Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Ocean Wind Marine Site Characterization Surveys, New Jersey, 14823-14840 [2022-05477]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 51 / Wednesday, March 16, 2022 / Notices approve recommendations for a prototype Management Strategy Evaluation (MSE) process to be presented at the April Council meeting. A planning document for the process will include a purpose and objectives for conducting a prototype MSE as well as recommendations about how it will be conducted. It will also include recommendations for stakeholder participants. The Committee and PDT will finalize recommendations for 2022– 26 EBFM research priorities. Other business will be discussed, if necessary. Although non-emergency issues not contained on the agenda may come before this Council for discussion, those issues may not be the subject of formal action during this meeting. Council action will be restricted to those issues specifically listed in this notice and any issues arising after publication of this notice that require emergency action under section 305(c) of the MagnusonStevens Act, provided the public has been notified of the Council’s intent to take final action to address the emergency. The public also should be aware that the meeting will be recorded. Consistent with 16 U.S.C. 1852, a copy of the recording is available upon request. Special Accommodations This meeting is physically accessible to people with disabilities. Requests for sign language interpretation or other auxiliary aids should be directed to Thomas A. Nies, Executive Director, at (978) 465–0492, at least 5 days prior to the meeting date. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: March 11, 2022. Tracey L. Thompson, Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2022–05523 Filed 3–15–22; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Interagency Marine Debris Coordinating Committee Meeting National Ocean Service (NOS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Department of Commerce (DOC). ACTION: Notice of open meeting. jspears on DSK121TN23PROD with NOTICES1 AGENCY: Notice is hereby given of a virtual public meeting of the Interagency Marine Debris Coordinating Committee (IMDCC). IMDCC members will discuss federal marine debris SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:16 Mar 15, 2022 Jkt 256001 activities, with a particular emphasis on the topics identified in the section on Matters to Be Considered. DATES: The virtual public meeting will be held on March 29, 2022 from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. ET. ADDRESSES: The meeting will be held virtually using Adobe Connect. You can connect to the meeting using the website or phone number provided: Meeting link: https:// noaaorr.adobeconnect.com/imdcc/. Phone: +1 866–399–2601; PIN: 8663992601. Attendance will be limited to 100 individuals. Refer to the Interagency Marine Debris Coordinating Committee website at https:// marinedebris.noaa.gov/IMDCC for the most up-to-date information on how to participate and on the agenda. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ya’el Seid-Green, Executive Secretariat, Interagency Marine Debris Coordinating Committee, Marine Debris Program; Phone 240–533–0399; Email yael.seidgreen@noaa.gov or visit the Interagency Marine Debris Coordinating Committee website at https:// marinedebris.noaa.gov/IMDCC. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Interagency Marine Debris Coordinating Committee (IMDCC) is a multi-agency body responsible for coordinating a comprehensive program of marine debris research and activities among Federal agencies, in cooperation and coordination with nongovernmental organizations, industry, academia, States, Tribes, and other nations, as appropriate. Representatives meet to share information, assess and promote best management practices, and coordinate the Federal Government’s efforts to address marine debris. The Marine Debris Act establishes the IMDCC (33 U.S.C. 1954). The IMDCC submits biennial progress reports to Congress with updates on activities, achievements, strategies, and recommendations. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration serves as the Chairperson of the IMDCC. The meeting will be open to public attendance on March 29, 2022, from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. ET. There will not be a public comment period. The meeting will not be recorded. Matters To Be Considered The open meeting will include a presentation from the Department of State on international plastic pollution negotiations. The agenda topics described are subject to change. The latest version of the agenda will be PO 00000 Frm 00004 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 14823 posted at https:// marinedebris.noaa.gov/IMDCC. Special Accommodations The meeting is accessible to people with disabilities. Closed captioning will be available. Requests for other auxiliary aids should be directed to Ya’el SeidGreen, Executive Secretariat at yael.seid-green@noaa.gov or 240–533– 0399 by March 21, 2022. Scott Lundgren, Director, Office of Response and Restoration, National Ocean Service. [FR Doc. 2022–05551 Filed 3–15–22; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–NK–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [RTID 0648–XB758] Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Ocean Wind Marine Site Characterization Surveys, New Jersey National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; proposed incidental harassment authorization; request for comments on proposed authorization and possible renewal. AGENCY: NMFS has received a request from Ocean Wind, LLC (Ocean Wind) for authorization to take marine mammals incidental to marine site characterization surveys in the area of Commercial Lease of Submerged Lands for Renewable Energy Development on the Outer Continental Shelf Lease Area OCS–A 0532 and potential export cable routes to landfall locations in New Jersey. 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 is also requesting comments on a possible one-year renewal that could be issued under certain circumstances and if all requirements are met, as described in Request for Public Comments at the end of this notice. 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 April 15, 2022. SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\16MRN1.SGM 16MRN1 14824 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 51 / Wednesday, March 16, 2022 / Notices Comments should be addressed to Jolie Harrison, Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, and should be submitted via email to ITP.Daly@ 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, including all attachments, must not exceed a 25megabyte file size. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted online at www.fisheries.noaa.gov/permit/ incidental-take-authorizations-undermarine-mammal-protection-act 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: Jaclyn Daly, 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/permit/ incidental-take-authorizations-undermarine-mammal-protection-act. In case of problems accessing these documents, please call the contact listed above. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: ADDRESSES: jspears on DSK121TN23PROD with NOTICES1 Background The MMPA prohibits the ‘‘take’’ of marine mammals, with certain exceptions. 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 incidental take authorization may be provided to the public for review. Authorization for incidental takings shall be granted if NMFS finds that the taking will have a negligible impact on the species or stock(s) and will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of the species or stock(s) for taking for subsistence uses (where relevant). Further, NMFS must prescribe the permissible methods of taking and other ‘‘means of effecting the least VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:16 Mar 15, 2022 Jkt 256001 practicable adverse impact’’ on the affected species or stocks and their habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance, and on the availability of the species or stocks for taking for certain subsistence uses (referred to in shorthand as ‘‘mitigation’’); and requirements pertaining to the mitigation, monitoring and reporting of the takings are set forth. The definitions of all applicable MMPA statutory terms cited above are included in the relevant sections below. 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 IHA) with respect to potential impacts on the human environment. This action is consistent with categories of activities identified in Categorical Exclusion B4 (IHAs with no anticipated serious injury or mortality) of the Companion Manual for NOAA Administrative Order 216–6A, which do not individually or cumulatively have the potential for significant impacts on the quality of the human environment and for which NMFS have not identified any extraordinary circumstances that would preclude this categorical exclusion. Accordingly, NMFS has preliminarily determined that the issuance of the proposed IHA qualifies to be categorically excluded from further NEPA review. NMFS 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 October 1, 2021, NMFS received a request from Ocean Wind for an IHA to take marine mammals incidental to marine site characterization surveys off of New Jersey in the area of Commercial Lease of Submerged Lands for Renewable Energy Development on the Outer Continental Shelf Lease Area OCS–A 0532 (Lease Area) and potential export cable routes (ECRs) to landfall locations in New Jersey. Following NMFS review of the draft application, a revised version was submitted on November 24, 2021 and again on January 24, 2022. The January 2022 revised version was deemed adequate and complete on February 8, 2022. Ocean Wind’s request is for take of 16 species of marine mammals, by Level B harassment only. Neither Ocean Wind nor NMFS expects serious injury or PO 00000 Frm 00005 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 mortality to result from this activity and, therefore, an IHA is appropriate. NMFS previously issued an IHA to Ocean Wind for similar work in the same geographic area on June 8, 2017 (82 FR 31562; July 7, 2017) with effective dates from June 8, 2017, through June 7, 2018 and on May 10, 2021 (86 FR 26465, May 14, 2021) with effective dates from May 10, 2021 through May 9, 2022. Ocean Wind complied with all the requirements (e.g., mitigation, monitoring, and reporting) of the 2017–2018 IHA. Because the current IHA is still effective, we have not yet received the associated monitoring report from Ocean Wind. The proposed IHA would be effective May 10, 2022 through May 9, 2023. Description of Proposed Activity Overview As part of its overall marine site characterization survey operations, Ocean Wind proposes to conduct highresolution geophysical (HRG) surveys in the Lease Area and along potential ECRs to landfall locations in New Jersey. The purpose of the marine site characterization surveys are to obtain an assessment of seabed (geophysical, geotechnical, and geohazard), ecological, and archeological conditions within the footprint of a planned offshore wind facility development area. Surveys are also conducted to support engineering design and to map unexploded ordnance. Underwater sound resulting from Ocean Wind’s proposed site characterization survey activities, specifically HRG surveys, has the potential to result in incidental take of marine mammals in the form of Level B behavioral harassment. Dates and Duration Site characterization surveys considered under this application are expected to occur between May 10, 2022 and May 9, 2023 with a total of 275 survey days. A survey day is defined here as a 24-hour activity period. The number of anticipated survey days was calculated as the number of days needed to reach the overall level of effort required to meet survey objectives assuming any single vessel covers, on average, 70 line km per 24 hours of operations. Specific Geographic Region The proposed survey activities will occur within the Project Area which includes the Lease Area and potential ECRs, as shown in Figure 1. The Lease Area is approximately 343.8 square kilometers (km2) and is within the New Jersey wind energy area (WEA) of the E:\FR\FM\16MRN1.SGM 16MRN1 Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s Mid-Atlantic planning area. Water depths in the Lease Area range from 15 meters (m) to 35 m, and the potential BILLING CODE 3510–22–C of 70 km. Vessels would generally conduct survey effort at a transit speed of approximately 4 knots (kn), which equates to 110 km per 24-hr period. However, based on past survey experience (i.e., knowledge of typical daily downtime due to weather, system malfunctions, etc.) Ocean Wind assumes 70 km as the average daily distance. On this basis, a total of 275 survey days are expected. In certain shallow-water areas, vessels may conduct survey effort during daylight hours only, with a corresponding assumption that the daily survey distance would be halved (35 km). However, for purposes of analysis all survey days are assumed to cover the maximum 70 km. A maximum of two Detailed Description of Specific Activity Ocean Wind proposes to conduct HRG survey operations, including multibeam depth sounding, seafloor imaging, and shallow and medium penetration sub-bottom profiling. The HRG surveys may be conducted using any or all of the following equipment types: Side scan sonar, multibeam echosounder, magnetometers and gradiometers, parametric sub-bottom profiler (SBP), compressed high intensity radar pulse (CHIRP) SBP, boomers, or sparkers. Ocean Wind assumes that HRG survey operations would be conducted 24 hours per day, with an assumed daily survey distance VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:16 Mar 15, 2022 Jkt 256001 14825 ECRs extend from the shoreline to approximately 40 m depth. BILLING CODE 3510–22–P PO 00000 Frm 00006 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 vessels would operate concurrently in areas where 24-hr operations would be conducted, with an additional third vessel potentially conducting daylightonly survey effort in shallow-water areas. Acoustic sources planned for use during HRG survey activities proposed by Ocean Wind include the following: • Shallow penetration, nonimpulsive, non-parametric SBPs (i.e., CHIRP SBPs) are used to map the nearsurface stratigraphy (top 0 to 10 m) of sediment below seabed. A CHIRP system emits signals covering a frequency sweep from approximately 2 to 20 kilohertz (kHz) over time. The frequency range can be adjusted to meet E:\FR\FM\16MRN1.SGM 16MRN1 EN16MR22.000</GPH> jspears on DSK121TN23PROD with NOTICES1 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 51 / Wednesday, March 16, 2022 / Notices 14826 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 51 / Wednesday, March 16, 2022 / Notices project variables. These sources are typically mounted on a pole rather than towed, reducing the likelihood that an animal would be exposed to the signal. • Medium penetration, impulsive sources (i.e., boomers and sparkers) are used to map deeper subsurface stratigraphy. A boomer is a broadband source operating in the 3.5 Hertz (Hz) to 10 kHz frequency range. Sparkers create omnidirectional acoustic pulses from 50 Hz to 4 kHz. These sources are typically towed behind the vessel. Operation of the following survey equipment types is not expected to present reasonable risk of marine mammal take, and will not be discussed further beyond the brief summaries provided below. • Non-impulsive, parametric SBPs are used for providing high data density in sub-bottom profiles that are typically required for cable routes, very shallow water, and archaeological surveys. These sources generate short, very narrow-beam (1° to 3.5°) signals at high frequencies (generally around 85–100 kHz). The narrow beamwidth significantly reduces the potential that a marine mammal could be exposed to the signal, while the high frequency of operation means that the signal is rapidly attenuated in seawater. These sources are typically deployed on a pole rather than towed behind the vessel. • Acoustic corers are seabed-mounted sources with three distinct sound sources: A high-frequency parametric sonar, a high-frequency CHIRP sonar, and a low-frequency CHIRP sonar. The beamwidth is narrow (3.5° to 8°) and the source is operated roughly 3.5 meter (m) above the seabed with the transducer pointed directly downward. • Ultra-short baseline (USBL) positioning systems are used to provide high accuracy ranges by measuring the time between the acoustic pulses transmitted by the vessel transceiver and a transponder (or beacon) necessary to produce the acoustic profile. It is a two-component system with a polemounted transceiver and one or several transponders mounted on other survey equipment. USBLs are expected to produce extremely small acoustic propagation distances in their typical operating configuration. • Multibeam echosounders (MBESs) are used to determine water depths and general bottom topography. The proposed MBESs all have operating frequencies >180 kHz and are therefore outside the general hearing range of marine mammals. • Side scan sonars (SSS) are used for seabed sediment classification purposes and to identify natural and man-made acoustic targets on the seafloor. The proposed SSSs all have operating frequencies >180 kHz and are therefore outside the general hearing range of marine mammals. Table 1 identifies representative survey equipment with the expected potential to result in exposure of marine mammals and potentially result in take. The make and model of the listed geophysical equipment may vary depending on availability and the final equipment choices will vary depending upon the final survey design, vessel availability, and survey contractor selection. TABLE 1—SUMMARY OF REPRESENTATIVE HRG EQUIPMENT Operating frequency (kHz) Equipment SLrms (dB re 1 μPa m) Pulse duration (width) (millisecond) SL0–pk (dB re 1 μPa m) Repetition rate (Hz) Beamwidth (degrees) CF= Crocker and Fratantonio (2016) MAN = Manufacturer Non-parametric shallow penetration SBPs (non-impulsive) ET 216 (2000DS or 3200 top unit) ................................... ET 424 3200–X ................................................................. ET 512i .............................................................................. GeoPulse 5430A ............................................................... Teledyne Benthos Chirp III—TTV 170 .............................. Pangeo SBI ....................................................................... 2–16 2–8 4–24 0.7–12 2–17 2–7 4.5–12.5 195 - 20 6 24 MAN 176 179 196 197 188 - 3.4 9 50 60 4.5 2 8 10 15 45 71 80 55 100 120 CF CF MAN MAN MAN Medium penetration SBPs (impulsive) J) 1 AA, Dura-spark UHD (400 tips, 500 ........................... AA, Dura-spark UHD Sparker Model 400 × 400 1 ............ GeoMarine, Dual 400 Sparker, Model Geo-Source 800 1 GeoMarine Sparker, Model Geo-Source 200–400 1 ......... GeoMarine Sparker, Model Geo-Source 200 Lightweight 1. AA, triple plate S-Boom (700–1,000 J) 2 ........................... 0.3–1.2 0.3–1.2 0.4–5 0.3–1.2 0.3–1.2 203 203 203 203 203 211 211 211 211 211 1.1 1.1 1.1 1.1 1.1 4 4 4 4 4 Omni Omni Omni Omni Omni CF CF CF CF CF 0.1–5 205 211 0.6 4 80 CF jspears on DSK121TN23PROD with NOTICES1 - = not applicable; μPa = micropascal; AA = Applied Acoustics; dB = decibel; ET = EdgeTech; J = joule; Omni = omnidirectional source; re = referenced to; PK = zero-to-peak sound pressure level; SL = source level; SPL = root-mean-square sound pressure level; UHD = ultra-high definition. 1 The Dura-spark measurements and specifications provided in Crocker and Fratantonio (2016) were used for all sparker systems proposed for the survey. These include variants of the Dura-spark sparker system and various configurations of the GeoMarine Geo-Source sparker system. The data provided in Crocker and Fratantonio (2016) represent the most applicable data for similar sparker systems with comparable operating methods and settings when manufacturer or other reliable measurements are not available. 2 Crocker and Fratantonio (2016) provide S-Boom measurements using two different power sources (CSP–D700 and CSP–N). The CSP–D700 power source was used in the 700 J measurements but not in the 1,000 J measurements. The CSP–N source was measured for both 700 J and 1,000 J operations but resulted in a lower SL; therefore, the single maximum SL value was used for both operational levels of the S-Boom. Proposed mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures are described in detail later in this document (please see Proposed Mitigation and Proposed Monitoring and Reporting). Description of Marine Mammals in the Area of Specified Activities Sections 3 and 4 of the application summarize available information VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:16 Mar 15, 2022 Jkt 256001 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’ Stock Assessment Reports (SARs; www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/ marine-mammal-protection/marinemammal-stock-assessments) and more PO 00000 Frm 00007 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 general information about these species (e.g., physical and behavioral descriptions) may be found on NMFS’ website (www.fisheries.noaa.gov/findspecies). Table 2 lists all species or stocks for which take is expected and proposed to be authorized for this action, and summarizes information related to the population or stock, including E:\FR\FM\16MRN1.SGM 16MRN1 14827 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 51 / Wednesday, March 16, 2022 / Notices regulatory status under the MMPA and Endangered Species Act (ESA) and potential biological removal (PBR), where known. For taxonomy, NMFS follows the Committee on Taxonomy (2021. 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’ SARs). While no mortality is anticipated or would be authorized here, PBR and annual serious injury and mortality from anthropogenic sources are included 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’ stock abundance estimates for most species represent the total estimate of 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’ U.S. Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico SARs. All values presented in Table 2 are the most recent available at the time of publication and are available in the Draft 2021 SARs (Hayes et al., 2021), available at: https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/ marine-mammal-protection/marinemammal-stock-assessment-reports. TABLE 2—MARINE MAMMAL SPECIES LIKELY TO OCCUR NEAR THE PROJECT AREA THAT MAY BE AFFECTED BY OCEAN WIND’S ACTIVITY Common name Scientific name Stock ESA/ MMPA status; strategic (Y/N) 1 Stock abundance (CV, Nmin, most recent abundance survey) 2 PBR Annual M/SI 3 Order Cetartiodactyla—Cetacea—Superfamily Mysticeti (baleen whales) Family Balaenidae: North Atlantic right whale ... Eubalaena glacialis ................... Western North Atlantic (WNA). E/D; Y 368 (0; 364; 2019) .................... 0.7 7.7 1,393 (0.15; 1,375; 2016) ......... 6,802 (0.24; 5,573; 2016) ......... 6,292 (1.02; 3,098; 2016) ......... 21,968 (0.31; 17,002; 2016) ..... 22 11 6.2 170 58 2.35 1.2 10.6 Family Balaenopteridae (rorquals) Humpback whale ................ Fin whale ............................ Sei whale ............................ Minke whale ........................ Megaptera novaeangliae .......... Balaenoptera physalus ............. Balaenoptera borealis ............... Balaenoptera acutorostrata ...... Gulf of Maine .................. WNA ............................... Nova Scotia .................... Canadian East Coast ..... -/-; Y E/D; Y E/D; Y -/-; N Superfamily Odontoceti (toothed whales, dolphins, and porpoises) Family Physeteridae: Sperm whale ....................... Family Delphinidae: Long-finned pilot whale ...... Short finned pilot whale ...... Bottlenose dolphin .............. Common dolphin ................ Atlantic white-sided dolphin Atlantic spotted dolphin ...... Risso’s dolphin ................... Family Phocoenidae: (porpoises) Harbor porpoise .................. Physeter macrocephalus .......... North Atlantic .................. E/D; Y 4,349 (0.28;3,451; 2016) .......... 3.9 0 Globicephala melas .................. Globicephala macrorhynchus ... Tursiops truncatus .................... WNA ............................... WNA ............................... WNA Offshore ................ WNA Northern Migratory Coastal. WNA ............................... WNA ............................... WNA ............................... WNA ............................... -/-; N -/-; N -/-; N -/D;Y 39,215 (0.30; 30,627; 2016) ..... 28,924 (0.24; 23,637; 2016) ..... 62,851 (0.23; 51,914; 2016) ..... 6,639 (0.41, 4,759, 2016) ......... 306 236 519 48 29 136 28 12.2–21.5 -/-; -/-; -/-; -/-; N N N N 172,974 (0.21; 145,216; 2016) 93,233 (0.71; 54,443; 2016) ..... 39,921 (0.27; 32,032; 2016) ..... 35,215 (0.19; 30,051; 2016) ..... 1,452 544 320 303 390 27 0 54.3 -/-; N 95,543 (0.31; 74,034; 2016) ..... 851 164 27,300 (0.22; 22,785, 2029) ..... 61,336 (0.08; 57,637, 2020) ..... 1,458 1,729 4,453 339 Delphinus delphis ..................... Lagenorhynchus acutus ............ Stenella frontalis ....................... Grampus griseus ...................... Phocoena phocoena ................. Gulf of Maine/Bay of Fundy. Order Carnivora—Superfamily Pinnipedia Family Phocidae: (earless seals) Gray seal 4 .......................... Harbor seal ......................... Halichoerus grypus ................... Phoca vitulina ........................... WNA ............................... WNA ............................... -/-; N -/-; N jspears on DSK121TN23PROD with NOTICES1 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 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 NMFS marine mammal stock assessment reports online at: www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/marine-mammal-stock-assessments. CV is coefficient of variation; Nmin is the minimum estimate of stock abundance. In some cases, CV is not applicable. 3 These values, found in NMFS’ SARs, represent annual levels of human-caused mortality plus serious injury from all sources combined (e.g., commercial fisheries, ship strike). 4 NMFS’ gray seal stock abundance estimate (and associated PBR value) applies to U.S. population only. Total stock abundance (including animals in Canada) is approximately 451,600. The annual M/SI value given is for the total stock. As indicated above, all 16 species (with 17 managed stocks) in Table 2 temporally and spatially co-occur with the activity to the degree that take is reasonably likely to occur. In addition to what is included in Sections 3 and 4 of the application, the SARs, and NMFS’ website, further detail informing the baseline for select species (i.e., VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:43 Mar 15, 2022 Jkt 256001 information regarding current Unusual Mortality Events (UME) and important habitat areas) is provided below. North Atlantic Right Whale The North Atlantic right whale is considered one of the most critically endangered populations of large whales in the world and has been listed as a PO 00000 Frm 00008 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Federal endangered species since 1970. The Western Atlantic stock is considered depleted under the MMPA (Hayes et al. 2021). There is a recovery plan (NOAA Fisheries 2017) for the right whale and recently there was a five-year review of the species (NOAA Fisheries 2017). The right whale had a E:\FR\FM\16MRN1.SGM 16MRN1 jspears on DSK121TN23PROD with NOTICES1 14828 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 51 / Wednesday, March 16, 2022 / Notices 2.8 percent recovery rate between 1990 and 2011 (Hayes et al. 2021). Elevated North Atlantic right whale mortalities have occurred since June 7, 2017, along the U.S. and Canadian coast with the leading category for the cause of death for this UME as ‘‘human interaction,’’ specifically from entanglements or vessel strikes. As of February 8, 2022, a total of 34 confirmed dead stranded whales (21 in Canada; 13 in the United States) have been documented. The cumulative total number of animals in the North Atlantic right whale UME has been updated to 50 individuals to include both the confirmed mortalities (dead stranded or floaters) (n=34) and seriously injured free-swimming whales (n=16) to better reflect the confirmed number of whales likely removed from the population during the UME and more accurately reflect the population impacts. More information is available online at: www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/ marine-life-distress/2017-2021-northatlantic-right-whale-unusual-mortalityevent. The proposed survey area is part of a migratory corridor Biologically Important Area (BIA) for North Atlantic right whales (effective March–April and November–December) that extends from Massachusetts to Florida (LeBrecque et al., 2015). Off the coast of New Jersey, the migratory BIA extends from the coast to beyond the shelf break. This important migratory area is approximately 269,488 km2 in size (compared with the approximately 5,500 km2 of total estimated Level B harassment ensonified area associated with the 275 planned survey days) and is comprised of the waters of the continental shelf offshore the East Coast of the United States, extending from Florida through Massachusetts. NMFS’ regulations at 50 CFR part 224.105 designated nearshore waters of the MidAtlantic Bight as Mid-Atlantic U.S. Seasonal Management Areas (SMA) for right whales in 2008. SMAs were developed to reduce the threat of collisions between ships and right whales around their migratory route and calving grounds. A portion of one SMA, which occurs off the mouth of Delaware Bay, overlaps spatially with a section of the proposed survey area. The SMA which occurs off the mouth of Delaware Bay is active from November 1 through April 30 of each year. Humpback Whale NMFS recently evaluated the status of the species, and on September 8, 2016, NMFS divided the species into 14 distinct population segments (DPS), removed the species-level listing, and in VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:16 Mar 15, 2022 Jkt 256001 its place listed four DPSs as endangered and one DPS as threatened (81 FR 62260; September 8, 2016). The remaining nine DPSs were not listed. The West Indies DPS, which is not listed under the ESA, is the only DPS of humpback whale that is expected to occur in the survey area. Bettridge et al. (2015) estimated the size of this population at 12,312 (95 percent CI 8,688–15,954) whales in 2004–05, which is consistent with previous population estimates of approximately 10,000–11,000 whales (Stevick et al., 2003; Smith et al., 1999) and the increasing trend for the West Indies DPS (Bettridge et al., 2015). Whales occurring in the survey area are considered to be from the West Indies DPS, but are not necessarily from the Gulf of Maine feeding population managed as a stock by NMFS. Barco et al., 2002 estimated that, based on photoidentification, only 39 percent of individual humpback whales observed along the mid- and south Atlantic U.S. coast are from the Gulf of Maine stock. Since January 2016, elevated humpback whale mortalities have occurred along the Atlantic coast from Maine to Florida. Partial or full necropsy examinations have been conducted on approximately half of the 156 known cases (as of February 8, 2022). Of the whales examined, about 50 percent had evidence of human interaction, either ship strike or entanglement. While a portion of the whales have shown evidence of premortem vessel strike, this finding is not consistent across all whales examined and more research is needed. NOAA is consulting with researchers that are conducting studies on the 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. More information is available at: www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/ marine-life-distress/2016-2021humpback-whale-unusual-mortalityevent-along-atlantic-coast. Minke Whale Since January 2017, elevated minke whale mortalities have occurred along the Atlantic coast from Maine through South Carolina, with a total of 122 strandings (as of February 8, 2022). This event has been declared a UME. Full or partial necropsy examinations were conducted on more than 60 percent of the whales. Preliminary findings in several of the whales have shown evidence of human interactions or infectious disease, but these findings are not consistent across all of the whales PO 00000 Frm 00009 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 examined, so more research is needed. More information is available at: www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/ marine-life-distress/2017-2021-minkewhale-unusual-mortality-event-alongatlantic-coast. Seals Since July 2018, elevated numbers of harbor seal and gray seal mortalities have occurred across Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. This event has been declared a UME. Additionally, stranded seals have shown clinical signs as far south as Virginia, although not in elevated numbers, therefore the UME investigation now encompasses all seal strandings from Maine to Virginia. Ice seals (harp and hooded seals) have also started stranding with clinical signs, again not in elevated numbers, and those two seal species have also been added to the UME investigation. A total of 3,152 reported strandings (of all species) had occurred from July 1, 2018, through March 13, 2020. Full or partial necropsy examinations have been conducted on some of the seals and samples have been collected for testing. Based on tests conducted thus far, the main pathogen found in the seals is phocine distemper virus. NMFS is performing additional testing to identify any other factors that may be involved in this UME. Closure of this UME is pending. Information on this UME is available online at: www.fisheries.noaa.gov/new-englandmid-atlantic/marine-life-distress/20182020-pinniped-unusual-mortality-eventalong. Marine Mammal Hearing Hearing is the most important sensory modality for marine mammals underwater, and exposure to anthropogenic sound can have deleterious effects. To appropriately assess the potential effects of exposure to sound, it is necessary to understand the frequency ranges marine mammals are able to hear. Current data indicate that not all marine mammal species have equal hearing capabilities (e.g., Richardson et al., 1995; Wartzok and Ketten, 1999; Au and Hastings, 2008). To reflect this, Southall et al. (2007) recommended that marine mammals be divided into functional hearing groups based on directly measured or estimated hearing ranges on the basis of available behavioral response data, audiograms derived using auditory evoked potential techniques, anatomical modeling, and other data. Note that no direct measurements of hearing ability have been successfully completed for mysticetes (i.e., low-frequency E:\FR\FM\16MRN1.SGM 16MRN1 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 51 / Wednesday, March 16, 2022 / Notices cetaceans). Subsequently, NMFS (2018) described generalized hearing ranges for these marine mammal hearing groups. Generalized hearing ranges were chosen based on the approximately 65 decibel (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 14829 implausible and the lower bound from Southall et al. (2007) retained. Marine mammal hearing groups and their associated hearing ranges are provided in Table 3. TABLE 3—MARINE MAMMAL HEARING GROUPS [NMFS, 2018] Generalized hearing range * Hearing group Low-frequency (LF) cetaceans (baleen whales) ..................................................................................................................... Mid-frequency (MF) cetaceans (dolphins, toothed whales, beaked whales, bottlenose whales) ........................................... High-frequency (HF) cetaceans (true porpoises, Kogia, river dolphins, cephalorhynchid, Lagenorhynchus cruciger & L. australis). Phocid pinnipeds (PW) (underwater) (true seals) ................................................................................................................... Otariid pinnipeds (OW) (underwater) (sea lions and fur seals) .............................................................................................. 7 Hz to 35 kHz. 150 Hz to 160 kHz. 275 Hz to 160 kHz. 50 Hz to 86 kHz. 60 Hz to 39 kHz. * Represents the generalized hearing range for the entire group as a composite (i.e., all species within the group), where individual species’ hearing ranges are typically not as broad. Generalized hearing range chosen based on ∼65 dB threshold from normalized composite audiogram, with the exception for lower limits for LF cetaceans (Southall et al. 2007) and PW pinniped (approximation). jspears on DSK121TN23PROD with NOTICES1 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). For more detail concerning these groups and associated frequency ranges, please see NMFS (2018) for a review of available information. Sixteen marine mammal species (14 cetacean and 2 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), eight 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 of the ways that Ocean Wind’s specified activity may impact marine mammals and their habitat. Detailed descriptions of the potential effects of similar specified activities have been provided in other recent Federal Register notices, including for survey activities using the same methodology, over a similar amount of time, in the Mid-Atlantic region, including New Jersey waters. (e.g., 82 FR 20563, May 3, 2017; 85 FR 36537, June 17, 2020; 85 FR 37848, June 24, 2020; 85 FR 48179, August 10, 2020, 86 FR 11239, February 24, 2021; 86 FR 28061, May 25, 2021). No significant new information is available, and we refer the reader to these documents VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:16 Mar 15, 2022 Jkt 256001 rather than repeating the details here. The Estimated Take section includes a quantitative analysis of the number of individuals that are expected to be taken by Ocean Wind’s activity. The Negligible Impact Analysis and Determination section considers the potential effects of the specified activity, 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 Active Acoustic Sound Sources and Acoustic Terminology This subsection contains a brief technical background on sound, on the characteristics of certain sound types, and on metrics used in this proposal inasmuch as the information is relevant to the specified activity and to the summary of the potential effects of the specified activity on marine mammals. For general information on sound and its interaction with the marine environment, please see, e.g., Au and Hastings (2008); Richardson et al. (1995); Urick (1983). Sound travels in waves, the basic components of which are frequency, wavelength, velocity, and amplitude. Frequency is the number of pressure waves that pass by a reference point per unit of time and is measured in hertz or cycles per second. Wavelength is the distance between two peaks or corresponding points of a sound wave (length of one cycle). Higher frequency sounds have shorter wavelengths than lower frequency sounds, and typically attenuate (decrease) more rapidly, except in certain cases in shallower water. Amplitude is the height of the PO 00000 Frm 00010 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 sound pressure wave or the ‘‘loudness’’ of a sound and is typically described using the relative unit of the decibel. A sound pressure level (SPL) in dB is described as the ratio between a measured pressure and a reference pressure (for underwater sound, this is 1 microPascal (mPa)), and is a logarithmic unit that accounts for large variations in amplitude. Therefore, a relatively small change in dB corresponds to large changes in sound pressure. The source level (SL) represents the SPL referenced at a distance of 1 m from the source (referenced to 1 mPa), while the received level is the SPL at the listener’s position (referenced to 1 mPa). Root mean square (rms) is the quadratic mean sound pressure over the duration of an impulse. Root mean square is calculated by squaring all of the sound amplitudes, averaging the squares, and then taking the square root of the average (Urick, 1983). Root mean square accounts for both positive and negative values; squaring the pressures makes all values positive so that they may be accounted for in the summation of pressure levels (Hastings and Popper, 2005). This measurement is often used in the context of discussing behavioral effects, in part because behavioral effects, which often result from auditory cues, may be better expressed through averaged units than by peak pressures. Sound exposure level (SEL; represented as dB re 1 mPa2-s) represents the total energy in a stated frequency band over a stated time interval or event and considers both intensity and duration of exposure. The per-pulse SEL is calculated over the time window containing the entire pulse (i.e., 100 percent of the acoustic energy). SEL is a cumulative metric; it can be accumulated over a single pulse, or E:\FR\FM\16MRN1.SGM 16MRN1 jspears on DSK121TN23PROD with NOTICES1 14830 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 51 / Wednesday, March 16, 2022 / Notices calculated over periods containing multiple pulses. Cumulative SEL represents the total energy accumulated by a receiver over a defined time window or during an event. Peak sound pressure (also referred to as zero-to-peak sound pressure or 0–pk) is the maximum instantaneous sound pressure measurable in the water at a specified distance from the source and is represented in the same units as the rms sound pressure. When underwater objects vibrate or activity occurs, sound-pressure waves are created. These waves alternately compress and decompress the water as the sound wave travels. Underwater sound waves radiate in a manner similar to ripples on the surface of a pond and may be either directed in a beam or beams or may radiate in all directions (omnidirectional sources), as is the case for sound produced by the pile driving activity considered here. The compressions and decompressions associated with sound waves are detected as changes in pressure by aquatic life and man-made sound receptors such as hydrophones. Even in the absence of sound from the specified activity, the underwater environment is typically loud due to ambient sound, which is defined as environmental background sound levels lacking a single source or point (Richardson et al., 1995). The sound level of a region is defined by the total acoustical energy being generated by known and unknown sources. These sources may include physical (e.g., wind and waves, earthquakes, ice, atmospheric sound), biological (e.g., sounds produced by marine mammals, fish, and invertebrates), and anthropogenic (e.g., vessels, dredging, construction) sound. A number of sources contribute to ambient sound, including wind and waves, which are a main source of naturally occurring ambient sound for frequencies between 200 Hz and 50 kHz (Mitson, 1995). In general, ambient sound levels tend to increase with increasing wind speed and wave height. Precipitation can become an important component of total sound at frequencies above 500 Hz, and possibly down to 100 Hz during quiet times. Marine mammals can contribute significantly to ambient sound levels, as can some fish and snapping shrimp. The frequency band for biological contributions is from approximately 12 Hz to over 100 kHz. Sources of ambient sound related to human activity include transportation (surface vessels), dredging and construction, oil and gas drilling and production, geophysical surveys, sonar, and explosions. Vessel noise typically dominates the total VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:16 Mar 15, 2022 Jkt 256001 ambient sound for frequencies between 20 and 300 Hz. In general, the frequencies of anthropogenic sounds are below 1 kHz and, if higher frequency sound levels are created, they attenuate rapidly. The sum of the various natural and anthropogenic sound sources that comprise ambient sound at any given location and time depends not only on the source levels (as determined by current weather conditions and levels of biological and human activity) but also on the ability of sound to propagate through the environment. In turn, sound propagation is dependent on the spatially and temporally varying properties of the water column and sea floor, and is frequency-dependent. As a result of the dependence on a large number of varying factors, ambient sound levels can be expected to vary widely over both coarse and fine spatial and temporal scales. Sound levels at a given frequency and location can vary by 10–20 dB from day to day (Richardson et al., 1995). The result is that, depending on the source type and its intensity, sound from the specified activity may be a negligible addition to the local environment or could form a distinctive signal that may affect marine mammals. Details of source types are described in the following text. Sounds are often considered to fall into one of two general types: Pulsed and non-pulsed (defined in the following). The distinction between these two sound types is important because they have differing potential to cause physical effects, particularly with regard to hearing (e.g., Ward, 1997 in Southall et al., 2007). Please see Southall et al. (2007) for an in-depth discussion of these concepts. The distinction between these two sound types is not always obvious, as certain signals share properties of both pulsed and non-pulsed sounds. A signal near a source could be categorized as a pulse, but due to propagation effects as it moves farther from the source, the signal duration becomes longer (e.g., Greene and Richardson, 1988). Pulsed sound sources (e.g., airguns, explosions, gunshots, sonic booms, impact pile driving) produce signals that are brief (typically considered to be less than one second), broadband, atonal transients (ANSI, 1986, 2005; Harris, 1998; NIOSH, 1998; ISO, 2003) and occur either as isolated events or repeated in some succession. Pulsed sounds are all characterized by a relatively rapid rise from ambient pressure to a maximal pressure value followed by a rapid decay period that may include a period of diminishing, oscillating maximal and minimal PO 00000 Frm 00011 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 pressures, and generally have an increased capacity to induce physical injury as compared with sounds that lack these features. Non-pulsed sounds can be tonal, narrowband, or broadband, brief or prolonged, and may be either continuous or intermittent (ANSI, 1995; NIOSH, 1998). Some of these nonpulsed sounds can be transient signals of short duration but without the essential properties of pulses (e.g., rapid rise time). Examples of non-pulsed sounds include those produced by vessels, aircraft, machinery operations such as drilling or dredging, vibratory pile driving, and active sonar systems. The duration of such sounds, as received at a distance, can be greatly extended in a highly reverberant environment. Sparkers and boomers produce pulsed signals with energy in the frequency ranges specified in Table 1. The amplitude of the acoustic wave emitted from sparker sources is equal in all directions (i.e., omnidirectional), while other sources planned for use during the proposed surveys have some degree of directionality to the beam, as specified in Table 1. Other sources planned for use during the proposed survey activity (e.g., CHIRP SBPs) should be considered non-pulsed, intermittent sources. Summary on Specific Potential Effects of Acoustic Sound Sources Underwater sound from active acoustic sources can include one or more of the following: Temporary or permanent hearing impairment, nonauditory physical or physiological effects, behavioral disturbance, stress, and masking. The degree of effect is intrinsically related to the signal characteristics, received level, distance from the source, and duration of the sound exposure. Marine mammals exposed to high-intensity sound, or to lower-intensity sound for prolonged periods, can experience hearing threshold shift (TS), which is the loss of hearing sensitivity at certain frequency ranges (Finneran, 2015). TS can be permanent (PTS), in which case the loss of hearing sensitivity is not fully recoverable, or temporary (TTS), in which case the animal’s hearing threshold would recover over time (Southall et al., 2007). Animals in the vicinity of Ocean Wind’s proposed HRG survey activity are unlikely to incur even TTS due to the characteristics of the sound sources, which include relatively low source levels (176 to 205 dB re 1 mPa-m) and generally very short pulses and potential duration of exposure. These characteristics mean that instantaneous E:\FR\FM\16MRN1.SGM 16MRN1 jspears on DSK121TN23PROD with NOTICES1 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 51 / Wednesday, March 16, 2022 / Notices exposure is unlikely to cause TTS, as it is unlikely that exposure would occur close enough to the vessel for received levels to exceed peak pressure TTS criteria, and that the cumulative duration of exposure would be insufficient to exceed cumulative sound exposure level (SEL) criteria. Even for high-frequency cetacean species (e.g., harbor porpoises), which have the greatest sensitivity to potential TTS, 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). 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 many of HRG survey devices planned for use (Table 1) makes it unlikely that an animal would be exposed more than briefly during the passage of the vessel. Behavioral disturbance may include a variety of effects, including subtle changes in behavior (e.g., minor or brief avoidance of an area or changes in vocalizations), more conspicuous changes in similar behavioral activities, and more sustained and/or potentially severe reactions, such as displacement from or abandonment of high-quality habitat. Behavioral responses to sound are highly variable and context-specific and any reactions depend on numerous intrinsic and extrinsic factors (e.g., species, state of maturity, experience, current activity, reproductive state, auditory sensitivity, time of day), as well as the interplay between factors. 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. In addition, sound can disrupt behavior through masking, or interfering VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:16 Mar 15, 2022 Jkt 256001 with, an animal’s ability to detect, recognize, or discriminate between acoustic signals of interest (e.g., those used for intraspecific communication and social interactions, prey detection, predator avoidance, navigation). Masking occurs when the receipt of a sound is interfered with by another coincident sound at similar frequencies and at similar or higher intensity, and may occur whether the sound is natural (e.g., snapping shrimp, wind, waves, precipitation) or anthropogenic (e.g., shipping, sonar, seismic exploration) in origin. Marine mammal communications would not likely be masked appreciably by the acoustic signals given the directionality of the signals for most HRG survey equipment types planned for use (Table 1) and the brief period when an individual mammal is likely to be exposed. Sound may affect marine mammals through impacts on the abundance, behavior, or distribution of prey species (e.g., crustaceans, cephalopods, fish, zooplankton) (i.e., effects to marine mammal habitat). Prey species exposed to sound might move away from the sound source, experience TTS, experience masking of biologically relevant sounds, or show no obvious direct effects. The most likely impacts (if any) for most prey species in a given area would be temporary avoidance of the area. Surveys using active acoustic sound sources move through an area relatively quickly, limiting exposure to multiple pulses. In all cases, sound levels would return to ambient once a survey ends and the noise source is shut down and, when exposure to sound ends, behavioral and/or physiological responses are expected to end relatively quickly. Finally, the HRG survey equipment will not have significant impacts to the seafloor and does not represent a source of pollution. Vessel Strike Vessel collisions with marine mammals, or ship strikes, can result in death or serious injury of the animal. These interactions are typically associated with large whales, which are less maneuverable than are smaller cetaceans or pinnipeds in relation to large vessels. Ship strikes generally involve commercial shipping vessels, which are generally larger and of which there is much more traffic in the ocean than geophysical survey vessels. Jensen and Silber (2004) summarized ship strikes of large whales worldwide from 1975–2003 and found that most collisions occurred in the open ocean and involved large vessels (e.g., commercial shipping). For vessels used in geophysical survey activities, vessel PO 00000 Frm 00012 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 14831 speed while towing gear is typically only 4–5 knots (4.6–5.7 mph). At these speeds, both the possibility of striking a marine mammal and the possibility of a strike resulting in serious injury or mortality are so low as to be discountable. At average transit speed for geophysical survey vessels, the probability of serious injury or mortality resulting from a strike is less than 50 percent. However, the likelihood of a strike actually happening is again low given the smaller size of these vessels and generally slower speeds. Notably in the Jensen and Silber study, no strike incidents were reported for geophysical survey vessels during that time period. The potential effects of Ocean Wind’s specified survey activity are expected to be limited to Level B behavioral harassment. No permanent or temporary auditory effects, or significant impacts to marine mammal habitat, including prey, are expected. 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, section 3(18) of the MMPA defines ‘‘harassment’’ as any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance, which (i) has the potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild (Level A harassment); or (ii) has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering (Level B harassment). Authorized takes would be by Level B harassment only, in the form of disruption of behavioral patterns for individual marine mammals resulting from exposure to noise from certain HRG acoustic sources. Based primarily on the characteristics of the signals produced by the acoustic sources planned for use, Level A harassment is neither anticipated (even absent mitigation), nor proposed to be authorized. Consideration of the anticipated effectiveness of the mitigation measures (i.e., exclusion zones and shutdown measures), discussed in detail below in the Proposed Mitigation section, further strengthens the conclusion that Level A harassment is not a reasonably anticipated outcome of the survey activity. As described previously, no E:\FR\FM\16MRN1.SGM 16MRN1 14832 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 51 / Wednesday, March 16, 2022 / Notices jspears on DSK121TN23PROD with NOTICES1 serious injury or mortality is anticipated or proposed to be authorized for this activity. Below we describe how the take is estimated. Generally speaking, we estimate take by considering: (1) Acoustic thresholds above which NMFS believes the best available science indicates marine mammals will be behaviorally harassed or incur some degree of permanent hearing impairment; (2) the area or volume of water that will be ensonified above these levels in a day; (3) the density or occurrence of marine mammals within these ensonified areas; and, (4) and the number of days of activities. We note that while these basic factors can contribute to a basic calculation to provide an initial prediction of takes, additional information that can qualitatively inform take estimates is also sometimes available (e.g., previous monitoring results or average group size). Below, we describe the factors considered here in more detail and present the proposed take estimates. 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 source (e.g., frequency, predictability, duty cycle), the environment (e.g., bathymetry), and the receiving animals (hearing, motivation, experience, demography, behavioral context) and can be difficult to predict (Southall et al., 2007; Ellison et al., 2012). NMFS uses a generalized acoustic threshold based on received level to estimate the onset of behavioral harassment. NMFS predicts that marine mammals may be behaviorally harassed (i.e., Level B harassment) when exposed to underwater anthropogenic noise above received levels of 160 dB re 1 mPa (rms) for the impulsive sources (i.e., boomers, sparkers) and non-impulsive, intermittent sources (e.g., CHIRP SBPs) evaluated here for Ocean Wind’s proposed activity. Level A Harassment—NMFS’ Technical Guidance for Assessing the Effects of Anthropogenic Sound on Marine Mammal Hearing (Version 2.0) (Technical Guidance, 2018) identifies dual criteria to assess auditory injury (Level A harassment) to five different VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:16 Mar 15, 2022 Jkt 256001 marine mammal groups (based on hearing sensitivity) as a result of exposure to noise from two different types of sources (impulsive or nonimpulsive). For more information, see NMFS’ 2018 Technical Guidance, which may be accessed at www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/ marine-mammal-protection/marinemammal-acoustic-technical-guidance. Ocean Wind’s proposed activity includes the use of impulsive (i.e., sparkers and boomers) and nonimpulsive (e.g., CHIRP SBP) sources. However, as discussed above, NMFS has concluded that Level A harassment is not a reasonably likely outcome for marine mammals exposed to noise through use of the sources proposed for use here, and the potential for Level A harassment is not evaluated further in this document. Please see Ocean Wind’s application for details of a quantitative exposure analysis exercise, i.e., calculated Level A harassment isopleths and estimated Level A harassment exposures. Maximum estimated Level A harassment isopleths were less than 5 m for all sources and hearing groups with the exception of an estimated 18 m and 21 m zone calculated for high-frequency cetaceans during use of the TB Chirp III and GeoPulse 5430 CHIRP SBP, respectively (see Table 1 for source characteristics). Ocean Wind did not request authorization of take by Level A harassment, and no take by Level A harassment is proposed for authorization by NMFS. Ensonified Area NMFS has developed a user-friendly methodology for estimating the extent of the Level B harassment isopleths associated with relevant HRG survey equipment (NMFS, 2020). This methodology incorporates frequency and directionality to refine estimated ensonified zones. For acoustic sources that operate with different beamwidths, the maximum beamwidth was used, and the lowest frequency of the source was used when calculating the frequencydependent absorption coefficient (Table 1). NMFS considers the data provided by Crocker and Fratantonio (2016) to represent the best available information on source levels associated with HRG equipment and, therefore, recommends that source levels provided by Crocker and Fratantonio (2016) be incorporated in the method described above to estimate isopleth distances to harassment thresholds. In cases when the source level for a specific type of HRG equipment is not provided in Crocker and Fratantonio (2016), NMFS recommends that either the source PO 00000 Frm 00013 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 levels provided by the manufacturer be used, or, in instances where source levels provided by the manufacturer are unavailable or unreliable, a proxy from Crocker and Fratantonio (2016) be used instead. Table 1 shows the HRG equipment types that may be used during the proposed surveys and the source levels associated with those HRG equipment types. Results of modeling using the methodology described above indicated that, of the HRG survey equipment planned for use by Ocean Wind that has the potential to result in Level B harassment of marine mammals, the Applied Acoustics Dura-Spark UHD and GeoMarine Geo-Source sparkers would produce the largest Level B harassment isopleth (141 m). Estimated Level B harassment isopleths for all sources evaluated here, including the sparkers, are provided in Table 4. Although Ocean Wind does not expect to use sparker sources on all planned survey days, it proposes to assume for purposes of analysis that the sparker would be used on all survey days. This is a conservative approach, as the actual sources used on individual survey days may produce smaller harassment distances. TABLE 4—DISTANCES TO LEVEL B HARASSMENT THRESHOLD [160 dB rms] Equipment ET 216 CHIRP .......................... ET 424 CHIRP .......................... ET 512i CHIRP ......................... GeoPulse 5430A ...................... TB CHIRP III ............................. Pangeo SBI .............................. AA Triple plate S-Boom (700/ 1,000 J) ................................. AA, Dura-spark UHD Sparkers GeoMarine Sparkers ................ Distance to Level B harassment threshold (m) 9 4 6 21 48 22 34 141 141 Marine Mammal Occurrence In this section, NMFS provides information about the presence, density, or group dynamics of marine mammals that informs the take calculations. Habitat-based density models produced by the Duke University Marine Geospatial Ecology Laboratory (Roberts et al., 2016, 2017, 2018, 2020) represent the best available information regarding marine mammal densities in the survey area. The density data presented by Roberts et al. (2016, 2017, 2018, 2020) incorporates aerial and shipboard line-transect survey data from NMFS and other organizations and E:\FR\FM\16MRN1.SGM 16MRN1 14833 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 51 / Wednesday, March 16, 2022 / Notices incorporates data from 8 physiographic and 16 dynamic oceanographic and biological covariates, and controls for the influence of sea state, group size, availability bias, and perception bias on the probability of making a sighting. These density models were originally developed for all cetacean taxa in the U.S. Atlantic (Roberts et al., 2016). In subsequent years, certain models have been updated based on additional data as well as certain methodological improvements. More information is available online at seamap.env.duke.edu/models/Duke-ECGOM-2015/. Marine mammal density estimates in the survey area (animals/ km2) were obtained using the most recent model results for all taxa (Roberts et al., 2016, 2017, 2018, 2020). The updated models incorporate additional sighting data, including sightings from NOAA’s Atlantic Marine Assessment Program for Protected Species (AMAPPS) surveys. For the exposure analysis, density data from Roberts et al. (2016, 2017, 2018, 2020) were mapped using a geographic information system (GIS). Density grid cells that included any portion of the proposed survey area were selected for all survey months (see Figure 3 in Ocean Wind’s application). Densities from each of the selected density blocks were averaged for each month available to provide monthly density estimates for each species (when available based on the temporal resolution of the model products), along with the average annual density. Please see Tables 7 of Ocean Wind’s application for density values used in the exposure estimation process. Additional data regarding average group sizes from survey effort in the region was considered to ensure adequate take estimates are evaluated. are then used to calculate the daily ensonified area, or zone of influence (ZOI) around the survey vessel. The ZOI is a representation of the maximum extent of the ensonified area around a sound source over a 24-hr period. The ZOI for each piece of equipment operating below 200 kHz was calculated per the following formula: ZOI = (Distance/day × 2r) + pr2 Where r is the linear distance from the source to the harassment isopleth. ZOIs associated with all sources with the expected potential to cause take of marine mammals are provided in Table Take Calculation and Estimation 6 of Ocean Wind’s application. The largest daily ZOI (19.8 km2), associated Here NMFS describes how the with the various sparkers proposed for information provided above is brought use, was applied to all planned survey together to produce a quantitative take days. estimate. In order to estimate the Potential Level B harassment number of marine mammals predicted exposures are estimated by multiplying to be exposed to sound levels that the average annual density of each would result in harassment, radial species within either the Lease Area or distances to predicted isopleths potential ECR area by the daily ZOI. corresponding to Level B harassment That product is then multiplied by the thresholds are calculated, as described above. The maximum distance (i.e., 141 number of operating days expected for the survey in each area assessed, and m distance associated with sparkers) to the Level B harassment criterion and the the product is rounded to the nearest estimated trackline distance traveled per whole number. These results are shown day by a given survey vessel (i.e., 70 km) in Table 5. TABLE 5—SUMMARY OF TAKE NUMBERS PROPOSED FOR AUTHORIZATION Species Abundance jspears on DSK121TN23PROD with NOTICES1 North Atlantic right whale ............................................................................................................ Fin whale ..................................................................................................................................... Sei whale ..................................................................................................................................... Minke whale ................................................................................................................................. Humpback whale ......................................................................................................................... Sperm whale 3 .............................................................................................................................. Atlantic white-sided dolphin ......................................................................................................... Atlantic spotted dolphin ............................................................................................................... Common bottlenose dolphin: 2 Offshore Stock ...................................................................................................................... Migratory Stock ..................................................................................................................... Pilot Whales: 3 Short-finned pilot whale ........................................................................................................ Long-finned pilot whale ........................................................................................................ Risso’s dolphin ............................................................................................................................. Common dolphin .......................................................................................................................... Harbor porpoise ........................................................................................................................... Seals: 4 Gray seal .............................................................................................................................. Harbor seal ........................................................................................................................... Level B harassment takes 1 Max percent population 368 6,802 6,292 21,968 1,393 4,349 93,233 39,921 11 4 0 (1) 1 2 0 (3) 6 (50) 2 (15) 2.98 <1 <1 <1 <1 <1 <1 <1 62,851 6,639 1,842 2.9 27.75 28,924 39,215 35,215 172,974 95,543 1 (20) 1 (20) 0 (30) 54 (400) 90 <1 <1 <1 <1 <1 451,600 61,336 25 25 <1 <1 1 Parentheses denote proposed take authorization where different from calculated take estimates. Increases from calculated values are based on assumed average group size for the species; sei whale, Kenney and Vigness-Raposa, 2010; sperm whale and Risso’s dolphin, Barkaszi and Kelly, 2018. 2 At this time, Orsted is not able to identify how much work would occur inshore and offshore of the 20 m isobaths, a common delineation between offshore and coastal bottlenose dolphin stocks. Because Roberts et al. does not provide density estimates for individual stocks of common bottlenose dolphins, the take presented here is the total estimated take for both stocks. Although unlikely, for our analysis, we assume all takes could be allocated to either stock. 3 Roberts (2018) only provides density estimates for pilot whales as a guild. The pilot whale density values were applied to both species of pilot whale; therefore, the total take number proposed for authorization for pilot whales (4) is double the estimated take number for the guild. 4 Roberts (2018) only provides density estimates for seals without differentiating by species. Harbor seals and gray seals are assumed to occur equally; therefore, density values were split evenly between the two species, i.e., total estimated take for ‘‘seals’’ is 22. VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:16 Mar 15, 2022 Jkt 256001 PO 00000 Frm 00014 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 E:\FR\FM\16MRN1.SGM 16MRN1 14834 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 51 / Wednesday, March 16, 2022 / Notices jspears on DSK121TN23PROD with NOTICES1 The take numbers shown in Table 5 are those requested by Ocean Wind. NMFS concurs with the requested take numbers and proposes to authorize them. Previous monitoring data compiled by Ocean Wind (available online at: www.fisheries.noaa.gov/ action/incidental-take-authorizationocean-wind-marine-sitecharacterization-surveys-offshore-new) suggests that the proposed take numbers for authorization are sufficient. 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 the activity, and other means of effecting the least practicable impact on the species or stock and its habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance, and on the availability of the 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 the 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 cost and impact on operations. Mitigation for Marine Mammals and Their Habitat NMFS proposes the following mitigation measures be implemented during Ocean Wind’s proposed marine VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:16 Mar 15, 2022 Jkt 256001 site characterization surveys. Pursuant to section 7 of the ESA, Ocean Wind would also be required to adhere to relevant Project Design Criteria (PDC) of the NMFS’ Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office (GARFO) programmatic consultation (specifically PDCs 4, 5, and 7) regarding geophysical surveys along the U.S. Atlantic coast (https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/new-englandmid-atlantic/consultations/section-7take-reporting-programmatics-greateratlantic#offshore-wind-site-assessmentand-site-characterization-activitiesprogrammatic-consultation). period, clearance zones will be monitored by the PSOs, using the appropriate visual technology. Ramp-up may not be initiated if any marine mammal(s) is within its respective clearance zone. If a marine mammal is observed within an clearance zone during the pre-start clearance period, ramp-up may not begin until the animal(s) has been observed exiting its respective exclusion zone or until an additional time period has elapsed with no further sighting (i.e., 15 minutes for small odontocetes and seals, and 30 minutes for all other species). Marine Mammal Exclusion Zones and Harassment Zones Marine mammal exclusion zones (EZ) would be established around the HRG survey equipment and monitored by protected species observers (PSOs): • 500 m EZ for North Atlantic right whales during use of specified acoustic sources (sparkers, boomers, and nonparametric sub-bottom profilers). • 100 m EZ for all other marine mammals, with certain exceptions specified below, during operation of impulsive acoustic sources (boomer and/or sparker). If a marine mammal is detected approaching or entering the EZs during the HRG survey, the vessel operator would adhere to the shutdown procedures described below to minimize noise impacts on the animals. These stated requirements will be included in the site-specific training to be provided to the survey team. We note that in their application, Ocean Wind requested an EZ of 50 m for all dolphins, seals, and porpoises and also requested that the shutdown requirements be waived for all dolphin, seal, and porpoise species for which take is authorized. NMFS has preliminarily determined that the standard 100 m EZ for these species is appropriate, with only limited waiver of shutdown requirements as described in the Shutdown Procedures section below. Ramp-Up of Survey Equipment Pre-Start Clearance Marine mammal clearance zones would be established around the HRG survey equipment and monitored by protected species observers (PSOs): • 500 m for all ESA-listed marine mammals; and • 100 m for non all other marine mammals. Ocean Wind would implement a 30minute pre-start clearance period prior to the initiation of ramp-up of specified HRG equipment (see exception to this requirement in the Shutdown Procedures section below) During this An immediate shutdown of the impulsive HRG survey equipment would be required if a marine mammal is sighted entering or within its respective exclusion zone. The vessel operator must comply immediately with any call for shutdown by the Lead PSO. Any disagreement between the Lead PSO and vessel operator should be discussed only after shutdown has occurred. Subsequent restart of the survey equipment can be initiated if the animal has been observed exiting its respective exclusion zone or until an additional time period has elapsed (i.e., PO 00000 Frm 00015 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 A ramp-up procedure, involving a gradual increase in source level output, is required at all times as part of the activation of the acoustic source when technically feasible. 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 operation at full power. Operators should ramp up sources to half power for 5 minutes and then proceed to full power. Ramp-up activities will be delayed if a marine mammal(s) enters its respective exclusion zone. Ramp-up will continue if the animal has been observed exiting its respective exclusion zone or until an additional time period has elapsed with no further sighting (i.e, 15 minutes for small odontocetes and seals and 30 minutes for all other species). Ramp-up may occur at times of poor visibility, including nighttime, if appropriate visual monitoring has occurred with no detections of marine mammals in the 30 minutes prior to beginning ramp-up. Acoustic source activation may only occur at night where operational planning cannot reasonably avoid such circumstances. Shutdown Procedures E:\FR\FM\16MRN1.SGM 16MRN1 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 51 / Wednesday, March 16, 2022 / Notices jspears on DSK121TN23PROD with NOTICES1 15 minutes for harbor porpoise, 30 minutes for all other species). If a species for which authorization has not been granted, or, a species for which authorization has been granted but the authorized number of takes have been met, approaches or is observed within the Level B harassment zone (Table 4), shutdown would occur. If the acoustic source is shut down for reasons other than mitigation (e.g., mechanical difficulty) for less than 30 minutes, it may be activated again without ramp-up if PSOs have maintained constant observation and no detections of any marine mammal have occurred within the respective exclusion zones. If the acoustic source is shut down for a period longer than 30 minutes, then pre-clearance and rampup procedures will be initiated as described in the previous section. The shutdown requirement would be waived for pinnipeds and for small delphinids of the following genera: Delphinus, Lagenorhynchus, Stenella, and Tursiops. Specifically, if a delphinid from the specified genera or a pinniped is visually detected approaching the vessel (i.e., to bow ride) or towed equipment, shutdown is not required. Furthermore, if there is uncertainty regarding identification of a marine mammal species (i.e., whether the observed marine mammal(s) belongs to one of the delphinid genera for which shutdown is waived), PSOs must use best professional judgement in making the decision to call for a shutdown. Additionally, shutdown is required if a delphinid or pinniped detected in the exclusion zone and belongs to a genus other than those specified. Shutdown, pre-start clearance, and ramp-up procedures are not required during HRG survey operations using only non-impulsive sources (e.g., echosounders) other than nonparametric sub-bottom profilers (e.g., CHIRPs). Vessel Strike Avoidance Ocean Wind must adhere to the following measures except in the case where compliance would create an imminent and serious threat to a person or vessel or to the extent that a vessel is restricted in its ability to maneuver and, because of the restriction, cannot comply. • Vessel operators and crews must maintain a vigilant watch for all protected species and slow down, stop their vessel, or alter course, as appropriate and regardless of vessel size, to avoid striking any protected species. A visual observer aboard the vessel must monitor a vessel strike avoidance zone based on the VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:16 Mar 15, 2022 Jkt 256001 appropriate separation distance around the vessel (distances stated below). Visual observers monitoring the vessel strike avoidance zone may be thirdparty observers (i.e., PSOs) or crew members, but crew members responsible for these duties must be provided sufficient training to (1) distinguish protected species from other phenomena and (2) broadly to identify a marine mammal as a right whale, other whale (defined in this context as sperm whales or baleen whales other than right whales), or other marine mammal. • Members of the monitoring team will consult NMFS North Atlantic right whale reporting system and Whale Alert, as able, for the presence of North Atlantic right whales throughout survey operations, and for the establishment of a DMA. If NMFS should establish a DMA in the survey area during the survey, the vessels will abide by speed restrictions in the DMA. • All survey vessels, regardless of size, must observe a 10-knot speed restriction in specific areas designated by NMFS for the protection of North Atlantic right whales from vessel strikes including seasonal management areas (SMAs) and dynamic management areas (DMAs) when in effect; • All vessels greater than or equal to 19.8 m in overall length operating from November 1 through April 30 will operate at speeds of 10 knots or less at all times; • All vessels must reduce their speed to 10 knots or less when mother/calf pairs, pods, or large assemblages of cetaceans are observed near a vessel; • All vessels must maintain a minimum separation distance of 500 m from right whales and other ESA-listed large whales; • If a whale is observed but cannot be confirmed as a species other than a right whale or other ESA-listed large whale, the vessel operator must assume that it is a right whale and take appropriate action; • All vessels must maintain a minimum separation distance of 100 m from non-ESA listed whales; • All vessels must, to the maximum extent practicable, attempt to maintain a minimum separation distance of 50 m from all other marine mammals, with an understanding that at times this may not be possible (e.g., for animals that approach the vessel). • When marine mammals are sighted while a vessel is underway, the vessel shall take action as necessary to avoid violating the relevant separation distance (e.g., attempt to remain parallel to the animal’s course, avoid excessive speed or abrupt changes in direction PO 00000 Frm 00016 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 14835 until the animal has left the area). If marine mammals are sighted within the relevant separation distance, the vessel must reduce speed and shift the engine to neutral, not engaging the engines until animals are clear of the area. This does not apply to any vessel towing gear or any vessel that is navigationally constrained. Project-specific training will be conducted for all vessel crew prior to the start of a survey and during any changes in crew such that all survey personnel are fully aware and understand the mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements. Prior to implementation with vessel crews, the training program will be provided to NMFS for review and approval. 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 member understands and will comply with the necessary requirements throughout the survey activities. Based on our evaluation of the applicant’s proposed measures, as well as other measures considered by NMFS, NMFS has preliminarily determined that the proposed mitigation measures provide the means of effecting the least practicable impact on marine mammal 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. 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); E:\FR\FM\16MRN1.SGM 16MRN1 14836 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 51 / Wednesday, March 16, 2022 / Notices jspears on DSK121TN23PROD with NOTICES1 • 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 Visual monitoring will be performed by qualified, NMFS-approved PSOs, the resumes of whom will be provided to NMFS for review and approval prior to the start of survey activities. Ocean Wind would employ independent, dedicated, trained PSOs, meaning that the PSOs must (1) be employed by a third-party observer provider, (2) have no tasks other than to conduct observational effort, collect data, and communicate with and instruct relevant vessel crew with regard to the presence of marine mammals and mitigation requirements (including brief alerts regarding maritime hazards), and (3) have successfully completed an approved PSO training course appropriate for their designated task. On a case-by-case basis, non-independent observers may be approved by NMFS for limited, specific duties in support of approved, independent PSOs on smaller vessels with limited crew capacity operating in nearshore waters. Section 5 of the draft IHA contains further details regarding PSO approval. The PSOs will be responsible for monitoring the waters surrounding each survey vessel to the farthest extent permitted by sighting conditions, including exclusion zones, during all HRG survey operations. PSOs will visually monitor and identify marine mammals, including those approaching or entering the established exclusion VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:16 Mar 15, 2022 Jkt 256001 zones during survey activities. It will be the responsibility of the Lead PSO on duty to communicate the presence of marine mammals as well as to communicate the action(s) that are necessary to ensure mitigation and monitoring requirements are implemented as appropriate. During all HRG survey operations (e.g., any day on which use of an HRG source is planned to occur), a minimum of one PSO must be on duty during daylight operations on each survey vessel, conducting visual observations at all times on all active survey vessels during daylight hours (i.e., from 30 minutes prior to sunrise through 30 minutes following sunset). Two PSOs will be on watch during nighttime operations. The PSO(s) would ensure 360° visual coverage around the vessel from the most appropriate observation posts and would conduct visual observations using binoculars and/or night vision goggles and the naked eye while free from distractions and in a consistent, systematic, and diligent manner. PSOs may be on watch for a maximum of 4 consecutive hours followed by a break of at least 2 hours between watches and may conduct a maximum of 12 hours of observation per 24-hr period. In cases where multiple vessels are surveying concurrently, any observations of marine mammals would be communicated to PSOs on all nearby survey vessels. PSOs must be equipped with binoculars and have the ability to estimate distance and bearing to detect marine mammals, particularly in proximity to exclusion zones. Reticulated binoculars must also be available to PSOs for use as appropriate based on conditions and visibility to support the sighting and monitoring of marine mammals. During nighttime operations, night-vision goggles with thermal clip-ons and infrared technology would be used. Position data would be recorded using hand-held or vessel GPS units for each sighting. During good conditions (e.g., daylight hours; Beaufort sea state (BSS) 3 or less), to the maximum extent practicable, PSOs would also conduct observations when the acoustic source is not operating for comparison of sighting rates and behavior with and without use of the active acoustic sources. Any observations of marine mammals by crew members aboard any vessel associated with the survey would be relayed to the PSO team. Data on all PSO observations would be recorded based on standard PSO collection requirements. This would include dates, times, and locations of survey operations; dates and times of PO 00000 Frm 00017 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 observations, location and weather; details of marine mammal sightings (e.g., species, numbers, behavior); and details of any observed marine mammal behavior that occurs (e.g., noted behavioral disturbances). Proposed Reporting Measures Within 90 days after completion of survey activities or expiration of this IHA, whichever comes sooner, a final technical report will be provided to NMFS that fully documents the methods and monitoring protocols, summarizes the data recorded during monitoring, summarizes the number of marine mammals observed during survey activities (by species, when known), summarizes the mitigation actions taken during surveys (including what type of mitigation and the species and number of animals that prompted the mitigation action, when known), and provides an interpretation of the results and effectiveness of all mitigation and monitoring. A final report must be submitted within 30 days following resolution of any comments on the draft report. All draft and final marine mammal and acoustic monitoring reports must be submitted to PR.ITP.MonitoringReports@noaa.gov and ITP.Daly@noaa.gov. The report must contain at minimum, the following: • PSO names and affiliations; • Dates of departures and returns to port with port name; • Dates and times (Greenwich Mean Time) of survey effort and times corresponding with PSO effort; • Vessel location (latitude/longitude) when survey effort begins and ends; vessel location at beginning and end of visual PSO duty shifts; • Vessel heading and speed at beginning and end of visual PSO duty shifts and upon any line change; • 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; • 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); and • Survey activity information, such as type of survey equipment in operation, acoustic source power output while in operation, and any other notes of significance (i.e., pre-start clearance E:\FR\FM\16MRN1.SGM 16MRN1 jspears on DSK121TN23PROD with NOTICES1 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 51 / Wednesday, March 16, 2022 / Notices survey, ramp-up, shutdown, end of operations, etc.). If a marine mammal is sighted, the following information should be recorded: • Watch status (sighting made by PSO on/off effort, opportunistic, crew, alternate vessel/platform); • PSO who sighted the animal; • Time of sighting; • Vessel location at time of sighting; • Water depth; • Direction of vessel’s travel (compass direction); • Direction of animal’s travel relative to the vessel; • Pace of the animal; • Estimated distance to the animal and its heading relative to vessel at initial sighting; • 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; • Estimated number of animals (high/ low/best); • Estimated number of animals by cohort (adults, yearlings, juveniles, calves, group composition, etc.); • 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); • 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); • Animal’s closest point of approach and/or closest distance from the center point of the acoustic source; • Platform activity at time of sighting (e.g., deploying, recovering, testing, data acquisition, other); and • 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. If a North Atlantic right whale is observed at any time by PSOs or personnel on any project vessels, during surveys or during vessel transit, Ocean Wind must immediately report sighting information to the NMFS North Atlantic Right Whale Sighting Advisory System: (866) 755–6622. North Atlantic right whale sightings in any location may also be reported to the U.S. Coast Guard via channel 16. In the event that Ocean Wind personnel discover an injured or dead marine mammal, Ocean Wind will report the incident to the NMFS Office of Protected Resources (OPR) and the VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:16 Mar 15, 2022 Jkt 256001 NMFS New England/Mid-Atlantic Stranding Coordinator as soon as feasible. The report would include the following information: • Time, date, and location (latitude/ longitude) of the first discovery (and updated location information if known and applicable); • Species identification (if known) or description of the animal(s) involved; • Condition of the animal(s) (including carcass condition if the animal is dead); • Observed behaviors of the animal(s), if alive; • If available, photographs or video footage of the animal(s); and • General circumstances under which the animal was discovered. In the unanticipated event of a ship strike of a marine mammal by any vessel involved in the activities covered by the IHA, Ocean Wind would report the incident to the NMFS OPR and the NMFS New England/Mid-Atlantic Stranding Coordinator as soon as feasible. The report would include the following information: • Time, date, and location (latitude/ longitude) of the incident; • Species identification (if known) or description of the animal(s) involved; • Vessel’s speed during and leading up to the incident; • Vessel’s course/heading and what operations were being conducted (if applicable); • Status of all sound sources in use; • Description of avoidance measures/ requirements that were in place at the time of the strike and what additional measures were taken, if any, to avoid strike; • Environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, Beaufort sea state, cloud cover, visibility) immediately preceding the strike; • Estimated size and length of animal that was struck; • Description of the behavior of the marine mammal immediately preceding and following the strike; • If available, description of the presence and behavior of any other marine mammals immediately preceding the strike; • Estimated fate of the animal (e.g., dead, injured but alive, injured and moving, blood or tissue observed in the water, status unknown, disappeared); and • To the extent practicable, photographs or video footage of the animal(s). Negligible Impact Analysis and Determination NMFS has defined negligible impact as an impact resulting from the PO 00000 Frm 00018 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 14837 specified activity that cannot be reasonably expected to, and is not reasonably likely to, adversely affect the species or stock through effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival (50 CFR 216.103). A negligible impact finding is based on the lack of likely adverse effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival (i.e., populationlevel effects). An estimate of the number of takes alone is not enough information on which to base an impact determination. In addition to considering estimates of the number of marine mammals that might be ‘‘taken’’ through harassment, NMFS considers other factors, such as the likely nature of any responses (e.g., intensity, duration), the context of any responses (e.g., critical reproductive time or location, migration), as well as effects on habitat, and the likely effectiveness of the mitigation. NMFS also assesses 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 5 given that NMFS expects the anticipated effects of the proposed survey to be similar in nature. Where there are meaningful differences between species or stocks—as is the case of the North Atlantic right whale— they are included as separate subsections below. NMFS does not anticipate that serious injury or mortality would occur as a result from HRG surveys, even in the absence of mitigation, and no serious injury or mortality is proposed to be authorized. As discussed in the Potential Effects section, non-auditory physical effects and vessel strike are not expected to occur. NMFS expects 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 was occurring), reactions that are considered to be of low severity and with no lasting biological consequences (e.g., Southall et al., 2007). Even repeated Level B harassment of some small subset of an overall stock is unlikely to result in any significant E:\FR\FM\16MRN1.SGM 16MRN1 14838 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 51 / Wednesday, March 16, 2022 / Notices jspears on DSK121TN23PROD with NOTICES1 realized decrease in viability for the affected individuals, and thus would not result in any adverse impact to the stock as a whole. As described above, Level A harassment is not expected to occur given the nature of the operations, the estimated size of the Level A harassment zones, and the required shutdown zones for certain activities. In addition to being temporary, the maximum expected harassment zone around a survey vessel is 141 m. Although this distance is assumed for all survey activity in estimating take numbers proposed for authorization and evaluated here, in reality much of the survey activity would involve use of non-impulsive acoustic sources with a reduced acoustic harassment zone of 48 m, producing expected effects of particularly low severity. Therefore, the ensonified area surrounding each vessel is relatively small compared to the overall distribution of the animals in the area and their use of the habitat. Feeding behavior is not likely to be significantly impacted as prey species are mobile and are broadly distributed throughout the survey 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 and the availability of similar habitat and resources in the surrounding area, the impacts to marine mammals and the food sources that they utilize are not expected to cause significant or longterm consequences for individual marine mammals or their populations. There are no rookeries, mating or calving grounds known to be biologically important to marine mammals within the proposed survey area and there are no feeding areas known to be biologically important to marine mammals within the proposed survey area. There is no designated critical habitat for any ESA-listed marine mammals in the proposed survey area. North Atlantic Right Whales The status of the North Atlantic right whale population is of heightened concern and, therefore, merits additional analysis. As noted previously, elevated North Atlantic right whale mortalities began in June 2017 and there is an active UME. Overall, preliminary findings support human interactions, specifically vessel strikes and entanglements, as the cause of death for the majority of right whales. As noted previously, the proposed survey area overlaps a migratory VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:16 Mar 15, 2022 Jkt 256001 corridor BIA for North Atlantic right whales. Due to the fact that the proposed survey activities are temporary and the spatial extent of sound produced by the survey would be very small relative to the spatial extent of the available migratory habitat in the BIA, right whale migration is not expected to be impacted by the proposed survey. Given the relatively small size of the ensonified area, it is unlikely that prey availability would be adversely affected by HRG survey operations. Required vessel strike avoidance measures will also decrease risk of ship strike during migration; no ship strike is expected to occur during Ocean Wind’s proposed activities. Additionally, only very limited take by Level B harassment of North Atlantic right whales has been requested and is being proposed for authorization by NMFS as HRG survey operations are required to maintain a 500 m EZ and shutdown if a North Atlantic right whale is sighted at or within the EZ. The 500 m shutdown zone for right whales is conservative, considering the Level B harassment isopleth for the most impactful acoustic source (i.e., sparker) is estimated to be 141 m, and thereby minimizes the potential for behavioral harassment of this species. As noted previously, Level A harassment is not expected due to the small PTS zones associated with HRG equipment types proposed for use. NMFS does not anticipate North Atlantic right whales takes that would result from Ocean Wind’s proposed activities would impact annual rates of recruitment or survival. Thus, any takes that occur would not result in population level impacts. Other Marine Mammal Species With Active UMEs As noted previously, there are several active UMEs occurring in the vicinity of Ocean Wind’s proposed survey area. Elevated humpback whale mortalities have occurred along the Atlantic coast from Maine through Florida since January 2016. Of the cases examined, approximately half had evidence of human interaction (ship strike or entanglement). The UME does not yet provide cause for concern regarding population-level impacts. Despite the UME, the relevant population of humpback whales (the West Indies breeding population, or DPS) remains stable at approximately 12,000 individuals. Beginning in January 2017, elevated minke whale strandings have occurred along the Atlantic coast from Maine through South Carolina, with highest numbers in Massachusetts, Maine, and PO 00000 Frm 00019 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 New York. This event does not provide cause for concern regarding population level impacts, as the likely population abundance is greater than 20,000 whales. Elevated numbers of harbor seal and gray seal mortalities were first observed in July 2018 and have occurred across Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. Based on tests conducted so far, the main pathogen found in the seals is phocine distemper virus, although additional testing to identify other factors that may be involved in this UME are underway. The UME does not yet provide cause for concern regarding population-level impacts to any of these stocks. For harbor seals, the population abundance is over 75,000 and annual M/SI (350) is well below PBR (2,006) (Hayes et al., 2020). The population abundance for gray seals in the United States is over 27,000, with an estimated abundance, including seals in Canada, of approximately 450,000. In addition, the abundance of gray seals is likely increasing in the U.S. Atlantic as well as in Canada (Hayes et al., 2020). The required mitigation measures are expected to reduce the number and/or severity of proposed takes for all species listed in Table 5, including those with active UMEs, to the level of least practicable adverse impact. In particular they would provide animals the opportunity to move away from the sound source throughout the survey area before HRG survey equipment reaches full energy, thus preventing them from being exposed to sound levels that have the potential to cause injury (Level A harassment) or more severe Level B harassment. No Level A harassment is anticipated, even in the absence of mitigation measures, or proposed for authorization. NMFS expects that takes would be in the form of short-term Level B behavioral harassment by way of brief startling reactions and/or temporary vacating of the area, or decreased foraging (if such activity was occurring)—reactions that (at the scale and intensity anticipated here) are considered to be of low severity, with no lasting biological consequences. Since both the sources and marine mammals are mobile, animals would only be exposed briefly to a small ensonified area that might result in take. Additionally, required mitigation measures would further reduce exposure to sound that could result in more severe behavioral harassment. In summary and as described above, the following factors primarily support our preliminary determination that the impacts resulting from this activity are E:\FR\FM\16MRN1.SGM 16MRN1 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 51 / Wednesday, March 16, 2022 / Notices jspears on DSK121TN23PROD with NOTICES1 not expected to adversely affect the species or stock through effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival: • No mortality or serious injury is anticipated or proposed for authorization; • No Level A harassment (PTS) is anticipated, even in the absence of mitigation measures, or proposed for authorization; • Foraging success is not likely to be significantly impacted as effects on species that serve as prey species for marine mammals from the survey are expected to be minimal; • The availability of alternate areas of similar habitat value for marine mammals to temporarily vacate the survey area during the planned survey to avoid exposure to sounds from the activity; • Take is anticipated to be primarily Level B behavioral harassment consisting of brief startling reactions and/or temporary avoidance of the survey area; • While the survey area is within areas noted as a migratory BIA for North Atlantic right whales, the activities would occur in such a comparatively small area such that any avoidance of the survey area due to activities would not affect migration. In addition, mitigation measures to shutdown at 500 m to minimize potential for Level B behavioral harassment would limit any take of the species; and • The proposed mitigation measures, including visual 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 sections 101(a)(5)(A) and (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. When the predicted number of individuals to be VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:16 Mar 15, 2022 Jkt 256001 taken is fewer than one third of the species or stock abundance, the take is considered to be of small numbers. Additionally, other qualitative factors may be considered in the analysis, such as the temporal or spatial scale of the activities. NMFS proposes to authorize incidental take of 16 marine mammal species (with 17 managed stocks). The total amount of takes proposed for authorization relative to the best available population abundance is less than 22 percent for one stock (bottlenose dolphin northern coastal migratory stock), less than 3 percent for the North Atlantic right whale, and less than 1 percent for all other species and stocks, which NMFS preliminarily finds are small numbers of marine mammals relative to the estimated overall population abundances for those stocks. See Table 5. 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 (ESA: 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) requires that each Federal agency insure that any action it authorizes, funds, or carries out is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered or threatened species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of designated critical habitat. To ensure ESA compliance for the issuance of IHAs, NMFS OPR consults internally whenever we propose to authorize take for endangered or threatened species, in this case with NMFS Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office (GARFO). NMFS OPR is proposing to authorize the incidental take of four species of marine mammals which are listed under the ESA: The North Atlantic right, fin, sei, and sperm whales. NMFS is proposing to authorize take, by Level B harassment only, of NARWs, fin whales, PO 00000 Frm 00020 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 14839 and sei whales which are listed under the ESA. On June 29, 2021 (revised September 2021), GARFO completed an informal programmatic consultation on the effects of certain site assessment and site characterization activities to be carried out to support the siting of offshore wind energy development projects off the U.S. Atlantic coast. Part of the activities considered in the consultation are geophysical surveys such as those proposed by Ocean Wind and for which we are proposing to authorize take. GARFO concluded site assessment surveys (and issuance of associated IHAs) are not likely to adversely affect endangered species or adversely modify or destroy critical habitat. NMFS has determined that issuance of the proposed IHA is covered under the programmatic consultation. Proposed Authorization As a result of these preliminary determinations, NMFS proposes to issue an IHA to Ocean Wind for conducting marine site characterization surveys off the coast of New Jersey for one year from the date of issuance, provided the previously mentioned mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements are incorporated. A draft of the proposed IHA can be found at www.fisheries.noaa.gov/permit/ incidental-take-authorizations-undermarine-mammal-protection-act. Request for Public Comments We request comment on our analyses, the proposed authorization, and any other aspect of this notice of proposed IHA for the proposed marine site characterization surveys. We also request at this time comment on the potential Renewal of this proposed IHA as described in the paragraph below. Please include with your comments any supporting data or literature citations to help inform decisions on the request for this IHA or a subsequent Renewal IHA. On a case-by-case basis, NMFS may issue a one-time, one-year Renewal IHA following notice to the public providing an additional 15 days for public comments when (1) up to another year of identical or nearly identical, or nearly identical, activities as described in the Description of Proposed Activity section of this notice is planned or (2) the activities as described in the Description of Proposed Activity section of this notice would not be completed by the time the IHA expires and a renewal would allow for completion of the activities beyond that described in the Dates and Duration section of this notice, provided all of the following conditions are met: E:\FR\FM\16MRN1.SGM 16MRN1 14840 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 51 / Wednesday, March 16, 2022 / Notices • A request for renewal is received no later than 60 days prior to the needed Renewal IHA effective date (recognizing that the Renewal IHA expiration date cannot extend beyond one year from expiration of the initial IHA). • The request for renewal must include the following: (1) An explanation that the activities to be conducted under the requested Renewal IHA are identical to the activities analyzed under the initial IHA, are a subset of the activities, or include changes so minor (e.g., reduction in pile size) that the changes do not affect the previous analyses, mitigation and monitoring requirements, or take estimates (with the exception of reducing the type or amount of take). (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 will remain the same and appropriate, and the findings in the initial IHA remain valid. Dated: March 10, 2022. Kimberly Damon-Randall, Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2022–05477 Filed 3–15–22; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [RTID 0648–XB833] Fisheries of the Gulf of Mexico; Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review (SEDAR); Public Meeting National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice of SEDAR 74 Pre-Data Workshop Webinar for Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper. jspears on DSK121TN23PROD with NOTICES1 AGENCY: The SEDAR 74 assessment of Gulf of Mexico red snapper will consist of a Data workshop, a series of assessment webinars, and a Review workshop. See SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION. SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:16 Mar 15, 2022 Jkt 256001 The SEDAR 74 Pre-Data Workshop Webinar will be held on April 1, 2022, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Eastern. ADDRESSES: Meeting address: The meeting will be held via webinar. The webinar is open to members of the public. Those interested in participating should contact Julie A. Neer at SEDAR (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT) to request an invitation providing webinar access information. Please request webinar invitations at least 24 hours in advance of each webinar. SEDAR address: 4055 Faber Place Drive, Suite 201, North Charleston, SC 29405. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Julie A. Neer, SEDAR Coordinator; (843) 571– 4366; email: Julie.neer@safmc.net. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Gulf of Mexico, South Atlantic, and Caribbean Fishery Management Councils, in conjunction with NOAA Fisheries and the Atlantic and Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commissions have implemented the Southeast Data, Assessment and Review (SEDAR) process, a multi-step method for determining the status of fish stocks in the Southeast Region. SEDAR is a multistep process including: (1) Data Workshop; (2) Assessment Process utilizing webinars; and (3) Review Workshop. The product of the Data Workshop is a data report that compiles and evaluates potential datasets and recommends which datasets are appropriate for assessment analyses. The product of the Assessment Process is a stock assessment report that describes the fisheries, evaluates the status of the stock, estimates biological benchmarks, projects future population conditions, and recommends research and monitoring needs. The assessment is independently peer reviewed at the Review Workshop. The product of the Review Workshop is a Summary documenting panel opinions regarding the strengths and weaknesses of the stock assessment and input data. Participants for SEDAR Workshops are appointed by the Gulf of Mexico, South Atlantic, and Caribbean Fishery Management Councils and NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Office, HMS Management Division, and Southeast Fisheries Science Center. Participants include data collectors and database managers; stock assessment scientists, biologists, and researchers; constituency representatives including fishermen, environmentalists, and NGO’s; International experts; and staff of Councils, Commissions, and state and federal agencies. DATES: PO 00000 Frm 00021 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 The items of discussion in the PreData Workshop Webinar are as follows: Participants will review data for use in the assessment of Gulf of Mexico red snapper. Although non-emergency issues not contained in this agenda may come before this group for discussion, those issues may not be the subject of formal action during this meeting. Action will be restricted to those issues specifically identified in this notice and any issues arising after publication of this notice that require emergency action under section 305(c) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, provided the public has been notified of the intent to take final action to address the emergency. Special Accommodations The meeting is physically accessible to people with disabilities. Requests for sign language interpretation or other auxiliary aids should be directed to the Council office (see ADDRESSES) at least 10 business days prior to each workshop. Note: The times and sequence specified in this agenda are subject to change. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: March 11, 2022. Tracey L. Thompson, Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2022–05518 Filed 3–15–22; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [RTID 0648–XB885] New England Fishery Management Council; Public Meeting National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice of public meeting. AGENCY: The New England Fishery Management Council’s is convening its Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) via webinar to consider actions affecting New England fisheries in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Recommendations from this group will be brought to the full Council for formal consideration and action, if appropriate. DATES: This webinar will be held on Friday April 1, 2022, beginning at 9:30 a.m. Webinar registration information: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/ register/6149451307975258125. SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\16MRN1.SGM 16MRN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 87, Number 51 (Wednesday, March 16, 2022)]
[Notices]
[Pages 14823-14840]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2022-05477]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

[RTID 0648-XB758]


Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; 
Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Ocean Wind Marine Site 
Characterization Surveys, New Jersey

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

ACTION: Notice; proposed incidental harassment authorization; request 
for comments on proposed authorization and possible renewal.

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

SUMMARY: NMFS has received a request from Ocean Wind, LLC (Ocean Wind) 
for authorization to take marine mammals incidental to marine site 
characterization surveys in the area of Commercial Lease of Submerged 
Lands for Renewable Energy Development on the Outer Continental Shelf 
Lease Area OCS-A 0532 and potential export cable routes to landfall 
locations in New Jersey. 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 is also requesting 
comments on a possible one-year renewal that could be issued under 
certain circumstances and if all requirements are met, as described in 
Request for Public Comments at the end of this notice. 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 April 
15, 2022.

[[Page 14824]]


ADDRESSES: Comments should be addressed to Jolie Harrison, Chief, 
Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, 
National Marine Fisheries Service, and should be submitted via email 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, including all attachments, must 
not exceed a 25-megabyte file size. All comments received are a part of 
the public record and will generally be posted online at 
www.fisheries.noaa.gov/permit/incidental-take-authorizations-under-marine-mammal-protection-act 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: Jaclyn Daly, 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/permit/incidental-take-authorizations-under-marine-mammal-protection-act. In case of problems accessing these 
documents, please call the contact listed above.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    The MMPA prohibits the ``take'' of marine mammals, with certain 
exceptions. 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 incidental take authorization may be provided to the public 
for review.
    Authorization for incidental takings shall be granted if NMFS finds 
that the taking will have a negligible impact on the species or 
stock(s) and will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the 
availability of the species or stock(s) for taking for subsistence uses 
(where relevant). Further, NMFS must prescribe the permissible methods 
of taking and other ``means of effecting the least practicable adverse 
impact'' on the affected species or stocks and their habitat, paying 
particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar 
significance, and on the availability of the species or stocks for 
taking for certain subsistence uses (referred to in shorthand as 
``mitigation''); and requirements pertaining to the mitigation, 
monitoring and reporting of the takings are set forth. The definitions 
of all applicable MMPA statutory terms cited above are included in the 
relevant sections below.

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 IHA) 
with respect to potential impacts on the human environment.
    This action is consistent with categories of activities identified 
in Categorical Exclusion B4 (IHAs with no anticipated serious injury or 
mortality) of the Companion Manual for NOAA Administrative Order 216-
6A, which do not individually or cumulatively have the potential for 
significant impacts on the quality of the human environment and for 
which NMFS have not identified any extraordinary circumstances that 
would preclude this categorical exclusion. Accordingly, NMFS has 
preliminarily determined that the issuance of the proposed IHA 
qualifies to be categorically excluded from further NEPA review.
    NMFS 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 October 1, 2021, NMFS received a request from Ocean Wind for an 
IHA to take marine mammals incidental to marine site characterization 
surveys off of New Jersey in the area of Commercial Lease of Submerged 
Lands for Renewable Energy Development on the Outer Continental Shelf 
Lease Area OCS-A 0532 (Lease Area) and potential export cable routes 
(ECRs) to landfall locations in New Jersey. Following NMFS review of 
the draft application, a revised version was submitted on November 24, 
2021 and again on January 24, 2022. The January 2022 revised version 
was deemed adequate and complete on February 8, 2022. Ocean Wind's 
request is for take of 16 species of marine mammals, by Level B 
harassment only. Neither Ocean Wind nor NMFS expects serious injury or 
mortality to result from this activity and, therefore, an IHA is 
appropriate.
    NMFS previously issued an IHA to Ocean Wind for similar work in the 
same geographic area on June 8, 2017 (82 FR 31562; July 7, 2017) with 
effective dates from June 8, 2017, through June 7, 2018 and on May 10, 
2021 (86 FR 26465, May 14, 2021) with effective dates from May 10, 2021 
through May 9, 2022. Ocean Wind complied with all the requirements 
(e.g., mitigation, monitoring, and reporting) of the 2017-2018 IHA. 
Because the current IHA is still effective, we have not yet received 
the associated monitoring report from Ocean Wind. The proposed IHA 
would be effective May 10, 2022 through May 9, 2023.

Description of Proposed Activity

Overview

    As part of its overall marine site characterization survey 
operations, Ocean Wind proposes to conduct high-resolution geophysical 
(HRG) surveys in the Lease Area and along potential ECRs to landfall 
locations in New Jersey.
    The purpose of the marine site characterization surveys are to 
obtain an assessment of seabed (geophysical, geotechnical, and 
geohazard), ecological, and archeological conditions within the 
footprint of a planned offshore wind facility development area. Surveys 
are also conducted to support engineering design and to map unexploded 
ordnance. Underwater sound resulting from Ocean Wind's proposed site 
characterization survey activities, specifically HRG surveys, has the 
potential to result in incidental take of marine mammals in the form of 
Level B behavioral harassment.

Dates and Duration

    Site characterization surveys considered under this application are 
expected to occur between May 10, 2022 and May 9, 2023 with a total of 
275 survey days. A survey day is defined here as a 24-hour activity 
period. The number of anticipated survey days was calculated as the 
number of days needed to reach the overall level of effort required to 
meet survey objectives assuming any single vessel covers, on average, 
70 line km per 24 hours of operations.

Specific Geographic Region

    The proposed survey activities will occur within the Project Area 
which includes the Lease Area and potential ECRs, as shown in Figure 1. 
The Lease Area is approximately 343.8 square kilometers (km\2\) and is 
within the New Jersey wind energy area (WEA) of the

[[Page 14825]]

Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's Mid-Atlantic planning area. Water 
depths in the Lease Area range from 15 meters (m) to 35 m, and the 
potential ECRs extend from the shoreline to approximately 40 m depth.
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TN16MR22.000

BILLING CODE 3510-22-C

Detailed Description of Specific Activity

    Ocean Wind proposes to conduct HRG survey operations, including 
multibeam depth sounding, seafloor imaging, and shallow and medium 
penetration sub-bottom profiling. The HRG surveys may be conducted 
using any or all of the following equipment types: Side scan sonar, 
multibeam echosounder, magnetometers and gradiometers, parametric sub-
bottom profiler (SBP), compressed high intensity radar pulse (CHIRP) 
SBP, boomers, or sparkers. Ocean Wind assumes that HRG survey 
operations would be conducted 24 hours per day, with an assumed daily 
survey distance of 70 km. Vessels would generally conduct survey effort 
at a transit speed of approximately 4 knots (kn), which equates to 110 
km per 24-hr period. However, based on past survey experience (i.e., 
knowledge of typical daily downtime due to weather, system 
malfunctions, etc.) Ocean Wind assumes 70 km as the average daily 
distance. On this basis, a total of 275 survey days are expected. In 
certain shallow-water areas, vessels may conduct survey effort during 
daylight hours only, with a corresponding assumption that the daily 
survey distance would be halved (35 km). However, for purposes of 
analysis all survey days are assumed to cover the maximum 70 km. A 
maximum of two vessels would operate concurrently in areas where 24-hr 
operations would be conducted, with an additional third vessel 
potentially conducting daylight-only survey effort in shallow-water 
areas.
    Acoustic sources planned for use during HRG survey activities 
proposed by Ocean Wind include the following:
     Shallow penetration, non-impulsive, non-parametric SBPs 
(i.e., CHIRP SBPs) are used to map the near-surface stratigraphy (top 0 
to 10 m) of sediment below seabed. A CHIRP system emits signals 
covering a frequency sweep from approximately 2 to 20 kilohertz (kHz) 
over time. The frequency range can be adjusted to meet

[[Page 14826]]

project variables. These sources are typically mounted on a pole rather 
than towed, reducing the likelihood that an animal would be exposed to 
the signal.
     Medium penetration, impulsive sources (i.e., boomers and 
sparkers) are used to map deeper subsurface stratigraphy. A boomer is a 
broadband source operating in the 3.5 Hertz (Hz) to 10 kHz frequency 
range. Sparkers create omnidirectional acoustic pulses from 50 Hz to 4 
kHz. These sources are typically towed behind the vessel.
    Operation of the following survey equipment types is not expected 
to present reasonable risk of marine mammal take, and will not be 
discussed further beyond the brief summaries provided below.
     Non-impulsive, parametric SBPs are used for providing high 
data density in sub-bottom profiles that are typically required for 
cable routes, very shallow water, and archaeological surveys. These 
sources generate short, very narrow-beam (1[deg] to 3.5[deg]) signals 
at high frequencies (generally around 85-100 kHz). The narrow beamwidth 
significantly reduces the potential that a marine mammal could be 
exposed to the signal, while the high frequency of operation means that 
the signal is rapidly attenuated in seawater. These sources are 
typically deployed on a pole rather than towed behind the vessel.
     Acoustic corers are seabed-mounted sources with three 
distinct sound sources: A high-frequency parametric sonar, a high-
frequency CHIRP sonar, and a low-frequency CHIRP sonar. The beamwidth 
is narrow (3.5[deg] to 8[deg]) and the source is operated roughly 3.5 
meter (m) above the seabed with the transducer pointed directly 
downward.
     Ultra-short baseline (USBL) positioning systems are used 
to provide high accuracy ranges by measuring the time between the 
acoustic pulses transmitted by the vessel transceiver and a transponder 
(or beacon) necessary to produce the acoustic profile. It is a two-
component system with a pole-mounted transceiver and one or several 
transponders mounted on other survey equipment. USBLs are expected to 
produce extremely small acoustic propagation distances in their typical 
operating configuration.
     Multibeam echosounders (MBESs) are used to determine water 
depths and general bottom topography. The proposed MBESs all have 
operating frequencies >180 kHz and are therefore outside the general 
hearing range of marine mammals.
     Side scan sonars (SSS) are used for seabed sediment 
classification purposes and to identify natural and man-made acoustic 
targets on the seafloor. The proposed SSSs all have operating 
frequencies >180 kHz and are therefore outside the general hearing 
range of marine mammals.
    Table 1 identifies representative survey equipment with the 
expected potential to result in exposure of marine mammals and 
potentially result in take. The make and model of the listed 
geophysical equipment may vary depending on availability and the final 
equipment choices will vary depending upon the final survey design, 
vessel availability, and survey contractor selection.

                                                    Table 1--Summary of Representative HRG Equipment
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                        SLrms  (dB  SL0-pk  (dB      Pulse
                                           Operating       re 1         re 1        duration     Repetition   Beamwidth     CF= Crocker and Fratantonio
                Equipment                  frequency    [micro]Pa    [micro]Pa      (width)      rate  (Hz)   (degrees)      (2016) MAN = Manufacturer
                                             (kHz)          m)           m)      (millisecond)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                 Non-parametric shallow penetration SBPs (non-impulsive)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
ET 216 (2000DS or 3200 top unit)........         2-16          195            -            20             6           24  MAN
                                                  2-8
ET 424 3200-X...........................         4-24          176            -           3.4             2           71  CF
ET 512i.................................       0.7-12          179            -             9             8           80  CF
GeoPulse 5430A..........................         2-17          196            -            50            10           55  MAN
Teledyne Benthos Chirp III--TTV 170.....          2-7          197            -            60            15          100  MAN
Pangeo SBI..............................     4.5-12.5          188            -           4.5            45          120  MAN
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                           Medium penetration SBPs (impulsive)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
AA, Dura-spark UHD (400 tips, 500 J) \1\      0.3-1.2          203          211           1.1             4         Omni  CF
AA, Dura-spark UHD Sparker Model 400 x        0.3-1.2          203          211           1.1             4         Omni  CF
 400 \1\.
GeoMarine, Dual 400 Sparker, Model Geo-         0.4-5          203          211           1.1             4         Omni  CF
 Source 800 \1\.
GeoMarine Sparker, Model Geo-Source 200-      0.3-1.2          203          211           1.1             4         Omni  CF
 400 \1\.
GeoMarine Sparker, Model Geo-Source 200       0.3-1.2          203          211           1.1             4         Omni  CF
 Lightweight \1\.
AA, triple plate S-Boom (700-1,000 J)           0.1-5          205          211           0.6             4           80  CF
 \2\.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
- = not applicable; [mu]Pa = micropascal; AA = Applied Acoustics; dB = decibel; ET = EdgeTech; J = joule; Omni = omnidirectional source; re = referenced
  to; PK = zero-to-peak sound pressure level; SL = source level; SPL = root-mean-square sound pressure level; UHD = ultra-high definition.
\1\ The Dura-spark measurements and specifications provided in Crocker and Fratantonio (2016) were used for all sparker systems proposed for the survey.
  These include variants of the Dura-spark sparker system and various configurations of the GeoMarine Geo-Source sparker system. The data provided in
  Crocker and Fratantonio (2016) represent the most applicable data for similar sparker systems with comparable operating methods and settings when
  manufacturer or other reliable measurements are not available.
\2\ Crocker and Fratantonio (2016) provide S-Boom measurements using two different power sources (CSP-D700 and CSP-N). The CSP-D700 power source was
  used in the 700 J measurements but not in the 1,000 J measurements. The CSP-N source was measured for both 700 J and 1,000 J operations but resulted
  in a lower SL; therefore, the single maximum SL value was used for both operational levels of the S-Boom.

    Proposed mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures are 
described in detail later in this document (please see Proposed 
Mitigation and Proposed Monitoring and Reporting).

Description of Marine Mammals in the Area of Specified Activities

    Sections 3 and 4 of the 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' Stock Assessment Reports (SARs; www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/marine-mammal-stock-assessments) and 
more general information about these species (e.g., physical and 
behavioral descriptions) may be found on NMFS' website 
(www.fisheries.noaa.gov/find-species).
    Table 2 lists all species or stocks for which take is expected and 
proposed to be authorized for this action, and summarizes information 
related to the population or stock, including

[[Page 14827]]

regulatory status under the MMPA and Endangered Species Act (ESA) and 
potential biological removal (PBR), where known. For taxonomy, NMFS 
follows the Committee on Taxonomy (2021. 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' SARs). While no mortality is anticipated or would be authorized 
here, PBR and annual serious injury and mortality from anthropogenic 
sources are included 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' stock abundance estimates for most species represent the total 
estimate of 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' U.S. Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico SARs. All values presented in 
Table 2 are the most recent available at the time of publication and 
are available in the Draft 2021 SARs (Hayes et al., 2021), available 
at: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/marine-mammal-stock-assessment-reports.

                   Table 2--Marine Mammal Species Likely To Occur Near the Project Area That May Be Affected by Ocean Wind's Activity
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                         ESA/MMPA status;    Stock abundance  (CV,
             Common name                  Scientific name               Stock             strategic (Y/N)      Nmin, most recent       PBR     Annual M/
                                                                                                \1\          abundance survey) \2\               SI \3\
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                          Order Cetartiodactyla--Cetacea--Superfamily Mysticeti (baleen whales)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Family Balaenidae:
    North Atlantic right whale......  Eubalaena glacialis....  Western North Atlantic   E/D; Y              368 (0; 364; 2019)....        0.7        7.7
                                                                (WNA).
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                            Family Balaenopteridae (rorquals)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Humpback whale..................  Megaptera novaeangliae.  Gulf of Maine..........  -/-; Y              1,393 (0.15; 1,375;            22         58
                                                                                                             2016).
    Fin whale.......................  Balaenoptera physalus..  WNA....................  E/D; Y              6,802 (0.24; 5,573;            11       2.35
                                                                                                             2016).
    Sei whale.......................  Balaenoptera borealis..  Nova Scotia............  E/D; Y              6,292 (1.02; 3,098;           6.2        1.2
                                                                                                             2016).
    Minke whale.....................  Balaenoptera             Canadian East Coast....  -/-; N              21,968 (0.31; 17,002;         170       10.6
                                       acutorostrata.                                                        2016).
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                            Superfamily Odontoceti (toothed whales, dolphins, and porpoises)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Family Physeteridae:
    Sperm whale.....................  Physeter macrocephalus.  North Atlantic.........  E/D; Y              4,349 (0.28;3,451;            3.9          0
                                                                                                             2016).
Family Delphinidae:
    Long-finned pilot whale.........  Globicephala melas.....  WNA....................  -/-; N              39,215 (0.30; 30,627;         306         29
                                                                                                             2016).
    Short finned pilot whale........  Globicephala             WNA....................  -/-; N              28,924 (0.24; 23,637;         236        136
                                       macrorhynchus.                                                        2016).
    Bottlenose dolphin..............  Tursiops truncatus.....  WNA Offshore...........  -/-; N              62,851 (0.23; 51,914;         519         28
                                                                                                             2016).
                                                               WNA Northern Migratory   -/D;Y               6,639 (0.41, 4,759,            48  12.2-21.5
                                                                Coastal.                                     2016).
    Common dolphin..................  Delphinus delphis......  WNA....................  -/-; N              172,974 (0.21;              1,452        390
                                                                                                             145,216; 2016).
    Atlantic white-sided dolphin....  Lagenorhynchus acutus..  WNA....................  -/-; N              93,233 (0.71; 54,443;         544         27
                                                                                                             2016).
    Atlantic spotted dolphin........  Stenella frontalis.....  WNA....................  -/-; N              39,921 (0.27; 32,032;         320          0
                                                                                                             2016).
    Risso's dolphin.................  Grampus griseus........  WNA....................  -/-; N              35,215 (0.19; 30,051;         303       54.3
                                                                                                             2016).
Family Phocoenidae: (porpoises)
    Harbor porpoise.................  Phocoena phocoena......  Gulf of Maine/Bay of     -/-; N              95,543 (0.31; 74,034;         851        164
                                                                Fundy.                                       2016).
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                         Order Carnivora--Superfamily Pinnipedia
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Family Phocidae: (earless seals)
    Gray seal \4\...................  Halichoerus grypus.....  WNA....................  -/-; N              27,300 (0.22; 22,785,       1,458      4,453
                                                                                                             2029).
    Harbor seal.....................  Phoca vitulina.........  WNA....................  -/-; N              61,336 (0.08; 57,637,       1,729        339
                                                                                                             2020).
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\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 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\ NMFS marine mammal stock assessment reports online at: www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/marine-mammal-stock-assessments. CV
  is coefficient of variation; Nmin is the minimum estimate of stock abundance. In some cases, CV is not applicable.
\3\ These values, found in NMFS' SARs, represent annual levels of human-caused mortality plus serious injury from all sources combined (e.g., commercial
  fisheries, ship strike).
\4\ NMFS' gray seal stock abundance estimate (and associated PBR value) applies to U.S. population only. Total stock abundance (including animals in
  Canada) is approximately 451,600. The annual M/SI value given is for the total stock.

    As indicated above, all 16 species (with 17 managed stocks) in 
Table 2 temporally and spatially co-occur with the activity to the 
degree that take is reasonably likely to occur. In addition to what is 
included in Sections 3 and 4 of the application, the SARs, and NMFS' 
website, further detail informing the baseline for select species 
(i.e., information regarding current Unusual Mortality Events (UME) and 
important habitat areas) is provided below.

North Atlantic Right Whale

    The North Atlantic right whale is considered one of the most 
critically endangered populations of large whales in the world and has 
been listed as a Federal endangered species since 1970. The Western 
Atlantic stock is considered depleted under the MMPA (Hayes et al. 
2021). There is a recovery plan (NOAA Fisheries 2017) for the right 
whale and recently there was a five-year review of the species (NOAA 
Fisheries 2017). The right whale had a

[[Page 14828]]

2.8 percent recovery rate between 1990 and 2011 (Hayes et al. 2021).
    Elevated North Atlantic right whale mortalities have occurred since 
June 7, 2017, along the U.S. and Canadian coast with the leading 
category for the cause of death for this UME as ``human interaction,'' 
specifically from entanglements or vessel strikes. As of February 8, 
2022, a total of 34 confirmed dead stranded whales (21 in Canada; 13 in 
the United States) have been documented. The cumulative total number of 
animals in the North Atlantic right whale UME has been updated to 50 
individuals to include both the confirmed mortalities (dead stranded or 
floaters) (n=34) and seriously injured free-swimming whales (n=16) to 
better reflect the confirmed number of whales likely removed from the 
population during the UME and more accurately reflect the population 
impacts. More information is available online at: 
www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-life-distress/2017-2021-north-atlantic-right-whale-unusual-mortality-event.
    The proposed survey area is part of a migratory corridor 
Biologically Important Area (BIA) for North Atlantic right whales 
(effective March-April and November-December) that extends from 
Massachusetts to Florida (LeBrecque et al., 2015). Off the coast of New 
Jersey, the migratory BIA extends from the coast to beyond the shelf 
break. This important migratory area is approximately 269,488 km\2\ in 
size (compared with the approximately 5,500 km\2\ of total estimated 
Level B harassment ensonified area associated with the 275 planned 
survey days) and is comprised of the waters of the continental shelf 
offshore the East Coast of the United States, extending from Florida 
through Massachusetts. NMFS' regulations at 50 CFR part 224.105 
designated nearshore waters of the Mid-Atlantic Bight as Mid-Atlantic 
U.S. Seasonal Management Areas (SMA) for right whales in 2008. SMAs 
were developed to reduce the threat of collisions between ships and 
right whales around their migratory route and calving grounds. A 
portion of one SMA, which occurs off the mouth of Delaware Bay, 
overlaps spatially with a section of the proposed survey area. The SMA 
which occurs off the mouth of Delaware Bay is active from November 1 
through April 30 of each year.

Humpback Whale

    NMFS recently evaluated the status of the species, and on September 
8, 2016, NMFS divided the species into 14 distinct population segments 
(DPS), removed the species-level listing, and in its place listed four 
DPSs as endangered and one DPS as threatened (81 FR 62260; September 8, 
2016). The remaining nine DPSs were not listed. The West Indies DPS, 
which is not listed under the ESA, is the only DPS of humpback whale 
that is expected to occur in the survey area. Bettridge et al. (2015) 
estimated the size of this population at 12,312 (95 percent CI 8,688-
15,954) whales in 2004-05, which is consistent with previous population 
estimates of approximately 10,000-11,000 whales (Stevick et al., 2003; 
Smith et al., 1999) and the increasing trend for the West Indies DPS 
(Bettridge et al., 2015). Whales occurring in the survey area are 
considered to be from the West Indies DPS, but are not necessarily from 
the Gulf of Maine feeding population managed as a stock by NMFS. Barco 
et al., 2002 estimated that, based on photo-identification, only 39 
percent of individual humpback whales observed along the mid- and south 
Atlantic U.S. coast are from the Gulf of Maine stock.
    Since January 2016, elevated humpback whale mortalities have 
occurred along the Atlantic coast from Maine to Florida. Partial or 
full necropsy examinations have been conducted on approximately half of 
the 156 known cases (as of February 8, 2022). Of the whales examined, 
about 50 percent had evidence of human interaction, either ship strike 
or entanglement. While a portion of the whales have shown evidence of 
pre-mortem vessel strike, this finding is not consistent across all 
whales examined and more research is needed. NOAA is consulting with 
researchers that are conducting studies on the 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. More information 
is available at: www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-life-distress/2016-2021-humpback-whale-unusual-mortality-event-along-atlantic-coast.

Minke Whale

    Since January 2017, elevated minke whale mortalities have occurred 
along the Atlantic coast from Maine through South Carolina, with a 
total of 122 strandings (as of February 8, 2022). This event has been 
declared a UME. Full or partial necropsy examinations were conducted on 
more than 60 percent of the whales. Preliminary findings in several of 
the whales have shown evidence of human interactions or infectious 
disease, but these findings are not consistent across all of the whales 
examined, so more research is needed. More information is available at: 
www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-life-distress/2017-2021-minke-whale-unusual-mortality-event-along-atlantic-coast.

Seals

    Since July 2018, elevated numbers of harbor seal and gray seal 
mortalities have occurred across Maine, New Hampshire and 
Massachusetts. This event has been declared a UME. Additionally, 
stranded seals have shown clinical signs as far south as Virginia, 
although not in elevated numbers, therefore the UME investigation now 
encompasses all seal strandings from Maine to Virginia. Ice seals (harp 
and hooded seals) have also started stranding with clinical signs, 
again not in elevated numbers, and those two seal species have also 
been added to the UME investigation. A total of 3,152 reported 
strandings (of all species) had occurred from July 1, 2018, through 
March 13, 2020. Full or partial necropsy examinations have been 
conducted on some of the seals and samples have been collected for 
testing. Based on tests conducted thus far, the main pathogen found in 
the seals is phocine distemper virus. NMFS is performing additional 
testing to identify any other factors that may be involved in this UME. 
Closure of this UME is pending. Information on this UME is available 
online at: www.fisheries.noaa.gov/new-england-mid-atlantic/marine-life-distress/2018-2020-pinniped-unusual-mortality-event-along.

Marine Mammal Hearing

    Hearing is the most important sensory modality for marine mammals 
underwater, and exposure to anthropogenic sound can have deleterious 
effects. To appropriately assess the potential effects of exposure to 
sound, it is necessary to understand the frequency ranges marine 
mammals are able to hear. Current data indicate that not all marine 
mammal species have equal hearing capabilities (e.g., Richardson et 
al., 1995; Wartzok and Ketten, 1999; Au and Hastings, 2008). To reflect 
this, Southall et al. (2007) recommended that marine mammals be divided 
into functional hearing groups based on directly measured or estimated 
hearing ranges on the basis of available behavioral response data, 
audiograms derived using auditory evoked potential techniques, 
anatomical modeling, and other data. Note that no direct measurements 
of hearing ability have been successfully completed for mysticetes 
(i.e., low-frequency

[[Page 14829]]

cetaceans). Subsequently, NMFS (2018) described generalized hearing 
ranges for these marine mammal hearing groups. Generalized hearing 
ranges were chosen based on the approximately 65 decibel (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. Marine mammal hearing groups and their associated 
hearing ranges are provided in Table 3.

                  Table 3--Marine Mammal Hearing Groups
                              [NMFS, 2018]
------------------------------------------------------------------------
               Hearing group                 Generalized hearing range *
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Low-frequency (LF) cetaceans (baleen        7 Hz to 35 kHz.
 whales).
Mid-frequency (MF) cetaceans (dolphins,     150 Hz to 160 kHz.
 toothed whales, beaked whales, bottlenose
 whales).
High-frequency (HF) cetaceans (true         275 Hz to 160 kHz.
 porpoises, Kogia, river dolphins,
 cephalorhynchid, Lagenorhynchus cruciger
 & L. australis).
Phocid pinnipeds (PW) (underwater) (true    50 Hz to 86 kHz.
 seals).
Otariid pinnipeds (OW) (underwater) (sea    60 Hz to 39 kHz.
 lions and fur seals).
------------------------------------------------------------------------
* Represents the generalized hearing range for the entire group as a
  composite (i.e., all species within the group), where individual
  species' hearing ranges are typically not as broad. Generalized
  hearing range chosen based on ~65 dB threshold from normalized
  composite audiogram, with the exception for lower limits for LF
  cetaceans (Southall et al. 2007) and PW pinniped (approximation).

    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).
    For more detail concerning these groups and associated frequency 
ranges, please see NMFS (2018) for a review of available information. 
Sixteen marine mammal species (14 cetacean and 2 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), eight 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 of the ways that Ocean Wind's 
specified activity may impact marine mammals and their habitat. 
Detailed descriptions of the potential effects of similar specified 
activities have been provided in other recent Federal Register notices, 
including for survey activities using the same methodology, over a 
similar amount of time, in the Mid-Atlantic region, including New 
Jersey waters. (e.g., 82 FR 20563, May 3, 2017; 85 FR 36537, June 17, 
2020; 85 FR 37848, June 24, 2020; 85 FR 48179, August 10, 2020, 86 FR 
11239, February 24, 2021; 86 FR 28061, May 25, 2021). No significant 
new information is available, and we refer the reader to these 
documents rather than repeating the details here. The Estimated Take 
section includes a quantitative analysis of the number of individuals 
that are expected to be taken by Ocean Wind's activity. The Negligible 
Impact Analysis and Determination section considers the potential 
effects of the specified activity, 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 Active Acoustic Sound Sources and Acoustic Terminology

    This subsection contains a brief technical background on sound, on 
the characteristics of certain sound types, and on metrics used in this 
proposal inasmuch as the information is relevant to the specified 
activity and to the summary of the potential effects of the specified 
activity on marine mammals. For general information on sound and its 
interaction with the marine environment, please see, e.g., Au and 
Hastings (2008); Richardson et al. (1995); Urick (1983).
    Sound travels in waves, the basic components of which are 
frequency, wavelength, velocity, and amplitude. Frequency is the number 
of pressure waves that pass by a reference point per unit of time and 
is measured in hertz or cycles per second. Wavelength is the distance 
between two peaks or corresponding points of a sound wave (length of 
one cycle). Higher frequency sounds have shorter wavelengths than lower 
frequency sounds, and typically attenuate (decrease) more rapidly, 
except in certain cases in shallower water. Amplitude is the height of 
the sound pressure wave or the ``loudness'' of a sound and is typically 
described using the relative unit of the decibel. A sound pressure 
level (SPL) in dB is described as the ratio between a measured pressure 
and a reference pressure (for underwater sound, this is 1 microPascal 
([mu]Pa)), and is a logarithmic unit that accounts for large variations 
in amplitude. Therefore, a relatively small change in dB corresponds to 
large changes in sound pressure. The source level (SL) represents the 
SPL referenced at a distance of 1 m from the source (referenced to 1 
[mu]Pa), while the received level is the SPL at the listener's position 
(referenced to 1 [mu]Pa).
    Root mean square (rms) is the quadratic mean sound pressure over 
the duration of an impulse. Root mean square is calculated by squaring 
all of the sound amplitudes, averaging the squares, and then taking the 
square root of the average (Urick, 1983). Root mean square accounts for 
both positive and negative values; squaring the pressures makes all 
values positive so that they may be accounted for in the summation of 
pressure levels (Hastings and Popper, 2005). This measurement is often 
used in the context of discussing behavioral effects, in part because 
behavioral effects, which often result from auditory cues, may be 
better expressed through averaged units than by peak pressures.
    Sound exposure level (SEL; represented as dB re 1 [mu]Pa\2\-s) 
represents the total energy in a stated frequency band over a stated 
time interval or event and considers both intensity and duration of 
exposure. The per-pulse SEL is calculated over the time window 
containing the entire pulse (i.e., 100 percent of the acoustic energy). 
SEL is a cumulative metric; it can be accumulated over a single pulse, 
or

[[Page 14830]]

calculated over periods containing multiple pulses. Cumulative SEL 
represents the total energy accumulated by a receiver over a defined 
time window or during an event. Peak sound pressure (also referred to 
as zero-to-peak sound pressure or 0-pk) is the maximum instantaneous 
sound pressure measurable in the water at a specified distance from the 
source and is represented in the same units as the rms sound pressure.
    When underwater objects vibrate or activity occurs, sound-pressure 
waves are created. These waves alternately compress and decompress the 
water as the sound wave travels. Underwater sound waves radiate in a 
manner similar to ripples on the surface of a pond and may be either 
directed in a beam or beams or may radiate in all directions 
(omnidirectional sources), as is the case for sound produced by the 
pile driving activity considered here. The compressions and 
decompressions associated with sound waves are detected as changes in 
pressure by aquatic life and man-made sound receptors such as 
hydrophones.
    Even in the absence of sound from the specified activity, the 
underwater environment is typically loud due to ambient sound, which is 
defined as environmental background sound levels lacking a single 
source or point (Richardson et al., 1995). The sound level of a region 
is defined by the total acoustical energy being generated by known and 
unknown sources. These sources may include physical (e.g., wind and 
waves, earthquakes, ice, atmospheric sound), biological (e.g., sounds 
produced by marine mammals, fish, and invertebrates), and anthropogenic 
(e.g., vessels, dredging, construction) sound. A number of sources 
contribute to ambient sound, including wind and waves, which are a main 
source of naturally occurring ambient sound for frequencies between 200 
Hz and 50 kHz (Mitson, 1995). In general, ambient sound levels tend to 
increase with increasing wind speed and wave height. Precipitation can 
become an important component of total sound at frequencies above 500 
Hz, and possibly down to 100 Hz during quiet times. Marine mammals can 
contribute significantly to ambient sound levels, as can some fish and 
snapping shrimp. The frequency band for biological contributions is 
from approximately 12 Hz to over 100 kHz. Sources of ambient sound 
related to human activity include transportation (surface vessels), 
dredging and construction, oil and gas drilling and production, 
geophysical surveys, sonar, and explosions. Vessel noise typically 
dominates the total ambient sound for frequencies between 20 and 300 
Hz. In general, the frequencies of anthropogenic sounds are below 1 kHz 
and, if higher frequency sound levels are created, they attenuate 
rapidly.
    The sum of the various natural and anthropogenic sound sources that 
comprise ambient sound at any given location and time depends not only 
on the source levels (as determined by current weather conditions and 
levels of biological and human activity) but also on the ability of 
sound to propagate through the environment. In turn, sound propagation 
is dependent on the spatially and temporally varying properties of the 
water column and sea floor, and is frequency-dependent. As a result of 
the dependence on a large number of varying factors, ambient sound 
levels can be expected to vary widely over both coarse and fine spatial 
and temporal scales. Sound levels at a given frequency and location can 
vary by 10-20 dB from day to day (Richardson et al., 1995). The result 
is that, depending on the source type and its intensity, sound from the 
specified activity may be a negligible addition to the local 
environment or could form a distinctive signal that may affect marine 
mammals. Details of source types are described in the following text.
    Sounds are often considered to fall into one of two general types: 
Pulsed and non-pulsed (defined in the following). The distinction 
between these two sound types is important because they have differing 
potential to cause physical effects, particularly with regard to 
hearing (e.g., Ward, 1997 in Southall et al., 2007). Please see 
Southall et al. (2007) for an in-depth discussion of these concepts. 
The distinction between these two sound types is not always obvious, as 
certain signals share properties of both pulsed and non-pulsed sounds. 
A signal near a source could be categorized as a pulse, but due to 
propagation effects as it moves farther from the source, the signal 
duration becomes longer (e.g., Greene and Richardson, 1988).
    Pulsed sound sources (e.g., airguns, explosions, gunshots, sonic 
booms, impact pile driving) produce signals that are brief (typically 
considered to be less than one second), broadband, atonal transients 
(ANSI, 1986, 2005; Harris, 1998; NIOSH, 1998; ISO, 2003) and occur 
either as isolated events or repeated in some succession. Pulsed sounds 
are all characterized by a relatively rapid rise from ambient pressure 
to a maximal pressure value followed by a rapid decay period that may 
include a period of diminishing, oscillating maximal and minimal 
pressures, and generally have an increased capacity to induce physical 
injury as compared with sounds that lack these features.
    Non-pulsed sounds can be tonal, narrowband, or broadband, brief or 
prolonged, and may be either continuous or intermittent (ANSI, 1995; 
NIOSH, 1998). Some of these non-pulsed sounds can be transient signals 
of short duration but without the essential properties of pulses (e.g., 
rapid rise time). Examples of non-pulsed sounds include those produced 
by vessels, aircraft, machinery operations such as drilling or 
dredging, vibratory pile driving, and active sonar systems. The 
duration of such sounds, as received at a distance, can be greatly 
extended in a highly reverberant environment.
    Sparkers and boomers produce pulsed signals with energy in the 
frequency ranges specified in Table 1. The amplitude of the acoustic 
wave emitted from sparker sources is equal in all directions (i.e., 
omnidirectional), while other sources planned for use during the 
proposed surveys have some degree of directionality to the beam, as 
specified in Table 1. Other sources planned for use during the proposed 
survey activity (e.g., CHIRP SBPs) should be considered non-pulsed, 
intermittent sources.

Summary on Specific Potential Effects of Acoustic Sound Sources

    Underwater sound from active acoustic sources can include one or 
more of the following: Temporary or permanent hearing impairment, non-
auditory physical or physiological effects, behavioral disturbance, 
stress, and masking. The degree of effect is intrinsically related to 
the signal characteristics, received level, distance from the source, 
and duration of the sound exposure. Marine mammals exposed to high-
intensity sound, or to lower-intensity sound for prolonged periods, can 
experience hearing threshold shift (TS), which is the loss of hearing 
sensitivity at certain frequency ranges (Finneran, 2015). TS can be 
permanent (PTS), in which case the loss of hearing sensitivity is not 
fully recoverable, or temporary (TTS), in which case the animal's 
hearing threshold would recover over time (Southall et al., 2007).
    Animals in the vicinity of Ocean Wind's proposed HRG survey 
activity are unlikely to incur even TTS due to the characteristics of 
the sound sources, which include relatively low source levels (176 to 
205 dB re 1 [micro]Pa-m) and generally very short pulses and potential 
duration of exposure. These characteristics mean that instantaneous

[[Page 14831]]

exposure is unlikely to cause TTS, as it is unlikely that exposure 
would occur close enough to the vessel for received levels to exceed 
peak pressure TTS criteria, and that the cumulative duration of 
exposure would be insufficient to exceed cumulative sound exposure 
level (SEL) criteria. Even for high-frequency cetacean species (e.g., 
harbor porpoises), which have the greatest sensitivity to potential 
TTS, 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). 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 many of HRG survey 
devices planned for use (Table 1) makes it unlikely that an animal 
would be exposed more than briefly during the passage of the vessel.
    Behavioral disturbance may include a variety of effects, including 
subtle changes in behavior (e.g., minor or brief avoidance of an area 
or changes in vocalizations), more conspicuous changes in similar 
behavioral activities, and more sustained and/or potentially severe 
reactions, such as displacement from or abandonment of high-quality 
habitat. Behavioral responses to sound are highly variable and context-
specific and any reactions depend on numerous intrinsic and extrinsic 
factors (e.g., species, state of maturity, experience, current 
activity, reproductive state, auditory sensitivity, time of day), as 
well as the interplay between factors. 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.
    In addition, sound can disrupt behavior through masking, or 
interfering with, an animal's ability to detect, recognize, or 
discriminate between acoustic signals of interest (e.g., those used for 
intraspecific communication and social interactions, prey detection, 
predator avoidance, navigation). Masking occurs when the receipt of a 
sound is interfered with by another coincident sound at similar 
frequencies and at similar or higher intensity, and may occur whether 
the sound is natural (e.g., snapping shrimp, wind, waves, 
precipitation) or anthropogenic (e.g., shipping, sonar, seismic 
exploration) in origin. Marine mammal communications would not likely 
be masked appreciably by the acoustic signals given the directionality 
of the signals for most HRG survey equipment types planned for use 
(Table 1) and the brief period when an individual mammal is likely to 
be exposed.
    Sound may affect marine mammals through impacts on the abundance, 
behavior, or distribution of prey species (e.g., crustaceans, 
cephalopods, fish, zooplankton) (i.e., effects to marine mammal 
habitat). Prey species exposed to sound might move away from the sound 
source, experience TTS, experience masking of biologically relevant 
sounds, or show no obvious direct effects. The most likely impacts (if 
any) for most prey species in a given area would be temporary avoidance 
of the area. Surveys using active acoustic sound sources move through 
an area relatively quickly, limiting exposure to multiple pulses. In 
all cases, sound levels would return to ambient once a survey ends and 
the noise source is shut down and, when exposure to sound ends, 
behavioral and/or physiological responses are expected to end 
relatively quickly. Finally, the HRG survey equipment will not have 
significant impacts to the seafloor and does not represent a source of 
pollution.

Vessel Strike

    Vessel collisions with marine mammals, or ship strikes, can result 
in death or serious injury of the animal. These interactions are 
typically associated with large whales, which are less maneuverable 
than are smaller cetaceans or pinnipeds in relation to large vessels. 
Ship strikes generally involve commercial shipping vessels, which are 
generally larger and of which there is much more traffic in the ocean 
than geophysical survey vessels. Jensen and Silber (2004) summarized 
ship strikes of large whales worldwide from 1975-2003 and found that 
most collisions occurred in the open ocean and involved large vessels 
(e.g., commercial shipping). For vessels used in geophysical survey 
activities, vessel speed while towing gear is typically only 4-5 knots 
(4.6-5.7 mph). At these speeds, both the possibility of striking a 
marine mammal and the possibility of a strike resulting in serious 
injury or mortality are so low as to be discountable. At average 
transit speed for geophysical survey vessels, the probability of 
serious injury or mortality resulting from a strike is less than 50 
percent. However, the likelihood of a strike actually happening is 
again low given the smaller size of these vessels and generally slower 
speeds. Notably in the Jensen and Silber study, no strike incidents 
were reported for geophysical survey vessels during that time period.
    The potential effects of Ocean Wind's specified survey activity are 
expected to be limited to Level B behavioral harassment. No permanent 
or temporary auditory effects, or significant impacts to marine mammal 
habitat, including prey, are expected.

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, section 3(18) of the MMPA defines ``harassment'' as any act of 
pursuit, torment, or annoyance, which (i) has the potential to injure a 
marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild (Level A harassment); 
or (ii) has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal 
stock in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, 
including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, 
feeding, or sheltering (Level B harassment).
    Authorized takes would be by Level B harassment only, in the form 
of disruption of behavioral patterns for individual marine mammals 
resulting from exposure to noise from certain HRG acoustic sources. 
Based primarily on the characteristics of the signals produced by the 
acoustic sources planned for use, Level A harassment is neither 
anticipated (even absent mitigation), nor proposed to be authorized. 
Consideration of the anticipated effectiveness of the mitigation 
measures (i.e., exclusion zones and shutdown measures), discussed in 
detail below in the Proposed Mitigation section, further strengthens 
the conclusion that Level A harassment is not a reasonably anticipated 
outcome of the survey activity. As described previously, no

[[Page 14832]]

serious injury or mortality is anticipated or proposed to be authorized 
for this activity. Below we describe how the take is estimated.
    Generally speaking, we estimate take by considering: (1) Acoustic 
thresholds above which NMFS believes the best available science 
indicates marine mammals will be behaviorally harassed or incur some 
degree of permanent hearing impairment; (2) the area or volume of water 
that will be ensonified above these levels in a day; (3) the density or 
occurrence of marine mammals within these ensonified areas; and, (4) 
and the number of days of activities. We note that while these basic 
factors can contribute to a basic calculation to provide an initial 
prediction of takes, additional information that can qualitatively 
inform take estimates is also sometimes available (e.g., previous 
monitoring results or average group size). Below, we describe the 
factors considered here in more detail and present the proposed take 
estimates.

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 
source (e.g., frequency, predictability, duty cycle), the environment 
(e.g., bathymetry), and the receiving animals (hearing, motivation, 
experience, demography, behavioral context) and can be difficult to 
predict (Southall et al., 2007; Ellison et al., 2012). NMFS uses a 
generalized acoustic threshold based on received level to estimate the 
onset of behavioral harassment. NMFS predicts that marine mammals may 
be behaviorally harassed (i.e., Level B harassment) when exposed to 
underwater anthropogenic noise above received levels of 160 dB re 1 
[mu]Pa (rms) for the impulsive sources (i.e., boomers, sparkers) and 
non-impulsive, intermittent sources (e.g., CHIRP SBPs) evaluated here 
for Ocean Wind's proposed activity.
    Level A Harassment--NMFS' Technical Guidance for Assessing the 
Effects of Anthropogenic Sound on Marine Mammal Hearing (Version 2.0) 
(Technical Guidance, 2018) 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). For more 
information, see NMFS' 2018 Technical Guidance, which may be accessed 
at www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/marine-mammal-acoustic-technical-guidance.
    Ocean Wind's proposed activity includes the use of impulsive (i.e., 
sparkers and boomers) and non-impulsive (e.g., CHIRP SBP) sources. 
However, as discussed above, NMFS has concluded that Level A harassment 
is not a reasonably likely outcome for marine mammals exposed to noise 
through use of the sources proposed for use here, and the potential for 
Level A harassment is not evaluated further in this document. Please 
see Ocean Wind's application for details of a quantitative exposure 
analysis exercise, i.e., calculated Level A harassment isopleths and 
estimated Level A harassment exposures. Maximum estimated Level A 
harassment isopleths were less than 5 m for all sources and hearing 
groups with the exception of an estimated 18 m and 21 m zone calculated 
for high-frequency cetaceans during use of the TB Chirp III and 
GeoPulse 5430 CHIRP SBP, respectively (see Table 1 for source 
characteristics). Ocean Wind did not request authorization of take by 
Level A harassment, and no take by Level A harassment is proposed for 
authorization by NMFS.

Ensonified Area

    NMFS has developed a user-friendly methodology for estimating the 
extent of the Level B harassment isopleths associated with relevant HRG 
survey equipment (NMFS, 2020). This methodology incorporates frequency 
and directionality to refine estimated ensonified zones. For acoustic 
sources that operate with different beamwidths, the maximum beamwidth 
was used, and the lowest frequency of the source was used when 
calculating the frequency-dependent absorption coefficient (Table 1).
    NMFS considers the data provided by Crocker and Fratantonio (2016) 
to represent the best available information on source levels associated 
with HRG equipment and, therefore, recommends that source levels 
provided by Crocker and Fratantonio (2016) be incorporated in the 
method described above to estimate isopleth distances to harassment 
thresholds. In cases when the source level for a specific type of HRG 
equipment is not provided in Crocker and Fratantonio (2016), NMFS 
recommends that either the source levels provided by the manufacturer 
be used, or, in instances where source levels provided by the 
manufacturer are unavailable or unreliable, a proxy from Crocker and 
Fratantonio (2016) be used instead. Table 1 shows the HRG equipment 
types that may be used during the proposed surveys and the source 
levels associated with those HRG equipment types.
    Results of modeling using the methodology described above indicated 
that, of the HRG survey equipment planned for use by Ocean Wind that 
has the potential to result in Level B harassment of marine mammals, 
the Applied Acoustics Dura-Spark UHD and GeoMarine Geo-Source sparkers 
would produce the largest Level B harassment isopleth (141 m). 
Estimated Level B harassment isopleths for all sources evaluated here, 
including the sparkers, are provided in Table 4. Although Ocean Wind 
does not expect to use sparker sources on all planned survey days, it 
proposes to assume for purposes of analysis that the sparker would be 
used on all survey days. This is a conservative approach, as the actual 
sources used on individual survey days may produce smaller harassment 
distances.

           Table 4--Distances to Level B Harassment Threshold
                              [160 dB rms]
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                             Distance to
                                                               Level B
                         Equipment                            harassment
                                                              threshold
                                                                 (m)
------------------------------------------------------------------------
ET 216 CHIRP...............................................            9
ET 424 CHIRP...............................................            4
ET 512i CHIRP..............................................            6
GeoPulse 5430A.............................................           21
TB CHIRP III...............................................           48
Pangeo SBI.................................................           22
AA Triple plate S-Boom (700/1,000 J).......................           34
AA, Dura-spark UHD Sparkers................................          141
GeoMarine Sparkers.........................................          141
------------------------------------------------------------------------

Marine Mammal Occurrence

    In this section, NMFS provides information about the presence, 
density, or group dynamics of marine mammals that informs the take 
calculations.
    Habitat-based density models produced by the Duke University Marine 
Geospatial Ecology Laboratory (Roberts et al., 2016, 2017, 2018, 2020) 
represent the best available information regarding marine mammal 
densities in the survey area. The density data presented by Roberts et 
al. (2016, 2017, 2018, 2020) incorporates aerial and shipboard line-
transect survey data from NMFS and other organizations and

[[Page 14833]]

incorporates data from 8 physiographic and 16 dynamic oceanographic and 
biological covariates, and controls for the influence of sea state, 
group size, availability bias, and perception bias on the probability 
of making a sighting. These density models were originally developed 
for all cetacean taxa in the U.S. Atlantic (Roberts et al., 2016). In 
subsequent years, certain models have been updated based on additional 
data as well as certain methodological improvements. More information 
is available online at seamap.env.duke.edu/models/Duke-EC-GOM-2015/. 
Marine mammal density estimates in the survey area (animals/km\2\) were 
obtained using the most recent model results for all taxa (Roberts et 
al., 2016, 2017, 2018, 2020). The updated models incorporate additional 
sighting data, including sightings from NOAA's Atlantic Marine 
Assessment Program for Protected Species (AMAPPS) surveys.
    For the exposure analysis, density data from Roberts et al. (2016, 
2017, 2018, 2020) were mapped using a geographic information system 
(GIS). Density grid cells that included any portion of the proposed 
survey area were selected for all survey months (see Figure 3 in Ocean 
Wind's application).
    Densities from each of the selected density blocks were averaged 
for each month available to provide monthly density estimates for each 
species (when available based on the temporal resolution of the model 
products), along with the average annual density. Please see Tables 7 
of Ocean Wind's application for density values used in the exposure 
estimation process. Additional data regarding average group sizes from 
survey effort in the region was considered to ensure adequate take 
estimates are evaluated.

Take Calculation and Estimation

    Here NMFS describes 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 Level B harassment thresholds are 
calculated, as described above. The maximum distance (i.e., 141 m 
distance associated with sparkers) to the Level B harassment criterion 
and the estimated trackline distance traveled per day by a given survey 
vessel (i.e., 70 km) are then used to calculate the daily ensonified 
area, or zone of influence (ZOI) around the survey vessel.
    The ZOI is a representation of the maximum extent of the ensonified 
area around a sound source over a 24-hr period. The ZOI for each piece 
of equipment operating below 200 kHz was calculated per the following 
formula:

ZOI = (Distance/day x 2r) + [pi]r\2\

    Where r is the linear distance from the source to the harassment 
isopleth.
    ZOIs associated with all sources with the expected potential to 
cause take of marine mammals are provided in Table 6 of Ocean Wind's 
application. The largest daily ZOI (19.8 km\2\), associated with the 
various sparkers proposed for use, was applied to all planned survey 
days.
    Potential Level B harassment exposures are estimated by multiplying 
the average annual density of each species within either the Lease Area 
or potential ECR area by the daily ZOI. That product is then multiplied 
by the number of operating days expected for the survey in each area 
assessed, and the product is rounded to the nearest whole number. These 
results are shown in Table 5.

                           Table 5--Summary of Take Numbers Proposed for Authorization
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                      Level B
                             Species                                 Abundance      harassment      Max percent
                                                                                     takes \1\      population
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
North Atlantic right whale......................................             368              11            2.98
Fin whale.......................................................           6,802               4              <1
Sei whale.......................................................           6,292           0 (1)              <1
Minke whale.....................................................          21,968               1              <1
Humpback whale..................................................           1,393               2              <1
Sperm whale \3\.................................................           4,349           0 (3)              <1
Atlantic white-sided dolphin....................................          93,233          6 (50)              <1
Atlantic spotted dolphin........................................          39,921          2 (15)              <1
Common bottlenose dolphin: \2\
    Offshore Stock..............................................          62,851           1,842             2.9
    Migratory Stock.............................................           6,639                           27.75
Pilot Whales: \3\
    Short-finned pilot whale....................................          28,924          1 (20)              <1
    Long-finned pilot whale.....................................          39,215          1 (20)              <1
Risso's dolphin.................................................          35,215          0 (30)              <1
Common dolphin..................................................         172,974        54 (400)              <1
Harbor porpoise.................................................          95,543              90              <1
Seals: \4\
    Gray seal...................................................         451,600              25              <1
    Harbor seal.................................................          61,336              25              <1
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ Parentheses denote proposed take authorization where different from calculated take estimates. Increases
  from calculated values are based on assumed average group size for the species; sei whale, Kenney and Vigness-
  Raposa, 2010; sperm whale and Risso's dolphin, Barkaszi and Kelly, 2018.
\2\ At this time, Orsted is not able to identify how much work would occur inshore and offshore of the 20 m
  isobaths, a common delineation between offshore and coastal bottlenose dolphin stocks. Because Roberts et al.
  does not provide density estimates for individual stocks of common bottlenose dolphins, the take presented
  here is the total estimated take for both stocks. Although unlikely, for our analysis, we assume all takes
  could be allocated to either stock.
\3\ Roberts (2018) only provides density estimates for pilot whales as a guild. The pilot whale density values
  were applied to both species of pilot whale; therefore, the total take number proposed for authorization for
  pilot whales (4) is double the estimated take number for the guild.
\4\ Roberts (2018) only provides density estimates for seals without differentiating by species. Harbor seals
  and gray seals are assumed to occur equally; therefore, density values were split evenly between the two
  species, i.e., total estimated take for ``seals'' is 22.


[[Page 14834]]

    The take numbers shown in Table 5 are those requested by Ocean 
Wind. NMFS concurs with the requested take numbers and proposes to 
authorize them. Previous monitoring data compiled by Ocean Wind 
(available online at: www.fisheries.noaa.gov/action/incidental-take-authorization-ocean-wind-marine-site-characterization-surveys-offshore-new) suggests that the proposed take numbers for authorization are 
sufficient.

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 the 
activity, and other means of effecting the least practicable impact on 
the species or stock and its habitat, paying particular attention to 
rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance, and on 
the availability of the 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 the 
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 cost and impact on 
operations.

Mitigation for Marine Mammals and Their Habitat

    NMFS proposes the following mitigation measures be implemented 
during Ocean Wind's proposed marine site characterization surveys. 
Pursuant to section 7 of the ESA, Ocean Wind would also be required to 
adhere to relevant Project Design Criteria (PDC) of the NMFS' Greater 
Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office (GARFO) programmatic consultation 
(specifically PDCs 4, 5, and 7) regarding geophysical surveys along the 
U.S. Atlantic coast (https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/new-england-mid-atlantic/consultations/section-7-take-reporting-programmatics-greater-atlantic#offshore-wind-site-assessment-and-site-characterization-activities-programmatic-consultation).

Marine Mammal Exclusion Zones and Harassment Zones

    Marine mammal exclusion zones (EZ) would be established around the 
HRG survey equipment and monitored by protected species observers 
(PSOs):
     500 m EZ for North Atlantic right whales during use of 
specified acoustic sources (sparkers, boomers, and non-parametric sub-
bottom profilers).
     100 m EZ for all other marine mammals, with certain 
exceptions specified below, during operation of impulsive acoustic 
sources (boomer and/or sparker).
    If a marine mammal is detected approaching or entering the EZs 
during the HRG survey, the vessel operator would adhere to the shutdown 
procedures described below to minimize noise impacts on the animals. 
These stated requirements will be included in the site-specific 
training to be provided to the survey team. We note that in their 
application, Ocean Wind requested an EZ of 50 m for all dolphins, 
seals, and porpoises and also requested that the shutdown requirements 
be waived for all dolphin, seal, and porpoise species for which take is 
authorized. NMFS has preliminarily determined that the standard 100 m 
EZ for these species is appropriate, with only limited waiver of 
shutdown requirements as described in the Shutdown Procedures section 
below.

Pre-Start Clearance

    Marine mammal clearance zones would be established around the HRG 
survey equipment and monitored by protected species observers (PSOs):
     500 m for all ESA-listed marine mammals; and
     100 m for non all other marine mammals.
    Ocean Wind would implement a 30-minute pre-start clearance period 
prior to the initiation of ramp-up of specified HRG equipment (see 
exception to this requirement in the Shutdown Procedures section below) 
During this period, clearance zones will be monitored by the PSOs, 
using the appropriate visual technology. Ramp-up may not be initiated 
if any marine mammal(s) is within its respective clearance zone. If a 
marine mammal is observed within an clearance zone during the pre-start 
clearance period, ramp-up may not begin until the animal(s) has been 
observed exiting its respective exclusion zone or until an additional 
time period has elapsed with no further sighting (i.e., 15 minutes for 
small odontocetes and seals, and 30 minutes for all other species).

Ramp-Up of Survey Equipment

    A ramp-up procedure, involving a gradual increase in source level 
output, is required at all times as part of the activation of the 
acoustic source when technically feasible. 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 operation at full power. Operators should ramp up sources to 
half power for 5 minutes and then proceed to full power.
    Ramp-up activities will be delayed if a marine mammal(s) enters its 
respective exclusion zone. Ramp-up will continue if the animal has been 
observed exiting its respective exclusion zone or until an additional 
time period has elapsed with no further sighting (i.e, 15 minutes for 
small odontocetes and seals and 30 minutes for all other species).
    Ramp-up may occur at times of poor visibility, including nighttime, 
if appropriate visual monitoring has occurred with no detections of 
marine mammals in the 30 minutes prior to beginning ramp-up. Acoustic 
source activation may only occur at night where operational planning 
cannot reasonably avoid such circumstances.

Shutdown Procedures

    An immediate shutdown of the impulsive HRG survey equipment would 
be required if a marine mammal is sighted entering or within its 
respective exclusion zone. The vessel operator must comply immediately 
with any call for shutdown by the Lead PSO. Any disagreement between 
the Lead PSO and vessel operator should be discussed only after 
shutdown has occurred. Subsequent restart of the survey equipment can 
be initiated if the animal has been observed exiting its respective 
exclusion zone or until an additional time period has elapsed (i.e.,

[[Page 14835]]

15 minutes for harbor porpoise, 30 minutes for all other species).
    If a species for which authorization has not been granted, or, a 
species for which authorization has been granted but the authorized 
number of takes have been met, approaches or is observed within the 
Level B harassment zone (Table 4), shutdown would occur.
    If the acoustic source is shut down for reasons other than 
mitigation (e.g., mechanical difficulty) for less than 30 minutes, it 
may be activated again without ramp-up if PSOs have maintained constant 
observation and no detections of any marine mammal have occurred within 
the respective exclusion zones. If the acoustic source is shut down for 
a period longer than 30 minutes, then pre-clearance and ramp-up 
procedures will be initiated as described in the previous section.
    The shutdown requirement would be waived for pinnipeds and for 
small delphinids of the following genera: Delphinus, Lagenorhynchus, 
Stenella, and Tursiops. Specifically, if a delphinid from the specified 
genera or a pinniped is visually detected approaching the vessel (i.e., 
to bow ride) or towed equipment, shutdown is not required. Furthermore, 
if there is uncertainty regarding identification of a marine mammal 
species (i.e., whether the observed marine mammal(s) belongs to one of 
the delphinid genera for which shutdown is waived), PSOs must use best 
professional judgement in making the decision to call for a shutdown. 
Additionally, shutdown is required if a delphinid or pinniped detected 
in the exclusion zone and belongs to a genus other than those 
specified.
    Shutdown, pre-start clearance, and ramp-up procedures are not 
required during HRG survey operations using only non-impulsive sources 
(e.g., echosounders) other than non-parametric sub-bottom profilers 
(e.g., CHIRPs).

Vessel Strike Avoidance

    Ocean Wind must adhere to the following measures except in the case 
where compliance would create an imminent and serious threat to a 
person or vessel or to the extent that a vessel is restricted in its 
ability to maneuver and, because of the restriction, cannot comply.
     Vessel operators and crews must maintain a vigilant watch 
for all protected species and slow down, stop their vessel, or alter 
course, as appropriate and regardless of vessel size, to avoid striking 
any protected species. A visual observer aboard the vessel must monitor 
a vessel strike avoidance zone based on the appropriate separation 
distance around the vessel (distances stated below). Visual observers 
monitoring the vessel strike avoidance zone may be third-party 
observers (i.e., PSOs) or crew members, but crew members responsible 
for these duties must be provided sufficient training to (1) 
distinguish protected species from other phenomena and (2) broadly to 
identify a marine mammal as a right whale, other whale (defined in this 
context as sperm whales or baleen whales other than right whales), or 
other marine mammal.
     Members of the monitoring team will consult NMFS North 
Atlantic right whale reporting system and Whale Alert, as able, for the 
presence of North Atlantic right whales throughout survey operations, 
and for the establishment of a DMA. If NMFS should establish a DMA in 
the survey area during the survey, the vessels will abide by speed 
restrictions in the DMA.
     All survey vessels, regardless of size, must observe a 10-
knot speed restriction in specific areas designated by NMFS for the 
protection of North Atlantic right whales from vessel strikes including 
seasonal management areas (SMAs) and dynamic management areas (DMAs) 
when in effect;
     All vessels greater than or equal to 19.8 m in overall 
length operating from November 1 through April 30 will operate at 
speeds of 10 knots or less at all times;
     All vessels must reduce their speed to 10 knots or less 
when mother/calf pairs, pods, or large assemblages of cetaceans are 
observed near a vessel;
     All vessels must maintain a minimum separation distance of 
500 m from right whales and other ESA-listed large whales;
     If a whale is observed but cannot be confirmed as a 
species other than a right whale or other ESA-listed large whale, the 
vessel operator must assume that it is a right whale and take 
appropriate action;
     All vessels must maintain a minimum separation distance of 
100 m from non-ESA listed whales;
     All vessels must, to the maximum extent practicable, 
attempt to maintain a minimum separation distance of 50 m from all 
other marine mammals, with an understanding that at times this may not 
be possible (e.g., for animals that approach the vessel).
     When marine mammals are sighted while a vessel is 
underway, the vessel shall take action as necessary to avoid violating 
the relevant separation distance (e.g., attempt to remain parallel to 
the animal's course, avoid excessive speed or abrupt changes in 
direction until the animal has left the area). If marine mammals are 
sighted within the relevant separation distance, the vessel must reduce 
speed and shift the engine to neutral, not engaging the engines until 
animals are clear of the area. This does not apply to any vessel towing 
gear or any vessel that is navigationally constrained.
    Project-specific training will be conducted for all vessel crew 
prior to the start of a survey and during any changes in crew such that 
all survey personnel are fully aware and understand the mitigation, 
monitoring, and reporting requirements. Prior to implementation with 
vessel crews, the training program will be provided to NMFS for review 
and approval. 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 member understands and will 
comply with the necessary requirements throughout the survey 
activities.
    Based on our evaluation of the applicant's proposed measures, as 
well as other measures considered by NMFS, NMFS has preliminarily 
determined that the proposed mitigation measures provide the means of 
effecting the least practicable impact on marine mammal 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.
    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);

[[Page 14836]]

     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

    Visual monitoring will be performed by qualified, NMFS-approved 
PSOs, the resumes of whom will be provided to NMFS for review and 
approval prior to the start of survey activities. Ocean Wind would 
employ independent, dedicated, trained PSOs, meaning that the PSOs must 
(1) be employed by a third-party observer provider, (2) have no tasks 
other than to conduct observational effort, collect data, and 
communicate with and instruct relevant vessel crew with regard to the 
presence of marine mammals and mitigation requirements (including brief 
alerts regarding maritime hazards), and (3) have successfully completed 
an approved PSO training course appropriate for their designated task. 
On a case-by-case basis, non-independent observers may be approved by 
NMFS for limited, specific duties in support of approved, independent 
PSOs on smaller vessels with limited crew capacity operating in 
nearshore waters. Section 5 of the draft IHA contains further details 
regarding PSO approval.
    The PSOs will be responsible for monitoring the waters surrounding 
each survey vessel to the farthest extent permitted by sighting 
conditions, including exclusion zones, during all HRG survey 
operations. PSOs will visually monitor and identify marine mammals, 
including those approaching or entering the established exclusion zones 
during survey activities. It will be the responsibility of the Lead PSO 
on duty to communicate the presence of marine mammals as well as to 
communicate the action(s) that are necessary to ensure mitigation and 
monitoring requirements are implemented as appropriate.
    During all HRG survey operations (e.g., any day on which use of an 
HRG source is planned to occur), a minimum of one PSO must be on duty 
during daylight operations on each survey vessel, conducting visual 
observations at all times on all active survey vessels during daylight 
hours (i.e., from 30 minutes prior to sunrise through 30 minutes 
following sunset). Two PSOs will be on watch during nighttime 
operations. The PSO(s) would ensure 360[deg] visual coverage around the 
vessel from the most appropriate observation posts and would conduct 
visual observations using binoculars and/or night vision goggles and 
the naked eye while free from distractions and in a consistent, 
systematic, and diligent manner. PSOs may be on watch for a maximum of 
4 consecutive hours followed by a break of at least 2 hours between 
watches and may conduct a maximum of 12 hours of observation per 24-hr 
period. In cases where multiple vessels are surveying concurrently, any 
observations of marine mammals would be communicated to PSOs on all 
nearby survey vessels.
    PSOs must be equipped with binoculars and have the ability to 
estimate distance and bearing to detect marine mammals, particularly in 
proximity to exclusion zones. Reticulated binoculars must also be 
available to PSOs for use as appropriate based on conditions and 
visibility to support the sighting and monitoring of marine mammals. 
During nighttime operations, night-vision goggles with thermal clip-ons 
and infrared technology would be used. Position data would be recorded 
using hand-held or vessel GPS units for each sighting.
    During good conditions (e.g., daylight hours; Beaufort sea state 
(BSS) 3 or less), to the maximum extent practicable, PSOs would also 
conduct observations when the acoustic source is not operating for 
comparison of sighting rates and behavior with and without use of the 
active acoustic sources. Any observations of marine mammals by crew 
members aboard any vessel associated with the survey would be relayed 
to the PSO team.
    Data on all PSO observations would be recorded based on standard 
PSO collection requirements. This would include dates, times, and 
locations of survey operations; dates and times of observations, 
location and weather; details of marine mammal sightings (e.g., 
species, numbers, behavior); and details of any observed marine mammal 
behavior that occurs (e.g., noted behavioral disturbances).

Proposed Reporting Measures

    Within 90 days after completion of survey activities or expiration 
of this IHA, whichever comes sooner, a final technical report will be 
provided to NMFS that fully documents the methods and monitoring 
protocols, summarizes the data recorded during monitoring, summarizes 
the number of marine mammals observed during survey activities (by 
species, when known), summarizes the mitigation actions taken during 
surveys (including what type of mitigation and the species and number 
of animals that prompted the mitigation action, when known), and 
provides an interpretation of the results and effectiveness of all 
mitigation and monitoring. A final report must be submitted within 30 
days following resolution of any comments on the draft report. All 
draft and final marine mammal and acoustic monitoring reports must be 
submitted to [email protected] and [email protected]. 
The report must contain at minimum, the following:
     PSO names and affiliations;
     Dates of departures and returns to port with port name;
     Dates and times (Greenwich Mean Time) of survey effort and 
times corresponding with PSO effort;
     Vessel location (latitude/longitude) when survey effort 
begins and ends; vessel location at beginning and end of visual PSO 
duty shifts;
     Vessel heading and speed at beginning and end of visual 
PSO duty shifts and upon any line change;
     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;
     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); and
     Survey activity information, such as type of survey 
equipment in operation, acoustic source power output while in 
operation, and any other notes of significance (i.e., pre-start 
clearance

[[Page 14837]]

survey, ramp-up, shutdown, end of operations, etc.).
    If a marine mammal is sighted, the following information should be 
recorded:
     Watch status (sighting made by PSO on/off effort, 
opportunistic, crew, alternate vessel/platform);
     PSO who sighted the animal;
     Time of sighting;
     Vessel location at time of sighting;
     Water depth;
     Direction of vessel's travel (compass direction);
     Direction of animal's travel relative to the vessel;
     Pace of the animal;
     Estimated distance to the animal and its heading relative 
to vessel at initial sighting;
     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;
     Estimated number of animals (high/low/best);
     Estimated number of animals by cohort (adults, yearlings, 
juveniles, calves, group composition, etc.);
     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);
     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);
     Animal's closest point of approach and/or closest distance 
from the center point of the acoustic source;
     Platform activity at time of sighting (e.g., deploying, 
recovering, testing, data acquisition, other); and
     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.
    If a North Atlantic right whale is observed at any time by PSOs or 
personnel on any project vessels, during surveys or during vessel 
transit, Ocean Wind must immediately report sighting information to the 
NMFS North Atlantic Right Whale Sighting Advisory System: (866) 755-
6622. North Atlantic right whale sightings in any location may also be 
reported to the U.S. Coast Guard via channel 16.
    In the event that Ocean Wind personnel discover an injured or dead 
marine mammal, Ocean Wind will report the incident to the NMFS Office 
of Protected Resources (OPR) and the NMFS New England/Mid-Atlantic 
Stranding Coordinator as soon as feasible. The report would include the 
following information:
     Time, date, and location (latitude/longitude) of the first 
discovery (and updated location information if known and applicable);
     Species identification (if known) or description of the 
animal(s) involved;
     Condition of the animal(s) (including carcass condition if 
the animal is dead);
     Observed behaviors of the animal(s), if alive;
     If available, photographs or video footage of the 
animal(s); and
     General circumstances under which the animal was 
discovered.
    In the unanticipated event of a ship strike of a marine mammal by 
any vessel involved in the activities covered by the IHA, Ocean Wind 
would report the incident to the NMFS OPR and the NMFS New England/Mid-
Atlantic Stranding Coordinator as soon as feasible. The report would 
include the following information:
     Time, date, and location (latitude/longitude) of the 
incident;
     Species identification (if known) or description of the 
animal(s) involved;
     Vessel's speed during and leading up to the incident;
     Vessel's course/heading and what operations were being 
conducted (if applicable);
     Status of all sound sources in use;
     Description of avoidance measures/requirements that were 
in place at the time of the strike and what additional measures were 
taken, if any, to avoid strike;
     Environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, 
Beaufort sea state, cloud cover, visibility) immediately preceding the 
strike;
     Estimated size and length of animal that was struck;
     Description of the behavior of the marine mammal 
immediately preceding and following the strike;
     If available, description of the presence and behavior of 
any other marine mammals immediately preceding the strike;
     Estimated fate of the animal (e.g., dead, injured but 
alive, injured and moving, blood or tissue observed in the water, 
status unknown, disappeared); and
     To the extent practicable, photographs or video footage of 
the animal(s).

Negligible Impact Analysis and Determination

    NMFS has defined negligible impact as an impact resulting from the 
specified activity that cannot be reasonably expected to, and is not 
reasonably likely to, adversely affect the species or stock through 
effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival (50 CFR 216.103). A 
negligible impact finding is based on the lack of likely adverse 
effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival (i.e., population-
level effects). An estimate of the number of takes alone is not enough 
information on which to base an impact determination. In addition to 
considering estimates of the number of marine mammals that might be 
``taken'' through harassment, NMFS considers other factors, such as the 
likely nature of any responses (e.g., intensity, duration), the context 
of any responses (e.g., critical reproductive time or location, 
migration), as well as effects on habitat, and the likely effectiveness 
of the mitigation. NMFS also assesses 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 5 given that NMFS expects the anticipated effects of the 
proposed survey to be similar in nature. Where there are meaningful 
differences between species or stocks--as is the case of the North 
Atlantic right whale--they are included as separate subsections below. 
NMFS does not anticipate that serious injury or mortality would occur 
as a result from HRG surveys, even in the absence of mitigation, and no 
serious injury or mortality is proposed to be authorized. As discussed 
in the Potential Effects section, non-auditory physical effects and 
vessel strike are not expected to occur. NMFS expects 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 was occurring), reactions that are 
considered to be of low severity and with no lasting biological 
consequences (e.g., Southall et al., 2007). Even repeated Level B 
harassment of some small subset of an overall stock is unlikely to 
result in any significant

[[Page 14838]]

realized decrease in viability for the affected individuals, and thus 
would not result in any adverse impact to the stock as a whole. As 
described above, Level A harassment is not expected to occur given the 
nature of the operations, the estimated size of the Level A harassment 
zones, and the required shutdown zones for certain activities.
    In addition to being temporary, the maximum expected harassment 
zone around a survey vessel is 141 m. Although this distance is assumed 
for all survey activity in estimating take numbers proposed for 
authorization and evaluated here, in reality much of the survey 
activity would involve use of non-impulsive acoustic sources with a 
reduced acoustic harassment zone of 48 m, producing expected effects of 
particularly low severity. Therefore, the ensonified area surrounding 
each vessel is relatively small compared to the overall distribution of 
the animals in the area and their use of the habitat. Feeding behavior 
is not likely to be significantly impacted as prey species are mobile 
and are broadly distributed throughout the survey 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 and the availability 
of similar habitat and resources in the surrounding area, 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.
    There are no rookeries, mating or calving grounds known to be 
biologically important to marine mammals within the proposed survey 
area and there are no feeding areas known to be biologically important 
to marine mammals within the proposed survey area. There is no 
designated critical habitat for any ESA-listed marine mammals in the 
proposed survey area.

North Atlantic Right Whales

    The status of the North Atlantic right whale population is of 
heightened concern and, therefore, merits additional analysis. As noted 
previously, elevated North Atlantic right whale mortalities began in 
June 2017 and there is an active UME. Overall, preliminary findings 
support human interactions, specifically vessel strikes and 
entanglements, as the cause of death for the majority of right whales. 
As noted previously, the proposed survey area overlaps a migratory 
corridor BIA for North Atlantic right whales. Due to the fact that the 
proposed survey activities are temporary and the spatial extent of 
sound produced by the survey would be very small relative to the 
spatial extent of the available migratory habitat in the BIA, right 
whale migration is not expected to be impacted by the proposed survey. 
Given the relatively small size of the ensonified area, it is unlikely 
that prey availability would be adversely affected by HRG survey 
operations. Required vessel strike avoidance measures will also 
decrease risk of ship strike during migration; no ship strike is 
expected to occur during Ocean Wind's proposed activities. 
Additionally, only very limited take by Level B harassment of North 
Atlantic right whales has been requested and is being proposed for 
authorization by NMFS as HRG survey operations are required to maintain 
a 500 m EZ and shutdown if a North Atlantic right whale is sighted at 
or within the EZ. The 500 m shutdown zone for right whales is 
conservative, considering the Level B harassment isopleth for the most 
impactful acoustic source (i.e., sparker) is estimated to be 141 m, and 
thereby minimizes the potential for behavioral harassment of this 
species. As noted previously, Level A harassment is not expected due to 
the small PTS zones associated with HRG equipment types proposed for 
use. NMFS does not anticipate North Atlantic right whales takes that 
would result from Ocean Wind's proposed activities would impact annual 
rates of recruitment or survival. Thus, any takes that occur would not 
result in population level impacts.

Other Marine Mammal Species With Active UMEs

    As noted previously, there are several active UMEs occurring in the 
vicinity of Ocean Wind's proposed survey area. Elevated humpback whale 
mortalities have occurred along the Atlantic coast from Maine through 
Florida since January 2016. Of the cases examined, approximately half 
had evidence of human interaction (ship strike or entanglement). The 
UME does not yet provide cause for concern regarding population-level 
impacts. Despite the UME, the relevant population of humpback whales 
(the West Indies breeding population, or DPS) remains stable at 
approximately 12,000 individuals.
    Beginning in January 2017, elevated minke whale strandings have 
occurred along the Atlantic coast from Maine through South Carolina, 
with highest numbers in Massachusetts, Maine, and New York. This event 
does not provide cause for concern regarding population level impacts, 
as the likely population abundance is greater than 20,000 whales.
    Elevated numbers of harbor seal and gray seal mortalities were 
first observed in July 2018 and have occurred across Maine, New 
Hampshire, and Massachusetts. Based on tests conducted so far, the main 
pathogen found in the seals is phocine distemper virus, although 
additional testing to identify other factors that may be involved in 
this UME are underway. The UME does not yet provide cause for concern 
regarding population-level impacts to any of these stocks. For harbor 
seals, the population abundance is over 75,000 and annual M/SI (350) is 
well below PBR (2,006) (Hayes et al., 2020). The population abundance 
for gray seals in the United States is over 27,000, with an estimated 
abundance, including seals in Canada, of approximately 450,000. In 
addition, the abundance of gray seals is likely increasing in the U.S. 
Atlantic as well as in Canada (Hayes et al., 2020).
    The required mitigation measures are expected to reduce the number 
and/or severity of proposed takes for all species listed in Table 5, 
including those with active UMEs, to the level of least practicable 
adverse impact. In particular they would provide animals the 
opportunity to move away from the sound source throughout the survey 
area before HRG survey equipment reaches full energy, thus preventing 
them from being exposed to sound levels that have the potential to 
cause injury (Level A harassment) or more severe Level B harassment. No 
Level A harassment is anticipated, even in the absence of mitigation 
measures, or proposed for authorization.
    NMFS expects that takes would be in the form of short-term Level B 
behavioral harassment by way of brief startling reactions and/or 
temporary vacating of the area, or decreased foraging (if such activity 
was occurring)--reactions that (at the scale and intensity anticipated 
here) are considered to be of low severity, with no lasting biological 
consequences. Since both the sources and marine mammals are mobile, 
animals would only be exposed briefly to a small ensonified area that 
might result in take. Additionally, required mitigation measures would 
further reduce exposure to sound that could result in more severe 
behavioral harassment.
    In summary and as described above, the following factors primarily 
support our preliminary determination that the impacts resulting from 
this activity are

[[Page 14839]]

not expected to adversely affect the species or stock through effects 
on annual rates of recruitment or survival:
     No mortality or serious injury is anticipated or proposed 
for authorization;
     No Level A harassment (PTS) is anticipated, even in the 
absence of mitigation measures, or proposed for authorization;
     Foraging success is not likely to be significantly 
impacted as effects on species that serve as prey species for marine 
mammals from the survey are expected to be minimal;
     The availability of alternate areas of similar habitat 
value for marine mammals to temporarily vacate the survey area during 
the planned survey to avoid exposure to sounds from the activity;
     Take is anticipated to be primarily Level B behavioral 
harassment consisting of brief startling reactions and/or temporary 
avoidance of the survey area;
     While the survey area is within areas noted as a migratory 
BIA for North Atlantic right whales, the activities would occur in such 
a comparatively small area such that any avoidance of the survey area 
due to activities would not affect migration. In addition, mitigation 
measures to shutdown at 500 m to minimize potential for Level B 
behavioral harassment would limit any take of the species; and
     The proposed mitigation measures, including visual 
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 sections 101(a)(5)(A) and (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. When the predicted number of 
individuals to be taken is fewer than one third of the species or stock 
abundance, the take is considered to be of small numbers. Additionally, 
other qualitative factors may be considered in the analysis, such as 
the temporal or spatial scale of the activities.
    NMFS proposes to authorize incidental take of 16 marine mammal 
species (with 17 managed stocks). The total amount of takes proposed 
for authorization relative to the best available population abundance 
is less than 22 percent for one stock (bottlenose dolphin northern 
coastal migratory stock), less than 3 percent for the North Atlantic 
right whale, and less than 1 percent for all other species and stocks, 
which NMFS preliminarily finds are small numbers of marine mammals 
relative to the estimated overall population abundances for those 
stocks. See Table 5.
    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 (ESA: 16 
U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) requires that each Federal agency insure that any 
action it authorizes, funds, or carries out is not likely to jeopardize 
the continued existence of any endangered or threatened species or 
result in the destruction or adverse modification of designated 
critical habitat. To ensure ESA compliance for the issuance of IHAs, 
NMFS OPR consults internally whenever we propose to authorize take for 
endangered or threatened species, in this case with NMFS Greater 
Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office (GARFO).
    NMFS OPR is proposing to authorize the incidental take of four 
species of marine mammals which are listed under the ESA: The North 
Atlantic right, fin, sei, and sperm whales. NMFS is proposing to 
authorize take, by Level B harassment only, of NARWs, fin whales, and 
sei whales which are listed under the ESA. On June 29, 2021 (revised 
September 2021), GARFO completed an informal programmatic consultation 
on the effects of certain site assessment and site characterization 
activities to be carried out to support the siting of offshore wind 
energy development projects off the U.S. Atlantic coast. Part of the 
activities considered in the consultation are geophysical surveys such 
as those proposed by Ocean Wind and for which we are proposing to 
authorize take. GARFO concluded site assessment surveys (and issuance 
of associated IHAs) are not likely to adversely affect endangered 
species or adversely modify or destroy critical habitat. NMFS has 
determined that issuance of the proposed IHA is covered under the 
programmatic consultation.

Proposed Authorization

    As a result of these preliminary determinations, NMFS proposes to 
issue an IHA to Ocean Wind for conducting marine site characterization 
surveys off the coast of New Jersey for one year from the date of 
issuance, provided the previously mentioned mitigation, monitoring, and 
reporting requirements are incorporated. A draft of the proposed IHA 
can be found at www.fisheries.noaa.gov/permit/incidental-take-authorizations-under-marine-mammal-protection-act.

Request for Public Comments

    We request comment on our analyses, the proposed authorization, and 
any other aspect of this notice of proposed IHA for the proposed marine 
site characterization surveys. We also request at this time comment on 
the potential Renewal of this proposed IHA as described in the 
paragraph below. Please include with your comments any supporting data 
or literature citations to help inform decisions on the request for 
this IHA or a subsequent Renewal IHA.
    On a case-by-case basis, NMFS may issue a one-time, one-year 
Renewal IHA following notice to the public providing an additional 15 
days for public comments when (1) up to another year of identical or 
nearly identical, or nearly identical, activities as described in the 
Description of Proposed Activity section of this notice is planned or 
(2) the activities as described in the Description of Proposed Activity 
section of this notice would not be completed by the time the IHA 
expires and a renewal would allow for completion of the activities 
beyond that described in the Dates and Duration section of this notice, 
provided all of the following conditions are met:

[[Page 14840]]

     A request for renewal is received no later than 60 days 
prior to the needed Renewal IHA effective date (recognizing that the 
Renewal IHA expiration date cannot extend beyond one year from 
expiration of the initial IHA).
     The request for renewal must include the following:
    (1) An explanation that the activities to be conducted under the 
requested Renewal IHA are identical to the activities analyzed under 
the initial IHA, are a subset of the activities, or include changes so 
minor (e.g., reduction in pile size) that the changes do not affect the 
previous analyses, mitigation and monitoring requirements, or take 
estimates (with the exception of reducing the type or amount of take).
    (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 will remain the same and 
appropriate, and the findings in the initial IHA remain valid.

    Dated: March 10, 2022.
Kimberly Damon-Randall,
Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
[FR Doc. 2022-05477 Filed 3-15-22; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P