Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental To Site Characterization Surveys Off of New York, 7655-7680 [2018-03611]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 36 / Thursday, February 22, 2018 / Notices calling the Federal Relay Service at 1– 800–877–8339 and providing the operator with the toll-free conference call number: 1–800–310–7032 and conference call ID: 2757439. Members of the public are invited to submit written comments; the comments must be received in the regional office approximately 30 days after each scheduled meeting. Written comments may be mailed to the Eastern Regional Office, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, 1331 Pennsylvania Avenue, Suite 1150, Washington, DC 20425, or emailed to Evelyn Bohor at ero@usccr.gov. Persons who desire additional information may contact the Eastern Regional Office at (202) 376– 7533. Records and documents discussed during the meeting will be available for public viewing as they become available at https://www.facadatabase.gov/ committee/meetings.aspx?cid=272; click the ‘‘Meeting Details’’ and ‘‘Documents’’ links. Records generated from this meeting may also be inspected and reproduced at the Eastern Regional Office, as they become available, both before and after the meetings. Persons interested in the work of this advisory committee are advised to go to the Commission’s website, www.usccr.gov, or to contact the Eastern Regional Office at the above phone number, email or street address. Agenda: Tuesday, March 6, 2018 at 11:00 a.m. I. Welcome and Introductions Rollcall II. Planning Meeting Project Topic Planning and Discussions III. Other Business IV. Open Comment V. Adjournment Dated: February 15, 2018. David Mussatt, Supervisory Chief, Regional Programs Unit. [FR Doc. 2018–03550 Filed 2–21–18; 8:45 am] daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with NOTICES BILLING CODE P On January 29, 2018, the petitioners 2 submitted a timely request pursuant to International Trade Administration 19 CFR 351.205(e) to postpone the 3 [A–351–852, A–560–832, A–580–896, A–535– preliminary determinations. They noted that Commerce is still gathering 905, and A–583–862] data and questionnaire responses from the foreign producers in these Polyethylene Terephthalate Resin From Brazil, Indonesia, the Republic of investigations and additional time is necessary for Commerce and interested Korea, Pakistan, and Taiwan: parties to fully and properly analyze all Postponement of Preliminary questionnaire response.4 For these Determinations of Antidumping Duty reasons, and because there are no Investigations compelling reasons to deny the request, AGENCY: Enforcement and Compliance, Commerce, in accordance with section International Trade Administration, 733(c)(1)(A) of the Act and 19 CFR Department of Commerce. 351.205(e), is postponing the deadline DATES: Applicable February 22, 2018. for the preliminary determinations to no later than 190 days after the day on FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: which the investigations were initiated. Kathryn Wallace (Brazil) at (202) 482– 6251, Caitlin Monks (Indonesia) at (202) Accordingly, Commerce will issue the preliminary determinations no later 482–2670, Sean Carey (Republic of than April 27, 2018, a date that has been Korea) at (202) 482–3964, Lauren adjusted for the period of the closure of Caserta (Pakistan) at (202) 482–4737, the Federal Government. In accordance Alex Cipolla at (202) 482–4956 with section 735(a)(1) of the Act and 19 (Taiwan), AD/CVD Operations, CFR 351.210(b)(1), the deadline for the Enforcement and Compliance, final determinations of these International Trade Administration, investigations will continue to be 75 U.S. Department of Commerce, 1401 days after the date of the preliminary Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, determinations, unless postponed. DC 20230. This notice is issued and published SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: pursuant to section 733(c)(2) of the Act and 19 CFR 351.205(f)(1). Background DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE On October 23, 2017, the Department of Commerce (Commerce) initiated antidumping duty (AD) investigations on polyethylene terephthalate resin from Brazil, Indonesia, the Republic of Korea, Pakistan, and Taiwan.1 Commerce exercised its discretion to toll all deadlines affected by the closure of the Federal Government from January 20 through 22, 2018. If the new deadline falls on a non-business day, in accordance with Commerce’s practice, the deadline will become the next business day. Accordingly, the current deadline for the preliminary determinations of these investigations is March 8, 2018. Postponement of Preliminary Determinations Section 733(b)(1)(A) of the Tariff Act of 1930, as amended (the Act), requires Commerce to issue the preliminary determination in an AD investigation within 140 days after the date on which Commerce initiated the investigation. However, section 733(c)(1)(A) of the Act and 19 CFR 351.205(e) allow Commerce to postpone the preliminary determination at the request of the petitioner. 1 See Polyethylene Terephthalate Resin from Brazil, Indonesia, the Republic of Korea, Pakistan, and Taiwan: Initiation of Less-Than-Fair-Value Investigations, 82 FR 48977 (October 23, 2017). VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:10 Feb 21, 2018 Jkt 244001 7655 PO 00000 Frm 00002 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Dated: February 16, 2018. Christian Marsh, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Enforcement and Compliance. [FR Doc. 2018–03670 Filed 2–21–18; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–DS–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XF850 Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental To Site Characterization Surveys Off of New York National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. AGENCY: 2 The petitioners for Brazil, Pakistan, Korea, and Taiwan are DAK Americas LLC, Indorama Ventures USA Inc., M&G Polymers USA LLC, and Nan Ya Plastics Corporation America. The petitioners for Indonesia are DAK Americas LLC, M&G Polymers USA LLC, and Nan Ya Plastics Corporation America. 3 See letter from the petitioners, ‘‘Polyethylene Terephthalate Resin from Brazil, Indonesia, the Republic of Korea, Pakistan and Taiwan— Petitioners’ Request to Postpone the Preliminary Determinations,’’ dated January 29, 2018. 4 Id. At 2. E:\FR\FM\22FEN1.SGM 22FEN1 7656 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 36 / Thursday, February 22, 2018 / Notices Notice; proposed incidental harassment authorization; request for comments. ACTION: NMFS has received a request from Statoil Wind U.S. LLC (Statoil) for authorization to take marine mammals incidental to marine site characterization surveys off the coast of New York as part of the Empire Wind Project in the area of the Commercial Lease of Submerged Lands for Renewable Energy Development on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS–A 0512) (Lease Area) and coastal waters where one or more cable route corridors will be established. 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 authorizations and agency responses will be summarized in the final notice of our decision. DATES: Comments and information must be received no later than March 26, 2018. 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 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/energy_other.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 applications and supporting documents, as well as a list of the references cited in this daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:10 Feb 21, 2018 Jkt 244001 document, may be obtained by visiting the internet at: www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/ permits/incidental/energy_other.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) PO 00000 Frm 00003 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 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. 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 November 9, 2017, NMFS received a request from Statoil for an IHA to take marine mammals incidental to marine site characterization surveys off the coast of New York as part of the Empire Wind Project in the area of the Commercial Lease of Submerged Lands for Renewable Energy Development on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS–A 0512) and coastal waters where one or more cable route corridors will be established. A revised application was received on January 8, 2018. NMFS deemed that request to be adequate and complete. Statoil’s request is for take of 11 marine mammal species by Level B harassment. Neither Statoil nor NMFS expects serious injury or mortality to result from this activity and the activity is expected to last no more than one year, therefore, an IHA is appropriate. Description of the Proposed Activity Overview Statoil proposes to conduct marine site characterization surveys including high-resolution geophysical (HRG) and geotechnical surveys in the marine environment of the approximately 79,350-acre Lease Area located approximately 11.5 nautical miles (nm) from Jones Beach, New York (see Figure 1 in the IHA application). Additionally, one or more cable route corridors will be established between the Lease Area and New York, identified as the Cable Route Area (see Figure 1 in the IHA application). See the IHA application for further information. Cable route corridors are anticipated to be 152 meters (m, 500 feet (ft)) wide and may have an overall length of as much as 135 nm. For the purpose of this IHA, the survey area is designated as the Lease Area and cable route corridors that will be established in advance of conducting the HRG survey activity. Water depths across the Lease Area range from approximately 22 to 41 m (72 to 135 ft) while the cable route corridors will extend to shallow water areas near landfall locations. Surveys would occur from approximately March 2018 through July 2018. E:\FR\FM\22FEN1.SGM 22FEN1 7657 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 36 / Thursday, February 22, 2018 / Notices The purpose of the marine site characterization surveys are to support the siting, design, and deployment of up to three meteorological data buoy deployment areas and to obtain a baseline assessment of seabed/subsurface soil conditions in the Lease Area and cable route corridors to support the siting of the proposed wind farm. Underwater sound resulting from Statoil’s proposed site characterization surveys have the potential to result in incidental take of marine mammals in the form of behavioral harassment. Dates and Duration Surveys will last for approximately 20 weeks and are anticipated to commence upon issuance of the requested IHA, if appropriate. This schedule is based on 24-hour operations and includes potential down time due to inclement weather. Based on 24-hour operations, the estimated duration of the HRG survey activities would be approximately 142 days (including estimated weather down time). Specific Geographic Region Statoil’s survey activities will occur in the approximately 79,350-acre Lease Area located approximately 11.5 nm from Jones Beach, New York (see Figure 1 in the IHA application). Additionally, one or more cable route corridors would be surveyed between the Lease Area and New York. Cable route corridors are anticipated to be 152 meters (m, 500 ft) wide and may have an overall length of as much as 135 nm. Detailed Description of the Specified Activities Statoil’s proposed marine site characterization surveys include HRG and geotechnical survey activities. These activities are described below. HRG Survey Activities The HRG survey activities proposed by Statoil would include the following: • Depth sounding (multibeam echosounder) to determine site bathymetry and elevations; • Magnetic intensity measurements for detecting local variations in regional magnetic field from geological strata and potential ferrous objects on and below the bottom; • Seafloor imaging (sidescan sonar survey) for seabed sediment classification purposes, to identify natural and man-made acoustic targets resting on the bottom as well as any anomalous features; • Shallow penetration sub-bottom profiler (pinger/chirp) to map the near surface stratigraphy (top 0 to 5 m (0 to 16 ft) of soils below seabed); • Medium penetration sub-bottom profiler (sparker) to map deeper subsurface stratigraphy as needed (soils down to 75 to 100 m (246 to 328 ft) below seabed); and • Ultra short baseline positioning system (USBL) for position referencing for the dynamic positioning (DP) vessel. Table 1 identifies the representative survey equipment that may be used in support of planned HRG survey activities. The make and model of the listed HRG equipment will vary depending on availability but will be finalized as part of the survey preparations and contract negotiations with the survey contractor. The final selection of the survey equipment will be confirmed prior to the start of the HRG survey program. Any survey equipment selected would have characteristics similar to the systems described below, if different. RMS source level 1 HRG system Representative HRG survey equipment Operating frequencies Subsea Positioning/USBL ............................... Sidescan Sonar ............................................... Shallow penetration sub-bottom profiler .......... Medium penetration sub-bottom profiler ......... Multibeam Echo Sounder ................................ Sonardyne Ranger 2 USBL2 .. Klein 3900 Sidescan Sonar .... EdgeTech 512i ........................ SIG ELC 820 Sparker ............. Reson T20–P .......................... 35–50kHz 445/900 kHz 0.4 to 12 kHz 0.9 to 1.4 kHz 200/300/400 kHz 188 220 179 206 221 dBrms dBrms dBrms dBrms dBrms Peak source level 1 200 226 186 215 227 dBPeak dBPeak dBPeak dBPeak dBPeak Pulse duration (millisec) 1. 0.0016 to 0.1. 1.8 to 65.8. 0.8. 2 to 6. daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with NOTICES 1 All source levels are measured at 1 m and are from Crocker and Fratantonio (2016) except those for the Sonardyne Ranger 2 USBL which are based on manufacturer specifications (as source levels for the Sonardyne Ranger 2 USBL are not listed in Crocker and Fratantonio (2016)). The HRG survey activities would be supported by a vessel approximately 30 to 55 m (98 to 180 ft) in length and capable of maintaining course and a survey speed of approximately 4 nm per hour (7.4 kilometers per hour (km/hr)) while transiting survey lines. Surveys would be conducted along tracklines spaced 30 m (98 ft) apart, with tie-lines spaced every 500 m (1640 ft). The multichannel array sub-bottom profiler would be operated on 150-m (492-ft) spaced primary lines, while the single channel array sub-bottom profiler would be operated on 30-m (98-ft) line spacing to meet Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) requirements as set out in BOEM’s Guidelines for Providing Geophysical, Geotechnical, and Geohazard Information Pursuant to Archeological and Historic Property Information to 30 CFR part 585. To minimize cost, the duration of survey activities, and the period of potential impact on marine species VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:10 Feb 21, 2018 Jkt 244001 while surveying, Statoil has proposed that HRG survey operations would be conducted continuously 24 hours per day. Based on 24-hour operations, the estimated duration of the HRG survey activities would be approximately 142 days (including estimated weather down time) including 123 survey days in the Lease Area and 19 survey days in the cable route corridors. The deployment of HRG survey equipment, including the equipment planned for use during Statoil’s planned activity, produces sound in the marine environment that has the potential to result in harassment of marine mammals. Based on the frequency ranges of the potential equipment planned to be used in support of HRG survey activities (Table 1) the ultra-short baseline (USBL) positioning system and the sub-bottom profilers (shallow and medium penetration) operate within functional marine mammal hearing PO 00000 Frm 00004 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 ranges and have the potential to result in harassment of marine mammals. Geotechnical Survey Activities Statoil’s proposed geotechnical survey activities would include the following: • Vibracores would be taken to determine the geological and geotechnical characteristics of the sediments; and • Cone Penetration Testing (CPT) would be performed to determine stratigraphy and in-situ conditions of the sediments. Statoil’s proposed geotechnical survey activities would begin no earlier than March 2018 and would last up to 30 days. It is anticipated that geotechnical surveys would entail sampling of vibracores and CPT. A sample would be taken approximately every one kilometer (km) along the selected cable route, alternating between CPTs and vibracores, such that intervals for each vibracore and CPT location would be E:\FR\FM\22FEN1.SGM 22FEN1 daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with NOTICES 7658 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 36 / Thursday, February 22, 2018 / Notices approximately 2 km. Precise cable routes were not known at the time the IHA application was submitted. As many as three cable routes may be identified for geotechnical sampling, with cable routes likely to range in length from 20 km to 65 km. Assuming a maximum, minimum, and median route length for the three potential cable corridors, the total length of survey corridor would be approximately 128 km. Therefore it is anticipated that approximately 128 locations would be sampled (approximately one sample taken per km), located equidistant between the lease area and the New York shoreline (as depicted in Figure 1 of the IHA Application as the Cable Route Area). The duration of each sampling event would take approximately 2–4 hours and geotechnical survey activities would occur 24 hours per day during the survey. Statoil anticipates a production rate of approximately 5 samples per day. In considering whether marine mammal harassment is an expected outcome of exposure to a particular activity or sound source, NMFS considers both the nature of the exposure itself (e.g., the magnitude, frequency, or duration of exposure) and the conditions specific to the geographic area where the activity is expected to occur (i.e., whether the activity is planned in a foraging area, breeding area, nursery or pupping area, or other biologically important area for the species). We then consider the expected response of the exposed animal and whether the nature and duration or intensity of that response is expected to cause disruption of behavioral patterns (e.g., migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering) or injury. Geotechnical survey activities would be conducted from a drill ship equipped with DP thrusters. DP thrusters would be used to position the sampling vessel on station and maintain position at each sampling location during the sampling activity. A ship has not yet been assigned to conduct the survey, but Statoil anticipates that survey activities would likely be conducted from a typical offshore sampling vessel, ranging from 250ft to 350ft (76 m to 107 m). Sound produced through use of DP thrusters is similar to that produced by transiting vessels and DP thrusters are typically operated in a similarly predictable manner. NMFS does not believe acoustic impacts from DP thrusters are likely to result in take of marine mammals in the absence of activity- or location-specific circumstances that may otherwise represent specific concerns for marine VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:10 Feb 21, 2018 Jkt 244001 mammals (i.e., activities proposed in area known to be of particular importance for a particular species), or associated activities that may increase the potential to result in take when in concert with DP thrusters, largely due to the low likelihood of marine mammal behavioral response to DP thrusters that would rise to the level of a take (versus less consequential behavioral reactions). In this case, we are not aware of any such circumstances. Monitoring of past projects that entailed use of DP thrusters has shown a lack of observed marine mammal responses as a result of exposure to sound from DP thrusters. Therefore, NMFS believes the likelihood of DP thrusters used during the proposed geotechnical surveys resulting in harassment of marine mammals to be so low as to be discountable. As DP thrusters are not expected to result in take of marine mammals, these activities are not analyzed further in this document. Vibracoring entails driving a hydraulic or electric pulsating head through a hollow tube into the seafloor to recover a stratified representation of the sediment. The vibracoring process is short in duration and is performed from a dynamic positioning vessel. The vessel would use DP thrusters to maintain the vessel’s position while the vibracore sample is taken, as described above. The vibracoring process would always be performed in concert with DP thrusters, and DP thrusters would begin operating prior to the activation of the vibracore to maintain the vessel’s position; thus, we expect that any marine mammals in the project area would detect the presence and noise associated with the vessel and the DP thrusters prior to commencement of vibracoring. Any reaction by marine mammals would be expected to be similar to reactions to the concurrent vessel noise, which are expected to be minor and short term. In this case, vibracoring is not planned in any areas of particular biological significance for any marine mammals. Thus while a marine mammal may perceive noise from vibracoring and may respond briefly, we believe the potential for this response to rise to the level of take to be so low as to be discountable, based on the short duration of the activity and the fact that marine mammals would be expected to react to the vessel and DP thrusters before vibracoring commences, potentially through brief avoidance. In addition, the fact that the geographic area is not biologically important for any marine mammal species means that such reactions are not likely to carry any meaningful significance for the animals. PO 00000 Frm 00005 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Field studies conducted off the coast of Virginia to determine the underwater noise produced by CPTs found that these activities did not result in underwater noise levels that exceeded current thresholds for Level B harassment of marine mammals (Kalapinski, 2015). Given the small size and energy footprint of CPTs, NMFS believes the likelihood that noise from these activities would exceed the Level B harassment threshold at any appreciable distance is so low as to be discountable. Therefore, geotechnical survey activities, including CPT and vibracores, are not expected to result in harassment of marine mammals and are not analyzed further in this document. 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 Activity Sections 3 and 4 of Statoil’s IHA application summarize available information regarding status and trends, distribution and habitat preferences, and behavior and life history, of the potentially affected species. Additional information regarding population trends and threats may be found in NMFS’s Stock Assessment Reports (SAR; www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/sars/) and more general information about these species (e.g., physical and behavioral descriptions) may be found on NMFS’s website (www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/ species/mammals/). Table 2 lists all species with expected potential for occurrence in the survey area and summarizes information related to the population or stock, including regulatory status under the MMPA and ESA and potential biological removal (PBR), where known. For taxonomy, we follow Committee on Taxonomy (2017). PBR is 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 (as described in NMFS’s SARs). While no mortality is anticipated or authorized here, PBR is included here as gross indicators of the status of the species and other threats. Marine mammal abundance estimates presented in this document represent the total number of individuals that make up a given stock or the total number estimated within a particular study or survey area. NMFS’s stock abundance estimates for most species represent the total estimate of E:\FR\FM\22FEN1.SGM 22FEN1 7659 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 36 / Thursday, February 22, 2018 / Notices individuals within the geographic area, if known, that comprises that stock. For some species, this geographic area may extend beyond U.S. waters. All managed stocks in this region are assessed in NMFS’s U.S. 2017 draft SARs (e.g., Hayes et al., 2018). All values presented in Table 2 are the most recent available at the time of publication and are available in the 2017 draft SARs (Hayes et al., 2018). TABLE 2—MARINE MAMMALS KNOWN TO OCCUR IN THE SURVEY AREA Common name NMFS MMPA and ESA status; strategic (Y/N) 1 Stock Stock Abundance (CV,Nmin, most recent abundance survey) 2 PBR 3 Occurrence and seasonality in the NW Atlantic OCS Toothed whales (Odontoceti) Atlantic white-sided dolphin (Lagenorhynchus acutus). Atlantic spotted dolphin (Stenella frontalis) ....... Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) ............ Clymene dolphin (Stenella clymene) ................. Pantropical Spotted dolphin (Stenella attenuata). Risso’s dolphin (Grampus griseus) .................... Short-beaked common dolphin (Delphinus delphis). Striped dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba) ............. Spinner Dolphin (Stenella longirostris) .............. White-beaked dolphin (Lagenorhynchus albirostris). Harbor porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) ............ Killer whale (Orcinus orca) ................................ False killer whale (Pseudorca crassidens) ........ Long-finned pilot whale (Globicephala melas) .. Short-finned pilot whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus). Sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) ........... Pygmy sperm whale 4 (Kogia breviceps) ........... Dwarf sperm whale 4 (Kogia sima) .................... Cuvier’s beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris) ...... Blainville’s beaked whale 5 (Mesoplodon densirostris). Gervais’ beaked whale 5 (Mesoplodon europaeus). 5 (Mesoplodon mirus) ...... True’s beaked whale Sowerby’s Beaked Whale 5 (Mesoplodon bidens). Rough-toothed dolphin (Steno bredanensis) ..... Melon-headed whale (Peponocephala electra) Northern bottlenose whale (Hyperoodon ampullatus). Pygmy killer whale (Feresa attenuata) .............. W. North Atlantic .................. -; N 48,819 (0.61; 30,403; n/a) ... 304 W. W. W. W. -; -; -; -; N N N N 44,715 (0.43; 31,610; n/a) ... 77,532 (0.40; 56,053; 2011) Unknown (unk; unk; n/a) ...... 3,333 (0.91; 1,733; n/a) ....... 316 561 Undet 17 rare. Common year round. rare. rare. W. North Atlantic .................. W. North Atlantic .................. -; N -; N 18,250 (0.46; 12,619; n/a) ... 70,184 (0.28; 55,690; 2011) 126 557 rare. Common year round. W. North Atlantic .................. W. North Atlantic .................. W. North Atlantic .................. -; N -; N -; N 54,807 (0.3; 42,804; n/a) ..... Unknown (unk; unk; n/a) ...... 2,003 (0.94; 1,023; n/a) ....... 428 Undet 10 rare. rare. rare. Gulf of Maine/Bay of Fundy W. North Atlantic .................. W. North Atlantic .................. W. North Atlantic .................. W. North Atlantic .................. -; -; -; -; -; N N Y Y Y 79,833 (0.32; 61,415; 2011) Unknown (unk; unk; n/a) ...... 442 (1.06; 212; n/a) ............. 5,636 (0.63; 3,464; n/a) ....... 21,515 (0.37; 15,913; n/a) ... 706 Undet 2.1 35 159 Common year round. rare. rare. rare. rare. North Atlantic ........................ E; Y 2,288 (0.28; 1,815; n/a) ....... 3.6 W. W. W. W. -; -; -; -; 3,785 3,785 6,532 7,092 ....... ....... ....... ....... 26 26 50 46 Year round in continental shelf and slope waters, occur seasonally to forage. rare. rare. rare. rare. North North North North North North North North Atlantic .................. Atlantic, Offshore .. Atlantic .................. Atlantic .................. Atlantic Atlantic Atlantic Atlantic .................. .................. .................. .................. N N N N (0.47; (0.47; (0.32; (0.54; 2,598; 2,598; 5,021; 4,632; n/a) n/a) n/a) n/a) rare. W. North Atlantic .................. -; N 7,092 (0.54; 4,632; n/a) ....... 46 rare. W. North Atlantic .................. W. North Atlantic .................. -; N -; N 7,092 (0.54; 4,632; n/a) ....... 7,092 (0.54; 4,632; n/a) ....... 46 46 rare. rare. W. North Atlantic .................. W. North Atlantic .................. W. North Atlantic .................. -; N -; N -; N 271 (1.0; 134; 2013) ............ Unknown (unk; unk; n/a) ...... Unknown (unk; unk; n/a) ...... 1.3 Undet Undet rare. rare. rare. W. North Atlantic .................. -; N Unknown (unk; unk; n/a) ...... Undet rare. Baleen whales (Mysticeti) Canadian East Coast ........... -; N 2,591 (0.81; 1,425; n/a) ....... 162 Blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) ................ W. North Atlantic .................. E; Y Unknown (unk; 440; n/a) ...... 0.9 Fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) ................... W. North Atlantic .................. E; Y 1,618 (0.33; 1,234; n/a) ....... 2.5 Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) .... North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis) daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with NOTICES Minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) ........ Gulf of Maine ........................ W. North Atlantic .................. -; N E; Y 823 (0; 823; n/a) .................. 458 (0; 455; n/a) .................. 2.7 1.4 Sei whale (Balaenoptera borealis) ..................... Nova Scotia .......................... E; Y 357 (0.52; 236; n/a) ............. 0.5 Year round in continental shelf and slope waters, occur seasonally to forage. Year round in continental shelf and slope waters, occur seasonally to forage. Year round in continental shelf and slope waters, occur seasonally to forage. Common year round. Year round in continental shelf and slope waters, occur seasonally to forage. Year round in continental shelf and slope waters, occur seasonally to forage. Earless seals (Phocidae) Gray seal 6 (Halichoerus grypus) ....................... Harbor seal (Phoca vitulina) .............................. Hooded seal (Cystophora cristata) .................... VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:10 Feb 21, 2018 Jkt 244001 W. North Atlantic .................. W. North Atlantic .................. W. North Atlantic .................. PO 00000 Frm 00006 -; N -; N -; N Fmt 4703 27,131 (0.10; 25,908; n/a) ... 75,834 (0.15; 66,884; 2012) Unknown (unk; unk; n/a) ...... Sfmt 4703 E:\FR\FM\22FEN1.SGM 22FEN1 1,554 2,006 Undet Unlikely. Common year round. rare. 7660 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 36 / Thursday, February 22, 2018 / Notices TABLE 2—MARINE MAMMALS KNOWN TO OCCUR IN THE SURVEY AREA—Continued NMFS MMPA and ESA status; strategic (Y/N) 1 Common name Stock Harp seal (Phoca groenlandica) ........................ North Atlantic ........................ -; N Stock Abundance (CV,Nmin, most recent abundance survey) 2 PBR 3 Unknown (unk; unk; n/a) ...... Undet Occurrence and seasonality in the NW Atlantic OCS rare. 1 ESA daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with NOTICES 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 (see footnote 3) 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 CV is coefficient of variation; Nmin is the minimum estimate of stock abundance. In some cases, CV is not applicable. For certain stocks, abundance estimates are actual counts of animals and there is no associated CV. The most recent abundance survey that is reflected in the abundance estimate is presented; there may be more recent surveys that have not yet been incorporated into the estimate. All values presented here are from the 2016 Atlantic SARs. 3 Potential biological removal, 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 size (OSP). 4 Abundance estimate includes both dwarf and pygmy sperm whales. 5 Abundance estimate includes all species of Mesoplodon in the Atlantic. 6 Abundance estimate applies to U.S. population only, actual abundance is believed to be much larger. All species that could potentially occur in the proposed survey areas are included in Table 2. However, the temporal and/or spatial occurrence of 26 of the 37 species listed in Table 2 is such that take of these species is not expected to occur, and they are not discussed further beyond the explanation provided here. Take of these species is not anticipated either because they have very low densities in the project area, are known to occur further offshore than the project area, or are considered very unlikely to occur in the project area during the proposed survey due to the species’ seasonal occurrence in the area. Three marine mammal species are listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and are known to be present, at least seasonally, in the survey area and are included in the take request: North Atlantic right whale, fin whale, and sperm whale. Below is a description of the species that are both common in the survey area southeast of New York and that have the highest likelihood of occurring, at least seasonally, in the survey area and are thus are expected to be potentially be taken by the proposed activities. For the majority of species potentially present in the specific geographic region, NMFS has designated only a single generic stock (e.g., ‘‘western North Atlantic’’) for management purposes. This includes the ‘‘Canadian east coast’’ stock of minke whales, which includes all minke whales found in U.S. waters. For humpback and sei whales, NMFS defines stocks on the basis of feeding locations, i.e., Gulf of Maine and Nova Scotia, respectively. However, our reference to humpback whales and sei whales in this document refers to any individuals of the species that are found in the specific geographic region. VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:10 Feb 21, 2018 Jkt 244001 North Atlantic Right Whale The North Atlantic right whale ranges from the calving grounds in the southeastern United States to feeding grounds in New England waters and into Canadian waters (Waring et al., 2016). Surveys have demonstrated the existence of seven areas where North Atlantic right whales congregate seasonally, including Georges Bank, Cape Cod, and Massachusetts Bay (Waring et al., 2016). In the late fall months (e.g., October), right whales generally disappear from the feeding grounds in the North Atlantic and move south to their breeding grounds. The proposed survey area is within the North Atlantic right whale migratory corridor. During the proposed survey (i.e., March through August) right whales may be migrating through the proposed survey area and the surrounding waters. The western North Atlantic population demonstrated overall growth of 2.8 percent per year between 1990 to 2010, despite a decline in 1993 and no growth between 1997 and 2000 (Pace et al. 2017). However, since 2010 the population has been in decline, with a 99.99 percent probability of a decline of just under 1 percent per year (Pace et al. 2017). Between 1990 and 2015, calving rates varied substantially, with low calving rates coinciding with all three periods of decline or no growth (Pace et al. 2017). On average, North Atlantic right whale calving rates are estimated to be roughly half that of southern right whales (Eubalaena australis) (Pace et al. 2017), which are increasing in abundance (NMFS 2015). The current abundance estimate for this stock is 458 individuals (Hayes et al., 2018). Data indicates that the number of adult females fell from 200 in 2010 to 186 in 2015 while males fell from 283 to 272 in the same timeframe (Pace et al., 2017). In addition, elevated PO 00000 Frm 00007 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 North Atlantic right whale mortalities have occurred since June 7, 2017. A total of 17 confirmed dead stranded whales (12 in Canada; 5 in the United States), with an additional 5 live whale entanglements in Canada, have been documented to date. This event has been declared an Unusual Mortality Event (UME). More information is available online at: http:// www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/health/mmume/ 2017northatlanticrightwhaleume.html. Humpback Whale Humpback whales are found worldwide in all oceans. The humpback whale population within the North Atlantic has been estimated to include approximately 11,570 individuals (Waring et al., 2016). Humpbacks occur off southern New England in all four seasons, with peak abundance in spring and summer. In winter, humpback whales from waters off New England, Canada, Greenland, Iceland, and Norway migrate to mate and calve primarily in the West Indies (including the Antilles, the Dominican Republic, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico), where spatial and genetic mixing among these groups occurs (Waring et al., 2015). While migrating, humpback whales utilize the mid-Atlantic as a migration pathway between calving/ mating grounds to the south and feeding grounds in the north (Waring et al. 2007). Since January 2016, elevated humpback whale mortalities have occurred along the Atlantic coast from Maine through North Carolina. Partial or full necropsy examinations have been conducted on approximately half of the 62 known cases. A portion of the whales have shown evidence of pre-mortem vessel strike; however, this finding is not consistent across all of the whales examined so more research is needed. NOAA is consulting with researchers that are conducting studies on the E:\FR\FM\22FEN1.SGM 22FEN1 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 36 / Thursday, February 22, 2018 / Notices humpback whale populations, and these efforts may provide information on changes in whale distribution and habitat use that could provide additional insight into how these vessel interactions occurred. Three previous UMEs involving humpback whales have occurred since 2000, in 2003, 2005, and 2006. More information is available at www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/health/mmume/ 2017humpbackatlanticume.html. Fin Whale Fin whales are common in waters of the U.S. Atlantic Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), principally from Cape Hatteras northward (Waring et al., 2016). Fin whales are present north of 35-degree latitude in every season and are broadly distributed throughout the western North Atlantic for most of the year (Waring et al., 2016). Fin whales are found in small groups of up to 5 individuals (Brueggeman et al., 1987). The current abundance estimate for the western North Atlantic stock of fin whales is 1,618 individuals (Hayes et al., 2017). The main threats to fin whales are fishery interactions and vessel collisions (Waring et al., 2016). daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with NOTICES Minke Whale Minke whales can be found in temperate, tropical, and high-latitude waters. The Canadian East Coast stock can be found in the area from the western half of the Davis Strait (45° W) to the Gulf of Mexico (Waring et al., 2016). This species generally occupies waters less than 100 m deep on the continental shelf. There appears to be a strong seasonal component to minke whale distribution in which spring to fall are times of relatively widespread and common occurrence, and when the whales are most abundant in New England waters, while during winter the species appears to be largely absent (Waring et al., 2016). The main threats to this stock are interactions with fisheries, strandings, and vessel collisions. Sperm Whale The distribution of the sperm whale in the U.S. EEZ occurs on the continental shelf edge, over the continental slope, and into mid-ocean regions (Waring et al., 2014). The basic social unit of the sperm whale appears to be the mixed school of adult females plus their calves and some juveniles of both sexes, normally numbering 20–40 animals in all. There is evidence that some social bonds persist for many years (Christal et al., 1998). This species forms stable social groups, site fidelity, and latitudinal range limitations in groups of females and juveniles VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:10 Feb 21, 2018 Jkt 244001 (Whitehead, 2002). In summer, the distribution of sperm whales includes the area east and north of Georges Bank and into the Northeast Channel region, as well as the continental shelf (inshore of the 100-m isobath) south of New England. In the fall, sperm whale occurrence south of New England on the continental shelf is at its highest level, and there remains a continental shelf edge occurrence in the mid-Atlantic bight. In winter, sperm whales are concentrated east and northeast of Cape Hatteras. The current abundance estimate for this stock is 2,288 (Hayes et al., 2017). Atlantic White-Sided Dolphin White-sided dolphins are found in temperate and sub-polar waters of the North Atlantic, primarily in continental shelf waters to the 100-m depth contour from central West Greenland to North Carolina (Waring et al., 2016). There are three stock units: Gulf of Maine, Gulf of St. Lawrence, and Labrador Sea stocks (Palka et al., 1997). The Gulf of Maine population of white-sided dolphins is most common in continental shelf waters from Hudson Canyon (approximately 39° N) to Georges Bank, and in the Gulf of Maine and lower Bay of Fundy. Sighting data indicate seasonal shifts in distribution (Northridge et al., 1997). During January to May, low numbers of white-sided dolphins are found from Georges Bank to Jeffreys Ledge (off New Hampshire), with even lower numbers south of Georges Bank, as documented by a few strandings collected on beaches of Virginia to South Carolina. From June through September, large numbers of white-sided dolphins are found from Georges Bank to the lower Bay of Fundy. From October to December, white-sided dolphins occur at intermediate densities from southern Georges Bank to southern Gulf of Maine (Payne and Heinemann 1990). Sightings south of Georges Bank, particularly around Hudson Canyon, occur year round but at low densities. The current abundance estimate for this stock is 48,819 (Hayes et al., 2017). The main threat to this species is interactions with fisheries. Short-Beaked Common Dolphin The short-beaked common dolphin is found worldwide in temperate to subtropical seas. In the North Atlantic, short-beaked common dolphins are commonly found over the continental shelf between the 100-m and 2,000-m isobaths and over prominent underwater topography and east to the mid-Atlantic Ridge (Waring et al., 2016). Only the western North Atlantic stock PO 00000 Frm 00008 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 7661 may be present in the Lease Area. The current abundance estimate for this stock is 70,184 animals (Hayes et al., 2017). The main threat to this species is interactions with fisheries. Bottlenose Dolphin There are two distinct bottlenose dolphin morphotypes: The coastal and offshore forms in the western North Atlantic (Waring et al., 2016). The offshore form is distributed primarily along the outer continental shelf and continental slope in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean from Georges Bank to the Florida Keys and is the only type that may be present in the survey area as the survey area is north of the northern extent of the range of the Western North Atlantic Northern Migratory Coastal Stock. The current abundance estimate for the western north Atlantic stock is 77,532 (Hayes et al., 2017). The main threat to this species is interactions with fisheries. Harbor Porpoise In the Lease Area, only the Gulf of Maine/Bay of Fundy stock may be present. This stock is found in U.S. and Canadian Atlantic waters and is concentrated in the northern Gulf of Maine and southern Bay of Fundy region, generally in waters less than 150 m deep (Waring et al., 2016). They are seen from the coastline to deep waters (>1800 m; Westgate et al. 1998), although the majority of the population is found over the continental shelf (Waring et al., 2016). Average group size for this stock in the Bay of Fundy is approximately four individuals (Palka 2007). The current abundance estimate for this stock is 79,883 (Hayes et al., 2017). The main threat to this species is interactions with fisheries, with documented take in the U.S. northeast sink gillnet, mid-Atlantic gillnet, and northeast bottom trawl fisheries and in the Canadian herring weir fisheries (Waring et al., 2016). Harbor Seal The harbor seal is found in all nearshore waters of the North Atlantic and North Pacific Oceans and adjoining seas above about 30° N (Burns, 2009). In the western North Atlantic, they are distributed from the eastern Canadian Arctic and Greenland south to southern New England and New York, and occasionally to the Carolinas (Waring et al., 2016). Haulout and pupping sites are located off Manomet, MA and the Isles of Shoals, ME, but generally do not occur in areas in southern New England (Waring et al., 2016). The current abundance estimate for this stock is 75,834 (Hayes et al., 2017). The main E:\FR\FM\22FEN1.SGM 22FEN1 7662 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 36 / Thursday, February 22, 2018 / Notices threat to this species is interactions with fisheries. daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with NOTICES Gray Seal There are three major populations of gray seals found in the world; eastern Canada (western North Atlantic stock), northwestern Europe and the Baltic Sea. The gray seals that occur in the Project Area belong to the western North Atlantic stock, which ranges from New Jersey to Labrador. Current population trends show that gray seal abundance is likely increasing in the U.S. Atlantic EEZ (Waring et al., 2016). Although the rate of increase is unknown, surveys conducted since their arrival in the 1980s indicate a steady increase in abundance in both Maine and Massachusetts (Waring et al., 2016). It is believed that recolonization by Canadian gray seals is the source of the U.S. population (Waring et al., 2016). 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 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): VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:10 Feb 21, 2018 Jkt 244001 • Low-frequency cetaceans (mysticetes): generalized hearing is estimated to occur between approximately 7 Hertz (Hz) and 35 kilohertz (kHz); • Mid-frequency cetaceans (larger toothed whales, beaked whales, and most delphinids): generalized hearing is estimated to occur between approximately 150 Hz and 160 kHz; • 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. • Pinnipeds in water; Phocidae (true seals): generalized hearing is estimated to occur between approximately 50 Hz to 86 kH; 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). For more detail concerning these groups and associated frequency ranges, please see NMFS (2016) for a review of available information. Eleven marine mammal species (nine cetacean and two pinniped (both phocid) species) have the reasonable potential to co-occur with the proposed survey activities. Please refer to Table 2. Of the cetacean species that may be present, five are classified as low-frequency cetaceans (i.e., all mysticete species), three are classified as mid-frequency cetaceans (i.e., all delphinid species and the sperm whale), and one is classified as a highfrequency cetacean (i.e., harbor porpoise). 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’’ 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’’ 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 PO 00000 Frm 00009 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 are likely to impact marine mammal species or stocks. Background on Sound Sound is a physical phenomenon consisting of minute vibrations that travel through a medium, such as air or water, and is generally characterized by several variables. Frequency describes the sound’s pitch and is measured in Hz or kHz, while sound level describes the sound’s intensity and is measured in decibels (dB). Sound level increases or decreases exponentially with each dB of change. The logarithmic nature of the scale means that each 10-dB increase is a 10-fold increase in acoustic power (and a 20-dB increase is then a 100-fold increase in power). A 10-fold increase in acoustic power does not mean that the sound is perceived as being 10 times louder, however. Sound levels are compared to a reference sound pressure (micro-Pascal) to identify the medium. For air and water, these reference pressures are ‘‘re: 20 micro Pascals (mPa)’’ and ‘‘re: 1 mPa,’’ respectively. Root mean square (RMS) is the quadratic mean sound pressure over the duration of an impulse. RMS is calculated by squaring all of the sound amplitudes, averaging the squares, and then taking the square root of the average (Urick 1975). RMS 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. 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 rather than by peak pressures. When sound travels (propagates) from its source, its loudness decreases as the distance traveled by the sound increases. Thus, the loudness of a sound at its source is higher than the loudness of that same sound one km away. Acousticians often refer to the loudness of a sound at its source (typically referenced to one meter from the source) as the source level and the loudness of sound elsewhere as the received level (i.e., typically the receiver). For example, a humpback whale 3 km from a device that has a source level of 230 dB may only be exposed to sound that is 160 dB loud, depending on how the sound travels through water (e.g., spherical spreading (6 dB reduction with doubling of distance) was used in this example). As a result, it is important to understand the difference between source levels and received levels when discussing the loudness of E:\FR\FM\22FEN1.SGM 22FEN1 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 36 / Thursday, February 22, 2018 / Notices daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with NOTICES sound in the ocean or its impacts on the marine environment. As sound travels from a source, its propagation in water is influenced by various physical characteristics, including water temperature, depth, salinity, and surface and bottom properties that cause refraction, reflection, absorption, and scattering of sound waves. Oceans are not homogeneous and the contribution of each of these individual factors is extremely complex and interrelated. The physical characteristics that determine the sound’s speed through the water will change with depth, season, geographic location, and with time of day (as a result, in actual active sonar operations, crews will measure oceanic conditions, such as sea water temperature and depth, to calibrate models that determine the path the sonar signal will take as it travels through the ocean and how strong the sound signal will be at a given range along a particular transmission path). As sound travels through the ocean, the intensity associated with the wavefront diminishes, or attenuates. This decrease in intensity is referred to as propagation loss, also commonly called transmission loss. Acoustic Impacts Geophysical surveys may temporarily impact marine mammals in the area due to elevated in-water sound levels. Marine mammals are continually exposed to many sources of sound. Naturally occurring sounds such as lightning, rain, sub-sea earthquakes, and biological sounds (e.g., snapping shrimp, whale songs) are widespread throughout the world’s oceans. Marine mammals produce sounds in various contexts and use sound for various biological functions including, but not limited to: (1) Social interactions; (2) foraging; (3) orientation; and (4) predator detection. Interference with producing or receiving these sounds may result in adverse impacts. Audible distance, or received levels of sound depend on the nature of the sound source, ambient noise conditions, and the sensitivity of the receptor to the sound (Richardson et al., 1995). Type and significance of marine mammal reactions to sound are likely dependent on a variety of factors including, but not limited to, (1) the behavioral state of the animal (e.g., feeding, traveling, etc.); (2) frequency of the sound; (3) distance between the animal and the source; and (4) the level of the sound relative to ambient conditions (Southall et al., 2007). When considering the influence of various kinds of sound on the marine VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:10 Feb 21, 2018 Jkt 244001 environment, it is necessary to understand that different kinds of marine life are sensitive to different frequencies of sound. Current data indicate that not all marine mammal species have equal hearing capabilities (Richardson et al., 1995; Wartzok and Ketten, 1999; Au and Hastings, 2008). Animals are less sensitive to sounds at the outer edges of their functional hearing range and are more sensitive to a range of frequencies within the middle of their functional hearing range. For mid-frequency cetaceans, functional hearing estimates occur between approximately 150 Hz and 160 kHz with best hearing estimated to occur between approximately 10 to less than 100 kHz (Finneran et al., 2005 and 2009, Natchtigall et al., 2005 and 2008; Yuen et al., 2005; Popov et al., 2011; and Schlundt et al., 2011). Hearing Impairment Marine mammals may experience temporary or permanent hearing impairment when exposed to loud sounds. Hearing impairment is classified by temporary threshold shift (TTS) and permanent threshold shift (PTS). PTS is considered auditory injury (Southall et al., 2007) and occurs in a specific frequency range and amount. Irreparable damage to the inner or outer cochlear hair cells may cause PTS; however, other mechanisms are also involved, such as exceeding the elastic limits of certain tissues and membranes in the middle and inner ears and resultant changes in the chemical composition of the inner ear fluids (Southall et al., 2007). There are no empirical data for onset of PTS in any marine mammal; therefore, PTS-onset must be estimated from TTS-onset measurements and from the rate of TTS growth with increasing exposure levels above the level eliciting TTS-onset. PTS is presumed to be likely if the hearing threshold is reduced by ≥40 dB (that is, 40 dB of TTS). Temporary Threshold Shift (TTS) TTS is the mildest form of hearing impairment that can occur during exposure to a loud sound (Kryter 1985). While experiencing TTS, the hearing threshold rises and a sound must be stronger in order to be heard. At least in terrestrial mammals, TTS can last from minutes or hours to (in cases of strong TTS) days, can be limited to a particular frequency range, and can occur to varying degrees (i.e., a loss of a certain number of dBs of sensitivity). For sound exposures at or somewhat above the TTS threshold, hearing sensitivity in both terrestrial and marine mammals PO 00000 Frm 00010 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 7663 recovers rapidly after exposure to the noise ends. Marine mammal hearing plays a critical role in communication with conspecifics and in 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 takes place during a time when the animals is traveling through the open ocean, 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 a time when communication is critical for successful mother/calf interactions could have more serious impacts if it were in the same frequency band as the necessary vocalizations and of a severity that it impeded communication. The fact that animals exposed to levels and durations of sound that would be expected to result in this physiological response would also be expected to have behavioral responses of a comparatively more severe or sustained nature is also notable and potentially of more importance than the simple existence of a TTS. Currently, TTS data only exist for four species of cetaceans (bottlenose dolphin, beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas), harbor porpoise, and Yangtze finless porpoise (Neophocaena phocaenoides)) and three species of pinnipeds (northern elephant seal (Mirounga angustirostris), harbor seal, and California sea lion (Zalophus californianus)) exposed to a limited number of sound sources (i.e., mostly tones and octave-band noise) in laboratory settings (e.g., Finneran et al., 2002 and 2010; Nachtigall et al., 2004; Kastak et al., 2005; Lucke et al., 2009; Mooney et al., 2009; Popov et al., 2011; Finneran and Schlundt, 2010). In general, harbor seals (Kastak et al., 2005; Kastelein et al., 2012a) and harbor porpoises (Lucke et al., 2009; Kastelein et al., 2012b) have a lower TTS onset than other measured pinniped or cetacean species. However, even for these animals, which are better able to hear higher frequencies and may be more sensitive to higher frequencies, exposures on the order of approximately 170 dB rms or higher for brief transient signals are likely required for even temporary (recoverable) changes in E:\FR\FM\22FEN1.SGM 22FEN1 daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with NOTICES 7664 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 36 / Thursday, February 22, 2018 / Notices hearing sensitivity that would likely not be categorized as physiologically damaging (Lucke et al., 2009). 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. For summaries of data on TTS in marine mammals or for further discussion of TTS onset thresholds, please see Finneran (2016). Scientific literature highlights the inherent complexity of predicting TTS onset in marine mammals, as well as the importance of considering exposure duration when assessing potential impacts (Mooney et al., 2009a, 2009b; Kastak et al., 2007). Generally, with sound exposures of equal energy, quieter sounds (lower sound pressure levels (SPL)) of longer duration were found to induce TTS onset more than louder sounds (higher SPL) of shorter duration (more similar to sub-bottom profilers). For intermittent sounds, less threshold shift will occur than from a continuous exposure with the same energy (some recovery will occur between intermittent exposures) (Kryter et al., 1966; Ward 1997). For sound exposures at or somewhat above the TTS-onset threshold, hearing sensitivity recovers rapidly after exposure to the sound ends; intermittent exposures recover faster in comparison with continuous exposures of the same duration (Finneran et al., 2010). NMFS considers TTS as Level B harassment that is mediated by physiological effects on the auditory system. Animals in the Lease Area during the HRG survey are unlikely to incur TTS hearing impairment due to the characteristics of the sound sources, which include low source levels (208 to 221 dB re 1 mPa-m) and generally very short pulses and duration of the sound. Even for high-frequency cetacean species (e.g., harbor porpoises), which may have increased sensitivity to TTS (Lucke et al., 2009; Kastelein et al., 2012b), individuals would have to make a very close approach and also remain very close to vessels operating these sources in order to receive multiple exposures at relatively high levels, as would be necessary to cause TTS. Intermittent exposures—as would occur due to the brief, transient signals produced by these sources—require a higher cumulative SEL to induce TTS than would continuous exposures of the same duration (i.e., intermittent exposure results in lower levels of TTS) (Mooney et al., 2009a; Finneran et al., 2010). Moreover, most marine mammals would more likely avoid a loud sound source rather than swim in such close VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:10 Feb 21, 2018 Jkt 244001 proximity as to result in TTS. Kremser et al. (2005) noted that the probability of a cetacean swimming through the area of exposure when a sub-bottom profiler emits a pulse is small—because if the animal was in the area, it would have to pass the transducer at close range in order to be subjected to sound levels that could cause TTS and would likely exhibit avoidance behavior to the area near the transducer rather than swim through at such a close range. Further, the restricted beam shape of the sub-bottom profiler and other HRG survey equipment makes it unlikely that an animal would be exposed more than briefly during the passage of the vessel. Boebel et al. (2005) concluded similarly for single and multibeam echosounders and, more recently, Lurton (2016) conducted a modeling exercise and concluded similarly that likely potential for acoustic injury from these types of systems is negligible but that behavioral response cannot be ruled out. Animals may avoid the area around the survey vessels, thereby reducing exposure. Any disturbance to marine mammals is likely to be in the form of temporary avoidance or alteration of opportunistic foraging behavior near the survey location. Masking Masking is the obscuring of sounds of interest to an animal by other sounds, typically at similar frequencies. Marine mammals are highly dependent on sound, and their ability to recognize sound signals amid other sound is important in communication and detection of both predators and prey (Tyack 2000). Background ambient sound may interfere with or mask the ability of an animal to detect a sound signal even when that signal is above its absolute hearing threshold. Even in the absence of anthropogenic sound, the marine environment is often loud. Natural ambient sound includes contributions from wind, waves, precipitation, other animals, and (at frequencies above 30 kHz) thermal sound resulting from molecular agitation (Richardson et al., 1995). Background sound may also include anthropogenic sound, and masking of natural sounds can result when human activities produce high levels of background sound. Conversely, if the background level of underwater sound is high (e.g., on a day with strong wind and high waves), an anthropogenic sound source would not be detectable as far away as would be possible under quieter conditions and would itself be masked. Ambient sound is highly variable on continental shelves (Myrberg 1978; Desharnais et al., 1999). PO 00000 Frm 00011 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 This results in a high degree of variability in the range at which marine mammals can detect anthropogenic sounds. Although masking is a phenomenon which may occur naturally, the introduction of loud anthropogenic sounds into the marine environment at frequencies important to marine mammals increases the severity and frequency of occurrence of masking. For example, if a baleen whale is exposed to continuous low-frequency sound from an industrial source, this would reduce the size of the area around that whale within which it can hear the calls of another whale. The components of background noise that are similar in frequency to the signal in question primarily determine the degree of masking of that signal. In general, little is known about the degree to which marine mammals rely upon detection of sounds from conspecifics, predators, prey, or other natural sources. In the absence of specific information about the importance of detecting these natural sounds, it is not possible to predict the impact of masking on marine mammals (Richardson et al., 1995). In general, masking effects are expected to be less severe when sounds are transient than when they are continuous. Masking is typically of greater concern for those marine mammals that utilize low-frequency communications, such as baleen whales, because of how far lowfrequency sounds propagate. Marine mammal communications would not likely be masked appreciably by the sub-bottom profiler signals given the directionality of the signal and the brief period when an individual mammal is likely to be within its beam. Non-Auditory Physical Effects (Stress) Classic stress responses begin when an animal’s central nervous system perceives a potential threat to its homeostasis. That perception triggers stress responses regardless of whether a stimulus actually threatens the animal; the mere perception of a threat is sufficient to trigger a stress response (Moberg 2000; Seyle 1950). Once an animal’s central nervous system perceives a threat, it mounts a biological response or defense that consists of a combination of the four general biological defense responses: behavioral responses, autonomic nervous system responses, neuroendocrine responses, or immune responses. In the case of many stressors, an animal’s first and sometimes most economical (in terms of biotic costs) response is behavioral avoidance of the potential stressor or avoidance of continued exposure to a stressor. An E:\FR\FM\22FEN1.SGM 22FEN1 daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 36 / Thursday, February 22, 2018 / Notices animal’s second line of defense to stressors involves the sympathetic part of the autonomic nervous system and the classical ‘‘fight or flight’’ response which includes the cardiovascular system, the gastrointestinal system, the exocrine glands, and the adrenal medulla to produce changes in heart rate, blood pressure, and gastrointestinal activity that humans commonly associate with ‘‘stress.’’ These responses have a relatively short duration and may or may not have significant long-term effect on an animal’s welfare. An animal’s third line of defense to stressors involves its neuroendocrine systems; the system that has received the most study has been the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal system (also known as the HPA axis in mammals). Unlike stress responses associated with the autonomic nervous system, virtually all neuro-endocrine 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 (Moberg 1987; Rivier 1995), altered metabolism (Elasser et al., 2000), reduced immune competence (Blecha 2000), and behavioral disturbance. Increases in the circulation of glucocorticosteroids (cortisol, corticosterone, and aldosterone in marine mammals; see Romano et al., 2004) have been equated with stress for many years. The primary distinction between stress (which is adaptive and does not normally place an animal at risk) and distress is the biotic 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 a risk to the animal’s welfare. 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 biotic function, which impairs those functions that experience the diversion. For example, when mounting a stress response diverts energy away from growth in young animals, those animals may experience stunted growth. When mounting a stress response diverts energy from a fetus, an animal’s reproductive success and its fitness will suffer. In these cases, the animals will have entered a pre-pathological or pathological state which is called ‘‘distress’’ (Seyle 1950) or ‘‘allostatic loading’’ (McEwen and Wingfield 2003). This pathological state will last until the VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:10 Feb 21, 2018 Jkt 244001 animal replenishes its biotic reserves sufficient to restore normal function. Note that these examples involved a long-term (days or weeks) stress response exposure to stimuli. Relationships between these physiological mechanisms, animal behavior, and the costs of stress responses have also been documented fairly well through controlled experiments; because this physiology exists in every vertebrate that has been studied, it is not surprising that stress responses and their costs have been documented in both laboratory and freeliving animals (for examples see, Holberton et al., 1996; Hood et al., 1998; Jessop et al., 2003; Krausman et al., 2004; Lankford et al., 2005; Reneerkens et al., 2002; Thompson and Hamer, 2000). Information has also been collected on the physiological responses of marine mammals to exposure to anthropogenic sounds (Fair and Becker 2000; Romano et al., 2002). 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. Studies of other marine animals and terrestrial animals would also lead us to expect some marine mammals to experience physiological stress responses and, perhaps, physiological responses that would be classified as ‘‘distress’’ upon exposure to high frequency, mid-frequency and lowfrequency sounds. For example, Jansen (1998) reported on the relationship between acoustic exposures and physiological responses that are indicative of stress responses in humans (for example, elevated respiration and increased heart rates). Jones (1998) reported on reductions in human performance when faced with acute, repetitive exposures to acoustic disturbance. Trimper et al. (1998) reported on the physiological stress responses of osprey to low-level aircraft noise while Krausman et al. (2004) reported on the auditory and physiology stress responses of endangered Sonoran pronghorn to military overflights. Smith et al. (2004a, 2004b), for example, identified noise-induced physiological transient stress responses in hearingspecialist fish (i.e., goldfish) that accompanied short- and long-term hearing losses. Welch and Welch (1970) reported physiological and behavioral stress responses that accompanied damage to the inner ears of fish and several mammals. Hearing is one of the primary senses marine mammals use to gather information about their environment and to communicate with conspecifics. PO 00000 Frm 00012 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 7665 Although empirical information on the relationship between sensory impairment (TTS, PTS, and acoustic masking) on marine mammals remains limited, it seems reasonable to assume that reducing an animal’s ability to gather information about its environment and to communicate with other members of its species would be stressful for animals that use hearing as their primary sensory mechanism. Therefore, we assume that acoustic exposures sufficient to trigger onset PTS or TTS would be accompanied by physiological stress responses because terrestrial animals exhibit those responses under similar conditions (NRC 2003). More importantly, marine mammals might experience stress responses at received levels lower than those necessary to trigger onset TTS. Based on empirical studies of the time required to recover from stress responses (Moberg 2000), we also assume that stress responses are likely to persist beyond the time interval required for animals to recover from TTS and might result in pathological and pre-pathological states that would be as significant as behavioral responses to TTS. In general, there are few data on the potential for strong, anthropogenic underwater sounds to cause nonauditory physical effects in marine mammals. The available data do not allow identification of a specific exposure level above which nonauditory effects can be expected (Southall et al., 2007). There is no definitive evidence that any of these effects occur even for marine mammals in close proximity to an anthropogenic sound source. In addition, marine mammals that show behavioral avoidance of survey vessels and related sound sources are unlikely to incur nonauditory impairment or other physical effects. NMFS does not expect that the generally short-term, intermittent, and transitory HRG and geotechnical activities would create conditions of long-term, continuous noise and chronic acoustic exposure leading to long-term physiological stress responses in marine mammals. Behavioral Disturbance 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 E:\FR\FM\22FEN1.SGM 22FEN1 daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with NOTICES 7666 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 36 / Thursday, February 22, 2018 / Notices 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 shown pronounced behavioral reactions, including avoidance of loud sound sources (Ridgway et al., 1997; Finneran et al., 2003). 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). 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 VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:10 Feb 21, 2018 Jkt 244001 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 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; Costa et al., 2003; 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. 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. PO 00000 Frm 00013 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 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, 2005b, 2006; Gailey et al., 2007). 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., 2007b). In some cases, animals may cease sound production during production of aversive signals (Bowles et al., 1994). 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). 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., Blackwell et al., 2004; 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 E:\FR\FM\22FEN1.SGM 22FEN1 daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 36 / Thursday, February 22, 2018 / Notices 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 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 VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:10 Feb 21, 2018 Jkt 244001 multiple days or, further, exposed in a manner resulting in sustained multi-day substantive behavioral responses. Marine mammals are likely to avoid the HRG survey activity, especially the naturally shy harbor porpoise, while the harbor seals might be attracted to them out of curiosity. However, because the sub-bottom profilers and other HRG survey equipment operate from a moving vessel, and the maximum radius to the Level B harassment threshold is relatively small, the area and time that this equipment would be affecting a given location is very small. Further, once an area has been surveyed, it is not likely that it will be surveyed again, thereby reducing the likelihood of repeated HRG-related impacts within the survey area. We have also considered the potential for severe behavioral responses such as stranding and associated indirect injury or mortality from Statoil’s use of HRG survey equipment, on the basis of a 2008 mass stranding of approximately 100 melon-headed whales in a Madagascar lagoon system. An investigation of the event indicated that use of a high-frequency mapping system (12-kHz multibeam echosounder) was the most plausible and likely initial behavioral trigger of the event, while providing the caveat that there is no unequivocal and easily identifiable single cause (Southall et al., 2013). The investigatory panel’s conclusion was based on (1) very close temporal and spatial association and directed movement of the survey with the stranding event; (2) the unusual nature of such an event coupled with previously documented apparent behavioral sensitivity of the species to other sound types (Southall et al., 2006; Brownell et al., 2009); and (3) the fact that all other possible factors considered were determined to be unlikely causes. Specifically, regarding survey patterns prior to the event and in relation to bathymetry, the vessel transited in a north-south direction on the shelf break parallel to the shore, ensonifying large areas of deep-water habitat prior to operating intermittently in a concentrated area offshore from the stranding site; this may have trapped the animals between the sound source and the shore, thus driving them towards the lagoon system. The investigatory panel systematically excluded or deemed highly unlikely nearly all potential reasons for these animals leaving their typical pelagic habitat for an area extremely atypical for the species (i.e., a shallow lagoon system). Notably, this was the first time that such a system has been associated with a stranding event. The panel also PO 00000 Frm 00014 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 7667 noted several site- and situation-specific secondary factors that may have contributed to the avoidance responses that led to the eventual entrapment and mortality of the whales. Specifically, shoreward-directed surface currents and elevated chlorophyll levels in the area preceding the event may have played a role (Southall et al., 2013). The report also notes that prior use of a similar system in the general area may have sensitized the animals and also concluded that, for odontocete cetaceans that hear well in higher frequency ranges where ambient noise is typically quite low, high-power active sonars operating in this range may be more easily audible and have potential effects over larger areas than low frequency systems that have more typically been considered in terms of anthropogenic noise impacts. It is, however, important to note that the relatively lower output frequency, higher output power, and complex nature of the system implicated in this event, in context of the other factors noted here, likely produced a fairly unusual set of circumstances that indicate that such events would likely remain rare and are not necessarily relevant to use of lower-power, higherfrequency systems more commonly used for HRG survey applications. The risk of similar events recurring may be very low, given the extensive use of active acoustic systems used for scientific and navigational purposes worldwide on a daily basis and the lack of direct evidence of such responses previously reported. Tolerance Numerous studies have shown that underwater sounds from industrial activities are often readily detectable by marine mammals in the water at distances of many km. However, other studies have shown that marine mammals at distances more than a few km away often show no apparent response to industrial activities of various types (Miller et al., 2005). This is often true even in cases when the sounds must be readily audible to the animals based on measured received levels and the hearing sensitivity of that mammal group. Although various baleen whales, toothed whales, and (less frequently) pinnipeds have been shown to react behaviorally to underwater sound from sources such as airgun pulses or vessels under some conditions, at other times, mammals of all three types have shown no overt reactions (e.g., Malme et al., 1986; Richardson et al., 1995; Madsen and Mohl 2000; Croll et al., 2001; Jacobs and Terhune 2002; Madsen et al., 2002; E:\FR\FM\22FEN1.SGM 22FEN1 7668 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 36 / Thursday, February 22, 2018 / Notices daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with NOTICES Miller et al., 2005). In general, pinnipeds seem to be more tolerant of exposure to some types of underwater sound than are baleen whales. Richardson et al. (1995) found that vessel sound does not seem to affect pinnipeds that are already in the water. Richardson et al. (1995) went on to explain that seals on haul-outs sometimes respond strongly to the presence of vessels and at other times appear to show considerable tolerance of vessels, and Brueggeman et al. (1992) observed ringed seals (Pusa hispida) hauled out on ice pans displaying shortterm escape reactions when a ship approached within 0.16–0.31 miles (0.25–0.5 km). Due to the relatively high vessel traffic in the Lease Area it is possible that marine mammals are habituated to noise (e.g., DP thrusters) from project vessels in the area. Vessel Strike Ship strikes of marine mammals can cause major wounds, which may lead to the death of the animal. An animal at the surface could be struck directly by a vessel, a surfacing animal could hit the bottom of a vessel, or a vessel’s propeller could injure an animal just below the surface. The severity of injuries typically depends on the size and speed of the vessel (Knowlton and Kraus 2001; Laist et al., 2001; Vanderlaan and Taggart 2007). The most vulnerable marine mammals are those that spend extended periods of time at the surface in order to restore oxygen levels within their tissues after deep dives (e.g., the sperm whale). In addition, some baleen whales, such as the North Atlantic right whale, seem generally unresponsive to vessel sound, making them more susceptible to vessel collisions (Nowacek et al., 2004). These species are primarily large, slow moving whales. Smaller marine mammals (e.g., bottlenose dolphin) move quickly through the water column and are often seen riding the bow wave of large ships. Marine mammal responses to vessels may include avoidance and changes in dive pattern (NRC 2003). An examination of all known ship strikes from all shipping sources (civilian and military) indicates vessel speed is a principal factor in whether a vessel strike results in death (Knowlton and Kraus 2001; Laist et al., 2001; Jensen and Silber 2003; Vanderlaan and Taggart 2007). In assessing records with known vessel speeds, Laist et al. (2001) found a direct relationship between the occurrence of a whale strike and the speed of the vessel involved in the collision. The authors concluded that most deaths occurred when a vessel was traveling in excess of 24.1 km/h (14.9 VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:10 Feb 21, 2018 Jkt 244001 mph; 13 knots (kn)). Given the slow vessel speeds and predictable course necessary for data acquisition, ship strike is unlikely to occur during the geophysical and geotechnical surveys. Marine mammals would be able to easily avoid the survey vessel due to the slow vessel speed. Further, Statoil would implement measures (e.g., protected species monitoring, vessel speed restrictions and separation distances; see Proposed Mitigation Measures) set forth in the BOEM lease to reduce the risk of a vessel strike to marine mammal species in the survey area. Marine Mammal Habitat There are no feeding areas, rookeries or mating grounds known to be biologically important to marine mammals within the proposed project area. The area is part of an important migratory area for North Atlantic right whales; this important migratory area is comprised of the waters of the continental shelf offshore the East Coast of the U.S. and extends from Florida through Massachusetts. Given the limited spatial extent of the proposed survey and the large spatial extent of the migratory area, we do not expect North Atlantic right whale migration to be negatively impacted by the proposed survey. There is no designated critical habitat for any ESA-listed marine mammals in the proposed survey area. NMFS’ regulations at 50 CFR part 224.105 designated the nearshore waters of the Mid-Atlantic Bight as the MidAtlantic U.S. Seasonal Management Area (SMA) for right whales in 2008. Mandatory vessel speed restrictions (less than 10 kn) are in place in that SMA from November 1 through April 30 to reduce the threat of collisions between ships and right whales around their migratory route and calving grounds. Bottom disturbance associated with the HRG survey activities may include grab sampling to validate the seabed classification obtained from the multibeam echosounder/sidescan sonar data. This will typically be accomplished using a Mini-Harmon Grab with 0.1 m2 sample area or the slightly larger Harmon Grab with a 0.2 m2 sample area. The HRG survey equipment will not contact the seafloor and does not represent a source of pollution. We are not aware of any available literature on impacts to marine mammal prey from HRG survey equipment. However, as the HRG survey equipment introduces noise to the marine environment, there is the potential for it to result in avoidance of the area around the HRG survey PO 00000 Frm 00015 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 activities on the part of marine mammal prey. Any avoidance of the area on the part of marine mammal prey would be expected to be short term and temporary. Because of the temporary nature of the disturbance, the availability of similar habitat and resources (e.g., prey species) 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. Impacts on marine mammal habitat from the proposed activities will be temporary, insignificant, and discountable. 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 ‘‘small numbers’’ 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, 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 be by Level B harassment, as use of the HRG equipment has the potential to result in disruption of behavioral patterns for individual marine mammals. NMFS has determined take by Level A harassment is not an expected outcome of the proposed activity and thus we do not propose to authorize the take of any marine mammals by Level A harassment. This is discussed in greater detail below. As described previously, no mortality or serious injury is anticipated or proposed to be authorized for this activity. Below we describe how the take is estimated for this project. 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 E:\FR\FM\22FEN1.SGM 22FEN1 7669 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 36 / Thursday, February 22, 2018 / Notices these ensonified areas; and, (4) and the number of days of activities. Below, we describe these components in more detail and present the proposed take estimate. Acoustic Thresholds NMFS uses 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—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 sound source (e.g., frequency, predictability, duty cycle); the environment (e.g., bathymetry); and the receiving animals (hearing, motivation, experience, demography, behavioral context); therefore can be difficult to predict (Southall et al., 2007, Ellison et al., 2011). NMFS uses a generalized acoustic threshold based on received level to estimate the onset of Level B (behavioral) harassment. NMFS predicts that marine mammals may be behaviorally harassed when exposed to underwater anthropogenic noise above received levels 160 dB re 1 mPa (rms) for non-explosive impulsive (e.g., seismic HRG equipment) or intermittent (e.g., scientific sonar) sources. Statoil’s proposed activity includes the use of impulsive sources. Therefore, the 160 dB re 1 mPa (rms) criteria is applicable for analysis of Level B harassment. Level A harassment—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 3 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: www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/ acoustics/guidelines.htm. As described above, Statoil’s proposed activity includes the use of intermittent and impulsive sources TABLE 3—THRESHOLDS IDENTIFYING THE ONSET OF PERMANENT THRESHOLD SHIFT IN MARINE MAMMALS PTS onset thresholds Hearing group Impulsive * 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 daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with NOTICES Here, we describe operational and environmental parameters of the activity that will feed into estimating the area ensonified above the acoustic thresholds. The proposed survey would entail the use of HRG survey equipment. The distance to the isopleth corresponding to the threshold for Level B harassment was calculated for all HRG survey VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:10 Feb 21, 2018 Jkt 244001 equipment with the potential to result in harassment of marine mammals (i.e., the USBL and the sub-bottom profilers; Table 1) based on source characteristics as described in Crocker and Fratantonio (2016) using the practical transmission loss (TL) equation: TL = 15log10r. Of the HRG survey equipment planned for use that has the potential to result in harassment of marine mammals, acoustic modeling indicated the Sig ELC 820 Sparker would be expected to PO 00000 Frm 00016 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 produce sound that would propagate the furthest in the water (Table 4); therefore, for the purposes of the take calculation, it was assumed the Sig ELC 820 Sparker would be active during the entirety of the survey. Thus the distance to the isopleth corresponding to the threshold for Level B harassment for the Sig ELC 820 Sparker (1,166 m; Table 4) was used as the basis of the Level B take calculation for all marine mammals. E:\FR\FM\22FEN1.SGM 22FEN1 7670 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 36 / Thursday, February 22, 2018 / Notices TABLE 4—PREDICTED RADIAL DISTANCES (m) FROM HRG SOURCES TO ISOPLETHS CORRESPONDING TO LEVEL B HARASSMENT THRESHOLD Modeled distance to threshold (160 dB re 1 μPa) HRG system HRG survey equipment Subsea Positioning/USBL .......................................................... Shallow penetration sub-bottom profiler ..................................... Medium penetration sub-bottom profiler .................................... Sonardyne Ranger 2 USBL ........................................................ EdgeTech 512i ........................................................................... SIG ELC 820 Sparker ................................................................ Predicted distances to Level A harassment isopleths, which vary based on marine mammal functional hearing groups (Table 5), were also calculated by Statoil. The updated acoustic thresholds for impulsive sounds (such as HRG survey equipment) contained in the Technical Guidance (NMFS, 2016) were presented as dual metric acoustic thresholds using both SELcum and peak sound pressure level metrics. 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 calculating 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 74 18 1,166 to facilitate the estimation of take numbers. Statoil used the NMFS optional User Spreadsheet to calculate distances to Level A harassment isopleths based on SELcum (shown in Appendix A of the IHA application) and used the practical spreading loss model (similar to the method used to calculate Level B isopleths as described above) to calculate distances to Level A harassment isopleths based on peak pressure. Modeled distances to isopleths corresponding to Level A harassment thresholds for the Sig ELC 820 Sparker are shown in Table 5. TABLE 5—MODELED RADIAL DISTANCES (m) TO ISOPLETHS CORRESPONDING TO LEVEL A HARASSMENT THRESHOLDS Functional hearing group (Level A harassment thresholds) SELcum1 Low frequency cetaceans (Lpk,flat: 219 dB; LE,LF,24h: 183 dB) ................................................................................ Mid frequency cetaceans (Lpk,flat: 230 dB; LE,MF,24h: 185 dB) ................................................................................ High frequency cetaceans (Lpk,flat: 202 dB; LE,HF,24h: 155 dB) .............................................................................. Phocid Pinnipeds (Underwater)(Lpk,flat: 218 dB; LE,HF,24h: 185 dB) ....................................................................... Peak SPLflat 9.8 0 3.6 2.6 n/a n/a 7.3 n/a daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with NOTICES 1 Distances to isopleths based on SEL cum were calculated in the NMFS optional User Spreadsheet based on the following inputs: Source level of 206 dB rms, source velocity of 2.06 meters per second, pulse duration of 0.008 seconds, repetition rate of 0.25 seconds, and weighting factor adjustment of 1.4 kHz. Isopleths shown for SELcum are different than those shown in the IHA application as one of the inputs used by the applicant was incorrect which resulted in outputs that were not accurate: The applicant entered an incorrect repetition rate of 4 seconds rather than the correct repetition rate of 0.25 seconds. NMFS therefore used the NMFS optional User Spreadsheet to calculate isopleths for SELcum for the Sig ELC 820 Sparker using the correct repetition rate. In this case, due to the very small estimated distances to Level A harassment thresholds for all marine mammal functional hearing groups, based on both SELcum and peak SPL (Table 5), and in consideration of the proposed mitigation measures, including marine mammal exclusion zones that greatly exceed the largest modeled isopleths to Level A harassment thresholds (see the Proposed Mitigation section for more detail) NMFS has determined that the likelihood of Level A take of marine mammals occurring as a result of the proposed survey is so low as to be discountable. We note that because of some of the assumptions included in the methods used, isopleths produced may be overestimates to some degree. The acoustic sources proposed for use in Statoil’s survey do not radiate sound equally in all directions but were VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:10 Feb 21, 2018 Jkt 244001 designed instead to focus acoustic energy directly toward the sea floor. Therefore, the acoustic energy produced by these sources is not received equally in all directions around the source but is instead concentrated along some narrower plane depending on the beamwidth of the source. However, the calculated distances to isopleths do not account for this directionality of the sound source and are therefore conservative. For mobile sources, such as the proposed 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. PO 00000 Frm 00017 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 The best available scientific information was considered in conducting marine mammal exposure estimates (the basis for estimating take). For cetacean species, densities calculated by Roberts et al. (2016) were used. The density data presented by Roberts et al. (2016) incorporates aerial and shipboard line-transect survey data from NMFS and from other organizations collected over the period 1992–2014. Roberts et al. (2016) modeled density from 8 physiographic and 16 dynamic oceanographic and biological covariates, and controlled for the influence of sea state, group size, availability bias, and perception bias on the probability of making a sighting. In general, NMFS considers the models produced by Roberts et al. (2016) to be the best available source of data regarding cetacean density in the Atlantic Ocean. More information, including the model results and E:\FR\FM\22FEN1.SGM 22FEN1 7671 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 36 / Thursday, February 22, 2018 / Notices supplementary information for each model, is available online at: seamap.env.duke.edu/models/Duke-ECGOM-2015/. For the purposes of the take calculations, density data from Roberts et al. (2016) were mapped within the boundary of the survey area for each survey segment (i.e., the Lease Area survey segment and the cable route area survey segment; See Figure 1 in the IHA application) using a geographic information system. Monthly density data for all cetacean species potentially taken by the proposed survey was available via Roberts et al. (2016). Monthly mean density within the survey area, as provided in Roberts et al. (2016), were averaged by season (i.e., Winter (December, January, February), Spring (March, April, May), Summer (June, July, August), Fall (September, October, November)) to provide seasonal density estimates. For the Lease Area survey segment, the highest average seasonal density as reported by Roberts et al. (2016) was used based on the planned survey dates of March through July. For the cable route area survey segment, the average spring seasonal densities within the maximum survey area were used, given the planned start date and duration of the survey within the cable route area. Systematic, offshore, at-sea survey data for pinnipeds are more limited than those for cetaceans. The best available information concerning pinniped densities in the proposed survey area is the U.S. Navy’s Navy Operating Area (OPAREA) Density Estimates (NODEs) (DoN, 2007). These density models utilized vessel-based and aerial survey data collected by NMFS from 1998– 2005 during broad-scale abundance studies. Modeling methodology is detailed in DoN (2007). The NODEs density estimates do not include density data for gray seals. For the purposes of this IHA, gray seal density in the project area was assumed to be the same as harbor seal density. Mid-Atlantic OPAREA Density Estimates (DoN, 2007) as reported for the spring and summer season were used to estimate pinniped densities for the purposes of the take calculations. occur within the daily ensonified area, using estimated marine mammal densities as described above. In this Take Calculation and Estimation case, estimated marine mammal density Here we describe how the information values varied between the Lease Area provided above is brought together to and cable route corridor survey areas, produce a quantitative take estimate. therefore the estimated number of each In order to estimate the number of species taken per survey day was marine mammals predicted to be calculated separately for the Lease Area exposed to sound levels that would survey area and cable route corridor result in harassment, radial distances to survey area. Estimated numbers of each predicted isopleths corresponding to species taken per day are then harassment thresholds are calculated, as multiplied by the number of survey described above. Those distances are days to generate an estimate of the total then used to calculate the area(s) around number of each species expected to be the HRG survey equipment predicted to taken over the duration of the survey. In be ensonified to sound levels that this case, as the estimated number of exceed harassment thresholds. The area each species taken per day varied estimated to be ensonified to relevant depending on survey area (Lease Area thresholds in a single day of the survey and cable route corridor), the number of is then calculated, based on areas each species taken per day in each predicted to be ensonified around the respective survey area was multiplied HRG survey equipment and estimated by the number of survey days trackline distance traveled per day by anticipated in each survey area (i.e., 123 the survey vessel. The estimated daily survey days in the Lease Area portion of vessel track line distance was the survey and 19 survey days in the determined using the estimated average cable route corridor portion of the speed of the vessel (4 kn) multiplied by survey) to get a total number of takes per 24 (to account for the 24 hour species in each respective survey area. operational period of the survey). Using Total take numbers for each respective the maximum distance to the Level B survey area (Lease Area and cable route harassment threshold of 1,166 m (Table corridor) were then rounded. These 4) and estimated daily track line numbers were then summed to get a distance of approximately 177.8 km total number of each species expected to (110.5 mi), it was estimated that an area be taken over the duration of all surveys 2 (161.7 mi2) per day would of 418.9 km (Table 9). be ensonified to the Level B harassment As described above, due to the very threshold (Table 6). small estimated distances to Level A harassment thresholds (based on both TABLE 6—ESTIMATED TRACK LINE DIS- SELcum and peak SPL; Table 5), and in TANCE PER DAY (KM) AND AREA consideration of the proposed (KM2) ESTIMATED TO BE ENSONIFIED mitigation measures, the likelihood of TO LEVEL B HARASSMENT THRESH- the proposed survey resulting in take in the form of Level A harassment is OLD PER DAY considered so low as to be discountable, Estimated area therefore we do not propose to authorize Estimated track line ensonified to Level B take of any marine mammals by Level distance per day harassment threshold (km) A harassment. Proposed take numbers per day (km2) are shown in Tables 7, 8 and 9. Take numbers proposed for authorization 177.8 418.9 (Tables 7, 8 and 9) are slightly different The number of marine mammals than those requested in the IHA expected to be incidentally taken per application (Table 7 in the IHA day is then calculated by estimating the application) due to slight differences in number of each species predicted to take calculation methods. TABLE 7—NUMBERS OF POTENTIAL INCIDENTAL TAKE OF MARINE MAMMALS PROPOSED FOR AUTHORIZATION IN CABLE ROUTE CORRIDOR PORTION OF SURVEY Density (#/1,000 km2) daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with NOTICES Species North Atlantic right whale ................................................................................ Humpback whale ............................................................................................. Fin whale ......................................................................................................... Sperm whale .................................................................................................... Minke whale ..................................................................................................... Bottlenose dolphin ........................................................................................... VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:10 Feb 21, 2018 Jkt 244001 PO 00000 Frm 00018 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Proposed Level A takes 0.04 0.02 0.1 0.01 0.03 9.65 E:\FR\FM\22FEN1.SGM Proposed Level B takes 0 0 0 0 0 0 22FEN1 3 2 8 1 2 768 Total proposed takes 3 2 8 1 2 768 7672 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 36 / Thursday, February 22, 2018 / Notices TABLE 7—NUMBERS OF POTENTIAL INCIDENTAL TAKE OF MARINE MAMMALS PROPOSED FOR AUTHORIZATION IN CABLE ROUTE CORRIDOR PORTION OF SURVEY—Continued Density (#/1,000 km2) Species Short-beaked common dolphin ........................................................................ Atlantic white-sided dolphin ............................................................................. Harbor porpoise ............................................................................................... Harbor seal ...................................................................................................... Gray seal ......................................................................................................... Proposed Level A takes 1.42 0.32 1.91 4.87 4.87 Proposed Level B takes 0 0 0 0 0 113 25 152 388 388 Total proposed takes 113 25 152 388 388 TABLE 8—NUMBERS OF POTENTIAL INCIDENTAL TAKE OF MARINE MAMMALS PROPOSED FOR AUTHORIZATION IN LEASE AREA PORTION OF SURVEY Density (#/1,000 km2) Species North Atlantic right whale ................................................................................ Humpback whale ............................................................................................. Fin whale ......................................................................................................... Sperm whale .................................................................................................... Minke whale ..................................................................................................... Bottlenose dolphin ........................................................................................... Short-beaked common dolphin ........................................................................ Atlantic white-sided dolphin ............................................................................. Harbor porpoise ............................................................................................... Harbor seal ...................................................................................................... Gray seal ......................................................................................................... Proposed Level A takes 0.03 0.04 0.17 0.01 0.07 1.53 3.06 0.78 4.09 4.87 4.87 Proposed Level B takes 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 15 21 88 5 36 788 1,577 402 2,107 2,509 2,509 Total proposed takes 15 21 88 5 36 788 1,577 402 2,107 2,509 2,509 TABLE 9—TOTAL NUMBERS OF POTENTIAL INCIDENTAL TAKE OF MARINE MAMMALS PROPOSED FOR AUTHORIZATION AND PROPOSED TAKES AS A PERCENTAGE OF POPULATION Proposed Level A takes Species North Atlantic right whale ................................................................................ Humpback whale ............................................................................................. Fin whale ......................................................................................................... Sperm whale .................................................................................................... Minke whale ..................................................................................................... Bottlenose dolphin ........................................................................................... Short-beaked common dolphin ........................................................................ Atlantic white-sided dolphin ............................................................................. Harbor porpoise ............................................................................................... Harbor seal ...................................................................................................... Gray seal ......................................................................................................... daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with NOTICES 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 VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:10 Feb 21, 2018 Jkt 244001 Proposed Level B takes 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 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 PO 00000 Frm 00019 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 18 23 96 6 38 1,556 1,690 427 2,259 2,897 2,897 Total proposed takes 18 23 96 6 38 1,556 1,690 427 2,259 2,897 2,897 Total proposed takes as a percentage of population 4.1 2.8 5.9 0.3 1.5 2.0 2.4 0.9 2.8 3.8 0.6 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 of effective implementation (probability implemented as planned), and; (2) The practicability of the measures for applicant implementation, which may consider such things as relative cost and impact on operations. E:\FR\FM\22FEN1.SGM 22FEN1 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 36 / Thursday, February 22, 2018 / Notices Proposed Mitigation Measures With NMFS’ input during the application process, and as per the BOEM Lease, Statoil is proposing the following mitigation measures during the proposed marine site characterization surveys. Marine Mammal Exclusion and Watch Zones As required in the BOEM lease, marine mammal exclusion zones (EZ) will be established around the HRG survey equipment and monitored by protected species observers (PSO) during HRG surveys as follows: • 50 m EZ for pinnipeds and delphinids (except harbor porpoises); • 100 m EZ for large whales including sperm whales and mysticetes (except North Atlantic right whales) and harbor porpoises; • 500 m EZ for North Atlantic right whales. In addition, PSOs will visually monitor to the extent of the Level B zone (1,166 m), or as far as possible if the extent of the Level B zone is not fully visible. Statoil intends to submit a sound source verification report showing sound levels associated with HRG survey equipment. If results of the sound source verification report indicate that actual distances to isopleths corresponding to harassment thresholds are larger than the EZs and/ or Level B monitoring zones, NMFS may modify the zone(s) accordingly. If results of source verification indicate that actual distances to isopleths corresponding to harassment thresholds are less than the EZs and/or Level B monitoring zones, Statoil has indicated an intention to request modification of the zone(s), as appropriate. NMFS would review any such request and may modify the zone(s) depending on review of the report on source verification. Any such modification may be superseded by EZs required by BOEM. daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with NOTICES Visual Monitoring As per the BOEM lease, visual and acoustic monitoring of the established exclusion and monitoring zones will be performed by qualified and NMFSapproved PSOs. It will be the responsibility of the Lead PSO on duty to communicate the presence of marine mammals as well as to communicate and enforce the action(s) that are necessary to ensure mitigation and monitoring requirements are implemented as appropriate. PSOs will be equipped with binoculars and have the ability to estimate distances to marine mammals located in proximity VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:10 Feb 21, 2018 Jkt 244001 to the vessel and/or exclusion zone using range finders. Reticulated binoculars will also be available to PSOs for use as appropriate based on conditions and visibility to support the siting and monitoring of marine species. Digital single-lens reflex camera equipment will be used to record sightings and verify species identification. During surveys conducted at night, night-vision equipment and infrared technology will be available for PSO use, and passive acoustic monitoring (PAM; described below) will be used. Pre-Clearance of the Exclusion Zone For all HRG survey activities, Statoil would implement a 30-minute preclearance period of the relevant EZs prior to the initiation of HRG survey equipment (as required by BOEM). During this period the EZs would be monitored by PSOs, using the appropriate visual technology for a 30minute period. HRG survey equipment would not be initiated if marine mammals are observed within or approaching the relevant EZs during this pre-clearance period. If a marine mammal were observed within or approaching the relevant EZ during the pre-clearance period, ramp-up would not begin until the animal(s) has been observed exiting the EZ or until an additional time period has elapsed with no further sighting of the animal (15 minutes for small delphinoid cetaceans and pinnipeds and 30 minutes for all other species). This pre-clearance requirement would include small delphinoids that approach the vessel (e.g., bow ride). PSOs would also continue to monitor the zone for 30 minutes after survey equipment is shut down or survey activity has concluded. Passive Acoustic Monitoring As required in the BOEM lease, PAM would be required during HRG surveys conducted at night. In addition, PAM systems would be employed during daylight hours as needed to support system calibration and PSO and PAM team coordination, as well as in support of efforts to evaluate the effectiveness of the various mitigation techniques (i.e., visual observations during day and night, compared to the PAM detections/ operations). PAM operators will also be on call as necessary during daytime operations should visual observations become impaired. BOEM’s lease stipulations require the use of PAM during nighttime operations. However, these requirements do not require that any mitigation action be taken upon acoustic detection of marine mammals. Given the range of species that could PO 00000 Frm 00020 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 7673 occur in the survey area, the PAM system will consist of an array of hydrophones with both broadband (sampling mid-range frequencies of 2 kHz to 200 kHz) and at least one lowfrequency hydrophone (sampling range frequencies of 75 Hz to 30 kHz). The PAM operator would monitor the hydrophone signals in real time both aurally (using headphones) and visually (via the monitor screen displays). PAM operator would communicate detections to the Lead PSO on duty who will ensure the implementation of the appropriate mitigation procedures. A mitigation and monitoring communications flow diagram has been included as Appendix C of the IHA application. Ramp-Up of Survey Equipment As required in the BOEM lease, where technically feasible, a ramp-up procedure would be used for HRG survey equipment capable of adjusting energy levels at the start or re-start of HRG survey activities. The ramp-up procedure would be used at the beginning of HRG survey activities in order to provide additional protection to marine mammals near the survey area by allowing them to vacate the area prior to the commencement of survey equipment use at full energy. A rampup would begin with the power of the smallest acoustic equipment at its lowest practical power output appropriate for the survey. When technically feasible the power would then be gradually turned up and other acoustic sources added in way such that the source level would increase gradually. Shutdown Procedures As required in the BOEM lease, if a marine mammal is observed within or approaching the relevant EZ (as described above) an immediate shutdown of the survey equipment is required. Subsequent restart of the survey equipment may only occur after the animal(s) has either been observed exiting the relevant EZ or until an additional time period has elapsed with no further sighting of the animal (15 minutes for delphinoid cetaceans and pinnipeds and 30 minutes for all other species). HRG survey equipment may be allowed to continue operating if small delphinids voluntarily approach the vessel (e.g., to bow ride) when HRG survey equipment is operating. As required in the BOEM lease, if the HRG equipment shuts down for reasons other than mitigation (i.e., mechanical or electronic failure) resulting in the cessation of the survey equipment for a period greater than 20 minutes, a 30 E:\FR\FM\22FEN1.SGM 22FEN1 7674 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 36 / Thursday, February 22, 2018 / Notices daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with NOTICES minute pre-clearance period (as described above) would precede the restart of the HRG survey equipment. If the pause is less than less than 20 minutes, the equipment may be restarted as soon as practicable at its full operational level only if visual surveys were continued diligently throughout the silent period and the EZs remained clear of marine mammals during that entire period. If visual surveys were not continued diligently during the pause of 20 minutes or less, a 30-minute preclearance period (as described above) would precede the re-start of the HRG survey equipment. Following a shutdown, HRG survey equipment may be restarted following pre-clearance of the zones as described above. Vessel Strike Avoidance Statoil will ensure that vessel operators and crew maintain a vigilant watch for cetaceans and pinnipeds by slowing down or stopping the vessel to avoid striking marine mammals. Survey vessel crew members responsible for navigation duties will receive sitespecific training on marine mammal sighting/reporting and vessel strike avoidance measures. Vessel strike avoidance measures will include, but are not limited to, the following, as required in the BOEM lease, except under circumstances when complying with these requirements would put the safety of the vessel or crew at risk: • All vessel operators and crew will maintain vigilant watch for cetaceans and pinnipeds, and slow down or stop their vessel to avoid striking these protected species; • All vessel operators will comply with 10 knot (18.5 km/hr) or less speed restrictions in any SMA per NOAA guidance. This applies to all vessels operating at any time of year; • All vessel operators will reduce vessel speed to 10 knots (18.5 km/hr) or less when any large whale, any mother/ calf pairs, pods, or large assemblages of non-delphinoid cetaceans are observed near (within 100 m [330 ft]) an underway vessel; • All survey vessels will maintain a separation distance of 500 m (1640 ft) or greater from any sighted North Atlantic right whale; • If underway, vessels must steer a course away from any sighted North Atlantic right whale at 10 knots (18.5 km/hr) or less until the 500 m (1640 ft) minimum separation distance has been established. If a North Atlantic right whale is sighted in a vessel’s path, or within 100 m (330 ft) to an underway vessel, the underway vessel must reduce speed and shift the engine to neutral. Engines will not be engaged until the VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:10 Feb 21, 2018 Jkt 244001 North Atlantic right whale has moved outside of the vessel’s path and beyond 100 m. If stationary, the vessel must not engage engines until the North Atlantic right whale has moved beyond 100 m; • All vessels will maintain a separation distance of 100 m (330 ft) or greater from any sighted non-delphinoid cetacean. If sighted, the vessel underway must reduce speed and shift the engine to neutral, and must not engage the engines until the nondelphinoid cetacean has moved outside of the vessel’s path and beyond 100 m. If a survey vessel is stationary, the vessel will not engage engines until the non-delphinoid cetacean has moved out of the vessel’s path and beyond 100 m; • All vessels will maintain a separation distance of 50 m (164 ft) or greater from any sighted delphinoid cetacean. Any vessel underway remain parallel to a sighted delphinoid cetacean’s course whenever possible, and avoid excessive speed or abrupt changes in direction. Any vessel underway reduces vessel speed to 10 knots (18.5 km/hr) or less when pods (including mother/calf pairs) or large assemblages of delphinoid cetaceans are observed. Vessels may not adjust course and speed until the delphinoid cetaceans have moved beyond 50 m and/or the abeam of the underway vessel; • All vessels underway will not divert or alter course in order to approach any whale, delphinoid cetacean, or pinniped. Any vessel underway will avoid excessive speed or abrupt changes in direction to avoid injury to the sighted cetacean or pinniped; and • All vessels will maintain a separation distance of 50 m (164 ft) or greater from any sighted pinniped. The training program would be provided to NMFS for review and approval prior to the start of surveys. Confirmation of the training and understanding of the requirements will be documented on a training course log sheet. Signing the log sheet will certify that the crew members understand and will comply with the necessary requirements throughout the survey event. Seasonal Operating Requirements Between watch shifts, members of the monitoring team will consult NMFS’ North Atlantic right whale reporting systems for the presence of North Atlantic right whales throughout survey operations. However, the proposed survey activities will occur outside of the SMA located off the coasts of New Jersey and New York. Members of the monitoring team will monitor the NMFS PO 00000 Frm 00021 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 North Atlantic right whale reporting systems for the establishment of a Dynamic Management Area (DMA). If NMFS should establish a DMA in the survey area, within 24 hours of the establishment of the DMA Statoil will work with NMFS to shut down and/or alter the survey activities to avoid the DMA. The proposed mitigation measures are designed to avoid the already low potential for injury in addition to some Level B harassment, and to minimize the potential for vessel strikes. There are no known marine mammal feeding areas, rookeries, or mating grounds in the survey area that would otherwise potentially warrant increased mitigation measures for marine mammals or their habitat (or both). The proposed survey would occur in an area that has been identified as a biologically important area for migration for North Atlantic right whales. However, given the small spatial extent of the survey area relative to the substantially larger spatial extent of the right whale migratory area, the survey is not expected to appreciably reduce migratory habitat nor to negatively impact the migration of North Atlantic right whales, thus mitigation to address the proposed survey’s occurrence in North Atlantic right whale migratory habitat is not warranted. Further, we believe the proposed mitigation measures are practicable for the applicant to implement. Based on our evaluation of the applicant’s proposed measures, NMFS has preliminarily determined that the proposed mitigation measures provide the means of 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 proposed action area. Effective reporting is critical both to compliance as well as ensuring that the most value is obtained from the required monitoring. E:\FR\FM\22FEN1.SGM 22FEN1 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 36 / Thursday, February 22, 2018 / Notices daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with NOTICES Monitoring and reporting requirements prescribed by NMFS should contribute to improved understanding of one or more of the following: • Occurrence of marine mammal species or stocks in the area in which take is anticipated (e.g., presence, abundance, distribution, density); • 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); • Individual marine mammal responses (behavioral or physiological) to acoustic stressors (acute, chronic, or cumulative), other stressors, or cumulative impacts from multiple stressors; • How anticipated responses to stressors impact either: (1) Long-term fitness and survival of individual marine mammals; or (2) populations, species, or stocks; • Effects on marine mammal habitat (e.g., marine mammal prey species, acoustic habitat, or other important physical components of marine mammal habitat); and • Mitigation and monitoring effectiveness. Proposed Monitoring Measures As described above, visual monitoring of the EZs and monitoring zone will be performed by qualified and NMFSapproved PSOs. Observer qualifications will include direct field experience on a marine mammal observation vessel and/or aerial surveys and completion of a PSO and/or PAM training program, as appropriate. As proposed by the applicant and required by BOEM, an observer team comprising a minimum of four NMFS-approved PSOs and a minimum of two certified PAM operator(s), operating in shifts, will be employed by Statoil during the proposed surveys. PSOs and PAM operators will work in shifts such that no one monitor will work more than 4 consecutive hours without a 2 hour break or longer than 12 hours during any 24-hour period. During daylight hours the PSOs will rotate in shifts of one on and three off, while during nighttime operations PSOs will work in pairs (per BOEM’s requirements?). The PAM operators will also be on call as necessary during daytime operations VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:10 Feb 21, 2018 Jkt 244001 should visual observations become impaired. Each PSO will monitor 360 degrees of the field of vision. Statoil will provide resumes of all proposed PSOs and PAM operators (including alternates) to NMFS for review and approval at least 45 days prior to the start of survey operations. Also as described above, PSOs will be equipped with binoculars and have the ability to estimate distances to marine mammals located in proximity to the vessel and/or exclusion zone using range finders. Reticulated binoculars will also be available to PSOs for use as appropriate based on conditions and visibility to support the siting and monitoring of marine species. Digital single-lens reflex camera equipment will be used to record sightings and verify species identification. During night operations, PAM, night-vision equipment, and infrared technology will be used to increase the ability to detect marine mammals. Position data will be recorded using hand-held or vessel global positioning system (GPS) units for each sighting. Observations will take place from the highest available vantage point on the survey vessel. General 360degree scanning will occur during the monitoring periods, and target scanning by the PSO will occur when alerted of a marine mammal presence. Data on all PAM/PSO observations will be recorded based on standard PSO collection requirements. This will include dates and locations of survey operations; time of observation, location and weather; details of the sightings (e.g., species, age classification [if known], numbers, behavior); and details of any observed ‘‘taking’’ (behavioral disturbances). The data sheet will be provided to NMFS for review and approval prior to the start of survey activities. In addition, prior to initiation of survey work, all crew members will undergo environmental training, a component of which will focus on the procedures for sighting and protection of marine mammals. A briefing will also be conducted between the survey supervisors and crews, the PSOs, and Statoil. The purpose of the briefing will be to establish responsibilities of each party, define the chains of command, discuss communication procedures, provide an overview of monitoring purposes, and review operational procedures. Acoustic Field Verification—As described above, field verification of sound levels associated with survey equipment will be conducted. Results of the field verification may be used to request modification of the EZs and monitoring zones. The details of the applicant’s plan for field verification of PO 00000 Frm 00022 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 7675 sound levels are provided as Appendix B to the IHA application. Proposed Reporting Measures Statoil will provide the following reports as necessary during survey activities: • The Applicant will contact NMFS within 24 hours of the commencement of survey activities and again within 24 hours of the completion of the activity. • Notification of Injured or Dead Marine Mammals—In the unanticipated event that the specified HRG and geotechnical activities lead to an injury of a marine mammal (Level A harassment) or mortality (e.g., shipstrike, gear interaction, and/or entanglement), Statoil would immediately cease the specified activities and report the incident to the Chief of the Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources and the NMFS Greater Atlantic Stranding Coordinator. The report would include the following information: • Time, date, and location (latitude/ longitude) of the incident; • Name and type of vessel involved; • Vessel’s speed during and leading up to the incident; • Description of the incident; • Status of all sound source use in the 24 hours preceding the incident; • Water depth; • Environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, Beaufort sea state, cloud cover, and visibility); • Description of all marine mammal observations in the 24 hours preceding the incident; • Species identification or description of the animal(s) involved; • Fate of the animal(s); and • Photographs or video footage of the animal(s) (if equipment is available). Activities would not resume until NMFS is able to review the circumstances of the event. NMFS would work with Statoil to minimize reoccurrence of such an event in the future. Statoil would not resume activities until notified by NMFS. In the event that Statoil discovers an injured or dead marine mammal and determines that the cause of the injury or death is unknown and the death is relatively recent (i.e., in less than a moderate state of decomposition), Statoil would immediately report the incident to the Chief of the Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources and the NMFS Greater Atlantic Stranding Coordinator. The report would include the same information identified in the paragraph above. Activities would be able to continue while NMFS reviews the E:\FR\FM\22FEN1.SGM 22FEN1 7676 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 36 / Thursday, February 22, 2018 / Notices daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with NOTICES circumstances of the incident. NMFS would work with Statoil to determine if modifications in the activities are appropriate. In the event that Statoil discovers an injured or dead marine mammal and determines that the injury or death is not associated with or related to the activities authorized in the IHA (e.g., previously wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced decomposition, or scavenger damage), Statoil would report the incident to the Chief of the Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, and the NMFS Greater Atlantic Regional Stranding Coordinator, within 24 hours of the discovery. Statoil would provide photographs or video footage (if available) or other documentation of the stranded animal sighting to NMFS. Statoil may continue its operations under such a case. • Within 90 days after completion of survey activities, a final technical report will be provided to NMFS that fully documents the methods and monitoring protocols, summarizes the data recorded during monitoring, estimates the number of marine mammals estimated to have been taken during survey activities, and provides an interpretation of the results and effectiveness of all mitigation and monitoring. Any recommendations made by NMFS must be addressed in the final report prior to acceptance by NMFS. 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. 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 VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:10 Feb 21, 2018 Jkt 244001 preamble for NMFS’s 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 9, given that NMFS expects the anticipated effects of the proposed survey to be similar in nature. NMFS does not anticipate that serious injury or mortality would occur as a result of Statoil’s proposed survey, even in the absence of proposed mitigation. Thus the proposed authorization does not authorize any serious injury or mortality. As discussed in the Potential Effects section, non-auditory physical effects and vessel strike are not expected to occur. We expect that all potential 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. In addition to being temporary and short in overall duration, the acoustic footprint of the proposed survey is small relative to the overall distribution of the animals in the area and their use of the area. Feeding behavior is not likely to be significantly impacted, as no areas of biological significance for marine mammal feeding are known to exist in the survey area. 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 feeding 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 PO 00000 Frm 00023 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 mammals or their populations. In addition, there are no rookeries or mating or calving areas known to be biologically important to marine mammals within the proposed project area. The proposed survey area is within a biologically important migratory area for North Atlantic right whales (effective March-April and November-December) that extends from Massachusetts to Florida (LaBrecque, et al., 2015). Off the coast of New York, this biologically important migratory area extends from the coast to the shelf break. Due to the fact that that the proposed survey is temporary and short in overall duration, and the fact that the spatial acoustic footprint of the proposed survey is very small relative to the spatial extent of the available migratory habitat in the area, right whale migration is not expected to be impacted by the proposed survey. The proposed mitigation measures are expected to reduce the number and/or severity of takes by (1) giving animals the opportunity to move away from the sound source before HRG survey equipment reaches full energy; (2) preventing animals from being exposed to sound levels that may otherwise result in injury. Additional vessel strike avoidance requirements will further mitigate potential impacts to marine mammals during vessel transit to and within the survey area. NMFS concludes that exposures to marine mammal species and stocks due to Statoil’s proposed survey would result in only short-term (temporary and short in duration) effects to individuals exposed. Marine mammals 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 species or stock through effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival: • No mortality, serious injury, or Level A harassment is anticipated or authorized; • The anticipated impacts of the proposed activity on marine mammals would be temporary behavioral changes due to avoidance of the area around the survey vessel; • 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; E:\FR\FM\22FEN1.SGM 22FEN1 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 36 / Thursday, February 22, 2018 / Notices • The proposed project area does not contain areas of significance for feeding, mating or calving; • Effects on species that serve as prey species for marine mammals from the proposed survey are not expected; • The proposed mitigation measures, including visual and acoustic monitoring 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. daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with NOTICES 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 and 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. The numbers of marine mammals that we propose for authorization to be taken, for all species and stocks, would be considered small relative to the relevant stocks or populations (less than 6 percent of each species and stock). See Table 9. 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 or stocks. 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 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. VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:10 Feb 21, 2018 Jkt 244001 Endangered Species Act Section 7(a)(2) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (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 NMFS Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office (GARFO), whenever we propose to authorize take for endangered or threatened species. The NMFS Office of Protected Resources is proposing to authorize the incidental take of three species of marine mammals which are listed under the ESA: The North Atlantic right, fin, and sperm whale. BOEM consulted with NMFS GARFO under section 7 of the ESA on commercial wind lease issuance and site assessment activities on the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey Wind Energy Areas. NMFS GARFO issued a Biological Opinion concluding that these activities may adversely affect but are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the North Atlantic right, fin, and sperm whale. The Biological Opinion can be found online at: www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/ marine-mammal-protection/incidentaltake-authorizations-other-energyactivities-renewable. NMFS will conclude the ESA section 7 consultation prior to reaching a determination regarding the proposed issuance of the authorization. If the IHA is issued, the Biological Opinion may be amended to include an incidental take statement for these marine mammal species, as appropriate. Proposed Authorization As a result of these preliminary determinations, NMFS proposes to issue an IHA to Statoil for conducting marine site assessment surveys offshore New York and along potential submarine cable routes from the date of issuance for a period of one year, 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 IHA is valid for a period of one year from the date of issuance. 2. This IHA is valid only for marine site characterization survey activity, as PO 00000 Frm 00024 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 7677 specified in the IHA application, in the Atlantic Ocean. 3. General Conditions. (a) A copy of this IHA must be in the possession of Statoil Wind U.S. LLC (Statoil), the vessel operator and other relevant personnel, the lead PSO, and any other relevant designees of Statoil operating under the authority of this IHA. (b) The species authorized for taking are listed in Table 9. The taking, by Level B harassment only, is limited to the species and numbers listed in Table 9. Any taking of species not listed in Table 9, or exceeding the authorized amounts listed in Table 9, is prohibited and may result in the modification, suspension, or revocation of this IHA. (c) The taking by injury, 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) Statoil shall ensure that the vessel operator and other relevant vessel personnel are briefed on all responsibilities, communication procedures, marine mammal monitoring protocols, 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) Statoil shall use at least four (4) NMFS-approved protected species observers (PSOs) during HRG surveys. 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 prior to commencement of the survey. (b) Visual monitoring must begin no less than 30 minutes prior to initiation of survey equipment and must continue until 30 minutes after use of survey equipment ceases. (c) Exclusion Zones and Watch Zone—PSOs shall establish and monitor marine mammal Exclusion Zones and Watch Zones. The Watch Zone shall represent the extent of the Level B harassment zone (1,166 m) or, as far as possible if the extent of the Level B zone is not fully visible. The Exclusion Zones are as follows: (i) a 50 m Exclusion Zone for pinnipeds and delphinids (except harbor porpoises); (ii) a 100 m Exclusion Zone for large whales including sperm whales and E:\FR\FM\22FEN1.SGM 22FEN1 daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with NOTICES 7678 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 36 / Thursday, February 22, 2018 / Notices mysticetes (except North Atlantic right whales) and harbor porpoises; (iii) a 500 m Exclusion Zone for North Atlantic right whales. (d) Shutdown requirements—If a marine mammal is observed within, entering, or approaching the relevant Exclusion Zones as described under 4(c) while geophysical survey equipment is operational, the geophysical survey equipment must be immediately shut down. (i) Any PSO on duty has the authority to call for shutdown of survey equipment. When there is certainty regarding the need for mitigation action on the basis of visual detection, the relevant PSO(s) must call for such action immediately. (ii) When a shutdown is called for by a PSO, the shutdown must occur and any dispute resolved only following shutdown. (iii) The shutdown requirement is waived for small delphinoids that approach the vessel (e.g., bow ride). (iv) Upon implementation of a shutdown, survey equipment may be reactivated when all marine mammals have been confirmed by visual observation to have exited the relevant Exclusion Zone or an additional time period has elapsed with no further sighting of the animal that triggered the shutdown (15 minutes for small delphinoid cetaceans and pinnipeds and 30 minutes for all other species). (v) If geophysical equipment shuts down for reasons other than mitigation (i.e., mechanical or electronic failure) resulting in the cessation of the survey equipment for a period of less than 20 minutes, the equipment may be restarted as soon as practicable if visual surveys were continued diligently throughout the silent period and the relevant Exclusion Zones are confirmed by PSOs to have remained clear of marine mammals during the entire 20 minute period. If visual surveys were not continued diligently during the pause of 20 minutes or less, a 30 minute pre-clearance period shall precede the restart of the geophysical survey equipment as described in 4(e). If the period of shutdown for reasons other than mitigation is greater than 20 minutes, a pre-clearance period shall precede the restart of the geophysical survey equipment as described in 4(e). (e) Pre-clearance observation—30 minutes of pre-clearance observation shall be conducted prior to initiation of geophysical survey equipment. geophysical survey equipment shall not be initiated if marine mammals are observed within or approaching the relevant Exclusion Zones as described under 4(d) during the pre-clearance VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:10 Feb 21, 2018 Jkt 244001 period. If a marine mammal is observed within or approaching the relevant Exclusion Zone during the pre-clearance period, geophysical survey equipment shall not be initiated until the animal(s) is confirmed by visual observation to have exited the relevant Exclusion Zone or until an additional time period has elapsed with no further sighting of the animal (15 minutes for small delphinoid cetaceans and pinnipeds and 30 minutes for all other species). (f) Ramp-up—when technically feasible, survey equipment shall be ramped up at the start or re-start of survey activities. Ramp-up will begin with the power of the smallest acoustic equipment at its lowest practical power output appropriate for the survey. When technically feasible the power will then be gradually turned up and other acoustic sources added in way such that the source level would increase gradually. (g) 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, as appropriate, to avoid striking any marine mammal, unless such action represents a human safety concern. Survey vessel crew members responsible for navigation duties shall receive site-specific training on marine mammal sighting/reporting and vessel strike avoidance measures. Vessel strike avoidance measures shall include the following, except under circumstances when complying with these requirements would put the safety of the vessel or crew at risk: (i) The vessel operator and crew shall maintain vigilant watch for cetaceans and pinnipeds, and slow down or stop the vessel to avoid striking marine mammals; (ii) The vessel operator will reduce vessel speed to 10 knots (18.5 km/hr) or less when any large whale, any mother/ calf pairs, whale or dolphin pods, or larger assemblages of non-delphinoid cetaceans are observed near (within 100 m (330 ft)) an underway vessel; (iii) The survey vessel will maintain a separation distance of 500 m (1640 ft) or greater from any sighted North Atlantic right whale; (iv) If underway, the vessel must steer a course away from any sighted North Atlantic right whale at 10 knots (18.5 km/hr) or less until the 500 m (1640 ft) minimum separation distance has been established. If a North Atlantic right whale is sighted in a vessel’s path, or within 100 m (330 ft) to an underway vessel, the underway vessel must reduce speed and shift the engine to neutral. Engines will not be engaged until the North Atlantic right whale has moved PO 00000 Frm 00025 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 outside of the vessel’s path and beyond 100 m. If stationary, the vessel must not engage engines until the North Atlantic right whale has moved beyond 100 m; (v) The vessel will maintain a separation distance of 100 m (330 ft) or greater from any sighted non-delphinoid cetacean. If sighted, the vessel underway must reduce speed and shift the engine to neutral, and must not engage the engines until the nondelphinoid cetacean has moved outside of the vessel’s path and beyond 100 m. If a survey vessel is stationary, the vessel will not engage engines until the non-delphinoid cetacean has moved out of the vessel’s path and beyond 100 m; (vi) The vessel will maintain a separation distance of 50 m (164 ft) or greater from any sighted delphinoid cetacean. Any vessel underway remain parallel to a sighted delphinoid cetacean’s course whenever possible, and avoid excessive speed or abrupt changes in direction. Any vessel underway reduces vessel speed to 10 knots (18.5 km/hr) or less when pods (including mother/calf pairs) or large assemblages of delphinoid cetaceans are observed. Vessels may not adjust course and speed until the delphinoid cetaceans have moved beyond 50 m and/or the abeam of the underway vessel; (vii) All vessels underway will not divert or alter course in order to approach any whale, delphinoid cetacean, or pinniped. Any vessel underway will avoid excessive speed or abrupt changes in direction to avoid injury to the sighted cetacean or pinniped; and (viii) All vessels will maintain a separation distance of 50 m (164 ft) or greater from any sighted pinniped. (ix) The vessel operator will comply with 10 knot (18.5 km/hr) or less speed restrictions in any Seasonal Management Area per NMFS guidance. (x) If NMFS should establish a Dynamic Management Area (DMA) in the area of the survey, within 24 hours of the establishment of the DMA Statoil shall work with NMFS to shut down and/or alter survey activities to avoid the DMA as appropriate. 5. Monitoring Requirements—The Holder of this Authorization is required to conduct marine mammal visual monitoring and passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) during geophysical survey activity. Monitoring shall be conducted in accordance with the following requirements: (a) A minimum of four NMFSapproved PSOs and a minimum of two certified (PAM) operator(s), operating in shifts, shall be employed by Statoil during geophysical surveys. E:\FR\FM\22FEN1.SGM 22FEN1 daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 36 / Thursday, February 22, 2018 / Notices (b) Observations shall take place from the highest available vantage point on the survey vessel. General 360-degree scanning shall occur during the monitoring periods, and target scanning by PSOs will occur when alerted of a marine mammal presence. (c) PSOs shall be equipped with binoculars and have the ability to estimate distances to marine mammals located in proximity to the vessel and/ or Exclusion Zones using range finders. Reticulated binoculars will also be available to PSOs for use as appropriate based on conditions and visibility to support the sighting and monitoring of marine species. Digital single-lens reflex camera equipment will be used to record sightings and verify species identification. (d) PAM shall be used during nighttime geophysical survey operations. The PAM system shall consist of an array of hydrophones with both broadband (sampling mid-range frequencies of 2 kHz to 200 kHz) and at least one low-frequency hydrophone (sampling range frequencies of 75 Hz to 30 kHz). PAM operators shall communicate detections or vocalizations to the Lead PSO on duty who shall ensure the implementation of the appropriate mitigation measure. (e) During night surveys, night-vision equipment and infrared technology shall be used in addition to PAM. Specifications for night-vision and infrared equipment shall be provided to NMFS for review and acceptance prior to start of surveys. (f) PSOs and PAM operators shall work in shifts such that no one monitor will work more than 4 consecutive hours without a 2 hour break or longer than 12 hours during any 24-hour period. During daylight hours the PSOs shall rotate in shifts of 1 on and 3 off, and while during nighttime operations PSOs shall work in pairs. (g) PAM operators shall also be on call as necessary during daytime operations should visual observations become impaired. (h) Position data shall be recorded using hand-held or vessel global positioning system (GPS) units for each sighting. (i) A briefing shall be conducted between survey supervisors and crews, PSOs, and Statoil to establish responsibilities of each party, define chains of command, discuss communication procedures, provide an overview of monitoring purposes, and review operational procedures. (j) Statoil shall provide resumes of all proposed PSOs and PAM operators (including alternates) to NMFS for VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:10 Feb 21, 2018 Jkt 244001 review and approval at least 45 days prior to the start of survey operations. (k) PSO Qualifications shall include direct field experience on a marine mammal observation vessel and/or aerial surveys. (a) Data on all PAM/PSO observations shall be recorded based on standard PSO collection requirements. PSOs must use standardized data forms, whether hard copy or electronic. The following information shall 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 PO 00000 Frm 00026 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 7679 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 and/or closest distance from the center point of the acoustic source; (P) Platform activity at time of sighting (e.g., deploying, recovering, testing, data acquisition, other); and (Q) Description of any actions implemented in response to the sighting (e.g., delays, shutdown, ramp-up, speed or course alteration, etc.) and time and location of the action. 6. Reporting—a technical report shall be provided to NMFS within 90 days after completion of survey activities that fully documents the methods and monitoring protocols, summarizes the data recorded during monitoring, estimates the number of marine mammals that may have been taken during survey activities, describes the effectiveness of the various mitigation techniques (i.e. visual observations during day and night compared to PAM detections/operations) and provides an interpretation of the results and effectiveness of all monitoring tasks. Any recommendations made by NMFS shall be addressed in the final report prior to acceptance by NMFS. (a) 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 prohibited by this IHA (if issued), such as serious injury or mortality, Statoil shall immediately cease the specified activities and immediately report the incident to NMFS. 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); E:\FR\FM\22FEN1.SGM 22FEN1 7680 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 36 / Thursday, February 22, 2018 / Notices daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with NOTICES (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 Statoil to determine what measures are necessary to minimize the likelihood of further prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. Statoil may not resume their activities until notified by NMFS. (ii) In the event that Statoil discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the lead PSO determines that the cause of the injury or death is unknown and the death is relatively recent (e.g., in less than a moderate state of decomposition), Statoil shall immediately report the incident to NMFS. 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 Statoil to determine whether additional mitigation measures or modifications to the activities are appropriate. (iii) In the event that Statoil discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the lead PSO determines that the injury or death is not associated with or related to the specified activities (e.g., previously wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced decomposition, or scavenger damage), Statoil shall report the incident to NMFS within 24 hours of the discovery. Statoil 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. Request for Public Comments We request comment on our analyses, the draft authorization, and any other aspect of this Notice of Proposed IHA for the proposed marine site characterization surveys. Please include with your comments any supporting data or literature citations to help inform our final decision on the request for MMPA authorization. On a case-by-case basis, NMFS may issue a one-year renewal IHA without additional notice when (1) another year VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:10 Feb 21, 2018 Jkt 244001 of identical or nearly identical activities as described in the Specified Activities section is planned, or (2) the activities would not be completed by the time the IHA expires and renewal would allow completion of the activities beyond that described in the Dates and Duration section, provided all of the following conditions are met: • A request for renewal is received no later than 60 days prior to expiration of the current IHA. • The request for renewal must include the following: (1) An explanation that the activities to be conducted beyond the initial dates either are identical to the previously analyzed activities or include changes so minor (e.g., reduction in pile size) that the changes do not affect the previous analyses, take estimates, or mitigation and monitoring requirements. (2) A preliminary monitoring report showing the results of the required monitoring to date and an explanation showing that the monitoring results do not indicate impacts of a scale or nature not previously analyzed or authorized. • Upon review of the request for renewal, the status of the affected species or stocks, and any other pertinent information, NMFS determines that there are no more than minor changes in the activities, the mitigation and monitoring measures remain the same and appropriate, and the original findings remain valid. Dated: February 16, 2018. Donna S. Wieting, Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2018–03611 Filed 2–21–18; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XF882 Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Astoria Waterfront Bridge Replacement Project 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 the City of Astoria for authorization to take marine mammals incidental to pile driving and SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00027 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 construction work during the Waterfront Bridge Replacement Project in Astoria, Oregon. 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. Comments and information must be received no later than March 26, 2018. DATES: 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.Fowler@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 https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/ national/marine-mammal-protection/ incidental-take-authorizationsconstruction-activities 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. ADDRESSES: FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Amy Fowler, 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: https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/ marine-mammal-protection/incidentaltake-authorizations-constructionactivities. 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 E:\FR\FM\22FEN1.SGM 22FEN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 83, Number 36 (Thursday, February 22, 2018)]
[Notices]
[Pages 7655-7680]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2018-03611]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XF850


Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; 
Taking Marine Mammals Incidental To Site Characterization Surveys Off 
of New York

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

[[Page 7656]]


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

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: NMFS has received a request from Statoil Wind U.S. LLC 
(Statoil) for authorization to take marine mammals incidental to marine 
site characterization surveys off the coast of New York as part of the 
Empire Wind Project in the area of the Commercial Lease of Submerged 
Lands for Renewable Energy Development on the Outer Continental Shelf 
(OCS-A 0512) (Lease Area) and coastal waters where one or more cable 
route corridors will be established. 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 authorizations and agency responses will be 
summarized in the final notice of our decision.

DATES: Comments and information must be received no later than March 
26, 2018.

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 [email protected].
    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/energy_other.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 applications 
and supporting documents, as well as a list of the references cited in 
this document, may be obtained by visiting the internet at: 
www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental/energy_other.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. 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 November 9, 2017, NMFS received a request from Statoil for an 
IHA to take marine mammals incidental to marine site characterization 
surveys off the coast of New York as part of the Empire Wind Project in 
the area of the Commercial Lease of Submerged Lands for Renewable 
Energy Development on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS-A 0512) and 
coastal waters where one or more cable route corridors will be 
established. A revised application was received on January 8, 2018. 
NMFS deemed that request to be adequate and complete. Statoil's request 
is for take of 11 marine mammal species by Level B harassment. Neither 
Statoil nor NMFS expects serious injury or mortality to result from 
this activity and the activity is expected to last no more than one 
year, therefore, an IHA is appropriate.

Description of the Proposed Activity

Overview

    Statoil proposes to conduct marine site characterization surveys 
including high-resolution geophysical (HRG) and geotechnical surveys in 
the marine environment of the approximately 79,350-acre Lease Area 
located approximately 11.5 nautical miles (nm) from Jones Beach, New 
York (see Figure 1 in the IHA application). Additionally, one or more 
cable route corridors will be established between the Lease Area and 
New York, identified as the Cable Route Area (see Figure 1 in the IHA 
application). See the IHA application for further information. Cable 
route corridors are anticipated to be 152 meters (m, 500 feet (ft)) 
wide and may have an overall length of as much as 135 nm. For the 
purpose of this IHA, the survey area is designated as the Lease Area 
and cable route corridors that will be established in advance of 
conducting the HRG survey activity. Water depths across the Lease Area 
range from approximately 22 to 41 m (72 to 135 ft) while the cable 
route corridors will extend to shallow water areas near landfall 
locations. Surveys would occur from approximately March 2018 through 
July 2018.

[[Page 7657]]

    The purpose of the marine site characterization surveys are to 
support the siting, design, and deployment of up to three 
meteorological data buoy deployment areas and to obtain a baseline 
assessment of seabed/sub-surface soil conditions in the Lease Area and 
cable route corridors to support the siting of the proposed wind farm. 
Underwater sound resulting from Statoil's proposed site 
characterization surveys have the potential to result in incidental 
take of marine mammals in the form of behavioral harassment.

Dates and Duration

    Surveys will last for approximately 20 weeks and are anticipated to 
commence upon issuance of the requested IHA, if appropriate. This 
schedule is based on 24-hour operations and includes potential down 
time due to inclement weather. Based on 24-hour operations, the 
estimated duration of the HRG survey activities would be approximately 
142 days (including estimated weather down time).

Specific Geographic Region

    Statoil's survey activities will occur in the approximately 79,350-
acre Lease Area located approximately 11.5 nm from Jones Beach, New 
York (see Figure 1 in the IHA application). Additionally, one or more 
cable route corridors would be surveyed between the Lease Area and New 
York. Cable route corridors are anticipated to be 152 meters (m, 500 
ft) wide and may have an overall length of as much as 135 nm.

Detailed Description of the Specified Activities

    Statoil's proposed marine site characterization surveys include HRG 
and geotechnical survey activities. These activities are described 
below.

HRG Survey Activities

    The HRG survey activities proposed by Statoil would include the 
following:
     Depth sounding (multibeam echosounder) to determine site 
bathymetry and elevations;
     Magnetic intensity measurements for detecting local 
variations in regional magnetic field from geological strata and 
potential ferrous objects on and below the bottom;
     Seafloor imaging (sidescan sonar survey) for seabed 
sediment classification purposes, to identify natural and man-made 
acoustic targets resting on the bottom as well as any anomalous 
features;
     Shallow penetration sub-bottom profiler (pinger/chirp) to 
map the near surface stratigraphy (top 0 to 5 m (0 to 16 ft) of soils 
below seabed);
     Medium penetration sub-bottom profiler (sparker) to map 
deeper subsurface stratigraphy as needed (soils down to 75 to 100 m 
(246 to 328 ft) below seabed); and
     Ultra short baseline positioning system (USBL) for 
position referencing for the dynamic positioning (DP) vessel.
    Table 1 identifies the representative survey equipment that may be 
used in support of planned HRG survey activities. The make and model of 
the listed HRG equipment will vary depending on availability but will 
be finalized as part of the survey preparations and contract 
negotiations with the survey contractor. The final selection of the 
survey equipment will be confirmed prior to the start of the HRG survey 
program. Any survey equipment selected would have characteristics 
similar to the systems described below, if different.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                      Representative HRG                                 RMS source level    Peak source level        Pulse duration
            HRG system                 survey equipment       Operating frequencies            \1\                  \1\                 (millisec)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Subsea Positioning/USBL...........  Sonardyne Ranger 2     35-50kHz                    188 dBrms            200 dBPeak           1.
                                     USBL\2\.
Sidescan Sonar....................  Klein 3900 Sidescan    445/900 kHz                 220 dBrms            226 dBPeak           0.0016 to 0.1.
                                     Sonar.
Shallow penetration sub-bottom      EdgeTech 512i........  0.4 to 12 kHz               179 dBrms            186 dBPeak           1.8 to 65.8.
 profiler.
Medium penetration sub-bottom       SIG ELC 820 Sparker..  0.9 to 1.4 kHz              206 dBrms            215 dBPeak           0.8.
 profiler.
Multibeam Echo Sounder............  Reson T20-P..........  200/300/400 kHz             221 dBrms            227 dBPeak           2 to 6.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ All source levels are measured at 1 m and are from Crocker and Fratantonio (2016) except those for the Sonardyne Ranger 2 USBL which are based on
  manufacturer specifications (as source levels for the Sonardyne Ranger 2 USBL are not listed in Crocker and Fratantonio (2016)).

    The HRG survey activities would be supported by a vessel 
approximately 30 to 55 m (98 to 180 ft) in length and capable of 
maintaining course and a survey speed of approximately 4 nm per hour 
(7.4 kilometers per hour (km/hr)) while transiting survey lines. 
Surveys would be conducted along tracklines spaced 30 m (98 ft) apart, 
with tie-lines spaced every 500 m (1640 ft). The multichannel array 
sub-bottom profiler would be operated on 150-m (492-ft) spaced primary 
lines, while the single channel array sub-bottom profiler would be 
operated on 30-m (98-ft) line spacing to meet Bureau of Ocean Energy 
Management (BOEM) requirements as set out in BOEM's Guidelines for 
Providing Geophysical, Geotechnical, and Geohazard Information Pursuant 
to Archeological and Historic Property Information to 30 CFR part 585.
    To minimize cost, the duration of survey activities, and the period 
of potential impact on marine species while surveying, Statoil has 
proposed that HRG survey operations would be conducted continuously 24 
hours per day. Based on 24-hour operations, the estimated duration of 
the HRG survey activities would be approximately 142 days (including 
estimated weather down time) including 123 survey days in the Lease 
Area and 19 survey days in the cable route corridors.
    The deployment of HRG survey equipment, including the equipment 
planned for use during Statoil's planned activity, produces sound in 
the marine environment that has the potential to result in harassment 
of marine mammals. Based on the frequency ranges of the potential 
equipment planned to be used in support of HRG survey activities (Table 
1) the ultra-short baseline (USBL) positioning system and the sub-
bottom profilers (shallow and medium penetration) operate within 
functional marine mammal hearing ranges and have the potential to 
result in harassment of marine mammals.

Geotechnical Survey Activities

    Statoil's proposed geotechnical survey activities would include the 
following:
     Vibracores would be taken to determine the geological and 
geotechnical characteristics of the sediments; and
     Cone Penetration Testing (CPT) would be performed to 
determine stratigraphy and in-situ conditions of the sediments.
    Statoil's proposed geotechnical survey activities would begin no 
earlier than March 2018 and would last up to 30 days. It is anticipated 
that geotechnical surveys would entail sampling of vibracores and CPT. 
A sample would be taken approximately every one kilometer (km) along 
the selected cable route, alternating between CPTs and vibracores, such 
that intervals for each vibracore and CPT location would be

[[Page 7658]]

approximately 2 km. Precise cable routes were not known at the time the 
IHA application was submitted. As many as three cable routes may be 
identified for geotechnical sampling, with cable routes likely to range 
in length from 20 km to 65 km. Assuming a maximum, minimum, and median 
route length for the three potential cable corridors, the total length 
of survey corridor would be approximately 128 km. Therefore it is 
anticipated that approximately 128 locations would be sampled 
(approximately one sample taken per km), located equidistant between 
the lease area and the New York shoreline (as depicted in Figure 1 of 
the IHA Application as the Cable Route Area). The duration of each 
sampling event would take approximately 2-4 hours and geotechnical 
survey activities would occur 24 hours per day during the survey. 
Statoil anticipates a production rate of approximately 5 samples per 
day.
    In considering whether marine mammal harassment is an expected 
outcome of exposure to a particular activity or sound source, NMFS 
considers both the nature of the exposure itself (e.g., the magnitude, 
frequency, or duration of exposure) and the conditions specific to the 
geographic area where the activity is expected to occur (i.e., whether 
the activity is planned in a foraging area, breeding area, nursery or 
pupping area, or other biologically important area for the species). We 
then consider the expected response of the exposed animal and whether 
the nature and duration or intensity of that response is expected to 
cause disruption of behavioral patterns (e.g., migration, breathing, 
nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering) or injury.
    Geotechnical survey activities would be conducted from a drill ship 
equipped with DP thrusters. DP thrusters would be used to position the 
sampling vessel on station and maintain position at each sampling 
location during the sampling activity. A ship has not yet been assigned 
to conduct the survey, but Statoil anticipates that survey activities 
would likely be conducted from a typical offshore sampling vessel, 
ranging from 250ft to 350ft (76 m to 107 m). Sound produced through use 
of DP thrusters is similar to that produced by transiting vessels and 
DP thrusters are typically operated in a similarly predictable manner. 
NMFS does not believe acoustic impacts from DP thrusters are likely to 
result in take of marine mammals in the absence of activity- or 
location-specific circumstances that may otherwise represent specific 
concerns for marine mammals (i.e., activities proposed in area known to 
be of particular importance for a particular species), or associated 
activities that may increase the potential to result in take when in 
concert with DP thrusters, largely due to the low likelihood of marine 
mammal behavioral response to DP thrusters that would rise to the level 
of a take (versus less consequential behavioral reactions). In this 
case, we are not aware of any such circumstances. Monitoring of past 
projects that entailed use of DP thrusters has shown a lack of observed 
marine mammal responses as a result of exposure to sound from DP 
thrusters. Therefore, NMFS believes the likelihood of DP thrusters used 
during the proposed geotechnical surveys resulting in harassment of 
marine mammals to be so low as to be discountable. As DP thrusters are 
not expected to result in take of marine mammals, these activities are 
not analyzed further in this document.
    Vibracoring entails driving a hydraulic or electric pulsating head 
through a hollow tube into the seafloor to recover a stratified 
representation of the sediment. The vibracoring process is short in 
duration and is performed from a dynamic positioning vessel. The vessel 
would use DP thrusters to maintain the vessel's position while the 
vibracore sample is taken, as described above. The vibracoring process 
would always be performed in concert with DP thrusters, and DP 
thrusters would begin operating prior to the activation of the 
vibracore to maintain the vessel's position; thus, we expect that any 
marine mammals in the project area would detect the presence and noise 
associated with the vessel and the DP thrusters prior to commencement 
of vibracoring. Any reaction by marine mammals would be expected to be 
similar to reactions to the concurrent vessel noise, which are expected 
to be minor and short term. In this case, vibracoring is not planned in 
any areas of particular biological significance for any marine mammals. 
Thus while a marine mammal may perceive noise from vibracoring and may 
respond briefly, we believe the potential for this response to rise to 
the level of take to be so low as to be discountable, based on the 
short duration of the activity and the fact that marine mammals would 
be expected to react to the vessel and DP thrusters before vibracoring 
commences, potentially through brief avoidance. In addition, the fact 
that the geographic area is not biologically important for any marine 
mammal species means that such reactions are not likely to carry any 
meaningful significance for the animals.
    Field studies conducted off the coast of Virginia to determine the 
underwater noise produced by CPTs found that these activities did not 
result in underwater noise levels that exceeded current thresholds for 
Level B harassment of marine mammals (Kalapinski, 2015). Given the 
small size and energy footprint of CPTs, NMFS believes the likelihood 
that noise from these activities would exceed the Level B harassment 
threshold at any appreciable distance is so low as to be discountable. 
Therefore, geotechnical survey activities, including CPT and 
vibracores, are not expected to result in harassment of marine mammals 
and are not analyzed further in this document.
    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 Activity

    Sections 3 and 4 of Statoil's IHA application summarize available 
information regarding status and trends, distribution and habitat 
preferences, and behavior and life history, of the potentially affected 
species. Additional information regarding population trends and threats 
may be found in NMFS's Stock Assessment Reports (SAR; 
www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/sars/) and more general information about these 
species (e.g., physical and behavioral descriptions) may be found on 
NMFS's website (www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/mammals/).
    Table 2 lists all species with expected potential for occurrence in 
the survey area and summarizes information related to the population or 
stock, including regulatory status under the MMPA and ESA and potential 
biological removal (PBR), where known. For taxonomy, we follow 
Committee on Taxonomy (2017). PBR is 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 (as described in NMFS's 
SARs). While no mortality is anticipated or authorized here, PBR is 
included here as gross indicators of the status of the species and 
other threats.
    Marine mammal abundance estimates presented in this document 
represent the total number of individuals that make up a given stock or 
the total number estimated within a particular study or survey area. 
NMFS's stock abundance estimates for most species represent the total 
estimate of

[[Page 7659]]

individuals within the geographic area, if known, that comprises that 
stock. For some species, this geographic area may extend beyond U.S. 
waters. All managed stocks in this region are assessed in NMFS's U.S. 
2017 draft SARs (e.g., Hayes et al., 2018). All values presented in 
Table 2 are the most recent available at the time of publication and 
are available in the 2017 draft SARs (Hayes et al., 2018).

                            Table 2--Marine Mammals Known To Occur in the Survey Area
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                     NMFS MMPA    Stock Abundance
                                                      and ESA     (CV,Nmin, most                 Occurrence and
          Common name                 Stock           status;    recent abundance    PBR \3\     seasonality in
                                                   strategic (Y/    survey) \2\                  the NW Atlantic
                                                      N) \1\                                           OCS
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                           Toothed whales (Odontoceti)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Atlantic white-sided dolphin    W. North Atlantic  -; N          48,819 (0.61;     304          rare.
 (Lagenorhynchus acutus).                                         30,403; n/a).
Atlantic spotted dolphin        W. North Atlantic  -; N          44,715 (0.43;     316          rare.
 (Stenella frontalis).                                            31,610; n/a).
Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops    W. North           -; N          77,532 (0.40;     561          Common year
 truncatus).                     Atlantic,                        56,053; 2011).                 round.
                                 Offshore.
Clymene dolphin (Stenella       W. North Atlantic  -; N          Unknown (unk;     Undet        rare.
 clymene).                                                        unk; n/a).
Pantropical Spotted dolphin     W. North Atlantic  -; N          3,333 (0.91;      17           rare.
 (Stenella attenuata).                                            1,733; n/a).
Risso's dolphin (Grampus        W. North Atlantic  -; N          18,250 (0.46;     126          rare.
 griseus).                                                        12,619; n/a).
Short-beaked common dolphin     W. North Atlantic  -; N          70,184 (0.28;     557          Common year
 (Delphinus delphis).                                             55,690; 2011).                 round.
Striped dolphin (Stenella       W. North Atlantic  -; N          54,807 (0.3;      428          rare.
 coeruleoalba).                                                   42,804; n/a).
Spinner Dolphin (Stenella       W. North Atlantic  -; N          Unknown (unk;     Undet        rare.
 longirostris).                                                   unk; n/a).
White-beaked dolphin            W. North Atlantic  -; N          2,003 (0.94;      10           rare.
 (Lagenorhynchus albirostris).                                    1,023; n/a).
Harbor porpoise (Phocoena       Gulf of Maine/Bay  -; N          79,833 (0.32;     706          Common year
 phocoena).                      of Fundy.                        61,415; 2011).                 round.
Killer whale (Orcinus orca)...  W. North Atlantic  -; N          Unknown (unk;     Undet        rare.
                                                                  unk; n/a).
False killer whale (Pseudorca   W. North Atlantic  -; Y          442 (1.06; 212;   2.1          rare.
 crassidens).                                                     n/a).
Long-finned pilot whale         W. North Atlantic  -; Y          5,636 (0.63;      35           rare.
 (Globicephala melas).                                            3,464; n/a).
Short-finned pilot whale        W. North Atlantic  -; Y          21,515 (0.37;     159          rare.
 (Globicephala macrorhynchus).                                    15,913; n/a).
Sperm whale (Physeter           North Atlantic...  E; Y          2,288 (0.28;      3.6          Year round in
 macrocephalus).                                                  1,815; n/a).                   continental
                                                                                                 shelf and slope
                                                                                                 waters, occur
                                                                                                 seasonally to
                                                                                                 forage.
Pygmy sperm whale \4\ (Kogia    W. North Atlantic  -; N          3,785 (0.47;      26           rare.
 breviceps).                                                      2,598; n/a).
Dwarf sperm whale \4\ (Kogia    W. North Atlantic  -; N          3,785 (0.47;      26           rare.
 sima).                                                           2,598; n/a).
Cuvier's beaked whale (Ziphius  W. North Atlantic  -; N          6,532 (0.32;      50           rare.
 cavirostris).                                                    5,021; n/a).
Blainville's beaked whale \5\   W. North Atlantic  -; N          7,092 (0.54;      46           rare.
 (Mesoplodon densirostris).                                       4,632; n/a).
Gervais' beaked whale \5\       W. North Atlantic  -; N          7,092 (0.54;      46           rare.
 (Mesoplodon europaeus).                                          4,632; n/a).
True's beaked whale \5\         W. North Atlantic  -; N          7,092 (0.54;      46           rare.
 (Mesoplodon mirus).                                              4,632; n/a).
Sowerby's Beaked Whale \5\      W. North Atlantic  -; N          7,092 (0.54;      46           rare.
 (Mesoplodon bidens).                                             4,632; n/a).
Rough-toothed dolphin (Steno    W. North Atlantic  -; N          271 (1.0; 134;    1.3          rare.
 bredanensis).                                                    2013).
Melon-headed whale              W. North Atlantic  -; N          Unknown (unk;     Undet        rare.
 (Peponocephala electra).                                         unk; n/a).
Northern bottlenose whale       W. North Atlantic  -; N          Unknown (unk;     Undet        rare.
 (Hyperoodon ampullatus).                                         unk; n/a).
Pygmy killer whale (Feresa      W. North Atlantic  -; N          Unknown (unk;     Undet        rare.
 attenuata).                                                      unk; n/a).
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                            Baleen whales (Mysticeti)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Minke whale (Balaenoptera       Canadian East      -; N          2,591 (0.81;      162          Year round in
 acutorostrata).                 Coast.                           1,425; n/a).                   continental
                                                                                                 shelf and slope
                                                                                                 waters, occur
                                                                                                 seasonally to
                                                                                                 forage.
Blue whale (Balaenoptera        W. North Atlantic  E; Y          Unknown (unk;     0.9          Year round in
 musculus).                                                       440; n/a).                     continental
                                                                                                 shelf and slope
                                                                                                 waters, occur
                                                                                                 seasonally to
                                                                                                 forage.
Fin whale (Balaenoptera         W. North Atlantic  E; Y          1,618 (0.33;      2.5          Year round in
 physalus).                                                       1,234; n/a).                   continental
                                                                                                 shelf and slope
                                                                                                 waters, occur
                                                                                                 seasonally to
                                                                                                 forage.
Humpback whale (Megaptera       Gulf of Maine....  -; N          823 (0; 823; n/   2.7          Common year
 novaeangliae).                                                   a).                            round.
North Atlantic right whale      W. North Atlantic  E; Y          458 (0; 455; n/   1.4          Year round in
 (Eubalaena glacialis).                                           a).                            continental
                                                                                                 shelf and slope
                                                                                                 waters, occur
                                                                                                 seasonally to
                                                                                                 forage.
Sei whale (Balaenoptera         Nova Scotia......  E; Y          357 (0.52; 236;   0.5          Year round in
 borealis).                                                       n/a).                          continental
                                                                                                 shelf and slope
                                                                                                 waters, occur
                                                                                                 seasonally to
                                                                                                 forage.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                            Earless seals (Phocidae)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Gray seal \6\ (Halichoerus      W. North Atlantic  -; N          27,131 (0.10;     1,554        Unlikely.
 grypus).                                                         25,908; n/a).
Harbor seal (Phoca vitulina)..  W. North Atlantic  -; N          75,834 (0.15;     2,006        Common year
                                                                  66,884; 2012).                 round.
Hooded seal (Cystophora         W. North Atlantic  -; N          Unknown (unk;     Undet        rare.
 cristata).                                                       unk; n/a).

[[Page 7660]]

 
Harp seal (Phoca groenlandica)  North Atlantic...  -; N          Unknown (unk;     Undet        rare.
                                                                  unk; n/a).
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ 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 (see footnote 3) 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\ CV is coefficient of variation; Nmin is the minimum estimate of stock abundance. In some cases, CV is not
  applicable. For certain stocks, abundance estimates are actual counts of animals and there is no associated
  CV. The most recent abundance survey that is reflected in the abundance estimate is presented; there may be
  more recent surveys that have not yet been incorporated into the estimate. All values presented here are from
  the 2016 Atlantic SARs.
\3\ Potential biological removal, 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 size (OSP).
\4\ Abundance estimate includes both dwarf and pygmy sperm whales.
\5\ Abundance estimate includes all species of Mesoplodon in the Atlantic.
\6\ Abundance estimate applies to U.S. population only, actual abundance is believed to be much larger.

    All species that could potentially occur in the proposed survey 
areas are included in Table 2. However, the temporal and/or spatial 
occurrence of 26 of the 37 species listed in Table 2 is such that take 
of these species is not expected to occur, and they are not discussed 
further beyond the explanation provided here. Take of these species is 
not anticipated either because they have very low densities in the 
project area, are known to occur further offshore than the project 
area, or are considered very unlikely to occur in the project area 
during the proposed survey due to the species' seasonal occurrence in 
the area.
    Three marine mammal species are listed under the Endangered Species 
Act (ESA) and are known to be present, at least seasonally, in the 
survey area and are included in the take request: North Atlantic right 
whale, fin whale, and sperm whale.
    Below is a description of the species that are both common in the 
survey area southeast of New York and that have the highest likelihood 
of occurring, at least seasonally, in the survey area and are thus are 
expected to be potentially be taken by the proposed activities. For the 
majority of species potentially present in the specific geographic 
region, NMFS has designated only a single generic stock (e.g., 
``western North Atlantic'') for management purposes. This includes the 
``Canadian east coast'' stock of minke whales, which includes all minke 
whales found in U.S. waters. For humpback and sei whales, NMFS defines 
stocks on the basis of feeding locations, i.e., Gulf of Maine and Nova 
Scotia, respectively. However, our reference to humpback whales and sei 
whales in this document refers to any individuals of the species that 
are found in the specific geographic region.

North Atlantic Right Whale

    The North Atlantic right whale ranges from the calving grounds in 
the southeastern United States to feeding grounds in New England waters 
and into Canadian waters (Waring et al., 2016). Surveys have 
demonstrated the existence of seven areas where North Atlantic right 
whales congregate seasonally, including Georges Bank, Cape Cod, and 
Massachusetts Bay (Waring et al., 2016). In the late fall months (e.g., 
October), right whales generally disappear from the feeding grounds in 
the North Atlantic and move south to their breeding grounds. The 
proposed survey area is within the North Atlantic right whale migratory 
corridor. During the proposed survey (i.e., March through August) right 
whales may be migrating through the proposed survey area and the 
surrounding waters.
    The western North Atlantic population demonstrated overall growth 
of 2.8 percent per year between 1990 to 2010, despite a decline in 1993 
and no growth between 1997 and 2000 (Pace et al. 2017). However, since 
2010 the population has been in decline, with a 99.99 percent 
probability of a decline of just under 1 percent per year (Pace et al. 
2017). Between 1990 and 2015, calving rates varied substantially, with 
low calving rates coinciding with all three periods of decline or no 
growth (Pace et al. 2017). On average, North Atlantic right whale 
calving rates are estimated to be roughly half that of southern right 
whales (Eubalaena australis) (Pace et al. 2017), which are increasing 
in abundance (NMFS 2015).
    The current abundance estimate for this stock is 458 individuals 
(Hayes et al., 2018). Data indicates that the number of adult females 
fell from 200 in 2010 to 186 in 2015 while males fell from 283 to 272 
in the same timeframe (Pace et al., 2017). In addition, elevated North 
Atlantic right whale mortalities have occurred since June 7, 2017. A 
total of 17 confirmed dead stranded whales (12 in Canada; 5 in the 
United States), with an additional 5 live whale entanglements in 
Canada, have been documented to date. This event has been declared an 
Unusual Mortality Event (UME). More information is available online at: 
http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/health/mmume/2017northatlanticrightwhaleume.html.

Humpback Whale

    Humpback whales are found worldwide in all oceans. The humpback 
whale population within the North Atlantic has been estimated to 
include approximately 11,570 individuals (Waring et al., 2016). 
Humpbacks occur off southern New England in all four seasons, with peak 
abundance in spring and summer. In winter, humpback whales from waters 
off New England, Canada, Greenland, Iceland, and Norway migrate to mate 
and calve primarily in the West Indies (including the Antilles, the 
Dominican Republic, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico), where spatial 
and genetic mixing among these groups occurs (Waring et al., 2015). 
While migrating, humpback whales utilize the mid-Atlantic as a 
migration pathway between calving/mating grounds to the south and 
feeding grounds in the north (Waring et al. 2007).
    Since January 2016, elevated humpback whale mortalities have 
occurred along the Atlantic coast from Maine through North Carolina. 
Partial or full necropsy examinations have been conducted on 
approximately half of the 62 known cases. A portion of the whales have 
shown evidence of pre-mortem vessel strike; however, this finding is 
not consistent across all of the whales examined so more research is 
needed. NOAA is consulting with researchers that are conducting studies 
on the

[[Page 7661]]

humpback whale populations, and these efforts may provide information 
on changes in whale distribution and habitat use that could provide 
additional insight into how these vessel interactions occurred. Three 
previous UMEs involving humpback whales have occurred since 2000, in 
2003, 2005, and 2006. More information is available at 
www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/health/mmume/2017humpbackatlanticume.html.

Fin Whale

    Fin whales are common in waters of the U.S. Atlantic Exclusive 
Economic Zone (EEZ), principally from Cape Hatteras northward (Waring 
et al., 2016). Fin whales are present north of 35-degree latitude in 
every season and are broadly distributed throughout the western North 
Atlantic for most of the year (Waring et al., 2016). Fin whales are 
found in small groups of up to 5 individuals (Brueggeman et al., 1987). 
The current abundance estimate for the western North Atlantic stock of 
fin whales is 1,618 individuals (Hayes et al., 2017). The main threats 
to fin whales are fishery interactions and vessel collisions (Waring et 
al., 2016).

Minke Whale

    Minke whales can be found in temperate, tropical, and high-latitude 
waters. The Canadian East Coast stock can be found in the area from the 
western half of the Davis Strait (45[deg] W) to the Gulf of Mexico 
(Waring et al., 2016). This species generally occupies waters less than 
100 m deep on the continental shelf. There appears to be a strong 
seasonal component to minke whale distribution in which spring to fall 
are times of relatively widespread and common occurrence, and when the 
whales are most abundant in New England waters, while during winter the 
species appears to be largely absent (Waring et al., 2016). The main 
threats to this stock are interactions with fisheries, strandings, and 
vessel collisions.

Sperm Whale

    The distribution of the sperm whale in the U.S. EEZ occurs on the 
continental shelf edge, over the continental slope, and into mid-ocean 
regions (Waring et al., 2014). The basic social unit of the sperm whale 
appears to be the mixed school of adult females plus their calves and 
some juveniles of both sexes, normally numbering 20-40 animals in all. 
There is evidence that some social bonds persist for many years 
(Christal et al., 1998). This species forms stable social groups, site 
fidelity, and latitudinal range limitations in groups of females and 
juveniles (Whitehead, 2002). In summer, the distribution of sperm 
whales includes the area east and north of Georges Bank and into the 
Northeast Channel region, as well as the continental shelf (inshore of 
the 100-m isobath) south of New England. In the fall, sperm whale 
occurrence south of New England on the continental shelf is at its 
highest level, and there remains a continental shelf edge occurrence in 
the mid-Atlantic bight. In winter, sperm whales are concentrated east 
and northeast of Cape Hatteras. The current abundance estimate for this 
stock is 2,288 (Hayes et al., 2017).

Atlantic White-Sided Dolphin

    White-sided dolphins are found in temperate and sub-polar waters of 
the North Atlantic, primarily in continental shelf waters to the 100-m 
depth contour from central West Greenland to North Carolina (Waring et 
al., 2016). There are three stock units: Gulf of Maine, Gulf of St. 
Lawrence, and Labrador Sea stocks (Palka et al., 1997). The Gulf of 
Maine population of white-sided dolphins is most common in continental 
shelf waters from Hudson Canyon (approximately 39[deg] N) to Georges 
Bank, and in the Gulf of Maine and lower Bay of Fundy. Sighting data 
indicate seasonal shifts in distribution (Northridge et al., 1997). 
During January to May, low numbers of white-sided dolphins are found 
from Georges Bank to Jeffreys Ledge (off New Hampshire), with even 
lower numbers south of Georges Bank, as documented by a few strandings 
collected on beaches of Virginia to South Carolina. From June through 
September, large numbers of white-sided dolphins are found from Georges 
Bank to the lower Bay of Fundy. From October to December, white-sided 
dolphins occur at intermediate densities from southern Georges Bank to 
southern Gulf of Maine (Payne and Heinemann 1990). Sightings south of 
Georges Bank, particularly around Hudson Canyon, occur year round but 
at low densities. The current abundance estimate for this stock is 
48,819 (Hayes et al., 2017). The main threat to this species is 
interactions with fisheries.

Short-Beaked Common Dolphin

    The short-beaked common dolphin is found worldwide in temperate to 
subtropical seas. In the North Atlantic, short-beaked common dolphins 
are commonly found over the continental shelf between the 100-m and 
2,000-m isobaths and over prominent underwater topography and east to 
the mid-Atlantic Ridge (Waring et al., 2016). Only the western North 
Atlantic stock may be present in the Lease Area. The current abundance 
estimate for this stock is 70,184 animals (Hayes et al., 2017). The 
main threat to this species is interactions with fisheries.

Bottlenose Dolphin

    There are two distinct bottlenose dolphin morphotypes: The coastal 
and offshore forms in the western North Atlantic (Waring et al., 2016). 
The offshore form is distributed primarily along the outer continental 
shelf and continental slope in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean from 
Georges Bank to the Florida Keys and is the only type that may be 
present in the survey area as the survey area is north of the northern 
extent of the range of the Western North Atlantic Northern Migratory 
Coastal Stock. The current abundance estimate for the western north 
Atlantic stock is 77,532 (Hayes et al., 2017). The main threat to this 
species is interactions with fisheries.

Harbor Porpoise

    In the Lease Area, only the Gulf of Maine/Bay of Fundy stock may be 
present. This stock is found in U.S. and Canadian Atlantic waters and 
is concentrated in the northern Gulf of Maine and southern Bay of Fundy 
region, generally in waters less than 150 m deep (Waring et al., 2016). 
They are seen from the coastline to deep waters (>1800 m; Westgate et 
al. 1998), although the majority of the population is found over the 
continental shelf (Waring et al., 2016). Average group size for this 
stock in the Bay of Fundy is approximately four individuals (Palka 
2007). The current abundance estimate for this stock is 79,883 (Hayes 
et al., 2017). The main threat to this species is interactions with 
fisheries, with documented take in the U.S. northeast sink gillnet, 
mid-Atlantic gillnet, and northeast bottom trawl fisheries and in the 
Canadian herring weir fisheries (Waring et al., 2016).

Harbor Seal

    The harbor seal is found in all nearshore waters of the North 
Atlantic and North Pacific Oceans and adjoining seas above about 
30[deg] N (Burns, 2009). In the western North Atlantic, they are 
distributed from the eastern Canadian Arctic and Greenland south to 
southern New England and New York, and occasionally to the Carolinas 
(Waring et al., 2016). Haulout and pupping sites are located off 
Manomet, MA and the Isles of Shoals, ME, but generally do not occur in 
areas in southern New England (Waring et al., 2016). The current 
abundance estimate for this stock is 75,834 (Hayes et al., 2017). The 
main

[[Page 7662]]

threat to this species is interactions with fisheries.

Gray Seal

    There are three major populations of gray seals found in the world; 
eastern Canada (western North Atlantic stock), northwestern Europe and 
the Baltic Sea. The gray seals that occur in the Project Area belong to 
the western North Atlantic stock, which ranges from New Jersey to 
Labrador. Current population trends show that gray seal abundance is 
likely increasing in the U.S. Atlantic EEZ (Waring et al., 2016). 
Although the rate of increase is unknown, surveys conducted since their 
arrival in the 1980s indicate a steady increase in abundance in both 
Maine and Massachusetts (Waring et al., 2016). It is believed that 
recolonization by Canadian gray seals is the source of the U.S. 
population (Waring et al., 2016).

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 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 Hertz (Hz) and 35 
kilohertz (kHz);
     Mid-frequency cetaceans (larger toothed whales, beaked 
whales, and most delphinids): generalized hearing is estimated to occur 
between approximately 150 Hz and 160 kHz;
     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.
     Pinnipeds in water; Phocidae (true seals): generalized 
hearing is estimated to occur between approximately 50 Hz to 86 kH;
    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).
    For more detail concerning these groups and associated frequency 
ranges, please see NMFS (2016) for a review of available information. 
Eleven marine mammal species (nine cetacean and two pinniped (both 
phocid) species) have the reasonable potential to co-occur with the 
proposed survey activities. Please refer to Table 2. Of the cetacean 
species that may be present, five are classified as low-frequency 
cetaceans (i.e., all mysticete species), three are classified as mid-
frequency cetaceans (i.e., all delphinid species and the sperm whale), 
and one is classified as a high-frequency cetacean (i.e., harbor 
porpoise).

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'' 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'' 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.

Background on Sound

    Sound is a physical phenomenon consisting of minute vibrations that 
travel through a medium, such as air or water, and is generally 
characterized by several variables. Frequency describes the sound's 
pitch and is measured in Hz or kHz, while sound level describes the 
sound's intensity and is measured in decibels (dB). Sound level 
increases or decreases exponentially with each dB of change. The 
logarithmic nature of the scale means that each 10-dB increase is a 10-
fold increase in acoustic power (and a 20-dB increase is then a 100-
fold increase in power). A 10-fold increase in acoustic power does not 
mean that the sound is perceived as being 10 times louder, however. 
Sound levels are compared to a reference sound pressure (micro-Pascal) 
to identify the medium. For air and water, these reference pressures 
are ``re: 20 micro Pascals ([micro]Pa)'' and ``re: 1 [micro]Pa,'' 
respectively. Root mean square (RMS) is the quadratic mean sound 
pressure over the duration of an impulse. RMS is calculated by squaring 
all of the sound amplitudes, averaging the squares, and then taking the 
square root of the average (Urick 1975). RMS 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. 
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 rather 
than by peak pressures.
    When sound travels (propagates) from its source, its loudness 
decreases as the distance traveled by the sound increases. Thus, the 
loudness of a sound at its source is higher than the loudness of that 
same sound one km away. Acousticians often refer to the loudness of a 
sound at its source (typically referenced to one meter from the source) 
as the source level and the loudness of sound elsewhere as the received 
level (i.e., typically the receiver). For example, a humpback whale 3 
km from a device that has a source level of 230 dB may only be exposed 
to sound that is 160 dB loud, depending on how the sound travels 
through water (e.g., spherical spreading (6 dB reduction with doubling 
of distance) was used in this example). As a result, it is important to 
understand the difference between source levels and received levels 
when discussing the loudness of

[[Page 7663]]

sound in the ocean or its impacts on the marine environment.
    As sound travels from a source, its propagation in water is 
influenced by various physical characteristics, including water 
temperature, depth, salinity, and surface and bottom properties that 
cause refraction, reflection, absorption, and scattering of sound 
waves. Oceans are not homogeneous and the contribution of each of these 
individual factors is extremely complex and interrelated. The physical 
characteristics that determine the sound's speed through the water will 
change with depth, season, geographic location, and with time of day 
(as a result, in actual active sonar operations, crews will measure 
oceanic conditions, such as sea water temperature and depth, to 
calibrate models that determine the path the sonar signal will take as 
it travels through the ocean and how strong the sound signal will be at 
a given range along a particular transmission path). As sound travels 
through the ocean, the intensity associated with the wavefront 
diminishes, or attenuates. This decrease in intensity is referred to as 
propagation loss, also commonly called transmission loss.

Acoustic Impacts

    Geophysical surveys may temporarily impact marine mammals in the 
area due to elevated in-water sound levels. Marine mammals are 
continually exposed to many sources of sound. Naturally occurring 
sounds such as lightning, rain, sub-sea earthquakes, and biological 
sounds (e.g., snapping shrimp, whale songs) are widespread throughout 
the world's oceans. Marine mammals produce sounds in various contexts 
and use sound for various biological functions including, but not 
limited to: (1) Social interactions; (2) foraging; (3) orientation; and 
(4) predator detection. Interference with producing or receiving these 
sounds may result in adverse impacts. Audible distance, or received 
levels of sound depend on the nature of the sound source, ambient noise 
conditions, and the sensitivity of the receptor to the sound 
(Richardson et al., 1995). Type and significance of marine mammal 
reactions to sound are likely dependent on a variety of factors 
including, but not limited to, (1) the behavioral state of the animal 
(e.g., feeding, traveling, etc.); (2) frequency of the sound; (3) 
distance between the animal and the source; and (4) the level of the 
sound relative to ambient conditions (Southall et al., 2007).
    When considering the influence of various kinds of sound on the 
marine environment, it is necessary to understand that different kinds 
of marine life are sensitive to different frequencies of sound. Current 
data indicate that not all marine mammal species have equal hearing 
capabilities (Richardson et al., 1995; Wartzok and Ketten, 1999; Au and 
Hastings, 2008).
    Animals are less sensitive to sounds at the outer edges of their 
functional hearing range and are more sensitive to a range of 
frequencies within the middle of their functional hearing range. For 
mid-frequency cetaceans, functional hearing estimates occur between 
approximately 150 Hz and 160 kHz with best hearing estimated to occur 
between approximately 10 to less than 100 kHz (Finneran et al., 2005 
and 2009, Natchtigall et al., 2005 and 2008; Yuen et al., 2005; Popov 
et al., 2011; and Schlundt et al., 2011).

Hearing Impairment

    Marine mammals may experience temporary or permanent hearing 
impairment when exposed to loud sounds. Hearing impairment is 
classified by temporary threshold shift (TTS) and permanent threshold 
shift (PTS). PTS is considered auditory injury (Southall et al., 2007) 
and occurs in a specific frequency range and amount. Irreparable damage 
to the inner or outer cochlear hair cells may cause PTS; however, other 
mechanisms are also involved, such as exceeding the elastic limits of 
certain tissues and membranes in the middle and inner ears and 
resultant changes in the chemical composition of the inner ear fluids 
(Southall et al., 2007). There are no empirical data for onset of PTS 
in any marine mammal; therefore, PTS-onset must be estimated from TTS-
onset measurements and from the rate of TTS growth with increasing 
exposure levels above the level eliciting TTS-onset. PTS is presumed to 
be likely if the hearing threshold is reduced by >=40 dB (that is, 40 
dB of TTS).

Temporary Threshold Shift (TTS)

    TTS is the mildest form of hearing impairment that can occur during 
exposure to a loud sound (Kryter 1985). While experiencing TTS, the 
hearing threshold rises and a sound must be stronger in order to be 
heard. At least in terrestrial mammals, TTS can last from minutes or 
hours to (in cases of strong TTS) days, can be limited to a particular 
frequency range, and can occur to varying degrees (i.e., a loss of a 
certain number of dBs of sensitivity). For sound exposures at or 
somewhat above the TTS threshold, hearing sensitivity in both 
terrestrial and marine mammals recovers rapidly after exposure to the 
noise ends.
    Marine mammal hearing plays a critical role in communication with 
conspecifics and in 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 takes place during a time when the animals is traveling 
through the open ocean, 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 a time when communication is 
critical for successful mother/calf interactions could have more 
serious impacts if it were in the same frequency band as the necessary 
vocalizations and of a severity that it impeded communication. The fact 
that animals exposed to levels and durations of sound that would be 
expected to result in this physiological response would also be 
expected to have behavioral responses of a comparatively more severe or 
sustained nature is also notable and potentially of more importance 
than the simple existence of a TTS.
    Currently, TTS data only exist for four species of cetaceans 
(bottlenose dolphin, beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas), harbor 
porpoise, and Yangtze finless porpoise (Neophocaena phocaenoides)) and 
three species of pinnipeds (northern elephant seal (Mirounga 
angustirostris), harbor seal, and California sea lion (Zalophus 
californianus)) exposed to a limited number of sound sources (i.e., 
mostly tones and octave-band noise) in laboratory settings (e.g., 
Finneran et al., 2002 and 2010; Nachtigall et al., 2004; Kastak et al., 
2005; Lucke et al., 2009; Mooney et al., 2009; Popov et al., 2011; 
Finneran and Schlundt, 2010). In general, harbor seals (Kastak et al., 
2005; Kastelein et al., 2012a) and harbor porpoises (Lucke et al., 
2009; Kastelein et al., 2012b) have a lower TTS onset than other 
measured pinniped or cetacean species. However, even for these animals, 
which are better able to hear higher frequencies and may be more 
sensitive to higher frequencies, exposures on the order of 
approximately 170 dB rms or higher for brief transient signals are 
likely required for even temporary (recoverable) changes in

[[Page 7664]]

hearing sensitivity that would likely not be categorized as 
physiologically damaging (Lucke et al., 2009). 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. For summaries of data on TTS in 
marine mammals or for further discussion of TTS onset thresholds, 
please see Finneran (2016).
    Scientific literature highlights the inherent complexity of 
predicting TTS onset in marine mammals, as well as the importance of 
considering exposure duration when assessing potential impacts (Mooney 
et al., 2009a, 2009b; Kastak et al., 2007). Generally, with sound 
exposures of equal energy, quieter sounds (lower sound pressure levels 
(SPL)) of longer duration were found to induce TTS onset more than 
louder sounds (higher SPL) of shorter duration (more similar to sub-
bottom profilers). For intermittent sounds, less threshold shift will 
occur than from a continuous exposure with the same energy (some 
recovery will occur between intermittent exposures) (Kryter et al., 
1966; Ward 1997). For sound exposures at or somewhat above the TTS-
onset threshold, hearing sensitivity recovers rapidly after exposure to 
the sound ends; intermittent exposures recover faster in comparison 
with continuous exposures of the same duration (Finneran et al., 2010). 
NMFS considers TTS as Level B harassment that is mediated by 
physiological effects on the auditory system.
    Animals in the Lease Area during the HRG survey are unlikely to 
incur TTS hearing impairment due to the characteristics of the sound 
sources, which include low source levels (208 to 221 dB re 1 [micro]Pa-
m) and generally very short pulses and duration of the sound. Even for 
high-frequency cetacean species (e.g., harbor porpoises), which may 
have increased sensitivity to TTS (Lucke et al., 2009; Kastelein et 
al., 2012b), individuals would have to make a very close approach and 
also remain very close to vessels operating these sources in order to 
receive multiple exposures at relatively high levels, as would be 
necessary to cause TTS. Intermittent exposures--as would occur due to 
the brief, transient signals produced by these sources--require a 
higher cumulative SEL to induce TTS than would continuous exposures of 
the same duration (i.e., intermittent exposure results in lower levels 
of TTS) (Mooney et al., 2009a; Finneran et al., 2010). Moreover, most 
marine mammals would more likely avoid a loud sound source rather than 
swim in such close proximity as to result in TTS. Kremser et al. (2005) 
noted that the probability of a cetacean swimming through the area of 
exposure when a sub-bottom profiler emits a pulse is small--because if 
the animal was in the area, it would have to pass the transducer at 
close range in order to be subjected to sound levels that could cause 
TTS and would likely exhibit avoidance behavior to the area near the 
transducer rather than swim through at such a close range. Further, the 
restricted beam shape of the sub-bottom profiler and other HRG survey 
equipment makes it unlikely that an animal would be exposed more than 
briefly during the passage of the vessel. Boebel et al. (2005) 
concluded similarly for single and multibeam echosounders and, more 
recently, Lurton (2016) conducted a modeling exercise and concluded 
similarly that likely potential for acoustic injury from these types of 
systems is negligible but that behavioral response cannot be ruled out. 
Animals may avoid the area around the survey vessels, thereby reducing 
exposure. Any disturbance to marine mammals is likely to be in the form 
of temporary avoidance or alteration of opportunistic foraging behavior 
near the survey location.

Masking

    Masking is the obscuring of sounds of interest to an animal by 
other sounds, typically at similar frequencies. Marine mammals are 
highly dependent on sound, and their ability to recognize sound signals 
amid other sound is important in communication and detection of both 
predators and prey (Tyack 2000). Background ambient sound may interfere 
with or mask the ability of an animal to detect a sound signal even 
when that signal is above its absolute hearing threshold. Even in the 
absence of anthropogenic sound, the marine environment is often loud. 
Natural ambient sound includes contributions from wind, waves, 
precipitation, other animals, and (at frequencies above 30 kHz) thermal 
sound resulting from molecular agitation (Richardson et al., 1995).
    Background sound may also include anthropogenic sound, and masking 
of natural sounds can result when human activities produce high levels 
of background sound. Conversely, if the background level of underwater 
sound is high (e.g., on a day with strong wind and high waves), an 
anthropogenic sound source would not be detectable as far away as would 
be possible under quieter conditions and would itself be masked. 
Ambient sound is highly variable on continental shelves (Myrberg 1978; 
Desharnais et al., 1999). This results in a high degree of variability 
in the range at which marine mammals can detect anthropogenic sounds.
    Although masking is a phenomenon which may occur naturally, the 
introduction of loud anthropogenic sounds into the marine environment 
at frequencies important to marine mammals increases the severity and 
frequency of occurrence of masking. For example, if a baleen whale is 
exposed to continuous low-frequency sound from an industrial source, 
this would reduce the size of the area around that whale within which 
it can hear the calls of another whale. The components of background 
noise that are similar in frequency to the signal in question primarily 
determine the degree of masking of that signal. In general, little is 
known about the degree to which marine mammals rely upon detection of 
sounds from conspecifics, predators, prey, or other natural sources. In 
the absence of specific information about the importance of detecting 
these natural sounds, it is not possible to predict the impact of 
masking on marine mammals (Richardson et al., 1995). In general, 
masking effects are expected to be less severe when sounds are 
transient than when they are continuous. Masking is typically of 
greater concern for those marine mammals that utilize low-frequency 
communications, such as baleen whales, because of how far low-frequency 
sounds propagate.
    Marine mammal communications would not likely be masked appreciably 
by the sub-bottom profiler signals given the directionality of the 
signal and the brief period when an individual mammal is likely to be 
within its beam.

Non-Auditory Physical Effects (Stress)

    Classic stress responses begin when an animal's central nervous 
system perceives a potential threat to its homeostasis. That perception 
triggers stress responses regardless of whether a stimulus actually 
threatens the animal; the mere perception of a threat is sufficient to 
trigger a stress response (Moberg 2000; Seyle 1950). Once an animal's 
central nervous system perceives a threat, it mounts a biological 
response or defense that consists of a combination of the four general 
biological defense responses: behavioral responses, autonomic nervous 
system responses, neuroendocrine responses, or immune responses.
    In the case of many stressors, an animal's first and sometimes most 
economical (in terms of biotic costs) response is behavioral avoidance 
of the potential stressor or avoidance of continued exposure to a 
stressor. An

[[Page 7665]]

animal's second line of defense to stressors involves the sympathetic 
part of the autonomic nervous system and the classical ``fight or 
flight'' response which includes the cardiovascular system, the 
gastrointestinal system, the exocrine glands, and the adrenal medulla 
to produce changes in heart rate, blood pressure, and gastrointestinal 
activity that humans commonly associate with ``stress.'' These 
responses have a relatively short duration and may or may not have 
significant long-term effect on an animal's welfare.
    An animal's third line of defense to stressors involves its 
neuroendocrine systems; the system that has received the most study has 
been the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal system (also known as the HPA 
axis in mammals). Unlike stress responses associated with the autonomic 
nervous system, virtually all neuro-endocrine 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 (Moberg 1987; Rivier 1995), altered 
metabolism (Elasser et al., 2000), reduced immune competence (Blecha 
2000), and behavioral disturbance. Increases in the circulation of 
glucocorticosteroids (cortisol, corticosterone, and aldosterone in 
marine mammals; see Romano et al., 2004) have been equated with stress 
for many years.
    The primary distinction between stress (which is adaptive and does 
not normally place an animal at risk) and distress is the biotic 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 a 
risk to the animal's welfare. 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 biotic function, 
which impairs those functions that experience the diversion. For 
example, when mounting a stress response diverts energy away from 
growth in young animals, those animals may experience stunted growth. 
When mounting a stress response diverts energy from a fetus, an 
animal's reproductive success and its fitness will suffer. In these 
cases, the animals will have entered a pre-pathological or pathological 
state which is called ``distress'' (Seyle 1950) or ``allostatic 
loading'' (McEwen and Wingfield 2003). This pathological state will 
last until the animal replenishes its biotic reserves sufficient to 
restore normal function. Note that these examples involved a long-term 
(days or weeks) stress response exposure to stimuli.
    Relationships between these physiological mechanisms, animal 
behavior, and the costs of stress responses have also been documented 
fairly well through controlled experiments; because this physiology 
exists in every vertebrate that has been studied, it is not surprising 
that stress responses and their costs have been documented in both 
laboratory and free-living animals (for examples see, Holberton et al., 
1996; Hood et al., 1998; Jessop et al., 2003; Krausman et al., 2004; 
Lankford et al., 2005; Reneerkens et al., 2002; Thompson and Hamer, 
2000). Information has also been collected on the physiological 
responses of marine mammals to exposure to anthropogenic sounds (Fair 
and Becker 2000; Romano et al., 2002). 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.
    Studies of other marine animals and terrestrial animals would also 
lead us to expect some marine mammals to experience physiological 
stress responses and, perhaps, physiological responses that would be 
classified as ``distress'' upon exposure to high frequency, mid-
frequency and low-frequency sounds. For example, Jansen (1998) reported 
on the relationship between acoustic exposures and physiological 
responses that are indicative of stress responses in humans (for 
example, elevated respiration and increased heart rates). Jones (1998) 
reported on reductions in human performance when faced with acute, 
repetitive exposures to acoustic disturbance. Trimper et al. (1998) 
reported on the physiological stress responses of osprey to low-level 
aircraft noise while Krausman et al. (2004) reported on the auditory 
and physiology stress responses of endangered Sonoran pronghorn to 
military overflights. Smith et al. (2004a, 2004b), for example, 
identified noise-induced physiological transient stress responses in 
hearing-specialist fish (i.e., goldfish) that accompanied short- and 
long-term hearing losses. Welch and Welch (1970) reported physiological 
and behavioral stress responses that accompanied damage to the inner 
ears of fish and several mammals.
    Hearing is one of the primary senses marine mammals use to gather 
information about their environment and to communicate with 
conspecifics. Although empirical information on the relationship 
between sensory impairment (TTS, PTS, and acoustic masking) on marine 
mammals remains limited, it seems reasonable to assume that reducing an 
animal's ability to gather information about its environment and to 
communicate with other members of its species would be stressful for 
animals that use hearing as their primary sensory mechanism. Therefore, 
we assume that acoustic exposures sufficient to trigger onset PTS or 
TTS would be accompanied by physiological stress responses because 
terrestrial animals exhibit those responses under similar conditions 
(NRC 2003). More importantly, marine mammals might experience stress 
responses at received levels lower than those necessary to trigger 
onset TTS. Based on empirical studies of the time required to recover 
from stress responses (Moberg 2000), we also assume that stress 
responses are likely to persist beyond the time interval required for 
animals to recover from TTS and might result in pathological and pre-
pathological states that would be as significant as behavioral 
responses to TTS.
    In general, there are few data on the potential for strong, 
anthropogenic underwater sounds to cause non-auditory physical effects 
in marine mammals. The available data do not allow identification of a 
specific exposure level above which non-auditory effects can be 
expected (Southall et al., 2007). There is no definitive evidence that 
any of these effects occur even for marine mammals in close proximity 
to an anthropogenic sound source. In addition, marine mammals that show 
behavioral avoidance of survey vessels and related sound sources are 
unlikely to incur non-auditory impairment or other physical effects. 
NMFS does not expect that the generally short-term, intermittent, and 
transitory HRG and geotechnical activities would create conditions of 
long-term, continuous noise and chronic acoustic exposure leading to 
long-term physiological stress responses in marine mammals.

Behavioral Disturbance

    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

[[Page 7666]]

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 shown pronounced behavioral reactions, 
including avoidance of loud sound sources (Ridgway et al., 1997; 
Finneran et al., 2003). 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).
    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 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; Costa et al., 2003; 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.
    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, 2005b, 2006; Gailey et 
al., 2007).
    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., 2007b). In some cases, animals may cease sound 
production during production of aversive signals (Bowles et al., 1994).
    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). 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., Blackwell et al., 2004; 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

[[Page 7667]]

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.
    Marine mammals are likely to avoid the HRG survey activity, 
especially the naturally shy harbor porpoise, while the harbor seals 
might be attracted to them out of curiosity. However, because the sub-
bottom profilers and other HRG survey equipment operate from a moving 
vessel, and the maximum radius to the Level B harassment threshold is 
relatively small, the area and time that this equipment would be 
affecting a given location is very small. Further, once an area has 
been surveyed, it is not likely that it will be surveyed again, thereby 
reducing the likelihood of repeated HRG-related impacts within the 
survey area.
    We have also considered the potential for severe behavioral 
responses such as stranding and associated indirect injury or mortality 
from Statoil's use of HRG survey equipment, on the basis of a 2008 mass 
stranding of approximately 100 melon-headed whales in a Madagascar 
lagoon system. An investigation of the event indicated that use of a 
high-frequency mapping system (12-kHz multibeam echosounder) was the 
most plausible and likely initial behavioral trigger of the event, 
while providing the caveat that there is no unequivocal and easily 
identifiable single cause (Southall et al., 2013). The investigatory 
panel's conclusion was based on (1) very close temporal and spatial 
association and directed movement of the survey with the stranding 
event; (2) the unusual nature of such an event coupled with previously 
documented apparent behavioral sensitivity of the species to other 
sound types (Southall et al., 2006; Brownell et al., 2009); and (3) the 
fact that all other possible factors considered were determined to be 
unlikely causes. Specifically, regarding survey patterns prior to the 
event and in relation to bathymetry, the vessel transited in a north-
south direction on the shelf break parallel to the shore, ensonifying 
large areas of deep-water habitat prior to operating intermittently in 
a concentrated area offshore from the stranding site; this may have 
trapped the animals between the sound source and the shore, thus 
driving them towards the lagoon system. The investigatory panel 
systematically excluded or deemed highly unlikely nearly all potential 
reasons for these animals leaving their typical pelagic habitat for an 
area extremely atypical for the species (i.e., a shallow lagoon 
system). Notably, this was the first time that such a system has been 
associated with a stranding event. The panel also noted several site- 
and situation-specific secondary factors that may have contributed to 
the avoidance responses that led to the eventual entrapment and 
mortality of the whales. Specifically, shoreward-directed surface 
currents and elevated chlorophyll levels in the area preceding the 
event may have played a role (Southall et al., 2013). The report also 
notes that prior use of a similar system in the general area may have 
sensitized the animals and also concluded that, for odontocete 
cetaceans that hear well in higher frequency ranges where ambient noise 
is typically quite low, high-power active sonars operating in this 
range may be more easily audible and have potential effects over larger 
areas than low frequency systems that have more typically been 
considered in terms of anthropogenic noise impacts. It is, however, 
important to note that the relatively lower output frequency, higher 
output power, and complex nature of the system implicated in this 
event, in context of the other factors noted here, likely produced a 
fairly unusual set of circumstances that indicate that such events 
would likely remain rare and are not necessarily relevant to use of 
lower-power, higher-frequency systems more commonly used for HRG survey 
applications. The risk of similar events recurring may be very low, 
given the extensive use of active acoustic systems used for scientific 
and navigational purposes worldwide on a daily basis and the lack of 
direct evidence of such responses previously reported.

Tolerance

    Numerous studies have shown that underwater sounds from industrial 
activities are often readily detectable by marine mammals in the water 
at distances of many km. However, other studies have shown that marine 
mammals at distances more than a few km away often show no apparent 
response to industrial activities of various types (Miller et al., 
2005). This is often true even in cases when the sounds must be readily 
audible to the animals based on measured received levels and the 
hearing sensitivity of that mammal group. Although various baleen 
whales, toothed whales, and (less frequently) pinnipeds have been shown 
to react behaviorally to underwater sound from sources such as airgun 
pulses or vessels under some conditions, at other times, mammals of all 
three types have shown no overt reactions (e.g., Malme et al., 1986; 
Richardson et al., 1995; Madsen and Mohl 2000; Croll et al., 2001; 
Jacobs and Terhune 2002; Madsen et al., 2002;

[[Page 7668]]

Miller et al., 2005). In general, pinnipeds seem to be more tolerant of 
exposure to some types of underwater sound than are baleen whales. 
Richardson et al. (1995) found that vessel sound does not seem to 
affect pinnipeds that are already in the water. Richardson et al. 
(1995) went on to explain that seals on haul-outs sometimes respond 
strongly to the presence of vessels and at other times appear to show 
considerable tolerance of vessels, and Brueggeman et al. (1992) 
observed ringed seals (Pusa hispida) hauled out on ice pans displaying 
short-term escape reactions when a ship approached within 0.16-0.31 
miles (0.25-0.5 km). Due to the relatively high vessel traffic in the 
Lease Area it is possible that marine mammals are habituated to noise 
(e.g., DP thrusters) from project vessels in the area.

Vessel Strike

    Ship strikes of marine mammals can cause major wounds, which may 
lead to the death of the animal. An animal at the surface could be 
struck directly by a vessel, a surfacing animal could hit the bottom of 
a vessel, or a vessel's propeller could injure an animal just below the 
surface. The severity of injuries typically depends on the size and 
speed of the vessel (Knowlton and Kraus 2001; Laist et al., 2001; 
Vanderlaan and Taggart 2007).
    The most vulnerable marine mammals are those that spend extended 
periods of time at the surface in order to restore oxygen levels within 
their tissues after deep dives (e.g., the sperm whale). In addition, 
some baleen whales, such as the North Atlantic right whale, seem 
generally unresponsive to vessel sound, making them more susceptible to 
vessel collisions (Nowacek et al., 2004). These species are primarily 
large, slow moving whales. Smaller marine mammals (e.g., bottlenose 
dolphin) move quickly through the water column and are often seen 
riding the bow wave of large ships. Marine mammal responses to vessels 
may include avoidance and changes in dive pattern (NRC 2003).
    An examination of all known ship strikes from all shipping sources 
(civilian and military) indicates vessel speed is a principal factor in 
whether a vessel strike results in death (Knowlton and Kraus 2001; 
Laist et al., 2001; Jensen and Silber 2003; Vanderlaan and Taggart 
2007). In assessing records with known vessel speeds, Laist et al. 
(2001) found a direct relationship between the occurrence of a whale 
strike and the speed of the vessel involved in the collision. The 
authors concluded that most deaths occurred when a vessel was traveling 
in excess of 24.1 km/h (14.9 mph; 13 knots (kn)). Given the slow vessel 
speeds and predictable course necessary for data acquisition, ship 
strike is unlikely to occur during the geophysical and geotechnical 
surveys. Marine mammals would be able to easily avoid the survey vessel 
due to the slow vessel speed. Further, Statoil would implement measures 
(e.g., protected species monitoring, vessel speed restrictions and 
separation distances; see Proposed Mitigation Measures) set forth in 
the BOEM lease to reduce the risk of a vessel strike to marine mammal 
species in the survey area.

Marine Mammal Habitat

    There are no feeding areas, rookeries or mating grounds known to be 
biologically important to marine mammals within the proposed project 
area. The area is part of an important migratory area for North 
Atlantic right whales; this important migratory area is comprised of 
the waters of the continental shelf offshore the East Coast of the U.S. 
and extends from Florida through Massachusetts. Given the limited 
spatial extent of the proposed survey and the large spatial extent of 
the migratory area, we do not expect North Atlantic right whale 
migration to be negatively impacted by the proposed survey. There is no 
designated critical habitat for any ESA-listed marine mammals in the 
proposed survey area. NMFS' regulations at 50 CFR part 224.105 
designated the nearshore waters of the Mid-Atlantic Bight as the Mid-
Atlantic U.S. Seasonal Management Area (SMA) for right whales in 2008. 
Mandatory vessel speed restrictions (less than 10 kn) are in place in 
that SMA from November 1 through April 30 to reduce the threat of 
collisions between ships and right whales around their migratory route 
and calving grounds.
    Bottom disturbance associated with the HRG survey activities may 
include grab sampling to validate the seabed classification obtained 
from the multibeam echosounder/sidescan sonar data. This will typically 
be accomplished using a Mini-Harmon Grab with 0.1 m\2\ sample area or 
the slightly larger Harmon Grab with a 0.2 m\2\ sample area. The HRG 
survey equipment will not contact the seafloor and does not represent a 
source of pollution. We are not aware of any available literature on 
impacts to marine mammal prey from HRG survey equipment. However, as 
the HRG survey equipment introduces noise to the marine environment, 
there is the potential for it to result in avoidance of the area around 
the HRG survey activities on the part of marine mammal prey. Any 
avoidance of the area on the part of marine mammal prey would be 
expected to be short term and temporary.
    Because of the temporary nature of the disturbance, the 
availability of similar habitat and resources (e.g., prey species) 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. Impacts on marine 
mammal habitat from the proposed activities will be temporary, 
insignificant, and discountable.

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 ``small numbers'' 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, 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 be by Level B harassment, as use of the HRG 
equipment has the potential to result in disruption of behavioral 
patterns for individual marine mammals. NMFS has determined take by 
Level A harassment is not an expected outcome of the proposed activity 
and thus we do not propose to authorize the take of any marine mammals 
by Level A harassment. This is discussed in greater detail below. As 
described previously, no mortality or serious injury is anticipated or 
proposed to be authorized for this activity. Below we describe how the 
take is estimated for this project.
    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

[[Page 7669]]

these ensonified areas; and, (4) and the number of days of activities. 
Below, we describe these components in more detail and present the 
proposed take estimate.

Acoustic Thresholds

    NMFS uses 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--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 
sound source (e.g., frequency, predictability, duty cycle); the 
environment (e.g., bathymetry); and the receiving animals (hearing, 
motivation, experience, demography, behavioral context); therefore can 
be difficult to predict (Southall et al., 2007, Ellison et al., 2011). 
NMFS uses a generalized acoustic threshold based on received level to 
estimate the onset of Level B (behavioral) harassment. NMFS predicts 
that marine mammals may be behaviorally harassed when exposed to 
underwater anthropogenic noise above received levels 160 dB re 1 [mu]Pa 
(rms) for non-explosive impulsive (e.g., seismic HRG equipment) or 
intermittent (e.g., scientific sonar) sources. Statoil's proposed 
activity includes the use of impulsive sources. Therefore, the 160 dB 
re 1 [mu]Pa (rms) criteria is applicable for analysis of Level B 
harassment.
    Level A harassment--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 3 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: www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/acoustics/guidelines.htm. As described above, Statoil's proposed 
activity includes the use of intermittent and impulsive sources

 Table 3--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     LE,LF,24h: 199 dB
                                dB; LE,LF,24h:
                                183 dB.
Mid-Frequency (MF) Cetaceans.  Lpk,flat; 230     LE,MF,24h: 198 dB
                                dB; LE,MF,24h:
                                185 dB.
High-Frequency (HF) Cetaceans  Lpk,flat; 202     LE,HF,24h: 173 dB
                                dB; LE,HF,24h:
                                155 dB.
Phocid Pinnipeds (PW)          Lpk,flat; 218     LE,PW,24h: 201 dB
 (Underwater).                  dB; LE,PW,24h:
                                185 dB.
Otariid Pinnipeds (OW)         Lpk,flat; 232     LE,OW,24h: 219 dB
 (Underwater).                  dB; 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 
acoustic thresholds.
    The proposed survey would entail the use of HRG survey equipment. 
The distance to the isopleth corresponding to the threshold for Level B 
harassment was calculated for all HRG survey equipment with the 
potential to result in harassment of marine mammals (i.e., the USBL and 
the sub-bottom profilers; Table 1) based on source characteristics as 
described in Crocker and Fratantonio (2016) using the practical 
transmission loss (TL) equation: TL = 15log10r. Of the HRG 
survey equipment planned for use that has the potential to result in 
harassment of marine mammals, acoustic modeling indicated the Sig ELC 
820 Sparker would be expected to produce sound that would propagate the 
furthest in the water (Table 4); therefore, for the purposes of the 
take calculation, it was assumed the Sig ELC 820 Sparker would be 
active during the entirety of the survey. Thus the distance to the 
isopleth corresponding to the threshold for Level B harassment for the 
Sig ELC 820 Sparker (1,166 m; Table 4) was used as the basis of the 
Level B take calculation for all marine mammals.

[[Page 7670]]



  Table 4--Predicted Radial Distances (m) From HRG Sources to Isopleths
              Corresponding to Level B Harassment Threshold
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                              Modeled
                                                            distance to
            HRG system              HRG survey equipment  threshold (160
                                                              dB re 1
                                                              [mu]Pa)
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Subsea Positioning/USBL...........  Sonardyne Ranger 2                74
                                     USBL.
Shallow penetration sub-bottom      EdgeTech 512i.......              18
 profiler.
Medium penetration sub-bottom       SIG ELC 820 Sparker.           1,166
 profiler.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Predicted distances to Level A harassment isopleths, which vary 
based on marine mammal functional hearing groups (Table 5), were also 
calculated by Statoil. The updated acoustic thresholds for impulsive 
sounds (such as HRG survey equipment) contained in the Technical 
Guidance (NMFS, 2016) were presented as dual metric acoustic thresholds 
using both SELcum and peak sound pressure level metrics. 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 calculating 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. Statoil used the NMFS optional User Spreadsheet to 
calculate distances to Level A harassment isopleths based on 
SELcum (shown in Appendix A of the IHA application) and used 
the practical spreading loss model (similar to the method used to 
calculate Level B isopleths as described above) to calculate distances 
to Level A harassment isopleths based on peak pressure. Modeled 
distances to isopleths corresponding to Level A harassment thresholds 
for the Sig ELC 820 Sparker are shown in Table 5.

   Table 5--Modeled Radial Distances (m) to Isopleths Corresponding to
                      Level A Harassment Thresholds
------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Functional hearing group (Level A                      Peak SPLflat
         harassment thresholds)              SELcum\1\
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Low frequency cetaceans (Lpk,flat: 219               9.8             n/a
 dB; LE,LF,24h: 183 dB).................
Mid frequency cetaceans (Lpk,flat: 230                 0             n/a
 dB; LE,MF,24h: 185 dB).................
High frequency cetaceans (Lpk,flat: 202              3.6             7.3
 dB; LE,HF,24h: 155 dB).................
Phocid Pinnipeds (Underwater)(Lpk,flat:              2.6             n/a
 218 dB; LE,HF,24h: 185 dB).............
------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ Distances to isopleths based on SELcum were calculated in the NMFS
  optional User Spreadsheet based on the following inputs: Source level
  of 206 dB rms, source velocity of 2.06 meters per second, pulse
  duration of 0.008 seconds, repetition rate of 0.25 seconds, and
  weighting factor adjustment of 1.4 kHz. Isopleths shown for SELcum are
  different than those shown in the IHA application as one of the inputs
  used by the applicant was incorrect which resulted in outputs that
  were not accurate: The applicant entered an incorrect repetition rate
  of 4 seconds rather than the correct repetition rate of 0.25 seconds.
  NMFS therefore used the NMFS optional User Spreadsheet to calculate
  isopleths for SELcum for the Sig ELC 820 Sparker using the correct
  repetition rate.

    In this case, due to the very small estimated distances to Level A 
harassment thresholds for all marine mammal functional hearing groups, 
based on both SELcum and peak SPL (Table 5), and in 
consideration of the proposed mitigation measures, including marine 
mammal exclusion zones that greatly exceed the largest modeled 
isopleths to Level A harassment thresholds (see the Proposed Mitigation 
section for more detail) NMFS has determined that the likelihood of 
Level A take of marine mammals occurring as a result of the proposed 
survey is so low as to be discountable.
    We note that because of some of the assumptions included in the 
methods used, isopleths produced may be overestimates to some degree. 
The acoustic sources proposed for use in Statoil's survey do not 
radiate sound equally in all directions but were designed instead to 
focus acoustic energy directly toward the sea floor. Therefore, the 
acoustic energy produced by these sources is not received equally in 
all directions around the source but is instead concentrated along some 
narrower plane depending on the beamwidth of the source. However, the 
calculated distances to isopleths do not account for this 
directionality of the sound source and are therefore conservative. For 
mobile sources, such as the proposed 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). For cetacean species, densities calculated by Roberts et al. 
(2016) were used. The density data presented by Roberts et al. (2016) 
incorporates aerial and shipboard line-transect survey data from NMFS 
and from other organizations collected over the period 1992-2014. 
Roberts et al. (2016) modeled density from 8 physiographic and 16 
dynamic oceanographic and biological covariates, and controlled for the 
influence of sea state, group size, availability bias, and perception 
bias on the probability of making a sighting. In general, NMFS 
considers the models produced by Roberts et al. (2016) to be the best 
available source of data regarding cetacean density in the Atlantic 
Ocean. More information, including the model results and

[[Page 7671]]

supplementary information for each model, is available online at: 
seamap.env.duke.edu/models/Duke-EC-GOM-2015/.
    For the purposes of the take calculations, density data from 
Roberts et al. (2016) were mapped within the boundary of the survey 
area for each survey segment (i.e., the Lease Area survey segment and 
the cable route area survey segment; See Figure 1 in the IHA 
application) using a geographic information system. Monthly density 
data for all cetacean species potentially taken by the proposed survey 
was available via Roberts et al. (2016). Monthly mean density within 
the survey area, as provided in Roberts et al. (2016), were averaged by 
season (i.e., Winter (December, January, February), Spring (March, 
April, May), Summer (June, July, August), Fall (September, October, 
November)) to provide seasonal density estimates. For the Lease Area 
survey segment, the highest average seasonal density as reported by 
Roberts et al. (2016) was used based on the planned survey dates of 
March through July. For the cable route area survey segment, the 
average spring seasonal densities within the maximum survey area were 
used, given the planned start date and duration of the survey within 
the cable route area.
    Systematic, offshore, at-sea survey data for pinnipeds are more 
limited than those for cetaceans. The best available information 
concerning pinniped densities in the proposed survey area is the U.S. 
Navy's Navy Operating Area (OPAREA) Density Estimates (NODEs) (DoN, 
2007). These density models utilized vessel-based and aerial survey 
data collected by NMFS from 1998-2005 during broad-scale abundance 
studies. Modeling methodology is detailed in DoN (2007). The NODEs 
density estimates do not include density data for gray seals. For the 
purposes of this IHA, gray seal density in the project area was assumed 
to be the same as harbor seal density. Mid-Atlantic OPAREA Density 
Estimates (DoN, 2007) as reported for the spring and summer season were 
used to estimate pinniped densities for the purposes of the take 
calculations.

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 harassment, radial 
distances to predicted isopleths corresponding to harassment thresholds 
are calculated, as described above. Those distances are then used to 
calculate the area(s) around the HRG survey equipment predicted to be 
ensonified to sound levels that exceed harassment thresholds. The area 
estimated to be ensonified to relevant thresholds in a single day of 
the survey is then calculated, based on areas predicted to be 
ensonified around the HRG survey equipment and estimated trackline 
distance traveled per day by the survey vessel. The estimated daily 
vessel track line distance was determined using the estimated average 
speed of the vessel (4 kn) multiplied by 24 (to account for the 24 hour 
operational period of the survey). Using the maximum distance to the 
Level B harassment threshold of 1,166 m (Table 4) and estimated daily 
track line distance of approximately 177.8 km (110.5 mi), it was 
estimated that an area of 418.9 km\2\ (161.7 mi\2\) per day would be 
ensonified to the Level B harassment threshold (Table 6).

  Table 6--Estimated Track Line Distance per Day (km) and Area (km\2\)
   Estimated to be Ensonified to Level B Harassment Threshold per Day
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                      Estimated area ensonified to Level
 Estimated track line distance per      B harassment threshold per day
             day  (km)                             (km\2\)
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                   177.8                                418.9
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The number of marine mammals expected to be incidentally taken per 
day is then calculated by estimating the number of each species 
predicted to occur within the daily ensonified area, using estimated 
marine mammal densities as described above. In this case, estimated 
marine mammal density values varied between the Lease Area and cable 
route corridor survey areas, therefore the estimated number of each 
species taken per survey day was calculated separately for the Lease 
Area survey area and cable route corridor survey area. Estimated 
numbers of each species taken per day are then multiplied by the number 
of survey days to generate an estimate of the total number of each 
species expected to be taken over the duration of the survey. In this 
case, as the estimated number of each species taken per day varied 
depending on survey area (Lease Area and cable route corridor), the 
number of each species taken per day in each respective survey area was 
multiplied by the number of survey days anticipated in each survey area 
(i.e., 123 survey days in the Lease Area portion of the survey and 19 
survey days in the cable route corridor portion of the survey) to get a 
total number of takes per species in each respective survey area. Total 
take numbers for each respective survey area (Lease Area and cable 
route corridor) were then rounded. These numbers were then summed to 
get a total number of each species expected to be taken over the 
duration of all surveys (Table 9).
    As described above, due to the very small estimated distances to 
Level A harassment thresholds (based on both SELcum and peak 
SPL; Table 5), and in consideration of the proposed mitigation 
measures, the likelihood of the proposed survey resulting in take in 
the form of Level A harassment is considered so low as to be 
discountable, therefore we do not propose to authorize take of any 
marine mammals by Level A harassment. Proposed take numbers are shown 
in Tables 7, 8 and 9. Take numbers proposed for authorization (Tables 
7, 8 and 9) are slightly different than those requested in the IHA 
application (Table 7 in the IHA application) due to slight differences 
in take calculation methods.

    Table 7--Numbers of Potential Incidental Take of Marine Mammals Proposed for Authorization in Cable Route
                                           Corridor Portion of Survey
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                    Density (#/   Proposed Level  Proposed Level  Total proposed
                     Species                       1,000 km\2\)      A  takes         B takes          takes
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
North Atlantic right whale......................            0.04               0               3               3
Humpback whale..................................            0.02               0               2               2
Fin whale.......................................             0.1               0               8               8
Sperm whale.....................................            0.01               0               1               1
Minke whale.....................................            0.03               0               2               2
Bottlenose dolphin..............................            9.65               0             768             768

[[Page 7672]]

 
Short-beaked common dolphin.....................            1.42               0             113             113
Atlantic white-sided dolphin....................            0.32               0              25              25
Harbor porpoise.................................            1.91               0             152             152
Harbor seal.....................................            4.87               0             388             388
Gray seal.......................................            4.87               0             388             388
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Table 8--Numbers of Potential Incidental Take of Marine Mammals Proposed for Authorization in Lease Area Portion
                                                    of Survey
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                    Density (#/   Proposed Level  Proposed Level  Total proposed
                     Species                       1,000 km\2\)      A  takes        B  takes          takes
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
North Atlantic right whale......................            0.03               0              15              15
Humpback whale..................................            0.04               0              21              21
Fin whale.......................................            0.17               0              88              88
Sperm whale.....................................            0.01               0               5               5
Minke whale.....................................            0.07               0              36              36
Bottlenose dolphin..............................            1.53               0             788             788
Short-beaked common dolphin.....................            3.06               0           1,577           1,577
Atlantic white-sided dolphin....................            0.78               0             402             402
Harbor porpoise.................................            4.09               0           2,107           2,107
Harbor seal.....................................            4.87               0           2,509           2,509
Gray seal.......................................            4.87               0           2,509           2,509
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


  Table 9--Total Numbers of Potential Incidental Take of Marine Mammals Proposed for Authorization and Proposed
                                       Takes as a Percentage of Population
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                  Total proposed
                                                  Proposed Level  Proposed Level  Total proposed    takes as a
                     Species                         A  takes        B  takes          takes       percentage of
                                                                                                    population
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
North Atlantic right whale......................               0              18              18             4.1
Humpback whale..................................               0              23              23             2.8
Fin whale.......................................               0              96              96             5.9
Sperm whale.....................................               0               6               6             0.3
Minke whale.....................................               0              38              38             1.5
Bottlenose dolphin..............................               0           1,556           1,556             2.0
Short-beaked common dolphin.....................               0           1,690           1,690             2.4
Atlantic white-sided dolphin....................               0             427             427             0.9
Harbor porpoise.................................               0           2,259           2,259             2.8
Harbor seal.....................................               0           2,897           2,897             3.8
Gray seal.......................................               0           2,897           2,897             0.6
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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 of effective implementation (probability 
implemented as planned), and;
    (2) The practicability of the measures for applicant 
implementation, which may consider such things as relative cost and 
impact on operations.

[[Page 7673]]

Proposed Mitigation Measures

    With NMFS' input during the application process, and as per the 
BOEM Lease, Statoil is proposing the following mitigation measures 
during the proposed marine site characterization surveys.

Marine Mammal Exclusion and Watch Zones

    As required in the BOEM lease, marine mammal exclusion zones (EZ) 
will be established around the HRG survey equipment and monitored by 
protected species observers (PSO) during HRG surveys as follows:
     50 m EZ for pinnipeds and delphinids (except harbor 
porpoises);
     100 m EZ for large whales including sperm whales and 
mysticetes (except North Atlantic right whales) and harbor porpoises;
     500 m EZ for North Atlantic right whales.
    In addition, PSOs will visually monitor to the extent of the Level 
B zone (1,166 m), or as far as possible if the extent of the Level B 
zone is not fully visible.
    Statoil intends to submit a sound source verification report 
showing sound levels associated with HRG survey equipment. If results 
of the sound source verification report indicate that actual distances 
to isopleths corresponding to harassment thresholds are larger than the 
EZs and/or Level B monitoring zones, NMFS may modify the zone(s) 
accordingly. If results of source verification indicate that actual 
distances to isopleths corresponding to harassment thresholds are less 
than the EZs and/or Level B monitoring zones, Statoil has indicated an 
intention to request modification of the zone(s), as appropriate. NMFS 
would review any such request and may modify the zone(s) depending on 
review of the report on source verification. Any such modification may 
be superseded by EZs required by BOEM.

Visual Monitoring

    As per the BOEM lease, visual and acoustic monitoring of the 
established exclusion and monitoring zones will be performed by 
qualified and NMFS-approved PSOs. It will be the responsibility of the 
Lead PSO on duty to communicate the presence of marine mammals as well 
as to communicate and enforce the action(s) that are necessary to 
ensure mitigation and monitoring requirements are implemented as 
appropriate. PSOs will be equipped with binoculars and have the ability 
to estimate distances to marine mammals located in proximity to the 
vessel and/or exclusion zone using range finders. Reticulated 
binoculars will also be available to PSOs for use as appropriate based 
on conditions and visibility to support the siting and monitoring of 
marine species. Digital single-lens reflex camera equipment will be 
used to record sightings and verify species identification. During 
surveys conducted at night, night-vision equipment and infrared 
technology will be available for PSO use, and passive acoustic 
monitoring (PAM; described below) will be used.

Pre-Clearance of the Exclusion Zone

    For all HRG survey activities, Statoil would implement a 30-minute 
pre-clearance period of the relevant EZs prior to the initiation of HRG 
survey equipment (as required by BOEM). During this period the EZs 
would be monitored by PSOs, using the appropriate visual technology for 
a 30-minute period. HRG survey equipment would not be initiated if 
marine mammals are observed within or approaching the relevant EZs 
during this pre-clearance period. If a marine mammal were observed 
within or approaching the relevant EZ during the pre-clearance period, 
ramp-up would not begin until the animal(s) has been observed exiting 
the EZ or until an additional time period has elapsed with no further 
sighting of the animal (15 minutes for small delphinoid cetaceans and 
pinnipeds and 30 minutes for all other species). This pre-clearance 
requirement would include small delphinoids that approach the vessel 
(e.g., bow ride). PSOs would also continue to monitor the zone for 30 
minutes after survey equipment is shut down or survey activity has 
concluded.

Passive Acoustic Monitoring

    As required in the BOEM lease, PAM would be required during HRG 
surveys conducted at night. In addition, PAM systems would be employed 
during daylight hours as needed to support system calibration and PSO 
and PAM team coordination, as well as in support of efforts to evaluate 
the effectiveness of the various mitigation techniques (i.e., visual 
observations during day and night, compared to the PAM detections/
operations). PAM operators will also be on call as necessary during 
daytime operations should visual observations become impaired. BOEM's 
lease stipulations require the use of PAM during nighttime operations. 
However, these requirements do not require that any mitigation action 
be taken upon acoustic detection of marine mammals. Given the range of 
species that could occur in the survey area, the PAM system will 
consist of an array of hydrophones with both broadband (sampling mid-
range frequencies of 2 kHz to 200 kHz) and at least one low-frequency 
hydrophone (sampling range frequencies of 75 Hz to 30 kHz). The PAM 
operator would monitor the hydrophone signals in real time both aurally 
(using headphones) and visually (via the monitor screen displays). PAM 
operator would communicate detections to the Lead PSO on duty who will 
ensure the implementation of the appropriate mitigation procedures. A 
mitigation and monitoring communications flow diagram has been included 
as Appendix C of the IHA application.

Ramp-Up of Survey Equipment

    As required in the BOEM lease, where technically feasible, a ramp-
up procedure would be used for HRG survey equipment capable of 
adjusting energy levels at the start or re-start of HRG survey 
activities. The ramp-up procedure would be used at the beginning of HRG 
survey activities in order to provide additional protection to marine 
mammals near the survey area by allowing them to vacate the area prior 
to the commencement of survey equipment use at full energy. A ramp-up 
would begin with the power of the smallest acoustic equipment at its 
lowest practical power output appropriate for the survey. When 
technically feasible the power would then be gradually turned up and 
other acoustic sources added in way such that the source level would 
increase gradually.

Shutdown Procedures

    As required in the BOEM lease, if a marine mammal is observed 
within or approaching the relevant EZ (as described above) an immediate 
shutdown of the survey equipment is required. Subsequent restart of the 
survey equipment may only occur after the animal(s) has either been 
observed exiting the relevant EZ or until an additional time period has 
elapsed with no further sighting of the animal (15 minutes for 
delphinoid cetaceans and pinnipeds and 30 minutes for all other 
species). HRG survey equipment may be allowed to continue operating if 
small delphinids voluntarily approach the vessel (e.g., to bow ride) 
when HRG survey equipment is operating.
    As required in the BOEM lease, if the HRG equipment shuts down for 
reasons other than mitigation (i.e., mechanical or electronic failure) 
resulting in the cessation of the survey equipment for a period greater 
than 20 minutes, a 30

[[Page 7674]]

minute pre-clearance period (as described above) would precede the 
restart of the HRG survey equipment. If the pause is less than less 
than 20 minutes, the equipment may be restarted as soon as practicable 
at its full operational level only if visual surveys were continued 
diligently throughout the silent period and the EZs remained clear of 
marine mammals during that entire period. If visual surveys were not 
continued diligently during the pause of 20 minutes or less, a 30-
minute pre-clearance period (as described above) would precede the re-
start of the HRG survey equipment. Following a shutdown, HRG survey 
equipment may be restarted following pre-clearance of the zones as 
described above.

Vessel Strike Avoidance

    Statoil will ensure that vessel operators and crew maintain a 
vigilant watch for cetaceans and pinnipeds by slowing down or stopping 
the vessel to avoid striking marine mammals. Survey vessel crew members 
responsible for navigation duties will receive site-specific training 
on marine mammal sighting/reporting and vessel strike avoidance 
measures. Vessel strike avoidance measures will include, but are not 
limited to, the following, as required in the BOEM lease, except under 
circumstances when complying with these requirements would put the 
safety of the vessel or crew at risk:
     All vessel operators and crew will maintain vigilant watch 
for cetaceans and pinnipeds, and slow down or stop their vessel to 
avoid striking these protected species;
     All vessel operators will comply with 10 knot (18.5 km/hr) 
or less speed restrictions in any SMA per NOAA guidance. This applies 
to all vessels operating at any time of year;
     All vessel operators will reduce vessel speed to 10 knots 
(18.5 km/hr) or less when any large whale, any mother/calf pairs, pods, 
or large assemblages of non-delphinoid cetaceans are observed near 
(within 100 m [330 ft]) an underway vessel;
     All survey vessels will maintain a separation distance of 
500 m (1640 ft) or greater from any sighted North Atlantic right whale;
     If underway, vessels must steer a course away from any 
sighted North Atlantic right whale at 10 knots (18.5 km/hr) or less 
until the 500 m (1640 ft) minimum separation distance has been 
established. If a North Atlantic right whale is sighted in a vessel's 
path, or within 100 m (330 ft) to an underway vessel, the underway 
vessel must reduce speed and shift the engine to neutral. Engines will 
not be engaged until the North Atlantic right whale has moved outside 
of the vessel's path and beyond 100 m. If stationary, the vessel must 
not engage engines until the North Atlantic right whale has moved 
beyond 100 m;
     All vessels will maintain a separation distance of 100 m 
(330 ft) or greater from any sighted non-delphinoid cetacean. If 
sighted, the vessel underway must reduce speed and shift the engine to 
neutral, and must not engage the engines until the non-delphinoid 
cetacean has moved outside of the vessel's path and beyond 100 m. If a 
survey vessel is stationary, the vessel will not engage engines until 
the non-delphinoid cetacean has moved out of the vessel's path and 
beyond 100 m;
     All vessels will maintain a separation distance of 50 m 
(164 ft) or greater from any sighted delphinoid cetacean. Any vessel 
underway remain parallel to a sighted delphinoid cetacean's course 
whenever possible, and avoid excessive speed or abrupt changes in 
direction. Any vessel underway reduces vessel speed to 10 knots (18.5 
km/hr) or less when pods (including mother/calf pairs) or large 
assemblages of delphinoid cetaceans are observed. Vessels may not 
adjust course and speed until the delphinoid cetaceans have moved 
beyond 50 m and/or the abeam of the underway vessel;
     All vessels underway will not divert or alter course in 
order to approach any whale, delphinoid cetacean, or pinniped. Any 
vessel underway will avoid excessive speed or abrupt changes in 
direction to avoid injury to the sighted cetacean or pinniped; and
     All vessels will maintain a separation distance of 50 m 
(164 ft) or greater from any sighted pinniped.
    The training program would be provided to NMFS for review and 
approval prior to the start of surveys. Confirmation of the training 
and understanding of the requirements will be documented on a training 
course log sheet. Signing the log sheet will certify that the crew 
members understand and will comply with the necessary requirements 
throughout the survey event.

Seasonal Operating Requirements

    Between watch shifts, members of the monitoring team will consult 
NMFS' North Atlantic right whale reporting systems for the presence of 
North Atlantic right whales throughout survey operations. However, the 
proposed survey activities will occur outside of the SMA located off 
the coasts of New Jersey and New York. Members of the monitoring team 
will monitor the NMFS North Atlantic right whale reporting systems for 
the establishment of a Dynamic Management Area (DMA). If NMFS should 
establish a DMA in the survey area, within 24 hours of the 
establishment of the DMA Statoil will work with NMFS to shut down and/
or alter the survey activities to avoid the DMA.
    The proposed mitigation measures are designed to avoid the already 
low potential for injury in addition to some Level B harassment, and to 
minimize the potential for vessel strikes. There are no known marine 
mammal feeding areas, rookeries, or mating grounds in the survey area 
that would otherwise potentially warrant increased mitigation measures 
for marine mammals or their habitat (or both). The proposed survey 
would occur in an area that has been identified as a biologically 
important area for migration for North Atlantic right whales. However, 
given the small spatial extent of the survey area relative to the 
substantially larger spatial extent of the right whale migratory area, 
the survey is not expected to appreciably reduce migratory habitat nor 
to negatively impact the migration of North Atlantic right whales, thus 
mitigation to address the proposed survey's occurrence in North 
Atlantic right whale migratory habitat is not warranted. Further, we 
believe the proposed mitigation measures are practicable for the 
applicant to implement.
    Based on our evaluation of the applicant's proposed measures, NMFS 
has preliminarily determined that the proposed mitigation measures 
provide the means of 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 
proposed action area. Effective reporting is critical both to 
compliance as well as ensuring that the most value is obtained from the 
required monitoring.

[[Page 7675]]

    Monitoring and reporting requirements prescribed by NMFS should 
contribute to improved understanding of one or more of the following:
     Occurrence of marine mammal species or stocks in the area 
in which take is anticipated (e.g., presence, abundance, distribution, 
density);
     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);
     Individual marine mammal responses (behavioral or 
physiological) to acoustic stressors (acute, chronic, or cumulative), 
other stressors, or cumulative impacts from multiple stressors;
     How anticipated responses to stressors impact either: (1) 
Long-term fitness and survival of individual marine mammals; or (2) 
populations, species, or stocks;
     Effects on marine mammal habitat (e.g., marine mammal prey 
species, acoustic habitat, or other important physical components of 
marine mammal habitat); and
     Mitigation and monitoring effectiveness.

Proposed Monitoring Measures

    As described above, visual monitoring of the EZs and monitoring 
zone will be performed by qualified and NMFS-approved PSOs. Observer 
qualifications will include direct field experience on a marine mammal 
observation vessel and/or aerial surveys and completion of a PSO and/or 
PAM training program, as appropriate. As proposed by the applicant and 
required by BOEM, an observer team comprising a minimum of four NMFS-
approved PSOs and a minimum of two certified PAM operator(s), operating 
in shifts, will be employed by Statoil during the proposed surveys. 
PSOs and PAM operators will work in shifts such that no one monitor 
will work more than 4 consecutive hours without a 2 hour break or 
longer than 12 hours during any 24-hour period. During daylight hours 
the PSOs will rotate in shifts of one on and three off, while during 
nighttime operations PSOs will work in pairs (per BOEM's 
requirements?). The PAM operators will also be on call as necessary 
during daytime operations should visual observations become impaired. 
Each PSO will monitor 360 degrees of the field of vision. Statoil will 
provide resumes of all proposed PSOs and PAM operators (including 
alternates) to NMFS for review and approval at least 45 days prior to 
the start of survey operations.
    Also as described above, PSOs will be equipped with binoculars and 
have the ability to estimate distances to marine mammals located in 
proximity to the vessel and/or exclusion zone using range finders. 
Reticulated binoculars will also be available to PSOs for use as 
appropriate based on conditions and visibility to support the siting 
and monitoring of marine species. Digital single-lens reflex camera 
equipment will be used to record sightings and verify species 
identification. During night operations, PAM, night-vision equipment, 
and infrared technology will be used to increase the ability to detect 
marine mammals. Position data will be recorded using hand-held or 
vessel global positioning system (GPS) units for each sighting. 
Observations will take place from the highest available vantage point 
on the survey vessel. General 360-degree scanning will occur during the 
monitoring periods, and target scanning by the PSO will occur when 
alerted of a marine mammal presence.
    Data on all PAM/PSO observations will be recorded based on standard 
PSO collection requirements. This will include dates and locations of 
survey operations; time of observation, location and weather; details 
of the sightings (e.g., species, age classification [if known], 
numbers, behavior); and details of any observed ``taking'' (behavioral 
disturbances). The data sheet will be provided to NMFS for review and 
approval prior to the start of survey activities. In addition, prior to 
initiation of survey work, all crew members will undergo environmental 
training, a component of which will focus on the procedures for 
sighting and protection of marine mammals. A briefing will also be 
conducted between the survey supervisors and crews, the PSOs, and 
Statoil. The purpose of the briefing will be to establish 
responsibilities of each party, define the chains of command, discuss 
communication procedures, provide an overview of monitoring purposes, 
and review operational procedures.
    Acoustic Field Verification--As described above, field verification 
of sound levels associated with survey equipment will be conducted. 
Results of the field verification may be used to request modification 
of the EZs and monitoring zones. The details of the applicant's plan 
for field verification of sound levels are provided as Appendix B to 
the IHA application.

Proposed Reporting Measures

    Statoil will provide the following reports as necessary during 
survey activities:
     The Applicant will contact NMFS within 24 hours of the 
commencement of survey activities and again within 24 hours of the 
completion of the activity.
     Notification of Injured or Dead Marine Mammals--In the 
unanticipated event that the specified HRG and geotechnical activities 
lead to an injury of a marine mammal (Level A harassment) or mortality 
(e.g., ship-strike, gear interaction, and/or entanglement), Statoil 
would immediately cease the specified activities and report the 
incident to the Chief of the Permits and Conservation Division, Office 
of Protected Resources and the NMFS Greater Atlantic Stranding 
Coordinator. The report would include the following information:
     Time, date, and location (latitude/longitude) of the 
incident;
     Name and type of vessel involved;
     Vessel's speed during and leading up to the incident;
     Description of the incident;
     Status of all sound source use in the 24 hours preceding 
the incident;
     Water depth;
     Environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, 
Beaufort sea state, cloud cover, and visibility);
     Description of all marine mammal observations in the 24 
hours preceding the incident;
     Species identification or description of the animal(s) 
involved;
     Fate of the animal(s); and
     Photographs or video footage of the animal(s) (if 
equipment is available).
    Activities would not resume until NMFS is able to review the 
circumstances of the event. NMFS would work with Statoil to minimize 
reoccurrence of such an event in the future. Statoil would not resume 
activities until notified by NMFS.
    In the event that Statoil discovers an injured or dead marine 
mammal and determines that the cause of the injury or death is unknown 
and the death is relatively recent (i.e., in less than a moderate state 
of decomposition), Statoil would immediately report the incident to the 
Chief of the Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected 
Resources and the NMFS Greater Atlantic Stranding Coordinator. The 
report would include the same information identified in the paragraph 
above. Activities would be able to continue while NMFS reviews the

[[Page 7676]]

circumstances of the incident. NMFS would work with Statoil to 
determine if modifications in the activities are appropriate.
    In the event that Statoil discovers an injured or dead marine 
mammal and determines that the injury or death is not associated with 
or related to the activities authorized in the IHA (e.g., previously 
wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced decomposition, or 
scavenger damage), Statoil would report the incident to the Chief of 
the Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, 
and the NMFS Greater Atlantic Regional Stranding Coordinator, within 24 
hours of the discovery. Statoil would provide photographs or video 
footage (if available) or other documentation of the stranded animal 
sighting to NMFS. Statoil may continue its operations under such a 
case.
     Within 90 days after completion of survey activities, a 
final technical report will be provided to NMFS that fully documents 
the methods and monitoring protocols, summarizes the data recorded 
during monitoring, estimates the number of marine mammals estimated to 
have been taken during survey activities, and provides an 
interpretation of the results and effectiveness of all mitigation and 
monitoring. Any recommendations made by NMFS must be addressed in the 
final report prior to acceptance by NMFS.

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. 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's 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 9, given that NMFS expects the anticipated effects of the 
proposed survey to be similar in nature.
    NMFS does not anticipate that serious injury or mortality would 
occur as a result of Statoil's proposed survey, even in the absence of 
proposed mitigation. Thus the proposed authorization does not authorize 
any serious injury or mortality. As discussed in the Potential Effects 
section, non-auditory physical effects and vessel strike are not 
expected to occur.
    We expect that all potential 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. In addition to being temporary and short in overall 
duration, the acoustic footprint of the proposed survey is small 
relative to the overall distribution of the animals in the area and 
their use of the area. Feeding behavior is not likely to be 
significantly impacted, as no areas of biological significance for 
marine mammal feeding are known to exist in the survey area. 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 feeding 
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 rookeries or mating or calving areas known to be biologically 
important to marine mammals within the proposed project area. The 
proposed survey area is within a biologically important migratory area 
for North Atlantic right whales (effective March-April and November-
December) that extends from Massachusetts to Florida (LaBrecque, et 
al., 2015). Off the coast of New York, this biologically important 
migratory area extends from the coast to the shelf break. Due to the 
fact that that the proposed survey is temporary and short in overall 
duration, and the fact that the spatial acoustic footprint of the 
proposed survey is very small relative to the spatial extent of the 
available migratory habitat in the area, right whale migration is not 
expected to be impacted by the proposed survey.
    The proposed mitigation measures are expected to reduce the number 
and/or severity of takes by (1) giving animals the opportunity to move 
away from the sound source before HRG survey equipment reaches full 
energy; (2) preventing animals from being exposed to sound levels that 
may otherwise result in injury. Additional vessel strike avoidance 
requirements will further mitigate potential impacts to marine mammals 
during vessel transit to and within the survey area.
    NMFS concludes that exposures to marine mammal species and stocks 
due to Statoil's proposed survey would result in only short-term 
(temporary and short in duration) effects to individuals exposed. 
Marine mammals 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 species or stock 
through effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival:
     No mortality, serious injury, or Level A harassment is 
anticipated or authorized;
     The anticipated impacts of the proposed activity on marine 
mammals would be temporary behavioral changes due to avoidance of the 
area around the survey vessel;
     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;

[[Page 7677]]

     The proposed project area does not contain areas of 
significance for feeding, mating or calving;
     Effects on species that serve as prey species for marine 
mammals from the proposed survey are not expected;
     The proposed mitigation measures, including visual and 
acoustic monitoring 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 and 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.
    The numbers of marine mammals that we propose for authorization to 
be taken, for all species and stocks, would be considered small 
relative to the relevant stocks or populations (less than 6 percent of 
each species and stock). See Table 9. 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 or stocks.

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 
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

    Section 7(a)(2) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (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 NMFS Greater Atlantic 
Regional Fisheries Office (GARFO), whenever we propose to authorize 
take for endangered or threatened species.
    The NMFS Office of Protected Resources is proposing to authorize 
the incidental take of three species of marine mammals which are listed 
under the ESA: The North Atlantic right, fin, and sperm whale. BOEM 
consulted with NMFS GARFO under section 7 of the ESA on commercial wind 
lease issuance and site assessment activities on the Atlantic Outer 
Continental Shelf in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York and New 
Jersey Wind Energy Areas. NMFS GARFO issued a Biological Opinion 
concluding that these activities may adversely affect but are not 
likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the North Atlantic 
right, fin, and sperm whale. The Biological Opinion can be found online 
at: www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/incidental-take-authorizations-other-energy-activities-renewable. NMFS 
will conclude the ESA section 7 consultation prior to reaching a 
determination regarding the proposed issuance of the authorization. If 
the IHA is issued, the Biological Opinion may be amended to include an 
incidental take statement for these marine mammal species, as 
appropriate.

Proposed Authorization

    As a result of these preliminary determinations, NMFS proposes to 
issue an IHA to Statoil for conducting marine site assessment surveys 
offshore New York and along potential submarine cable routes from the 
date of issuance for a period of one year, 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 IHA is valid for a period of one year from the date of 
issuance.
    2. This IHA is valid only for marine site characterization survey 
activity, as specified in the IHA application, in the Atlantic Ocean.
    3. General Conditions.
    (a) A copy of this IHA must be in the possession of Statoil Wind 
U.S. LLC (Statoil), the vessel operator and other relevant personnel, 
the lead PSO, and any other relevant designees of Statoil operating 
under the authority of this IHA.
    (b) The species authorized for taking are listed in Table 9. The 
taking, by Level B harassment only, is limited to the species and 
numbers listed in Table 9. Any taking of species not listed in Table 9, 
or exceeding the authorized amounts listed in Table 9, is prohibited 
and may result in the modification, suspension, or revocation of this 
IHA.
    (c) The taking by injury, 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) Statoil shall ensure that the vessel operator and other 
relevant vessel personnel are briefed on all responsibilities, 
communication procedures, marine mammal monitoring protocols, 
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) Statoil shall use at least four (4) NMFS-approved protected 
species observers (PSOs) during HRG surveys. 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 prior to 
commencement of the survey.
    (b) Visual monitoring must begin no less than 30 minutes prior to 
initiation of survey equipment and must continue until 30 minutes after 
use of survey equipment ceases.
    (c) Exclusion Zones and Watch Zone--PSOs shall establish and 
monitor marine mammal Exclusion Zones and Watch Zones. The Watch Zone 
shall represent the extent of the Level B harassment zone (1,166 m) or, 
as far as possible if the extent of the Level B zone is not fully 
visible. The Exclusion Zones are as follows:
    (i) a 50 m Exclusion Zone for pinnipeds and delphinids (except 
harbor porpoises);
    (ii) a 100 m Exclusion Zone for large whales including sperm whales 
and

[[Page 7678]]

mysticetes (except North Atlantic right whales) and harbor porpoises;
    (iii) a 500 m Exclusion Zone for North Atlantic right whales.
    (d) Shutdown requirements--If a marine mammal is observed within, 
entering, or approaching the relevant Exclusion Zones as described 
under 4(c) while geophysical survey equipment is operational, the 
geophysical survey equipment must be immediately shut down.
    (i) Any PSO on duty has the authority to call for shutdown of 
survey equipment. When there is certainty regarding the need for 
mitigation action on the basis of visual detection, the relevant PSO(s) 
must call for such action immediately.
    (ii) When a shutdown is called for by a PSO, the shutdown must 
occur and any dispute resolved only following shutdown.
    (iii) The shutdown requirement is waived for small delphinoids that 
approach the vessel (e.g., bow ride).
    (iv) Upon implementation of a shutdown, survey equipment may be 
reactivated when all marine mammals have been confirmed by visual 
observation to have exited the relevant Exclusion Zone or an additional 
time period has elapsed with no further sighting of the animal that 
triggered the shutdown (15 minutes for small delphinoid cetaceans and 
pinnipeds and 30 minutes for all other species).
    (v) If geophysical equipment shuts down for reasons other than 
mitigation (i.e., mechanical or electronic failure) resulting in the 
cessation of the survey equipment for a period of less than 20 minutes, 
the equipment may be restarted as soon as practicable if visual surveys 
were continued diligently throughout the silent period and the relevant 
Exclusion Zones are confirmed by PSOs to have remained clear of marine 
mammals during the entire 20 minute period. If visual surveys were not 
continued diligently during the pause of 20 minutes or less, a 30 
minute pre-clearance period shall precede the restart of the 
geophysical survey equipment as described in 4(e). If the period of 
shutdown for reasons other than mitigation is greater than 20 minutes, 
a pre-clearance period shall precede the restart of the geophysical 
survey equipment as described in 4(e).
    (e) Pre-clearance observation--30 minutes of pre-clearance 
observation shall be conducted prior to initiation of geophysical 
survey equipment. geophysical survey equipment shall not be initiated 
if marine mammals are observed within or approaching the relevant 
Exclusion Zones as described under 4(d) during the pre-clearance 
period. If a marine mammal is observed within or approaching the 
relevant Exclusion Zone during the pre-clearance period, geophysical 
survey equipment shall not be initiated until the animal(s) is 
confirmed by visual observation to have exited the relevant Exclusion 
Zone or until an additional time period has elapsed with no further 
sighting of the animal (15 minutes for small delphinoid cetaceans and 
pinnipeds and 30 minutes for all other species).
    (f) Ramp-up--when technically feasible, survey equipment shall be 
ramped up at the start or re-start of survey activities. Ramp-up will 
begin with the power of the smallest acoustic equipment at its lowest 
practical power output appropriate for the survey. When technically 
feasible the power will then be gradually turned up and other acoustic 
sources added in way such that the source level would increase 
gradually.
    (g) 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, as appropriate, to avoid striking any marine 
mammal, unless such action represents a human safety concern. Survey 
vessel crew members responsible for navigation duties shall receive 
site-specific training on marine mammal sighting/reporting and vessel 
strike avoidance measures. Vessel strike avoidance measures shall 
include the following, except under circumstances when complying with 
these requirements would put the safety of the vessel or crew at risk:
    (i) The vessel operator and crew shall maintain vigilant watch for 
cetaceans and pinnipeds, and slow down or stop the vessel to avoid 
striking marine mammals;
    (ii) The vessel operator will reduce vessel speed to 10 knots (18.5 
km/hr) or less when any large whale, any mother/calf pairs, whale or 
dolphin pods, or larger assemblages of non-delphinoid cetaceans are 
observed near (within 100 m (330 ft)) an underway vessel;
    (iii) The survey vessel will maintain a separation distance of 500 
m (1640 ft) or greater from any sighted North Atlantic right whale;
    (iv) If underway, the vessel must steer a course away from any 
sighted North Atlantic right whale at 10 knots (18.5 km/hr) or less 
until the 500 m (1640 ft) minimum separation distance has been 
established. If a North Atlantic right whale is sighted in a vessel's 
path, or within 100 m (330 ft) to an underway vessel, the underway 
vessel must reduce speed and shift the engine to neutral. Engines will 
not be engaged until the North Atlantic right whale has moved outside 
of the vessel's path and beyond 100 m. If stationary, the vessel must 
not engage engines until the North Atlantic right whale has moved 
beyond 100 m;
    (v) The vessel will maintain a separation distance of 100 m (330 
ft) or greater from any sighted non-delphinoid cetacean. If sighted, 
the vessel underway must reduce speed and shift the engine to neutral, 
and must not engage the engines until the non-delphinoid cetacean has 
moved outside of the vessel's path and beyond 100 m. If a survey vessel 
is stationary, the vessel will not engage engines until the non-
delphinoid cetacean has moved out of the vessel's path and beyond 100 
m;
    (vi) The vessel will maintain a separation distance of 50 m (164 
ft) or greater from any sighted delphinoid cetacean. Any vessel 
underway remain parallel to a sighted delphinoid cetacean's course 
whenever possible, and avoid excessive speed or abrupt changes in 
direction. Any vessel underway reduces vessel speed to 10 knots (18.5 
km/hr) or less when pods (including mother/calf pairs) or large 
assemblages of delphinoid cetaceans are observed. Vessels may not 
adjust course and speed until the delphinoid cetaceans have moved 
beyond 50 m and/or the abeam of the underway vessel;
    (vii) All vessels underway will not divert or alter course in order 
to approach any whale, delphinoid cetacean, or pinniped. Any vessel 
underway will avoid excessive speed or abrupt changes in direction to 
avoid injury to the sighted cetacean or pinniped; and
    (viii) All vessels will maintain a separation distance of 50 m (164 
ft) or greater from any sighted pinniped.
    (ix) The vessel operator will comply with 10 knot (18.5 km/hr) or 
less speed restrictions in any Seasonal Management Area per NMFS 
guidance.
    (x) If NMFS should establish a Dynamic Management Area (DMA) in the 
area of the survey, within 24 hours of the establishment of the DMA 
Statoil shall work with NMFS to shut down and/or alter survey 
activities to avoid the DMA as appropriate.
    5. Monitoring Requirements--The Holder of this Authorization is 
required to conduct marine mammal visual monitoring and passive 
acoustic monitoring (PAM) during geophysical survey activity. 
Monitoring shall be conducted in accordance with the following 
requirements:
    (a) A minimum of four NMFS-approved PSOs and a minimum of two 
certified (PAM) operator(s), operating in shifts, shall be employed by 
Statoil during geophysical surveys.

[[Page 7679]]

    (b) Observations shall take place from the highest available 
vantage point on the survey vessel. General 360-degree scanning shall 
occur during the monitoring periods, and target scanning by PSOs will 
occur when alerted of a marine mammal presence.
    (c) PSOs shall be equipped with binoculars and have the ability to 
estimate distances to marine mammals located in proximity to the vessel 
and/or Exclusion Zones using range finders. Reticulated binoculars will 
also be available to PSOs for use as appropriate based on conditions 
and visibility to support the sighting and monitoring of marine 
species. Digital single-lens reflex camera equipment will be used to 
record sightings and verify species identification.
    (d) PAM shall be used during nighttime geophysical survey 
operations. The PAM system shall consist of an array of hydrophones 
with both broadband (sampling mid-range frequencies of 2 kHz to 200 
kHz) and at least one low-frequency hydrophone (sampling range 
frequencies of 75 Hz to 30 kHz). PAM operators shall communicate 
detections or vocalizations to the Lead PSO on duty who shall ensure 
the implementation of the appropriate mitigation measure.
    (e) During night surveys, night-vision equipment and infrared 
technology shall be used in addition to PAM. Specifications for night-
vision and infrared equipment shall be provided to NMFS for review and 
acceptance prior to start of surveys.
    (f) PSOs and PAM operators shall work in shifts such that no one 
monitor will work more than 4 consecutive hours without a 2 hour break 
or longer than 12 hours during any 24-hour period. During daylight 
hours the PSOs shall rotate in shifts of 1 on and 3 off, and while 
during nighttime operations PSOs shall work in pairs.
    (g) PAM operators shall also be on call as necessary during daytime 
operations should visual observations become impaired.
    (h) Position data shall be recorded using hand-held or vessel 
global positioning system (GPS) units for each sighting.
    (i) A briefing shall be conducted between survey supervisors and 
crews, PSOs, and Statoil to establish responsibilities of each party, 
define chains of command, discuss communication procedures, provide an 
overview of monitoring purposes, and review operational procedures.
    (j) Statoil shall provide resumes of all proposed PSOs and PAM 
operators (including alternates) to NMFS for review and approval at 
least 45 days prior to the start of survey operations.
    (k) PSO Qualifications shall include direct field experience on a 
marine mammal observation vessel and/or aerial surveys.
    (a) Data on all PAM/PSO observations shall be recorded based on 
standard PSO collection requirements. PSOs must use standardized data 
forms, whether hard copy or electronic. The following information shall 
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 and/or closest distance from 
the center point of the acoustic source;
    (P) Platform activity at time of sighting (e.g., deploying, 
recovering, testing, data acquisition, other); and
    (Q) Description of any actions implemented in response to the 
sighting (e.g., delays, shutdown, ramp-up, speed or course alteration, 
etc.) and time and location of the action.
    6. Reporting--a technical report shall be provided to NMFS within 
90 days after completion of survey activities that fully documents the 
methods and monitoring protocols, summarizes the data recorded during 
monitoring, estimates the number of marine mammals that may have been 
taken during survey activities, describes the effectiveness of the 
various mitigation techniques (i.e. visual observations during day and 
night compared to PAM detections/operations) and provides an 
interpretation of the results and effectiveness of all monitoring 
tasks. Any recommendations made by NMFS shall be addressed in the final 
report prior to acceptance by NMFS.
    (a) 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 prohibited by this IHA (if 
issued), such as serious injury or mortality, Statoil shall immediately 
cease the specified activities and immediately report the incident to 
NMFS. 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);

[[Page 7680]]

    (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 Statoil to 
determine what measures are necessary to minimize the likelihood of 
further prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. Statoil may not 
resume their activities until notified by NMFS.
    (ii) In the event that Statoil discovers an injured or dead marine 
mammal, and the lead PSO determines that the cause of the injury or 
death is unknown and the death is relatively recent (e.g., in less than 
a moderate state of decomposition), Statoil shall immediately report 
the incident to NMFS. 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 Statoil to determine whether additional mitigation measures or 
modifications to the activities are appropriate.
    (iii) In the event that Statoil discovers an injured or dead marine 
mammal, and the lead PSO determines that the injury or death is not 
associated with or related to the specified activities (e.g., 
previously wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced 
decomposition, or scavenger damage), Statoil shall report the incident 
to NMFS within 24 hours of the discovery. Statoil 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.

Request for Public Comments

    We request comment on our analyses, the draft authorization, and 
any other aspect of this Notice of Proposed IHA for the proposed marine 
site characterization surveys. Please include with your comments any 
supporting data or literature citations to help inform our final 
decision on the request for MMPA authorization.
    On a case-by-case basis, NMFS may issue a one-year renewal IHA 
without additional notice when (1) another year of identical or nearly 
identical activities as described in the Specified Activities section 
is planned, or (2) the activities would not be completed by the time 
the IHA expires and renewal would allow completion of the activities 
beyond that described in the Dates and Duration section, provided all 
of the following conditions are met:
     A request for renewal is received no later than 60 days 
prior to expiration of the current IHA.
     The request for renewal must include the following:
    (1) An explanation that the activities to be conducted beyond the 
initial dates either are identical to the previously analyzed 
activities or include changes so minor (e.g., reduction in pile size) 
that the changes do not affect the previous analyses, take estimates, 
or mitigation and monitoring requirements.
    (2) A preliminary monitoring report showing the results of the 
required monitoring to date and an explanation showing that the 
monitoring results do not indicate impacts of a scale or nature not 
previously analyzed or authorized.
     Upon review of the request for renewal, the status of the 
affected species or stocks, and any other pertinent information, NMFS 
determines that there are no more than minor changes in the activities, 
the mitigation and monitoring measures remain the same and appropriate, 
and the original findings remain valid.

    Dated: February 16, 2018.
Donna S. Wieting,
Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
[FR Doc. 2018-03611 Filed 2-21-18; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P