Effects of Arctic Oil and Gas Activities Marine Mammals25/03/2013
|NOAA, USA, is seeking comments on a supplemental draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for oil and gas activities in the Arctic Ocean. The draft, developed in collaboration with the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), includes analysis of how a broader range of potential offshore oil and gas activities could affect the environment, with a specific focus on marine mammals and the Alaska Native communities that depend on the animals for food and cultural traditions.|
The environmental review addresses potential effects from both exploratory drilling and geological and geophysical (G&G) surveys, such as seismic surveys, in the Chuchki and Beaufort seas. After releasing the initial draft environmental impact statement for public comment in December 2011, NOAA and BOEM broadened the scope of analysis in light of comments from stakeholders. The initial EIS analysed the effects of up to two exploratory drilling programmes per year in both the Chukchi and Beaufort seas. The supplemental draft EIS analyses the effects of up to four drilling programmes per year in each area. The revised draft also expands discussion of mitigation measures designed to reduce the effects of offshore oil and gas activities on marine mammals and marine mammal subsistence users.
Effects of sound
The supplemental draft EIS looks at measures NOAA could adopt when issuing incidental take authorisations under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The act provides for the incidental and unintentional take of small numbers of marine mammals by U.S. citizens, if these actions will have only a negligible effect on the species and will not reduce the availability of the marine mammals to the Alaska natives who rely on them. As part of its supplemental analysis, NOAA examined various measures to minimise potential harmful effects from sound, accidental discharge of pollutants including oil, and the presence of vessels that will be part of these oil and gas operations, such as closing areas to exploration during whale migration and feeding and during traditional whale and seal hunts.
The supplemental draft, which builds on the earlier draft EIS, is available for comment for 60 days, until Tuesday 28 May 2013. NOAA will also host a series of public meetings during the week of 8 April 2013, to provide additional opportunities for comment.
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Spill Response Baseline Survey
CSIRO from Australia is undertaking a survey tour towards the Australian Bight for a baseline survey looking for oil traces in the water. The surveyors are deploying a CTD and a gravity corer measuring possible traces of oil in the water column. The survey mission also consists of hydrographic mapping techniques, GIS and environmental specialists to make sure the situation before exploration is mapped well in order to know what the environmental consequences of an eventual oil seepage or leak may consist of.