt or subtle changes in fish behavior and local distribution. Hastings and Popper (2005) identified several studies that suggest fish may relocate to avoid certain areas of sound energy. Additional studies have documented effects of pulsed sound on fish, although several are based on studies in support of construction projects (e.g., Scholik and Yan, 2001, 2002; Popper and Hastings, 2009). Sound pulses at received levels of 160 dB may cause subtle changes in fish behavior. SPLs of 180 dB may cause noticeable changes in behavior (Pearson et al., 1992; Skalski et al., 1992). SPLs of sufficient strength have been known to cause injury to fish and fish mortality. The most likely impact to fish from survey activities at the project area would be temporary avoidance of the area. The duration of fish avoidance of a given area after survey effort stops is unknown, but a rapid return to normal recruitment, distribution and behavior is anticipated. Information on seismic airgun impacts to zooplankton, which represent an important prey type for mysticetes, is limited. However, McCauley et al. (2017) reported that experimental exposure to a pulse from a 150 inch3 airgun decreased VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:29 Sep 26, 2017 Jkt 241001 zooplankton abundance when compared with controls, as measured by sonar and net tows, and caused a two- to threefold increase in dead adult and larval zooplankton. Although no adult krill were present, the study found that all larval krill were killed after air gun passage. Impacts were observed out to the maximum 1.2 km range sampled. In general, impacts to marine mammal prey are expected to be limited due to the relatively small temporal and spatial overlap between the proposed survey and any areas used by marine mammal prey species. The proposed survey would occur over a relatively short time period (90 days) and would occur over a very small area relative to the area available as marine mammal habitat in the Pacific Ocean off New Zealand. We do not have any information to suggest the proposed survey area represents a significant feeding area for any marine mammal, and we believe any impacts to marine mammals due to adverse affects to their prey would be insignificant due to the limited spatial and temporal impact of the proposed survey. However, adverse impacts may occur to a few species of fish and to zooplankton. Acoustic Habitat—Acoustic habitat is the soundscape—which encompasses all of the sound present in a particular location and time, as a whole—when considered from the perspective of the animals experiencing it. Animals produce sound for, or listen for sounds produced by, conspecifics (communication during feeding, mating, and other social activities), other animals (finding prey or avoiding predators), and the physical environment (finding suitable habitats, navigating). Together, sounds made by animals and the geophysical environment (e.g., produced by earthquakes, lightning, wind, rain, waves) make up the natural contributions to the total acoustics of a place. These acoustic conditions, termed acoustic habitat, are one attribute of an animal’s total habitat. Soundscapes are also defined by, and acoustic habitat influenced by, the total contribution of anthropogenic sound. This may include incidental emissions from sources such as vessel traffic, or may be intentionally introduced to the marine environment for data acquisition purposes (as in the use of airgun arrays). Anthropogenic noise varies widely in its frequency content, duration, and loudness and these characteristics greatly influence the potential habitatmediated effects to marine mammals (please see also the previous discussion on masking under ‘‘Acoustic Effects’’), which may range from local effects for brief periods of time to chronic effects PO 00000 Frm 00021 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4703 45135 over large areas and for long durations. Depending on the extent of effects to habitat, animals may alter their communications signals (thereby potentially expending additional energy) or miss acoustic cues (either conspecific or adventitious). For more detail on these concepts see, e.g., Barber et al., 2010; Pijanowski et al., 2011; Francis and Barber, 2013; Lillis et al., 2014. Problems arising from a failure to detect cues are more likely to occur when noise stimuli are chronic and overlap with biologically relevant cues used for communication, orientation, and predator/prey detection (Francis and Barber, 2013). Although the signals emitted by seismic airgun arrays are generally low frequency, they would also likely be of short duration and transient in any given area due to the nature of these surveys. As described previously, exploratory surveys such as these cover a large area but would be transient rather than focused in a given location over time and therefore would not be considered chronic in any given location. In summary, activities associated with the proposed action are not likely to have a permanent, adverse effect on any fish habitat or populations of fish species or on the quality of acoustic habitat. Thus, any impacts to marine mammal habitat are not expected to cause significant or long-term consequences for individual marine mammals or their populations. Estimated Take This section provides an estimate of the number of incidental takes proposed for authorization through this IHA, which will inform both NMFS’ consideration of whether the number of takes is ‘‘small’’ and the negligible impact determination. Harassment is the only type of take expected to result from these activities. Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, section 3(18) of 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). Authorized takes would primarily be by Level B harassment, as use of the seismic airguns have the potential to result in disruption of behavioral patterns for individual marine E:\FR\FM\27SEN2.SGM 27SEN2 45136 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 186 / Wednesday, September 27, 2017 / Notices mammals. There is also some potential for auditory injury (Level A harassment) to result, primarily for mysticetes and high frequency cetaceans (i.e., kogiidae spp.), due to larger predicted auditory injury zones for those functional hearing groups. Auditory injury is unlikely to occur for mid-frequency species given very small modeled zones of injury for those species. The proposed mitigation and monitoring measures are expected to minimize the severity of such taking to the extent practicable. As described previously, no serious injury or mortality is anticipated or proposed to be authorized for this activity. Below we describe how the take is estimated. Described in the most basic way, we estimate take by considering: (1) acoustic thresholds above which NMFS believes the best available science indicates marine mammals will be behaviorally harassed or incur some degree of permanent hearing impairment; (2) the area or volume of water that will be ensonified above these levels in a day; (3) the density or occurrence of marine mammals within these ensonified areas; and (4) and the number of days of activities. Below, we describe these components in more detail and present the exposure estimate and associated numbers of take proposed for authorization. Acoustic Thresholds Using the best available science, NMFS has developed acoustic thresholds that identify the received level of underwater sound above which exposed marine mammals would be reasonably expected to be behaviorally harassed (equated to Level B harassment) or to incur PTS of some degree (equated to Level A harassment). Level B Harassment for non-explosive sources— Though significantly driven by received level, the onset of behavioral disturbance from anthropogenic noise exposure is also informed to varying degrees by other factors related to the source (e.g., frequency, predictability, duty cycle), the environment (e.g., bathymetry), and the receiving animals (hearing, motivation, experience, demography, behavioral context) and can be difficult to predict (Southall et al., 2007, Ellison et al. 2011). Based on the best available science and the practical need to use a threshold based on a factor that is both predictable and measurable for most activities, NMFS uses a generalized acoustic threshold based on received level to estimate the onset of behavioral harassment. NMFS predicts that marine mammals are likely to be behaviorally harassed in a manner we consider to fall under Level B harassment when exposed to underwater anthropogenic noise above received levels of 120 dB re 1 mPa (rms) for continuous sources (e.g. vibratory pile-driving, drilling) and above 160 dB re 1 mPa (rms) for nonexplosive impulsive (e.g., seismic airguns) or intermittent (e.g., scientific sonar) sources. L–DEO’s proposed activity includes the use of impulsive seismic sources. Therefore, the 160 dB re 1 mPa (rms) criteria is applicable for analysis of level B harassment. Level A harassment for non-explosive sources—NMFS’ Technical Guidance for Assessing the Effects of Anthropogenic Sound on Marine Mammal Hearing (NMFS, 2016) identifies dual criteria to assess auditory injury (Level A harassment) to five different marine mammal groups (based on hearing sensitivity) as a result of exposure to noise from two different types of sources (impulsive or nonimpulsive). The Technical Guidance identifies the received levels, or thresholds, above which individual marine mammals are predicted to experience changes in their hearing sensitivity for all underwater anthropogenic sound sources, reflects the best available science, and better predicts the potential for auditory injury than does NMFS’ historical criteria. These thresholds were developed by compiling and synthesizing the best available science and soliciting input multiple times from both the public and peer reviewers to inform the final product, and are provided in Table 4 below. The references, analysis, and methodology used in the development of the thresholds are described in NMFS 2016 Technical Guidance, which may be accessed at: http:// www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/acoustics/ guidelines.htm. As described above, L– DEO’s proposed activity includes the use of intermittent and impulsive seismic sources. TABLE 4—THRESHOLDS IDENTIFYING THE ONSET OF PERMANENT THRESHOLD SHIFT IN MARINE MAMMALS PTS onset thresholds Hearing group Impulsive * asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES Low-Frequency (LF) Cetaceans .............................................................. Mid-Frequency (MF) Cetaceans ............................................................. High-Frequency (HF) Cetaceans ............................................................ Phocid Pinnipeds (PW) (Underwater) ..................................................... Otariid Pinnipeds (OW) (Underwater) ..................................................... Lpk,flat: Lpk,flat: Lpk,flat: Lpk,flat: Lpk,flat: 219 230 202 218 232 dB, dB, dB, dB, dB, Non-impulsive LE,LF,24h: 183 dB LE,MF,24h: 185 dB LE,HF,24h: 155 dB LE,PW,24h: 185 dB LE,OW,24h: 203 dB LE,LF,24h: 199 dB. LE,MF,24h: 198 dB. LE,HF,24h: 173 dB. LE,PW,24h: 201 dB. LE,OW,24h: 219 dB. Note: *Dual metric acoustic thresholds for impulsive sounds: Use whichever results in the largest isopleth for calculating PTS onset. If a nonimpulsive sound has the potential of exceeding the peak sound pressure level thresholds associated with impulsive sounds, these thresholds should also be considered. Note: Peak sound pressure (Lpk) has a reference value of 1 μPa, and cumulative sound exposure level (LE) has a reference value of 1μPa2s. In this Table, thresholds are abbreviated to reflect American National Standards Institute standards (ANSI 2013). However, peak sound pressure is defined by ANSI as incorporating frequency weighting, which is not the intent for this Technical Guidance. Hence, the subscript ‘‘flat’’ is being included to indicate peak sound pressure should be flat weighted or unweighted within the generalized hearing range. The subscript associated with cumulative sound exposure level thresholds indicates the designated marine mammal auditory weighting function (LF, MF, and HF cetaceans, and PW and OW pinnipeds) and that the recommended accumulation period is 24 hours. The cumulative sound exposure level thresholds could be exceeded in a multitude of ways (i.e., varying exposure levels and durations, duty cycle). When possible, it is valuable for action proponents to indicate the conditions under which these acoustic thresholds will be exceeded. Ensonified Area Here, we describe operational and environmental parameters of the activity that will feed into estimating the area ensonified above the relevant acoustic thresholds. VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:29 Sep 26, 2017 Jkt 241001 The proposed survey would entail use of a 36-airgun array with a total discharge of 6,600 in3 at a tow depth of 9 m and an 18-airgun array with a total discharge of 3,300 in3 at a tow depth of 7–9 m. Received sound levels were PO 00000 Frm 00022 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4703 predicted by L–DEO’s model (Diebold et al., 2010) as a function of distance from the 36-airgun array and 18-airgun array and for a single 40-in3 airgun which would be used during power downs; all models used a 9 m tow depth. This E:\FR\FM\27SEN2.SGM 27SEN2 asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 186 / Wednesday, September 27, 2017 / Notices modeling approach uses ray tracing for the direct wave traveling from the array to the receiver and its associated source ghost (reflection at the air-water interface in the vicinity of the array), in a constant-velocity half-space (infinite homogeneous ocean layer, unbounded by a seafloor). In addition, propagation measurements of pulses from the 36airgun array at a tow depth of 6 m have been reported in deep water (approximately 1600 m), intermediate water depth on the slope (approximately 600–1100 m), and shallow water (approximately 50 m) in the Gulf of Mexico in 2007–2008 (Tolstoy et al. 2009; Diebold et al. 2010). For deep and intermediate-water cases, L–DEO determined that the field measurements cannot be used readily to derive mitigation radii, as at those sites the calibration hydrophone was located at a roughly constant depth of 350–500 m, which may not intersect all the SPL isopleths at their widest point from the sea surface down to the maximum relevant water depth for marine mammals of approximately 2,000 m (See Appendix H in NSF–USGS 2011). At short ranges, where the direct arrivals dominate and the effects of seafloor interactions are minimal, the data recorded at the deep and slope sites are suitable for comparison with modeled levels at the depth of the calibration hydrophone. At longer ranges, the comparison with the mitigation model—constructed from the maximum SPL through the entire water column at varying distances from the airgun array—is the most relevant. Please see the IHA application for further discussion of summarized results. For deep water (>1000 m), L–DEO used the deep-water radii obtained from model results down to a maximum water depth of 2000 m. The radii for intermediate water depths (100–1000 m) were derived from the deep-water ones by applying a correction factor (multiplication) of 1.5, such that observed levels at very near offsets fall below the corrected mitigation curve (See Fig. 16 in Appendix H of NSF– USGS, 2011). The shallow-water radii were obtained by scaling the empirically derived measurements from the Gulf of Mexico calibration survey to account for the differences in tow depth between the calibration survey (6 m) and the proposed surveys (9 m). A simple scaling factor is calculated from the ratios of the isopleths determined by the deep-water L–DEO model, which are essentially a measure of the energy radiated by the source array. Measurements have not been reported for the single 40-in3 airgun. L–DEO VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:29 Sep 26, 2017 Jkt 241001 model results are used to determine the 160-dB (rms) radius for the 40-in3 airgun at a 9 m tow depth in deep water (See LGL 2017, Figure 6). For intermediate-water depths, a correction factor of 1.5 was applied to the deepwater model results. For shallow water, a scaling of the field measurements obtained for the 36-airgun array was used. L–DEO’s modeling methodology is described in greater detail in the IHA application (LGL 2017) and we refer the reader to that document rather than repeating it here. The estimated distances to the Level B harassment isopleth for the Langseth’s 36-airgun array, 18-airgun array, and the single 40in3 airgun are shown in Table 5. TABLE 5—PREDICTED RADIAL DISTANCES FROM R/V LANGSETH SEISMIC SOURCE TO ISOPLETHS CORRESPONDING TO LEVEL B HARASSMENT THRESHOLD Source and volume 1 airgun, 40 in3. 18 airguns, 3,300 in3. 36 airguns, 6,600 in3. Predicted distance to threshold (160 dB re 1 μPa) 1 Water depth >1000 m ....... 100–1000 m <100 m ......... >1000 m ....... 100–1000 m <100 m ......... >1000 m ....... 100–1000 m <100 m ......... 388 m. 582 m. 938 m. 3,562 m. 5,343 m. 10,607 m. 5,629 m. 8,444 m. 22,102 m. 1 Distances for depths >1000 m are based on L–DEO model results. Distance for depths 100–1000 m are based on L–DEO model results with a 1.5 × correction factor between deep and intermediate water depths. Distances for depths <100 m are based on empirically derived measurements in the Gulf of Mexico with scaling applied to account for differences in tow depth. Predicted distances to Level A harassment isopleths, which vary based on marine mammal hearing groups (Table 3), were calculated based on modeling performed by L–DEO using the NUCLEUS software program and the NMFS User Spreadsheet, described below. The updated acoustic thresholds for impulsive sounds (e.g., airguns) contained in the Technical Guidance were presented as dual metric acoustic thresholds using both SELcum and peak sound pressure metrics (NMFS 2016). As dual metrics, NMFS considers onset of PTS (Level A harassment) to have occurred when either one of the two metrics is exceeded (i.e., metric resulting in the largest isopleth). The SELcum metric considers both level and duration of exposure, as well as auditory weighting functions by marine PO 00000 Frm 00023 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4703 45137 mammal hearing group. In recognition of the fact that the requirement to calculate Level A harassment ensonified areas could be more technically challenging to predict due to the duration component and the use of weighting functions in the new SELcum thresholds, NMFS developed an optional User Spreadsheet that includes tools to help predict a simple isopleth that can be used in conjunction with marine mammal density or occurrence to facilitate the estimation of take numbers. The values for SELcum and peak SPL for the Langseth airgun array were derived from calculating the modified farfield signature (Table 6). The farfield signature is often used as a theoretical representation of the source level. To compute the farfield signature, the source level is estimated at a large distance below the array (e.g., 9 km), and this level is back projected mathematically to a notional distance of 1 m from the array’s geometrical center. However, when the source is an array of multiple airguns separated in space, the source level from the theoretical farfield signature is not necessarily the best measurement of the source level that is physically achieved at the source (Tolstoy et al. 2009). Near the source (at short ranges, distances <1 km), the pulses of sound pressure from each individual airgun in the source array do not stack constructively, as they do for the theoretical farfield signature. The pulses from the different airguns spread out in time such that the source levels observed or modeled are the result of the summation of pulses from a few airguns, not the full array (Tolstoy et al. 2009). At larger distances, away from the source array center, sound pressure of all the airguns in the array stack coherently, but not within one time sample, resulting in smaller source levels (a few dB) than the source level derived from the farfield signature. Because the farfield signature does not take into account the large array effect near the source and is calculated as a point source, the modified farfield signature is a more appropriate measure of the sound source level for distributed sound sources, such as airgun arrays. L– DEO used the acoustic modeling methodology as used for Level B takes with a small grid step of 1 m in both the inline and depth directions. The propagation modeling takes into account all airgun interactions at short distances from the source, including interactions between subarrays which are modeled using the NUCLEUS software to estimate the notional signature and MATLAB software to E:\FR\FM\27SEN2.SGM 27SEN2 45138 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 186 / Wednesday, September 27, 2017 / Notices calculate the pressure signal at each mesh point of a grid. TABLE 6—MODELED SOURCE LEVELS BASED ON MODIFIED FARFIELD SIGNATURE FOR THE R/V LANGSETH 6,600 IN3 AIRGUN ARRAY, 3,300 IN3 AIRGUN ARRAY, AND SINGLE 40 IN3 AIRGUN Low frequency cetaceans (Lpk,flat: 219 dB; LE,LF,24h: 183 dB) Mid frequency cetaceans (Lpk,flat: 230 dB; LE,MF,24h: 185 dB 250.77 232.75 246.34 226.22 224.02 202.33 252.76 232.67 250.98 226.13 225.16 202.35 6,600 in3 airgun array (Peak SPLflat) .................................. 6,600 in3 airgun array (SELcum) ........................................... 3,300 in3 airgun array (Peak SPLflat) .................................. 3,300 in3 airgun array (SELcum) ........................................... 40 in3 airgun (Peak SPLflat) ................................................. 40 in3 airgun (SELcum) ......................................................... In order to more realistically incorporate the Technical Guidance’s weighting functions over the seismic array’s full acoustic band, unweighted spectrum data for the Langseth’s airgun array (modeled in 1 Hz bands) was used to make adjustments (dB) to the unweighted spectrum levels, by frequency, according to the weighting functions for each relevant marine mammal hearing group. These adjusted/ weighted spectrum levels were then converted to pressures (micropascals) in order to integrate them over the entire broadband spectrum, resulting in broadband weighted source levels by hearing group that could be directly incorporated within the User Spreadsheet (i.e., to override the Spreadsheet’s more simple weighting factor adjustment). Using the User Spreadsheet’s ‘‘safe distance’’ methodology for mobile sources (described by Sivle et al., 2014) with the hearing group-specific weighted source levels, and inputs assuming spherical spreading propagation and source velocities and shot intervals specific to each of the three proposed surveys (Table 1), potential radial distances to auditory injury zones were then calculated for SELcum thresholds. Inputs to the User Spreadsheets in the form of estimated SLs are shown in Table 6. User Spreadsheets used by L– DEO to estimate distances to Level A harassment isopleths (SELcum) for the High frequency cetaceans (Lpk,flat: 202 dB; LE,HF,24h: 155 dB) 249.44 232.83 243.64 226.75 224.00 203.12 Phocid Pinnipeds (Underwater) (Lpk,flat: 218 dB; LE,HF,24h: 185 dB) 250.50 232.67 246.03 226.13 224.09 202.35 Otariid Pinnipeds (Underwater) (Lpk,flat: 232 dB; LE,HF,24h: 203 dB) 252.72 231.07 251.92 226.89 226.64 202.61 36-airgun array, 18-airgun array, and the single 40 in3 airgun for the South Island 2–D survey, North Island 2–D survey, and North Island 3–D survey are shown in Tables 3, 4, 7, 10, 11, and 12, of the IHA application (LGL 2017). Outputs from the User Spreadsheets in the form of estimated distances to Level A harassment isopleths for the South Island 2–D survey, North Island 2–D survey, and North Island 3–D survey are shown in Tables 7, 8 and 9, respectively. As described above, NMFS considers onset of PTS (Level A harassment) to have occurred when either one of the dual metrics (SELcum and Peak SPLflat) is exceeded (i.e., metric resulting in the largest isopleth). TABLE 7—MODELED RADIAL DISTANCES (m) TO ISOPLETHS CORRESPONDING TO LEVEL A HARASSMENT THRESHOLDS DURING PROPOSED NORTH ISLAND 2–D SURVEY Low frequency cetaceans (Lpk,flat: 219 dB; LE,LF,24h: 183 dB) Mid frequency cetaceans (Lpk,flat: 230 dB; LE,MF,24h: 185 dB 38.8 501.3 1.8 0.4 High frequency cetaceans (Lpk,flat: 202 dB; LE,HF,24h: 155 dB) 13.8 0 0.6 0 6,600 in3 airgun array (Peak SPLflat) .................................. 6,600 in3 airgun array (SELcum) .......................................... 40 in3 airgun (Peak SPLflat) ................................................. 40 in3 airgun (SELcum) ......................................................... 229.2 1.2 12.6 0 Phocid Pinnipeds (Underwater) (Lpk,flat: 218 dB; LE,HF,24h: 185 dB) 42.2 13.2 2.0 0 Otariid Pinnipeds (Underwater) (Lpk,flat: 232 dB; LE,HF,24h: 203 dB) 10.9 0 0.5 0 asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES TABLE 8—MODELED RADIAL DISTANCES (m) TO ISOPLETHS CORRESPONDING TO LEVEL A HARASSMENT THRESHOLDS DURING PROPOSED NORTH ISLAND 3–D SURVEY Low frequency cetaceans (Lpk,flat: 219 dB; LE,LF,24h: 183 dB) Mid frequency cetaceans (Lpk,flat: 230 dB; LE,MF,24h: 185 dB 23.3 73.1 1.8 0.4 11.2 0 0.6 0 3,300 in3 airgun array (Peak SPLflat) .................................. 3,300 in3 airgun array (SELcum) .......................................... 40 in3 airgun (Peak SPLflat) ................................................. 40 in3 airgun (SELcum) ......................................................... VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:29 Sep 26, 2017 Jkt 241001 PO 00000 High frequency cetaceans (Lpk,flat: 202 dB; LE,HF,24h: 155 dB) Frm 00024 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4703 E:\FR\FM\27SEN2.SGM 119.0 0.3 12.6 0 27SEN2 Phocid Pinnipeds (Underwater) (Lpk,flat: 218 dB; LE,HF,24h: 185 dB) 25.2 2.8 2.0 0 Otariid Pinnipeds (Underwater) (Lpk,flat: 232 dB; LE,HF,24h: 203 dB) 9.9 0 0.5 0 45139 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 186 / Wednesday, September 27, 2017 / Notices TABLE 9—MODELED RADIAL DISTANCES (m) TO ISOPLETHS CORRESPONDING TO LEVEL A HARASSMENT THRESHOLDS DURING PROPOSED SOUTH ISLAND 2–D SURVEY Low frequency cetaceans (Lpk,flat: 219 dB; LE,LF,24h: 183 dB) Mid frequency cetaceans (Lpk,flat: 230 dB; LE,MF,24h: 185 dB 38.8 376.0 1.8 0.3 13.8 0 0.6 0 6,600 in3 airgun array (Peak SPLflat) .................................. 6,600 in3 airgun array (SELcum) .......................................... 40 in3 airgun (Peak SPLflat) ................................................. 40 in3 airgun (SELcum) ......................................................... Note that because of some of the assumptions included in the methods used, isopleths produced may be overestimates to some degree, which will ultimately result in some degree of overestimate of Level A take. However, these tools offer the best way to predict appropriate isopleths when more sophisticated 3D modeling methods are not available, and NMFS continues to develop ways to quantitatively refine these tools and will qualitatively address the output where appropriate. For mobile sources, such as the proposed seismic survey, the User Spreadsheet predicts the closest distance at which a stationary animal would not incur PTS if the sound source traveled by the animal in a straight line at a constant speed. asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES Marine Mammal Occurrence In this section we provide the information about the presence, density, or group dynamics of marine mammals that will inform the take calculations. The best available scientific information was considered in conducting marine mammal exposure estimates (the basis for estimating take). No systematic aircraft- or ship-based surveys have been conducted for marine mammals in offshore waters of the South Pacific Ocean off New Zealand that can be used to estimate species densities that we are aware of, with the exception of Hector’s dolphin surveys that have occurred off the South Island. Densities for Hector’s dolphins off the South Island were estimated using averaged estimated summer densities from the most southern stratum of an East Coast South Island survey (Otago) and a West Coast South Island survey (Milford Sound), both in three offshore strata categories (0–4 nm, 4–12 nm, and 12–20 nm; MacKenzie and Clement 2014, 2016). The estimated density for Hector’s dolphins for the South Island 2–D survey was based on the proportion of that survey occurring in each offshore stratum. VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:29 Sep 26, 2017 Jkt 241001 For cetacean species other than Hector’s dolphin, densities were derived from data available for the Southern Ocean (Butterworth et al. 1994; Kasamatsu and Joyce 1995) (See Table 17 in the IHA application). Butterworth et al. (1994) provided comparable data for sei, fin, blue, and sperm whales extrapolated to latitudes 30–40° S., 40– 50° S., and 50–60° S. based on Japanese scouting vessel data from 1965/66– 1977/78 and 1978/79–1987/88. Densities were calculated for these species based on abundances and surface areas provided in Butterworth et al. (1994) using the mean density for the more recent surveys (1978/79–1987/88) and the 30–40° S. and 40–50° S. strata, because the proposed survey areas are between ∼37° S. and 50° S. Densities were corrected for mean trackline detection probability, g(0) availability bias, using mean g(0) values provided for these species during NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center ship-based surveys between 1991–2014 (Barlow 2016). Data for the humpback whale was also presented in Butterworth et al. (1994), but, based on the best available information, it was determined that the density values presented for humpback whales in Butterworth et al. (1994) were likely lower than would be expected in the proposed survey areas, thus the density for humpback whales was ultimately calculated in the same way as for the baleen whales for which density data was unavailable. Kasamatsu and Joyce (1995) provided data for beaked whales, killer whales, long-finned pilot whales, and Hourglass dolphins, based on surveys conducted as part of the International Whaling Commission/ International Decade of Cetacean Research–Southern Hemisphere Minke Whale Assessment, started in 1978/79, and the Japanese sightings survey program started in 1976/77. Densities for these species were calculated based on abundances and surface areas provided in Kasamatsu and Joyce (1995) for Antarctic Areas V EMN and VI WM, PO 00000 High frequency cetaceans (Lpk,flat: 202 dB; LE,HF,24h: 155 dB) Frm 00025 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4703 229.2 0.9 12.6 0 Phocid Pinnipeds (Underwater) (Lpk,flat: 218 dB; LE,HF,24h: 185 dB) 42.2 9.9 2.0 0 Otariid Pinnipeds (Underwater) (Lpk,flat: 232 dB; LE,HF,24h: 203 dB) 10.9 0 0.5 0 which represent the two areas reported in Kasamatsu and Joyce (1995) that are nearest to the proposed South Island survey area. Densities were corrected for availability bias using mean g(0) values provided by Kasamatsu and Joyce (1995) for beaked whales, killer whales, and long-fined pilot whales, and provided by Barlow (2016) for the Hourglass dolphin using the mean g(0) calculated for unidentified dolphins during NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center ship-based surveys between 1991–2014. For the remaining cetacean species, the relative abundances of individual species expected to occur in the survey areas were estimated within species groups. The relative abundances of these species were estimated based on several factors, including information on marine mammal observations from areas near the proposed survey areas (e.g., monitoring reports from previous IHAs (NMFS, 2015); datasets of opportunistic sightings (Torres et al., 2014); and analyses of observer data from other marine geophysical surveys conducted in New Zealand waters (Blue Planet, 2016)), information on latitudinal ranges and group sizes of marine mammals in New Zealand waters (e.g., Jefferson et al., 2015; NABIS, 2017; Perrin et al., 2009), and other information on marine mammals in and near the proposed survey areas (e.g., data on marine mammal bycatch in New Zealand fisheries (Berkenbush et al., 2013), data on marine mammal strandings (New Zealand Marine Mammal Strandings and Sightings Database); and input from subject matter experts (pers. comm., E. Slooten, Univ. of Otago, to H. Goldstein, NMFS, April 11, 2015)). For each species group (i.e., mysticetes), densities of species for which data were available were averaged to get a mean density for the group (e.g., densities of fin, sei, and blue whale were averaged to get a mean density for mysticetes). Relative abundances of those species were then averaged to get a mean relative E:\FR\FM\27SEN2.SGM 27SEN2 45140 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 186 / Wednesday, September 27, 2017 / Notices abundances (e.g., relative abundance of fin, sei, and blue whale were averaged to get a mean relative abundance for mysticetes). For the species for which density data was unavailable, their relative abundance score was multiplied by the mean density of their respective species group (i.e., relative abundance of minke whale was multiplied by mean density for mysticetes). The product was then divided by the mean relative abundance of the species group to come up with a density estimate. The fin, sei, and blue whale densities calculated from Butterworth et al. (1994) were proportionally averaged and used to estimate the densities of the remaining mysticetes. The sperm whale density calculated from Butterworth et al. (1994) was used to estimate the density of the other Physeteridae species, the pygmy sperm whale. The Hourglass dolphin, killer whale, and long-finned pilot whale densities calculated from Kasamatsu and Joyce (1995) were proportionally averaged and used to estimate the densities of the other Delphinidae for which density data was not available. For beaked whales, the beaked whale density calculated from Kasamatsu and Joyce (1995) was proportionally allocated according to each beaked whale species’ estimated relative abundance value. We are not aware of any information regarding at-sea densities of pinnipeds off New Zealand. As such, a surrogate species (northern fur seal) was used to estimate offshore pinniped densities for the proposed surveys. The at-sea density of northern fur seals reported in Bonnell et al. (1992), based on systematic aerial surveys conducted in 1989–1990 in offshore areas off the west coast of the U.S., was used to estimate the numbers of pinnipeds that might be present off New Zealand. The northern fur seal density reported in Bonnell et al. (1992) was used as the New Zealand fur seal density. Densities for the other three pinniped species expected to occur in the proposed survey areas were proportionally allocated relative to the value of the density of the northern fur seal, in accordance to the estimated relative abundance value of each of the other pinniped species. NMFS acknowledges there is some uncertainty related to the estimated density data and the assumptions used in their calculations. Given the lack of available data on marine mammal density in the proposed survey areas, the approach used is based on the best available data. In recognition of the uncertainties in the density data, we have proposed an additional 25 percent contingency in take estimates to account for the fact that density estimates used to estimate take may be underestimates of actual densities of marine mammals in the survey area. Take Calculation and Estimation Here we describe how the information provided above is brought together to produce a quantitative take estimate. In order to estimate the number of marine mammals predicted to be exposed to sound levels that would result in Level A harassment or Level B harassment, radial distances from the airgun array to predicted isopleths corresponding to the Level A harassment and Level B harassment thresholds are calculated, as described above. Those radial distances are then used to calculate the area(s) around the airgun array predicted to be ensonified to sound levels that exceed the Level A harassment and Level B harassment thresholds. The area estimated to be ensonified in a single day of the survey is then calculated (Table 10), based on the areas predicted to be ensonified around the array and the estimated trackline distance traveled per day. This number is then multiplied by the number of survey days (i.e., 35 days for the North Island 2–D survey, 33 days for the North Island 3–D survey, and 22 days for the South Island 2–D survey). The product is then multiplied by 1.5 to account for an additional 25 percent contingency for potential additional seismic operations (associated with turns, airgun testing, and repeat coverage of any areas where initial data quality is sub-standard, as proposed by L–DEO) and an additional 25 percent contingency in acknowledgement of uncertainties in available density estimates, as described above. This results in an estimate of the total areas (km2) expected to be ensonified to the Level A harassment and Level B harassment thresholds. For purposes of Level B take calculations, areas estimated to be ensonified to Level A harassment thresholds are subtracted from total areas estimated to be ensonified to Level B harassment thresholds in order to avoid double counting the animals taken (i.e., if an animal is taken by Level A harassment, it is not also counted as taken by Level B harassment). The marine mammals predicted to occur within these respective areas, based on estimated densities, are assumed to be incidentally taken. TABLE 10—AREAS (km2) ESTIMATED TO BE ENSONIFIED TO LEVEL A AND LEVEL B HARASSMENT THRESHOLDS PER DAY FOR THREE PROPOSED SEISMIC SURVEYS OFF NEW ZEALAND Level B harassment threshold Survey All marine mammals North Island 2–D Survey ......................... North Island 3–D Survey ......................... South Island 2–D Survey ......................... 1 Level 1,931.3 1,067.3 1,913.4 Level A harassment threshold 1 Low frequency cetaceans Mid frequency cetaceans 144.5 29.1 111.1 High frequency cetaceans 3.9 4.5 4.1 65.8 47.5 86.3 Otariid Pinnipeds 3.1 3.9 3.2 Phocid Pinnipeds 12.0 10.0 12.4 A ensonified areas are estimated based on the greater of the distances calculated to Level A isopleths using dual criteria (SELcum and peakSPL). asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES Note: Estimated areas shown for single day do not include additional 50 percent contingency. Factors including water depth, array configuration, and proportion of each survey occurring within territorial seas (versus within the EEZ) were also accounted for in estimates of ensonified areas. This was accomplished by selecting track lines for a single day (for VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:29 Sep 26, 2017 Jkt 241001 each of the three proposed surveys) that were representative of the entire proposed survey(s) and using those representative track lines to calculate daily ensonified areas. Daily track line distance was selected depending on array configuration (i.e., 160 km per day PO 00000 Frm 00026 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4703 for the proposed 2–D surveys, 200 km per day for the proposed 3–D survey). Representative daily track lines were chosen to reflect the proportion of water depths (i.e., less than 100 m, 100–1,000 m, and greater than 1,000 m) expected to occur for that entire survey (Table 5) E:\FR\FM\27SEN2.SGM 27SEN2 45141 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 186 / Wednesday, September 27, 2017 / Notices as distances to isoploths corresponding to harassment vary depending on water depth (Table 5), and water depths vary considerably within the planned survey areas (Table 1). Representative track lines were also selected to reflect the amount of effort in the New Zealand territorial sea (versus within the New Zealand EEZ), for each of the three surveys, as NMFS does not authorize the incidental take of marine mammals within the New Zealand territorial sea. For example, for the proposed North Island 2–D survey approximately 9 percent of survey effort would occur in the New Zealand territorial sea (Table 1). Thus, representative track lines that were chosen also had approximately 9 percent of survey effort in territorial seas; the resultant ensonified areas within territorial seas were excluded from take calculations. Estimated takes for all marine mammal species are shown in Tables 11, 12, 13 and 14. As described above, we propose to authorize the incidental takes that are expected to occur as a result of the proposed surveys within the New Zealand EEZ but outside of the New Zealand territorial sea. TABLE 11—NUMBERS OF POTENTIAL INCIDENTAL TAKE OF MARINE MAMMALS PROPOSED FOR AUTHORIZATION DURING L– DEO’S PROPOSED NORTH ISLAND 2–D SEISMIC SURVEY OFF NEW ZEALAND Density (#/1,000 km2) Species Southern right whale ............................................................ Pygmy right whale ............................................................... Humpback whale ................................................................. Bryde’s whale ....................................................................... Common minke whale ......................................................... Antarctic minke whale .......................................................... Sei whale ............................................................................. Fin whale .............................................................................. Blue whale ........................................................................... Sperm whale ........................................................................ Cuvier’s beaked whale ......................................................... Arnoux’s beaked whale ........................................................ Southern bottlenose whale .................................................. Shepard’s beaked whale ..................................................... Hector’s beaked whale ........................................................ True’s beaked whale ............................................................ Gray’s beaked whale ........................................................... Andrew’s beaked whale ....................................................... Strap-toothed whale ............................................................. Blainville’s beaked whale ..................................................... Spade-toothed whale ........................................................... Bottlenose dolphin ............................................................... Short-beaked common dolphin ............................................ Dusky dolphin ...................................................................... Southern right-whale dolphin ............................................... Risso’s dolphin ..................................................................... False killer whale ................................................................. Killer whale ........................................................................... Long-finned pilot whale ........................................................ Short-finned pilot whale ....................................................... Pygmy sperm whale ............................................................ Hourglass dolphin ................................................................ Hector’s dolphin ................................................................... Spectacled porpoise ............................................................ New Zealand fur seal ........................................................... New Zealand sea lion .......................................................... Southern elephant seal ........................................................ Leopard seal ........................................................................ Proposed Level A takes 0.24 0.10 0.24 0.14 0.14 0.14 0.14 0.25 0.04 2.89 2.62 2.62 1.74 1.74 1.74 0.87 3.49 1.74 2.62 0.87 0.87 5.12 10.25 5.12 3.07 2.05 3.07 1.91 8.28 4.10 1.74 4.16 0 0 22.50 0 4.50 2.25 Total proposed Level A and Level B takes Proposed Level B takes 2 1 2 1 1 1 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 2 1 1 0 1 0 1 1 3 12 0 0 3 0 2 1 23 10 23 14 14 14 14 24 4 293 265 265 177 177 177 89 353 177 265 89 89 519 1038 519 312 208 312 194 838 415 172 410 0 0 2279 0 454 227 25 11 25 15 15 15 15 26 4 293 221 221 148 148 148 74 354 148 221 74 74 520 1040 520 313 208 313 194 839 416 175 418 0 0 2283 0 456 228 Total proposed Level A and Level B takes as a percentage of population 0.18 N.A. 0.05 0.03 <0.01 <0.01 0.13 0.14 0.11 0.82 0.04 0.04 0.02 0.02 0.02 N.A. 0.05 0.02 0.04 0.01 0.01 N.A. N.A. 3.61 N.A. N.A. N.A. 0.20 0.35 N.A. N.A. 0.12 0 0 0.50 0 0.03 0.04 asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES TABLE 12—NUMBERS OF POTENTIAL INCIDENTAL TAKE OF MARINE MAMMALS PROPOSED FOR AUTHORIZATION DURING L– DEO’S PROPOSED NORTH ISLAND 3–D SEISMIC SURVEY OFF NEW ZEALAND Density (#/1,000 km2) Species Southern right whale ............................................................ Pygmy right whale ............................................................... Humpback whale ................................................................. VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:29 Sep 26, 2017 Jkt 241001 PO 00000 Frm 00027 Proposed Level A takes 0.24 0.10 0.24 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4703 Total proposed Level A and Level B takes Proposed Level B takes 0 0 0 E:\FR\FM\27SEN2.SGM 13 5 13 27SEN2 13 5 13 Total proposed Level A and Level B takes as a percentage of population 0.09 N.A. 0.03 45142 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 186 / Wednesday, September 27, 2017 / Notices TABLE 12—NUMBERS OF POTENTIAL INCIDENTAL TAKE OF MARINE MAMMALS PROPOSED FOR AUTHORIZATION DURING L– DEO’S PROPOSED NORTH ISLAND 3–D SEISMIC SURVEY OFF NEW ZEALAND—Continued Density (#/1,000 km2) Species Bryde’s whale ....................................................................... Common minke whale ......................................................... Antarctic minke whale .......................................................... Sei whale ............................................................................. Fin whale .............................................................................. Blue whale ........................................................................... Sperm whale ........................................................................ Cuvier’s beaked whale ......................................................... Arnoux’s beaked whale ........................................................ Southern bottlenose whale .................................................. Shepard’s beaked whale ..................................................... Hector’s beaked whale ........................................................ True’s beaked whale ............................................................ Gray’s beaked whale ........................................................... Andrew’s beaked whale ....................................................... Strap-toothed whale ............................................................. Blainville’s beaked whale ..................................................... Spade-toothed whale ........................................................... Bottlenose dolphin ............................................................... Short-beaked common dolphin ............................................ Dusky dolphin ...................................................................... Southern right-whale dolphin ............................................... Risso’s dolphin ..................................................................... False killer whale ................................................................. Killer whale ........................................................................... Long-finned pilot whale ........................................................ Short-finned pilot whale ....................................................... Pygmy sperm whale ............................................................ Hourglass dolphin ................................................................ Hector’s dolphin ................................................................... Spectacled porpoise ............................................................ New Zealand fur seal ........................................................... New Zealand sea lion .......................................................... Southern elephant seal ........................................................ Leopard seal ........................................................................ Proposed Level A takes 0.14 0.14 0.14 0.14 0.25 0.04 2.89 2.62 2.62 1.74 1.74 1.74 0.87 3.49 1.74 2.62 0.87 0.87 5.12 10.25 5.12 3.07 2.05 3.07 1.91 8.28 4.10 1.74 4.16 0 0 22.50 0 4.50 2.25 Proposed Level B takes 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 2 1 1 0 1 0 2 1 3 8 0 0 4 0 2 1 8 8 8 8 13 3 153 138 138 92 92 92 46 184 92 138 46 46 270 540 270 162 108 162 101 436 216 89 212 0 0 1186 0 236 118 Total proposed Level A and Level B takes 8 8 8 8 13 3 154 138 138 92 92 92 46 185 92 138 46 46 271 540 271 163 108 163 101 438 217 92 220 0 0 1190 0 238 119 Total proposed Level A and Level B takes as a percentage of population 0.01 <0.01 <0.01 0.07 0.07 0.05 0.43 0.02 0.02 0.01 0.01 0.01 N.A. 0.03 0.01 0.02 0.01 0.01 N.A. N.A. 1.88 N.A. N.A. N.A. 0.11 0.18 N.A. N.A. 0.12 0 0 0.50 0 0.03 0.04 TABLE 13—NUMBERS OF POTENTIAL INCIDENTAL TAKE OF MARINE MAMMALS PROPOSED FOR AUTHORIZATION DURING L– DEO’S PROPOSED SOUTH ISLAND 2–D SEISMIC SURVEY OFF NEW ZEALAND Density (#/1,000 km2) asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES Species Southern right whale ............................................................ Pygmy right whale ............................................................... Humpback whale ................................................................. Bryde’s whale ....................................................................... Common minke whale ......................................................... Antarctic minke whale .......................................................... Sei whale ............................................................................. Fin whale .............................................................................. Blue whale ........................................................................... Sperm whale ........................................................................ Cuvier’s beaked whale ......................................................... Arnoux’s beaked whale ........................................................ Southern bottlenose whale .................................................. Shepard’s beaked whale ..................................................... Hector’s beaked whale ........................................................ True’s beaked whale ............................................................ Gray’s beaked whale ........................................................... Andrew’s beaked whale ....................................................... VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:29 Sep 26, 2017 Jkt 241001 PO 00000 Frm 00028 Proposed Level A takes 0.24 0.10 0.19 0.00 0.14 0.14 0.14 0.25 0.04 2.89 2.62 2.62 1.74 1.74 1.74 0.87 3.49 1.74 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4703 Proposed Level B takes 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 E:\FR\FM\27SEN2.SGM 15 6 12 0 9 9 9 15 3 183 165 165 110 110 110 55 220 110 27SEN2 Total proposed Level A and Level B takes 16 6 13 0 9 9 9 16 3 183 165 165 110 110 110 55 220 110 Total proposed Level A and Level B takes as a percentage of population 0.11 N.A. 0.02 0 <0.01 <0.01 0.08 0.09 0.08 0.51 0.02 0.02 0.02 0.02 0.02 N.A. 0.03 0.02 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 186 / Wednesday, September 27, 2017 / Notices 45143 TABLE 13—NUMBERS OF POTENTIAL INCIDENTAL TAKE OF MARINE MAMMALS PROPOSED FOR AUTHORIZATION DURING L– DEO’S PROPOSED SOUTH ISLAND 2–D SEISMIC SURVEY OFF NEW ZEALAND—Continued Density (#/1,000 km2) Species Strap-toothed whale ............................................................. Blainville’s beaked whale ..................................................... Spade-toothed whale ........................................................... Bottlenose dolphin ............................................................... Short-beaked common dolphin ............................................ Dusky dolphin ...................................................................... Southern right-whale dolphin ............................................... Risso’s dolphin ..................................................................... False killer whale ................................................................. Killer whale ........................................................................... Long-finned pilot whale ........................................................ Short-finned pilot whale ....................................................... Pygmy sperm whale ............................................................ Hourglass dolphin ................................................................ Hector’s dolphin ................................................................... Spectacled porpoise ............................................................ New Zealand fur seal ........................................................... New Zealand sea lion .......................................................... Southern elephant seal ........................................................ Leopard seal ........................................................................ Proposed Level A takes 2.62 0.87 0.87 4.78 4.78 7.65 2.87 1.91 2.87 1.91 8.28 1.91 1.74 4.16 0.04 1.91 22.50 9.00 4.50 2.25 Proposed Level B takes 0 0 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 4 10 0 5 2 1 2 1 165 55 55 302 302 483 181 121 181 121 522 121 106 253 3 117 1419 568 283 142 Total proposed Level A and Level B takes 165 55 55 303 303 484 181 121 181 121 523 121 110 263 3 122 1421 569 285 143 Total proposed Level A and Level B takes as a percentage of population 0.02 0.01 0.01 N.A. N.A. 3.36 N.A. N.A. N.A. 0.13 0.22 N.A. N.A. 0.15 0.01 N.A. 0.59 4.80 0.04 0.05 TABLE 14—TOTAL NUMBERS OF POTENTIAL INCIDENTAL TAKE OF MARINE MAMMALS PROPOSED FOR AUTHORIZATION DURING L–DEO’S PROPOSED NORTH ISLAND 3–D SURVEY, NORTH ISLAND 2–D SURVEY, AND SOUTH ISLAND 3–D SURVEYS OF THE R/V LANGSETH OFF NEW ZEALAND Density (#/1,000 km2) asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES Species Southern right whale ............................................................ Pygmy right whale ............................................................... Humpback whale ................................................................. Bryde’s whale ....................................................................... Common minke whale ......................................................... Antarctic minke whale .......................................................... Sei whale ............................................................................. Fin whale .............................................................................. Blue whale ........................................................................... Sperm whale ........................................................................ Cuvier’s beaked whale ......................................................... Arnoux’s beaked whale ........................................................ Southern bottlenose whale .................................................. Shepard’s beaked whale ..................................................... Hector’s beaked whale ........................................................ True’s beaked whale ............................................................ Gray’s beaked whale ........................................................... Andrew’s beaked whale ....................................................... Strap-toothed whale ............................................................. Blainville’s beaked whale ..................................................... Spade-toothed whale ........................................................... Bottlenose dolphin ............................................................... Short-beaked common dolphin ............................................ Dusky dolphin ...................................................................... Southern right-whale dolphin ............................................... Risso’s dolphin ..................................................................... False killer whale ................................................................. Killer whale ........................................................................... Long-finned pilot whale ........................................................ Short-finned pilot whale ....................................................... Pygmy sperm whale ............................................................ Hourglass dolphin ................................................................ VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:29 Sep 26, 2017 Jkt 241001 PO 00000 Frm 00029 Proposed Level A takes 0.24 0.10 0.19 0.00 0.14 0.14 0.14 0.25 0.04 2.89 2.62 2.62 1.74 1.74 1.74 0.87 3.49 1.74 2.62 0.87 0.87 4.78 4.78 7.65 2.87 1.91 2.87 1.91 8.28 1.91 1.74 4.16 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4703 Proposed Level B takes 3 1 3 1 1 1 1 3 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 3 5 3 2 0 2 0 4 2 12 30 E:\FR\FM\27SEN2.SGM 51 21 48 22 31 31 31 52 10 629 568 568 379 379 379 190 757 379 568 190 190 1091 1880 1272 655 437 655 416 1796 752 367 875 27SEN2 Total proposed Level A and Level B takes 54 22 51 23 32 32 32 55 10 630 568 568 379 379 379 190 759 379 568 190 190 1094 1885 1275 657 437 657 416 1800 754 379 905 Total proposed Level A and Level B takes as a percentage of population 0.38 N.A. 0.1 0.04 N.A. N.A. 0.28 0.3 0.24 1.76 0.08 0.08 0.05 0.05 0.05 N.A. 0.11 0.05 0.08 0.03 0.03 N.A. N.A. 8.85 N.A. N.A. N.A. 0.44 0.75 N.A. N.A. 0.39 45144 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 186 / Wednesday, September 27, 2017 / Notices TABLE 14—TOTAL NUMBERS OF POTENTIAL INCIDENTAL TAKE OF MARINE MAMMALS PROPOSED FOR AUTHORIZATION DURING L–DEO’S PROPOSED NORTH ISLAND 3–D SURVEY, NORTH ISLAND 2–D SURVEY, AND SOUTH ISLAND 3–D SURVEYS OF THE R/V LANGSETH OFF NEW ZEALAND—Continued Density (#/1,000 km2) Species asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES Hector’s dolphin ................................................................... Spectacled porpoise ............................................................ New Zealand fur seal ........................................................... New Zealand sea lion .......................................................... Southern elephant seal ........................................................ Leopard seal ........................................................................ It should be noted that the proposed take numbers shown in Tables 11, 12, 13 and 14 are expected to be conservative for several reasons. First, in the calculations of estimated take, 50 percent has been added in the form of operational survey days (equivalent to adding 50 percent to the proposed line km to be surveyed) to account for the possibility of additional seismic operations associated with airgun testing and repeat coverage of any areas where initial data quality is substandard, and in recognition of the uncertainties in the density estimates used to estimate take as described above. Additionally, marine mammals would be expected to move away from a loud sound source that represents an aversive stimulus, such as an airgun array, potentially reducing the number of Level A takes. However, the extent to which marine mammals would move away from the sound source is difficult to quantify and is therefore not accounted for in the take estimates shown in 11, 12, 13 and 14. For some marine mammal species, we propose to authorize a different number of incidental takes than the number of incidental takes requested by L–DEO (see Tables 18, 19 and 20 in the IHA application for requested take numbers). For instance, for several species, L–DEO increased the take request from the calculated take number to 1 percent of the estimated population size. We do not believe it is likely that 1 percent of the estimated population size of those species will be taken by L–DEO’s proposed survey, therefore we do not propose to authorize the take numbers requested by L–DEO in their IHA application (LGL, 2017). However, in recognition of the uncertainties in the density estimates used to estimate take as described above, we believe it is reasonable to assume that actual takes may exceed numbers of takes calculated based on available density estimates; VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:29 Sep 26, 2017 Jkt 241001 Proposed Level A takes 0.04 1.91 22.50 9.00 4.50 2.25 Proposed Level B takes 0 5 9 1 6 3 therefore, we have increased take estimates for all marine mammal species by an additional 25 percent, to account for the fact that density estimates used to estimate take may be underestimates of actual densities of marine mammals in the survey area. Additionally, L–DEO requested authorization for 10 takes of Hector’s dolphins during the North Island 2–D survey (LGL, 2017). However, we do not propose to authorize any takes of Hector’s dolphins during North Island surveys. We believe the likelihood of the proposed North Island 2–D survey encountering a Hector’s dolphin is extremely low. As described above, the North Island subpopulation of Hector’s dolphin (aka Maui dolphin) is very unlikely to be encountered during either proposed North Island survey due to the very low estimated abundance of the subpopulation and due to the geographic isolation of the subpopulation (currently limited to the west coast of the North Island). Additionally, while it would be extremely unlikely for the proposed surveys to encounter a Hector’s dolphin during North Island surveys, any Hector’s dolphin encountered in waters off the North Island would possibly be a member of the Maui dolphin subspecies. As described above, the Maui dolphin is facing a high risk of extinction (Manning and Grantz, 2016) and has a population size estimated at just 55–63 individuals (Hamner et al. 2014; Baker et al. 2016). Therefore, we seek to avoid the remote possibility of exposure of Maui dolphins to airgun sounds. As such, we do not propose to authorize any takes of Hector’s dolphins during L–DEO’s proposed North Island surveys. Additionally, we propose a mitigation measure that would require shutdown of the airgun array upon observation of a Hector’s dolphin at any distance during both proposed North Island surveys (described below in PO 00000 Frm 00030 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4703 Total proposed Level A and Level B takes 3 117 4884 568 973 487 3 122 4893 569 979 490 Total proposed Level A and Level B takes as a percentage of population 0.01 N.A. 1.59 0.38 N.A. 0.1 Proposed Mitigation), which further minimizes the potential for any take of Hector’s dolphins during the proposed North Island surveys. Proposed Mitigation In order to issue an IHA 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 (latter not applicable for this action). NMFS regulations require applicants for incidental take authorizations to include information about the availability and feasibility (economic and technological) of equipment, methods, and manner of conducting such activity or other means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact upon the affected species or stocks and their habitat (50 CFR 216.104(a)(11)). In evaluating how mitigation may or may not be appropriate to ensure the least practicable adverse impact on species or stocks and their habitat, as well as subsistence uses where applicable, we carefully consider two primary factors: (1) the manner in which, and the degree to which, the successful implementation of the measure(s) is expected to reduce impacts to marine mammals, marine mammal species or stocks, and their habitat. This considers the nature of the potential adverse impact being mitigated (likelihood, scope, range). It further considers the likelihood that the measure will be effective if implemented (probability of accomplishing the mitigating result if implemented as planned) the likelihood E:\FR\FM\27SEN2.SGM 27SEN2 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 186 / Wednesday, September 27, 2017 / Notices asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES of effective implementation (probability implemented as planned), and (2) the practicability of the measures for applicant implementation, which may consider such things as cost, impact on operations, and, in the case of a military readiness activity, personnel safety, practicality of implementation, and impact on the effectiveness of the military readiness activity. L–DEO has reviewed mitigation measures employed during seismic research surveys authorized by NMFS under previous incidental harassment authorizations, as well as recommended best practices in Richardson et al. (1995), Pierson et al. (1998), Weir and Dolman (2007), Nowacek et al. (2013), Wright (2014), and Wright and Cosentino (2015), and has incorporated a suite of proposed mitigation measures into their project description based on the above sources. To reduce the potential for disturbance from acoustic stimuli associated with the activities, L–DEO has proposed to implement the following mitigation measures for marine mammals: (1) Vessel-based visual mitigation monitoring; (2) Vessel-based passive acoustic monitoring; (3) Establishment of an exclusion zone; (4) Power down procedures; (5) Shutdown procedures; (6) Ramp-up procedures; and (7) Vessel strike avoidance measures. In addition to the mitigation measures proposed by L–DEO, NMFS has proposed the following additional measure: Shutdown of the acoustic source is required upon observation of a beaked whale or kogia spp., a large whale with calf, or a Hector’s dolphin (during North Island surveys only) at any distance. Vessel-Based Visual Mitigation Monitoring Protected Species Observer (PSO) observations would take place during all daytime airgun operations and nighttime start ups (if applicable) of the airguns. Airgun operations would be suspended when marine mammals are observed within, or about to enter, designated Exclusion Zones (as described below). PSOs would also watch for marine mammals near the vessel for at least 30 minutes prior to the planned start of airgun operations. PSOs would monitor the entire extent of the modeled Level B harassment zone (Table 4) (or, as far as they are able to see, if they cannot see to the extent of the estimated Level B harassment zone). VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:29 Sep 26, 2017 Jkt 241001 Observations would also be made during daytime periods when the Langseth is underway without seismic operations, such as during transits, to allow for comparison of sighting rates and behavior with and without airgun operations and between acquisition periods. During seismic operations, a minimum of four visual PSOs would be based aboard the Langseth. PSOs would be appointed by L–DEO, with NMFS’ approval. During the majority of seismic operations, two PSOs would monitor for marine mammals around the seismic vessel. Use of two simultaneous observers would increase the effectiveness of detecting marine mammals around the source vessel. However, during meal times, only one PSO may be on duty. PSO(s) would be on duty in shifts of duration no longer than 4 hours. Other crew would also be instructed to assist in detecting marine mammals and in implementing mitigation requirements (if practical). Before the start of the seismic survey, the crew would be given additional instruction in detecting marine mammals and implementing mitigation requirements. The Langseth is a suitable platform for marine mammal observations. When stationed on the observation platform, PSOs would have a good view around the entire vessel. During daytime, the PSO(s) would scan the area around the vessel systematically with reticle binoculars (e.g., 7×50 Fujinon), Big-eye binoculars (25×150), and with the naked eye. The PSOs must have no tasks other than to conduct observational effort, record observational data, and communicate with and instruct relevant vessel crew with regard to the presence of marine mammals and mitigation requirements. PSO resumes would be provided to NMFS for approval. At least two PSOs must have a minimum of 90 days at-sea experience working as PSOs during a high energy seismic survey, with no more than eighteen months elapsed since the conclusion of the atsea experience. One ‘‘experienced’’ visual PSO would be designated as the lead for the entire protected species observation team. The lead would coordinate duty schedules and roles for the PSO team and serve as primary point of contact for the vessel operator. The lead PSO would devise the duty schedule such that ‘‘experienced’’ PSOs are on duty with those PSOs with appropriate training but who have not yet gained relevant experience, to the maximum extent practicable. The PSOs must have successfully completed relevant training, including completion of all required coursework PO 00000 Frm 00031 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4703 45145 and passing a written and/or oral examination developed for the training program, and must have successfully attained a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university with a major in one of the natural sciences and a minimum of 30 semester hours or equivalent in the biological sciences and at least one undergraduate course in math or statistics. The educational requirements may be waived if the PSO has acquired the relevant skills through alternate training, including (1) secondary education and/or experience comparable to PSO duties; (2) previous work experience conducting academic, commercial, or government-sponsored marine mammal surveys; or (3) previous work experience as a PSO. The PSO should demonstrate good standing and consistently good performance of PSO duties. In summary, a typical daytime cruise would have scheduled two observers (visual) on duty from the observation platform, and an acoustic observer on the passive acoustic monitoring system. Vessel-Based Passive Acoustic Mitigation Monitoring Passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) would take place to complement the visual monitoring program. Visual monitoring typically is not effective during periods of poor visibility or at night, and even with good visibility, is unable to detect marine mammals when they are below the surface or beyond visual range. Acoustic monitoring can be used in addition to visual observations to improve detection, identification, and localization of cetaceans. The acoustic monitoring would serve to alert visual observers (if on duty) when vocalizing cetaceans are detected. It is only useful when marine mammals vocalize, but it can be effective either by day or by night and does not depend on good visibility. It would be monitored in real time so that visual observers can be alerted when marine mammals are detected acoustically. The PAM system consists of hardware (i.e., hydrophones) and software. The ‘‘wet end’’ of the system consists of a towed hydrophone array that is connected to the vessel by a tow cable. A deck cable would connect the tow cable to the electronics unit on board where the acoustic station, signal conditioning, and processing system would be located. The acoustic signals received by the hydrophones are amplified, digitized, and then processed by the software. At least one acoustic PSO (in addition to the four visual PSOs) would be on board. The towed hydrophones would E:\FR\FM\27SEN2.SGM 27SEN2 45146 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 186 / Wednesday, September 27, 2017 / Notices occur when a marine mammal entered or appeared likely to enter the zone(s) within which auditory injury is expected to occur based on modeling) (Tables 7, 8, 9). However, we instead propose the 500 m EZ as described above. The 500 m EZ is intended to be precautionary in the sense that it would be expected to contain sound exceeding peak pressure injury criteria for all cetacean hearing groups, while also providing a consistent, reasonably observable zone within which PSOs would typically be able to conduct effective observational effort. Additionally, a 500-m EZ is expected to minimize the likelihood that marine mammals will be exposed to levels likely to result in more severe behavioral responses. Although significantly greater distances may be observed from an elevated platform under good conditions, we believe that 500 m is likely regularly attainable for PSOs using the naked eye during typical conditions. An appropriate EZ based on cumulative sound exposure level (SELcum) criteria would be dependent on the animal’s applied hearing range and Exclusion Zone and Buffer Zone how that overlaps with the frequencies An exclusion zone (EZ) is a defined produced by the sound source of area within which occurrence of a interest (i.e., via marine mammal marine mammal triggers mitigation auditory weighting functions) (NMFS, action intended to reduce the potential 2016), and may be larger in some cases for certain outcomes, e.g., auditory than the zones calculated on the basis injury, disruption of critical behaviors. of the peak pressure thresholds (and The PSOs would establish a minimum larger than 500 m) depending on the EZ with a 500 m radius for the 36 airgun species in question and the array and the 18 airgun array. The 500 characteristics of the specific airgun m EZ would be based on radial distance array. In particular, the EZ radii would from any element of the airgun array be larger for low-frequency cetaceans, (rather than being based on the center of because their most susceptible hearing the array or around the vessel itself). range overlaps the low frequencies With certain exceptions (described produced by airguns, but the zones below), if a marine mammal appears would remain very small for midwithin, enters, or appears on a course to frequency cetaceans (i.e., including the enter this zone, the acoustic source ‘‘small delphinoids’’ described below), would be powered down (see Power whose range of best hearing largely does Down Procedures below). In addition to not overlap with frequencies produced the 500 m EZ for the full arrays, a 100 by airguns. m exclusion zone would be established Use of monitoring and shutdown or for the single 40 in 3 airgun. With certain power-down measures within defined exceptions (described below), if a exclusion zone distances is inherently marine mammal appears within, enters, an essentially instantaneous or appears on a course to enter this zone proposition—a rule or set of rules that the acoustic source would be shut down requires mitigation action upon entirely (see Shutdown Procedures detection of an animal. This indicates below). Additionally, power down of that definition of an exclusion zone on the basis of cumulative sound exposure the full arrays would last no more than 30 minutes maximum at any given time; level thresholds, which require that an animal accumulate some level of sound thus the arrays would be shut down energy exposure over some period of entirely if, after 30 minutes of the array being powered down, a marine mammal time (e.g., 24 hours), has questionable relevance as a standard protocol. A PSO remains inside the 500 m EZ. In their IHA application, L–DEO aboard a mobile source will typically proposed to establish EZs based upon have no ability to monitor an animal’s modeled radial distances to auditory position relative to the acoustic source injury zones (e.g., power down would over relevant time periods for purposes asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES be monitored 24 hours per day (either by the acoustic PSO or by a visual PSO trained in the PAM system if the acoustic PSO is on break) while at the seismic survey area during airgun operations, and during most periods when the Langseth is underway while the airguns are not operating. However, PAM may not be possible if damage occurs to the array or back-up systems during operations. One PSO would monitor the acoustic detection system at any one time, in shifts no longer than six hours, by listening to the signals via headphones and/or speakers and watching the real-time spectrographic display for frequency ranges produced by cetaceans. When a vocalization is detected, while visual observations are in progress, the acoustic PSO would contact the visual PSOs immediately, to alert them to the presence of marine mammals (if they have not already been detected visually), in order to facilitate a power down or shut down, if required. The information regarding the marine mammal acoustic detection would be entered into a database. VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:29 Sep 26, 2017 Jkt 241001 PO 00000 Frm 00032 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4703 of understanding whether auditory injury is likely to occur on the basis of cumulative sound exposure and, therefore, whether action should be taken to avoid such potential. Cumulative SEL thresholds are more relevant for purposes of modeling the potential for auditory injury than they are for dictating real-time mitigation, though they can be informative (especially in a relative sense). We recognize the importance of the accumulation of sound energy to an understanding of the potential for auditory injury and that it is likely that, at least for low-frequency cetaceans, some potential auditory injury is likely impossible to mitigate and should be considered for authorization. In summary, our intent in prescribing a standard exclusion zone distance is to (1) encompass zones for most species within which auditory injury could occur on the basis of instantaneous exposure; (2) provide additional protection from the potential for more severe behavioral reactions (e.g., panic, antipredator response) for marine mammals at relatively close range to the acoustic source; (3) provide consistency for PSOs, who need to monitor and implement the exclusion zone; and (4) to define a distance within which detection probabilities are reasonably high for most species under typical conditions. Our use of 500 m as the EZ is a reasonable combination of factors. This zone is expected to contain all potential auditory injury for all marine mammals (high-frequency, mid-frequency and low-frequency cetacean functional hearing groups and otariid and phocid pinnipeds) as assessed against peak pressure thresholds (NMFS, 2016) (Tables 7, 8, 9). It is also expected to contain all potential auditory injury for high-frequency and mid-frequency cetaceans as well as otariid and phocid pinnipeds as assessed against SELcum thresholds (NMFS, 2016) (Tables 7, 8, 9). It has proven to be practicable through past implementation in seismic surveys conducted for the oil and gas industry in the Gulf of Mexico (as regulated by BOEM pursuant to the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) (43 U.S.C. 1331–1356)). In summary, a practicable criterion such as the proposed EZs has the advantage of simplicity while still providing in most cases a zone larger than relevant auditory injury zones, given realistic movement of source and receiver. The PSOs would also establish and monitor a 1,000 m buffer zone. During operation of the airgun arrays, occurrence of marine mammals within the 1,000 m buffer zone (but outside the E:\FR\FM\27SEN2.SGM 27SEN2 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 186 / Wednesday, September 27, 2017 / Notices asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES 500 m EZ) would be communicated to the vessel operator to prepare for potential power down or shutdown of the acoustic source. The buffer zone is discussed further under Ramp Up Procedures below. PSOs would also monitor the entire extent of the estimated Level B harassment zone (Table 4) (or, as far as they are able to see, if they cannot see to the extent of the estimated Level B harassment zone). Power Down Procedures A power down involves decreasing the number of airguns in use such that the radius of the mitigation zone is decreased to the extent that marine mammals are no longer in, or about to enter, the 500 m EZ. During a power down, one 40-in3 airgun would be operated. The continued operation of one 40-in3 airgun is intended to alert marine mammals to the presence of the seismic vessel in the area, and to allow them to leave the area of the seismic vessel if they choose. In contrast, a shutdown occurs when all airgun activity is suspended (shutdown procedures are discussed below). If a marine mammal is detected outside the 500 m EZ but appears likely to enter the 500 m EZ, the airguns would be powered down before the animal is within the 500 m EZ. Likewise, if a mammal is already within the 500 m EZ when first detected, the airguns would be powered down immediately. During a power down of the airgun array, the 40-in3 airgun would be operated. Following a power down, airgun activity would not resume until the marine mammal has cleared the 500 m EZ. The animal would be considered to have cleared the 500 m EZ if the following conditions have been met: b It is visually observed to have departed the 500 m EZ, or b it has not been seen within the 500 m EZ for 15 min in the case of small odontocetes and pinnipeds, or b it has not been seen within the 500 m EZ for 30 min in the case of mysticetes and large odontocetes, including sperm, pygmy sperm, dwarf sperm, and beaked whales. This power down requirement would be in place for all marine mammals, with the exception of small delphinoids under certain circumstances. As defined here, the small delphinoid group is intended to encompass those members of the Family Delphinidae most likely to voluntarily approach the source vessel for purposes of interacting with the vessel and/or airgun array (e.g., bow riding). This exception to the power down requirement would apply solely to specific genera of small dolphins —Tursiops, Delphinus and Lissodelphis VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:29 Sep 26, 2017 Jkt 241001 — and would only apply if the animals were traveling, including approaching the vessel. If, for example, an animal or group of animals is stationary for some reason (e.g., feeding) and the source vessel approaches the animals, the power down requirement applies. An animal with sufficient incentive to remain in an area rather than avoid an otherwise aversive stimulus could either incur auditory injury or disruption of important behavior. If there is uncertainty regarding identification (i.e., whether the observed animal(s) belongs to the group described above) or whether the animals are traveling, the power down or shutdown would be implemented. Note that small dolphins in the genera Lagenorhynchus and Cephalorhynchus are not included in the proposed power down/shutdown exception. We include this small delphinoid exception because power-down/ shutdown requirements for small delphinoids under all circumstances represent practicability concerns without likely commensurate benefits for the animals in question. Small delphinoids are generally the most commonly observed marine mammals in the specific geographic region and would typically be the only marine mammals likely to intentionally approach the vessel. As described below, auditory injury is extremely unlikely to occur for mid-frequency cetaceans (e.g., delphinids), as this group is relatively insensitive to sound produced at the predominant frequencies in an airgun pulse while also having a relatively high threshold for the onset of auditory injury (i.e., permanent threshold shift). Please see Potential Effects of the Specified Activity on Marine Mammals above for further discussion of sound metrics and thresholds and marine mammal hearing. A large body of anecdotal evidence indicates that small delphinoids commonly approach vessels and/or towed arrays during active sound production for purposes of bow riding, with no apparent effect observed in those delphinoids (e.g., Barkaszi et al., 2012). The potential for increased shutdowns resulting from such a measure would require the Langseth to revisit the missed track line to reacquire data, resulting in an overall increase in the total sound energy input to the marine environment and an increase in the total duration over which the survey is active in a given area. Although other mid-frequency hearing specialists (e.g., large delphinoids) are no more likely to incur auditory injury than are small delphinoids, they are much less likely to approach vessels. Therefore, retaining PO 00000 Frm 00033 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4703 45147 a power-down/shutdown requirement for large delphinoids would not have similar impacts in terms of either practicability for the applicant or corollary increase in sound energy output and time on the water. We do anticipate some benefit for a powerdown/shutdown requirement for large delphinoids in that it simplifies somewhat the total range of decisionmaking for PSOs and may preclude any potential for physiological effects other than to the auditory system as well as some more severe behavioral reactions for any such animals in close proximity to the source vessel. A power down could occur for no more than 30 minutes maximum at any given time. If, after 30 minutes of the array being powered down, marine mammals had not cleared the 500 m EZ (as described above), a shutdown of the array would be implemented (see Shut Down Procedures, below). Power down is only allowed in response to the presence of marine mammals within the designated EZ. Thus, the single 40 in3 airgun, which would be operated during power downs, may not be operated continuously throughout the night or during transits from one line to another. Shut Down Procedures The single 40-in3 operating airgun would be shut down if a marine mammal is seen within or approaching the 100 m EZ for the single 40-in3 airgun. Shutdown would be implemented if (1) an animal enters the 100 m EZ of the single 40-in3 airgun after a power down has been initiated, or (2) an animal is initially seen within the 100 m EZ of the single 40-in3 airgun when more than one airgun (typically the full array) is operating. Airgun activity would not resume until the marine mammal has cleared the 500 m EZ. Criteria for judging that the animal has cleared the EZ would be as described above. A shutdown of the array would be implemented if, after 30 minutes of the array being powered down, marine mammals have not cleared the 500 m EZ (as described above). The shutdown requirement, like the power down requirement, would be waived for dolphins of the following genera: Tursiops, Delphinus and Lissodelphis. The shutdown waiver only applies if the animals are traveling, including approaching the vessel. If animals are stationary and the source vessel approaches the animals, the shutdown requirement would apply. If there is uncertainty regarding identification (i.e., whether the observed animal(s) belongs to the group described above) or whether the animals are E:\FR\FM\27SEN2.SGM 27SEN2 45148 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 186 / Wednesday, September 27, 2017 / Notices asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES traveling, the shutdown would be implemented. In addition to the measures proposed by L–DEO, NMFS also proposes that a shutdown of the acoustic source would also be required, at any distance, upon observation of the following: A large whale (i.e., sperm whale or any baleen whale) with a calf; a beaked whale or kogia spp.; or, a Hector’s dolphin (during North Island surveys only). These are the only three potential scenarios that would require shutdown of the array for marine mammals observed beyond the 100 m EZ for the single 40 in3 airgun. The shutdown requirement for Hector’s dolphin during North Island surveys is designed to avoid any potential for exposure of a Maui dolphin to seismic airgun sounds. Maui dolphins are not expected to occur in the proposed survey areas off the North Island based on their current range. However, as described above, there have been occasional sightings and strandings of Hector’s dolphins off the east coast of the North Island. While the likelihood of L–DEO’s proposed surveys encountering a Maui dolphin is considered extremely low, we nonetheless include this measure to avoid any potential for exposure of a Maui dolphin to airgun sounds. In the event of a shutdown due to observation of a shutdown due to observation of a beaked whale, kogia app., or large whale with calf, ramp-up procedures would not be initiated until the Hector’s dolphin has not been seen at any distance for 30 minutes. In the event of a shutdown due to observation of a Hector’s dolphin (during North Island surveys only), ramp-up procedures would not be initiated until the Hector’s dolphin has not been seen at any distance for 15 minutes. Ramp-Up Procedures Ramp-up of an acoustic source is intended to provide a gradual increase in sound levels following a power down or shutdown, enabling animals to move away from the source if the signal is sufficiently aversive prior to its reaching full intensity. The ramp-up procedure involves a step-wise increase in the number of airguns firing and total array volume until all operational airguns are activated and the full volume is achieved. Ramp-up would be required after the array is powered down or shut down due to mitigation. If the airgun array has been shut down for reasons other than mitigation (e.g., mechanical difficulty) for a period of less than 30 minutes, it may be activated again without ramp-up if PSOs have maintained constant visual and acoustic observation and no visual detections of VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:29 Sep 26, 2017 Jkt 241001 any marine mammal have occurred within the buffer zone and no acoustic detections have occurred. This is the only scenario under which ramp up would not be required. Ramp-up would begin by activating a single airgun of the smallest volume in the array and would continue in stages by doubling the number of active elements at the commencement of each stage, with each stage of approximately the same duration. If airguns have been powered down or shut down due to PSO detection of a marine mammal within or approaching the 500 m EZ, ramp-up would not be initiated until all marine mammals have cleared the EZ, during the day or night. Visual and acoustic PSOs are required to monitor during ramp-up. If a marine mammal were detected by visual PSOs within or approaching the 500 m EZ during ramp-up, a power down (or shut down if appropriate) would be implemented as though the full array were operational. Criteria for clearing the EZ would be as described above. Thirty minutes of pre-clearance observation are required prior to rampup for any power down or shutdown of longer than 30 minutes (i.e., if the array were shut down during transit from one line to another). This 30 minute preclearance period may occur during any vessel activity (i.e., transit). If a marine mammal is observed within or approaching the 500 m EZ during this pre-clearance period, ramp-up would not be initiated until all marine mammals have cleared the EZ. Criteria for clearing the EZ would be as described above. Ramp-up would be planned to occur during periods of good visibility when possible. However, ramp-up would be allowed at night and during poor visibility if the 500 m EZ and 1,000 m buffer zone have been monitored by visual PSOs for 30 minutes prior to ramp-up and if acoustic monitoring has occurred for 30 minutes prior to rampup with no acoustic detections during that period. The operator would be required to notify a designated PSO of the planned start of ramp-up as agreed-upon with the lead PSO. A designated PSO must be notified again immediately prior to initiating ramp-up procedures and the operator must receive confirmation from the PSO to proceed. The operator must provide information to PSOs documenting that appropriate procedures were followed. Following deactivation of the array for reasons other than mitigation, the operator would be required to communicate the near-term operational plan to the lead PO 00000 Frm 00034 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4703 PSO with justification for any planned nighttime ramp-up. L–DEO proposed that ramp up would not occur following an extended power down (LGL 2017). However, as we do not propose to allow extended power downs during the proposed survey, we also do not include this as a proposed mitigation measure and instead propose that ramp up is required after any power down or shutdown of the array, with the one exception as described above. L– DEO also proposed that ramp up would occur when the airgun array begins operating after 8 minutes without airgun operations (LGL 2017). However, we instead propose the criteria for ramp up as described above. Vessel Strike Avoidance Vessel strike avoidance measures are intended to minimize the potential for collisions with marine mammals. We note that these requirements do not apply in any case where compliance would create an imminent and serious threat to a person or vessel or to the extent that a vessel is restricted in its ability to maneuver and, because of the restriction, cannot comply. The proposed measures include the following: Vessel operator and crew would maintain a vigilant watch for all marine mammals and slow down or stop the vessel or alter course to avoid striking any marine mammal. A visual observer aboard the vessel would monitor a vessel strike avoidance zone around the vessel according to the parameters stated below. Visual observers monitoring the vessel strike avoidance zone would be either thirdparty observers or crew members, but crew members responsible for these duties would be provided sufficient training to distinguish marine mammals from other phenomena. Vessel strike avoidance measures would be followed during surveys and while in transit. The vessel would maintain a minimum separation distance of 100 m from large whales (i.e., baleen whales and sperm whales). If a large whale is within 100 m of the vessel the vessel would reduce speed and shift the engine to neutral, and would not engage the engines until the whale has moved outside of the vessel’s path and the minimum separation distance has been established. If the vessel is stationary, the vessel would not engage engines until the whale(s) has moved out of the vessel’s path and beyond 100 m. The vessel would maintain a minimum separation distance of 50 m from all other marine mammals (with the exception of delphinids of the genera Tursiops, Delphinus and Lissodelphis that approach the vessel, as described E:\FR\FM\27SEN2.SGM 27SEN2 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 186 / Wednesday, September 27, 2017 / Notices asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES above). If an animal is encountered during transit, the vessel would attempt to remain parallel to the animal’s course, avoiding excessive speed or abrupt changes in course. Vessel speeds would be reduced to 10 knots or less when mother/calf pairs, pods, or large assemblages of cetaceans are observed near the vessel. Based on our evaluation of the applicant’s proposed measures, NMFS has determined that the mitigation measures provide the means effecting the least practicable impact on the affected species or stocks and their habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance. Proposed Monitoring and Reporting In order to issue an IHA 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 authorizations 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 action area. Effective reporting is critical both to compliance as well as ensuring that the most value is obtained from the required monitoring. Monitoring and reporting requirements prescribed by NMFS should contribute to improved understanding of one or more of the following: b Occurrence of marine mammal species or stocks in the area in which take is anticipated (e.g., presence, abundance, distribution, density). b Nature, scope, or context of likely marine mammal exposure to potential stressors/impacts (individual or cumulative, acute or chronic), through better understanding of: (1) Action or environment (e.g., source characterization, propagation, ambient noise); (2) affected species (e.g., life history, dive patterns); (3) co-occurrence of marine mammal species with the action; or (4) biological or behavioral context of exposure (e.g., age, calving or feeding areas). b Individual marine mammal responses (behavioral or physiological) to acoustic stressors (acute, chronic, or cumulative), other stressors, or cumulative impacts from multiple stressors. b How anticipated responses to stressors impact either: (1) Long-term VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:29 Sep 26, 2017 Jkt 241001 fitness and survival of individual marine mammals; or (2) populations, species, or stocks. b Effects on marine mammal habitat (e.g., marine mammal prey species, acoustic habitat, or other important physical components of marine mammal habitat). b Mitigation and monitoring effectiveness. L–DEO submitted a marine mammal monitoring and reporting plan in section XIII of their IHA application. Monitoring that is designed specifically to facilitate mitigation measures, such as monitoring of the EZ to inform potential power downs or shutdowns of the airgun array, are described above and are not repeated here. L–DEO’s monitoring and reporting plan includes the following measures: Vessel-Based Visual Monitoring As described above, PSO observations would take place during daytime airgun operations and nighttime start ups (if applicable) of the airguns. During seismic operations, at least four visual PSOs would be based aboard the Langseth. PSOs would be appointed by L–DEO with NMFS approval. During the majority of seismic operations, two PSOs would monitor for marine mammals around the seismic vessel. Use of two simultaneous observers would increase the effectiveness of detecting animals around the source vessel. However, during meal times, only one PSO may be on duty. PSOs would be on duty in shifts of duration no longer than 4 hours. Other crew would also be instructed to assist in detecting marine mammals and in implementing mitigation requirements (if practical). During daytime, PSOs would scan the area around the vessel systematically with reticle binoculars (e.g., 7×50 Fujinon), Big-eye binoculars (25×150), and with the naked eye. PSOs would record data to estimate the numbers of marine mammals exposed to various received sound levels and to document apparent disturbance reactions or lack thereof. Data would be used to estimate numbers of animals potentially ‘taken’ by harassment (as defined in the MMPA). They would also provide information needed to order a power down or shutdown of airguns when a marine mammal is within or near the EZ. When a sighting is made, the following information about the sighting would be recorded: 1. Species, group size, age/size/sex categories (if determinable), behavior when first sighted and after initial sighting, heading (if consistent), bearing and distance from seismic vessel, PO 00000 Frm 00035 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4703 45149 sighting cue, apparent reaction to the airguns or vessel (e.g., none, avoidance, approach, paralleling, etc.), and behavioral pace. 2. Time, location, heading, speed, activity of the vessel, sea state, visibility, and sun glare. All observations and power downs or shutdowns would be recorded in a standardized format. Data would be entered into an electronic database. The accuracy of the data entry would be verified by computerized data validity checks as the data are entered and by subsequent manual checking of the database. These procedures would allow initial summaries of data to be prepared during and shortly after the field program and would facilitate transfer of the data to statistical, graphical, and other programs for further processing and archiving. The time, location, heading, speed, activity of the vessel, sea state, visibility, and sun glare would also be recorded at the start and end of each observation watch, and during a watch whenever there is a change in one or more of the variables. Results from the vessel-based observations will provide: 1. The basis for real-time mitigation (airgun power down or shut down). 2. Information needed to estimate the number of marine mammals potentially taken by harassment, which must be reported to NMFS. 3. Data on the occurrence, distribution, and activities of marine mammals in the area where the seismic study is conducted. 4. Information to compare the distance and distribution of marine mammals relative to the source vessel at times with and without seismic activity. 5. Data on the behavior and movement patterns of marine mammals seen at times with and without seismic activity. Vessel-Based Passive Acoustic Monitoring PAM would take place to complement the visual monitoring program as described above. Please see the Mitigation section above for a description of the PAM system and the acoustic PSO’s duties. The acoustic PSO would record data collected via the PAM system, including the following: An acoustic encounter identification number, whether it was linked with a visual sighting, date, time when first and last heard and whenever any additional information was recorded, position and water depth when first detected, bearing if determinable, species or species group (e.g., unidentified dolphin, sperm whale), types and nature of sounds heard (e.g., E:\FR\FM\27SEN2.SGM 27SEN2 45150 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 186 / Wednesday, September 27, 2017 / Notices clicks, continuous, sporadic, whistles, creaks, burst pulses, strength of signal, etc.), and any other notable information. Acoustic detections would also be recorded for further analysis. asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES Reporting A report would be submitted to NMFS within 90 days after the end of the cruise. The report would describe the operations that were conducted and sightings of marine mammals near the operations. The report would provide full documentation of methods, results, and interpretation pertaining to all monitoring. The 90-day report would summarize the dates and locations of seismic operations, and all marine mammal sightings (dates, times, locations, activities, associated seismic survey activities). The report would also include estimates of the number and nature of exposures that occurred above the harassment threshold based on PSO observations, including an estimate of those on the trackline but not detected. Negligible Impact Analysis and Determination NMFS has defined negligible impact 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’’ (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 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 harassment, NMFS considers other factors, such as the likely nature of any responses (e.g., intensity, duration), the context of any responses (e.g., critical reproductive time or location, migration), as well as effects on habitat, and the likely effectiveness of the mitigation. We also assess the number, intensity, and context of estimated takes by evaluating this information relative to population status. Consistent with the 1989 preamble for NMFS’ implementing regulations (54 FR 40338; September 29, 1989), the impacts from other past and ongoing anthropogenic activities are incorporated into this analysis via their impacts on the environmental baseline (e.g., as reflected in the regulatory status of the species, population size and growth rate where known, ongoing sources of human-caused mortality, or ambient noise levels). VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:29 Sep 26, 2017 Jkt 241001 To avoid repetition, our analysis applies to all the species listed in Table 2, given that NMFS expects the anticipated effects of the proposed seismic survey to be similar in nature. Where there are meaningful differences between species or stocks, or groups of species, in anticipated individual responses to activities, impact of expected take on the population due to differences in population status, or impacts on habitat, NMFS has identified species-specific factors to inform the analysis. As described above, we propose to authorize only the takes estimated to occur outside of New Zealand territorial sea (Tables 11, 12, 13 and 14); however, for the purposes of our negligible impact analysis and determination, we consider the total number of takes that are expected to occur as a result of the proposed survey, including those within territorial sea. Thus, our negligible impact analysis and determination accounts for the takes that are anticipated to occur as a result of the proposed surveys during the portions of those surveys that would occur within the territorial sea (approximately 9 percent of the North Island 2–D survey, 1 percent of the North Island 3–D survey, and 6 percent of the South Island 2–D survey), though we do not propose to authorize the incidental take of marine mammals during those portions of the proposed surveys. NMFS does not anticipate that serious injury or mortality would occur as a result of L–DEO’s proposed survey, even in the absence of proposed mitigation. Thus the proposed authorization does not authorize any mortality. As discussed in the Potential Effects section, non-auditory physical effects, stranding, and vessel strike are not expected to occur. We propose to authorize a limited number of instances of Level A harassment of 21 marine mammal species (Tables 11, 12, 13 and 14). However, we believe that any PTS incurred in marine mammals as a result of the proposed activity would be in the form of only a small degree of PTS, not total deafness, and would be unlikely to affect the fitness of any individuals, because of the constant movement of both the Langseth and of the marine mammals in the project area, as well as the fact that the vessel is not expected to remain in any one area in which individual marine mammals would be expected to concentrate for an extended period of time (i.e., since the duration of exposure to loud sounds will be relatively short). Also, as described above, we expect that marine mammals would be likely to move away from a PO 00000 Frm 00036 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4703 sound source that represents an aversive stimulus, especially at levels that would be expected to result in PTS, given sufficient notice of the Langseth’s approach due to the vessel’s relatively low speed when conducting seismic surveys. We expect that the majority of takes would be in the form of short-term Level B behavioral harassment in the form of temporary avoidance of the area or decreased foraging (if such activity were occurring), reactions that are considered to be of low severity and with no lasting biological consequences (e.g., Southall et al., 2007). Potential impacts to marine mammal habitat were discussed previously in this document (see Potential Effects of the Specified Activity on Marine Mammals and their Habitat). Marine mammal habitat may be impacted by elevated sound levels, but these impacts would be temporary. Feeding behavior is not likely to be significantly impacted, as marine mammals appear to be less likely to exhibit behavioral reactions or avoidance responses while engaged in feeding activities (Richardson et al., 1995). Prey species are mobile and are broadly distributed throughout the project area; therefore, marine mammals that may be temporarily displaced during survey activities are expected to be able to resume foraging once they have moved away from areas with disturbing levels of underwater noise. Because of the temporary nature of the disturbance, the availability of similar habitat and resources in the surrounding area, and the lack of important or unique marine mammal habitat, the impacts to marine mammals and the food sources that they utilize are not expected to cause significant or long-term consequences for individual marine mammals or their populations. In addition, there are no mating or calving areas known to be biologically important to marine mammals within the proposed project area. The activity is expected to impact a small percentage of all marine mammal stocks that would be affected by L– DEO’s proposed survey (less than 9 percent for dusky dolphin and less than 2 percent for all other marine mammal species). Additionally, the acoustic ‘‘footprint’’ of the proposed survey would be small relative to the ranges of the marine mammals that would potentially be affected. Sound levels would increase in the marine environment in a relatively small area surrounding the vessel compared to the range of the marine mammals within the proposed survey area. The proposed mitigation measures are expected to reduce the number and/or E:\FR\FM\27SEN2.SGM 27SEN2 asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 186 / Wednesday, September 27, 2017 / Notices severity of takes by allowing for detection of marine mammals in the vicinity of the vessel by visual and acoustic observers, and by minimizing the severity of any potential exposures via power downs and/or shutdowns of the airgun array. Based on previous monitoring reports for substantially similar activities that have been previously authorized by NMFS, we expect that the proposed mitigation will be effective in preventing at least some extent of potential PTS in marine mammals that may otherwise occur in the absence of the proposed mitigation. The ESA-listed marine mammal species under our jurisdiction that are likely to be taken by the proposed project include the southern right, sei, fin, blue, and sperm whale (listed as endangered) and the South Island Hector’s dolphin (listed as threatened). We propose to authorize very small numbers of takes for these species (Tables 11, 12, 13 and 14), relative to their population sizes, therefore we do not expect population-level impacts to any of these species. The other marine mammal species that may be taken by harassment during the proposed survey are not listed as threatened or endangered under the ESA. There is no designated critical habitat for any ESAlisted marine mammals within the project area; and of the non-listed marine mammals for which we propose to authorize take, none are considered ‘‘depleted’’ or ‘‘strategic’’ by NMFS under the MMPA. NMFS concludes that exposures to marine mammal species and stocks due to L–DEO’s proposed survey would result in only short-term (temporary and short in duration) effects to individuals exposed. Animals may temporarily avoid the immediate area, but are not expected to permanently abandon the area. Major shifts in habitat use, distribution, or foraging success are not expected. NMFS does not anticipate the proposed take estimates to impact annual rates of recruitment or survival. In summary and as described above, the following factors primarily support our preliminary determination that the impacts resulting from this activity are not expected to adversely affect the marine mammal species or stocks through effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival: b No serious injury or mortality is anticipated or authorized; b The anticipated impacts of the proposed activity on marine mammals would primarily be temporary behavioral changes due to avoidance of the area around the survey vessel; b The number of instances of PTS that may occur are expected to be very VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:29 Sep 26, 2017 Jkt 241001 small in number (Tables 11, 12, 13 and 14). Instances of PTS that are incurred in marine mammals would be of a low level, due to constant movement of the vessel and of the marine mammals in the area, and the nature of the survey design (not concentrated in areas of high marine mammal concentration); b The availability of alternate areas of similar habitat value for marine mammals to temporarily vacate the survey area during the proposed survey to avoid exposure to sounds from the activity; b The proposed project area does not contain known areas of significance for mating or calving; b The potential adverse effects on fish or invertebrate species that serve as prey species for marine mammals from the proposed survey would be temporary and spatially limited; b The proposed mitigation measures, including visual and acoustic monitoring, power-downs, and shutdowns, are expected to minimize potential impacts to marine mammals. 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 proposed monitoring and mitigation measures, NMFS preliminarily finds that the total marine mammal take from the proposed activity will have a negligible impact on all affected marine mammal species or stocks. Small Numbers As noted above, only small numbers of incidental take may be authorized under Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA for specified activities other than military readiness activities. The MMPA does not define small numbers; so, in practice, where estimated numbers are available, NMFS compares the number of individuals taken to the most appropriate estimation of abundance of the relevant species or stock in our determination of whether an authorization is limited to small numbers of marine mammals. Additionally, other qualitative factors may be considered in the analysis, such as the temporal or spatial scale of the activities. Tables 11, 12, 13 and 14 provide numbers of take by Level A harassment and Level B harassment proposed for authorization. These are the numbers we use for purposes of the small numbers analysis. The numbers of marine mammals that we propose for authorization to be taken would be considered small relative to the relevant populations (less than 9 percent for all species) for the species for which abundance estimates are PO 00000 Frm 00037 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4703 45151 available. No known current worldwide or regional population estimates are available for ten species under NMFS’ jurisdiction that could be incidentally taken as a result of the proposed surveys: The pygmy right whale; pygmy sperm whale; True’s beaked whale; short-finned pilot whale; false killer whale; bottlenose dolphin; short-beaked common dolphin; southern right whale dolphin; Risso’s dolphin; and spectacled porpoise. NMFS has reviewed the geographic distributions and habitat preferences of these species in determining whether the numbers of takes proposed for authorization herein are likely to represent small numbers. Pygmy right whales have a circumglobal distribution and occur throughout coastal and oceanic waters in the Southern Hemisphere (between 30 to 55° South) (Jefferson et al., 2008). Pygmy sperm whales occur in deep waters on the outer continental shelf and slope in tropical to temperate waters of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans. True’s beaked whales occur in the Southern hemisphere from the western Atlantic Ocean to the Indian Ocean to the waters of southern Australia and possibly New Zealand (Jefferson et al., 2008). False killer whales generally occur in deep offshore tropical to temperate waters (between 50° North to 50° South) of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans (Jefferson et al., 2008). Southern right whale dolphins have a circumpolar distribution and generally occur in deep temperate to subAntarctic waters in the Southern Hemisphere (between 30 to 65° South) (Jefferson et al., 2008). Short-finned Pilot Whales are found in warm temperate to tropical waters throughout the world, generally in deep offshore areas (Olson and Reilly, 2002). Bottlenose dolphins are distributed worldwide through tropical and temperate inshore, coastal, shelf, and oceanic waters (Leatherwood and Reeves 1990, Wells and Scott 1999, Reynolds et al. 2000). Spectacled porpoises are believed to have a range that is circumpolar in the sub-Antarctic zone (with water temperatures of at least 1–10° C) (Goodall 2002). The Risso’s dolphin is a widely-distributed species, inhabiting primarily deep waters of the continental slope and outer shelf (especially with steep bottom topography), from the tropics through the temperate regions in both hemispheres (Kruse et al. 1999). The short-beaked common dolphin is an oceanic species that is widely distributed in tropical to cool temperate waters of the Atlantic and Pacific E:\FR\FM\27SEN2.SGM 27SEN2 45152 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 186 / Wednesday, September 27, 2017 / Notices Oceans (Perrin 2002), from nearshore waters to thousands of kilometers offshore. Based on the broad spatial distributions and habitat preferences of these species relative to the areas where the proposed surveys would occur, NMFS preliminarily concludes that the authorized take of these species likely represent small numbers relative to the affected species’ overall population sizes, though we are unable to quantify the proposed take numbers as a percentage of population. Based on the analysis contained herein of the proposed activity (including the proposed mitigation and monitoring measures) and the anticipated take of marine mammals, NMFS preliminarily finds that small numbers of marine mammals will be taken relative to the population size of the affected species. Unmitigable Adverse Impact Analysis and Determination There are no relevant subsistence uses of the affected marine mammal stocks or species implicated by this action. Therefore, NMFS has preliminarily determined that the total taking of affected species or stocks would not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of such species or stocks for taking for subsistence purposes. asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES Endangered Species Act (ESA) Section 7(a)(2) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA: 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) requires that each Federal agency insure that any action it authorizes, funds, or carries out is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered or threatened species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of designated critical habitat. To ensure ESA compliance for the issuance of IHAs, NMFS consults internally, in this case with the ESA Interagency Cooperation Division, whenever we propose to authorize take for endangered or threatened species. The NMFS Permits and Conservation Division is proposing to authorize the incidental take of six species of marine mammals which are listed under the ESA (the southern right, sei, fin, blue, and sperm whale and South Island Hector’s dolphin). We have requested initiation of Section 7 consultation with the Interagency Cooperation Division for the issuance of this IHA. NMFS will conclude the ESA section 7 consultation prior to reaching a determination regarding the proposed issuance of the authorization. VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:29 Sep 26, 2017 Jkt 241001 Proposed Authorization As a result of these preliminary determinations, NMFS proposes to issue an IHA to L–DEO for conducting a seismic survey in the Pacific Ocean offshore New Zealand in 2017/2018, provided the previously mentioned mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements are incorporated. This section contains a draft of the IHA itself. The wording contained in this section is proposed for inclusion in the IHA (if issued). 1. This incidental harassment authorization (IHA) is valid for a period of one year from the date of issuance. 2. This IHA is valid only for marine geophysical survey activity, as specified in L–DEO’s IHA application and using an array aboard the R/V Langseth with characteristics specified in the IHA application, in the Pacific Ocean offshore New Zealand. 3. General Conditions. (a) A copy of this IHA must be in the possession of L–DEO, the vessel operator and other relevant personnel, the lead protected species observer (PSO), and any other relevant designees of L–DEO operating under the authority of this IHA. (b) The species authorized for taking are listed in Table 14. The taking, by Level A and Level B harassment only, is limited to the species and numbers listed in Table 14. Any taking exceeding the authorized amounts listed in Table 14 is prohibited and may result in the modification, suspension, or revocation of this IHA. (c) The taking by serious injury or death of any species of marine mammal is prohibited and may result in the modification, suspension, or revocation of this IHA. (d) During use of the airgun(s), if marine mammal species other than those listed in Table 1 are detected by PSOs, the acoustic source must be shut down to avoid unauthorized take. (e) L–DEO shall ensure that the vessel operator and other relevant vessel personnel are briefed on all responsibilities, communication procedures, marine mammal monitoring protocol, operational procedures, and IHA requirements prior to the start of survey activity, and when relevant new personnel join the survey operations. 4. Mitigation Requirements. The holder of this Authorization is required to implement the following mitigation measures: (a) L–DEO must use at least five dedicated, trained, NMFS-approved Protected Species Observers (PSOs), including at least four visual PSOs and one acoustic PSO. The PSOs must have PO 00000 Frm 00038 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4703 no tasks other than to conduct observational effort, record observational data, and communicate with and instruct relevant vessel crew with regard to the presence of marine mammals and mitigation requirements. PSO resumes shall be provided to NMFS for approval. (b) At least two PSOs must have a minimum of 90 days at-sea experience working as PSOs during a high energy seismic survey, with no more than eighteen months elapsed since the conclusion of the at-sea experience. At least one of these must have relevant experience as a visual PSO and at least one must have relevant experience as an acoustic PSO. One ‘‘experienced’’ visual PSO shall be designated as the lead for the entire protected species observation team. The lead shall coordinate duty schedules and roles for the PSO team and serve as primary point of contact for the vessel operator. The lead PSO shall devise the duty schedule such that ‘‘experienced’’ PSOs are on duty with those PSOs with appropriate training but who have not yet gained relevant experience, to the maximum extent practicable. (c) Visual Observation. (i) During survey operations (e.g., any day on which use of the acoustic source is planned to occur; whenever the acoustic source is in the water, whether activated or not), two PSOs must be on duty and conducting visual observations at all times during daylight hours (i.e., from 30 minutes prior to sunrise through 30 minutes following sunset) with the limited exception of meal times during which one PSO may be on duty. PSOs shall monitor the entire extent of the estimated Level B harassment zone (or, as far as they can see, if they cannot see to the extent of the estimated Level B harassment zone). (ii) Visual monitoring must begin not less than 30 minutes prior to ramp-up, including for nighttime ramp-ups of the airgun array, and must continue until one hour after use of the acoustic source ceases or until 30 minutes past sunset. (iii) Visual PSOs shall coordinate to ensure 360° visual coverage around the vessel from the most appropriate observation posts and shall conduct visual observations using binoculars and the naked eye while free from distractions and in a consistent, systematic, and diligent manner. (iv) Visual PSOs shall communicate all observations to the acoustic PSO, including any determination by the PSO regarding species identification, distance, and bearing and the degree of confidence in the determination. (v) Visual PSOs may be on watch for a maximum of four consecutive hours E:\FR\FM\27SEN2.SGM 27SEN2 asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 186 / Wednesday, September 27, 2017 / Notices followed by a break of at least one hour between watches and may conduct a maximum of 12 hours observation per 24 hour period. (vi) During good conditions (e.g., daylight hours; Beaufort sea state 3 or less), visual PSOs shall conduct observations when the acoustic source is not operating for comparison of sighting rates and behavior with and without use of the acoustic source and between acquisition periods, to the maximum extent practicable. (d) Acoustic Observation—The R/V Langseth must use a towed passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) system, which must be monitored beginning at least 30 minutes prior to ramp-up and at all times during use of the acoustic source. (i) One acoustic PSO (in addition to the four visual PSOs) must be on board to operate and oversee PAM operations. Either the acoustic PSO or a visual PSO with training in the PAM system must monitor the PAM system at all times while airguns are operating, and when possible during periods when the airguns are not operating, in shifts lasting no longer than six hours. (ii) Acoustic PSOs shall communicate all detections to visual PSOs, when visual PSOs are on duty, including any determination by the PSO regarding species identification, distance, and bearing and the degree of confidence in the determination. (iii) Survey activity may continue for brief periods of time if the PAM system malfunctions or is damaged. Activity may continue for 30 minutes without PAM while the PAM operator diagnoses the issue. If the diagnosis indicates that the PAM system must be repaired to solve the problem, operations may continue for an additional two hours without acoustic monitoring under the following conditions: (A) Daylight hours and sea state is less than or equal to Beaufort sea state 4; (B) No marine mammals (excluding small delphinids) detected solely by PAM in the exclusion zone in the previous two hours; (C) NMFS is notified via email as soon as practicable with the time and location in which operations began without an active PAM system; and (D) Operations with an active acoustic source, but without an operating PAM system, do not exceed a cumulative total of four hours in any 24 hour period. (e) Exclusion Zone and buffer zone— PSOs shall establish and monitor a 500 m exclusion zone (EZ) and 1,000 m buffer zone. The zones shall be based upon radial distance from any element of the airgun array (rather than being based on the center of the array or VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:29 Sep 26, 2017 Jkt 241001 around the vessel itself). During use of the acoustic source, occurrence of marine mammals outside the EZ but within 1,000 m from any element of the airgun array shall be communicated to the operator to prepare for potential further mitigation measures as described below. During use of the acoustic source, occurrence of marine mammals within the EZ, or on a course to enter the EZ, shall trigger further mitigation measures as described below. (i) Ramp-up—A ramp-up procedure, involving a step-wise increase in the number of airguns firing and total array volume until all operational airguns are activated and the full volume is achieved, is required at all times as part of the activation of the acoustic source, including following a power down or shutdown of the array, except as described under 4.(e)(v). Ramp-up shall begin by activating a single airgun of the smallest volume in the array and shall continue in stages by doubling the number of active elements at the commencement of each stage, with each stage of approximately the same duration. (ii) If the airgun array has been powered down or shut down due to a marine mammal detection, ramp-up shall not occur until all marine mammals have cleared the EZ. A marine mammal is considered to have cleared the EZ if: (A) It has been visually observed to have left the EZ; or (B) It has not been observed within the EZ, for 15 minutes (in the case of small odontocetes and pinnipeds) or for 30 minutes (in the case of mysticetes and large odontocetes including sperm, pygmy sperm, dwarf sperm, and beaked whales). (iii) Thirty minutes of pre-clearance observation of the 500 m EZ and 1,000 m buffer zone are required prior to ramp-up for any power down, shutdown, or combination of power down and shutdown of longer than 30 minutes. This pre-clearance period may occur during any vessel activity. If any marine mammal (including delphinids) is observed within or approaching the 500 m EZ during the 30 minute preclearance period, ramp-up may not begin until the animal(s) has been observed exiting the buffer zone or until an additional time period has elapsed with no further sightings (i.e., 15 minutes for small odontocetes and pinnipeds, and 30 minutes for mysticetes and large odontocetes including sperm, pygmy sperm, dwarf sperm, and beaked whales). (iv) During ramp-up, PSOs shall monitor the 500 m EZ and 1,000 m buffer zone. Ramp-up may not be PO 00000 Frm 00039 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4703 45153 initiated if any marine mammal (including delphinids) is observed within or approaching the 500 m EZ. If a marine mammal is observed within or approaching the 500 m EZ during rampup, a power down or shutdown shall be implemented as though the full array were operational. Ramp-up may not begin again until the animal(s) has been observed exiting the 500 m EZ or until an additional time period has elapsed with no further sightings (i.e., 15 minutes for small odontocetes and pinnipeds, and 30 minutes for mysticetes and large odontocetes including sperm, pygmy sperm, dwarf sperm, and beaked whales). (v) Ramp-up shall only occur at night and at times of poor visibility where operational planning cannot reasonably avoid such circumstances. Ramp-up may occur at night and during poor visibility if the 500 m EZ and 1,000 m buffer zone have been continually monitored by visual PSOs for 30 minutes prior to ramp-up with no marine mammal detections and if acoustic monitoring has occurred for 30 minutes prior to ramp-up with no acoustic detections during that period. (vi) If the airgun array has been shut down for reasons other than mitigation (e.g., mechanical difficulty) for a period of less than 30 minutes, it may be activated again without ramp-up if PSOs have maintained constant visual and acoustic observation and no visual detections of any marine mammal have occurred within the buffer zone and no acoustic detections have occurred. (vii) The vessel operator must notify a designated PSO of the planned start of ramp-up as agreed-upon with the lead PSO; the notification time should not be less than 60 minutes prior to the planned ramp-up. A designated PSO must be notified again immediately prior to initiating ramp-up procedures and the operator must receive confirmation from the PSO to proceed. (f) Power Down Requirements—L– DEO shall power down the airgun array if a PSO detects a marine mammal within, approaching, or entering the 500 m EZ. A power down involves a decrease in the number of operational airguns. During a power down, one 40in3 airgun shall be continuously operated. (i) Any PSO on duty has the authority to call for power down of the airgun array (visual PSOs on duty should be in agreement on the need for power down before requiring such action). When there is certainty regarding the need for mitigation action on the basis of either visual or acoustic detection alone, the relevant PSO(s) must call for such action immediately. E:\FR\FM\27SEN2.SGM 27SEN2 asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES 45154 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 186 / Wednesday, September 27, 2017 / Notices (ii) When both visual and acoustic PSOs are on duty, all detections must be immediately communicated to the remainder of the on-duty PSO team for potential verification of visual observations by the acoustic PSO or of acoustic detections by visual PSOs and initiation of dialogue as necessary. (iii) The operator must establish and maintain clear lines of communication directly between PSOs on duty and crew controlling the airgun array to ensure that power down commands are conveyed swiftly while allowing PSOs to maintain watch. (iv) When power down is called for by a PSO, the power down must occur and any dispute resolved only following power down. (v) The power down requirement is waived for dolphins of the following genera: Tursiops, Delphinus and Lissodelphis. This power down waiver only applies if animals are traveling, including approaching the vessel. If animals are stationary and the vessel approaches the animals, the power down requirement applies. If there is uncertainty regarding identification (i.e., whether the observed animal(s) belongs to the group described above) or whether the animals are traveling, power down must be implemented. (vi) Upon implementation of a power down, the source may be reactivated under the conditions described at 4(e). Where there is no relevant zone (e.g., power down due to observation of a calf), a 30-minute clearance period must be observed following the last observation of the animal(s). (vii) When only the acoustic PSO is on duty and a detection is made, if there is uncertainty regarding species identification or distance to the vocalizing animal(s), the airgun array must be powered down as a precaution. (viii) Power down shall occur for no more than a maximum of 30 minutes at any given time. If, after 30 minutes of the array being powered down, marine mammals have not cleared the 500 m Exclusion Zone as described under 4(e)(iv), the array shall be shut down. Operation of the single 40-in3 airgun (i.e., a power-down state) shall not occur for any purpose other than in response to a marine mammal in the exclusion zone (pursuant to relevant requirements herein). (g) Shutdown requirements—An exclusion zone of 100 m for the single 40-in3 airgun shall be established and monitored by PSOs. If a marine mammal is observed within, entering, or approaching the 100 m exclusion zone for the single 40-in3 airgun, whether during implementation of a power down or during operation of the full airgun VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:29 Sep 26, 2017 Jkt 241001 array, all airguns including the 40-in3 airgun shall be shut down. (h) If, after 30 minutes of the array being powered down, marine mammals have not cleared the 500 m Exclusion Zone as described under 4(e)(iv), the full array shall be shut down. (i) Upon implementation of a shutdown, the source may be reactivated under the conditions described at 4(e). (ii) Measures described for power downs under 4(f)(i-v) shall also apply in the case of a shutdown. (iii) Shutdown of the acoustic source is required upon observation of a large whale (i.e., sperm whale or any baleen whale) with calf at any distance, with ‘‘calf’’ defined as an animal less than two-thirds the body size of an adult observed to be in close association with an adult. Ramp up shall not begin until the whale with calf has not been observed for at least 30 minutes, at any distance. (iv) Shutdown of the acoustic source is required upon observation of a beaked whale or kogia spp., at any distance. Ramp up shall not begin until the beaked whale or kogia has not been observed for at least 30 minutes, at any distance. (v) Shutdown of the acoustic source is required upon observation of a Hector’s dolphin, at any distance, during the North Island 2–D survey and North Island 3–D survey. Ramp up shall not begin until the Hector’s dolphin has not been observed for at least 15 minutes, at any distance. (i) Vessel Strike Avoidance—Vessel operator and crew must maintain a vigilant watch for all marine mammals and slow down or stop the vessel or alter course to avoid striking any marine mammal. These requirements do not apply in any case where compliance would create an imminent and serious threat to a person or vessel or to the extent that a vessel is restricted in its ability to maneuver and, because of the restriction, cannot comply. A visual observer aboard the vessel must monitor a vessel strike avoidance zone around the vessel according to the parameters stated below. Visual observers monitoring the vessel strike avoidance zone can be either third-party observers or crew members, but crew members responsible for these duties must be provided sufficient training to distinguish marine mammals from other phenomena. Vessel strike avoidance measures shall be followed during surveys and while in transit. (i) The vessel must maintain a minimum separation distance of 100 m from large whales (i.e., baleen whales and sperm whales). The following PO 00000 Frm 00040 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4703 avoidance measures must be taken if a large whale is within 100 m of the vessel: (A) The vessel must reduce speed and shift the engine to neutral, and must not engage the engines until the whale has moved outside of the vessel’s path and the minimum separation distance has been established. (B) If the vessel is stationary, the vessel must not engage engines until the whale(s) has moved out of the vessel’s path and beyond 100 m. (ii) The vessel must maintain a minimum separation distance of 50 m from all other marine mammals, with an exception made for animals described in 4(f)(v) that approach the vessel. If an animal is encountered during transit, the vessel shall attempt to remain parallel to the animal’s course, avoiding excessive speed or abrupt changes in course. (iii) Vessel speeds must be reduced to 10 knots or less when mother/calf pairs, pods, or large assemblages of cetaceans are observed near the vessel. (j) Miscellaneous Protocols. (i) The airgun array must be deactivated when not acquiring data or preparing to acquire data, except as necessary for testing. Unnecessary use of the acoustic source shall be avoided. Notified operational capacity (not including redundant backup airguns) must not be exceeded during the survey, except where unavoidable for source testing and calibration purposes. All occasions where activated source volume exceeds notified operational capacity must be noticed to the PSO(s) on duty and fully documented. The lead PSO must be granted access to relevant instrumentation documenting acoustic source power and/or operational volume. (ii) Testing of the acoustic source involving all elements requires normal mitigation protocols (e.g., ramp-up). Testing limited to individual source elements or strings does not require ramp-up but does require pre-clearance. 5. Monitoring Requirements. The holder of this Authorization is required to conduct marine mammal monitoring during survey activity. Monitoring shall be conducted in accordance with the following requirements: (a) The operator must provide bigeye binoculars (e.g., 25 x 150; 2.7 view angle; individual ocular focus; height control) of appropriate quality (i.e., Fujinon or equivalent) solely for PSO use. These shall be pedestal-mounted on the deck at the most appropriate vantage point that provides for optimal sea surface observation, PSO safety, and safe operation of the vessel. The E:\FR\FM\27SEN2.SGM 27SEN2 asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 186 / Wednesday, September 27, 2017 / Notices operator must also provide a nightvision device suited for the marine environment for use during nighttime ramp-up pre-clearance, at the discretion of the PSOs. At minimum, the device should feature automatic brightness and gain control, bright light protection, infrared illumination, and optics suited for low-light situations. (b) PSOs must also be equipped with reticle binoculars (e.g., 7 x 50) of appropriate quality (i.e., Fujinon or equivalent), GPS, digital single-lens reflex camera of appropriate quality (i.e., Canon or equivalent), compass, and any other tools necessary to adequately perform necessary tasks, including accurate determination of distance and bearing to observed marine mammals. (c) PSO Qualifications. (i) PSOs must have successfully completed relevant training, including completion of all required coursework and passing a written and/or oral examination developed for the training program. (ii) PSOs must have successfully attained a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university with a major in one of the natural sciences and a minimum of 30 semester hours or equivalent in the biological sciences and at least one undergraduate course in math or statistics. The educational requirements may be waived if the PSO has acquired the relevant skills through alternate experience. Requests for such a waiver must include written justification. Alternate experience that may be considered includes, but is not limited to (1) secondary education and/ or experience comparable to PSO duties; (2) previous work experience conducting academic, commercial, or government-sponsored marine mammal surveys; or (3) previous work experience as a PSO. The PSO should demonstrate good standing and consistently good performance of PSO duties. (d) Data Collection—PSOs must use standardized data forms, whether hard copy or electronic. PSOs shall record detailed information about any implementation of mitigation requirements, including the distance of animals to the acoustic source and description of specific actions that ensued, the behavior of the animal(s), any observed changes in behavior before and after implementation of mitigation, and if shutdown was implemented, the length of time before any subsequent ramp-up of the acoustic source to resume survey. If required mitigation was not implemented, PSOs should submit a description of the circumstances. NMFS requires that, at a minimum, the following information be reported: VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:29 Sep 26, 2017 Jkt 241001 (i) PSO names and affiliations. (ii) Dates of departures and returns to port with port name. (iii) Dates and times (Greenwich Mean Time) of survey effort and times corresponding with PSO effort. (iv) Vessel location (latitude/ longitude) when survey effort begins and ends; vessel location at beginning and end of visual PSO duty shifts. (v) Vessel heading and speed at beginning and end of visual PSO duty shifts and upon any line change. (vi) Environmental conditions while on visual survey (at beginning and end of PSO shift and whenever conditions change significantly), including wind speed and direction, Beaufort sea state, Beaufort wind force, swell height, weather conditions, cloud cover, sun glare, and overall visibility to the horizon. (vii) Factors that may be contributing to impaired observations during each PSO shift change or as needed as environmental conditions change (e.g., vessel traffic, equipment malfunctions). (viii) Survey activity information, such as acoustic source power output while in operation, number and volume of airguns operating in the array, tow depth of the array, and any other notes of significance (i.e., pre-ramp-up survey, ramp-up, shutdown, testing, shooting, ramp-up completion, end of operations, streamers, etc.). (ix) If a marine mammal is sighted, the following information should be recorded: (A) Watch status (sighting made by PSO on/off effort, opportunistic, crew, alternate vessel/platform). (B) PSO who sighted the animal. (C) Time of sighting. (D) Vessel location at time of sighting. (E) Water depth. (F) Direction of vessel’s travel (compass direction). (G) Direction of animal’s travel relative to the vessel. (H) Pace of the animal. (I) Estimated distance to the animal and its heading relative to vessel at initial sighting. (J) Identification of the animal (e.g., genus/species, lowest possible taxonomic level, or unidentified); also note the composition of the group if there is a mix of species. (K) Estimated number of animals (high/low/best). (L) Estimated number of animals by cohort (adults, yearlings, juveniles, calves, group composition, etc.). (M) Description (as many distinguishing features as possible of each individual seen, including length, shape, color, pattern, scars or markings, shape and size of dorsal fin, shape of head, and blow characteristics). PO 00000 Frm 00041 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4703 45155 (N) Detailed behavior observations (e.g., number of blows, number of surfaces, breaching, spyhopping, diving, feeding, traveling; as explicit and detailed as possible; note any observed changes in behavior). (O) Animal’s closest point of approach (CPA) and/or closest distance from the center point of the acoustic source;. (P) Platform activity at time of sighting (e.g., deploying, recovering, testing, shooting, data acquisition, other). (Q) Description of any actions implemented in response to the sighting (e.g., delays, shutdown, ramp-up, speed or course alteration, etc.); time and location of the action should also be recorded. (x) If a marine mammal is detected while using the PAM system, the following information should be recorded: (A) An acoustic encounter identification number, and whether the detection was linked with a visual sighting. (B) Time when first and last heard. (C) Types and nature of sounds heard (e.g., clicks, whistles, creaks, burst pulses, continuous, sporadic, strength of signal, etc.). (D) Any additional information recorded such as water depth of the hydrophone array, bearing of the animal to the vessel (if determinable), species or taxonomic group (if determinable), and any other notable information. 6. Reporting. (a) L–DEO shall submit a draft comprehensive report on all activities and monitoring results within 90 days of the completion of the survey or expiration of the IHA, whichever comes sooner. The report must describe all activities conducted and sightings of marine mammals near the activities, must provide full documentation of methods, results, and interpretation pertaining to all monitoring, and must summarize the dates and locations of survey operations and all marine mammal sightings (dates, times, locations, activities, associated survey activities). Geospatial data regarding locations where the acoustic source was used must be provided. In addition to the report, all raw observational data shall be made available to NMFS. The report must summarize the data collected as required under condition 5(d) of this IHA. The report must also provide an estimate of the number (by species) of marine mammals with known exposures to seismic survey activity at received levels greater than or equal to thresholds for Level A and Level B harassment (based on visual E:\FR\FM\27SEN2.SGM 27SEN2 45156 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 186 / Wednesday, September 27, 2017 / Notices asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES observation) including an estimate of those on the trackline but not detected. The draft report must be accompanied by a certification from the lead PSO as to the accuracy of the report, and the lead PSO may submit directly to NMFS a statement concerning implementation and effectiveness of the required mitigation and monitoring. A final report must be submitted within 30 days following resolution of any comments from NMFS on the draft report. (b) Reporting injured or dead marine mammals: (i) In the event that the specified activity clearly causes the take of a marine mammal in a manner not permitted by this IHA, such as serious injury or mortality, L–DEO shall immediately cease the specified activities and immediately report the incident to the NMFS Office of Protected Resources (301–427–8401) and the New Zealand Department of Conservation (0800–362–468). The report must include the following information: (A) Time, date, and location (latitude/ longitude) of the incident; (B) Vessel’s speed during and leading up to the incident; (C) Description of the incident; (D) Status of all sound source use in the 24 hours preceding the incident; (E) Water depth; VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:29 Sep 26, 2017 Jkt 241001 (F) Environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, Beaufort sea state, cloud cover, and visibility); (G) Description of all marine mammal observations in the 24 hours preceding the incident; (H) Species identification or description of the animal(s) involved; (I) Fate of the animal(s); and (J) Photographs or video footage of the animal(s). Activities shall not resume until NMFS is able to review the circumstances of the prohibited take. NMFS will work with L–DEO to determine what measures are necessary to minimize the likelihood of further prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. L–DEO may not resume their activities until notified by NMFS. (ii) In the event that L–DEO discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the lead observer determines that the cause of the injury or death is unknown and the death is relatively recent (e.g., in less than a moderate state of decomposition), L–DEO shall immediately report the incident to the NMFS Office of Protected Resources (301–427–8401) and the New Zealand Department of Conservation (0800–362– 468). The report must include the same information identified in condition 6(b)(i) of this IHA. Activities may continue while NMFS reviews the circumstances of the incident. NMFS PO 00000 Frm 00042 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 9990 will work with L–DEO to determine whether additional mitigation measures or modifications to the activities are appropriate. (iii) In the event that L–DEO discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the lead observer determines that the injury or death is not associated with or related to the specified activities (e.g., previously wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced decomposition, or scavenger damage), L–DEO shall report the incident to the NMFS Office of Protected Resources (301–427–8401) and the New Zealand Department of Conservation (0800–362– 468) within 24 hours of the discovery. L–DEO shall provide photographs or video footage or other documentation of the sighting to NMFS. 7. This Authorization may be modified, suspended or withdrawn if the holder fails to abide by the conditions prescribed herein, or if NMFS determines the authorized taking is having more than a negligible impact on the species or stock of affected marine mammals. Dated: September 22, 2017. Catherine Marzin, Acting Deputy Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2017–20696 Filed 9–26–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\27SEN2.SGM 27SEN2

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 186 (Wednesday, September 27, 2017)]
[Notices]
[Pages 45116-45156]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-20696]



[[Page 45115]]

Vol. 82

Wednesday,

No. 186

September 27, 2017

Part II





Department of Commerce





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National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration





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 Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking 
Marine Mammals Incidental to a Marine Geophysical Survey in the 
Southwest Pacific Ocean, 2017/2018; Notice

Federal Register / Vol. 82 , No. 186 / Wednesday, September 27, 2017 
/ Notices

[[Page 45116]]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XF456


Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; 
Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to a Marine Geophysical Survey in the 
Southwest Pacific Ocean, 2017/2018

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

ACTION: Notice; proposed incidental harassment authorization; request 
for comments.

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SUMMARY: NMFS has received a request from Lamont-Doherty Earth 
Observatory (L-DEO) for authorization to take marine mammals incidental 
to a WHEN OU marine geophysical survey in the southwest Pacific Ocean. 
Pursuant to the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), NMFS is requesting 
comments on its proposal to issue an incidental harassment 
authorization (IHA) to incidentally take marine mammals during the 
specified activities. NMFS will consider public comments prior to 
making any final decision on the issuance of the requested MMPA 
authorization and agency responses will be summarized in the notice of 
our final decision.

DATES: Comments and information must be received no later than October 
26, 2017.

ADDRESSES: Comments should be addressed to Jolie Harrison, Chief, 
Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, 
National Marine Fisheries Service. Physical comments should be sent to 
1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910 and electronic comments 
should be sent to ITP.Carduner@noaa.gov.
    Instructions: NMFS is not responsible for comments sent by any 
other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the 
end of the comment period. Comments received electronically, including 
all attachments, must not exceed a 25-megabyte file size. Attachments 
to electronic comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word or Excel or 
Adobe PDF file formats only. All comments received are a part of the 
public record and will generally be posted online at www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental/research.htm without change. All personal 
identifying information (e.g., name, address) voluntarily submitted by 
the commenter may be publicly accessible. Do not submit confidential 
business information or otherwise sensitive or protected information.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jordan Carduner, Office of Protected 
Resources, NMFS, (301) 427-8401. Electronic copies of the application 
and supporting documents, as well as a list of the references cited in 
this document, may be obtained online at: www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental/research.htm. In case of problems accessing these documents, 
please call the contact listed above.

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 (as delegated to NMFS) 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.
    An 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 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.
    The MMPA states that the term ``take'' means to harass, hunt, 
capture, or kill, or attempt to harass, hunt, capture, or kill any 
marine mammal.
    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).

National Environmental Policy Act

    To comply with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA; 
42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) and NOAA Administrative Order (NAO) 216-6A, 
NMFS must review our proposed action (i.e., the issuance of an 
incidental harassment authorization) with respect to potential impacts 
on the human environment. Accordingly, NMFS is preparing an 
Environmental Assessment (EA) to consider the environmental impacts 
associated with the issuance of the proposed IHA. NMFS' EA is available 
at www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental/research.htm. We will review 
all comments submitted in response to this notice prior to concluding 
our NEPA process or making a final decision on the IHA request.

Summary of Request

    On May 17, 2017, NMFS received a request from the L-DEO for an IHA 
to take marine mammals incidental to conducting a marine geophysical 
survey in the southwest Pacific Ocean. On September 13, 2017, we deemed 
L-DEO's application for authorization to be adequate and complete. L-
DEO's request is for take of a small number of 38 species of marine 
mammals by Level B harassment and Level A harassment. Neither L-DEO nor 
NMFS expects mortality to result from this activity, and, therefore, an 
IHA is appropriate. The planned activity is not expected to exceed one 
year, hence, we do not expect subsequent MMPA incidental harassment 
authorizations would be issued for this particular activity.

Description of Proposed Activity

Overview

    Researchers from California State Polytechnic University, 
California Institute of Technology, Pennsylvania State University, 
University Southern California, University of Southern Mississippi 
(USM), University of Hawaii at Manoa, University of Texas, and 
University of Wisconsin Madison, with funding from the U.S. National 
Science Foundation, propose to conduct three high-energy seismic 
surveys from the research vessel (R/V) Marcus G. Langseth (Langseth) in 
the waters of New Zealand in the southwest Pacific Ocean in 2017/2018. 
The NSF-owned Langseth is operated by L-DEO. One proposed survey would 
occur east of North Island and would use an 18-airgun towed array with 
a total discharge volume of ~3300 cubic inches (in\3\). Two other 
proposed seismic surveys (one off the east coast of North Island and 
one south of South Island)

[[Page 45117]]

would use a 36-airgun towed array with a discharge volume of ~6600 
in\3\. The surveys would take place in water depths from ~50 to >5,000 
m.

Dates and Duration

    The North Island two-dimensional (2-D) survey would consist of 
approximately 35 days of seismic operations plus approximately 2 days 
of transit and towed equipment deployment/retrieval. The Langseth would 
depart Auckland on approximately October 26, 2017 and arrive in 
Wellington on December 1, 2017. The North Island three-dimensional (3-
D) survey is proposed for approximately January 5, 2018-February 8, 
2018 and would consist of approximately 33 days of seismic operations 
plus approximately 2 days of transit and towed equipment deployment/
retrieval. The Langseth would leave and return to port in Napier. The 
South Island 2-D survey is proposed for approximately February 15, 
2018-March 15, 2018 and would consist of approximately 22 days of 
seismic operations, approximately 3 days of transit, and approximately 
7 days of ocean bottom seismometer (OBS) deployment/retrieval.

Specific Geographic Region

    The proposed surveys would occur within the Exclusive Economic Zone 
(EEZ) and territorial sea of New Zealand. The proposed North Island 2-D 
survey would occur within ~37-43[deg] S. between 180[deg] E. and the 
east coast of North Island along the Hikurangi margin. The proposed 
North Island 3-D survey would occur over a 15 x 60 kilometer (km) area 
offshore at the Hikurangi trench and forearc off North Island within 
~38-39.5[deg] S., ~178-179.5[deg] E. The proposed South Island 2-D 
survey would occur along the Puysegur margin off South Island within 
~163-168[deg] E. between 50[deg] S. and the south coast of South 
Island. Please see Figure 1 and Figure 2 in L-DEO's IHA application for 
maps depicting the specified geographic region of the proposed surveys.

Detailed Description of Specific Activity

    The proposed study consists of three seismic surveys off the coast 
of New Zealand in the southwest Pacific Ocean. The proposed surveys 
include: (1) A 2-D survey along the Hikurangi margin off the east coast 
of North Island; (2) a deep penetrating 3-D seismic reflection 
acquisition over a 15 x 60 km area offshore at the Hikurangi trench and 
forearc off the east coast of North Island; and (3) a 2-D survey along 
the Puysegur margin off the south coast of South Island. Water depths 
in the proposed survey areas range from ~50 to >5000 m. The proposed 
surveys would be conducted within both the territorial sea of New 
Zealand (from 0-12 nautical miles (nm) from shore) and the EEZ of New 
Zealand (from 12 to 200 nm from shore). All planned geophysical data 
acquisition activities would be conducted by L-DEO with onboard 
assistance by the scientists who have proposed the studies. The vessel 
would be self-contained, and the crew would live aboard the vessel.
    Survey protocols generally involve a predetermined set of survey, 
or track lines. The seismic acquisition vessel (source vessel) travels 
down a linear track for some distance until a line of data is acquired, 
then turns and acquires data on a different track. Representative 
survey tracklines are shown in Figures 1 and 2 in L-DEO's IHA; however, 
some deviation in actual track lines could be necessary for reasons 
such as science drivers, poor data quality, inclement weather, or 
mechanical issues with the research vessel and/or equipment. The 
proposed surveys would entail a total of approximately 13,299 km of 
track lines.
    During the two 2-D surveys, the Langseth would tow a full array, 
consisting of four strings with 36 airguns (plus 4 spares) and a total 
volume of approximately 6,600 in\3\. During the North Island 3-D 
survey, the Langseth would tow two separate 18-airgun arrays that would 
fire alternately; each array would have a total discharge volume of 
approximately 3,300 in\3\. Specifications of the airgun arrays, 
trackline distances, and water depths of each of the three proposed 
surveys are shown in Table 1. Descriptions of the three proposed 
surveys are provided below. More detailed descriptions of the three 
proposed surveys are provided in the IHA application (LGL, 2017).

Table 1--Specifications of Airgun Arrays, Trackline Distances, and Water Depths Associated With Three Proposed R/
                                       V Langseth Surveys Off New Zealand
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                       North Island 2-D survey  North Island 3-D survey  South Island 2-D survey
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Airgun array configuration and total   36 airguns, four         two separate 18-airgun   36 airguns, four
 volume.                                strings, total volume    arrays that would fire   strings, total volume
                                        of ~6,600 in\3\.         alternately; each        of ~6,600 in\3\.
                                                                 array would have a
                                                                 total discharge volume
                                                                 of ~3,300 in\3\.
Tow depth of arrays..................  9 m....................  9 m....................  9 m.
Shot point intervals.................  37.5 m.................  37.5 m.................  50 m.
Source velocity (tow speed)..........  4.3 knots..............  4.5 knots..............  4.5 knots.
Water depths.........................  8%, 23%, and 69% of      0%, 42%, and 58% of      1%, 17%, and 82% of
                                        line km would take       line km would take       line km would take
                                        place in shallow (<100   place in shallow,        place in shallow,
                                        m), intermediate (100-   intermediate, and deep   intermediate, and deep
                                        1000 m), and deep        water, respectively.     water, respectively.
                                        water (>1000 m),
                                        respectively.
Approximate trackline distance.......  5,398 km...............  3,025 km...............  4,876 km.
Percentage of survey tracklines        Approximately 9 percent  Approximately 1 percent  Approximately 6
 proposed in New Zealand Territorial                                                      percent.
 Waters.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

North Island 2-D Survey

    During the proposed North Island 2-D survey, approximately 5,398 km 
of track lines would be surveyed, spanning an area off eastern North 
Island from the south coast to the Bay of Plenty. Approximately 9 
percent of the proposed North Island 2-D survey would occur within New 
Zealand's territorial sea. The main goal of the proposed North Island 
2-D survey is to collect seismic data to create images of the plate 
boundary fault zone and to show other faults and folding of the upper 
New Zealand plate and the underlying Pacific plate. The data would 
improve scientific understanding of why the different parts of the same

[[Page 45118]]

plate boundary are behaving so differently to produce slow slip events 
and large stick-slip earthquakes. A better understanding of what causes 
the differences may help New Zealand government agencies in their 
efforts to mitigate danger posed by earthquakes in this area.
    To achieve the project goals of the North Island 2-D survey, the 
principal investigators (PIs) and co-PIs propose to use multi-channel 
seismic (MCS) reflection surveys and seismic refraction data recorded 
by OBSs to characterize the incoming Hikurangi Plateau and the seaward 
portion of the accretionary prism, and document subducted sediment 
variations. The project also includes an onshore/offshore seismic 
component. A total of 90 short-period seismometers would be deployed on 
the Raukumara Peninsula. The land seismometers would record seismic 
energy from the R/V Langseth during the North Island 2-D and 3-D 
surveys and would remain in place for three to four months to also 
record earthquakes. This instrumentation allows for very deep seismic 
sampling of the Hikurangi Subduction system to determine the structure 
of the upper plate and properties of the deeper plate boundary zone.

North Island 3-D Survey

    During the proposed North Island 3-D survey, approximately 3,025 km 
of track lines would be surveyed within a 15 x 60 km survey area that 
would begin at the Hikurangi trench and extend to within ~20 km of the 
shoreline. Approximately 1 percent of the proposed North Island 3-D 
survey would occur within New Zealand's territorial sea. The main goal 
of the proposed North Island 3-D survey is to determine what conditions 
are associated with slow slip behavior, how they differ from conditions 
associated with subduction zones that generate great earthquakes, and 
what controls the development of slow-slip faults instead of earthquake 
prone faults. The PI and co-PIs propose to use MCS surveys to acquire 
3-D seismic reflection data offshore New Zealand's Hikurangi trench and 
forearc. Although not funded through NSF, international collaborators 
would work with the PIs to achieve the research goals, providing 
assistance, such as through logistical support and data acquisition and 
exchange. This international collaborative experiment would record 
Langseth shots during seismic acquisition and develop the first ever 
high-resolution 3-D velocity models across a subduction zone using 3-D 
full-waveform inversion, overlapping and extending beyond the 3-D 
volume.

South Island 2-D Survey

    During the South Island 2-D survey, marine seismic refraction data 
would be collected along two east-west lines across the plate boundary. 
One 200-km line would cross the Puysegur Trench at 49[deg] S., and 
would be occupied by 20 short-period OBSs. A second line at 47.3[deg] 
S. would be 260 km long with 23 OBSs. MCS profiles would occur along 
these same two lines (thus each of the two lines would be surveyed 
twice) as well as in between and within ~100 km north and south of the 
two OBS lines. Approximately 4,876 km of track lines would be surveyed 
during the proposed South Island 2-D survey. Approximately 6 percent of 
those track lines would be within New Zealand's territorial sea.
    The main goal of the South Island 2-D survey is to test models for 
the formation of new subduction zones and to measure several 
fundamental aspects of this poorly understood process. The study would 
strive to (1) measure the angle of the new fault which forms the new 
plate boundary and test ideas of how the faults form; (2) measure the 
thickness of the oceanic crust at the Puysegur ridge and test models of 
how the force from the nascent slab is transmitted into the plate; and 
(3) measure the nature of the faults, especially the thrust faults, on 
the over-riding plate and test models for how the forces on the over-
riding plate change with time. In addition, the airguns would be used 
as a source of seismic waves that would be recorded onshore of the 
South Island, to test models for the tectonic evolution and nature of 
the shallow mantle directly below the plates. To achieve the project 
goals of the South Island 2-D survey, the PI and co-PIs propose to use 
MCS surveys to acquire a combination of 2-D MCS and refraction profiles 
with OBSs along the Puysegur Ridge and Trench south of South Island. 
Although not funded through NSF, international collaborators would work 
with the PIs to achieve the research goals, providing assistance, such 
as through logistical support and data acquisition and exchange. In 
addition, the collaborators would use land seismometers to record 
offshore airgun shots to determine the structure of the upper plate.
    In addition to the operations of the airgun array, the ocean floor 
would be mapped with a multibeam echosounder (MBES) and a sub-bottom 
profiler (SBP). An Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) would be 
used to measure water current velocities. These would operate 
continuously during the proposed surveys, but not during transit to and 
from the survey areas.
    Proposed mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures are 
described in detail later in this document (please see ``Proposed 
Mitigation'' and ``Proposed Monitoring and Reporting'').

Description of Marine Mammals in the Area of Specified Activities

    Section 4 of the IHA application summarizes available information 
regarding status and trends, distribution and habitat preferences, and 
behavior and life history of the potentially affected species. More 
general information about these species (e.g., physical and behavioral 
descriptions) may be found on NMFS' Web site (www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/mammals/). Table 2 lists all species with expected potential 
for occurrence in the Southwest Pacific Ocean off New Zealand and 
summarizes information related to the population, including regulatory 
status under the MMPA and ESA. The populations of marine mammals 
considered in this document do not occur within the U.S. EEZ and are 
therefore not assigned to stocks and are not assessed in NMFS' Stock 
Assessment Reports (www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/sars/). As such, information 
on potential biological removal (PBR; defined by the MMPA as the 
maximum number of animals, not including natural mortalities, that may 
be removed from a marine mammal stock while allowing that stock to 
reach or maintain its optimum sustainable population) and on annual 
levels of serious injury and mortality from anthropogenic sources are 
not available for these marine mammal populations.
    In addition to the marine mammal species known to occur in proposed 
survey areas, there are 16 species of marine mammals with ranges that 
are known to potentially occur in the waters of the proposed survey 
areas, but they are categorized as ``vagrant'' under the New Zealand 
Threat Classification System (Baker et al., 2016). These species are: 
The ginkgo-toothed whale (Mesoplodon ginkgodens); pygmy beaked whale 
(M. peruvianus); dwarf sperm whale (Kogia sima); pygmy killer whale 
(Feresa attenuata); melon-headed whale (Peponocephala electra); Risso's 
dolphin (Grampus griseus); Fraser's dolphin (Lagenodelphis hosei), 
pantropical spotted dolphin (Stenella attenuata); striped dolphin (S. 
coeruleoalba); rough-toothed dolphin (Steno bredanensis); Antarctic fur 
seal (Arctocephalus gazelle); Subantarctic fur seal (A. tropicalis); 
leopard seal (Hydrurga leptonyx); Weddell seal

[[Page 45119]]

(Leptonychotes weddellii); crabeater seal (Lobodon carcinophagus); and 
Ross seal (Ommatophoca rossi). Except for Risso's dolphin and leopard 
seal, for which there have been several sightings and strandings 
reported in New Zealand (Clement 2010; Torres 2012; Berkenbusch et al. 
2013; NZDOC 2017), the other ``vagrant'' species listed above are not 
expected to occur in the proposed survey areas and are therefore not 
considered further in this document.
    Marine mammal abundance estimates presented in this document 
represent the total number of individuals estimated within a particular 
study or survey area. All values presented in Table 2 are the most 
recent available at the time of publication.

                      Table 2--Marine Mammals That Could Occur in the Proposed Survey Areas
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                              ESA/MMPA status;      Population
           Common name                Scientific name          Stock         strategic (Y/N) \1\   abundance \2\
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                      Order Cetartiodactyla--Cetacea--Superfamily Mysticeti (baleen whales)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                Family Balaenidae
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Southern right whale.............  Eubalaena australis.  N/A                E/D;N                     \3\ 12,000
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                        Family Balaenopteridae (rorquals)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Humpback whale...................  Megaptera             N/A                -/-; N                    \3\ 42,000
                                    novaeangliae.
Bryde's whale....................  Balaenoptera edeni..  N/A                -/-; N                    \4\ 48,109
Common minke whale...............  Balaenoptera          N/A                -/-; N                       \5\ \6\
                                    acutorostrata.                                                       750,000
Antarctic minke whale............  Balaenoptera          N/A                -/-; N                       \5\ \6\
                                    bonaerensis.                                                         750,000
Sei whale........................  Balaenoptera          N/A                E/D;-                     \5\ 10,000
                                    borealis.
Fin whale........................  Balaenoptera          N/A                E/D;-                     \5\ 15,000
                                    physalus.
Blue whale.......................  Balaenoptera          N/A                E/D;-                  \3\ \5\ 3,800
                                    musculus.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                              Family Cetotheriidae
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Pygmy right whale................  Caperea marginata...  N/A                -/-; N                           N/A
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                        Superfamily Odontoceti (toothed whales, dolphins, and porpoises)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                               Family Physeteridae
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Sperm whale......................  Physeter              N/A                E/D;-                     \5\ 30,000
                                    macrocephalus.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                 Family Kogiidae
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Pygmy sperm whale................  Kogia breviceps.....  N/A                -/-; N                           N/A
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                        Family Ziphiidae (beaked whales)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Cuvier's beaked whale............  Ziphius cavirostris.  N/A                -/-; N                       \5\ \7\
                                                                                                         600,000
Arnoux's beaked whale............  Berardius arnuxii...  N/A                -/-; N                       \5\ \7\
                                                                                                         600,000
Shepherd's beaked whale..........  Tasmacetus shepherdi  N/A                -/-; N                       \5\ \7\
                                                                                                         600,000
Hector's beaked whale............  Mesoplodon hectori..  N/A                -/-; N                       \5\ \7\
                                                                                                         600,000
True's beaked whale..............  Mesoplodon mirus....  N/A                -/-; N                           N/A
Southern bottlenose whale........  Hyperoodon            N/A                -/-; N                       \5\ \7\
                                    planifrons.                                                          600,000
Gray's beaked whale..............  Mesoplodon grayi....  N/A                -/-; N                       \5\ \7\
                                                                                                         600,000
Andrew's beaked whale............  Mesoplodon bowdoini.  N/A                -/-; N                       \5\ \7\
                                                                                                         600,000
Strap-toothed beaked whale.......  Mesoplodon layardii.  N/A                -/-; N                       \5\ \7\
                                                                                                         600,000
Blainville's beaked whale........  Mesoplodon            N/A                -/-; N                       \5\ \7\
                                    densirostris.                                                        600,000
Spade-toothed beaked whale.......  Mesoplodon traversii  N/A                -/-; N                       \5\ \7\
                                                                                                         600,000
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                               Family Delphinidae
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Bottlenose dolphin...............  Tursiops truncatus..  N/A                -/-; N                           N/A
Short-beaked common dolphin......  Delphinus delphis...  N/A                -/-; N                           N/A
Dusky dolphin....................  Lagenorhynchus        N/A                -/-; N                   \8\ 12,000-
                                    obscurus.                                                             20,000
Hourglass dolphin................  Lagenorhynchus        N/A                -/-; N                   \5\ 150,000
                                    cruciger.
Southern right whale dolphin.....  Lissodelphis peronii  N/A                -/-; N                           N/A
Risso's dolphin..................  Grampus griseus.....  N/A                -/-; N                           N/A
South Island Hector's dolphin....  Cephalorhynchus       N/A                T/D;-                     \9\ 14,849
                                    hectori hectori.
Maui dolphin.....................  Cephalorhynchus       N/A                E/D;-                     \10\ 55-63
                                    hectori maui.
False killer whale...............  Pseudorca crassidens  N/A                -/-; N                           N/A
Killer whale.....................  Orcinus orca........  N/A                -/-; N                    \5\ 80,000
Long-finned pilot whale..........  Globicephala melas..  N/A                -/-; N                   \5\ 200,000
Short-finned pilot whale.........  Globicephala          N/A                -/-; N                           N/A
                                    macrorhynchus.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[[Page 45120]]

 
                                         Family Phocoenidae (porpoises)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Spectacled porpoise..............  Phocoena dioptrica..  N/A                -/-; N                           N/A
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                     Order Carnivora--Superfamily Pinnipedia
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                  Family Otariidae (eared seals and sea lions)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
New Zealand fur seal.............  Arctocephalus         N/A                -/-; N                   \8\ 200,000
                                    forsteri.
New Zealand sea lion.............  Phocarctos hookeri..  N/A                -/-; N                    \11\ 9,880
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                         Family Phocidae (earless seals)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Leopard seal.....................  Hydrurga leptonyx...  N/A                -/-; N                   \8\ 222,000
Southern elephant seal...........  Mirounga leonina....  N/A                -/-; N                   \8\ 607,000
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
N/A = Not available or not assessed.
\1\ Endangered Species Act (ESA) status: Endangered (E), Threatened (T)/MMPA status: Depleted (D). A dash (-)
  indicates that the species is not listed under the ESA or designated as depleted under the MMPA. Under the
  MMPA, a strategic stock is one for which the level of direct human-caused mortality exceeds PBR or which is
  determined to be declining and likely to be listed under the ESA within the foreseeable future. Any species or
  stock listed under the ESA is automatically designated under the MMPA as depleted and as a strategic stock.
\2\ Abundance for the Southern Hemisphere or Antarctic unless otherwise noted.
\3\ IWC (2016).
\4\ IWC (1981).
\5\ Boyd (2002).
\6\ Dwarf and Antarctic minke whales combined.
\7\ All Antarctic beaked whales combined.
\8\ Estimate for New Zealand; NZDOC 2017.
\9\ Estimate for New Zealand; MacKenzie and Clement 2016.
\10\ Estimate for New Zealand; Hamner et al. (2014) and Baker et al. (2016).
\11\ Geschke and Chilvers (2009).

    All species that could potentially occur in the proposed survey 
area are included in table 2. However, of the species described in 
Table 2, the temporal and/or spatial occurrence of one subspecies, the 
Maui dolphin, is such that take is not expected to occur as a result of 
the proposed project. The Maui dolphin is one of two subspecies of 
Hector's dolphin (the other being the South Island Hector's dolphin), 
both of which are endemic to New Zealand. The Maui dolphin has been 
demonstrated to be genetically distinct from the South Island 
subspecies of Hector's dolphin based on studies of mitochondrial and 
nuclear DNA (Pichler et al. 1998). It is currently considered one of 
the rarest dolphins in the world with a population size estimated at 
just 55-63 individuals (Hamner et al. 2014; Baker et al. 2016). 
Historically, Hector's dolphins are thought to have ranged along almost 
the entire coastlines of both the North and South Islands of New 
Zealand, though their present range is substantially smaller (Pichler 
2002). The range of the Maui dolphin in particular has undergone a 
marked reduction (Dawson et al. 2001; Slooten et al. 2005), with the 
subspecies now restricted to the northwest coast of the North Island, 
between Maunganui Bluff in the north and Whanganui in the south (Currey 
et al., 2012). Occasional sightings and strandings have also been 
reported from areas further south along the west coast as well as 
possible sightings in other areas such as Hawke's Bay on the east coast 
of North Island (Baker 1978, Russell 1999, Ferreira and Roberts 2003, 
Slooten et al. 2005, DuFresne 2010, Berkenbusch et al. 2013; Torres et 
al. 2013; Pati[ntilde]o-P[eacute]rez 2015; NZDOC 2017) though it is 
unclear whether those individuals may have originated from the South 
Island Hector's dolphin populations. A 2016 NMFS Draft Status Review 
Report concluded the Maui dolphin is facing a high risk of extinction 
as a result of small population size, reduced genetic diversity, low 
theoretical population growth rates, evidence of continued population 
decline, and the ongoing threats of fisheries bycatch, disease, mining 
and seismic disturbances (Manning and Grantz, 2016). Due to its 
extremely low population size and the fact that the subspecies is not 
expected to occur in the proposed survey areas off the North Island, 
take of Maui dolphins is not expected to occur as a result of the 
proposed activities. Therefore the Maui dolphin is not discussed 
further beyond the explanation provided here.
    We have reviewed L-DEO's species descriptions, including life 
history information, distribution, regional distribution, diving 
behavior, and acoustics and hearing, for accuracy and completeness. We 
refer the reader to Section 4 of L-DEO's IHA application, rather than 
reprinting the information here. Below, for the 38 species that are 
likely to be taken by the activities described, we offer a brief 
introduction to the species and relevant stock as well as available 
information regarding population trends and threats, and describe any 
information regarding local occurrence.

Southern Right Whale

    The southern right whale occurs throughout the Southern Hemisphere 
between ~20[deg] S. and 60[deg] S. (Kenney 2009). Southern right whales 
calve in nearshore coastal waters during the winter and typically 
migrate to offshore feeding grounds during summer (Patenaude 2003). 
Wintering populations off the subantarctic Auckland Islands of New 
Zealand spend the majority of their time resting or engaging in social 
interactions regardless of their group type (e.g. single whale, group, 
and mother-calf pair). Over 35% of mother-calf pairs in the area were 
seen traveling (Patenaude and Baker 2001).

[[Page 45121]]

    Southern right whale sounds and their role in communication have 
been fully described by Clark (1983) and are categorized into three 
general classes (blow, slaps, and calls). Calls are generally low 
frequency (peak frequencies <500 Hertz (Hz)) and one common call--
`Up'--has been described to function as a way for individuals to find 
and make contact with each other.
    The available information suggests that southern right whales could 
be migrating near or within the proposed survey areas during October-
March, with the possibility of some individuals calving in nearshore 
waters off eastern North Island during November. Habitat use (Torres et 
al. 2013c) and suitability modeling (Pati[ntilde]o-P[eacute]rez 2015) 
for New Zealand showed that a large proportion of the proposed North 
and South Island survey areas (mainly in deeper water) has low habitat 
suitability for the southern right whale; sheltered coastal areas had 
the highest habitat suitability, especially in Foveaux Strait between 
South and Stewart Islands.

Humpback Whale

    Humpback whales are found worldwide in all ocean basins. In winter, 
most humpback whales occur in the subtropical and tropical waters of 
the Northern and Southern Hemispheres (Muto et al., 2015). These 
wintering grounds are used for mating, giving birth, and nursing new 
calves. In the South Pacific Ocean, there are several distinct winter 
breeding grounds, including eastern Australia and Oceania (Anderson et 
al. 2010; Garrigue et al. 2011; Bettridge et al. 2013). Whales from 
Oceania migrate past New Zealand to Antarctic summer feeding areas 
(Constantine et al. 2007; Garrigue et al. 2000, 2010); migration from 
eastern Australia past New Zealand has also been reported (Franklin et 
al. 2014). The northern migration along the New Zealand coast occurs 
from May to August, with a peak in late June to mid-July; the southern 
migration occurs from September to December, with a peak in late 
October to late November (Dawbin 1956). It is likely that some humpback 
whales would be encountered in the survey area during November and 
December, as they migrate from winter breeding areas in the tropics to 
summer feeding grounds in the Antarctic. Fewer humpbacks are expected 
to occur in the proposed survey areas during January through March, as 
most individuals occur further south during the summer.
    Humpback whales were listed as endangered under the Endangered 
Species Conservation Act (ESCA) in June 1970. In 1973, the ESA replaced 
the ESCA, and humpbacks continued to be listed as endangered. NMFS 
recently evaluated the status of the species, and on September 8, 2016, 
NMFS divided the species into 14 distinct population segments (DPS), 
removed the current species-level listing, and in its place listed four 
DPSs as endangered and one DPS as threatened (81 FR 62259; September 8, 
2016). The remaining nine DPSs were not listed. The only DPSs with the 
potential to occur in the proposed survey areas would be the Oceania 
DPS and the Eastern Australia DPS; neither of these DPSs is listed 
under the ESA (81 FR 62259; September 8, 2016).

Bryde's Whale

    The Bryde's whale occurs in all tropical and warm temperate waters 
in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian oceans, between 40[deg] N. and 
40[deg] S. (Kato and Perrin 2009). It is one of the least known large 
baleen whales, and it remains uncertain how many species are 
represented in this complex (Kato and Perrin 2009). Bryde's whales 
remain in warm (>16 [deg]C) water year-round, and seasonal movements 
towards the Equator in winter and offshore in summer have been recorded 
(Kato and Perrin 2009). The Bryde's whale is likely to occur in the Bay 
of Plenty in the proposed North Island survey area; it is unlikely to 
occur anywhere else in the North Island or South Island survey areas.

Minke Whale

    The minke whale has a cosmopolitan distribution ranging from the 
tropics and sub-tropics to the ice edge in both hemispheres (Jefferson 
et al. 2015). Its distribution in the Southern Hemisphere is not well 
known (Jefferson et al. 2015). Populations of minke whales around New 
Zealand are migratory (Baker 1983). Clement (2010) noted that minke 
whales likely use East Cape to navigate along the east coast of New 
Zealand during the northern and southern migrations. Small groups of 
minke whales have been sighted off New Zealand (Baker 1999; Clement 
2010; Berkenbusch et al. 2013; Torres et al. 2013b; Pati[ntilde]o-
P[eacute]rez 2015).

Antarctic Minke Whale

    The Antarctic minke whale has a circumpolar distribution in coastal 
and offshore areas of the Southern Hemisphere from ~7[deg] S. to the 
ice edge (Jefferson et al. 2015). Antarctic minke whales are found 
between 60[deg] S. and the ice edge during the austral summer (December 
to February); in the austral winter (June to August), they are mainly 
found at breeding grounds at mid latitudes, including 10[deg] S.-
30[deg] S. and 170[deg] E.-100[deg] W. in the Pacific, off eastern 
Australia (Perrin and Brownell 2009). Antarctic minke whales would be 
less likely to be encountered during the time of the proposed surveys, 
because they would be expected to be in their summer feeding areas 
further south.

Sei Whale

    The sei whale occurs in all ocean basins (Horwood 2009) but appears 
to prefer mid-latitude temperate waters (Jefferson et al. 2008). It 
undertakes seasonal migrations to feed in subpolar latitudes during 
summer and returns to lower latitudes during winter to calve (Horwood 
2009). The sei whale is pelagic and generally not found in coastal 
waters (Harwood and Wilson 2001). It occurs in deeper waters 
characteristic of the continental shelf edge region (Hain et al. 1985) 
and in other regions of steep bathymetric relief such as seamounts and 
canyons (Kenney and Winn 1987; Gregr and Trites 2001). In the South 
Pacific, sei whales typically concentrate between the sub-tropical and 
Antarctic convergences during the summer (Horwood 2009). The sei whale 
is likely to be uncommon in the proposed survey areas during October-
March.

Fin Whale

    Fin whales are found throughout all oceans from tropical to polar 
latitudes, however, their overall range and distribution is not well 
known (Jefferson et al. 2015). The fin whale most commonly occurs 
offshore but can also be found in coastal areas (Aguilar 2009). Most 
populations migrate seasonally between temperate waters where mating 
and calving occur in winter, and polar waters where feeding occurs in 
summer (Aguilar 2009). However, recent evidence suggests that some 
animals may remain at high latitudes in winter or low latitudes in 
summer (Edwards et al. 2015). Northern and southern fin whale 
populations are distinct and are sometimes recognized as different 
subspecies (Aguilar 2009). In the Southern Hemisphere, fin whales are 
usually distributed south of 50 [deg]S. in the austral summer, and they 
migrate northward to breed in the winter (Gambell 1985).

Blue Whale

    The blue whale has a cosmopolitan distribution and tends to be 
pelagic, only coming nearshore to feed and possibly to breed (Jefferson 
et al. 2008). Blue whale migration is less well defined than for some 
other rorquals, and their movements tend to be more closely linked to 
areas of high primary productivity, and hence prey, to meet

[[Page 45122]]

their high energetic demands (Branch et al. 2007). Generally, blue 
whales are seasonal migrants between high latitudes in the summer, 
where they feed, and low latitudes in the winter, where they mate and 
give birth (Lockyer and Brown 1981). Some individuals may stay in low 
or high latitudes throughout the year (Reilly and Thayer 1990; Watkins 
et al. 2000).
    Three subspecies of blue whale are recognized: B. m. musculus in 
the Northern Hemisphere; B. m. intermedia (the true blue whale) in the 
Antarctic, and B. m. brevicauda (the pygmy blue whale) in the sub-
Antarctic zone of the southern Indian Ocean and the southwestern 
Pacific Ocean (Sears and Perrin 2009). The pygmy and Antarctic blue 
whale occur in New Zealand (Branch et al. 2007). The blue whale is 
considered rare in the Southern Ocean (Sears and Perrin 2009). Most 
pygmy blue whales do not migrate south during summer; however, 
Antarctic blue whales are typically found south of 55[deg] S. during 
summer, although some are known not to migrate (Branch et al. 2007).
    Blue whale calls have been detected in New Zealand waters year-
round (Miller et al. 2014). Vocalizations have been recorded within 2 
km from Great Barrier Island, northern New Zealand, from June to 
December 1997 (McDonald 2006), as well as off the tip of Northland 
(Miller et al. 2014). Blue whale vocalizations were also detected along 
the west and east coasts of South Island during January-March 2013; 
these included songs detected in four locations off the southwest tip 
of the South Island in early February and at multiple locations south 
of Stewart Island in mid-March (Miller et al. 2014). Southern Ocean 
blue whale songs were detected further offshore during May-July 
(McDonald 2006).

Pygmy Right Whale

    The pygmy right whale is the smallest, most cryptic and least known 
of the living baleen whales. Pygmy right whales are found individually 
or in pairs, although groups of up to 80 whales have been observed. 
Although little is known about them, it is thought that pygmy right 
whales do not exhibit common behaviors of other whales such as 
breaching or displaying their flukes. In one case, a pygmy right whale 
was observed swimming by undulating the body from head to tail rather 
than swimming using movement of the tail area and flukes like other 
cetaceans. Pygmy right whales are strong, fast swimmers (Fordyce 2013).
    The pygmy right whale's distribution is circumpolar in the Southern 
Hemisphere between 30[deg] S. and 55[deg] S. in oceanic and coastal 
environments (Kemper 2009; Jefferson et al. 2015). Pygmy right whales 
appear to be non-migratory, although there may be some movement inshore 
during spring and summer (Kemper 2002). Strandings appear to be 
associated with favorable feeding areas in New Zealand, including 
upwelling regions, along the Subtropical Convergence, and the Southland 
Current (Kemper 2002; Kemper et al. 2013). Despite the scarcity of 
sightings, Kemper (2009) noted that the number of strandings indicate 
that the pygmy right whale may be relatively common in Australia and 
New Zealand.

Sperm Whale

    Sperm whales are found throughout the world's oceans in deep waters 
from the tropics to the edge of the ice at both poles (Leatherwood and 
Reeves 1983; Rice 1989; Whitehead 2002). Sperm whales throughout the 
world exhibit a geographic social structure where females and juveniles 
of both sexes occur in mixed groups and inhabit tropical and 
subtropical waters. Males, as they mature, initially form bachelor 
groups but eventually become more socially isolated and more wide-
ranging, inhabiting temperate and polar waters as well (Whitehead 
2003). Females typically inhabit waters >1000 m deep and latitudes 
<40[deg] (Rice 1989). Torres et al. (2013a) found that sperm whale 
distribution is associated with proximity to geomorphologic features, 
as well as surface temperature.
    Sperm whales are widely distributed throughout New Zealand waters, 
occurring in offshore and nearshore regions, with decreasing abundance 
away from New Zealand toward the central South Pacific Ocean (Gaskin 
1973). Sperm whale sightings have been reported throughout the year in 
and near the proposed North Island survey area, including the Bay of 
Plenty and off East Cape (Clement 2010; Berkenbusch et al. 2013; Torres 
et al. 2013b; Blue Planet Marine 2016; NZDOC 2017b), as well as in and 
near the South Island survey area (Berkenbusch et al. 2013; NZDOC 
2017b). Although sightings have been made during the summer in the 
proposed North Island survey area, no summer sightings were reported 
for the South Island survey area. However, sightings were made just to 
the south of the proposed survey area during summer (Kasamatsu and 
Joynce 1995). There have been at least 211 strandings reported for New 
Zealand (Berkenbusch et al. 2013), including along the coast of East 
Cape, in Hawke's Bay, Cook Strait, and along the south coast of South 
Island (Brabyn 1991; NZDOC 2017b).

Pygmy Sperm Whale

    Pygmy sperm whales are found in tropical and warm-temperate waters 
throughout the world (Ross and Leatherwood 1994) and prefer deeper 
waters with observations of this species in greater than 4,000 m depth 
(Baird et al., 2013). Sightings are rare of this species. They are 
difficult to sight at sea, because of their dive behavior and perhaps 
because of their avoidance reactions to ships and behavior changes in 
relation to survey aircraft (W[uuml]rsig et al. 1998). Both pygmy and 
dwarf sperm whales are sighted primarily along the continental shelf 
edge and slope and over deeper waters off the shelf (Hansen et al. 
1994; Davis et al. 1998; Jefferson et al. 2008).
    There have been very few sightings of pygmy sperm whales in New 
Zealand. The lack of sightings is likely because of their subtle 
surface behavior and long dive times (Clement 2010). However, the pygmy 
sperm whale is one of the most regularly stranded cetacean species in 
New Zealand, suggesting that this species is relatively common in those 
waters (Clement 2010). Pygmy sperm whales are likely to occur near the 
North Island survey area but are less likely to occur in the South 
Island survey area.

Cuvier's Beaked Whale

    Cuvier's beaked whale is the most widespread of the beaked whales 
occurring in almost all temperate, subtropical, and tropical waters and 
even some sub-polar and polar waters (MacLeod et al. 2006). It is found 
in deep water over and near the continental slope (Jefferson et al. 
2008). New Zealand has been reported as a hotspot for beaked whales 
(MacLeod and Mitchell 2006), with both sightings and strandings of 
Cuvier's beaked whales in the proposed survey area (MacLeod et al. 
2006; Thompson et al. 2013a).
    Cuvier's beaked whales strand relatively frequently in New Zealand; 
at least 82 strandings have been reported (Berkenbusch et al. 2013). 
For the North Island, strandings have been reported for the Bay of 
Plenty, East Cape, Mahia Peninsula, Hawke's Bay, as well as Cook 
Strait; strandings have occurred along all coasts of South Island 
(Brabyn 1991; Clement 2010; Thompson et al. 2013a). Strandings have 
been reported throughout the year, with a peak during fall (Thompson et 
al. 2013a).

Arnoux's Beaked Whale

    Arnoux's beaked whale is distributed in deep, temperate and 
subpolar waters of the Southern Hemisphere, with most

[[Page 45123]]

records for southeast South America, the Antarctic Peninsula, South 
Africa, New Zealand, and southern Australia (Jefferson et al. 2015). It 
typically occurs south of 40[deg] S., but it could reach latitudes of 
34[deg] S. or even farther north (Jefferson et al. 2015). Arnoux's 
beaked whale strands frequently in New Zealand (Ross 2006), with 
strandings reported for the northwest coast of North Island, Bay of 
Plenty, Hawke's Bay, and Cook Strait (Clement 2010; Thompson et al. 
2013a). MacLeod et al. (2006) reported numerous strandings of Berardius 
spp. for New Zealand. One sighting has been made in the Bay of Plenty 
(Clement 2010).

Shepherd's Beaked Whale

    Based on known records, it is likely that Shepherd's beaked whale 
has a circumpolar distribution in the cold temperate waters of the 
Southern Hemisphere (Mead 1989a). This species is primarily known from 
strandings, most of which have been recorded in New Zealand (Mead 
2009). Thus, MacLeod and Mitchell (2006) suggested that New Zealand may 
be a globally important area for Shepherd's beaked whale. However, only 
a few sightings of live animals have been reported for New Zealand 
(MacLeod and Mitchell 2006). One possible sighting was made near 
Christchurch (Watkins 1976). In 2016, there were two sightings of 
Shepherd's beaked whale on a winter survey offshore from the Otago 
Peninsula on the South Island (NZDOC 2017b). At least 20 specimens have 
stranded on the coast of New Zealand (Baker 1999), including in 
southern Taranaki Bight and Banks Peninsula (Brabyn 1991). Stranding 
records also exist for Mahia Peninsula and northeastern North Island 
(Thompson et al. 2013a).

Hector's Beaked Whale

    Hector's beaked whale is thought to have a circumpolar distribution 
in deep oceanic temperate waters of the Southern Hemisphere (Pitman 
2002). Based on the number of stranding records for the species, it 
appears to be relatively rare. One individual was observed swimming 
close to shore off southwestern Australia for periods of weeks before 
disappearing (Gales et al. 2002). This was the first live sighting in 
which species identity was confirmed.
    MacLeod and Mitchell (2006) suggested that New Zealand may be a 
globally important area for this species. There are sighting and 
stranding records of Hector's beaked whales for New Zealand (MacLeod et 
al. 2006; Clement 2010). One sighting has been reported for the Bay of 
Plenty on the North Island (Clement 2010). At least 12 strandings have 
been reported for New Zealand (Berkenbusch et al. 2013), including 
records for the Bay of Plenty, East Cape, Mahia Peninsula, Hawke's Bay, 
Cook Strait, and the east coast of South Island (Brabyn 1991; Clement 
2010; Thompson et al. 2013a; NZDOC 2017b).

True's Beaked Whale

    True's beaked whale has a disjunct, antitropical distribution in 
the Northern and Southern hemispheres (Jefferson et al. 2015). In the 
Southern Hemisphere, it is known to occur in the Atlantic and Indian 
oceans, including Brazil, South Africa, Madagascar, and southern 
Australia (Jefferson et al. 2015). There is a single record of True's 
beaked whale in New Zealand, which stranded on the west coast of South 
Island in November 2011 (Constantine et al. 2014).

Southern Bottlenose Whale

    The southern bottlenose whale can be found throughout the Southern 
Hemisphere from 30[deg] S. to the ice edge, with most sightings 
occurring from ~57[deg] S. to 70[deg] S. (Jefferson et al. 2015). It is 
apparently migratory, occurring in Antarctic waters during summer 
(Jefferson et al. 2015). New Zealand has been reported as a hotspot for 
beaked whales (MacLeod and Mitchell 2006), with both sightings and 
strandings of southern bottlenose whales in the area (MacLeod et al. 
2006). At least six sightings have been reported for waters around New 
Zealand, including one in Hauraki Gulf, one on the southwest coast of 
South Island, one off the east coast of North Island within the 
proposed survey area, one off the Otago Peninsula, and two sightings 
south of New Zealand within the EEZ (Berkenbusch et al. 2013; NZDOC 
2017b). In addition, 24 strandings were reported for New Zealand 
between 1970 and 2013 (Berkenbusch et al. 2013). Strandings have been 
reported for Bay of Plenty, East Cape, Hawke's Bay, southern North 
Island, northeastern South Island, and Cook Strait (Brabyn 1991; 
Clement 2010; Thompson et al. 2013a).

Gray's Beaked Whale

    Gray's beaked whale is thought to have a circumpolar distribution 
in temperate waters of the Southern Hemisphere (Pitman 2002). Gray's 
beaked whale primarily occurs in deep waters beyond the edge of the 
continental shelf (Jefferson et al. 2015). Some sightings have been 
made in very shallow water, usually of sick animals coming in to strand 
(Gales et al. 2002; Dalebout et al. 2004). One Gray's beaked whale was 
observed within 200 m of the shore off southwestern Australia off and 
on for periods of weeks before disappearing (Gales et al. 2002). There 
are many sighting records from Antarctic and sub-Antarctic waters, and 
in summer months they appear near the Antarctic Peninsula and along the 
shores of the continent (sometimes in the sea ice).
    New Zealand has been reported as a hotspot for beaked whales 
(MacLeod and Mitchell 2006), with both sightings and strandings of 
Gray's beaked whales in the proposed survey area (MacLeod et al. 2006; 
Thompson et al. 2013a). In particular, the area between the South 
Island of New Zealand and the Chatham Islands has been suggested to be 
a hotspot for sightings of this species (Dalebout et al. 2004).

Andrew's Beaked Whale

    Andrew's beaked whale has a circumpolar distribution in temperate 
waters of the Southern Hemisphere (Baker 2001). This species is known 
only from stranding records between 32[deg] S. and 55[deg] S., with 
more than half of the strandings occurring in New Zealand (Jefferson et 
al. 2015). Thus, New Zealand may be a globally important area for 
Andrew's beaked whale (MacLeod and Mitchell 2006). In particular, 
Clement (2010) suggested that the East Cape/Hawke's Bay waters may be 
an important habitat for Andrew's beaked whale.
    There have been at least 19 strandings in New Zealand (Berkenbusch 
et al. 2013), at least 10 of which have been reported in the spring and 
summer (Baker 1999). Strandings have occurred from the North Island to 
the sub-Antarctic Islands (Baker 1999), including East Cape, Hawke's 
Bay, Cook Strait, and southeast of Stewart Island (Brabyn 1991; Clement 
2010; Thompson et al. 2013a).

Strap-Toothed Beaked Whale

    The strap-toothed beaked whale is thought to have a circumpolar 
distribution in temperate and sub-Antarctic waters of the Southern 
Hemisphere, mostly between 35[deg] and 60[deg] S. (Jefferson et al. 
2015). Based on the number of stranding records, it appears to be 
fairly common. Strap-toothed whales are thought to migrate northward 
from Antarctic and sub-Antarctic latitudes during April-September 
(Sekiguchi et al. 1996).
    New Zealand has been reported as a hotspot for beaked whales 
(MacLeod and Mitchell 2006), with both sightings and strandings of 
strap-toothed beaked whales adjacent to the proposed survey area 
(MacLeod et al. 2006; Clement 2010; Thompson et al. 2013a). Strap-
toothed whales commonly strand in

[[Page 45124]]

New Zealand, with at least 78 strandings reported (Berkenbusch et al. 
2013). Most strandings occur between January and April, suggesting some 
seasonal austral summer inshore migration (Baker 1999; Thompson et al. 
2013a). Strap-toothed whale strandings have been reported for the east 
coast of North Island and South Island, including the Bay of Plenty, 
East Cape, Hawke's Bay, Cook Strait, the Otago Peninsula and along 
Foveaux Strait (Brabyn 1991; Clement 2010; Thompson et al. 2013a).

Blainville's Beaked Whale

    Blainville's beaked whale is found in tropical and warm temperate 
waters of all oceans; it has the widest distribution throughout the 
world of all mesoplodont species and appears to be common (Pitman 
2009b). In the western Pacific, strandings have been reported from 
Japan to Australia and New Zealand (MacLeod et al. 2006). There have 
been at least four strandings of Blainville's beaked whale in New 
Zealand, including three strandings for the northwest coast of North 
Island and another for Hawke's Bay, but none for the South Island 
(Thompson et al. 2013a).

Spade-Toothed Beaked Whale

    The spade-toothed beaked whale is the name proposed for the species 
formerly known as Bahamonde's beaked whale (M. bahamondi). Recent 
genetic evidence has shown that they belong to the species first 
identified by Gray in 1874 (van Helden et al. 2002). The species is 
considered relatively rare and is known from only four records, three 
of which are from New Zealand (Thompson et al. 2012). One mandible was 
found at the Chatham Islands in 1872; two skulls were found at White 
Island, Bay of Plenty, in the 1950s; a skull was collected at Robinson 
Crusoe Island, Chile, in 1986; and most recently, two live whales, a 
female and a male, stranded at Opape, in the Bay of Plenty, and 
subsequently died (Thompson et al. 2012). MacLeod and Mitchell (2006) 
suggested that New Zealand may be a globally important area for the 
spade-toothed beaked whale.

Bottlenose Dolphin

    Bottlenose dolphins are widely distributed throughout the world in 
tropical and warm-temperate waters (Perrin et al. 2009). Generally, 
there are two distinct bottlenose dolphin ecotypes: One mainly found in 
coastal waters and one mainly found in oceanic waters (Duffield et al. 
1983; Hoelzel et al. 1998; Walker et al. 1999). As well as inhabiting 
different areas, these ecotypes differ in their diving abilities 
(Klatsky 2004) and prey types (Mead and Potter 1995).

Short-Beaked Common Dolphin

    The short-beaked common dolphin is found in tropical to cool 
temperate oceans around the world, and ranges as far south as ~40[deg] 
S. (Perrin 2009). It is generally considered an oceanic species 
(Jefferson et al. 2015), but Neumann (2001) noted that this species can 
be found in coastal and offshore habitats. Short-beaked common dolphins 
are found in shelf waters of New Zealand, generally north of Stewart 
Island; they are more commonly seen in waters along the northeastern 
coast of North Island (Stockin and Orams 2009; NABIS 2017) and may 
occur closer to shore during the summer (Neumann 2001; Stockin et al. 
2008). They can be found all around New Zealand (Baker 1999) with 
abundance hotspots on the coasts of Northland, Hauraki Gulf, Mahia 
Peninsula, Cape Palliser, Cook Strait, Marlborough Sounds, and the 
northwest coast of South Island (NABIS 2017).
    The short-beaked common dolphin is likely the most common cetacean 
species in New Zealand waters, occurring there year-round (Clement 
2010; Hutching 2015). Numerous sightings have been made in shelf waters 
of the east coast of North and South Islands, as well as farther 
offshore, throughout the year, including within the proposed survey 
areas (Clement 2010; Berkenbusch et al. 2013; Torres et al. 2013b; 
Pati[ntilde]o-P[eacute]rez 2015; Blue Planet Marine 2016; NZDOC 2017b).

Dusky Dolphin

    The dusky dolphin is found throughout the Southern Hemisphere, 
occurring in disjunct subpopulations in the waters off southern 
Australia, New Zealand (including some sub-Antarctic Islands), central 
and southern South America, and southwestern Africa (Jefferson et al. 
2015). The species occurs in coastal and continental slope waters and 
is uncommon in waters >2000 m deep (W[uuml]rsig et al 2007). The dusky 
dolphin is common in New Zealand (Hutching 2015) and occurs there year-
round. Dusky dolphins migrate northward to warmer waters in winter and 
south during the summer (Gaskin 1968).
    Sightings of dusky dolphins exist for shelf as well as deep, 
offshore waters (Berkenbusch et al. 2013). W[uuml]rsig et al. (2007) 
noted that dusky dolphins typically move into deeper waters during the 
winter. Sightings have been made in and near the proposed North and 
South Island survey areas during summer (see Clement 2010; Berkenbusch 
et al. 2013; Pati[ntilde]o-P[eacute]rez 2015; Blue Planet Marine 2016; 
NZDOC 2017b). Some sightings in the austral spring and summer have been 
made along Northland, Bay of Plenty, off East Cape, southeast coast of 
North Island, Cape Palliser, and Cook Strait (Berkenbusch et al. 2013; 
NZDOC 2017b). However, sightings off the entire coastline of South 
Island appear to be more common and are made throughout the year.

Hourglass Dolphin

    The hourglass dolphin occurs in all parts of the Southern Ocean 
south of ~45[deg] S., with most sightings between 45[deg] S. and 
60[deg] S. (Goodall 2009). Although it is pelagic, it is also sighted 
near banks and Islands (Goodall 2009). Baker (1999) noted that the 
hourglass dolphin is considered a rare coastal visitor to New Zealand. 
Berkenbusch et al. (2013) reported five sightings of hourglass dolphins 
in New Zealand waters, including one off Banks Peninsula, one off the 
southeast coast of South Island, two within the proposed South Island 
survey, and one southwest of the Auckland Islands. All sightings were 
made during November-February. In addition, there have been at least 
five strandings in New Zealand (Berkenbusch et al. 2013), including 
records for the South Island (Baker 1999). Due to these observations, 
the hourglass dolphin would likely be rare in the proposed North survey 
area and uncommon in the South Island survey area.

Southern Right Whale Dolphin

    The southern right whale dolphin is distributed between the 
Subtropical and Antarctic Convergences in the Southern Hemisphere, 
generally between ~30[deg] S. and 65[deg] S. (Jefferson et al. 2015). 
It is sighted most often in cool, offshore waters, although it is 
sometimes seen near shore where coastal waters are deep (Jefferson et 
al. 2015). The species has rarely been seen at sea in New Zealand 
(Baker 1999). Berkenbusch et al. (2013) reported five sightings for the 
EEZ of New Zealand, including one each off the southeast coast and 
southwest coast of South Island, and three to the southeast of Stewart 
Island; sightings were made during February and September. During 
August 1999, a group 500+ southern right whale dolphins including a 
calf were sighted southeast of Kaikoura in water >1500 m deep (Visser 
et al. 2004). There were five additional sightings in the OBIS 
database, including one sighting in the South Taranaki Bight, two 
sightings

[[Page 45125]]

southeast of Kaikoura during 1985-1986, and two sightings off the 
southwest coast of South Island (OBIS 2017). Several more sightings 
have also been reported off the southeast coast of South Island (NZDOC 
2017b).
    At least 16 strandings have been reported for New Zealand 
(Berkenbusch et al. 2013). Most strandings have occurred along the 
north coast of South Island (Brabyn 1991), but strandings were also 
reported for Hawke's Bay, southeast North Island, Banks Peninsula, and 
Foveaux Strait (Clement 2010; NZDOC 2017b).

Risso's Dolphin

    Risso's dolphins are found in tropical to warm-temperate waters 
(Carretta et al., 2016). The species occurs from coastal to deep water 
but is most often found in depths greater than 3,000 m with the highest 
sighting rate in depths greater than 4,500 m (Baird 2016) and is known 
to frequent seamounts and escarpments (Kruse et al. 1999). It occurs 
between 60[deg] N. and 60[deg] S. where surface water temperatures are 
at least 10 [deg]C (Kruse et al. 1999).
    According to Jefferson et al. (2014, 2015), the range of the 
Risso's dolphin includes the waters of New Zealand, although the number 
of records for that region is small. Nonetheless, a few records exist 
for the North Island, including the east coast (Clement 2010; 
Berkenbusch et al. 2013; Jefferson et al. 2014). Although some 
sightings have been reported in New Zealand, such as in South Taranaki 
Bight on the west coast of North Island (Torres 2012), only strandings 
are known for the east coast of North Island (Clement 2010). One 
stranding has been reported for the northwest coast of South Island 
(NZDOC 2017b).

South Island Hector's Dolphin

    Hector's dolphins are endemic to New Zealand and have one of the 
most restricted distributions of any cetacean (Dawson and Slooten 
1988); they occur in New Zealand waters year-round (Berkenbusch et al. 
2013) and are found mainly in coastal waters, preferring depths of <90 
m (Br[auml]ger et al. 2003; Rayment et al. 2006; Slooten et al. 2006) 
within 10 km from shore (Hutching 2015). As described above, the South 
Island Hector's dolphin (C. hectori hectori) is one of two subspecies 
of Hector's dolphins that have been formally recognized on the basis of 
multiple morphological distinctions and genetic evidence of 
reproductive isolation (Baker et al., 2002; Pichler 2002, Hamner et 
al., 2012).
    Historically, Hector's dolphins are thought to have ranged along 
almost the entire coastlines of both the North and South Islands of New 
Zealand, though their present range is substantially smaller (Pichler 
2002). The South Island Hector's dolphin is found only off the coast of 
the South Island of New Zealand (L. Manning and K. Grantz, 2016). There 
are at least three genetically separate populations of Hector's dolphin 
off South Island: Off the east coast (particularly around Banks 
Peninsula), off the west coast, and off the Southland coast of southern 
South Island (Baker et al. 2002). The majority of Hector's dolphins off 
the South Island are found along the West Coast (between Farewell Spit 
and Milford Sound) with the remainder (about 1200 to 2900) found along 
the East Coast (from Farewell Spit to Nugget Point) and South Coast 
(from Nugget Point to Long Point) (Dawson et al. 2004).

False Killer Whale

    The false killer whale is found in all tropical and warm temperate 
oceans of the world, with only occasional sightings in cold temperate 
waters (Baird 2009b). It is known to occur in deep, offshore waters 
(Odell and McClune 1999), but can also occur over the continental shelf 
and in nearshore shallow waters (Jefferson et al. 2015; Zaeschmar et 
al. 2014). In the western Pacific, the false killer whale is 
distributed from Japan south to Australia and New Zealand.
    Berkenbusch et al. (2013) reported at least 27 sightings of false 
killer whales in New Zealand during summer and fall, primarily along 
the coast of North Island, but also off South Island and in South 
Taranaki Bight. In addition, there have been at least 28 strandings in 
New Zealand (Zaeschmar 2014), including along East Cape, Hawke's Bay, 
Cape Palliser, Cook Strait, Otago Peninsula, and Catlin's coast (Brabyn 
1991; Clement 2010; NZDOC 2017b). The strandings include a mass 
stranding on North Island (~37 [deg] S.) of 231 whales in March 1978 
(Baker 1999).

Killer Whale

    Killer whales have been observed in all oceans and seas of the 
world (Leatherwood and Dahlheim 1978). Although reported from tropical 
and offshore waters (Heyning and Dahlheim 1988), killer whales prefer 
the colder waters of both hemispheres, with greatest abundances found 
within 800 km of major continents (Mitchell 1975). High densities of 
the species occur in high latitudes, especially in areas where prey is 
abundant.
    The killer whale has been reported to be common in New Zealand 
waters (Baker 1999), with a population of ~200 individuals (Suisted and 
Neale 2004). Killer whales have been sighted in all months around North 
and South Islands (Berkenbusch et al. 2013; Torres 2012; NABIS 2017). 
Calves and juveniles occur there throughout the year (Visser 2000). 
Only the Type A killer whale is considered resident in New Zealand, 
while Types B, C, and D are vagrant and most common in the Southern 
Ocean (Visser 2000, 2007; Baker et al. 2010, 2016a). As sighting of 
killer whales have been made near and within the survey areas during 
austral spring and summer, killer whales could occur in small numbers 
near the project areas.

Long-Finned Pilot Whale

    Long-finned pilot whales roam throughout the cold temperate waters 
of the Southern Hemisphere. They live in stable family groups, and 
offspring of both sexes stay in their mother's pod throughout their 
lives. Each pod numbers 20-100 whales, though they can congregate in 
much larger numbers. Pilot whales are prolific stranders, and this 
behavior is not well understood. There are recordings of individual 
strandings all over New Zealand, and there are a few mass stranding 
``hotspots'' at Golden Bay, Stewart Island, and the Chatham Islands. 
Due to this, it is possible for the proposed survey to encounter 
species.

Short-Finned Pilot Whale

    Short finned pilot whales tend to inhabit more sub-tropical and 
tropical zones. Although long-finned and short-finned pilot whales are 
readily distinguishable by differences in tooth count, flipper length, 
and skull morphology, it is almost impossible to distinguish between 
the two species at sea. The species prefers deeper waters, ranging from 
324 m to 4,400 m, with most sightings between 500 m and 3,000 m (Baird 
2016).
    Short-finned pilot whale stranding records exist for the Bay of 
Plenty, East Cape, Hawke's Bay, off Banks Peninsula, and the southeast 
coast of South Island. While most pilot whales sighted south of 
~40[deg] S., would likely be the long-finned variety, short-finned 
pilot whales could also be encountered during the survey, particularly 
off the northeast coast of North Island.

Spectacled Porpoise

    The spectacled porpoise is circumpolar in cool temperate, sub-
Antarctic, and low Antarctic waters (Goodall 2009). It is thought to be 
oceanic in temperate to sub-Antarctic waters and is often sighted in 
deep waters far from land (Goodall 2009).

[[Page 45126]]

Little is known regarding the distribution and abundance of the 
species, but it is believed to be rare throughout most of its range 
(Goodall and Schiavini 1995). Only five sightings were made during 10 
years (1978/79-1987/88) of extensive Antarctic surveys for minke whales 
(Kasamatsu et al. 1990). An additional 23 at-sea sightings described in 
Sekiguchi et al. (2006) have expanded the knowledge of the species. The 
sightings were circumpolar, mostly in offshore waters with sea surface 
temperatures of 0.9-10.3 [deg]C, with a concentration south of the 
Auckland Islands (Sekiguchi et al. 2006). Sightings have been reported 
for the west coast of Northland and off the southeast coast of South 
Island (NZDOC 2017b). Strandings have occurred along the Bay of Plenty, 
South Taranaki Bight, Banks Peninsula, Otago Peninsula, Catlins Coast, 
and the Auckland Islands (NZDOC 2017b). The spectacled porpoise is 
rare; it is not expected to occur in the proposed North Island survey 
area but could occur off South Island.

New Zealand Fur Seal

    New Zealand fur seals are found on rocky shores around the 
mainland, Chatham Islands and the Subantarctic islands (including 
Macquarie Island) of New Zealand. They are also found much further 
afield in South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. Off Otago, 
New Zealand fur seal's prey stay very deep underwater during the day, 
and then come closer to the surface at night. Here, fur seals feed 
almost exclusively at night, when prey is closer to the surface, as 
deep as 163 m during summer. Their summer foraging is concentrated over 
the continental shelf, or near the slope. They will dive continuously 
from sundown to sunrise. In autumn and winter, they dive much deeper 
with many dives greater than 100 m. At least some females dive deeper 
than 240 m, and from satellite tracking they may forage up to 200 km 
beyond the continental slope in water deeper than 1000 m (NZDOC 2017a).
    On the east coast of North Island, there are at least 15 haul-out 
sites and three breeding areas between Cape Palliser and Bay of Plenty, 
including haul out sites along Hawke's Bay, on East Cape, and in the 
Bay of Plenty (Clement 2010). In addition, there are also at least two 
haul-out sites along the northeast coast of South Island (Taylor et al. 
1995). Numerous nearshore and offshore sightings have been made within 
the proposed survey area east of North Island from seismic vessels off 
the southeast coast of North Island (Blue Planet Marine 2016; SIO 
n.d.). New Zealand fur seals would likely be encountered during the 
proposed surveys off the North and South Islands.

New Zealand Sea Lion

    The New Zealand sea lion is New Zealand's only endemic pinniped. It 
is one of the world's rarest pinnipeds, with a highly restricted 
breeding range between 50 [deg] S. and 53 [deg] S., primarily on the 
Auckland (50 [deg] S., 166 [deg] E.) and Campbell islands (52[deg]33 
S., 169[deg]09 E.) (Gales & Fletcher 1999; McNally 2001; Childerhouse 
et al. 2005).
    Sea lions that were satellite-tracked in the Auckland Islands 
during January and February foraged over the entire shelf out to a 
water depth of 500 m (Chilvers 2009; Meynier et al. 2014) and beyond 
(Geschke and Chilvers 2009), including near the southeastern-most edge 
of the proposed survey area. New Zealand sea lions are also known to 
forage on arrow squid near Snares Islands (Lalas and Webster 2013). 
Numerous nearshore and offshore sightings have been made off South 
Island from seismic vessels, including off the southeast coast, east of 
Stewart Island, and east of Snares Island (Blue Planet Marine 2016). It 
is possible that New Zealand sea lions would be encountered during the 
proposed survey off South Island, but unlikely that they would be 
encountered in the proposed survey areas off North Island.

Leopard Seal

    Adult leopard seals are normally found along the edge of the 
Antarctic pack ice but in winter, young animals move throughout the 
Southern Ocean and occasionally occur in New Zealand, including the 
Auckland and Campbell Islands, and the mainland (NZDOC 2017a). Auckland 
and Campbell islands are known to have leopard seals annually and the 
mainland regularly receives visitors (NZDOC 2017a). Numerous sightings 
have been made along the North and South Islands, not only in the 
winter but also during January-March (NZDOC 2017b). Sightings for the 
North Island include Cook Strait, Cape Palliser, the Bay of Plenty, and 
Hauruki Gulf; there is also one record for offshore waters of the study 
area off the southeast coast of North Island. For the South Island, 
sightings have been reported on all coasts, including Forveaux Strait 
and Stewart Island off the south coast, and in offshore waters off the 
southeast coast of Stewart Island during January-March.

Southern Elephant Seal

    The southern elephant seal has a near circumpolar distribution in 
the Southern Hemisphere (Jefferson et al. 2015). However, the 
distribution of southern elephant seals does not typically extend to 
the proposed survey areas (NABIS 2017). Breeding colonies occur on some 
New Zealand sub-Antarctic Islands, including Antipodes and Campbell 
Islands (Suisted and Neale 2004); these are part of the Macquarie 
Island stock of southern elephant seals (Taylor and Taylor 1989). Pups 
are occasionally born during September-October on east coast beaches of 
the mainland, including the southern coast of South Island (between 
Oamaru and Nugget Point), Kaikoura Peninsula, and on the southeast 
coast of North Island (Taylor and Taylor 1989; Harcourt 2001).
    Even though mainland New Zealand is not part of their regular 
distribution, juvenile southern elephant seals are sometimes seen over 
the shelf of South Island (van den Hoff et al. 2002; Field et al. 
2004); there are numerous sightings along the southeastern and 
southwestern coasts of South Island in the marine mammal sightings and 
strandings database (NZDOC 2017b). Most sightings occur during the 
haul-out period in July and August and between November and January 
during the molt (van den Hoff 2001). Sightings have been made on the 
northeastern coast of South Island, including Kaikoura Peninsula 
(Harcourt 2001; van den Hoff 2001; NZDOC 2017b). Individuals have also 
occurred in the Bay of Plenty and Gisborne (Harcourt 2001); others have 
been seen in Wellington and other North Island beaches (Daniel 1971), 
and off Cape Palliser during the austral summer (NZDOC 2017b).
    Marine Mammal Hearing--Hearing is the most important sensory 
modality for marine mammals underwater, and exposure to anthropogenic 
sound can have deleterious effects. To appropriately assess the 
potential effects of exposure to sound, it is necessary to understand 
the frequency ranges marine mammals are able to hear. Current data 
indicate that not all marine mammal species have equal hearing 
capabilities (e.g., Richardson et al., 1995; Wartzok and Ketten, 1999; 
Au and Hastings, 2008). To reflect this, Southall et al. (2007) 
recommended that marine mammals be divided into functional hearing 
groups based on directly measured or estimated hearing ranges on the 
basis of available behavioral response data, audiograms derived using 
auditory evoked potential techniques, anatomical modeling, and other 
data. Note that no direct measurements of hearing ability have been 
successfully completed for mysticetes (i.e., low-frequency

[[Page 45127]]

cetaceans). Subsequently, NMFS (2016) described generalized hearing 
ranges for these marine mammal hearing groups. Generalized hearing 
ranges were chosen based on the approximately 65 dB threshold from the 
normalized composite audiograms, with the exception for lower limits 
for low-frequency cetaceans where the lower bound was deemed to be 
biologically implausible and the lower bound from Southall et al. 
(2007) retained. The functional groups and the associated frequencies 
are indicated below (note that these frequency ranges correspond to the 
range for the composite group, with the entire range not necessarily 
reflecting the capabilities of every species within that group):
     Low-frequency cetaceans (mysticetes): Generalized hearing 
is estimated to occur between approximately 7 Hz and 35 kHz, with best 
hearing estimated to be from 100 Hz to 8 kHz;
    [ssquf] Mid-frequency cetaceans (larger toothed whales, beaked 
whales, and most delphinids): Generalized hearing is estimated to occur 
between approximately 150 Hz and 160 kHz, with best hearing from 10 to 
less than 100 kHz;
    [ssquf] High-frequency cetaceans (porpoises, river dolphins, and 
members of the genera Kogia and Cephalorhynchus; including two members 
of the genus Lagenorhynchus, on the basis of recent echolocation data 
and genetic data): Generalized hearing is estimated to occur between 
approximately 275 Hz and 160 kHz.
    [ssquf] Pinnipeds in water; Phocidae (true seals): Generalized 
hearing is estimated to occur between approximately 50 Hz to 86 kHz, 
with best hearing between 1-50 kHz;
    [ssquf] Pinnipeds in water; Otariidae (eared seals): Generalized 
hearing is estimated to occur between 60 Hz and 39 kHz, with best 
hearing between 2-48 kHz.
    The pinniped functional hearing group was modified from Southall et 
al. (2007) on the basis of data indicating that phocid species have 
consistently demonstrated an extended frequency range of hearing 
compared to otariids, especially in the higher frequency range 
(Hemil[auml] et al., 2006; Kastelein et al., 2009; Reichmuth and Holt, 
2013).

 Table 3--Marine Functional Mammal Hearing Groups and Their Generalized
                             Hearing Ranges
------------------------------------------------------------------------
              Hearing group                 Generalized hearing range *
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Low frequency (LF) cetaceans (baleen      7 Hz to 35 kHz.
 whales).
Mid-frequency (MF) cetaceans (dolphins,   150 Hz to 160 kHz.
 toothed whales, beaked whales,
 bottlenose whales).
High-frequency (HF) cetaceans (true       275 Hz to 160 kHz.
 porpoises, Kogia, river dolphins,
 cephalorhynchid, Lagenorhynchus
 cruciger and L. australis).
Phocid pinnipeds (PW) (underwater) (true  50 Hz to 86 kHz.
 seals).
Otariid pinnipeds (OW) (underwater) (sea  60 Hz to 39 kHz.
 lions and fur seals).
------------------------------------------------------------------------
* Represents the generalized hearing range for the entire group as a
  composite (i.e., all species within the group), where individual
  species' hearing ranges are typically not as broad. Generalized
  hearing range chosen based on ~65 dB threshold from normalized
  composite audiogram, with the exception for lower limits for LF
  cetaceans (Southall et al., 2007) and PW pinniped (approximation).

    For more detail concerning these groups and associated frequency 
ranges, please see NMFS (2016) for a review of available information. 
Thirty-eight marine mammal species have the reasonable potential to co-
occur with the proposed survey activities (Table 2). Of the cetacean 
species that may be present, 9 are classified as low-frequency 
cetaceans (i.e., all mysticete species), 21 are classified as mid-
frequency cetaceans (i.e., all delphinid and ziphiid species and the 
sperm whale), and 4 are classified as high-frequency cetaceans (i.e., 
Kogia spp.). For the four pinniped species that may be present, 2 are 
otariids and 2 are classified as phocids.

Potential Effects of Specified Activities on Marine Mammals and Their 
Habitat

    This section includes a summary and discussion of the ways that 
components of the specified activity may impact marine mammals and 
their habitat. The ``Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment'' section 
later in this document includes a quantitative analysis of the number 
of individuals that are expected to be taken by this activity. The 
``Negligible Impact Analysis and Determination'' section considers the 
content of this section, the ``Estimated Take by Incidental 
Harassment'' section, and the ``Proposed Mitigation'' section, to draw 
conclusions regarding the likely impacts of these activities on the 
reproductive success or survivorship of individuals and how those 
impacts on individuals are likely to impact marine mammal species or 
stocks.

Description of Active Acoustic Sound Sources

    This section contains a brief technical background on sound, the 
characteristics of certain sound types, and on metrics used in this 
proposal inasmuch as the information is relevant to the specified 
activity and to a discussion of the potential effects of the specified 
activity on marine mammals found later in this document.
    Sound travels in waves, the basic components of which are 
frequency, wavelength, velocity, and amplitude. Frequency is the number 
of pressure waves that pass by a reference point per unit of time and 
is measured in Hz or cycles per second. Wavelength is the distance 
between two peaks or corresponding points of a sound wave (length of 
one cycle). Higher frequency sounds have shorter wavelengths than lower 
frequency sounds, and typically attenuate (decrease) more rapidly, 
except in certain cases in shallower water. Amplitude is the height of 
the sound pressure wave or the ``loudness'' of a sound and is typically 
described using the relative unit of the decibel (dB). A sound pressure 
level (SPL) in dB is described as the ratio between a measured pressure 
and a reference pressure (for underwater sound, this is 1 microPascal 
([mu]Pa)) and is a logarithmic unit that accounts for large variations 
in amplitude; therefore, a relatively small change in dB corresponds to 
large changes in sound pressure. The source level (SL) represents the 
SPL referenced at a distance of 1 m from the source (referenced to 1 
[mu]Pa) while the received level is the SPL at the listener's position 
(referenced to 1 [mu]Pa).
    Root mean square (rms) is the quadratic mean sound pressure over 
the duration of an impulse. Root mean square is calculated by squaring 
all of the sound amplitudes, averaging the squares, and then taking the 
square root of the average (Urick, 1983). Root mean square accounts for 
both positive and negative values; squaring the pressures makes all 
values positive so that they may be accounted for in the summation of 
pressure levels (Hastings and Popper,

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2005). This measurement is often used in the context of discussing 
behavioral effects, in part because behavioral effects, which often 
result from auditory cues, may be better expressed through averaged 
units than by peak pressures.
    Sound exposure level (SEL; represented as dB re 1 [mu]Pa\2\-s) 
represents the total energy contained within a pulse and considers both 
intensity and duration of exposure. Peak sound pressure (also referred 
to as zero-to-peak sound pressure or 0-p) is the maximum instantaneous 
sound pressure measurable in the water at a specified distance from the 
source and is represented in the same units as the rms sound pressure. 
Another common metric is peak-to-peak sound pressure (pk-pk), which is 
the algebraic difference between the peak positive and peak negative 
sound pressures. Peak-to-peak pressure is typically approximately 6 dB 
higher than peak pressure (Southall et al., 2007).
    When underwater objects vibrate or activity occurs, sound-pressure 
waves are created. These waves alternately compress and decompress the 
water as the sound wave travels. Underwater sound waves radiate in a 
manner similar to ripples on the surface of a pond and may be either 
directed in a beam or beams or may radiate in all directions 
(omnidirectional sources), as is the case for pulses produced by the 
airgun arrays considered here. The compressions and decompressions 
associated with sound waves are detected as changes in pressure by 
aquatic life and man-made sound receptors such as hydrophones.
    Even in the absence of sound from the specified activity, the 
underwater environment is typically loud due to ambient sound. Ambient 
sound is defined as environmental background sound levels lacking a 
single source or point (Richardson et al., 1995), and the sound level 
of a region is defined by the total acoustical energy being generated 
by known and unknown sources. These sources may include physical (e.g., 
wind and waves, earthquakes, ice, atmospheric sound), biological (e.g., 
sounds produced by marine mammals, fish, and invertebrates), and 
anthropogenic (e.g., vessels, dredging, construction) sound. A number 
of sources contribute to ambient sound, including the following 
(Richardson et al., 1995):
     Wind and waves: The complex interactions between wind and 
water surface, including processes such as breaking waves and wave-
induced bubble oscillations and cavitation, are a main source of 
naturally occurring ambient sound for frequencies between 200 Hz and 50 
kHz (Mitson, 1995). In general, ambient sound levels tend to increase 
with increasing wind speed and wave height. Surf sound becomes 
important near shore, with measurements collected at a distance of 8.5 
km from shore showing an increase of 10 dB in the 100 to 700 Hz band 
during heavy surf conditions.
    [ssquf] Precipitation: Sound from rain and hail impacting the water 
surface can become an important component of total sound at frequencies 
above 500 Hz, and possibly down to 100 Hz during quiet times.
    [ssquf] Biological: Marine mammals can contribute significantly to 
ambient sound levels, as can some fish and snapping shrimp. The 
frequency band for biological contributions is from approximately 12 Hz 
to over 100 kHz.
    [ssquf] Anthropogenic: Sources of ambient sound related to human 
activity include transportation (surface vessels), dredging and 
construction, oil and gas drilling and production, seismic surveys, 
sonar, explosions, and ocean acoustic studies. Vessel noise typically 
dominates the total ambient sound for frequencies between 20 and 300 
Hz. In general, the frequencies of anthropogenic sounds are below 1 kHz 
and, if higher frequency sound levels are created, they attenuate 
rapidly. Sound from identifiable anthropogenic sources other than the 
activity of interest (e.g., a passing vessel) is sometimes termed 
background sound, as opposed to ambient sound.
    The sum of the various natural and anthropogenic sound sources at 
any given location and time--which comprise ``ambient'' or 
``background'' sound--depends not only on the source levels (as 
determined by current weather conditions and levels of biological and 
human activity) but also on the ability of sound to propagate through 
the environment. In turn, sound propagation is dependent on the 
spatially and temporally varying properties of the water column and sea 
floor, and is frequency-dependent. As a result of the dependence on a 
large number of varying factors, ambient sound levels can be expected 
to vary widely over both coarse and fine spatial and temporal scales. 
Sound levels at a given frequency and location can vary by 10-20 dB 
from day to day (Richardson et al., 1995). The result is that, 
depending on the source type and its intensity, sound from a given 
activity may be a negligible addition to the local environment or could 
form a distinctive signal that may affect marine mammals. Details of 
source types are described in the following text.
    Sounds are often considered to fall into one of two general types: 
Pulsed and non-pulsed (defined in the following). The distinction 
between these two sound types is important because they have differing 
potential to cause physical effects, particularly with regard to 
hearing (e.g., Ward, 1997 in Southall et al., 2007). Please see 
Southall et al. (2007) for an in-depth discussion of these concepts.
    Pulsed sound sources (e.g., airguns, explosions, gunshots, sonic 
booms, impact pile driving) produce signals that are brief (typically 
considered to be less than one second), broadband, atonal transients 
(ANSI, 1986, 2005; Harris, 1998; NIOSH, 1998; ISO, 2003) and occur 
either as isolated events or repeated in some succession. Pulsed sounds 
are all characterized by a relatively rapid rise from ambient pressure 
to a maximal pressure value followed by a rapid decay period that may 
include a period of diminishing, oscillating maximal and minimal 
pressures, and generally have an increased capacity to induce physical 
injury as compared with sounds that lack these features.
    Non-pulsed sounds can be tonal, narrowband, or broadband, brief or 
prolonged, and may be either continuous or non-continuous (ANSI, 1995; 
NIOSH, 1998). Some of these non-pulsed sounds can be transient signals 
of short duration but without the essential properties of pulses (e.g., 
rapid rise time). Examples of non-pulsed sounds include those produced 
by vessels, aircraft, machinery operations such as drilling or 
dredging, vibratory pile driving, and active sonar systems (such as 
those used by the U.S. Navy). The duration of such sounds, as received 
at a distance, can be greatly extended in a highly reverberant 
environment.
    Airgun arrays produce pulsed signals with energy in a frequency 
range from about 10-2,000 Hz, with most energy radiated at frequencies 
below 200 Hz. The amplitude of the acoustic wave emitted from the 
source is equal in all directions (i.e., omnidirectional), but airgun 
arrays do possess some directionality due to different phase delays 
between guns in different directions. Airgun arrays are typically tuned 
to maximize functionality for data acquisition purposes, meaning that 
sound transmitted in horizontal directions and at higher frequencies is 
minimized to the extent possible.
    As described above, a Kongsberg EM 122 MBES, a Knudsen Chirp 3260 
SBP, and a Teledyne RDI 75 kHz Ocean Surveyor ADCP would be operated 
continuously during the proposed surveys, but not during transit to and 
from the survey areas. Due to the lower

[[Page 45129]]

source level of the Kongsberg EM 122 MBES relative to the Langseth's 
airgun array (242 dB re 1 [mu]Pa [middot] m for the MBES versus a 
minimum of 249.4 dB re 1 [mu]Pa [middot] m (rms) for the 36 airgun 
array and a minimum of 243.6 dB re 1 [mu]Pa [middot] m (rms) for the 18 
airgun array) (NSF-USGS, 2011; Table 6), sounds from the MBES are 
expected to be effectively subsumed by the sounds from the airgun 
array. Thus, any marine mammal potentially exposed to sounds from the 
MBES would already have been exposed to sounds from the airgun array, 
which are expected to propagate further in the water. Each ping emitted 
by the MBES consists of eight (in water >1,000 m deep) or four (<1,000 
m) successive fan-shaped transmissions, each ensonifying a sector that 
extends 1[deg] fore-aft. Given the movement and speed of the vessel, 
the intermittent and narrow downward-directed nature of the sounds 
emitted by the MBES would result in no more than one or two brief ping 
exposures of any individual marine mammal, if any exposure were to 
occur. Due to the lower source levels of both the Knudsen Chirp 3260 
SBP and the Teledyne RDI 75 kHz Ocean Surveyor ADCP relative to the 
Langseth's airgun array (maximum SL of 222 dB re 1 [mu]Pa [middot] m 
for the SBP and maximum SL of 224 dB re 1 [mu]Pa [middot] m for the 
ADCP, versus a minimum of 249.4 dB re 1 [mu]Pa [middot] m for the 36 
airgun array and a minimum of 243.6 dB re 1 [mu]Pa [middot] m for the 
18 airgun array) (NSF-USGS, 2011; Table 6 above), sounds from the SBP 
and ADCP are expected to be effectively subsumed by sounds from the 
airgun array. Thus, any marine mammal potentially exposed to sounds 
from the SBP and/or the ADCP would already have been exposed to sounds 
from the airgun array, which are expected to propagate further in the 
water. As such, we conclude that the likelihood of marine mammal take 
resulting from exposure to sound from the MBES, SBP or ADCP is 
discountable and therefore we do not consider noise from the MBES, SBP 
or ADCP further in this analysis.

Acoustic Effects

    Here, we discuss the effects of active acoustic sources on marine 
mammals.
    Potential Effects of Underwater Sound--Please refer to the 
information given previously (``Description of Active Acoustic 
Sources'') regarding sound, characteristics of sound types, and metrics 
used in this document. Anthropogenic sounds cover a broad range of 
frequencies and sound levels and can have a range of highly variable 
impacts on marine life, from none or minor to potentially severe 
responses, depending on received levels, duration of exposure, 
behavioral context, and various other factors. The potential effects of 
underwater sound from active acoustic sources can potentially result in 
one or more of the following: Temporary or permanent hearing 
impairment, non-auditory physical or physiological effects, behavioral 
disturbance, stress, and masking (Richardson et al., 1995; Gordon et 
al., 2004; Nowacek et al., 2007; Southall et al., 2007; G[ouml]tz et 
al., 2009). The degree of effect is intrinsically related to the signal 
characteristics, received level, distance from the source, and duration 
of the sound exposure. In general, sudden, high level sounds can cause 
hearing loss, as can longer exposures to lower level sounds. Temporary 
or permanent loss of hearing will occur almost exclusively for noise 
within an animal's hearing range. We first describe specific 
manifestations of acoustic effects before providing discussion specific 
to the use of airgun arrays.
    Richardson et al. (1995) described zones of increasing intensity of 
effect that might be expected to occur, in relation to distance from a 
source and assuming that the signal is within an animal's hearing 
range. First is the area within which the acoustic signal would be 
audible (potentially perceived) to the animal, but not strong enough to 
elicit any overt behavioral or physiological response. The next zone 
corresponds with the area where the signal is audible to the animal and 
of sufficient intensity to elicit behavioral or physiological 
responsiveness. Third is a zone within which, for signals of high 
intensity, the received level is sufficient to potentially cause 
discomfort or tissue damage to auditory or other systems. Overlaying 
these zones to a certain extent is the area within which masking (i.e., 
when a sound interferes with or masks the ability of an animal to 
detect a signal of interest that is above the absolute hearing 
threshold) may occur; the masking zone may be highly variable in size.
    We describe the more severe non-auditory physical or physiological 
effects only briefly as we do not expect that use of the airgun arrays 
is reasonably likely to result in such effects (see below for further 
discussion). Potential effects from impulsive sound sources can range 
in severity from effects such as behavioral disturbance or tactile 
perception to physical discomfort, slight injury of the internal organs 
and the auditory system, or mortality (Yelverton et al., 1973). Non-
auditory physiological effects or injuries that theoretically might 
occur in marine mammals exposed to high level underwater sound or as a 
secondary effect of extreme behavioral reactions (e.g., change in dive 
profile as a result of an avoidance reaction) caused by exposure to 
sound include neurological effects, bubble formation, resonance 
effects, and other types of organ or tissue damage (Cox et al., 2006; 
Southall et al., 2007; Zimmer and Tyack, 2007; Tal et al., 2015). The 
survey activities considered here do not involve the use of devices 
such as explosives or mid-frequency tactical sonar that are associated 
with these types of effects.
    1. Threshold Shift--Marine mammals exposed to high-intensity sound, 
or to lower-intensity sound for prolonged periods, can experience 
hearing threshold shift (TS), which is the loss of hearing sensitivity 
at certain frequency ranges (Finneran, 2015). TS can be permanent 
(PTS), in which case the loss of hearing sensitivity is not fully 
recoverable, or temporary (TTS), in which case the animal's hearing 
threshold would recover over time (Southall et al., 2007). Repeated 
sound exposure that leads to TTS could cause PTS. In severe cases of 
PTS, there can be total or partial deafness, while in most cases the 
animal has an impaired ability to hear sounds in specific frequency 
ranges (Kryter, 1985).
    When PTS occurs, there is physical damage to the sound receptors in 
the ear (i.e., tissue damage), whereas TTS represents primarily tissue 
fatigue and is reversible (Southall et al., 2007). In addition, other 
investigators have suggested that TTS is within the normal bounds of 
physiological variability and tolerance and does not represent physical 
injury (e.g., Ward, 1997). Therefore, NMFS does not consider TTS to 
constitute auditory injury.
    Relationships between TTS and PTS thresholds have not been studied 
in marine mammals, and there is no PTS data for cetaceans but such 
relationships are assumed to be similar to those in humans and other 
terrestrial mammals. PTS typically occurs at exposure levels at least 
several decibels above (a 40-dB threshold shift approximates PTS onset; 
e.g., Kryter et al., 1966; Miller, 1974) that inducing mild TTS (a 6-dB 
threshold shift approximates TTS onset; e.g., Southall et al. 2007). 
Based on data from terrestrial mammals, a precautionary assumption is 
that the PTS thresholds for impulse sounds (such as airgun pulses as 
received close to the source) are at least 6 dB higher than the TTS 
threshold on a peak-pressure basis and PTS cumulative sound exposure 
level thresholds are 15 to 20 dB higher than TTS cumulative sound 
exposure level thresholds (Southall et al., 2007). Given the higher 
level of sound or longer exposure

[[Page 45130]]

duration necessary to cause PTS as compared with TTS, it is 
considerably less likely that PTS could occur.
    For mid-frequency cetaceans in particular, potential protective 
mechanisms may help limit onset of TTS or prevent onset of PTS. Such 
mechanisms include dampening of hearing, auditory adaptation, or 
behavioral amelioration (e.g., Nachtigall and Supin, 2013; Miller et 
al., 2012; Finneran et al., 2015; Popov et al., 2016).
    TTS is the mildest form of hearing impairment that can occur during 
exposure to sound (Kryter, 1985). While experiencing TTS, the hearing 
threshold rises, and a sound must be at a higher level in order to be 
heard. In terrestrial and marine mammals, TTS can last from minutes or 
hours to days (in cases of strong TTS). In many cases, hearing 
sensitivity recovers rapidly after exposure to the sound ends. Few data 
on sound levels and durations necessary to elicit mild TTS have been 
obtained for marine mammals.
    Marine mammal hearing plays a critical role in communication with 
conspecifics, and interpretation of environmental cues for purposes 
such as predator avoidance and prey capture. Depending on the degree 
(elevation of threshold in dB), duration (i.e., recovery time), and 
frequency range of TTS, and the context in which it is experienced, TTS 
can have effects on marine mammals ranging from discountable to 
serious. For example, a marine mammal may be able to readily compensate 
for a brief, relatively small amount of TTS in a non-critical frequency 
range that occurs during a time where ambient noise is lower and there 
are not as many competing sounds present. Alternatively, a larger 
amount and longer duration of TTS sustained during time when 
communication is critical for successful mother/calf interactions could 
have more serious impacts.
    Finneran et al. (2015) measured hearing thresholds in three captive 
bottlenose dolphins before and after exposure to ten pulses produced by 
a seismic airgun in order to study TTS induced after exposure to 
multiple pulses. Exposures began at relatively low levels and gradually 
increased over a period of several months, with the highest exposures 
at peak SPLs from 196 to 210 dB and cumulative (unweighted) SELs from 
193-195 dB. No substantial TTS was observed. In addition, behavioral 
reactions were observed that indicated that animals can learn behaviors 
that effectively mitigate noise exposures (although exposure patterns 
must be learned, which is less likely in wild animals than for the 
captive animals considered in this study). The authors note that the 
failure to induce more significant auditory effects was likely due to 
the intermittent nature of exposure, the relatively low peak pressure 
produced by the acoustic source, and the low-frequency energy in airgun 
pulses as compared with the frequency range of best sensitivity for 
dolphins and other mid-frequency cetaceans.
    Currently, TTS data only exist for four species of cetaceans 
(bottlenose dolphin, beluga whale, harbor porpoise, and Yangtze finless 
porpoise) exposed to a limited number of sound sources (i.e., mostly 
tones and octave-band noise) in laboratory settings (Finneran, 2015). 
In general, harbor porpoises have a lower TTS onset than other measured 
cetacean species (Finneran, 2015). Additionally, the existing marine 
mammal TTS data come from a limited number of individuals within these 
species. There are no data available on noise-induced hearing loss for 
mysticetes.
    Critical questions remain regarding the rate of TTS growth and 
recovery after exposure to intermittent noise and the effects of single 
and multiple pulses. Data at present are also insufficient to construct 
generalized models for recovery and determine the time necessary to 
treat subsequent exposures as independent events. More information is 
needed on the relationship between auditory evoked potential and 
behavioral measures of TTS for various stimuli. For summaries of data 
on TTS in marine mammals or for further discussion of TTS onset 
thresholds, please see Southall et al. (2007), Finneran and Jenkins 
(2012), Finneran (2015), and NMFS (2016).
    2. Behavioral Effects--Behavioral disturbance may include a variety 
of effects, including subtle changes in behavior (e.g., minor or brief 
avoidance of an area or changes in vocalizations), more conspicuous 
changes in similar behavioral activities, and more sustained and/or 
potentially severe reactions, such as displacement from or abandonment 
of high-quality habitat. Behavioral responses to sound are highly 
variable and context-specific and any reactions depend on numerous 
intrinsic and extrinsic factors (e.g., species, state of maturity, 
experience, current activity, reproductive state, auditory sensitivity, 
time of day), as well as the interplay between factors (e.g., 
Richardson et al., 1995; Wartzok et al., 2003; Southall et al., 2007; 
Weilgart, 2007; Archer et al., 2010). Behavioral reactions can vary not 
only among individuals but also within an individual, depending on 
previous experience with a sound source, context, and numerous other 
factors (Ellison et al., 2012), and can vary depending on 
characteristics associated with the sound source (e.g., whether it is 
moving or stationary, number of sources, distance from the source). 
Please see Appendices B-C of Southall et al. (2007) for a review of 
studies involving marine mammal behavioral responses to sound.
    Habituation can occur when an animal's response to a stimulus wanes 
with repeated exposure, usually in the absence of unpleasant associated 
events (Wartzok et al., 2003). Animals are most likely to habituate to 
sounds that are predictable and unvarying. It is important to note that 
habituation is appropriately considered as a ``progressive reduction in 
response to stimuli that are perceived as neither aversive nor 
beneficial,'' rather than as, more generally, moderation in response to 
human disturbance (Bejder et al., 2009). The opposite process is 
sensitization, when an unpleasant experience leads to subsequent 
responses, often in the form of avoidance, at a lower level of 
exposure. As noted, behavioral state may affect the type of response. 
For example, animals that are resting may show greater behavioral 
change in response to disturbing sound levels than animals that are 
highly motivated to remain in an area for feeding (Richardson et al., 
1995; NRC, 2003; Wartzok et al., 2003). Controlled experiments with 
captive marine mammals have showed pronounced behavioral reactions, 
including avoidance of loud sound sources (Ridgway et al., 1997). 
Observed responses of wild marine mammals to loud pulsed sound sources 
(typically seismic airguns or acoustic harassment devices) have been 
varied but often consist of avoidance behavior or other behavioral 
changes suggesting discomfort (Morton and Symonds, 2002; see also 
Richardson et al., 1995; Nowacek et al., 2007). However, many 
delphinids approach acoustic source vessels with no apparent discomfort 
or obvious behavioral change (e.g., Barkaszi et al., 2012).
    Available studies show wide variation in response to underwater 
sound; therefore, it is difficult to predict specifically how any given 
sound in a particular instance might affect marine mammals perceiving 
the signal. If a marine mammal does react briefly to an underwater 
sound by changing its behavior or moving a small distance, the impacts 
of the change are unlikely to be significant to the individual, let 
alone the stock or population. However, if a sound source displaces 
marine

[[Page 45131]]

mammals from an important feeding or breeding area for a prolonged 
period, impacts on individuals and populations could be significant 
(e.g., Lusseau and Bejder, 2007; Weilgart, 2007; NRC, 2005). However, 
there are broad categories of potential response, which we describe in 
greater detail here, that include alteration of dive behavior, 
alteration of foraging behavior, effects to breathing, interference 
with or alteration of vocalization, avoidance, and flight.
    Changes in dive behavior can vary widely, and may consist of 
increased or decreased dive times and surface intervals as well as 
changes in the rates of ascent and descent during a dive (e.g., Frankel 
and Clark, 2000; Ng and Leung, 2003; Nowacek et al.; 2004; Goldbogen et 
al., 2013a, b). Variations in dive behavior may reflect interruptions 
in biologically significant activities (e.g., foraging) or they may be 
of little biological significance. The impact of an alteration to dive 
behavior resulting from an acoustic exposure depends on what the animal 
is doing at the time of the exposure and the type and magnitude of the 
response.
    Disruption of feeding behavior can be difficult to correlate with 
anthropogenic sound exposure, so it is usually inferred by observed 
displacement from known foraging areas, the appearance of secondary 
indicators (e.g., bubble nets or sediment plumes), or changes in dive 
behavior. As for other types of behavioral response, the frequency, 
duration, and temporal pattern of signal presentation, as well as 
differences in species sensitivity, are likely contributing factors to 
differences in response in any given circumstance (e.g., Croll et al., 
2001; Nowacek et al.; 2004; Madsen et al., 2006; Yazvenko et al., 
2007). A determination of whether foraging disruptions incur fitness 
consequences would require information on or estimates of the energetic 
requirements of the affected individuals and the relationship between 
prey availability, foraging effort and success, and the life history 
stage of the animal.
    Visual tracking, passive acoustic monitoring, and movement 
recording tags were used to quantify sperm whale behavior prior to, 
during, and following exposure to airgun arrays at received levels in 
the range 140-160 dB at distances of 7-13 km, following a phase-in of 
sound intensity and full array exposures at 1-13 km (Madsen et al., 
2006; Miller et al., 2009). Sperm whales did not exhibit horizontal 
avoidance behavior at the surface. However, foraging behavior may have 
been affected. The sperm whales exhibited 19 percent less vocal (buzz) 
rate during full exposure relative to post exposure, and the whale that 
was approached most closely had an extended resting period and did not 
resume foraging until the airguns had ceased firing. The remaining 
whales continued to execute foraging dives throughout exposure; 
however, swimming movements during foraging dives were 6 percent lower 
during exposure than control periods (Miller et al., 2009). These data 
raise concerns that seismic surveys may impact foraging behavior in 
sperm whales, although more data are required to understand whether the 
differences were due to exposure or natural variation in sperm whale 
behavior (Miller et al., 2009).
    Variations in respiration naturally vary with different behaviors 
and alterations to breathing rate as a function of acoustic exposure 
can be expected to co-occur with other behavioral reactions, such as a 
flight response or an alteration in diving. However, respiration rates 
in and of themselves may be representative of annoyance or an acute 
stress response. Various studies have shown that respiration rates may 
either be unaffected or could increase, depending on the species and 
signal characteristics, again highlighting the importance in 
understanding species differences in the tolerance of underwater noise 
when determining the potential for impacts resulting from anthropogenic 
sound exposure (e.g., Kastelein et al., 2001, 2005, 2006; Gailey et 
al., 2007; Gailey et al., 2016).
    Marine mammals vocalize for different purposes and across multiple 
modes, such as whistling, echolocation click production, calling, and 
singing. Changes in vocalization behavior in response to anthropogenic 
noise can occur for any of these modes and may result from a need to 
compete with an increase in background noise or may reflect increased 
vigilance or a startle response. For example, in the presence of 
potentially masking signals, humpback whales and killer whales have 
been observed to increase the length of their songs (Miller et al., 
2000; Fristrup et al., 2003; Foote et al., 2004), while right whales 
have been observed to shift the frequency content of their calls upward 
while reducing the rate of calling in areas of increased anthropogenic 
noise (Parks et al., 2007). In some cases, animals may cease sound 
production during production of aversive signals (Bowles et al., 1994).
    Cerchio et al. (2014) used passive acoustic monitoring to document 
the presence of singing humpback whales off the coast of northern 
Angola and to opportunistically test for the effect of seismic survey 
activity on the number of singing whales. Two recording units were 
deployed between March and December 2008 in the offshore environment; 
numbers of singers were counted every hour. Generalized Additive Mixed 
Models were used to assess the effect of survey day (seasonality), hour 
(diel variation), moon phase, and received levels of noise (measured 
from a single pulse during each ten minute sampled period) on singer 
number. The number of singers significantly decreased with increasing 
received level of noise, suggesting that humpback whale breeding 
activity was disrupted to some extent by the survey activity.
    Castellote et al. (2012) reported acoustic and behavioral changes 
by fin whales in response to shipping and airgun noise. Acoustic 
features of fin whale song notes recorded in the Mediterranean Sea and 
northeast Atlantic Ocean were compared for areas with different 
shipping noise levels and traffic intensities and during a seismic 
airgun survey. During the first 72 h of the survey, a steady decrease 
in song received levels and bearings to singers indicated that whales 
moved away from the acoustic source and out of the study area. This 
displacement persisted for a time period well beyond the 10-day 
duration of seismic airgun activity, providing evidence that fin whales 
may avoid an area for an extended period in the presence of increased 
noise. The authors hypothesize that fin whale acoustic communication is 
modified to compensate for increased background noise and that a 
sensitization process may play a role in the observed temporary 
displacement.
    Seismic pulses at average received levels of 131 dB re 1 
[micro]Pa\2\-s caused blue whales to increase call production (Di Iorio 
and Clark, 2010). In contrast, McDonald et al. (1995) tracked a blue 
whale with seafloor seismometers and reported that it stopped 
vocalizing and changed its travel direction at a range of 10 km from 
the acoustic source vessel (estimated received level 143 dB pk-pk). 
Blackwell et al. (2013) found that bowhead whale call rates dropped 
significantly at onset of airgun use at sites with a median distance of 
41-45 km from the survey. Blackwell et al. (2015) expanded this 
analysis to show that whales actually increased calling rates as soon 
as airgun signals were detectable before ultimately decreasing calling 
rates at higher received levels (i.e., 10-minute SELcum of 
~127 dB). Overall, these results suggest that bowhead whales may adjust 
their vocal output in an effort to compensate for noise before ceasing 
vocalization effort

[[Page 45132]]

and ultimately deflecting from the acoustic source (Blackwell et al., 
2013, 2015). These studies demonstrate that even low levels of noise 
received far from the source can induce changes in vocalization and/or 
behavior for mysticetes.
    Avoidance is the displacement of an individual from an area or 
migration path as a result of the presence of a sound or other 
stressors, and is one of the most obvious manifestations of disturbance 
in marine mammals (Richardson et al., 1995). For example, gray whales 
are known to change direction--deflecting from customary migratory 
paths--in order to avoid noise from seismic surveys (Malme et al., 
1984). Humpback whales showed avoidance behavior in the presence of an 
active seismic array during observational studies and controlled 
exposure experiments in western Australia (McCauley et al., 2000). 
Avoidance may be short-term, with animals returning to the area once 
the noise has ceased (e.g., Bowles et al., 1994; Goold, 1996; Stone et 
al., 2000; Morton and Symonds, 2002; Gailey et al., 2007). Longer-term 
displacement is possible, however, which may lead to changes in 
abundance or distribution patterns of the affected species in the 
affected region if habituation to the presence of the sound does not 
occur (e.g., Bejder et al., 2006; Teilmann et al., 2006).
    A flight response is a dramatic change in normal movement to a 
directed and rapid movement away from the perceived location of a sound 
source. The flight response differs from other avoidance responses in 
the intensity of the response (e.g., directed movement, rate of 
travel). Relatively little information on flight responses of marine 
mammals to anthropogenic signals exist, although observations of flight 
responses to the presence of predators have occurred (Connor and 
Heithaus, 1996). The result of a flight response could range from 
brief, temporary exertion and displacement from the area where the 
signal provokes flight to, in extreme cases, marine mammal strandings 
(Evans and England, 2001). However, it should be noted that response to 
a perceived predator does not necessarily invoke flight (Ford and 
Reeves, 2008), and whether individuals are solitary or in groups may 
influence the response.
    Behavioral disturbance can also impact marine mammals in more 
subtle ways. Increased vigilance may result in costs related to 
diversion of focus and attention (i.e., when a response consists of 
increased vigilance, it may come at the cost of decreased attention to 
other critical behaviors such as foraging or resting). These effects 
have generally not been demonstrated for marine mammals, but studies 
involving fish and terrestrial animals have shown that increased 
vigilance may substantially reduce feeding rates (e.g., Beauchamp and 
Livoreil, 1997; Fritz et al., 2002; Purser and Radford, 2011). In 
addition, chronic disturbance can cause population declines through 
reduction of fitness (e.g., decline in body condition) and subsequent 
reduction in reproductive success, survival, or both (e.g., Harrington 
and Veitch, 1992; Daan et al., 1996; Bradshaw et al., 1998). However, 
Ridgway et al. (2006) reported that increased vigilance in bottlenose 
dolphins exposed to sound over a five-day period did not cause any 
sleep deprivation or stress effects.
    Many animals perform vital functions, such as feeding, resting, 
traveling, and socializing, on a diel cycle (24-hour cycle). Disruption 
of such functions resulting from reactions to stressors such as sound 
exposure are more likely to be significant if they last more than one 
diel cycle or recur on subsequent days (Southall et al., 2007). 
Consequently, a behavioral response lasting less than one day and not 
recurring on subsequent days is not considered particularly severe 
unless it could directly affect reproduction or survival (Southall et 
al., 2007). Note that there is a difference between multi-day 
substantive behavioral reactions and multi-day anthropogenic 
activities. For example, just because an activity lasts for multiple 
days does not necessarily mean that individual animals are either 
exposed to activity-related stressors for multiple days or, further, 
exposed in a manner resulting in sustained multi-day substantive 
behavioral responses.
    Stone (2015) reported data from at-sea observations during 1,196 
seismic surveys from 1994 to 2010. When large arrays of airguns 
(considered to be 500 in\3\ or more) were firing, lateral displacement, 
more localized avoidance, or other changes in behavior were evident for 
most odontocetes. However, significant responses to large arrays were 
found only for the minke whale and fin whale. Behavioral responses 
observed included changes in swimming or surfacing behavior, with 
indications that cetaceans remained near the water surface at these 
times. Cetaceans were recorded as feeding less often when large arrays 
were active. Behavioral observations of gray whales during a seismic 
survey monitored whale movements and respirations pre-, during and 
post-seismic survey (Gailey et al., 2016). Behavioral state and water 
depth were the best `natural' predictors of whale movements and 
respiration and, after considering natural variation, none of the 
response variables were significantly associated with seismic survey or 
vessel sounds.
    3. Stress Responses--An animal's perception of a threat may be 
sufficient to trigger stress responses consisting of some combination 
of behavioral responses, autonomic nervous system responses, 
neuroendocrine responses, or immune responses (e.g., Seyle, 1950; 
Moberg, 2000). In many cases, an animal's first and sometimes most 
economical (in terms of energetic costs) response is behavioral 
avoidance of the potential stressor. Autonomic nervous system responses 
to stress typically involve changes in heart rate, blood pressure, and 
gastrointestinal activity. These responses have a relatively short 
duration and may or may not have a significant long-term effect on an 
animal's fitness.
    Neuroendocrine stress responses often involve the hypothalamus-
pituitary-adrenal system. Virtually all neuroendocrine functions that 
are affected by stress--including immune competence, reproduction, 
metabolism, and behavior--are regulated by pituitary hormones. Stress-
induced changes in the secretion of pituitary hormones have been 
implicated in failed reproduction, altered metabolism, reduced immune 
competence, and behavioral disturbance (e.g., Moberg, 1987; Blecha, 
2000). Increases in the circulation of glucocorticoids are also equated 
with stress (Romano et al., 2004).
    The primary distinction between stress (which is adaptive and does 
not normally place an animal at risk) and ``distress'' is the cost of 
the response. During a stress response, an animal uses glycogen stores 
that can be quickly replenished once the stress is alleviated. In such 
circumstances, the cost of the stress response would not pose serious 
fitness consequences. However, when an animal does not have sufficient 
energy reserves to satisfy the energetic costs of a stress response, 
energy resources must be diverted from other functions. This state of 
distress will last until the animal replenishes its energetic reserves 
sufficiently to restore normal function.
    Relationships between these physiological mechanisms, animal 
behavior, and the costs of stress responses are well-studied through 
controlled experiments and for both laboratory and free-ranging animals 
(e.g., Holberton et al., 1996; Hood et al., 1998; Jessop et al., 2003; 
Krausman et al., 2004; Lankford et al., 2005). Stress responses due to 
exposure to anthropogenic sounds or other stressors

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and their effects on marine mammals have also been reviewed (Fair and 
Becker, 2000; Romano et al., 2002b) and, more rarely, studied in wild 
populations (e.g., Romano et al., 2002a). For example, Rolland et al. 
(2012) found that noise reduction from reduced ship traffic in the Bay 
of Fundy was associated with decreased stress in North Atlantic right 
whales. These and other studies lead to a reasonable expectation that 
some marine mammals will experience physiological stress responses upon 
exposure to acoustic stressors and that it is possible that some of 
these would be classified as ``distress.'' In addition, any animal 
experiencing TTS would likely also experience stress responses (NRC, 
2003).
    4. Auditory Masking--Sound can disrupt behavior through masking, or 
interfering with, an animal's ability to detect, recognize, or 
discriminate between acoustic signals of interest (e.g., those used for 
intraspecific communication and social interactions, prey detection, 
predator avoidance, navigation) (Richardson et al., 1995; Erbe et al., 
2016). Masking occurs when the receipt of a sound is interfered with by 
another coincident sound at similar frequencies and at similar or 
higher intensity, and may occur whether the sound is natural (e.g., 
snapping shrimp, wind, waves, precipitation) or anthropogenic (e.g., 
shipping, sonar, seismic exploration) in origin. The ability of a noise 
source to mask biologically important sounds depends on the 
characteristics of both the noise source and the signal of interest 
(e.g., signal-to-noise ratio, temporal variability, direction), in 
relation to each other and to an animal's hearing abilities (e.g., 
sensitivity, frequency range, critical ratios, frequency 
discrimination, directional discrimination, age or TTS hearing loss), 
and existing ambient noise and propagation conditions.
    Under certain circumstances, marine mammals experiencing 
significant masking could also be impaired from maximizing their 
performance fitness in survival and reproduction. Therefore, when the 
coincident (masking) sound is man-made, it may be considered harassment 
when disrupting or altering critical behaviors. It is important to 
distinguish TTS and PTS, which persist after the sound exposure, from 
masking, which occurs during the sound exposure. Because masking 
(without resulting in TS) is not associated with abnormal physiological 
function, it is not considered a physiological effect, but rather a 
potential behavioral effect.
    The frequency range of the potentially masking sound is important 
in determining any potential behavioral impacts. For example, low-
frequency signals may have less effect on high-frequency echolocation 
sounds produced by odontocetes but are more likely to affect detection 
of mysticete communication calls and other potentially important 
natural sounds such as those produced by surf and some prey species. 
The masking of communication signals by anthropogenic noise may be 
considered as a reduction in the communication space of animals (e.g., 
Clark et al., 2009) and may result in energetic or other costs as 
animals change their vocalization behavior (e.g., Miller et al., 2000; 
Foote et al., 2004; Parks et al., 2007; Di Iorio and Clark, 2009; Holt 
et al., 2009). Masking can be reduced in situations where the signal 
and noise come from different directions (Richardson et al., 1995), 
through amplitude modulation of the signal, or through other 
compensatory behaviors (Houser and Moore, 2014). Masking can be tested 
directly in captive species (e.g., Erbe, 2008), but in wild populations 
it must be either modeled or inferred from evidence of masking 
compensation. There are few studies addressing real-world masking 
sounds likely to be experienced by marine mammals in the wild (e.g., 
Branstetter et al., 2013).
    Masking affects both senders and receivers of acoustic signals and 
can potentially have long-term chronic effects on marine mammals at the 
population level as well as at the individual level. Low-frequency 
ambient sound levels have increased by as much as 20 dB (more than 
three times in terms of SPL) in the world's ocean from pre-industrial 
periods, with most of the increase from distant commercial shipping 
(Hildebrand, 2009). All anthropogenic sound sources, but especially 
chronic and lower-frequency signals (e.g., from vessel traffic), 
contribute to elevated ambient sound levels, thus intensifying masking.

Other Potential Impacts

    Here, we discuss potential effects of the proposed activity on 
marine mammals other than sound.
    Ship Strike--Vessel collisions with marine mammals, or ship 
strikes, can result in death or serious injury of the animal. Wounds 
resulting from ship strike may include massive trauma, hemorrhaging, 
broken bones, or propeller lacerations (Knowlton and Kraus, 2001). An 
animal at the surface may be struck directly by a vessel, a surfacing 
animal may hit the bottom of a vessel, or an animal just below the 
surface may be cut by a vessel's propeller. Superficial strikes may not 
kill or result in the death of the animal. These interactions are 
typically associated with large whales (e.g., fin whales), which are 
occasionally found draped across the bulbous bow of large commercial 
ships upon arrival in port. Although smaller cetaceans are more 
maneuverable in relation to large vessels than are large whales, they 
may also be susceptible to strike. The severity of injuries typically 
depends on the size and speed of the vessel, with the probability of 
death or serious injury increasing as vessel speed increases (Knowlton 
and Kraus, 2001; Laist et al., 2001; Vanderlaan and Taggart, 2007; Conn 
and Silber, 2013). Impact forces increase with speed, as does the 
probability of a strike at a given distance (Silber et al., 2010; Gende 
et al., 2011).
    Pace and Silber (2005) also found that the probability of death or 
serious injury increased rapidly with increasing vessel speed. 
Specifically, the predicted probability of serious injury or death 
increased from 45 to 75 percent as vessel speed increased from 10 to 14 
kn, and exceeded 90 percent at 17 kn. Higher speeds during collisions 
result in greater force of impact, but higher speeds also appear to 
increase the chance of severe injuries or death through increased 
likelihood of collision by pulling whales toward the vessel (Clyne, 
1999; Knowlton et al., 1995). In a separate study, Vanderlaan and 
Taggart (2007) analyzed the probability of lethal mortality of large 
whales at a given speed, showing that the greatest rate of change in 
the probability of a lethal injury to a large whale as a function of 
vessel speed occurs between 8.6 and 15 kn. The chances of a lethal 
injury decline from approximately 80 percent at 15 kn to approximately 
20 percent at 8.6 kn. At speeds below 11.8 kn, the chances of lethal 
injury drop below 50 percent, while the probability asymptotically 
increases toward one hundred percent above 15 kn.
    The Langseth travels at a speed of ~8.3 km/hour while towing 
seismic survey gear (LGL 2017). At this speed, both the possibility of 
striking a marine mammal and the possibility of a strike resulting in 
serious injury or mortality are discountable. At average transit speed, 
the probability of serious injury or mortality resulting from a strike 
is less than 50 percent. However, the likelihood of a strike actually 
happening is again discountable. Ship strikes, as analyzed in the 
studies cited above, generally involve commercial shipping, which is 
much more common in both

[[Page 45134]]

space and time than is geophysical survey activity. Jensen and Silber 
(2004) summarized ship strikes of large whales worldwide from 1975-2003 
and found that most collisions occurred in the open ocean and involved 
large vessels (e.g., commercial shipping). Commercial fishing vessels 
were responsible for three percent of recorded collisions, while no 
such incidents were reported for geophysical survey vessels during that 
time period.
    It is possible for ship strikes to occur while traveling at slow 
speeds. For example, a hydrographic survey vessel traveling at low 
speed (5.5 kn) while conducting mapping surveys off the central 
California coast struck and killed a blue whale in 2009. The State of 
California determined that the whale had suddenly and unexpectedly 
surfaced beneath the hull, with the result that the propeller severed 
the whale's vertebrae, and that this was an unavoidable event. This 
strike represents the only such incident in approximately 540,000 hours 
of similar coastal mapping activity (p = 1.9 x 10-\6\; 95% 
CI = 0-5.5 x 10-\6\; NMFS, 2013b). In addition, a research 
vessel reported a fatal strike in 2011 of a dolphin in the Atlantic, 
demonstrating that it is possible for strikes involving smaller 
cetaceans to occur. In that case, the incident report indicated that an 
animal apparently was struck by the vessel's propeller as it was 
intentionally swimming near the vessel. While indicative of the type of 
unusual events that cannot be ruled out, neither of these instances 
represents a circumstance that would be considered reasonably 
foreseeable or that would be considered preventable.
    Although the likelihood of the vessel striking a marine mammal is 
low, we require a robust ship strike avoidance protocol (see ``Proposed 
Mitigation''), which we believe eliminates any foreseeable risk of ship 
strike. We anticipate that vessel collisions involving a seismic data 
acquisition vessel towing gear, while not impossible, represent 
unlikely, unpredictable events for which there are no preventive 
measures. Given the required mitigation measures, the relatively slow 
speed of the vessel towing gear, the presence of bridge crew watching 
for obstacles at all times (including marine mammals), and the presence 
of marine mammal observers, we believe that the possibility of ship 
strike is discountable and, further, that were a strike of a large 
whale to occur, it would be unlikely to result in serious injury or 
mortality. No incidental take resulting from ship strike is 
anticipated, and this potential effect of the specified activity will 
not be discussed further in the following analysis.
    Stranding-- When a living or dead marine mammal swims or floats 
onto shore and becomes ``beached'' or incapable of returning to sea, 
the event is a ``stranding'' (Geraci et al., 1999; Perrin and Geraci, 
2002; Geraci and Lounsbury, 2005; NMFS, 2007). The legal definition for 
a stranding within the United States under the MMPA is that ``(A) a 
marine mammal is dead and is (i) on a beach or shore of the United 
States; or (ii) in waters under the jurisdiction of the United States 
(including any navigable waters); or (B) a marine mammal is alive and 
is (i) on a beach or shore of the United States and unable to return to 
the water; (ii) on a beach or shore of the United States and, although 
able to return to the water, is in need of apparent medical attention; 
or (iii) in the waters under the jurisdiction of the United States 
(including any navigable waters), but is unable to return to its 
natural habitat under its own power or without assistance'' (16 U.S.C. 
1421h(3)).
    Marine mammals strand for a variety of reasons, such as infectious 
agents, biotoxicosis, starvation, fishery interaction, ship strike, 
unusual oceanographic or weather events, sound exposure, or 
combinations of these stressors sustained concurrently or in series. 
However, the cause or causes of most strandings are unknown (Geraci et 
al., 1976; Eaton, 1979; Odell et al., 1980; Best, 1982). Numerous 
studies suggest that the physiology, behavior, habitat relationships, 
age, or condition of cetaceans may cause them to strand or might pre-
dispose them to strand when exposed to another phenomenon. These 
suggestions are consistent with the conclusions of numerous other 
studies that have demonstrated that combinations of dissimilar 
stressors commonly combine to kill an animal or dramatically reduce its 
fitness, even though one exposure without the other does not produce 
the same result (Chroussos, 2000; Creel, 2005; DeVries et al., 2003; 
Fair and Becker, 2000; Foley et al., 2001; Moberg, 2000; Relyea, 2005a; 
2005b, Romero, 2004; Sih et al., 2004).
    Use of military tactical sonar has been implicated in a majority of 
investigated stranding events, although one stranding event was 
associated with the use of seismic airguns. This event occurred in the 
Gulf of California, coincident with seismic reflection profiling by the 
R/V Maurice Ewing operated by Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty 
Earth Observatory and involved two Cuvier's beaked whales (Hildebrand, 
2004). The vessel had been firing an array of 20 airguns with a total 
volume of 8,500 in\3\ (Hildebrand, 2004; Taylor et al., 2004). Most 
known stranding events have involved beaked whales, though a small 
number have involved deep-diving delphinids or sperm whales (e.g., 
Mazzariol et al., 2010; Southall et al., 2013). In general, long 
duration (~1 second) and high-intensity sounds (>235 dB SPL) have been 
implicated in stranding events (Hildebrand, 2004). With regard to 
beaked whales, mid-frequency sound is typically implicated (when 
causation can be determined) (Hildebrand, 2004). Although seismic 
airguns create predominantly low-frequency energy, the signal does 
include a mid-frequency component. We have considered the potential for 
the proposed survey to result in marine mammal stranding and have 
concluded that, based on the best available information, stranding is 
not expected to occur.
    Entanglement and discharges--We are not aware of any records of 
marine mammal entanglement in towed arrays such as those considered 
here. The discharge of trash and debris is prohibited (33 CFR 151.51-
77) unless it is passed through a machine that breaks up solids such 
that they can pass through a 25-mm mesh screen. All other trash and 
debris must be returned to shore for proper disposal with municipal and 
solid waste. Some personal items may be accidentally lost overboard. 
However, U.S. Coast Guard and Environmental Protection Act regulations 
require operators to become proactive in avoiding accidental loss of 
solid waste items by developing waste management plans, posting 
informational placards, manifesting trash sent to shore, and using 
special precautions such as covering outside trash bins to prevent 
accidental loss of solid waste. There are no meaningful entanglement 
risks posed by the described activity, and entanglement risks are not 
discussed further in this document.
    Marine mammals could be affected by accidentally spilled diesel 
fuel from a vessel associated with proposed survey activities. 
Quantities of diesel fuel on the sea surface may affect marine mammals 
through various pathways: Surface contact of the fuel with skin and 
other mucous membranes, inhalation of concentrated petroleum vapors, or 
ingestion of the fuel (direct ingestion or by the ingestion of oiled 
prey) (e.g., Geraci and St. Aubin, 1980, 1985, 1990). However, the 
likelihood of a fuel spill during any particular geophysical survey is 
considered to be remote, and the potential for impacts to marine 
mammals would depend greatly on the

[[Page 45135]]

size and location of a spill and meteorological conditions at the time 
of the spill. Spilled fuel would rapidly spread to a layer of varying 
thickness and break up into narrow bands or windrows parallel to the 
wind direction. The rate at which the fuel spreads would be determined 
by the prevailing conditions such as temperature, water currents, tidal 
streams, and wind speeds. Lighter, volatile components of the fuel 
would evaporate to the atmosphere almost completely in a few days. 
Evaporation rate may increase as the fuel spreads because of the 
increased surface area of the slick. Rougher seas, high wind speeds, 
and high temperatures also tend to increase the rate of evaporation and 
the proportion of fuel lost by this process (Scholz et al., 1999). We 
do not anticipate potentially meaningful effects to marine mammals as a 
result of any contaminant spill resulting from the proposed survey 
activities, and contaminant spills are not discussed further in this 
document.

Anticipated Effects on Marine Mammal Habitat

    Effects to Prey--Marine mammal prey varies by species, season, and 
location and, for some, is not well documented. Fish react to sounds 
which are especially strong and/or intermittent low-frequency sounds. 
Short duration, sharp sounds can cause overt or subtle changes in fish 
behavior and local distribution. Hastings and Popper (2005) identified 
several studies that suggest fish may relocate to avoid certain areas 
of sound energy. Additional studies have documented effects of pulsed 
sound on fish, although several are based on studies in support of 
construction projects (e.g., Scholik and Yan, 2001, 2002; Popper and 
Hastings, 2009). Sound pulses at received levels of 160 dB may cause 
subtle changes in fish behavior. SPLs of 180 dB may cause noticeable 
changes in behavior (Pearson et al., 1992; Skalski et al., 1992). SPLs 
of sufficient strength have been known to cause injury to fish and fish 
mortality. The most likely impact to fish from survey activities at the 
project area would be temporary avoidance of the area. The duration of 
fish avoidance of a given area after survey effort stops is unknown, 
but a rapid return to normal recruitment, distribution and behavior is 
anticipated.
    Information on seismic airgun impacts to zooplankton, which 
represent an important prey type for mysticetes, is limited. However, 
McCauley et al. (2017) reported that experimental exposure to a pulse 
from a 150 inch\3\ airgun decreased zooplankton abundance when compared 
with controls, as measured by sonar and net tows, and caused a two- to 
threefold increase in dead adult and larval zooplankton. Although no 
adult krill were present, the study found that all larval krill were 
killed after air gun passage. Impacts were observed out to the maximum 
1.2 km range sampled.
    In general, impacts to marine mammal prey are expected to be 
limited due to the relatively small temporal and spatial overlap 
between the proposed survey and any areas used by marine mammal prey 
species. The proposed survey would occur over a relatively short time 
period (90 days) and would occur over a very small area relative to the 
area available as marine mammal habitat in the Pacific Ocean off New 
Zealand. We do not have any information to suggest the proposed survey 
area represents a significant feeding area for any marine mammal, and 
we believe any impacts to marine mammals due to adverse affects to 
their prey would be insignificant due to the limited spatial and 
temporal impact of the proposed survey. However, adverse impacts may 
occur to a few species of fish and to zooplankton.
    Acoustic Habitat--Acoustic habitat is the soundscape--which 
encompasses all of the sound present in a particular location and time, 
as a whole--when considered from the perspective of the animals 
experiencing it. Animals produce sound for, or listen for sounds 
produced by, conspecifics (communication during feeding, mating, and 
other social activities), other animals (finding prey or avoiding 
predators), and the physical environment (finding suitable habitats, 
navigating). Together, sounds made by animals and the geophysical 
environment (e.g., produced by earthquakes, lightning, wind, rain, 
waves) make up the natural contributions to the total acoustics of a 
place. These acoustic conditions, termed acoustic habitat, are one 
attribute of an animal's total habitat.
    Soundscapes are also defined by, and acoustic habitat influenced 
by, the total contribution of anthropogenic sound. This may include 
incidental emissions from sources such as vessel traffic, or may be 
intentionally introduced to the marine environment for data acquisition 
purposes (as in the use of airgun arrays). Anthropogenic noise varies 
widely in its frequency content, duration, and loudness and these 
characteristics greatly influence the potential habitat-mediated 
effects to marine mammals (please see also the previous discussion on 
masking under ``Acoustic Effects''), which may range from local effects 
for brief periods of time to chronic effects over large areas and for 
long durations. Depending on the extent of effects to habitat, animals 
may alter their communications signals (thereby potentially expending 
additional energy) or miss acoustic cues (either conspecific or 
adventitious). For more detail on these concepts see, e.g., Barber et 
al., 2010; Pijanowski et al., 2011; Francis and Barber, 2013; Lillis et 
al., 2014.
    Problems arising from a failure to detect cues are more likely to 
occur when noise stimuli are chronic and overlap with biologically 
relevant cues used for communication, orientation, and predator/prey 
detection (Francis and Barber, 2013). Although the signals emitted by 
seismic airgun arrays are generally low frequency, they would also 
likely be of short duration and transient in any given area due to the 
nature of these surveys. As described previously, exploratory surveys 
such as these cover a large area but would be transient rather than 
focused in a given location over time and therefore would not be 
considered chronic in any given location.
    In summary, activities associated with the proposed action are not 
likely to have a permanent, adverse effect on any fish habitat or 
populations of fish species or on the quality of acoustic habitat. 
Thus, any impacts to marine mammal habitat are not expected to cause 
significant or long-term consequences for individual marine mammals or 
their populations.

Estimated Take

    This section provides an estimate of the number of incidental takes 
proposed for authorization through this IHA, which will inform both 
NMFS' consideration of whether the number of takes is ``small'' and the 
negligible impact determination.
    Harassment is the only type of take expected to result from these 
activities. Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent 
here, section 3(18) of 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).
    Authorized takes would primarily be by Level B harassment, as use 
of the seismic airguns have the potential to result in disruption of 
behavioral patterns for individual marine

[[Page 45136]]

mammals. There is also some potential for auditory injury (Level A 
harassment) to result, primarily for mysticetes and high frequency 
cetaceans (i.e., kogiidae spp.), due to larger predicted auditory 
injury zones for those functional hearing groups. Auditory injury is 
unlikely to occur for mid-frequency species given very small modeled 
zones of injury for those species. The proposed mitigation and 
monitoring measures are expected to minimize the severity of such 
taking to the extent practicable.
    As described previously, no serious injury or mortality is 
anticipated or proposed to be authorized for this activity. Below we 
describe how the take is estimated.
    Described in the most basic way, we estimate take by considering: 
(1) acoustic thresholds above which NMFS believes the best available 
science indicates marine mammals will be behaviorally harassed or incur 
some degree of permanent hearing impairment; (2) the area or volume of 
water that will be ensonified above these levels in a day; (3) the 
density or occurrence of marine mammals within these ensonified areas; 
and (4) and the number of days of activities. Below, we describe these 
components in more detail and present the exposure estimate and 
associated numbers of take proposed for authorization.

Acoustic Thresholds

    Using the best available science, NMFS has developed acoustic 
thresholds that identify the received level of underwater sound above 
which exposed marine mammals would be reasonably expected to be 
behaviorally harassed (equated to Level B harassment) or to incur PTS 
of some degree (equated to Level A harassment).
    Level B Harassment for non-explosive sources-- Though significantly 
driven by received level, the onset of behavioral disturbance from 
anthropogenic noise exposure is also informed to varying degrees by 
other factors related to the source (e.g., frequency, predictability, 
duty cycle), the environment (e.g., bathymetry), and the receiving 
animals (hearing, motivation, experience, demography, behavioral 
context) and can be difficult to predict (Southall et al., 2007, 
Ellison et al. 2011). Based on the best available science and the 
practical need to use a threshold based on a factor that is both 
predictable and measurable for most activities, NMFS uses a generalized 
acoustic threshold based on received level to estimate the onset of 
behavioral harassment. NMFS predicts that marine mammals are likely to 
be behaviorally harassed in a manner we consider to fall under Level B 
harassment when exposed to underwater anthropogenic noise above 
received levels of 120 dB re 1 [mu]Pa (rms) for continuous sources 
(e.g. vibratory pile-driving, drilling) and above 160 dB re 1 [mu]Pa 
(rms) for non-explosive impulsive (e.g., seismic airguns) or 
intermittent (e.g., scientific sonar) sources. L-DEO's proposed 
activity includes the use of impulsive seismic sources. Therefore, the 
160 dB re 1 [mu]Pa (rms) criteria is applicable for analysis of level B 
harassment.
    Level A harassment for non-explosive sources--NMFS' Technical 
Guidance for Assessing the Effects of Anthropogenic Sound on Marine 
Mammal Hearing (NMFS, 2016) identifies dual criteria to assess auditory 
injury (Level A harassment) to five different marine mammal groups 
(based on hearing sensitivity) as a result of exposure to noise from 
two different types of sources (impulsive or non-impulsive). The 
Technical Guidance identifies the received levels, or thresholds, above 
which individual marine mammals are predicted to experience changes in 
their hearing sensitivity for all underwater anthropogenic sound 
sources, reflects the best available science, and better predicts the 
potential for auditory injury than does NMFS' historical criteria.
    These thresholds were developed by compiling and synthesizing the 
best available science and soliciting input multiple times from both 
the public and peer reviewers to inform the final product, and are 
provided in Table 4 below. The references, analysis, and methodology 
used in the development of the thresholds are described in NMFS 2016 
Technical Guidance, which may be accessed at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/acoustics/guidelines.htm. As described above, L-DEO's proposed 
activity includes the use of intermittent and impulsive seismic 
sources.

 Table 4--Thresholds Identifying the Onset of Permanent Threshold Shift
                            in Marine Mammals
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                           PTS onset thresholds
          Hearing group          ---------------------------------------
                                      Impulsive *        Non-impulsive
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Low-Frequency (LF) Cetaceans....  Lpk,flat: 219 dB,   LE,LF,24h: 199 dB.
                                   LE,LF,24h: 183 dB.
Mid-Frequency (MF) Cetaceans....  Lpk,flat: 230 dB,   LE,MF,24h: 198 dB.
                                   LE,MF,24h: 185 dB.
High-Frequency (HF) Cetaceans...  Lpk,flat: 202 dB,   LE,HF,24h: 173 dB.
                                   LE,HF,24h: 155 dB.
Phocid Pinnipeds (PW)             Lpk,flat: 218 dB,   LE,PW,24h: 201 dB.
 (Underwater).                     LE,PW,24h: 185 dB.
Otariid Pinnipeds (OW)            Lpk,flat: 232 dB,   LE,OW,24h: 219 dB.
 (Underwater).                     LE,OW,24h: 203 dB.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Note: *Dual metric acoustic thresholds for impulsive sounds: Use
  whichever results in the largest isopleth for calculating PTS onset.
  If a non-impulsive sound has the potential of exceeding the peak sound
  pressure level thresholds associated with impulsive sounds, these
  thresholds should also be considered.
Note: Peak sound pressure (Lpk) has a reference value of 1 [mu]Pa, and
  cumulative sound exposure level (LE) has a reference value of
  1[mu]Pa2s. In this Table, thresholds are abbreviated to reflect
  American National Standards Institute standards (ANSI 2013). However,
  peak sound pressure is defined by ANSI as incorporating frequency
  weighting, which is not the intent for this Technical Guidance. Hence,
  the subscript ``flat'' is being included to indicate peak sound
  pressure should be flat weighted or unweighted within the generalized
  hearing range. The subscript associated with cumulative sound exposure
  level thresholds indicates the designated marine mammal auditory
  weighting function (LF, MF, and HF cetaceans, and PW and OW pinnipeds)
  and that the recommended accumulation period is 24 hours. The
  cumulative sound exposure level thresholds could be exceeded in a
  multitude of ways (i.e., varying exposure levels and durations, duty
  cycle). When possible, it is valuable for action proponents to
  indicate the conditions under which these acoustic thresholds will be
  exceeded.

Ensonified Area

    Here, we describe operational and environmental parameters of the 
activity that will feed into estimating the area ensonified above the 
relevant acoustic thresholds.
    The proposed survey would entail use of a 36-airgun array with a 
total discharge of 6,600 in\3\ at a tow depth of 9 m and an 18-airgun 
array with a total discharge of 3,300 in\3\ at a tow depth of 7-9 m. 
Received sound levels were predicted by L-DEO's model (Diebold et al., 
2010) as a function of distance from the 36-airgun array and 18-airgun 
array and for a single 40-in\3\ airgun which would be used during power 
downs; all models used a 9 m tow depth. This

[[Page 45137]]

modeling approach uses ray tracing for the direct wave traveling from 
the array to the receiver and its associated source ghost (reflection 
at the air-water interface in the vicinity of the array), in a 
constant-velocity half-space (infinite homogeneous ocean layer, 
unbounded by a seafloor). In addition, propagation measurements of 
pulses from the 36-airgun array at a tow depth of 6 m have been 
reported in deep water (approximately 1600 m), intermediate water depth 
on the slope (approximately 600-1100 m), and shallow water 
(approximately 50 m) in the Gulf of Mexico in 2007-2008 (Tolstoy et al. 
2009; Diebold et al. 2010).
    For deep and intermediate-water cases, L-DEO determined that the 
field measurements cannot be used readily to derive mitigation radii, 
as at those sites the calibration hydrophone was located at a roughly 
constant depth of 350-500 m, which may not intersect all the SPL 
isopleths at their widest point from the sea surface down to the 
maximum relevant water depth for marine mammals of approximately 2,000 
m (See Appendix H in NSF-USGS 2011). At short ranges, where the direct 
arrivals dominate and the effects of seafloor interactions are minimal, 
the data recorded at the deep and slope sites are suitable for 
comparison with modeled levels at the depth of the calibration 
hydrophone. At longer ranges, the comparison with the mitigation 
model--constructed from the maximum SPL through the entire water column 
at varying distances from the airgun array--is the most relevant. 
Please see the IHA application for further discussion of summarized 
results.
    For deep water (>1000 m), L-DEO used the deep-water radii obtained 
from model results down to a maximum water depth of 2000 m. The radii 
for intermediate water depths (100-1000 m) were derived from the deep-
water ones by applying a correction factor (multiplication) of 1.5, 
such that observed levels at very near offsets fall below the corrected 
mitigation curve (See Fig. 16 in Appendix H of NSF-USGS, 2011). The 
shallow-water radii were obtained by scaling the empirically derived 
measurements from the Gulf of Mexico calibration survey to account for 
the differences in tow depth between the calibration survey (6 m) and 
the proposed surveys (9 m). A simple scaling factor is calculated from 
the ratios of the isopleths determined by the deep-water L-DEO model, 
which are essentially a measure of the energy radiated by the source 
array.
    Measurements have not been reported for the single 40-in\3\ airgun. 
L-DEO model results are used to determine the 160-dB (rms) radius for 
the 40-in\3\ airgun at a 9 m tow depth in deep water (See LGL 2017, 
Figure 6). For intermediate-water depths, a correction factor of 1.5 
was applied to the deep-water model results. For shallow water, a 
scaling of the field measurements obtained for the 36-airgun array was 
used.
    L-DEO's modeling methodology is described in greater detail in the 
IHA application (LGL 2017) and we refer the reader to that document 
rather than repeating it here. The estimated distances to the Level B 
harassment isopleth for the Langseth's 36-airgun array, 18-airgun 
array, and the single 40-in\3\ airgun are shown in Table 5.

 Table 5--Predicted Radial Distances From R/V Langseth Seismic Source to
         Isopleths Corresponding to Level B Harassment Threshold
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                      Predicted distance
       Source and volume             Water depth      to threshold  (160
                                                     dB re 1 [mu]Pa) \1\
------------------------------------------------------------------------
1 airgun, 40 in\3\.............  >1000 m...........  388 m.
                                 100-1000 m........  582 m.
                                 <100 m............  938 m.
18 airguns, 3,300 in\3\........  >1000 m...........  3,562 m.
                                 100-1000 m........  5,343 m.
                                 <100 m............  10,607 m.
36 airguns, 6,600 in\3\........  >1000 m...........  5,629 m.
                                 100-1000 m........  8,444 m.
                                 <100 m............  22,102 m.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ Distances for depths >1000 m are based on L-DEO model results.
  Distance for depths 100-1000 m are based on L-DEO model results with a
  1.5 x correction factor between deep and intermediate water depths.
  Distances for depths <100 m are based on empirically derived
  measurements in the Gulf of Mexico with scaling applied to account for
  differences in tow depth.

    Predicted distances to Level A harassment isopleths, which vary 
based on marine mammal hearing groups (Table 3), were calculated based 
on modeling performed by L-DEO using the NUCLEUS software program and 
the NMFS User Spreadsheet, described below. The updated acoustic 
thresholds for impulsive sounds (e.g., airguns) contained in the 
Technical Guidance were presented as dual metric acoustic thresholds 
using both SELcum and peak sound pressure metrics (NMFS 
2016). As dual metrics, NMFS considers onset of PTS (Level A 
harassment) to have occurred when either one of the two metrics is 
exceeded (i.e., metric resulting in the largest isopleth). The 
SELcum metric considers both level and duration of exposure, 
as well as auditory weighting functions by marine mammal hearing group. 
In recognition of the fact that the requirement to calculate Level A 
harassment ensonified areas could be more technically challenging to 
predict due to the duration component and the use of weighting 
functions in the new SELcum thresholds, NMFS developed an 
optional User Spreadsheet that includes tools to help predict a simple 
isopleth that can be used in conjunction with marine mammal density or 
occurrence to facilitate the estimation of take numbers.
    The values for SELcum and peak SPL for the Langseth 
airgun array were derived from calculating the modified farfield 
signature (Table 6). The farfield signature is often used as a 
theoretical representation of the source level. To compute the farfield 
signature, the source level is estimated at a large distance below the 
array (e.g., 9 km), and this level is back projected mathematically to 
a notional distance of 1 m from the array's geometrical center. 
However, when the source is an array of multiple airguns separated in 
space, the source level from the theoretical farfield signature is not 
necessarily the best measurement of the source level that is physically 
achieved at the source (Tolstoy et al. 2009). Near the source (at short 
ranges, distances <1 km), the pulses of sound pressure from each 
individual airgun in the source array do not stack constructively, as 
they do for the theoretical farfield signature. The pulses from the 
different airguns spread out in time such that the source levels 
observed or modeled are the result of the summation of pulses from a 
few airguns, not the full array (Tolstoy et al. 2009). At larger 
distances, away from the source array center, sound pressure of all the 
airguns in the array stack coherently, but not within one time sample, 
resulting in smaller source levels (a few dB) than the source level 
derived from the farfield signature. Because the farfield signature 
does not take into account the large array effect near the source and 
is calculated as a point source, the modified farfield signature is a 
more appropriate measure of the sound source level for distributed 
sound sources, such as airgun arrays. L-DEO used the acoustic modeling 
methodology as used for Level B takes with a small grid step of 1 m in 
both the inline and depth directions. The propagation modeling takes 
into account all airgun interactions at short distances from the 
source, including interactions between subarrays which are modeled 
using the NUCLEUS software to estimate the notional signature and 
MATLAB software to

[[Page 45138]]

calculate the pressure signal at each mesh point of a grid.

   Table 6--Modeled source levels based on modified farfield signature for the R/V Langseth 6,600 in\3\ airgun
                           array, 3,300 in\3\ airgun array, and single 40 in\3\ airgun
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                       High           Phocid          Otariid
                                   Low frequency   Mid frequency     frequency       Pinnipeds       Pinnipeds
                                     cetaceans       cetaceans       cetaceans     (Underwater)    (Underwater)
                                  (Lpk,flat: 219  (Lpk,flat: 230  (Lpk,flat: 202  (Lpk,flat: 218  (Lpk,flat: 232
                                        dB;             dB;             dB;             dB;             dB;
                                  LE,LF,24h: 183  LE,MF,24h: 185  LE,HF,24h: 155  LE,HF,24h: 185  LE,HF,24h: 203
                                        dB)             dB              dB)             dB)             dB)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
6,600 in\3\ airgun array (Peak            250.77          252.76          249.44          250.50          252.72
 SPLflat).......................
6,600 in\3\ airgun array                  232.75          232.67          232.83          232.67          231.07
 (SELcum).......................
3,300 in\3\ airgun array (Peak            246.34          250.98          243.64          246.03          251.92
 SPLflat).......................
3,300 in\3\ airgun array                  226.22          226.13          226.75          226.13          226.89
 (SELcum).......................
40 in\3\ airgun (Peak SPLflat)..          224.02          225.16          224.00          224.09          226.64
40 in\3\ airgun (SELcum)........          202.33          202.35          203.12          202.35          202.61
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In order to more realistically incorporate the Technical Guidance's 
weighting functions over the seismic array's full acoustic band, 
unweighted spectrum data for the Langseth's airgun array (modeled in 1 
Hz bands) was used to make adjustments (dB) to the unweighted spectrum 
levels, by frequency, according to the weighting functions for each 
relevant marine mammal hearing group. These adjusted/weighted spectrum 
levels were then converted to pressures (micropascals) in order to 
integrate them over the entire broadband spectrum, resulting in 
broadband weighted source levels by hearing group that could be 
directly incorporated within the User Spreadsheet (i.e., to override 
the Spreadsheet's more simple weighting factor adjustment). Using the 
User Spreadsheet's ``safe distance'' methodology for mobile sources 
(described by Sivle et al., 2014) with the hearing group-specific 
weighted source levels, and inputs assuming spherical spreading 
propagation and source velocities and shot intervals specific to each 
of the three proposed surveys (Table 1), potential radial distances to 
auditory injury zones were then calculated for SELcum 
thresholds.
    Inputs to the User Spreadsheets in the form of estimated SLs are 
shown in Table 6. User Spreadsheets used by L-DEO to estimate distances 
to Level A harassment isopleths (SELcum) for the 36-airgun 
array, 18-airgun array, and the single 40 in\3\ airgun for the South 
Island 2-D survey, North Island 2-D survey, and North Island 3-D survey 
are shown in Tables 3, 4, 7, 10, 11, and 12, of the IHA application 
(LGL 2017). Outputs from the User Spreadsheets in the form of estimated 
distances to Level A harassment isopleths for the South Island 2-D 
survey, North Island 2-D survey, and North Island 3-D survey are shown 
in Tables 7, 8 and 9, respectively. As described above, NMFS considers 
onset of PTS (Level A harassment) to have occurred when either one of 
the dual metrics (SELcum and Peak SPLflat) is 
exceeded (i.e., metric resulting in the largest isopleth).

    Table 7--Modeled Radial Distances (m) to Isopleths Corresponding to Level A Harassment Thresholds During
                                        Proposed North Island 2-D Survey
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                       High           Phocid          Otariid
                                   Low frequency   Mid frequency     frequency       Pinnipeds       Pinnipeds
                                     cetaceans       cetaceans       cetaceans     (Underwater)    (Underwater)
                                  (Lpk,flat: 219  (Lpk,flat: 230  (Lpk,flat: 202  (Lpk,flat: 218  (Lpk,flat: 232
                                        dB;             dB;             dB;             dB;             dB;
                                  LE,LF,24h: 183  LE,MF,24h: 185  LE,HF,24h: 155  LE,HF,24h: 185  LE,HF,24h: 203
                                        dB)             dB              dB)             dB)             dB)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
6,600 in\3\ airgun array (Peak              38.8            13.8           229.2            42.2            10.9
 SPLflat).......................
6,600 in\3\ airgun array                   501.3               0             1.2            13.2               0
 (SELcum).......................
40 in\3\ airgun (Peak SPLflat)..             1.8             0.6            12.6             2.0             0.5
40 in\3\ airgun (SELcum)........             0.4               0               0               0               0
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Table 8--Modeled Radial Distances (m) to Isopleths Corresponding to Level A Harassment Thresholds During
                                        Proposed North Island 3-D Survey
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                       High           Phocid          Otariid
                                   Low frequency   Mid frequency     frequency       Pinnipeds       Pinnipeds
                                     cetaceans       cetaceans       cetaceans     (Underwater)    (Underwater)
                                  (Lpk,flat: 219  (Lpk,flat: 230  (Lpk,flat: 202  (Lpk,flat: 218  (Lpk,flat: 232
                                        dB;             dB;             dB;             dB;             dB;
                                  LE,LF,24h: 183  LE,MF,24h: 185  LE,HF,24h: 155  LE,HF,24h: 185  LE,HF,24h: 203
                                        dB)             dB              dB)             dB)             dB)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3,300 in\3\ airgun array (Peak              23.3            11.2           119.0            25.2             9.9
 SPLflat).......................
3,300 in\3\ airgun array                    73.1               0             0.3             2.8               0
 (SELcum).......................
40 in\3\ airgun (Peak SPLflat)..             1.8             0.6            12.6             2.0             0.5
40 in\3\ airgun (SELcum)........             0.4               0               0               0               0
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


[[Page 45139]]


    Table 9--Modeled Radial Distances (m) to Isopleths Corresponding to Level A Harassment Thresholds During
                                        Proposed South Island 2-D Survey
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                       High           Phocid          Otariid
                                   Low frequency   Mid frequency     frequency       Pinnipeds       Pinnipeds
                                     cetaceans       cetaceans       cetaceans     (Underwater)    (Underwater)
                                  (Lpk,flat: 219  (Lpk,flat: 230  (Lpk,flat: 202  (Lpk,flat: 218  (Lpk,flat: 232
                                        dB;             dB;             dB;             dB;             dB;
                                  LE,LF,24h: 183  LE,MF,24h: 185  LE,HF,24h: 155  LE,HF,24h: 185  LE,HF,24h: 203
                                        dB)             dB              dB)             dB)             dB)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
6,600 in\3\ airgun array (Peak              38.8            13.8           229.2            42.2            10.9
 SPLflat).......................
6,600 in\3\ airgun array                   376.0               0             0.9             9.9               0
 (SELcum).......................
40 in\3\ airgun (Peak SPLflat)..             1.8             0.6            12.6             2.0             0.5
40 in\3\ airgun (SELcum)........             0.3               0               0               0               0
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Note that because of some of the assumptions included in the 
methods used, isopleths produced may be overestimates to some degree, 
which will ultimately result in some degree of overestimate of Level A 
take. However, these tools offer the best way to predict appropriate 
isopleths when more sophisticated 3D modeling methods are not 
available, and NMFS continues to develop ways to quantitatively refine 
these tools and will qualitatively address the output where 
appropriate. For mobile sources, such as the proposed seismic survey, 
the User Spreadsheet predicts the closest distance at which a 
stationary animal would not incur PTS if the sound source traveled by 
the animal in a straight line at a constant speed.

Marine Mammal Occurrence

    In this section we provide the information about the presence, 
density, or group dynamics of marine mammals that will inform the take 
calculations. The best available scientific information was considered 
in conducting marine mammal exposure estimates (the basis for 
estimating take).
    No systematic aircraft- or ship-based surveys have been conducted 
for marine mammals in offshore waters of the South Pacific Ocean off 
New Zealand that can be used to estimate species densities that we are 
aware of, with the exception of Hector's dolphin surveys that have 
occurred off the South Island. Densities for Hector's dolphins off the 
South Island were estimated using averaged estimated summer densities 
from the most southern stratum of an East Coast South Island survey 
(Otago) and a West Coast South Island survey (Milford Sound), both in 
three offshore strata categories (0-4 nm, 4-12 nm, and 12-20 nm; 
MacKenzie and Clement 2014, 2016). The estimated density for Hector's 
dolphins for the South Island 2-D survey was based on the proportion of 
that survey occurring in each offshore stratum.
    For cetacean species other than Hector's dolphin, densities were 
derived from data available for the Southern Ocean (Butterworth et al. 
1994; Kasamatsu and Joyce 1995) (See Table 17 in the IHA application). 
Butterworth et al. (1994) provided comparable data for sei, fin, blue, 
and sperm whales extrapolated to latitudes 30-40[deg] S., 40-50[deg] 
S., and 50-60[deg] S. based on Japanese scouting vessel data from 1965/
66-1977/78 and 1978/79-1987/88. Densities were calculated for these 
species based on abundances and surface areas provided in Butterworth 
et al. (1994) using the mean density for the more recent surveys (1978/
79-1987/88) and the 30-40[deg] S. and 40-50[deg] S. strata, because the 
proposed survey areas are between ~37[deg] S. and 50[deg] S. Densities 
were corrected for mean trackline detection probability, g(0) 
availability bias, using mean g(0) values provided for these species 
during NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center ship-based surveys 
between 1991-2014 (Barlow 2016). Data for the humpback whale was also 
presented in Butterworth et al. (1994), but, based on the best 
available information, it was determined that the density values 
presented for humpback whales in Butterworth et al. (1994) were likely 
lower than would be expected in the proposed survey areas, thus the 
density for humpback whales was ultimately calculated in the same way 
as for the baleen whales for which density data was unavailable. 
Kasamatsu and Joyce (1995) provided data for beaked whales, killer 
whales, long-finned pilot whales, and Hourglass dolphins, based on 
surveys conducted as part of the International Whaling Commission/
International Decade of Cetacean Research-Southern Hemisphere Minke 
Whale Assessment, started in 1978/79, and the Japanese sightings survey 
program started in 1976/77. Densities for these species were calculated 
based on abundances and surface areas provided in Kasamatsu and Joyce 
(1995) for Antarctic Areas V EMN and VI WM, which represent the two 
areas reported in Kasamatsu and Joyce (1995) that are nearest to the 
proposed South Island survey area. Densities were corrected for 
availability bias using mean g(0) values provided by Kasamatsu and 
Joyce (1995) for beaked whales, killer whales, and long-fined pilot 
whales, and provided by Barlow (2016) for the Hourglass dolphin using 
the mean g(0) calculated for unidentified dolphins during NMFS 
Southwest Fisheries Science Center ship-based surveys between 1991-
2014.
    For the remaining cetacean species, the relative abundances of 
individual species expected to occur in the survey areas were estimated 
within species groups. The relative abundances of these species were 
estimated based on several factors, including information on marine 
mammal observations from areas near the proposed survey areas (e.g., 
monitoring reports from previous IHAs (NMFS, 2015); datasets of 
opportunistic sightings (Torres et al., 2014); and analyses of observer 
data from other marine geophysical surveys conducted in New Zealand 
waters (Blue Planet, 2016)), information on latitudinal ranges and 
group sizes of marine mammals in New Zealand waters (e.g., Jefferson et 
al., 2015; NABIS, 2017; Perrin et al., 2009), and other information on 
marine mammals in and near the proposed survey areas (e.g., data on 
marine mammal bycatch in New Zealand fisheries (Berkenbush et al., 
2013), data on marine mammal strandings (New Zealand Marine Mammal 
Strandings and Sightings Database); and input from subject matter 
experts (pers. comm., E. Slooten, Univ. of Otago, to H. Goldstein, 
NMFS, April 11, 2015)).
    For each species group (i.e., mysticetes), densities of species for 
which data were available were averaged to get a mean density for the 
group (e.g., densities of fin, sei, and blue whale were averaged to get 
a mean density for mysticetes). Relative abundances of those species 
were then averaged to get a mean relative

[[Page 45140]]

abundances (e.g., relative abundance of fin, sei, and blue whale were 
averaged to get a mean relative abundance for mysticetes). For the 
species for which density data was unavailable, their relative 
abundance score was multiplied by the mean density of their respective 
species group (i.e., relative abundance of minke whale was multiplied 
by mean density for mysticetes). The product was then divided by the 
mean relative abundance of the species group to come up with a density 
estimate. The fin, sei, and blue whale densities calculated from 
Butterworth et al. (1994) were proportionally averaged and used to 
estimate the densities of the remaining mysticetes. The sperm whale 
density calculated from Butterworth et al. (1994) was used to estimate 
the density of the other Physeteridae species, the pygmy sperm whale. 
The Hourglass dolphin, killer whale, and long-finned pilot whale 
densities calculated from Kasamatsu and Joyce (1995) were 
proportionally averaged and used to estimate the densities of the other 
Delphinidae for which density data was not available. For beaked 
whales, the beaked whale density calculated from Kasamatsu and Joyce 
(1995) was proportionally allocated according to each beaked whale 
species' estimated relative abundance value.
    We are not aware of any information regarding at-sea densities of 
pinnipeds off New Zealand. As such, a surrogate species (northern fur 
seal) was used to estimate offshore pinniped densities for the proposed 
surveys. The at-sea density of northern fur seals reported in Bonnell 
et al. (1992), based on systematic aerial surveys conducted in 1989-
1990 in offshore areas off the west coast of the U.S., was used to 
estimate the numbers of pinnipeds that might be present off New 
Zealand. The northern fur seal density reported in Bonnell et al. 
(1992) was used as the New Zealand fur seal density. Densities for the 
other three pinniped species expected to occur in the proposed survey 
areas were proportionally allocated relative to the value of the 
density of the northern fur seal, in accordance to the estimated 
relative abundance value of each of the other pinniped species.
    NMFS acknowledges there is some uncertainty related to the 
estimated density data and the assumptions used in their calculations. 
Given the lack of available data on marine mammal density in the 
proposed survey areas, the approach used is based on the best available 
data. In recognition of the uncertainties in the density data, we have 
proposed an additional 25 percent contingency in take estimates to 
account for the fact that density estimates used to estimate take may 
be underestimates of actual densities of marine mammals in the survey 
area.

Take Calculation and Estimation

    Here we describe how the information provided above is brought 
together to produce a quantitative take estimate. In order to estimate 
the number of marine mammals predicted to be exposed to sound levels 
that would result in Level A harassment or Level B harassment, radial 
distances from the airgun array to predicted isopleths corresponding to 
the Level A harassment and Level B harassment thresholds are 
calculated, as described above. Those radial distances are then used to 
calculate the area(s) around the airgun array predicted to be 
ensonified to sound levels that exceed the Level A harassment and Level 
B harassment thresholds. The area estimated to be ensonified in a 
single day of the survey is then calculated (Table 10), based on the 
areas predicted to be ensonified around the array and the estimated 
trackline distance traveled per day. This number is then multiplied by 
the number of survey days (i.e., 35 days for the North Island 2-D 
survey, 33 days for the North Island 3-D survey, and 22 days for the 
South Island 2-D survey). The product is then multiplied by 1.5 to 
account for an additional 25 percent contingency for potential 
additional seismic operations (associated with turns, airgun testing, 
and repeat coverage of any areas where initial data quality is sub-
standard, as proposed by L-DEO) and an additional 25 percent 
contingency in acknowledgement of uncertainties in available density 
estimates, as described above. This results in an estimate of the total 
areas (km\2\) expected to be ensonified to the Level A harassment and 
Level B harassment thresholds. For purposes of Level B take 
calculations, areas estimated to be ensonified to Level A harassment 
thresholds are subtracted from total areas estimated to be ensonified 
to Level B harassment thresholds in order to avoid double counting the 
animals taken (i.e., if an animal is taken by Level A harassment, it is 
not also counted as taken by Level B harassment). The marine mammals 
predicted to occur within these respective areas, based on estimated 
densities, are assumed to be incidentally taken.

   Table 10--Areas (km\2\) Estimated To Be Ensonified to Level A and Level B Harassment Thresholds Per Day for Three Proposed Seismic Surveys off New
                                                                         Zealand
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                              Level B                            Level A harassment threshold \1\
                                                            harassment   -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                             threshold
                         Survey                          ---------------- Low  frequency  Mid  frequency       High           Otariid         Phocid
                                                            All marine       cetaceans       cetaceans       frequency       Pinnipeds       Pinnipeds
                                                              mammals                                        cetaceans
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
North Island 2-D Survey.................................         1,931.3           144.5             3.9            65.8             3.1            12.0
North Island 3-D Survey.................................         1,067.3            29.1             4.5            47.5             3.9            10.0
South Island 2-D Survey.................................         1,913.4           111.1             4.1            86.3             3.2            12.4
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ Level A ensonified areas are estimated based on the greater of the distances calculated to Level A isopleths using dual criteria (SELcum and
  peakSPL).
Note: Estimated areas shown for single day do not include additional 50 percent contingency.

    Factors including water depth, array configuration, and proportion 
of each survey occurring within territorial seas (versus within the 
EEZ) were also accounted for in estimates of ensonified areas. This was 
accomplished by selecting track lines for a single day (for each of the 
three proposed surveys) that were representative of the entire proposed 
survey(s) and using those representative track lines to calculate daily 
ensonified areas. Daily track line distance was selected depending on 
array configuration (i.e., 160 km per day for the proposed 2-D surveys, 
200 km per day for the proposed 3-D survey). Representative daily track 
lines were chosen to reflect the proportion of water depths (i.e., less 
than 100 m, 100-1,000 m, and greater than 1,000 m) expected to occur 
for that entire survey (Table 5)

[[Page 45141]]

as distances to isoploths corresponding to harassment vary depending on 
water depth (Table 5), and water depths vary considerably within the 
planned survey areas (Table 1). Representative track lines were also 
selected to reflect the amount of effort in the New Zealand territorial 
sea (versus within the New Zealand EEZ), for each of the three surveys, 
as NMFS does not authorize the incidental take of marine mammals within 
the New Zealand territorial sea. For example, for the proposed North 
Island 2-D survey approximately 9 percent of survey effort would occur 
in the New Zealand territorial sea (Table 1). Thus, representative 
track lines that were chosen also had approximately 9 percent of survey 
effort in territorial seas; the resultant ensonified areas within 
territorial seas were excluded from take calculations.
    Estimated takes for all marine mammal species are shown in Tables 
11, 12, 13 and 14. As described above, we propose to authorize the 
incidental takes that are expected to occur as a result of the proposed 
surveys within the New Zealand EEZ but outside of the New Zealand 
territorial sea.

   Table 11--Numbers of Potential Incidental Take of Marine Mammals Proposed for Authorization During L-DEO's
                            Proposed North Island 2-D Seismic Survey off New Zealand
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                       Total
                                                                                       Total      proposed Level
                                    Density (#/      Proposed        Proposed        proposed     A  and Level B
             Species               1,000 km\2\)   Level A  takes  Level B  takes   Level A  and      takes as a
                                                                                  Level B  takes  percentage  of
                                                                                                    population
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Southern right whale............            0.24               2              23              25            0.18
Pygmy right whale...............            0.10               1              10              11            N.A.
Humpback whale..................            0.24               2              23              25            0.05
Bryde's whale...................            0.14               1              14              15            0.03
Common minke whale..............            0.14               1              14              15           <0.01
Antarctic minke whale...........            0.14               1              14              15           <0.01
Sei whale.......................            0.14               1              14              15            0.13
Fin whale.......................            0.25               2              24              26            0.14
Blue whale......................            0.04               0               4               4            0.11
Sperm whale.....................            2.89               0             293             293            0.82
Cuvier's beaked whale...........            2.62               0             265             221            0.04
Arnoux's beaked whale...........            2.62               0             265             221            0.04
Southern bottlenose whale.......            1.74               0             177             148            0.02
Shepard's beaked whale..........            1.74               0             177             148            0.02
Hector's beaked whale...........            1.74               0             177             148            0.02
True's beaked whale.............            0.87               0              89              74            N.A.
Gray's beaked whale.............            3.49               1             353             354            0.05
Andrew's beaked whale...........            1.74               0             177             148            0.02
Strap-toothed whale.............            2.62               0             265             221            0.04
Blainville's beaked whale.......            0.87               0              89              74            0.01
Spade-toothed whale.............            0.87               0              89              74            0.01
Bottlenose dolphin..............            5.12               1             519             520            N.A.
Short-beaked common dolphin.....           10.25               2            1038            1040            N.A.
Dusky dolphin...................            5.12               1             519             520            3.61
Southern right-whale dolphin....            3.07               1             312             313            N.A.
Risso's dolphin.................            2.05               0             208             208            N.A.
False killer whale..............            3.07               1             312             313            N.A.
Killer whale....................            1.91               0             194             194            0.20
Long-finned pilot whale.........            8.28               1             838             839            0.35
Short-finned pilot whale........            4.10               1             415             416            N.A.
Pygmy sperm whale...............            1.74               3             172             175            N.A.
Hourglass dolphin...............            4.16              12             410             418            0.12
Hector's dolphin................               0               0               0               0               0
Spectacled porpoise.............               0               0               0               0               0
New Zealand fur seal............           22.50               3            2279            2283            0.50
New Zealand sea lion............               0               0               0               0               0
Southern elephant seal..........            4.50               2             454             456            0.03
Leopard seal....................            2.25               1             227             228            0.04
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


   Table 12--Numbers of Potential Incidental Take of Marine Mammals Proposed for Authorization During L-DEO's
                            Proposed North Island 3-D Seismic Survey off New Zealand
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                       Total
                                                                                       Total      proposed Level
                                    Density (#/      Proposed        Proposed        proposed     A  and Level B
             Species               1,000 km\2\)   Level A  takes  Level B  takes   Level A  and      takes as a
                                                                                  Level B  takes  percentage  of
                                                                                                    population
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Southern right whale............            0.24               0              13              13            0.09
Pygmy right whale...............            0.10               0               5               5            N.A.
Humpback whale..................            0.24               0              13              13            0.03

[[Page 45142]]

 
Bryde's whale...................            0.14               0               8               8            0.01
Common minke whale..............            0.14               0               8               8           <0.01
Antarctic minke whale...........            0.14               0               8               8           <0.01
Sei whale.......................            0.14               0               8               8            0.07
Fin whale.......................            0.25               0              13              13            0.07
Blue whale......................            0.04               0               3               3            0.05
Sperm whale.....................            2.89               1             153             154            0.43
Cuvier's beaked whale...........            2.62               0             138             138            0.02
Arnoux's beaked whale...........            2.62               0             138             138            0.02
Southern bottlenose whale.......            1.74               0              92              92            0.01
Shepard's beaked whale..........            1.74               0              92              92            0.01
Hector's beaked whale...........            1.74               0              92              92            0.01
True's beaked whale.............            0.87               0              46              46            N.A.
Gray's beaked whale.............            3.49               1             184             185            0.03
Andrew's beaked whale...........            1.74               0              92              92            0.01
Strap-toothed whale.............            2.62               0             138             138            0.02
Blainville's beaked whale.......            0.87               0              46              46            0.01
Spade-toothed whale.............            0.87               0              46              46            0.01
Bottlenose dolphin..............            5.12               1             270             271            N.A.
Short-beaked common dolphin.....           10.25               2             540             540            N.A.
Dusky dolphin...................            5.12               1             270             271            1.88
Southern right-whale dolphin....            3.07               1             162             163            N.A.
Risso's dolphin.................            2.05               0             108             108            N.A.
False killer whale..............            3.07               1             162             163            N.A.
Killer whale....................            1.91               0             101             101            0.11
Long-finned pilot whale.........            8.28               2             436             438            0.18
Short-finned pilot whale........            4.10               1             216             217            N.A.
Pygmy sperm whale...............            1.74               3              89              92            N.A.
Hourglass dolphin...............            4.16               8             212             220            0.12
Hector's dolphin................               0               0               0               0               0
Spectacled porpoise.............               0               0               0               0               0
New Zealand fur seal............           22.50               4            1186            1190            0.50
New Zealand sea lion............               0               0               0               0               0
Southern elephant seal..........            4.50               2             236             238            0.03
Leopard seal....................            2.25               1             118             119            0.04
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


   Table 13--Numbers of Potential Incidental Take of Marine Mammals Proposed for Authorization During L-DEO's
                            Proposed South Island 2-D Seismic Survey off New Zealand
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                       Total
                                                                                       Total      proposed Level
                                    Density (#/      Proposed        Proposed        proposed     A  and Level B
             Species               1,000 km\2\)   Level A  takes  Level B  takes   Level A  and      takes as a
                                                                                  Level B  takes  percentage  of
                                                                                                    population
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Southern right whale............            0.24               1              15              16            0.11
Pygmy right whale...............            0.10               0               6               6            N.A.
Humpback whale..................            0.19               1              12              13            0.02
Bryde's whale...................            0.00               0               0               0               0
Common minke whale..............            0.14               0               9               9           <0.01
Antarctic minke whale...........            0.14               0               9               9           <0.01
Sei whale.......................            0.14               0               9               9            0.08
Fin whale.......................            0.25               1              15              16            0.09
Blue whale......................            0.04               0               3               3            0.08
Sperm whale.....................            2.89               0             183             183            0.51
Cuvier's beaked whale...........            2.62               0             165             165            0.02
Arnoux's beaked whale...........            2.62               0             165             165            0.02
Southern bottlenose whale.......            1.74               0             110             110            0.02
Shepard's beaked whale..........            1.74               0             110             110            0.02
Hector's beaked whale...........            1.74               0             110             110            0.02
True's beaked whale.............            0.87               0              55              55            N.A.
Gray's beaked whale.............            3.49               0             220             220            0.03
Andrew's beaked whale...........            1.74               0             110             110            0.02

[[Page 45143]]

 
Strap-toothed whale.............            2.62               0             165             165            0.02
Blainville's beaked whale.......            0.87               0              55              55            0.01
Spade-toothed whale.............            0.87               0              55              55            0.01
Bottlenose dolphin..............            4.78               1             302             303            N.A.
Short-beaked common dolphin.....            4.78               1             302             303            N.A.
Dusky dolphin...................            7.65               1             483             484            3.36
Southern right-whale dolphin....            2.87               0             181             181            N.A.
Risso's dolphin.................            1.91               0             121             121            N.A.
False killer whale..............            2.87               0             181             181            N.A.
Killer whale....................            1.91               0             121             121            0.13
Long-finned pilot whale.........            8.28               1             522             523            0.22
Short-finned pilot whale........            1.91               0             121             121            N.A.
Pygmy sperm whale...............            1.74               4             106             110            N.A.
Hourglass dolphin...............            4.16              10             253             263            0.15
Hector's dolphin................            0.04               0               3               3            0.01
Spectacled porpoise.............            1.91               5             117             122            N.A.
New Zealand fur seal............           22.50               2            1419            1421            0.59
New Zealand sea lion............            9.00               1             568             569            4.80
Southern elephant seal..........            4.50               2             283             285            0.04
Leopard seal....................            2.25               1             142             143            0.05
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Table 14--Total Numbers of Potential Incidental Take of Marine Mammals Proposed for Authorization During L-DEO's
 Proposed North Island 3-D Survey, North Island 2-D Survey, and South Island 3-D Surveys of the R/V Langseth off
                                                   New Zealand
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                       Total
                                                                                       Total      proposed Level
                                    Density (#/      Proposed        Proposed        proposed     A  and Level B
             Species               1,000 km\2\)   Level A  takes  Level B  takes   Level A  and      takes as a
                                                                                  Level B  takes  percentage  of
                                                                                                    population
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Southern right whale............            0.24               3              51              54            0.38
Pygmy right whale...............            0.10               1              21              22            N.A.
Humpback whale..................            0.19               3              48              51             0.1
Bryde's whale...................            0.00               1              22              23            0.04
Common minke whale..............            0.14               1              31              32            N.A.
Antarctic minke whale...........            0.14               1              31              32            N.A.
Sei whale.......................            0.14               1              31              32            0.28
Fin whale.......................            0.25               3              52              55             0.3
Blue whale......................            0.04               0              10              10            0.24
Sperm whale.....................            2.89               1             629             630            1.76
Cuvier's beaked whale...........            2.62               0             568             568            0.08
Arnoux's beaked whale...........            2.62               0             568             568            0.08
Southern bottlenose whale.......            1.74               0             379             379            0.05
Shepard's beaked whale..........            1.74               0             379             379            0.05
Hector's beaked whale...........            1.74               0             379             379            0.05
True's beaked whale.............            0.87               0             190             190            N.A.
Gray's beaked whale.............            3.49               2             757             759            0.11
Andrew's beaked whale...........            1.74               0             379             379            0.05
Strap-toothed whale.............            2.62               0             568             568            0.08
Blainville's beaked whale.......            0.87               0             190             190            0.03
Spade-toothed whale.............            0.87               0             190             190            0.03
Bottlenose dolphin..............            4.78               3            1091            1094            N.A.
Short-beaked common dolphin.....            4.78               5            1880            1885            N.A.
Dusky dolphin...................            7.65               3            1272            1275            8.85
Southern right-whale dolphin....            2.87               2             655             657            N.A.
Risso's dolphin.................            1.91               0             437             437            N.A.
False killer whale..............            2.87               2             655             657            N.A.
Killer whale....................            1.91               0             416             416            0.44
Long-finned pilot whale.........            8.28               4            1796            1800            0.75
Short-finned pilot whale........            1.91               2             752             754            N.A.
Pygmy sperm whale...............            1.74              12             367             379            N.A.
Hourglass dolphin...............            4.16              30             875             905            0.39

[[Page 45144]]

 
Hector's dolphin................            0.04               0               3               3            0.01
Spectacled porpoise.............            1.91               5             117             122            N.A.
New Zealand fur seal............           22.50               9            4884            4893            1.59
New Zealand sea lion............            9.00               1             568             569            0.38
Southern elephant seal..........            4.50               6             973             979            N.A.
Leopard seal....................            2.25               3             487             490             0.1
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    It should be noted that the proposed take numbers shown in Tables 
11, 12, 13 and 14 are expected to be conservative for several reasons. 
First, in the calculations of estimated take, 50 percent has been added 
in the form of operational survey days (equivalent to adding 50 percent 
to the proposed line km to be surveyed) to account for the possibility 
of additional seismic operations associated with airgun testing and 
repeat coverage of any areas where initial data quality is sub-
standard, and in recognition of the uncertainties in the density 
estimates used to estimate take as described above. Additionally, 
marine mammals would be expected to move away from a loud sound source 
that represents an aversive stimulus, such as an airgun array, 
potentially reducing the number of Level A takes. However, the extent 
to which marine mammals would move away from the sound source is 
difficult to quantify and is therefore not accounted for in the take 
estimates shown in 11, 12, 13 and 14.
    For some marine mammal species, we propose to authorize a different 
number of incidental takes than the number of incidental takes 
requested by L-DEO (see Tables 18, 19 and 20 in the IHA application for 
requested take numbers). For instance, for several species, L-DEO 
increased the take request from the calculated take number to 1 percent 
of the estimated population size. We do not believe it is likely that 1 
percent of the estimated population size of those species will be taken 
by L-DEO's proposed survey, therefore we do not propose to authorize 
the take numbers requested by L-DEO in their IHA application (LGL, 
2017). However, in recognition of the uncertainties in the density 
estimates used to estimate take as described above, we believe it is 
reasonable to assume that actual takes may exceed numbers of takes 
calculated based on available density estimates; therefore, we have 
increased take estimates for all marine mammal species by an additional 
25 percent, to account for the fact that density estimates used to 
estimate take may be underestimates of actual densities of marine 
mammals in the survey area. Additionally, L-DEO requested authorization 
for 10 takes of Hector's dolphins during the North Island 2-D survey 
(LGL, 2017). However, we do not propose to authorize any takes of 
Hector's dolphins during North Island surveys. We believe the 
likelihood of the proposed North Island 2-D survey encountering a 
Hector's dolphin is extremely low. As described above, the North Island 
subpopulation of Hector's dolphin (aka Maui dolphin) is very unlikely 
to be encountered during either proposed North Island survey due to the 
very low estimated abundance of the subpopulation and due to the 
geographic isolation of the subpopulation (currently limited to the 
west coast of the North Island). Additionally, while it would be 
extremely unlikely for the proposed surveys to encounter a Hector's 
dolphin during North Island surveys, any Hector's dolphin encountered 
in waters off the North Island would possibly be a member of the Maui 
dolphin subspecies. As described above, the Maui dolphin is facing a 
high risk of extinction (Manning and Grantz, 2016) and has a population 
size estimated at just 55-63 individuals (Hamner et al. 2014; Baker et 
al. 2016). Therefore, we seek to avoid the remote possibility of 
exposure of Maui dolphins to airgun sounds. As such, we do not propose 
to authorize any takes of Hector's dolphins during L-DEO's proposed 
North Island surveys. Additionally, we propose a mitigation measure 
that would require shutdown of the airgun array upon observation of a 
Hector's dolphin at any distance during both proposed North Island 
surveys (described below in Proposed Mitigation), which further 
minimizes the potential for any take of Hector's dolphins during the 
proposed North Island surveys.

Proposed Mitigation

    In order to issue an IHA 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 (latter not applicable for this action). NMFS 
regulations require applicants for incidental take authorizations to 
include information about the availability and feasibility (economic 
and technological) of equipment, methods, and manner of conducting such 
activity or other means of effecting the least practicable adverse 
impact upon the affected species or stocks and their habitat (50 CFR 
216.104(a)(11)).
    In evaluating how mitigation may or may not be appropriate to 
ensure the least practicable adverse impact on species or stocks and 
their habitat, as well as subsistence uses where applicable, we 
carefully consider two primary factors:
    (1) the manner in which, and the degree to which, the successful 
implementation of the measure(s) is expected to reduce impacts to 
marine mammals, marine mammal species or stocks, and their habitat. 
This considers the nature of the potential adverse impact being 
mitigated (likelihood, scope, range). It further considers the 
likelihood that the measure will be effective if implemented 
(probability of accomplishing the mitigating result if implemented as 
planned) the likelihood

[[Page 45145]]

of effective implementation (probability implemented as planned), and
    (2) the practicability of the measures for applicant 
implementation, which may consider such things as cost, impact on 
operations, and, in the case of a military readiness activity, 
personnel safety, practicality of implementation, and impact on the 
effectiveness of the military readiness activity.
    L-DEO has reviewed mitigation measures employed during seismic 
research surveys authorized by NMFS under previous incidental 
harassment authorizations, as well as recommended best practices in 
Richardson et al. (1995), Pierson et al. (1998), Weir and Dolman 
(2007), Nowacek et al. (2013), Wright (2014), and Wright and Cosentino 
(2015), and has incorporated a suite of proposed mitigation measures 
into their project description based on the above sources.
    To reduce the potential for disturbance from acoustic stimuli 
associated with the activities, L-DEO has proposed to implement the 
following mitigation measures for marine mammals:
    (1) Vessel-based visual mitigation monitoring;
    (2) Vessel-based passive acoustic monitoring;
    (3) Establishment of an exclusion zone;
    (4) Power down procedures;
    (5) Shutdown procedures;
    (6) Ramp-up procedures; and
    (7) Vessel strike avoidance measures.
    In addition to the mitigation measures proposed by L-DEO, NMFS has 
proposed the following additional measure: Shutdown of the acoustic 
source is required upon observation of a beaked whale or kogia spp., a 
large whale with calf, or a Hector's dolphin (during North Island 
surveys only) at any distance.

Vessel-Based Visual Mitigation Monitoring

    Protected Species Observer (PSO) observations would take place 
during all daytime airgun operations and nighttime start ups (if 
applicable) of the airguns. Airgun operations would be suspended when 
marine mammals are observed within, or about to enter, designated 
Exclusion Zones (as described below). PSOs would also watch for marine 
mammals near the vessel for at least 30 minutes prior to the planned 
start of airgun operations. PSOs would monitor the entire extent of the 
modeled Level B harassment zone (Table 4) (or, as far as they are able 
to see, if they cannot see to the extent of the estimated Level B 
harassment zone). Observations would also be made during daytime 
periods when the Langseth is underway without seismic operations, such 
as during transits, to allow for comparison of sighting rates and 
behavior with and without airgun operations and between acquisition 
periods.
    During seismic operations, a minimum of four visual PSOs would be 
based aboard the Langseth. PSOs would be appointed by L-DEO, with NMFS' 
approval. During the majority of seismic operations, two PSOs would 
monitor for marine mammals around the seismic vessel. Use of two 
simultaneous observers would increase the effectiveness of detecting 
marine mammals around the source vessel. However, during meal times, 
only one PSO may be on duty. PSO(s) would be on duty in shifts of 
duration no longer than 4 hours. Other crew would also be instructed to 
assist in detecting marine mammals and in implementing mitigation 
requirements (if practical). Before the start of the seismic survey, 
the crew would be given additional instruction in detecting marine 
mammals and implementing mitigation requirements. The Langseth is a 
suitable platform for marine mammal observations. When stationed on the 
observation platform, PSOs would have a good view around the entire 
vessel. During daytime, the PSO(s) would scan the area around the 
vessel systematically with reticle binoculars (e.g., 7x50 Fujinon), 
Big-eye binoculars (25x150), and with the naked eye.
    The PSOs must have no tasks other than to conduct observational 
effort, record observational data, and communicate with and instruct 
relevant vessel crew with regard to the presence of marine mammals and 
mitigation requirements. PSO resumes would be provided to NMFS for 
approval. At least two PSOs must have a minimum of 90 days at-sea 
experience working as PSOs during a high energy seismic survey, with no 
more than eighteen months elapsed since the conclusion of the at-sea 
experience. One ``experienced'' visual PSO would be designated as the 
lead for the entire protected species observation team. The lead would 
coordinate duty schedules and roles for the PSO team and serve as 
primary point of contact for the vessel operator. The lead PSO would 
devise the duty schedule such that ``experienced'' PSOs are on duty 
with those PSOs with appropriate training but who have not yet gained 
relevant experience, to the maximum extent practicable.
    The PSOs must have successfully completed relevant training, 
including completion of all required coursework and passing a written 
and/or oral examination developed for the training program, and must 
have successfully attained a bachelor's degree from an accredited 
college or university with a major in one of the natural sciences and a 
minimum of 30 semester hours or equivalent in the biological sciences 
and at least one undergraduate course in math or statistics. The 
educational requirements may be waived if the PSO has acquired the 
relevant skills through alternate training, including (1) secondary 
education and/or experience comparable to PSO duties; (2) previous work 
experience conducting academic, commercial, or government-sponsored 
marine mammal surveys; or (3) previous work experience as a PSO. The 
PSO should demonstrate good standing and consistently good performance 
of PSO duties.
    In summary, a typical daytime cruise would have scheduled two 
observers (visual) on duty from the observation platform, and an 
acoustic observer on the passive acoustic monitoring system.

Vessel-Based Passive Acoustic Mitigation Monitoring

    Passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) would take place to complement 
the visual monitoring program. Visual monitoring typically is not 
effective during periods of poor visibility or at night, and even with 
good visibility, is unable to detect marine mammals when they are below 
the surface or beyond visual range. Acoustic monitoring can be used in 
addition to visual observations to improve detection, identification, 
and localization of cetaceans. The acoustic monitoring would serve to 
alert visual observers (if on duty) when vocalizing cetaceans are 
detected. It is only useful when marine mammals vocalize, but it can be 
effective either by day or by night and does not depend on good 
visibility. It would be monitored in real time so that visual observers 
can be alerted when marine mammals are detected acoustically.
    The PAM system consists of hardware (i.e., hydrophones) and 
software. The ``wet end'' of the system consists of a towed hydrophone 
array that is connected to the vessel by a tow cable. A deck cable 
would connect the tow cable to the electronics unit on board where the 
acoustic station, signal conditioning, and processing system would be 
located. The acoustic signals received by the hydrophones are 
amplified, digitized, and then processed by the software.
    At least one acoustic PSO (in addition to the four visual PSOs) 
would be on board. The towed hydrophones would

[[Page 45146]]

be monitored 24 hours per day (either by the acoustic PSO or by a 
visual PSO trained in the PAM system if the acoustic PSO is on break) 
while at the seismic survey area during airgun operations, and during 
most periods when the Langseth is underway while the airguns are not 
operating. However, PAM may not be possible if damage occurs to the 
array or back-up systems during operations. One PSO would monitor the 
acoustic detection system at any one time, in shifts no longer than six 
hours, by listening to the signals via headphones and/or speakers and 
watching the real-time spectrographic display for frequency ranges 
produced by cetaceans.
    When a vocalization is detected, while visual observations are in 
progress, the acoustic PSO would contact the visual PSOs immediately, 
to alert them to the presence of marine mammals (if they have not 
already been detected visually), in order to facilitate a power down or 
shut down, if required. The information regarding the marine mammal 
acoustic detection would be entered into a database.

Exclusion Zone and Buffer Zone

    An exclusion zone (EZ) is a defined area within which occurrence of 
a marine mammal triggers mitigation action intended to reduce the 
potential for certain outcomes, e.g., auditory injury, disruption of 
critical behaviors. The PSOs would establish a minimum EZ with a 500 m 
radius for the 36 airgun array and the 18 airgun array. The 500 m EZ 
would be based on radial distance from any element of the airgun array 
(rather than being based on the center of the array or around the 
vessel itself). With certain exceptions (described below), if a marine 
mammal appears within, enters, or appears on a course to enter this 
zone, the acoustic source would be powered down (see Power Down 
Procedures below). In addition to the 500 m EZ for the full arrays, a 
100 m exclusion zone would be established for the single 40 in \3\ 
airgun. With certain exceptions (described below), if a marine mammal 
appears within, enters, or appears on a course to enter this zone the 
acoustic source would be shut down entirely (see Shutdown Procedures 
below). Additionally, power down of the full arrays would last no more 
than 30 minutes maximum at any given time; thus the arrays would be 
shut down entirely if, after 30 minutes of the array being powered 
down, a marine mammal remains inside the 500 m EZ.
    In their IHA application, L-DEO proposed to establish EZs based 
upon modeled radial distances to auditory injury zones (e.g., power 
down would occur when a marine mammal entered or appeared likely to 
enter the zone(s) within which auditory injury is expected to occur 
based on modeling) (Tables 7, 8, 9). However, we instead propose the 
500 m EZ as described above. The 500 m EZ is intended to be 
precautionary in the sense that it would be expected to contain sound 
exceeding peak pressure injury criteria for all cetacean hearing 
groups, while also providing a consistent, reasonably observable zone 
within which PSOs would typically be able to conduct effective 
observational effort. Additionally, a 500-m EZ is expected to minimize 
the likelihood that marine mammals will be exposed to levels likely to 
result in more severe behavioral responses. Although significantly 
greater distances may be observed from an elevated platform under good 
conditions, we believe that 500 m is likely regularly attainable for 
PSOs using the naked eye during typical conditions.
    An appropriate EZ based on cumulative sound exposure level 
(SELcum) criteria would be dependent on the animal's applied 
hearing range and how that overlaps with the frequencies produced by 
the sound source of interest (i.e., via marine mammal auditory 
weighting functions) (NMFS, 2016), and may be larger in some cases than 
the zones calculated on the basis of the peak pressure thresholds (and 
larger than 500 m) depending on the species in question and the 
characteristics of the specific airgun array. In particular, the EZ 
radii would be larger for low-frequency cetaceans, because their most 
susceptible hearing range overlaps the low frequencies produced by 
airguns, but the zones would remain very small for mid-frequency 
cetaceans (i.e., including the ``small delphinoids'' described below), 
whose range of best hearing largely does not overlap with frequencies 
produced by airguns.
    Use of monitoring and shutdown or power-down measures within 
defined exclusion zone distances is inherently an essentially 
instantaneous proposition--a rule or set of rules that requires 
mitigation action upon detection of an animal. This indicates that 
definition of an exclusion zone on the basis of cumulative sound 
exposure level thresholds, which require that an animal accumulate some 
level of sound energy exposure over some period of time (e.g., 24 
hours), has questionable relevance as a standard protocol. A PSO aboard 
a mobile source will typically have no ability to monitor an animal's 
position relative to the acoustic source over relevant time periods for 
purposes of understanding whether auditory injury is likely to occur on 
the basis of cumulative sound exposure and, therefore, whether action 
should be taken to avoid such potential.
    Cumulative SEL thresholds are more relevant for purposes of 
modeling the potential for auditory injury than they are for dictating 
real-time mitigation, though they can be informative (especially in a 
relative sense). We recognize the importance of the accumulation of 
sound energy to an understanding of the potential for auditory injury 
and that it is likely that, at least for low-frequency cetaceans, some 
potential auditory injury is likely impossible to mitigate and should 
be considered for authorization.
    In summary, our intent in prescribing a standard exclusion zone 
distance is to (1) encompass zones for most species within which 
auditory injury could occur on the basis of instantaneous exposure; (2) 
provide additional protection from the potential for more severe 
behavioral reactions (e.g., panic, antipredator response) for marine 
mammals at relatively close range to the acoustic source; (3) provide 
consistency for PSOs, who need to monitor and implement the exclusion 
zone; and (4) to define a distance within which detection probabilities 
are reasonably high for most species under typical conditions.
    Our use of 500 m as the EZ is a reasonable combination of factors. 
This zone is expected to contain all potential auditory injury for all 
marine mammals (high-frequency, mid-frequency and low-frequency 
cetacean functional hearing groups and otariid and phocid pinnipeds) as 
assessed against peak pressure thresholds (NMFS, 2016) (Tables 7, 8, 
9). It is also expected to contain all potential auditory injury for 
high-frequency and mid-frequency cetaceans as well as otariid and 
phocid pinnipeds as assessed against SELcum thresholds 
(NMFS, 2016) (Tables 7, 8, 9). It has proven to be practicable through 
past implementation in seismic surveys conducted for the oil and gas 
industry in the Gulf of Mexico (as regulated by BOEM pursuant to the 
Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) (43 U.S.C. 1331-1356)). In 
summary, a practicable criterion such as the proposed EZs has the 
advantage of simplicity while still providing in most cases a zone 
larger than relevant auditory injury zones, given realistic movement of 
source and receiver.
    The PSOs would also establish and monitor a 1,000 m buffer zone. 
During operation of the airgun arrays, occurrence of marine mammals 
within the 1,000 m buffer zone (but outside the

[[Page 45147]]

500 m EZ) would be communicated to the vessel operator to prepare for 
potential power down or shutdown of the acoustic source. The buffer 
zone is discussed further under Ramp Up Procedures below. PSOs would 
also monitor the entire extent of the estimated Level B harassment zone 
(Table 4) (or, as far as they are able to see, if they cannot see to 
the extent of the estimated Level B harassment zone).

Power Down Procedures

    A power down involves decreasing the number of airguns in use such 
that the radius of the mitigation zone is decreased to the extent that 
marine mammals are no longer in, or about to enter, the 500 m EZ. 
During a power down, one 40-in\3\ airgun would be operated. The 
continued operation of one 40-in\3\ airgun is intended to alert marine 
mammals to the presence of the seismic vessel in the area, and to allow 
them to leave the area of the seismic vessel if they choose. In 
contrast, a shutdown occurs when all airgun activity is suspended 
(shutdown procedures are discussed below). If a marine mammal is 
detected outside the 500 m EZ but appears likely to enter the 500 m EZ, 
the airguns would be powered down before the animal is within the 500 m 
EZ. Likewise, if a mammal is already within the 500 m EZ when first 
detected, the airguns would be powered down immediately. During a power 
down of the airgun array, the 40-in\3\ airgun would be operated.
    Following a power down, airgun activity would not resume until the 
marine mammal has cleared the 500 m EZ. The animal would be considered 
to have cleared the 500 m EZ if the following conditions have been met:
    [ballot] It is visually observed to have departed the 500 m EZ, or
    [ballot] it has not been seen within the 500 m EZ for 15 min in the 
case of small odontocetes and pinnipeds, or
    [ballot] it has not been seen within the 500 m EZ for 30 min in the 
case of mysticetes and large odontocetes, including sperm, pygmy sperm, 
dwarf sperm, and beaked whales.
    This power down requirement would be in place for all marine 
mammals, with the exception of small delphinoids under certain 
circumstances. As defined here, the small delphinoid group is intended 
to encompass those members of the Family Delphinidae most likely to 
voluntarily approach the source vessel for purposes of interacting with 
the vessel and/or airgun array (e.g., bow riding). This exception to 
the power down requirement would apply solely to specific genera of 
small dolphins --Tursiops, Delphinus and Lissodelphis -- and would only 
apply if the animals were traveling, including approaching the vessel. 
If, for example, an animal or group of animals is stationary for some 
reason (e.g., feeding) and the source vessel approaches the animals, 
the power down requirement applies. An animal with sufficient incentive 
to remain in an area rather than avoid an otherwise aversive stimulus 
could either incur auditory injury or disruption of important behavior. 
If there is uncertainty regarding identification (i.e., whether the 
observed animal(s) belongs to the group described above) or whether the 
animals are traveling, the power down or shutdown would be implemented. 
Note that small dolphins in the genera Lagenorhynchus and 
Cephalorhynchus are not included in the proposed power down/shutdown 
exception.
    We include this small delphinoid exception because power-down/
shutdown requirements for small delphinoids under all circumstances 
represent practicability concerns without likely commensurate benefits 
for the animals in question. Small delphinoids are generally the most 
commonly observed marine mammals in the specific geographic region and 
would typically be the only marine mammals likely to intentionally 
approach the vessel. As described below, auditory injury is extremely 
unlikely to occur for mid-frequency cetaceans (e.g., delphinids), as 
this group is relatively insensitive to sound produced at the 
predominant frequencies in an airgun pulse while also having a 
relatively high threshold for the onset of auditory injury (i.e., 
permanent threshold shift). Please see Potential Effects of the 
Specified Activity on Marine Mammals above for further discussion of 
sound metrics and thresholds and marine mammal hearing.
    A large body of anecdotal evidence indicates that small delphinoids 
commonly approach vessels and/or towed arrays during active sound 
production for purposes of bow riding, with no apparent effect observed 
in those delphinoids (e.g., Barkaszi et al., 2012). The potential for 
increased shutdowns resulting from such a measure would require the 
Langseth to revisit the missed track line to reacquire data, resulting 
in an overall increase in the total sound energy input to the marine 
environment and an increase in the total duration over which the survey 
is active in a given area. Although other mid-frequency hearing 
specialists (e.g., large delphinoids) are no more likely to incur 
auditory injury than are small delphinoids, they are much less likely 
to approach vessels. Therefore, retaining a power-down/shutdown 
requirement for large delphinoids would not have similar impacts in 
terms of either practicability for the applicant or corollary increase 
in sound energy output and time on the water. We do anticipate some 
benefit for a power-down/shutdown requirement for large delphinoids in 
that it simplifies somewhat the total range of decision-making for PSOs 
and may preclude any potential for physiological effects other than to 
the auditory system as well as some more severe behavioral reactions 
for any such animals in close proximity to the source vessel.
    A power down could occur for no more than 30 minutes maximum at any 
given time. If, after 30 minutes of the array being powered down, 
marine mammals had not cleared the 500 m EZ (as described above), a 
shutdown of the array would be implemented (see Shut Down Procedures, 
below). Power down is only allowed in response to the presence of 
marine mammals within the designated EZ. Thus, the single 40 in\3\ 
airgun, which would be operated during power downs, may not be operated 
continuously throughout the night or during transits from one line to 
another.

Shut Down Procedures

    The single 40-in\3\ operating airgun would be shut down if a marine 
mammal is seen within or approaching the 100 m EZ for the single 40-
in\3\ airgun. Shutdown would be implemented if (1) an animal enters the 
100 m EZ of the single 40-in\3\ airgun after a power down has been 
initiated, or (2) an animal is initially seen within the 100 m EZ of 
the single 40-in\3\ airgun when more than one airgun (typically the 
full array) is operating. Airgun activity would not resume until the 
marine mammal has cleared the 500 m EZ. Criteria for judging that the 
animal has cleared the EZ would be as described above. A shutdown of 
the array would be implemented if, after 30 minutes of the array being 
powered down, marine mammals have not cleared the 500 m EZ (as 
described above).
    The shutdown requirement, like the power down requirement, would be 
waived for dolphins of the following genera: Tursiops, Delphinus and 
Lissodelphis. The shutdown waiver only applies if the animals are 
traveling, including approaching the vessel. If animals are stationary 
and the source vessel approaches the animals, the shutdown requirement 
would apply. If there is uncertainty regarding identification (i.e., 
whether the observed animal(s) belongs to the group described above) or 
whether the animals are

[[Page 45148]]

traveling, the shutdown would be implemented.
    In addition to the measures proposed by L-DEO, NMFS also proposes 
that a shutdown of the acoustic source would also be required, at any 
distance, upon observation of the following: A large whale (i.e., sperm 
whale or any baleen whale) with a calf; a beaked whale or kogia spp.; 
or, a Hector's dolphin (during North Island surveys only). These are 
the only three potential scenarios that would require shutdown of the 
array for marine mammals observed beyond the 100 m EZ for the single 40 
in\3\ airgun. The shutdown requirement for Hector's dolphin during 
North Island surveys is designed to avoid any potential for exposure of 
a Maui dolphin to seismic airgun sounds. Maui dolphins are not expected 
to occur in the proposed survey areas off the North Island based on 
their current range. However, as described above, there have been 
occasional sightings and strandings of Hector's dolphins off the east 
coast of the North Island. While the likelihood of L-DEO's proposed 
surveys encountering a Maui dolphin is considered extremely low, we 
nonetheless include this measure to avoid any potential for exposure of 
a Maui dolphin to airgun sounds. In the event of a shutdown due to 
observation of a shutdown due to observation of a beaked whale, kogia 
app., or large whale with calf, ramp-up procedures would not be 
initiated until the Hector's dolphin has not been seen at any distance 
for 30 minutes. In the event of a shutdown due to observation of a 
Hector's dolphin (during North Island surveys only), ramp-up procedures 
would not be initiated until the Hector's dolphin has not been seen at 
any distance for 15 minutes.

Ramp-Up Procedures

    Ramp-up of an acoustic source is intended to provide a gradual 
increase in sound levels following a power down or shutdown, enabling 
animals to move away from the source if the signal is sufficiently 
aversive prior to its reaching full intensity. The ramp-up procedure 
involves a step-wise increase in the number of airguns firing and total 
array volume until all operational airguns are activated and the full 
volume is achieved. Ramp-up would be required after the array is 
powered down or shut down due to mitigation. If the airgun array has 
been shut down for reasons other than mitigation (e.g., mechanical 
difficulty) for a period of less than 30 minutes, it may be activated 
again without ramp-up if PSOs have maintained constant visual and 
acoustic observation and no visual detections of any marine mammal have 
occurred within the buffer zone and no acoustic detections have 
occurred. This is the only scenario under which ramp up would not be 
required.
    Ramp-up would begin by activating a single airgun of the smallest 
volume in the array and would continue in stages by doubling the number 
of active elements at the commencement of each stage, with each stage 
of approximately the same duration.
    If airguns have been powered down or shut down due to PSO detection 
of a marine mammal within or approaching the 500 m EZ, ramp-up would 
not be initiated until all marine mammals have cleared the EZ, during 
the day or night. Visual and acoustic PSOs are required to monitor 
during ramp-up. If a marine mammal were detected by visual PSOs within 
or approaching the 500 m EZ during ramp-up, a power down (or shut down 
if appropriate) would be implemented as though the full array were 
operational. Criteria for clearing the EZ would be as described above.
    Thirty minutes of pre-clearance observation are required prior to 
ramp-up for any power down or shutdown of longer than 30 minutes (i.e., 
if the array were shut down during transit from one line to another). 
This 30 minute pre-clearance period may occur during any vessel 
activity (i.e., transit). If a marine mammal is observed within or 
approaching the 500 m EZ during this pre-clearance period, ramp-up 
would not be initiated until all marine mammals have cleared the EZ. 
Criteria for clearing the EZ would be as described above.
    Ramp-up would be planned to occur during periods of good visibility 
when possible. However, ramp-up would be allowed at night and during 
poor visibility if the 500 m EZ and 1,000 m buffer zone have been 
monitored by visual PSOs for 30 minutes prior to ramp-up and if 
acoustic monitoring has occurred for 30 minutes prior to ramp-up with 
no acoustic detections during that period.
    The operator would be required to notify a designated PSO of the 
planned start of ramp-up as agreed-upon with the lead PSO. A designated 
PSO must be notified again immediately prior to initiating ramp-up 
procedures and the operator must receive confirmation from the PSO to 
proceed. The operator must provide information to PSOs documenting that 
appropriate procedures were followed. Following deactivation of the 
array for reasons other than mitigation, the operator would be required 
to communicate the near-term operational plan to the lead PSO with 
justification for any planned nighttime ramp-up.
    L-DEO proposed that ramp up would not occur following an extended 
power down (LGL 2017). However, as we do not propose to allow extended 
power downs during the proposed survey, we also do not include this as 
a proposed mitigation measure and instead propose that ramp up is 
required after any power down or shutdown of the array, with the one 
exception as described above. L-DEO also proposed that ramp up would 
occur when the airgun array begins operating after 8 minutes without 
airgun operations (LGL 2017). However, we instead propose the criteria 
for ramp up as described above.

Vessel Strike Avoidance

    Vessel strike avoidance measures are intended to minimize the 
potential for collisions with marine mammals. We note that these 
requirements do not apply in any case where compliance would create an 
imminent and serious threat to a person or vessel or to the extent that 
a vessel is restricted in its ability to maneuver and, because of the 
restriction, cannot comply.
    The proposed measures include the following: Vessel operator and 
crew would maintain a vigilant watch for all marine mammals and slow 
down or stop the vessel or alter course to avoid striking any marine 
mammal. A visual observer aboard the vessel would monitor a vessel 
strike avoidance zone around the vessel according to the parameters 
stated below. Visual observers monitoring the vessel strike avoidance 
zone would be either third-party observers or crew members, but crew 
members responsible for these duties would be provided sufficient 
training to distinguish marine mammals from other phenomena. Vessel 
strike avoidance measures would be followed during surveys and while in 
transit.
    The vessel would maintain a minimum separation distance of 100 m 
from large whales (i.e., baleen whales and sperm whales). If a large 
whale is within 100 m of the vessel the vessel would reduce speed and 
shift the engine to neutral, and would not engage the engines until the 
whale has moved outside of the vessel's path and the minimum separation 
distance has been established. If the vessel is stationary, the vessel 
would not engage engines until the whale(s) has moved out of the 
vessel's path and beyond 100 m. The vessel would maintain a minimum 
separation distance of 50 m from all other marine mammals (with the 
exception of delphinids of the genera Tursiops, Delphinus and 
Lissodelphis that approach the vessel, as described

[[Page 45149]]

above). If an animal is encountered during transit, the vessel would 
attempt to remain parallel to the animal's course, avoiding excessive 
speed or abrupt changes in course. Vessel speeds would be reduced to 10 
knots or less when mother/calf pairs, pods, or large assemblages of 
cetaceans are observed near the vessel.
    Based on our evaluation of the applicant's proposed measures, NMFS 
has determined that the mitigation measures provide the means effecting 
the least practicable impact on the affected species or stocks and 
their habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating 
grounds, and areas of similar significance.

Proposed Monitoring and Reporting

    In order to issue an IHA 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 
authorizations 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 
action area. Effective reporting is critical both to compliance as well 
as ensuring that the most value is obtained from the required 
monitoring.
    Monitoring and reporting requirements prescribed by NMFS should 
contribute to improved understanding of one or more of the following:
    [ballot] Occurrence of marine mammal species or stocks in the area 
in which take is anticipated (e.g., presence, abundance, distribution, 
density).
    [ballot] Nature, scope, or context of likely marine mammal exposure 
to potential stressors/impacts (individual or cumulative, acute or 
chronic), through better understanding of: (1) Action or environment 
(e.g., source characterization, propagation, ambient noise); (2) 
affected species (e.g., life history, dive patterns); (3) co-occurrence 
of marine mammal species with the action; or (4) biological or 
behavioral context of exposure (e.g., age, calving or feeding areas).
    [ballot] Individual marine mammal responses (behavioral or 
physiological) to acoustic stressors (acute, chronic, or cumulative), 
other stressors, or cumulative impacts from multiple stressors.
    [ballot] How anticipated responses to stressors impact either: (1) 
Long-term fitness and survival of individual marine mammals; or (2) 
populations, species, or stocks.
    [ballot] Effects on marine mammal habitat (e.g., marine mammal prey 
species, acoustic habitat, or other important physical components of 
marine mammal habitat).
    [ballot] Mitigation and monitoring effectiveness.
    L-DEO submitted a marine mammal monitoring and reporting plan in 
section XIII of their IHA application. Monitoring that is designed 
specifically to facilitate mitigation measures, such as monitoring of 
the EZ to inform potential power downs or shutdowns of the airgun 
array, are described above and are not repeated here.
    L-DEO's monitoring and reporting plan includes the following 
measures:

Vessel-Based Visual Monitoring

    As described above, PSO observations would take place during 
daytime airgun operations and nighttime start ups (if applicable) of 
the airguns. During seismic operations, at least four visual PSOs would 
be based aboard the Langseth. PSOs would be appointed by L-DEO with 
NMFS approval. During the majority of seismic operations, two PSOs 
would monitor for marine mammals around the seismic vessel. Use of two 
simultaneous observers would increase the effectiveness of detecting 
animals around the source vessel. However, during meal times, only one 
PSO may be on duty. PSOs would be on duty in shifts of duration no 
longer than 4 hours. Other crew would also be instructed to assist in 
detecting marine mammals and in implementing mitigation requirements 
(if practical). During daytime, PSOs would scan the area around the 
vessel systematically with reticle binoculars (e.g., 7x50 Fujinon), 
Big-eye binoculars (25x150), and with the naked eye.
    PSOs would record data to estimate the numbers of marine mammals 
exposed to various received sound levels and to document apparent 
disturbance reactions or lack thereof. Data would be used to estimate 
numbers of animals potentially `taken' by harassment (as defined in the 
MMPA). They would also provide information needed to order a power down 
or shutdown of airguns when a marine mammal is within or near the EZ.
    When a sighting is made, the following information about the 
sighting would be recorded:
    1. Species, group size, age/size/sex categories (if determinable), 
behavior when first sighted and after initial sighting, heading (if 
consistent), bearing and distance from seismic vessel, sighting cue, 
apparent reaction to the airguns or vessel (e.g., none, avoidance, 
approach, paralleling, etc.), and behavioral pace.
    2. Time, location, heading, speed, activity of the vessel, sea 
state, visibility, and sun glare.
    All observations and power downs or shutdowns would be recorded in 
a standardized format. Data would be entered into an electronic 
database. The accuracy of the data entry would be verified by 
computerized data validity checks as the data are entered and by 
subsequent manual checking of the database. These procedures would 
allow initial summaries of data to be prepared during and shortly after 
the field program and would facilitate transfer of the data to 
statistical, graphical, and other programs for further processing and 
archiving. The time, location, heading, speed, activity of the vessel, 
sea state, visibility, and sun glare would also be recorded at the 
start and end of each observation watch, and during a watch whenever 
there is a change in one or more of the variables.
    Results from the vessel-based observations will provide:
    1. The basis for real-time mitigation (airgun power down or shut 
down).
    2. Information needed to estimate the number of marine mammals 
potentially taken by harassment, which must be reported to NMFS.
    3. Data on the occurrence, distribution, and activities of marine 
mammals in the area where the seismic study is conducted.
    4. Information to compare the distance and distribution of marine 
mammals relative to the source vessel at times with and without seismic 
activity.
    5. Data on the behavior and movement patterns of marine mammals 
seen at times with and without seismic activity.

Vessel-Based Passive Acoustic Monitoring

    PAM would take place to complement the visual monitoring program as 
described above. Please see the Mitigation section above for a 
description of the PAM system and the acoustic PSO's duties. The 
acoustic PSO would record data collected via the PAM system, including 
the following: An acoustic encounter identification number, whether it 
was linked with a visual sighting, date, time when first and last heard 
and whenever any additional information was recorded, position and 
water depth when first detected, bearing if determinable, species or 
species group (e.g., unidentified dolphin, sperm whale), types and 
nature of sounds heard (e.g.,

[[Page 45150]]

clicks, continuous, sporadic, whistles, creaks, burst pulses, strength 
of signal, etc.), and any other notable information. Acoustic 
detections would also be recorded for further analysis.

Reporting

    A report would be submitted to NMFS within 90 days after the end of 
the cruise. The report would describe the operations that were 
conducted and sightings of marine mammals near the operations. The 
report would provide full documentation of methods, results, and 
interpretation pertaining to all monitoring. The 90-day report would 
summarize the dates and locations of seismic operations, and all marine 
mammal sightings (dates, times, locations, activities, associated 
seismic survey activities). The report would also include estimates of 
the number and nature of exposures that occurred above the harassment 
threshold based on PSO observations, including an estimate of those on 
the trackline but not detected.

Negligible Impact Analysis and Determination

    NMFS has defined negligible impact 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'' (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 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 harassment, NMFS considers other factors, such as the 
likely nature of any responses (e.g., intensity, duration), the context 
of any responses (e.g., critical reproductive time or location, 
migration), as well as effects on habitat, and the likely effectiveness 
of the mitigation. We also assess the number, intensity, and context of 
estimated takes by evaluating this information relative to population 
status. Consistent with the 1989 preamble for NMFS' implementing 
regulations (54 FR 40338; September 29, 1989), the impacts from other 
past and ongoing anthropogenic activities are incorporated into this 
analysis via their impacts on the environmental baseline (e.g., as 
reflected in the regulatory status of the species, population size and 
growth rate where known, ongoing sources of human-caused mortality, or 
ambient noise levels).
    To avoid repetition, our analysis applies to all the species listed 
in Table 2, given that NMFS expects the anticipated effects of the 
proposed seismic survey to be similar in nature. Where there are 
meaningful differences between species or stocks, or groups of species, 
in anticipated individual responses to activities, impact of expected 
take on the population due to differences in population status, or 
impacts on habitat, NMFS has identified species-specific factors to 
inform the analysis. As described above, we propose to authorize only 
the takes estimated to occur outside of New Zealand territorial sea 
(Tables 11, 12, 13 and 14); however, for the purposes of our negligible 
impact analysis and determination, we consider the total number of 
takes that are expected to occur as a result of the proposed survey, 
including those within territorial sea. Thus, our negligible impact 
analysis and determination accounts for the takes that are anticipated 
to occur as a result of the proposed surveys during the portions of 
those surveys that would occur within the territorial sea 
(approximately 9 percent of the North Island 2-D survey, 1 percent of 
the North Island 3-D survey, and 6 percent of the South Island 2-D 
survey), though we do not propose to authorize the incidental take of 
marine mammals during those portions of the proposed surveys.
    NMFS does not anticipate that serious injury or mortality would 
occur as a result of L-DEO's proposed survey, even in the absence of 
proposed mitigation. Thus the proposed authorization does not authorize 
any mortality. As discussed in the Potential Effects section, non-
auditory physical effects, stranding, and vessel strike are not 
expected to occur.
    We propose to authorize a limited number of instances of Level A 
harassment of 21 marine mammal species (Tables 11, 12, 13 and 14). 
However, we believe that any PTS incurred in marine mammals as a result 
of the proposed activity would be in the form of only a small degree of 
PTS, not total deafness, and would be unlikely to affect the fitness of 
any individuals, because of the constant movement of both the Langseth 
and of the marine mammals in the project area, as well as the fact that 
the vessel is not expected to remain in any one area in which 
individual marine mammals would be expected to concentrate for an 
extended period of time (i.e., since the duration of exposure to loud 
sounds will be relatively short). Also, as described above, we expect 
that marine mammals would be likely to move away from a sound source 
that represents an aversive stimulus, especially at levels that would 
be expected to result in PTS, given sufficient notice of the Langseth's 
approach due to the vessel's relatively low speed when conducting 
seismic surveys. We expect that the majority of takes would be in the 
form of short-term Level B behavioral harassment in the form of 
temporary avoidance of the area or decreased foraging (if such activity 
were occurring), reactions that are considered to be of low severity 
and with no lasting biological consequences (e.g., Southall et al., 
2007).
    Potential impacts to marine mammal habitat were discussed 
previously in this document (see Potential Effects of the Specified 
Activity on Marine Mammals and their Habitat). Marine mammal habitat 
may be impacted by elevated sound levels, but these impacts would be 
temporary. Feeding behavior is not likely to be significantly impacted, 
as marine mammals appear to be less likely to exhibit behavioral 
reactions or avoidance responses while engaged in feeding activities 
(Richardson et al., 1995). Prey species are mobile and are broadly 
distributed throughout the project area; therefore, marine mammals that 
may be temporarily displaced during survey activities are expected to 
be able to resume foraging once they have moved away from areas with 
disturbing levels of underwater noise. Because of the temporary nature 
of the disturbance, the availability of similar habitat and resources 
in the surrounding area, and the lack of important or unique marine 
mammal habitat, the impacts to marine mammals and the food sources that 
they utilize are not expected to cause significant or long-term 
consequences for individual marine mammals or their populations. In 
addition, there are no mating or calving areas known to be biologically 
important to marine mammals within the proposed project area.
    The activity is expected to impact a small percentage of all marine 
mammal stocks that would be affected by L-DEO's proposed survey (less 
than 9 percent for dusky dolphin and less than 2 percent for all other 
marine mammal species). Additionally, the acoustic ``footprint'' of the 
proposed survey would be small relative to the ranges of the marine 
mammals that would potentially be affected. Sound levels would increase 
in the marine environment in a relatively small area surrounding the 
vessel compared to the range of the marine mammals within the proposed 
survey area.
    The proposed mitigation measures are expected to reduce the number 
and/or

[[Page 45151]]

severity of takes by allowing for detection of marine mammals in the 
vicinity of the vessel by visual and acoustic observers, and by 
minimizing the severity of any potential exposures via power downs and/
or shutdowns of the airgun array. Based on previous monitoring reports 
for substantially similar activities that have been previously 
authorized by NMFS, we expect that the proposed mitigation will be 
effective in preventing at least some extent of potential PTS in marine 
mammals that may otherwise occur in the absence of the proposed 
mitigation.
    The ESA-listed marine mammal species under our jurisdiction that 
are likely to be taken by the proposed project include the southern 
right, sei, fin, blue, and sperm whale (listed as endangered) and the 
South Island Hector's dolphin (listed as threatened). We propose to 
authorize very small numbers of takes for these species (Tables 11, 12, 
13 and 14), relative to their population sizes, therefore we do not 
expect population-level impacts to any of these species. The other 
marine mammal species that may be taken by harassment during the 
proposed survey are not listed as threatened or endangered under the 
ESA. There is no designated critical habitat for any ESA-listed marine 
mammals within the project area; and of the non-listed marine mammals 
for which we propose to authorize take, none are considered 
``depleted'' or ``strategic'' by NMFS under the MMPA.
    NMFS concludes that exposures to marine mammal species and stocks 
due to L-DEO's proposed survey would result in only short-term 
(temporary and short in duration) effects to individuals exposed. 
Animals may temporarily avoid the immediate area, but are not expected 
to permanently abandon the area. Major shifts in habitat use, 
distribution, or foraging success are not expected. NMFS does not 
anticipate the proposed take estimates to impact annual rates of 
recruitment or survival.
    In summary and as described above, the following factors primarily 
support our preliminary determination that the impacts resulting from 
this activity are not expected to adversely affect the marine mammal 
species or stocks through effects on annual rates of recruitment or 
survival:
    [ballot] No serious injury or mortality is anticipated or 
authorized;
    [ballot] The anticipated impacts of the proposed activity on marine 
mammals would primarily be temporary behavioral changes due to 
avoidance of the area around the survey vessel;
    [ballot] The number of instances of PTS that may occur are expected 
to be very small in number (Tables 11, 12, 13 and 14). Instances of PTS 
that are incurred in marine mammals would be of a low level, due to 
constant movement of the vessel and of the marine mammals in the area, 
and the nature of the survey design (not concentrated in areas of high 
marine mammal concentration);
    [ballot] The availability of alternate areas of similar habitat 
value for marine mammals to temporarily vacate the survey area during 
the proposed survey to avoid exposure to sounds from the activity;
    [ballot] The proposed project area does not contain known areas of 
significance for mating or calving;
    [ballot] The potential adverse effects on fish or invertebrate 
species that serve as prey species for marine mammals from the proposed 
survey would be temporary and spatially limited;
    [ballot] The proposed mitigation measures, including visual and 
acoustic monitoring, power-downs, and shutdowns, are expected to 
minimize potential impacts to marine mammals.
    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 proposed monitoring and 
mitigation measures, NMFS preliminarily finds that the total marine 
mammal take from the proposed activity will have a negligible impact on 
all affected marine mammal species or stocks.

Small Numbers

    As noted above, only small numbers of incidental take may be 
authorized under Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA for specified 
activities other than military readiness activities. The MMPA does not 
define small numbers; so, in practice, where estimated numbers are 
available, NMFS compares the number of individuals taken to the most 
appropriate estimation of abundance of the relevant species or stock in 
our determination of whether an authorization is limited to small 
numbers of marine mammals. Additionally, other qualitative factors may 
be considered in the analysis, such as the temporal or spatial scale of 
the activities. Tables 11, 12, 13 and 14 provide numbers of take by 
Level A harassment and Level B harassment proposed for authorization. 
These are the numbers we use for purposes of the small numbers 
analysis.
    The numbers of marine mammals that we propose for authorization to 
be taken would be considered small relative to the relevant populations 
(less than 9 percent for all species) for the species for which 
abundance estimates are available. No known current worldwide or 
regional population estimates are available for ten species under NMFS' 
jurisdiction that could be incidentally taken as a result of the 
proposed surveys: The pygmy right whale; pygmy sperm whale; True's 
beaked whale; short-finned pilot whale; false killer whale; bottlenose 
dolphin; short-beaked common dolphin; southern right whale dolphin; 
Risso's dolphin; and spectacled porpoise.
    NMFS has reviewed the geographic distributions and habitat 
preferences of these species in determining whether the numbers of 
takes proposed for authorization herein are likely to represent small 
numbers. Pygmy right whales have a circumglobal distribution and occur 
throughout coastal and oceanic waters in the Southern Hemisphere 
(between 30 to 55[deg] South) (Jefferson et al., 2008). Pygmy sperm 
whales occur in deep waters on the outer continental shelf and slope in 
tropical to temperate waters of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific 
Oceans. True's beaked whales occur in the Southern hemisphere from the 
western Atlantic Ocean to the Indian Ocean to the waters of southern 
Australia and possibly New Zealand (Jefferson et al., 2008). False 
killer whales generally occur in deep offshore tropical to temperate 
waters (between 50[deg] North to 50[deg] South) of the Atlantic, 
Indian, and Pacific Oceans (Jefferson et al., 2008). Southern right 
whale dolphins have a circumpolar distribution and generally occur in 
deep temperate to sub-Antarctic waters in the Southern Hemisphere 
(between 30 to 65[deg] South) (Jefferson et al., 2008). Short-finned 
Pilot Whales are found in warm temperate to tropical waters throughout 
the world, generally in deep offshore areas (Olson and Reilly, 2002). 
Bottlenose dolphins are distributed worldwide through tropical and 
temperate inshore, coastal, shelf, and oceanic waters (Leatherwood and 
Reeves 1990, Wells and Scott 1999, Reynolds et al. 2000). Spectacled 
porpoises are believed to have a range that is circumpolar in the sub-
Antarctic zone (with water temperatures of at least 1-10[deg] C) 
(Goodall 2002). The Risso's dolphin is a widely-distributed species, 
inhabiting primarily deep waters of the continental slope and outer 
shelf (especially with steep bottom topography), from the tropics 
through the temperate regions in both hemispheres (Kruse et al. 1999). 
The short-beaked common dolphin is an oceanic species that is widely 
distributed in tropical to cool temperate waters of the Atlantic and 
Pacific

[[Page 45152]]

Oceans (Perrin 2002), from nearshore waters to thousands of kilometers 
offshore.
    Based on the broad spatial distributions and habitat preferences of 
these species relative to the areas where the proposed surveys would 
occur, NMFS preliminarily concludes that the authorized take of these 
species likely represent small numbers relative to the affected 
species' overall population sizes, though we are unable to quantify the 
proposed take numbers as a percentage of population.
    Based on the analysis contained herein of the proposed activity 
(including the proposed mitigation and monitoring measures) and the 
anticipated take of marine mammals, NMFS preliminarily finds that small 
numbers of marine mammals will be taken relative to the population size 
of the affected species.

Unmitigable Adverse Impact Analysis and Determination

    There are no relevant subsistence uses of the affected marine 
mammal stocks or species implicated by this action. Therefore, NMFS has 
preliminarily determined that the total taking of affected species or 
stocks would not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability 
of such species or stocks for taking for subsistence purposes.

Endangered Species Act (ESA)

    Section 7(a)(2) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA: 16 
U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) requires that each Federal agency insure that any 
action it authorizes, funds, or carries out is not likely to jeopardize 
the continued existence of any endangered or threatened species or 
result in the destruction or adverse modification of designated 
critical habitat. To ensure ESA compliance for the issuance of IHAs, 
NMFS consults internally, in this case with the ESA Interagency 
Cooperation Division, whenever we propose to authorize take for 
endangered or threatened species.
    The NMFS Permits and Conservation Division is proposing to 
authorize the incidental take of six species of marine mammals which 
are listed under the ESA (the southern right, sei, fin, blue, and sperm 
whale and South Island Hector's dolphin). We have requested initiation 
of Section 7 consultation with the Interagency Cooperation Division for 
the issuance of this IHA. NMFS will conclude the ESA section 7 
consultation prior to reaching a determination regarding the proposed 
issuance of the authorization.

Proposed Authorization

    As a result of these preliminary determinations, NMFS proposes to 
issue an IHA to L-DEO for conducting a seismic survey in the Pacific 
Ocean offshore New Zealand in 2017/2018, provided the previously 
mentioned mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements are 
incorporated. This section contains a draft of the IHA itself. The 
wording contained in this section is proposed for inclusion in the IHA 
(if issued).
    1. This incidental harassment authorization (IHA) is valid for a 
period of one year from the date of issuance.
    2. This IHA is valid only for marine geophysical survey activity, 
as specified in L-DEO's IHA application and using an array aboard the 
R/V Langseth with characteristics specified in the IHA application, in 
the Pacific Ocean offshore New Zealand.
    3. General Conditions.
    (a) A copy of this IHA must be in the possession of L-DEO, the 
vessel operator and other relevant personnel, the lead protected 
species observer (PSO), and any other relevant designees of L-DEO 
operating under the authority of this IHA.
    (b) The species authorized for taking are listed in Table 14. The 
taking, by Level A and Level B harassment only, is limited to the 
species and numbers listed in Table 14. Any taking exceeding the 
authorized amounts listed in Table 14 is prohibited and may result in 
the modification, suspension, or revocation of this IHA.
    (c) The taking by serious injury or death of any species of marine 
mammal is prohibited and may result in the modification, suspension, or 
revocation of this IHA.
    (d) During use of the airgun(s), if marine mammal species other 
than those listed in Table 1 are detected by PSOs, the acoustic source 
must be shut down to avoid unauthorized take.
    (e) L-DEO shall ensure that the vessel operator and other relevant 
vessel personnel are briefed on all responsibilities, communication 
procedures, marine mammal monitoring protocol, operational procedures, 
and IHA requirements prior to the start of survey activity, and when 
relevant new personnel join the survey operations.
    4. Mitigation Requirements.
    The holder of this Authorization is required to implement the 
following mitigation measures:
    (a) L-DEO must use at least five dedicated, trained, NMFS-approved 
Protected Species Observers (PSOs), including at least four visual PSOs 
and one acoustic PSO. The PSOs must have no tasks other than to conduct 
observational effort, record observational data, and communicate with 
and instruct relevant vessel crew with regard to the presence of marine 
mammals and mitigation requirements. PSO resumes shall be provided to 
NMFS for approval.
    (b) At least two PSOs must have a minimum of 90 days at-sea 
experience working as PSOs during a high energy seismic survey, with no 
more than eighteen months elapsed since the conclusion of the at-sea 
experience. At least one of these must have relevant experience as a 
visual PSO and at least one must have relevant experience as an 
acoustic PSO. One ``experienced'' visual PSO shall be designated as the 
lead for the entire protected species observation team. The lead shall 
coordinate duty schedules and roles for the PSO team and serve as 
primary point of contact for the vessel operator. The lead PSO shall 
devise the duty schedule such that ``experienced'' PSOs are on duty 
with those PSOs with appropriate training but who have not yet gained 
relevant experience, to the maximum extent practicable.
    (c) Visual Observation.
    (i) During survey operations (e.g., any day on which use of the 
acoustic source is planned to occur; whenever the acoustic source is in 
the water, whether activated or not), two PSOs must be on duty and 
conducting visual observations at all times during daylight hours 
(i.e., from 30 minutes prior to sunrise through 30 minutes following 
sunset) with the limited exception of meal times during which one PSO 
may be on duty. PSOs shall monitor the entire extent of the estimated 
Level B harassment zone (or, as far as they can see, if they cannot see 
to the extent of the estimated Level B harassment zone).
    (ii) Visual monitoring must begin not less than 30 minutes prior to 
ramp-up, including for nighttime ramp-ups of the airgun array, and must 
continue until one hour after use of the acoustic source ceases or 
until 30 minutes past sunset.
    (iii) Visual PSOs shall coordinate to ensure 360[deg] visual 
coverage around the vessel from the most appropriate observation posts 
and shall conduct visual observations using binoculars and the naked 
eye while free from distractions and in a consistent, systematic, and 
diligent manner.
    (iv) Visual PSOs shall communicate all observations to the acoustic 
PSO, including any determination by the PSO regarding species 
identification, distance, and bearing and the degree of confidence in 
the determination.
    (v) Visual PSOs may be on watch for a maximum of four consecutive 
hours

[[Page 45153]]

followed by a break of at least one hour between watches and may 
conduct a maximum of 12 hours observation per 24 hour period.
    (vi) During good conditions (e.g., daylight hours; Beaufort sea 
state 3 or less), visual PSOs shall conduct observations when the 
acoustic source is not operating for comparison of sighting rates and 
behavior with and without use of the acoustic source and between 
acquisition periods, to the maximum extent practicable.
    (d) Acoustic Observation--The R/V Langseth must use a towed passive 
acoustic monitoring (PAM) system, which must be monitored beginning at 
least 30 minutes prior to ramp-up and at all times during use of the 
acoustic source.
    (i) One acoustic PSO (in addition to the four visual PSOs) must be 
on board to operate and oversee PAM operations. Either the acoustic PSO 
or a visual PSO with training in the PAM system must monitor the PAM 
system at all times while airguns are operating, and when possible 
during periods when the airguns are not operating, in shifts lasting no 
longer than six hours.
    (ii) Acoustic PSOs shall communicate all detections to visual PSOs, 
when visual PSOs are on duty, including any determination by the PSO 
regarding species identification, distance, and bearing and the degree 
of confidence in the determination.
    (iii) Survey activity may continue for brief periods of time if the 
PAM system malfunctions or is damaged. Activity may continue for 30 
minutes without PAM while the PAM operator diagnoses the issue. If the 
diagnosis indicates that the PAM system must be repaired to solve the 
problem, operations may continue for an additional two hours without 
acoustic monitoring under the following conditions:
    (A) Daylight hours and sea state is less than or equal to Beaufort 
sea state 4;
    (B) No marine mammals (excluding small delphinids) detected solely 
by PAM in the exclusion zone in the previous two hours;
    (C) NMFS is notified via email as soon as practicable with the time 
and location in which operations began without an active PAM system; 
and
    (D) Operations with an active acoustic source, but without an 
operating PAM system, do not exceed a cumulative total of four hours in 
any 24 hour period.
    (e) Exclusion Zone and buffer zone--PSOs shall establish and 
monitor a 500 m exclusion zone (EZ) and 1,000 m buffer zone. The zones 
shall be based upon radial distance from any element of the airgun 
array (rather than being based on the center of the array or around the 
vessel itself). During use of the acoustic source, occurrence of marine 
mammals outside the EZ but within 1,000 m from any element of the 
airgun array shall be communicated to the operator to prepare for 
potential further mitigation measures as described below. During use of 
the acoustic source, occurrence of marine mammals within the EZ, or on 
a course to enter the EZ, shall trigger further mitigation measures as 
described below.
    (i) Ramp-up--A ramp-up procedure, involving a step-wise increase in 
the number of airguns firing and total array volume until all 
operational airguns are activated and the full volume is achieved, is 
required at all times as part of the activation of the acoustic source, 
including following a power down or shutdown of the array, except as 
described under 4.(e)(v). Ramp-up shall begin by activating a single 
airgun of the smallest volume in the array and shall continue in stages 
by doubling the number of active elements at the commencement of each 
stage, with each stage of approximately the same duration.
    (ii) If the airgun array has been powered down or shut down due to 
a marine mammal detection, ramp-up shall not occur until all marine 
mammals have cleared the EZ. A marine mammal is considered to have 
cleared the EZ if:
    (A) It has been visually observed to have left the EZ; or
    (B) It has not been observed within the EZ, for 15 minutes (in the 
case of small odontocetes and pinnipeds) or for 30 minutes (in the case 
of mysticetes and large odontocetes including sperm, pygmy sperm, dwarf 
sperm, and beaked whales).
    (iii) Thirty minutes of pre-clearance observation of the 500 m EZ 
and 1,000 m buffer zone are required prior to ramp-up for any power 
down, shutdown, or combination of power down and shutdown of longer 
than 30 minutes. This pre-clearance period may occur during any vessel 
activity. If any marine mammal (including delphinids) is observed 
within or approaching the 500 m EZ during the 30 minute pre-clearance 
period, ramp-up may not begin until the animal(s) has been observed 
exiting the buffer zone or until an additional time period has elapsed 
with no further sightings (i.e., 15 minutes for small odontocetes and 
pinnipeds, and 30 minutes for mysticetes and large odontocetes 
including sperm, pygmy sperm, dwarf sperm, and beaked whales).
    (iv) During ramp-up, PSOs shall monitor the 500 m EZ and 1,000 m 
buffer zone. Ramp-up may not be initiated if any marine mammal 
(including delphinids) is observed within or approaching the 500 m EZ. 
If a marine mammal is observed within or approaching the 500 m EZ 
during ramp-up, a power down or shutdown shall be implemented as though 
the full array were operational. Ramp-up may not begin again until the 
animal(s) has been observed exiting the 500 m EZ or until an additional 
time period has elapsed with no further sightings (i.e., 15 minutes for 
small odontocetes and pinnipeds, and 30 minutes for mysticetes and 
large odontocetes including sperm, pygmy sperm, dwarf sperm, and beaked 
whales).
    (v) Ramp-up shall only occur at night and at times of poor 
visibility where operational planning cannot reasonably avoid such 
circumstances. Ramp-up may occur at night and during poor visibility if 
the 500 m EZ and 1,000 m buffer zone have been continually monitored by 
visual PSOs for 30 minutes prior to ramp-up with no marine mammal 
detections and if acoustic monitoring has occurred for 30 minutes prior 
to ramp-up with no acoustic detections during that period.
    (vi) If the airgun array has been shut down for reasons other than 
mitigation (e.g., mechanical difficulty) for a period of less than 30 
minutes, it may be activated again without ramp-up if PSOs have 
maintained constant visual and acoustic observation and no visual 
detections of any marine mammal have occurred within the buffer zone 
and no acoustic detections have occurred.
    (vii) The vessel operator must notify a designated PSO of the 
planned start of ramp-up as agreed-upon with the lead PSO; the 
notification time should not be less than 60 minutes prior to the 
planned ramp-up. A designated PSO must be notified again immediately 
prior to initiating ramp-up procedures and the operator must receive 
confirmation from the PSO to proceed.
    (f) Power Down Requirements--L-DEO shall power down the airgun 
array if a PSO detects a marine mammal within, approaching, or entering 
the 500 m EZ. A power down involves a decrease in the number of 
operational airguns. During a power down, one 40-in\3\ airgun shall be 
continuously operated.
    (i) Any PSO on duty has the authority to call for power down of the 
airgun array (visual PSOs on duty should be in agreement on the need 
for power down before requiring such action). When there is certainty 
regarding the need for mitigation action on the basis of either visual 
or acoustic detection alone, the relevant PSO(s) must call for such 
action immediately.

[[Page 45154]]

    (ii) When both visual and acoustic PSOs are on duty, all detections 
must be immediately communicated to the remainder of the on-duty PSO 
team for potential verification of visual observations by the acoustic 
PSO or of acoustic detections by visual PSOs and initiation of dialogue 
as necessary.
    (iii) The operator must establish and maintain clear lines of 
communication directly between PSOs on duty and crew controlling the 
airgun array to ensure that power down commands are conveyed swiftly 
while allowing PSOs to maintain watch.
    (iv) When power down is called for by a PSO, the power down must 
occur and any dispute resolved only following power down.
    (v) The power down requirement is waived for dolphins of the 
following genera: Tursiops, Delphinus and Lissodelphis. This power down 
waiver only applies if animals are traveling, including approaching the 
vessel. If animals are stationary and the vessel approaches the 
animals, the power down requirement applies. If there is uncertainty 
regarding identification (i.e., whether the observed animal(s) belongs 
to the group described above) or whether the animals are traveling, 
power down must be implemented.
    (vi) Upon implementation of a power down, the source may be 
reactivated under the conditions described at 4(e). Where there is no 
relevant zone (e.g., power down due to observation of a calf), a 30-
minute clearance period must be observed following the last observation 
of the animal(s).
    (vii) When only the acoustic PSO is on duty and a detection is 
made, if there is uncertainty regarding species identification or 
distance to the vocalizing animal(s), the airgun array must be powered 
down as a precaution.
    (viii) Power down shall occur for no more than a maximum of 30 
minutes at any given time. If, after 30 minutes of the array being 
powered down, marine mammals have not cleared the 500 m Exclusion Zone 
as described under 4(e)(iv), the array shall be shut down. Operation of 
the single 40-in\3\ airgun (i.e., a power-down state) shall not occur 
for any purpose other than in response to a marine mammal in the 
exclusion zone (pursuant to relevant requirements herein).
    (g) Shutdown requirements--An exclusion zone of 100 m for the 
single 40-in\3\ airgun shall be established and monitored by PSOs. If a 
marine mammal is observed within, entering, or approaching the 100 m 
exclusion zone for the single 40-in\3\ airgun, whether during 
implementation of a power down or during operation of the full airgun 
array, all airguns including the 40-in\3\ airgun shall be shut down.
    (h) If, after 30 minutes of the array being powered down, marine 
mammals have not cleared the 500 m Exclusion Zone as described under 
4(e)(iv), the full array shall be shut down.
    (i) Upon implementation of a shutdown, the source may be 
reactivated under the conditions described at 4(e).
    (ii) Measures described for power downs under 4(f)(i-v) shall also 
apply in the case of a shutdown.
    (iii) Shutdown of the acoustic source is required upon observation 
of a large whale (i.e., sperm whale or any baleen whale) with calf at 
any distance, with ``calf'' defined as an animal less than two-thirds 
the body size of an adult observed to be in close association with an 
adult. Ramp up shall not begin until the whale with calf has not been 
observed for at least 30 minutes, at any distance.
    (iv) Shutdown of the acoustic source is required upon observation 
of a beaked whale or kogia spp., at any distance. Ramp up shall not 
begin until the beaked whale or kogia has not been observed for at 
least 30 minutes, at any distance.
    (v) Shutdown of the acoustic source is required upon observation of 
a Hector's dolphin, at any distance, during the North Island 2-D survey 
and North Island 3-D survey. Ramp up shall not begin until the Hector's 
dolphin has not been observed for at least 15 minutes, at any distance.
    (i) Vessel Strike Avoidance--Vessel operator and crew must maintain 
a vigilant watch for all marine mammals and slow down or stop the 
vessel or alter course to avoid striking any marine mammal. These 
requirements do not apply in any case where compliance would create an 
imminent and serious threat to a person or vessel or to the extent that 
a vessel is restricted in its ability to maneuver and, because of the 
restriction, cannot comply. A visual observer aboard the vessel must 
monitor a vessel strike avoidance zone around the vessel according to 
the parameters stated below. Visual observers monitoring the vessel 
strike avoidance zone can be either third-party observers or crew 
members, but crew members responsible for these duties must be provided 
sufficient training to distinguish marine mammals from other phenomena. 
Vessel strike avoidance measures shall be followed during surveys and 
while in transit.
    (i) The vessel must maintain a minimum separation distance of 100 m 
from large whales (i.e., baleen whales and sperm whales). The following 
avoidance measures must be taken if a large whale is within 100 m of 
the vessel:
    (A) The vessel must reduce speed and shift the engine to neutral, 
and must not engage the engines until the whale has moved outside of 
the vessel's path and the minimum separation distance has been 
established.
    (B) If the vessel is stationary, the vessel must not engage engines 
until the whale(s) has moved out of the vessel's path and beyond 100 m.
    (ii) The vessel must maintain a minimum separation distance of 50 m 
from all other marine mammals, with an exception made for animals 
described in 4(f)(v) that approach the vessel. If an animal is 
encountered during transit, the vessel shall attempt to remain parallel 
to the animal's course, avoiding excessive speed or abrupt changes in 
course.
    (iii) Vessel speeds must be reduced to 10 knots or less when 
mother/calf pairs, pods, or large assemblages of cetaceans are observed 
near the vessel.
    (j) Miscellaneous Protocols.
    (i) The airgun array must be deactivated when not acquiring data or 
preparing to acquire data, except as necessary for testing. Unnecessary 
use of the acoustic source shall be avoided. Notified operational 
capacity (not including redundant backup airguns) must not be exceeded 
during the survey, except where unavoidable for source testing and 
calibration purposes. All occasions where activated source volume 
exceeds notified operational capacity must be noticed to the PSO(s) on 
duty and fully documented. The lead PSO must be granted access to 
relevant instrumentation documenting acoustic source power and/or 
operational volume.
    (ii) Testing of the acoustic source involving all elements requires 
normal mitigation protocols (e.g., ramp-up). Testing limited to 
individual source elements or strings does not require ramp-up but does 
require pre-clearance.
    5. Monitoring Requirements.
    The holder of this Authorization is required to conduct marine 
mammal monitoring during survey activity. Monitoring shall be conducted 
in accordance with the following requirements:
    (a) The operator must provide bigeye binoculars (e.g., 25 x 150; 
2.7 view angle; individual ocular focus; height control) of appropriate 
quality (i.e., Fujinon or equivalent) solely for PSO use. These shall 
be pedestal-mounted on the deck at the most appropriate vantage point 
that provides for optimal sea surface observation, PSO safety, and safe 
operation of the vessel. The

[[Page 45155]]

operator must also provide a night-vision device suited for the marine 
environment for use during nighttime ramp-up pre-clearance, at the 
discretion of the PSOs. At minimum, the device should feature automatic 
brightness and gain control, bright light protection, infrared 
illumination, and optics suited for low-light situations.
    (b) PSOs must also be equipped with reticle binoculars (e.g., 7 x 
50) of appropriate quality (i.e., Fujinon or equivalent), GPS, digital 
single-lens reflex camera of appropriate quality (i.e., Canon or 
equivalent), compass, and any other tools necessary to adequately 
perform necessary tasks, including accurate determination of distance 
and bearing to observed marine mammals.
    (c) PSO Qualifications.
    (i) PSOs must have successfully completed relevant training, 
including completion of all required coursework and passing a written 
and/or oral examination developed for the training program.
    (ii) PSOs must have successfully attained a bachelor's degree from 
an accredited college or university with a major in one of the natural 
sciences and a minimum of 30 semester hours or equivalent in the 
biological sciences and at least one undergraduate course in math or 
statistics. The educational requirements may be waived if the PSO has 
acquired the relevant skills through alternate experience. Requests for 
such a waiver must include written justification. Alternate experience 
that may be considered includes, but is not limited to (1) secondary 
education and/or experience comparable to PSO duties; (2) previous work 
experience conducting academic, commercial, or government-sponsored 
marine mammal surveys; or (3) previous work experience as a PSO. The 
PSO should demonstrate good standing and consistently good performance 
of PSO duties.
    (d) Data Collection--PSOs must use standardized data forms, whether 
hard copy or electronic. PSOs shall record detailed information about 
any implementation of mitigation requirements, including the distance 
of animals to the acoustic source and description of specific actions 
that ensued, the behavior of the animal(s), any observed changes in 
behavior before and after implementation of mitigation, and if shutdown 
was implemented, the length of time before any subsequent ramp-up of 
the acoustic source to resume survey. If required mitigation was not 
implemented, PSOs should submit a description of the circumstances. 
NMFS requires that, at a minimum, the following information be 
reported:
    (i) PSO names and affiliations.
    (ii) Dates of departures and returns to port with port name.
    (iii) Dates and times (Greenwich Mean Time) of survey effort and 
times corresponding with PSO effort.
    (iv) Vessel location (latitude/longitude) when survey effort begins 
and ends; vessel location at beginning and end of visual PSO duty 
shifts.
    (v) Vessel heading and speed at beginning and end of visual PSO 
duty shifts and upon any line change.
    (vi) Environmental conditions while on visual survey (at beginning 
and end of PSO shift and whenever conditions change significantly), 
including wind speed and direction, Beaufort sea state, Beaufort wind 
force, swell height, weather conditions, cloud cover, sun glare, and 
overall visibility to the horizon.
    (vii) Factors that may be contributing to impaired observations 
during each PSO shift change or as needed as environmental conditions 
change (e.g., vessel traffic, equipment malfunctions).
    (viii) Survey activity information, such as acoustic source power 
output while in operation, number and volume of airguns operating in 
the array, tow depth of the array, and any other notes of significance 
(i.e., pre-ramp-up survey, ramp-up, shutdown, testing, shooting, ramp-
up completion, end of operations, streamers, etc.).
    (ix) If a marine mammal is sighted, the following information 
should be recorded:
    (A) Watch status (sighting made by PSO on/off effort, 
opportunistic, crew, alternate vessel/platform).
    (B) PSO who sighted the animal.
    (C) Time of sighting.
    (D) Vessel location at time of sighting.
    (E) Water depth.
    (F) Direction of vessel's travel (compass direction).
    (G) Direction of animal's travel relative to the vessel.
    (H) Pace of the animal.
    (I) Estimated distance to the animal and its heading relative to 
vessel at initial sighting.
    (J) Identification of the animal (e.g., genus/species, lowest 
possible taxonomic level, or unidentified); also note the composition 
of the group if there is a mix of species.
    (K) Estimated number of animals (high/low/best).
    (L) Estimated number of animals by cohort (adults, yearlings, 
juveniles, calves, group composition, etc.).
    (M) Description (as many distinguishing features as possible of 
each individual seen, including length, shape, color, pattern, scars or 
markings, shape and size of dorsal fin, shape of head, and blow 
characteristics).
    (N) Detailed behavior observations (e.g., number of blows, number 
of surfaces, breaching, spyhopping, diving, feeding, traveling; as 
explicit and detailed as possible; note any observed changes in 
behavior).
    (O) Animal's closest point of approach (CPA) and/or closest 
distance from the center point of the acoustic source;.
    (P) Platform activity at time of sighting (e.g., deploying, 
recovering, testing, shooting, data acquisition, other).
    (Q) Description of any actions implemented in response to the 
sighting (e.g., delays, shutdown, ramp-up, speed or course alteration, 
etc.); time and location of the action should also be recorded.
    (x) If a marine mammal is detected while using the PAM system, the 
following information should be recorded:
    (A) An acoustic encounter identification number, and whether the 
detection was linked with a visual sighting.
    (B) Time when first and last heard.
    (C) Types and nature of sounds heard (e.g., clicks, whistles, 
creaks, burst pulses, continuous, sporadic, strength of signal, etc.).
    (D) Any additional information recorded such as water depth of the 
hydrophone array, bearing of the animal to the vessel (if 
determinable), species or taxonomic group (if determinable), and any 
other notable information.
    6. Reporting.
    (a) L-DEO shall submit a draft comprehensive report on all 
activities and monitoring results within 90 days of the completion of 
the survey or expiration of the IHA, whichever comes sooner. The report 
must describe all activities conducted and sightings of marine mammals 
near the activities, must provide full documentation of methods, 
results, and interpretation pertaining to all monitoring, and must 
summarize the dates and locations of survey operations and all marine 
mammal sightings (dates, times, locations, activities, associated 
survey activities). Geospatial data regarding locations where the 
acoustic source was used must be provided. In addition to the report, 
all raw observational data shall be made available to NMFS. The report 
must summarize the data collected as required under condition 5(d) of 
this IHA. The report must also provide an estimate of the number (by 
species) of marine mammals with known exposures to seismic survey 
activity at received levels greater than or equal to thresholds for 
Level A and Level B harassment (based on visual

[[Page 45156]]

observation) including an estimate of those on the trackline but not 
detected. The draft report must be accompanied by a certification from 
the lead PSO as to the accuracy of the report, and the lead PSO may 
submit directly to NMFS a statement concerning implementation and 
effectiveness of the required mitigation and monitoring. A final report 
must be submitted within 30 days following resolution of any comments 
from NMFS on the draft report.
    (b) Reporting injured or dead marine mammals:
    (i) In the event that the specified activity clearly causes the 
take of a marine mammal in a manner not permitted by this IHA, such as 
serious injury or mortality, L-DEO shall immediately cease the 
specified activities and immediately report the incident to the NMFS 
Office of Protected Resources (301-427-8401) and the New Zealand 
Department of Conservation (0800-362-468). The report must include the 
following information:
    (A) Time, date, and location (latitude/longitude) of the incident;
    (B) Vessel's speed during and leading up to the incident;
    (C) Description of the incident;
    (D) Status of all sound source use in the 24 hours preceding the 
incident;
    (E) Water depth;
    (F) Environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, 
Beaufort sea state, cloud cover, and visibility);
    (G) Description of all marine mammal observations in the 24 hours 
preceding the incident;
    (H) Species identification or description of the animal(s) 
involved;
    (I) Fate of the animal(s); and
    (J) Photographs or video footage of the animal(s).
    Activities shall not resume until NMFS is able to review the 
circumstances of the prohibited take. NMFS will work with L-DEO to 
determine what measures are necessary to minimize the likelihood of 
further prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. L-DEO may not 
resume their activities until notified by NMFS.
    (ii) In the event that L-DEO discovers an injured or dead marine 
mammal, and the lead observer determines that the cause of the injury 
or death is unknown and the death is relatively recent (e.g., in less 
than a moderate state of decomposition), L-DEO shall immediately report 
the incident to the NMFS Office of Protected Resources (301-427-8401) 
and the New Zealand Department of Conservation (0800-362-468). The 
report must include the same information identified in condition 
6(b)(i) of this IHA. Activities may continue while NMFS reviews the 
circumstances of the incident. NMFS will work with L-DEO to determine 
whether additional mitigation measures or modifications to the 
activities are appropriate.
    (iii) In the event that L-DEO discovers an injured or dead marine 
mammal, and the lead observer determines that the injury or death is 
not associated with or related to the specified activities (e.g., 
previously wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced 
decomposition, or scavenger damage), L-DEO shall report the incident to 
the NMFS Office of Protected Resources (301-427-8401) and the New 
Zealand Department of Conservation (0800-362-468) within 24 hours of 
the discovery. L-DEO shall provide photographs or video footage or 
other documentation of the sighting to NMFS.
    7. This Authorization may be modified, suspended or withdrawn if 
the holder fails to abide by the conditions prescribed herein, or if 
NMFS determines the authorized taking is having more than a negligible 
impact on the species or stock of affected marine mammals.

    Dated: September 22, 2017.
Catherine Marzin,
Acting Deputy Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2017-20696 Filed 9-26-17; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P