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 9, 2020

Title 50Chapter IISubchapter CPart 217 → Subpart N


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


Contents
§217.130   Specified activity and specified geographical region.
§217.131   Effective dates.
§217.132   Permissible methods of taking.
§217.133   Prohibitions.
§217.134   Mitigation requirements.
§217.135   Requirements for monitoring and reporting.
§217.136   Letters of Authorization.
§217.137   Renewals and modifications of Letters of Authorization and Adaptive Management.

Source: 81 FR 47275, July 20, 2016, unless otherwise noted.

Effective Date Note: At 81 FR 47275, July 20, 2016, subpart N was added, effective Aug. 19, 2016, through July 20, 2021.

return arrow Back to Top

§217.130   Specified activity and specified geographical region.

(a) Regulations in this subpart apply only to Apache Alaska Corporation (Apache), and those persons it authorizes to conduct activities on its behalf, for the taking of marine mammals that occurs in the area outlined in paragraph (b) of this section incidental to Apache's oil and gas exploration seismic survey program operations.

(b) The taking of marine mammals by Apache may be authorized in a Letter of Authorization (LOA) only if it occurs in Cook Inlet, Alaska.

return arrow Back to Top

§217.131   Effective dates.

Regulations in this subpart are effective from August 19, 2016 through July 20, 2021.

return arrow Back to Top

§217.132   Permissible methods of taking.

(a) Under LOAs issued pursuant to §216.106 of this chapter and §217.136, the Holder of the LOA (hereinafter “Apache”) may incidentally, but not intentionally, take marine mammals within the area described in §217.130(b), provided the activity is in compliance with all terms, conditions, and requirements of the regulations in this subpart and the appropriate LOA.

(b) The incidental take of marine mammals under the activities identified in §217.130(a) is limited to the indicated number of takes of individuals of the following species and is limited to Level B harassment:

(1) Cetaceans:

(i) Beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas)—150 over the five-year period, with no more than 30 in any year;

(ii) Harbor porpoise (Phocoena phocoena)—1,455 over the five-year period, with an average of 283 annually;

(iii) Killer whale (Orcinus orca)—350 over the five-year period, with an average of 70 annually;

(iv) Gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus)—40 over the five-year period, with an average of 8 annually;

(v) Humpback whale (Megaptera noveangliae)—10 over the five-year period, with an average of 2 annually;

(vi) Minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostra)—5 over the five-year period, with an average of 1 annually;

(vii) Dall's porpoise (Phocoenoides dalli)—85 over the five-year period, with an average of 17 annually;

(2) Pinnipeds:

(i) Harbor seal (Phoca vitulina)—28, 625 over the five-year period, with no more than 5,725 in any year; and

(ii) Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus)—20.

return arrow Back to Top

§217.133   Prohibitions.

Notwithstanding takings contemplated in §217.130 and authorized by a LOA issued under §216.106 of this chapter and §217.136, no person in connection with the activities described in §217.130 may:

(a) Take any marine mammal not specified in §217.132(b);

(b) Take any marine mammal specified in §217.132(b) other than by incidental Level B harassment;

(c) Take any marine mammal in excedance of the numbers specified in 217.132(b)(1);

(d) Take a marine mammal specified in §217.132(b) if the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) determines such taking is resulting or will result in more than a negligible impact on the species or stocks of such marine mammal;

(e) Take a marine mammal specified in §217.132(b) if NMFS determines such taking is resulting in or will result in an unmitigable adverse impact on the species or stock of such marine mammal for taking for subsistence uses; or

(f) Violate, or fail to comply with, the terms, conditions, and requirements of this subpart or an LOA issued under §216.106 and §217.136 of this chapter.

return arrow Back to Top

§217.134   Mitigation requirements.

When conducting the activities identified in §217.130(a), the mitigation measures contained in any LOA issued under §216.106 and §217.136 of this chapter must be implemented. These mitigation measures include but are not limited to:

(a) General conditions:

(1) If any marine mammal species not listed in §217.132(b) are observed during conduct of the activities identified in §217.130(a) and are likely to be exposed to sound pressure levels (SPLs) greater than or equal to 160 dB re 1 µPa (rms), Apache must avoid such exposure (e.g., by altering speed or course or by power down or shutdown of the sound source).

(2) If the allowable number of takes on an annual basis listed for any marine mammal species in §217.132(b) is exceeded, or if any marine mammal species not listed in §217.132(b) is exposed to SPLs greater than or equal to 160 dB re 1 µPa (rms), Apache shall immediately cease survey operations involving the use of active sound sources (e.g., airguns and pingers), record the observation, and notify NMFS Office of Protected Resources.

(3) Apache must notify the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, at least 48 hours prior to the start of seismic survey activities each year.

(4) Apache shall conduct briefings as necessary between vessel crews, marine mammal monitoring team, and other relevant personnel prior to the start of all survey activity, and when new personnel join the work, in order to explain responsibilities, communication procedures, marine mammal monitoring protocol, operational procedures, and reporting requirements.

(b) Visual monitoring. (1) Apache shall establish zones corresponding to the area around the source within which SPLs are expected to equal or exceed relevant acoustic criteria for Level A and Level B harassment. These zones shall be established as exclusion zones (shutdown zones, described in in §217.134 (c)(2)) to avoid Level A harassment of any marine mammal, Level B harassment of beluga whales, or Level B harassment of aggregations of five or more killer whales or harbor porpoises. For all marine mammals other than beluga whales or aggregations of five or more harbor porpoises or killer whales, the Level B harassment zone shall be established as a disturbance zone and monitored as described in §217.135(a)(1). These zones shall be defined in each annual LOA to allow for incorporation of new field measurements.

(2) Vessel-based monitoring for marine mammals must be conducted before, during, and after all activity identified in §217.130(a) that is conducted during daylight hours (defined as nautical twilight-dawn to nautical twilight-dusk), and shall begin at least thirty minutes prior to the beginning of survey activity, continue throughout all survey activity that occurs during daylight hours, and conclude no less than thirty minutes following the cessation of survey activity. Apache shall use a sufficient number of qualified protected species observers (PSO), at least two PSOs per vessel, to ensure continuous visual observation coverage during all periods of daylight survey operations with maximum limits of four consecutive hours on watch and twelve hours of watch time per day per PSO. One PSO must be a supervisory field crew leader. A minimum of two qualified PSOs shall be on watch at all times during daylight hours on each source and support vessel (except during brief meal and restroom breaks, when at least one PSO shall be on watch).

(i) A qualified PSO is a third-party trained biologist, with prior experience as a PSO during seismic surveys and the following minimum qualifications:

(A) Visual acuity in both eyes (correction is permissible) sufficient for discernment of moving targets at the water's surface with ability to estimate target size and distance; use of binoculars may be necessary to correctly identify the target;

(B) Advanced education in biological science or related field (undergraduate degree or higher required);

(C) Experience and ability to conduct field observations and collect data according to assigned protocols (this may include academic experience);

(D) Experience or training in the field identification of marine mammals, including the identification of behaviors;

(E) Sufficient training, orientation, or experience with the survey operation to provide for personal safety during observations;

(F) Writing skills sufficient to prepare a report of observations including but not limited to the number and species of marine mammals observed; dates and times when survey activities were conducted; dates and times when survey activities were suspended to avoid exposure of marine mammals to sound within defined exclusion zones; and marine mammal behavior; and

(G) Ability to communicate orally, by radio or in person, with project personnel to provide real-time information on marine mammals observed in the area as necessary.

(ii) PSOs must have access to binoculars (7 x 50 with reticle rangefinder; Fujinon or equivalent quality), and optical rangefinders, and shall scan the surrounding waters from the best available suitable vantage point with the naked eye and binoculars. At least one PSO shall scan the surrounding waters during all daylight hours using bigeye binoculars.

(iii) PSOs shall also conduct visual monitoring:

(A) While the airgun array and nodes are being deployed or recovered from the water; and

(B) During periods of good visibility when the sound sources are not operating for comparison of animal abundance and behavior.

(iv) PSOs shall be on watch at all times during daylight hours when survey operations are being conducted, unless conditions (e.g., fog, rain, darkness) make observations impossible. The lead PSO on duty shall make this determination. If conditions deteriorate during daylight hours such that the sea surface observations are halted, visual observations must resume as soon as conditions permit.

(3) Survey activity must begin during periods of good visibility, which is defined as daylight hours when weather (e.g., fog, rain) does not obscure the relevant exclusion zones within maximum line-of-sight. In order to begin survey activity, the relevant taxa-specific exclusion zones must be clear of marine mammals for not less than thirty minutes. If marine mammals are present within or are observed approaching the relevant exclusion zone during this thirty-minute pre-clearance period, the start of survey activity shall be delayed until the animals are observed leaving the zone of their own volition and/or outside the zone or until fifteen minutes (for pinnipeds and harbor porpoises) or thirty minutes (for beluga whales, killer whales, and gray whales) have elapsed without observing the animal. While activities will be permitted to continue during low-visibility conditions, they must have been initiated following proper clearance of the exclusion zone under acceptable observation conditions and must be restarted, if shut down for greater than ten minutes for any reason, using the appropriate exclusion zone clearance procedures.

(c) Ramp-up and shutdown. (1) Survey activity involving the full-power airgun array or shallow-water source must be initiated, following appropriate clearance of the exclusion zone, using accepted ramp-up procedures. Ramp-up is required at the start of survey activity and at any time following a shutdown of ten minutes or greater. Ramp-up shall be implemented by starting the smallest single gun available and increasing the operational array volume in a defined sequence such that the source level of the array shall increase in steps not exceeding approximately 6 dB per five-minute period. PSOs shall continue monitoring the relevant exclusion zones throughout the ramp-up process and, if marine mammals are observed within or approaching the zones, a power down or shutdown shall be implemented and ramp-up restarted following appropriate exclusion zone clearance procedures as described in paragraph (b)(3) of this section.

(2) Apache must shut down or power down the source, as appropriate, immediately upon detection of any marine mammal approaching or within the relevant Level A exclusion zone or upon detection of any beluga whale or aggregation of five or more harbor porpoises or killer whales approaching or within the relevant Level B exclusion zone. Power down is defined as reduction of total airgun array volume from either the full-power airgun array (2,400 in3) or the shallow-water source (440 in3) to a single mitigation gun (maximum 10 in3). Power down must be followed by shutdown in the event that the animal(s) approach the exclusion zones defined for the mitigation gun. Detection of any marine mammal within an exclusion zone shall be recorded and reported weekly, as described in §217.135(c)(2), to NMFS Office of Protected Resources.

(i) When a requirement for power down or shutdown is triggered, the call for implementation shall be made by the lead PSO on duty and Apache shall comply. Any disagreement with a determination made by the lead PSO on duty shall be discussed after implementation of power down or shutdown, as appropriate.

(ii) Following a power down or shutdown not exceeding ten minutes, Apache shall follow the ramp-up procedure described in paragraph (c)(1) of this section to return to full-power operation.

(iii) Following a shutdown exceeding ten minutes, Apache shall follow the exclusion zone clearance, described in paragraph (b)(3) of this section, and ramp-up procedures, described in paragraph (c)(1) of this section, before returning to full-power operation.

(3) Survey operations may be conducted during low-visibility conditions (e.g., darkness, fog, rain) only when such activity was initiated following proper clearance of the exclusion zone under acceptable observation conditions, as described in paragraph (b)(3) of this section, and there has not been a shutdown exceeding ten minutes. Passive acoustic monitoring is required during all non-daylight hours. Following a shutdown exceeding ten minutes during low-visibility conditions, survey operations must be suspended until the return of good visibility or the use of passive acoustic monitoring must be implemented. Use of a NMFS-approved passive acoustic monitoring scheme, which will be detailed in each LOA, monitored by a trained PSO, will be used to listen for marine mammal vocalizations. If no vocalizations are observed for 30 minutes, Apache may consider the zone clear and commence ramp-up of airguns. During low-visibility conditions, vessel bridge crew must implement shutdown procedures if marine mammals are observed.

(d) Additional mitigation. (1) The mitigation airgun must be operated at no more than approximately one shot per minute, and use of the gun may not exceed three consecutive hours. Ramp-up may not be used to circumvent the three-hour limitation on mitigation gun usage by returning guns to higher power momentarily and then returning to mitigation airgun.

(2) Apache shall alter speed or course during seismic operations if a marine mammal, based on its position and relative motion, appears likely to enter the relevant exclusion zone and such alteration may result in the animal not entering the zone. If speed or course alteration is not safe or practicable, or if after alteration the marine mammal still appears likely to enter the zone, power down or shutdown must be implemented.

(3) Apache shall not operate airguns within 16 km of the Mean Lower low water (MLLW) line of the Susitna Delta (Beluga River to the Little Susitna River) between April 15 and October 15.

(4) Apache must suspend survey operations if a live marine mammal stranding is reported within a distance of two times the 160dB isopleth of the seismic source vessel coincident to or within 72 hours of survey activities involving the use of airguns, regardless of any suspected cause of the stranding. A live stranding event is defined as a marine mammal found on a beach or shore and unable to return to the water; on a beach or shore and able to return to the water but in apparent need of medical attention; or in the water but unable to return to its natural habitat under its own power or without assistance.

(i) Apache must immediately implement a shutdown of the airgun array upon becoming aware of the live stranding event within 19 km of the seismic array.

(ii) Shutdown procedures shall remain in effect until NMFS determines that all live animals involved in the stranding have left the area (either of their own volition or following responder assistance).

(iii) Within 48 hours of the notification of the live stranding event, Apache must inform NMFS where and when they were operating airguns, beginning 72 hours before the stranding was first observed, and at what discharge volumes.

(iv) Apache must appoint a contact who can be reached at any time for notification of live stranding events. Immediately upon notification of the live stranding event, this person must order the immediate shutdown of the survey operations.

return arrow Back to Top

§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.

return arrow Back to Top

§217.136   Letters of Authorization.

(a) To incidentally take marine mammals pursuant to this subpart, Apache must apply for and obtain an LOA, as required by §216.106 of this chapter.

(b) LOAs issued to Apache, unless suspended or revoked, may be effective for a period of time not to exceed one year or the period of validity of this subpart.

(c) An LOA application must be submitted to the Director, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, by December 31st of the year preceding the desired start date.

(d) An LOA application must include the following information:

(1) The date(s), duration, and the area(s) where the activity will occur;

(2) The species and/or stock(s) of marine mammals likely to be found within each area;

(3) The estimated percentage and numbers of marine mammal species/stocks potentially affected in each area for the period of effectiveness of the Letter of Authorization.

(4) If an application is for an LOA renewal, it must meet the requirements set forth in §217.137.

(e) In the event of projected changes to the activity or to mitigation and monitoring measures required by an LOA, Apache must apply for and obtain a modification of the Letter of Authorization as described in §217.137.

(f) An LOA will set forth:

(1) Permissible methods of incidental taking;

(2) Means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact (i.e., mitigation) on the species, their habitat, and on the availability of the species for subsistence uses; and

(3) Requirements for monitoring and reporting.

(g) Issuance of an LOA (including renewals and modifications) will be based on a determination by NMFS that the level of taking will be consistent with the findings made for the total taking allowable under this subpart.

(h) If NMFS determines that the level of taking is resulting or may result in more than a negligible impact on the species or stocks of such marine mammal, the LOA may be modified or suspended after notice and a public comment period.

(i) Notice of issuance or denial of a LOA shall be published in the Federal Register within 30 days of a determination.

return arrow Back to Top

§217.137   Renewals and modifications of Letters of Authorization and Adaptive Management.

(a) An LOA issued under §216.106 of this chapter and §217.136 for the activity identified in §217.130(a) may be renewed or modified upon request by the applicant, provided the following are met (in addition to the determination in §216.136(e)):

(1) Notification to NMFS that the activity described in the application submitted under §217.130(a) will be undertaken and that there will not be a substantial modification to the described work, mitigation or monitoring undertaken during the upcoming or remaining LOA period;

(2) Timely receipt (by the dates indicated) of monitoring reports, as required under §217.135(c)(3).

(3) A determination by the NMFS that the mitigation, monitoring and reporting measures required under §217.135(c) and the LOA issued under §216.106 and §217.136, were undertaken and are expected to be undertaken during the period of validity of the LOA.

(b) If a request for a renewal of a Letter of Authorization indicates that a substantial modification, as determined by NMFS, to the described work, mitigation or monitoring undertaken during the upcoming season will occur, the NMFS will provide the public a period of 30 days for review and comment on the request as well as the proposed modification to the LOA. Review and comment on renewals of Letters of Authorization are restricted to:

(1) New cited information and data indicating that the original determinations made for the regulations are in need of reconsideration, and

(2) Proposed changes to the mitigation and monitoring requirements contained in this subpart or in the current Letter of Authorization.

(c) A notice of issuance or denial of a renewal of a Letter of Authorization will be published in the Federal Register within 30 days of a determination.

(d) An LOA issued under §216.106 of this chapter and §217.136 for the activity identified in §217.130 may be modified by NMFS under the following circumstances:

(1) Adaptive management. NMFS, in response to new information and in consultation with Apache, may modify the mitigation or monitoring measures in subsequent LOAs if doing so creates a reasonable likelihood of more effectively accomplishing the goals of mitigation and monitoring.

(i) Possible sources of new data that could contribute to the decision to modify the mitigation or monitoring measures include:

(A) Results from Apache's monitoring from the previous year(s).

(B) Results from marine mammal and/or sound research or studies.

(C) Any information that reveals marine mammals may have been taken in a manner, extent or number not authorized by this subpart or subsequent LOAs.

(ii) If, through adaptive management, the modifications to the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures are substantial, NMFS will publish a notice of proposed LOA in the Federal Register and solicit public comment.

(2) NMFS will withdraw or suspend an LOA if, after notice and opportunity for public comment, NMFS determines this subpart is not being substantially complied with or that the taking allowed is or may be having more than a negligible impact on an affected species or stock specified in §217.132(b) or an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of the species or stock for subsistence uses. The requirement for notice and comment will not apply if NMFS determines that an emergency exists that poses a significant risk to the well-being of the species or stocks of marine mammals. Notice would be published in the Federal Register within 30 days of such action.

return arrow Back to Top

Need assistance?