(a) All marine mammal monitoring must be conducted in accordance with Hilcorp and Eni's Marine Mammal Mitigation and Monitoring Plan (4MP). This plan may be modified throughout the life of the regulations upon NMFS review and approval.
(b) General monitoring measures will be implemented through the entire ice road/trail season including during construction, maintenance, use and decommissioning.
(1) If a ringed seal is observed within 50 m (164 ft) of the center of an ice road or trail, the operator's Environmental Specialist must be immediately notified with the information provided in paragraph (e) of this section.
(i) The Environmental Specialist must relay the seal sighting location information to all ice road personnel and the company's office personnel responsible for wildlife interaction, following notification protocols described in the company-specific Wildlife Management Plan. All other data will be recorded and logged.
(ii) The Environmental Specialist or designated person must monitor the ringed seal to document the animal's location relative to the road/trail. All work that is occurring when the ringed seal is observed and the behavior of the seal during those activities must be documented until the animal is at least 50 m (150 ft) away from the center of the road/trail or is no longer observed.
(c) Additional monitoring measures after March 1st. In addition to the general monitoring measures listed in § 217.155(b), the following measures must also be implemented after March 1st:
(1) If an ice road or trail is being actively used, under daylight conditions with good visibility, a dedicated observer (not the vehicle operator) must conduct a survey along the sea ice road/trail to observe if any ringed seals are within 150 m (500 ft) of the roadway corridor. The following survey protocol must be implemented:
(i) Surveys must be conducted every other day during daylight hours;
(ii) Observers for ice road activities must have received the training described in § 217.154(a) and understand the applicable sections of the Wildlife Interaction Plan;
(iii) Observers for ice road activities must be capable of detecting, observing and monitoring ringed seal presence and behaviors, and accurately and completely recording data;
(iv) Observers must have no other primary duty than to watch for and report observations related to ringed seals during this survey; and
(v) If weather conditions become unsafe, the observer may be removed from the monitoring activity.
(2) If a ringed seal structure (i.e., breathing hole or lair) is observed within 50 m (150 ft) of the ice road/trail, the location of the structure must be reported to the Environmental Specialist and:
(i) An observer must monitor the structure every 6 hours on the day of the initial sighting to determine whether a ringed seal is present.
(ii) Monitoring for the seal must occur every other day the ice road is being used unless it is determined the structure is not actively being used (i.e., a seal is not sighted at that location during monitoring).
(d) Engaging with subsistence hunters for monitoring recommendations.
(1) Hilcorp and Eni must engage local hunters through the Ice Seal Committee point of contact to gather recommendations on methods for ringed seal detection along sea ice roads/trails within the exposure areas.
(2) Hilcorp and Eni must incorporate these recommendations into Hilcorp and Eni's training materials provided to personnel responsible for monitoring for ringed seals along sea ice roads/trails.
(e) Reporting requirement at the end-of-season.
(1) A final end-of-season report compiling all ringed seal observations must be submitted to NMFS Office of Protected Resources within 90 days of decommissioning the ice roads/trails annually. The report must include:
(i) Date, time, location of observation;
(ii) Ringed seal characteristics (i.e., adult or pup, behavior (avoidance, resting, etc.));
(iii) Activities occurring during observation including equipment being used and its purpose, and approximate distance to ringed seal(s);
(iv) Actions taken to mitigate effects of interaction emphasizing:
(A) Which mitigation and/or monitoring measures were successful;
(B) Which mitigation and/or monitoring measures may need to be improved to reduce interactions with ringed seals;
(C) The effectiveness and practicality of implementing mitigation and monitoring measures;
(D) Any issues or concerns regarding implementation of mitigation and/or monitoring measures; and
(E) Potential effects of interactions based on observation data;
(v) Proposed updates (if any) to Wildlife Interaction Plan(s) or Mitigation and Monitoring Measures; and
(vi) The methods used for detection of seals and seal structures with an assessment of their effectiveness.
(2) In the event a seal is killed or seriously injured by ice road/trail activities, Hilcorp or Eni must immediately cease the specified activities and report the incident to the NMFS Office of Protected Resources (301-427-8401) and Alaska Region Stranding Coordinator (877-925-7773). The report must include the following information:
(i) Time and date of the incident;
(ii) Description of the incident;
(iii) Environmental conditions (e.g., cloud over, and visibility);
(iv) Description of all marine mammal observations in the 24 hours preceding the incident;
(v) Species identification or description of the animal(s) involved;
(vi) Fate of the animal(s); and
(vii) Photographs or video footage of the animal(s).
(3) In the event ice road/trail personnel discover a dead or injured seal but the cause of injury or death is unknown or believed not to be related to ice road/trail activities, Hilcorp or Eni must report the incident to the NMFS Office of Protected Resources (301-427-8401) and Alaska Region Stranding Coordinator (877-925-7773) within 48 hours of discovery.