Home
gpo.gov
govinfo.gov

e-CFR Navigation Aids

Browse

Simple Search

Advanced Search

 — Boolean

 — Proximity

 

Search History

Search Tips

Corrections

Latest Updates

User Info

FAQs

Agency List

Incorporation By Reference

eCFR logo

Related Resources

Electronic Code of Federal Regulations

e-CFR data is current as of July 1, 2020

Title 50Chapter IISubchapter CPart 217Subpart N → §217.135


Title 50: Wildlife and Fisheries
PART 217—REGULATIONS GOVERNING THE TAKE OF MARINE MAMMALS INCIDENTAL TO SPECIFIED ACTIVITIES
Subpart N—Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Seismic Surveys in Cook Inlet, Alaska


§217.135   Requirements for monitoring and reporting.

(a) Visual monitoring program. (1) Disturbance zones shall be established as described in §217.134(b)(1), and shall encompass the Level B harassment zones not defined as exclusion zones in §217.134(b)(1). These zones shall be monitored to maximum line-of-sight distance from established vessel- and shore-based monitoring locations. If belugas or groups of five or more killer whales or harbor porpoises are observed approaching the 180 dB exclusion zone, operations will power down or shut down. If marine mammals other than beluga whales or aggregations of five or greater harbor porpoises or killer whales are observed within the 160 dB disturbance zone, the observation shall be recorded and communicated as necessary to other PSOs responsible for implementing shutdown/power down requirements and any behaviors documented.

(2) Apache shall utilize a shore-based station to visually monitor for marine mammals. The shore-based station must be staffed by PSOs under the same minimum requirements described in §217.134(b)(2), must be located at an appropriate height to monitor the area ensonified by that day's survey operations, must be of sufficient height to observe marine mammals within the ensonified area; and must be equipped with pedestal-mounted bigeye (25 x 150) binoculars. The shore-based PSOs shall scan the defined exclusion and disturbance zones prior to, during, and after survey operations, and shall be in contact with vessel-based PSOs via radio to communicate sightings of marine mammals approaching or within the defined zones.

(3) When weather conditions allow for safety, Apache shall utilize helicopter or fixed-wing aircraft to conduct daily aerial surveys of the area that they expect to survey prior to the commencement of operations in order to identify locations of beluga whale aggregations (five or more whales) or cow-calf pairs. Daily surveys that cover all the area potentially surveyed by vessel in that particular day shall be scheduled to occur at least thirty but no more than 120 minutes prior to any seismic survey-related activities (including but not limited to node laying/retrieval or airgun operations) and surveys of similar size shall also occur on days when there may be no seismic activities. Additionally, weekly comprehensive aerial surveys shall occur along and parallel to the shoreline throughout the project area as well as the eastern and western shores of central and northern Cook Inlet in the vicinity of the survey area.

(i) When weather conditions allow for safety, aerial surveys shall fly at an altitude of 305 m (1,000 ft). In the event of a marine mammal sighting, aircraft shall attempt to maintain a lateral distance of 457 m (1,500 ft) from the animal(s). Aircraft shall avoid approaching marine mammals head-on, flying over or passing the shadow of the aircraft over the animal(s).

(ii) [Reserved]

(4) PSOs must use NMFS-approved data forms and shall record the following information:

(i) Effort information, including vessel name; PSO name; survey type; date; time when survey (observing and activities) began and ended; vessel location (latitude/longitude) when survey (observing and activities) began and ended; vessel heading and speed (knots).

(ii) Environmental conditions while on visual survey, including wind speed and direction, Beaufort sea state, Beaufort wind force, swell height, weather conditions, ice cover (percent of surface, ice type, and distance to ice if applicable), cloud cover, sun glare, and overall visibility to the horizon (in distance).

(iii) 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).

(iv) Activity information, such as the number and volume of airguns operating in the array, tow depth of the array, and any other notes of significance (e.g., pre-ramp-up survey, ramp-up, power down, shutdown, testing, shooting, ramp-up completion, end of operations, nodes).

(v) When a marine mammal is observed, the following information shall be recorded:

(A) Information related to the PSO including: Watch status (sighting made by PSO on/off effort, opportunistic, crew, alternate vessel/platform, aerial, land); PSO who sighted the animal; time of sighting;

(B) Vessel information including: Vessel location at time of sighting; water depth; direction of vessel's travel (compass direction);

(C) Mammal-specific physical observations including: Direction of animal's travel relative to the vessel (drawing is preferred); pace of the animal; estimated distance to the animal and its heading relative to vessel at initial sighting; identification of the animal (genus/species/sub-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 (when possible; 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);

(D) Mammal-specific behavioral observations including: Detailed behavioral 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 airgun array; platform activity at time of sighting (e.g., deploying, recovering, testing, shooting, data acquisition, other).

(vi) Description of any actions implemented in response to the sighting (e.g., delays, power down, shutdown, ramp-up, speed or course alteration); time and location of the action should also be recorded.

(vii) If mitigation action was not implemented when required, description of circumstances.

(viii) Description of all use of mitigation gun including running time, start and stop time, and reason for implementation.

(5) The data listed in §217.135(a)(4)(i) and (ii) shall also be recorded at the start and end of each watch and during a watch whenever there is a change in one or more of the variables.

(b) Onshore seismic effort. (1) When conducting onshore seismic effort, in the event that a shot hole charge depth of 10 m is not consistently attainable due to loose sediments collapsing the bore hole, a sound source verification study must be conducted on the new land-based charge depths.

(2) [Reserved]

(c) Reporting. (1) Apache must immediately report to NMFS at such time as 25 total beluga whales (cumulative total during period of validity of annual LOA) have been detected within the 160-dB re 1 µPa (rms) exclusion zone, regardless of shutdown or power down procedures implemented, during seismic survey operations.

(2) Apache must submit a weekly field report to NMFS Office of Protected Resources each Thursday during the weeks when in-water seismic survey activities take place. The weekly field reports shall summarize species detected (number, location, distance from seismic vessel, behavior), in-water activity occurring at the time of the sighting (discharge volume of array at time of sighting, seismic activity at time of sighting, visual plots of sightings, and number of power downs and shutdowns), behavioral reactions to in-water activities, and the number of marine mammals exposed to sound at or exceeding relevant thresholds. Additionally, Apache must include which km2 grid cells were surveyed during that week and the resulting number of belugas that may have been taken using the Goetz et al. (2012) model. Apache must provide the cells, corresponding density, and possible number of beluga exposures using the Goetz model for that week, as well as the total from the preceding weeks.

(3) Apache must submit a monthly report, no later than the fifteenth of each month, to NMFS Office of Protected Resources for all months during which in-water seismic survey activities occur. These reports must summarize the information described in paragraph (a)(4) of this section and shall also include:

(i) An estimate of the number (by species) of:

(A) Pinnipeds that have been exposed to sound (based on visual observation) at received levels greater than or equal to 160 dB re 1 µPa (rms) and/or 190 dB re 1 µPa (rms) with a discussion of any specific behaviors those individuals exhibited; and

(B) Cetaceans that have been exposed to sound (based on visual observation) at received levels greater than or equal to 160 dB re 1 µPa (rms) and/or 180 dB re 1 µPa (rms) with a discussion of any specific behaviors those individuals exhibited.

(ii) A description of the implementation and effectiveness of the terms and conditions of the Biological Opinion's Incidental Take Statement and mitigation measures of the LOA. For the Biological Opinion, the report shall confirm the implementation of each Term and Condition, as well as any conservation recommendations, and describe their effectiveness in minimizing the adverse effects of the action on Endangered Species Act-listed marine mammals.

(4) Apache shall submit an annual report to NMFS Office of Protected Resources covering a given calendar year by October 31st annually. The annual report shall include summaries of the information described in paragraph (a)(4) of this section and shall also include:

(i) Summaries of monitoring effort (e.g., total hours, total distances, and marine mammal distribution through the study period, accounting for sea state and other factors affecting visibility and detectability of marine mammals);

(ii) Analyses of the effects of various factors influencing detectability of marine mammals (e.g., sea state, number of observers, and fog/glare);

(iii) Species composition, occurrence, and distribution of marine mammal sightings, including date, water depth, numbers, age/size/gender categories (if determinable), group sizes, and ice cover;

(iv) Analyses of the effects of survey operations; and

(v) Sighting rates of marine mammals during periods with and without seismic survey activities (and other variables that could affect detectability), such as:

(A) Initial sighting distances versus survey activity state;

(B) Closest point of approach versus survey activity state;

(C) Observed behaviors and types of movements versus survey activity state;

(D) Numbers of sightings/individuals seen versus survey activity state;

(E) Distribution around the source vessels versus survey activity state; and

(F) Numbers of marine mammals (by species) detected in the 160, 180, and 190 dB re 1 µPa (rms) zones.

(5) Apache shall submit a final annual report to the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, within thirty days after receiving comments from NMFS on the draft report, by November 30th annually.

(d) Notification of dead or injured marine mammals. (1) In the event that the specified activity clearly causes the take of a marine mammal in a manner prohibited by this Authorization, such as an injury (Level A harassment), serious injury, or mortality, Apache shall immediately cease the specified activities and report the incident to the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the Alaska Regional Stranding Coordinator, NMFS. The report must include the following information:

(i) Time, date, and location (latitude/longitude) of the incident;

(ii) Description of the incident;

(iii) Environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, Beaufort sea state, cloud cover, and visibility);

(iv) Description of marine mammal observations in the 24 hours preceding the incident;

(v) Species identification or description of the animal(s) involved;

(vi) Status of all sound source use in the 24 hours preceding the incident;

(vii) Water depth;

(viii) Fate of the animal(s); and

(ix) Photographs or video footage of the animal(s).

(2) Activities shall not resume until NMFS is able to review the circumstances of the prohibited take. NMFS will work with Apache to determine what measures are necessary to minimize the likelihood of further prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. Apache may not resume their activities until notified by NMFS that they may do so.

(3) In the event that Apache discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the lead PSO determines that the cause of the injury or death is unknown and the death is relatively recent (e.g., in less than a moderate state of decomposition), Apache shall immediately report the incident to the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the Alaska Regional Stranding Coordinator, NMFS. The report must include the same information identified in §217.135(d)(1). If the observed marine mammal is dead, activities may continue while NMFS reviews the circumstances of the incident. If the observed marine mammal is injured, measures described in §217.134(d)(4) must be implemented. NMFS will work with Apache to determine whether additional mitigation measures or modifications to the activities are appropriate.

(4) In the event that Apache discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the lead PSO determines that the injury or death is not associated with or related to the activities authorized in the LOA (e.g., previously wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced decomposition, scavenger damage), Apache shall report the incident to the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the Alaska Regional Stranding Coordinator, NMFS, within 24 hours of the discovery. Apache shall provide photographs or video footage or other documentation of the stranded animal sighting to NMFS. If the observed marine mammal is dead, activities may continue while NMFS reviews the circumstances of the incident. If the observed marine mammal is injured, measures described in §217.134(d)(4) must be implemented and Apache may not resume activities until notified by NMFS that they may do so.

Need assistance?