Feds Propose New Regulations For Polar Bear, Pacific Walrus Incidental Take

Photo by Terry Debruyne/USFWS

The following is courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing incidental take regulations under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) for the incidental harassment of polar bears and Pacific walruses that may result from oil and gas industry activities on the North Slope of Alaska and adjacent waters. The proposal does not include lands and waters within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  

The proposed regulations are in response to a petition from the Alaska Oil and Gas Association (AOGA). If finalized, they would be in effect for 5 years. The Service has issued similar regulations authorizing the incidental take of polar bears and Pacific walruses associated with oil and gas industry activities since 1993.

The Service carefully evaluated the petition using the best available science and has worked with the AOGA to establish protocols and mitigation measures to reduce the potential for incidental harassment of polar bears and Pacific walruses as required under the MMPA.

The proposed regulations include permissible amounts of incidental harassment consistent with the requirements of the MMPA. Specifically, how, where and when the proposed activities may occur. The proposed regulations also include mitigation measures to ensure that industry activities have the least practicable adverse impact on polar bears and Pacific walruses, their habitat and availability for subsistence uses. 

In addition, the proposed regulations include requirements for mitigation, monitoring and reporting. This would provide valuable information on polar bear and Pacific walrus distributions and behaviors in the project area. It could also help the Service refine take estimates and develop more effective mitigation measures, if necessary, in the future. 

Comments regarding the proposed incidental take regulations can be submitted on www.regulations.gov under docket number: FWS-R7-ES-2021-0037. Supporting documents are also available on this site. Comments must be received by July 1. The Service will review all submitted comments prior to making a final determination.