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BBOT'C HI SOUE?CI S I~T~ODUCT10~ Mammals, birds, and fish are important to indigenous peoples, and arctic breeding and feeding grounds are essential for the well-being of migratory marine mammal, bird, and fish populations. The potential for damage to living resources is a focus of concern in any plan for the development of oil and gas resources on the OCS. The various acts governing the development of OCS oil and gas mandate that MMS assess the resources at risk and provide estimates of possible effects of OCS activities. The extent of our knowledge of the distribution, abundance, and critical ecological linkages of the arctic biota varies greatly. Some species, especially Pose held in high public esteem, have been well studied, at least in the summer months, whereas others, usually at lower trophic levels and less glamorous, but perhaps of great importance to food webs, remain virtually unstudied in Alaskan waters. In this chapter, Me committee evaluates the adequacy of the biological information available for decisions about OCS of! and gas activities. Where appropriate, we also evaluate the need for additional information. In the committee's taxon-oriented evalua- tions, it focused on what is known; in the synthesis of its findings, it evaluated the use of knowledge in the production of the various Environ- mental Impact Statements (EISs) it consulted during its review. 87

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88 OCS DECISIONS: ALASKA M`~l~[ OWLS The marine mammal fauna of the northern Bering, Chukchi, and Beau- fort seas off the coast of Alaska are among the most diverse in the world. Many of the species there are used for subsistence purposes by Alaska Na- tives and many have an important symbolic role in cultural identity. Some have a high profile because they are covered by international conservation agreements or because they are classified as threatened or endangered under He Endangered Species Act (ESA). All marine mammals in the United States receive special protection under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). The law that protects marine mammals is one of the strongest pieces of environmental legislation in the United States. MMPA was passed to pro- tect marine mammals and to maintain the health and stability of the marine ecosystem. It places a moratorium on the take, including harassment, of all marine mammals with special exemptions for subsistence use by Alaska Natives, for permit activities such as research and public display, and for restricted permitted take incidental to commercial fishing and industrial activities. Additional protection is afforded to any species that is classified as depleted under the act. ESA requires that any action authorized, funded, or conducted by a federal agency not jeopardize the continued existence of a listed species or stock and not result in adverse modification or destruction of critical habitat. Consultations between involved agencies are required to determine jeopardy, and if jeopardy is determined to exist, then all reason- able and prudent alternatives to an action must be examined. Any species that is classified as threatened or endangered under ESA is automatically classified as depleted under MMPA. The marine mammals found in the lease areas under consideration i: nclude baleen and toothed whales, seals, sea lions, walruses, and polar bears. For some of these species, much or most of their populations spend all or part of the year living in or migrating through the lease areas in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas. Their distribution, movements, and life history events are closely tied to the presence or absence of sea ice (Pay, 1974). Most species are harvested by coastal subsistence hunters, and they can make up a substantial proportion of the annual diet in coastal communities. Bowhead whales (Balaena n~sticetus) are an extremely important subsistence resource to Alaska Natives from nine coastal villages, and at those locations Key are of key cultural importance as well (Stoker and

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BIOTIC RESOURCES 89 Krupnik, 1993). Beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas) are used exten- sively for food by residents of Kotzebue and Norton sounds, Point Lay, and other coastal villages (Seaman and Burns, 1981; Lowry et al., 1989). Pacific walruses (Odobenus rosmarus divergens) are a mainstay of subsis- tence economies in coastal Bering Sea and Chukchi Sea villages, providing meat, skins, and ivory for handicraft purposes (Pay, 1982~. Polar bears (Ursus maritime) and all of the ice-associated seals, but particularly bearded seals (Erignathus barbatus) and ringed seals (Phoca hispida), are harves ed for their meat and skins (Lender, 1988). Shared stocks of polar bears and belugas are also harvested in Canada and Russia, as are walrus, gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus), beluga, and seal stocks. Bowhead and gray whales receive special legal protection under ESA and are listed as endangered. In 1990, Steller sea lions (Eum~opias jubatus) were classified as threatened under the ESA. Polar bears also receive special consideration under the International Agreement for the Conserva- tion of Polar Bears, which was ratified in 1976 by Canada, Denmark, Norway, the USSR, and the United States. The Beautort Sea stock of polar bears is managed under an agreement between user groups in the North Slope Borough of Alaska and the Inuvialuit Settlement Region of Canada. A joint management agreement for belugas is currently being negotiated between hunters in Alaska and Canada, and walrus conservation and management are being addressed by joint U.S.-Russian working groups. Factors that can affect marine mammals in Alaska are of great concern to Canada and Russia. Virtually the entire world population of almost 8,000 bowheads and Be Bering Sea population of 25,000-30,000 beluga whales Banter in Be pack ice in the northern Bering Sea, including the Navarin Basin (Burns, 1984; IWC, 1989; Zeh et al., 1993~. Bowheads and the Beautort Sea stock of belugas migrate north through the spring lead system in the eastern Chukchi and Beaufort seas from April until June, en route to their summering grounds in the Canadian Beautort Sea (Braham et al., 1984~. During Be autumn m~gradon, bowheads and belugas return through the Alaskan Beautort Sea and feed along the way. Several thousand beluga whales from the Chukchi Sea stock concentrate near the passes of Kasegaluk Lagoon to molt in late June and July (Frost and Lowry, 1990; Frost et al., 1993~. Most gray whales migrate over 3,000 miles from Baja California, Mexico to the northern Bering and Chukchi seas, where they feed during the summer and autumn on extensive beds of benthic amphipods (Jones et al.,

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90 OCSDEClSIONS: ALASKA 1984). Other cetaceans such as killer whales (Orcinus orca), make whales (Bak~enoptera acutorostrata), and harbor porpoises (Phocoer~a phocoen~) occur in these northern waters, but little is known about their distribution and abundance there. Four species of ice-associated seals and the Pacific walrus population regularly inhabit the lease areas under consideration (Burns, 1970; 1981a; Fay, 1974; Lender, 1988). Ribbon seals (P. fasciae) overwinter in Be pack ice of the Bering Sea, including the Navarin Basin. A few sightings have been made in the Bering and Chukchi seas in summer, but in general their summer distribution is unknown (Burns, 1981a). Ringed seals bear and raise their pups on stable shorefast ice of the northern Bering, Chukchi, and Beautort seas (Frost and Lowry, 1981). During summer and autumn they feed in the northern Chukchi and BeauLort seas (Lowry et al., 1980a). Spotted seals (P. largha) winter in the Bering Sea ice front, then move north and toward the coast to summer (Shaughnessy and Fay, 1977). Some of the largest concentrations of hauled-out spot seals in Alaska occur near the passes of Kasegaluk Lagoon along the Chukchi Sea coast (Frost et al., 1993). Summer feeding occurs in the central and southern Chukchi Sea. Bearded seals are present throughout the pack ice of the northern Bering and Chukchi seas during winter and spring (Burns, 198Ib). In summer they are found in pack ice over the northern part of the broad Chukchi Sea shelf, where they feed on the rich benthic and epiben~ic fauna of this region (Lowry et al., 198Ob). The northern Bering Sea and tile shallow Chukchi Sea shelf are feeding grounds for almost the entire world population of Pacific walruses. Ben~ic resources, principally clams and snails, support more Man 200,000 walruses (Fay, 1982; Lowry et al., 19SOb). Steller sea lions are widespread in He southern Bering Sea, where Hey pup and breed on remote rocky shores (Lentter, 1988). They disperse widely at over times of year, but are almost never seen norm of Bering Strait. During fall and winter they can be seen in He Navann Basin, near sea ice and islands (Brueggeman and Grotefendt, 1984). The importance of this area to feeding animals is unknown. Sea lions occasionally haul out on Hall Island, to He east of He Navarin Basin. Polar bears den and bear Heir cubs at coastal sites along He Chukchi and Beautort seas and on He offshore pack ice. They feed on over marine mammals in He area, principally ringed seals. Two stocks are thought to occur in northern Alaska, one Hat primarily resides in He Beautort Sea and northeastern Chukchi Sea, the over in the central and western Chukchi

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BIOTIC RESOURCES 91 (Lentfer, 1988~. Polar bears are innately curious and can be attracted to human settlements by visual, auditory, and olfactory stimuli (e.g., by movement and noise from vehicles, drilling and over operations, odors from garbage, etc.~. Because of this, expanding development of renewable arm non-renewable resources in Me Arctic has led to increasing interaction between humans and polar bears (Stirling and Calvert, 1983; S6rling, 1983~. Status of knowledge Population estimates for gray and bowhead whales are current and updated regularly (IWC, 1990; Zeh et al., 1993~. Periodic censuses are conducted for each and results are reported regularly and reviewed widely. Distribution, migration, and feeding are relatively well understood for gray whales (Iones et al., 1984~. For Towheads, spring migration Trough We lead system and summer feet ing in Be Canadian Beautort Sea is reasonably well understood. However, once bowheads pass Point Barrow, the autumn westward migration is poorly documented, and He specifics of winter distribution are unmown (Moore and Reeves, 1993~. There has been little exchange of information that might be available from Russian scientists about bowheads in He western Chukchi Sea. The importance and regularity of feeding in the Alaskan Beautort and in the western Chukchi Sea are unclear (NSB, 1987; Lowry, 1993~. For management purposes, beluga whales in Alaska have been assigned to four provisional stocks (Seaman and Burns, 1981; Frost and Lowry, 19903. The validity of these proposed stocks is unknown, and without this information, it is difficult to evaluate the possible consequences of various human activities. Abundance estimates for the Beautort and Chukchi beluga stocks are based on appropriately designed recent surveys (Frost and Lowry, 1990; L. Harwood, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Inuvik NW Territories, pers. commun., March 1993), although the estimates are almost certainly not precise enough to measure trends reliably. Information is adequate for identifying migration corridors and important concentration areas during spring and summer (Burns and Seaman, 1986; Frost and Lowry, 19903. FaD migration patterns and wintering areas for belugas are effectively unknown, except Hat belugas overwinter in tile pack ice of He northern Bering and southern Chukchi seas (Brueggeman et al., 1984~.

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92 OCS DECISIONS: ALASKA Winter feeding habits are completely unknown (Seaman et al., 1982). Areas Hat are particularly important for feeding have not been identified. Formation on over cetaceans is very limited. Surveys of He Navarin Basin in 1982 and 1983 provided information on species composition and relative abundance (Brueggeman et al., 1984~. Belugas, Dall's porpoises (Phocoenoi~es dally, and killer, fin (Balaenoptera physalus), gray, and bowhead whales were present. Pacific walruses have been surveyed at S-year intervals under a joint U.S.-USSR agreement. However, interpretation of data is complicated by variable ice conditions, clumped distribution of He animals, and the vast area to be surveyed (Lentfer, 1988; Gilbert, et al. 1992~. For He foresee- able future, it is unlikely Hat survey estimates will be precise enough to detect anything but major changes in He population. Recent satellite tagging and genetics studies have produced useful information about stock separation (HiDs, 1992~. The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), He federal managing agency, has a sampling program to collect and analyze reproduc- tive tracts and stomach contents for comparison with data from earlier studies, but there are no recent data on sex and age composition of He population. These data would probably be the most reliable indicator of status and trend in the populations. Important terrestrial haulouts for walruses and the periods during which they are used are well identified (Fay, 1982~. Feeding areas have been generally, but not specifically, iden- tified in the eastern Chukchi Sea. Information on the status and trends of He four species of ice seals is incomplete and out of date. It will be difficult to predict or manage effects of OCS of} and gas development on these species without any information about whether the populations are healthy or in decline. Spotted seals were counted from 1989 to 1991 at concentration areas along the Chukchi Sea coast (Frost et al., 1993~. However, satellite tagging data indicate that these counts substantially underrepresent the number of seals using the area. Little is understood about what causes daily variability in counts. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is currently attempting to determine the size of the spored seal population in Alaska. Ringed seals on He shore-fast ice in northern Alaska were last surveyed between 1985 and 1987 (Frost et al., 19884. Although this study was intended as the start of an MMS monitoring program, no funding has been made available to continue the survey. The most recent counts of bearded and ribbon seals were made in the late 1970s (Braham et al., 1984; Burns et al., 1981~. Those data are not only old, but Hey were not collected as part of a comprehensive and statistically valid survey.

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BIOTIC RESOURCES 93 Natural history studies of ice seals were funded by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), MMS's predecessor, as part of the Outer Continental Shelf Environmental Assessment Program (OCSEAP) program in the late 1970s. However, there has been no recent work to document changes since then. Such studies, as well as updated population information, are particularly needed, because there have been major declines of other Bering Sea pinnipeds dunng the same time period. Satellite-tagg~ng technology has improved greatly in the past decade. Application of this technique could produce substantial advances in our understanding of the animals' move- ments, Weir diving behavior, and their important feeding areas, and it could suggest correction factors necessary for interpreting surveys for all of these seal species. Information on important feeding areas, migratory corridors, arm other biologically important areas wall be needed to develop mitigating measures to manage Be anticipated effects of OCS of} and gas development and production. If such areas are known before development occurs, it wall be possible to design activities to minimize harm. Considerable research has been devoted to Beaulort Sea polar bears Gentler, 1988~. Population estimates are thought to be adequate or at least as good as current methods allow. There is a reasonable documentation of productivity. Satellite-tagg~ng studies have allowed the identification of im- portant habitats, including denning sites and areas (Amstrup et al., 1986~. Similar data for western Chukchi polar bears are more limited (Garner et al., 1990~. Studies of Chukchi bears are under way and are being facili- tated by the recent ability to do studies in Russian territory, such as at Wrange} Island (G. Garner, FWS, pers. commun., fan. 2l, 1993~. Not enough information is available to accurately assess and determine how to mitigate direct and indirect elects of oil and gas activities on polar bears Gentler, 19903. Expanding human presence in the Arctic is increasing the potential for bear-human interactions, which may result in the injury and death of both polar bears and people. Oil and gas exploration and develop- ment might have adverse effects on polar bears resulting from interactions with humans, such as damage or destruction of essential habitat, contact with and ingestion of oil or other contaminants, harassment by aircraft, ships, or other vehicles, or attraction to or disturbance by industrial noise. While some information is available on reducing bear-human conflicts (CIarkson et al., 1986), more research is needed on possible methods for detecting and deterring bears. Because they have been listed as threatened under the ESA, considerable research effort is currently being devoted to Steller sea lions, but because the center of Heir range is well to the south of the lease areas under

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94 OCS DECISIONS: ALASKA consideration, they were not a major consideration during this review. Studies of abundance, productivity, energetics, and disease are currently being conducted by federal, state, and university scientists. Weather and ice regimes In Alaska are highly variable from year to year. Because these two factors greatly influence the distribution and movements of marine mannInals, there is a great deal of annual variability in when and where animals spend their time. Consequently, it is not possible to conduct short-term studies and consider them representative, or predictive, of longterm distribution or behavior. Furthermore, marine mammal popula- tions are not static. Therefore, no single study of population characteristics or abundance can be adequate. Arctic marine mammal populations should be monitored regularly to detect change and to provide information on annual variability against which to measure change. This need is high- lighted by unfair declines In Stelder sea lions and harbor seals (P. vim- lina richardst) in subarctic Alaska. One of He clearest lessons to be learned from Be Exxon Chavez of! spill was that prior information on distribution, abundance, and particularly concentration areas is essential when evaluating the impacts of human activities (Frost et al., 1993~. The most fruited approach is to identify and study "hot spots" breeding, feeding, and aggregation areas in Be Arctic. Effects of Inaustrlal Poise Unresolved Questions Many marine mammals vocalize, and Key rely on sounds in Be water for commun~cabon and navigation. It is unmown whether exogenous noise might interfere wig or mask these functions, or whether it might signifi- candy affect marine manna distribution and movements. The Apes of in- dustrial noise introduced into marine mammal habitat could include Mat from seismic exploration; from barges, transiting supply vessels, and aircraft; and from exploration and development platforms (Richardson and Malme, 19931. Arctic species for which noise is of greatest current con- cern are bowhead and beluga whales and walruses. The effects of industrial noise have not been clearly revealed by research, despite many complicated and expensive studies funded by MMS and Be of} and gas industry. It is possible to argue at great length about Be validity of individual studies, but the overriding issue is Mat Mere is widespread distrust of the results and

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BIOTIC RESOURCES 95 dissatisfaction with the design and conduct of studies in arctic communities and others. Unless resolution of this question precedes resource develop- ment, it will continue to cause contention between arctic Alaska's residents, MMS, and industry. The question has two aspects: whether noise displaces animals from important feeding areas, concentration areas, or migratory corridors; and whether it makes them less accessible to subsistence hunters. Even if dis- placement is considered biologically insignificant, it might make successful hunting more difficult. Because the issue is so complicated-compounded by small sample sizes and interannual variability further studies are un- likely to resolve it soon. Instead, at the end of Chapter 8, the committee suggests an alternative approach that must first involve a critical review of methods and raw data by a diverse panel of qualified acousticians, scientists, and local people who are familiar with the biology of bowhead whales. Contaminants Because marine mammals are staple foot s in the diet of coastal residents, there is concern about whether they are safe to eat. The baseline data on existing contaminant concentrations in edible marine mammal tissues are inadequate to allow postUevelopment comparisons to be made and reason- ably evaluated. MMS has supported the archiving of marine mammal spe- cimens in a national tissue bank, but archiving, not analysis, has been He emphasis of Me program. Although the goal of most current development activities is zero discharge of any contaminated materials, there is w'4e- spread public concern about contaminant concentrations in animals Mat are used for food from these industrialized areas. Once industrial activities have begun, contaminants discovered in subsistence foods will be presumed to have originated from those activities. Knowledge of contaminant con- centrations in currently harvested resources would provide documentation of concentrations in focxis that are now deemed acceptable because Hey are unaffected by ir~ustrial activity. Thus, workup of samples from food har- vested in villages would be usefi~1 if production and development were likely to occur. Oil Mills In an environment where even He simplest human activities can be

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96 OCSDEClSIONS: ALASKA severely limited by weather and ice conditions, it is likely that a large spill would be difficult and time-consuming to clean up. Such an event and Be ensuing cleanup efforts would be likely to affect subsistence hunting activities of coastal residents, as well as Be marine mammals they hunt. There is concern in arctic Alaska that a spill would generate concern about bowheads (w'th or without biological justification) and Mat after a spill, the International Whaling Commission might reduce the number of whales that subsistence hunters could harvest to ensure Hat overall mortality did not increase. This could have substantial cultural and nutritional consequences to Alaska Natives. The effects of oil on most marine mammal species in their natural environments are poorly known. Polar bears, because of their thick fur and grooming behavior, are likely to ingest oil and Weir ability to ther- moregulate is likely to be impaired (0ritsland et al., 1981~. Before the Exxon Chavez oil spill, effects at Be population level had not been observed for cetaceans and pi peas, although whales, porpoises, and sea lions have been observed swunrr~g Trough of! and seals and sea lions have hauled out on contaminated surfaces. Studies following Be Exxon Valdez oil spill ind- icated Rat harbor seals were exposed to and assimilated hydrocarbons and Tat they suffered nerve damage that likely resulted in death. Based on aerial survey data, investigators concluded that more than 30% of Be harbor seals in oiled areas of Prince William Sound died because of Be spill (Frost et al., in press). Cumulative affects It is important to note ~at, wig Be exception of gray whales, most of the marine mammal species discussed in this report spend much or all of their lives in or near one or more of Be lease areas. All of Weir major life history events, including breeding, bearing young, and feeding, occur at dines in areas that could be leased for oil and gas exploration and develop- meet. In additdon, because many are exposed to odler activities, such as commercial fishing and mining, Be possibility cannot be ignored Eat Were would be cumulative effects from a combination of events. Although it is unlikely to be feasible to conduct research on cumulative effects, Key might have a significant effect on populations and Bus it is important to continue to monitor key indicator species, such as belugas.

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BIQDS BIOTIC RESOURCES 97 The Beautort, Chukchi, and Bering seas are important to migratory birds. Vast numbers of waterfowl and shorebirds nest on the tundra of He North Slope. Several million of these birds migrate in spring and fall along the coasts of northern and western Alaska, and for Me populations of many of these species, Be concentrations there comprise a substantial portion of Heir world or Norm American population. When these birds aggregate in a restricted area, Hey become particularly vulnerable to severe depletion in He event of an accident, such as an oil spill. Even large, "hearty" pop- uladons could be put in jeopardy by a single, severe accident. Species for which a major portion of the Norm American or world population visits He Chukchi or Beautort sea coasts include brant (Branta bemicula) (Johnson et al., 1992), king eider (Somateria spectabiZis), Steller's eider (Po~sticta stealers, and Ross' gull (Rhodostethia rosea) (Johnson and Herter, 1989~. The short-tailed albatross (Diomedia ablates), which is endangered, visits the Navarin Basin of He Bering Sea. Concern for birds Hat use the marine environment is particularly acute when of! spills are involved. Most species of marine birds spend consider- able portions of their lime sitting on He water' s surface. Most bird species foraging in He marine environment of polar regions repeatedly dive through the water's surlilce, thus increasing the potential for exposure to oil. An of} spill in ice-choked waters, where the open water is restricted to a few leads or polynyas, could substantially exacerbate the problem by concentrating oil in the limited areas of open water used by He birds. Oiling destroys He water repellency of feathers, on which birds depend for insulation; it also can cause severe physiological pathology when it is ingested by birds attempting to forage or clean themselves (Holmes and Cronshaw, 1977; Hunt, 1987; Nero and Associates, 1987~. Most species of seabirds have delayedsexualmaturity~e.g., Laridae (gulls), calcite (guillemots, anklets, puffins, etc. and low rates of productivity (Alcidae). As a result, He replacement of adult birds lost from He breeding population can require decades (Ford et al., 1982; Roseneau and Herter, 1984~. ~ spring, many birds, in particular He king eider and He common eider (S. mollissin~a) and, to a lesser extent, He oldsquaw (C~ngula hyemalis), concentrate in ice-free leads along He coast (Woodby and Divoly, 1982; Roseneau and Herter, 1984~. In fall, He coasts lagoons support large num- bers of these and over waterfowl including brant, which require safe areas

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118 OCSDECISIONS: ALASKA U. o o Hi o U. .S Ct ::s o o a, To o o V) V) U: so a ._ I; Cal .= .s .s it: _ _ _ ~ U. CQ V] ~ O' 0' 0' ~ ~ cat cut a: o ~ _ _ cn u' u2 ~ a, O' O' ~ .= .= ao s~ O ~ ~ O .~ ~ ~ _ ~ a' ~ Y O' .= c: ~ ~ ~ a' O v' ~ ~ ~ ~ au ~ ~ ~ ~ O' O c~ i3 ~ 'tg W~ O O ~ ~ ~ ~ _ U2 ~ a,' ~ m O ~ V) 4, ce a., ~ _1 ~ .. . ~ O ^ ao C, ~ 0 ~ O 0 V) ._ . a: ~ ~ ~ U] ~ _ o 'e ~ v' _ G u' t),~) a~ o ~ fo =^= Q .= ~ O ^~ .. O ~ ~ o ~ ^ C~ ^._ _ _ _ ~ _ ._ C~ V] ~ V~ - X ^ V: g ~ ~ ._ _ s~

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a) is In a CC _. o a, at .~ .= I: o to 3 o I: o be 3 o o V) to ~ ~ ~to 4 U. CQ A:) ~ ~ ~- Z o CI Cal Z o Z o cn . - m . := U' ~ ~ ._ ~ ~ O C<, O Ce 00 ~S., C~3 0 t ~ 0 -O ~0 ZY _ _ 50 : ~ O O ~Ct ~- - ~ ~ ~S ~ ~ ~ ~_ ._ ~S BIOTIC RESOURCE5 119 ._._ 4_~ oo oo 4_~ ~a~ __ -9~ ._._ V)CQ oo ZZ CC ~: oC~ o ~o a' ~ o O^ c C43 O Z

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120 OCS DECISIONS: ALASKA to recognize Mat these are Be committee's judgments as of Be beginning of 1993. As technology, the available information base, and over factors change, our judgments might change as well. Thus, Be tables should be regarded as guides to He information Be committee believes is likely to be lacing and, in some cases, to the kind of information Cat might be impossible to obtain for any reasonable expenditure. Because of Be uncertainty associated wad undiscovered resources, Be committee cannot specify the consequences of not having various kinds of information at Be development and production stages; those judgments will have to be made when more is known about Be extent or resources and development patterns. In general, Be committee concludes that information on biological systems is adequate to make informed decisions about whether to hold lease sales in the areas under consideration. (It is important to note that Be committee was not asked to recommend what Be decision should be, has not made such recommendations, and that different committee members may believe Be information leads to very different conclusions.) For later stages of OCS activates, the committee has grouped Be needed information into several categories: adequate; questions remain (information is lacking, but it is possible to indicate what information is needed and how to obtain it); not feasible to obtain (so little is Down about the system Rat Be committee carrot identify what rams to be known); and unallowable Geiger Be info~adon is fu~amentaBy impossible to know or Be amount of work and time required to develop the information is far beyond any reasonable expectation). CO~ICLUSIO~IS ED 12~CO~DATIO~S The specific conclusions and recommendations for this chapter follow. For Be general and overall conclusions of this report, see Chapter S. In many cases, Be committee was unable to estimate lame and cost wig confidence. Therefore, in close cases, estimates were not provided. The committee examined Be state of knowledge for various groups of organisms In a variety of arctic habitats and concluded Tat Were is adequate information for making informed decisions about the environmental risks attendant in offering OCS lease sales and initial exploratory drilling (see Table 5-2~. In making this determination Be comminee recognized Eat in

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BlOTlC RESOURCES 121 the case of biological impacts, there are many risks, and that, even with sometimes sketchy knowledge, bounds could be put on their extent. Whether to accept risk is a policy issue, not a scientific question. In contrast, Me committee concluded that additional information was required before Me risks attendant to development and production could be assessed (see Table 5-3~. The likelihood of damage is seen as much greater in the development and production stages, and therefore a greater detail of environmental information-often of a site-specific nature-is required for risk assessment. More information about the locations of the major concentrations or points of vulnerability of the populations at risk (see Table 54) was seen as essential to He decision-making process at the development arm production phases. Specific questions could be identified that Me com- mittee deemed answerable and cost effective to answer (such as those pertaining to areas of concentration of birds and mammals in the open water) (see Table 54~. In contrast, in most cases, our knowledge is insufficient for remediation or restoration (Table 54), and in many instances the committee concluded that the difficulty and expense in trying to obtain sufficient information would be excessive. In this recommendation, we acknowledge that remedi- ation and restoration-part of Me task with which Congress charged MMS in its Environmental Studies Progra~are in some cases beyond current abilities. Marine Mammals Conclusion I: The issue of the effects of industrial noise on marine mammals, particularly bowhead whales, is unresolved and of significant concern to Alaska Natives and others. Many complicated and expensive studies have been conducted by MMS and industry, but the study design of the studies and the interpretation of the data are highly controversial. Recommendation I: This is an extremely complicated issue that is unaged to be resowed by scientific sly, no matter how much money is spent. An in-depth review of the elects of irulustrial noise on m~- rune mamr=Is (particuk~rly bowhead whalesJ shouts be conducted by non-MMS marine me ! arm acoustics experts arm shouk] involve a variety of university, agency, industry, and North Slope Borough

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122 OCS DECISIONS: ALASKA personnel. Experts should review existing reports and data for study design, adequacy of methodology, and validity of interpretation. Subsequent to Me review, MMS should encourage involved parties (industry, scientists, and residents) to investigate development of mitigating measures that will address major concerns regarding displacement of seals and whales by industrial noise. Finally, a work- shop should be convened to develop recommendations for future studies Mat will meaningfully address the noise issue. This would re- quire 6 months to ~ year of effort. If no action is taken to mediate conflicts and reach a cooperative solution, it is likely Mat this issue will continue to disrupt MMS decision making and industrial activities on the Norm Slope. Millions of dollars could continue to be spent on noise studies Mat are no more likely to resolve We issue Man Nose already conducted. Alternative: None recommended. Conclusion 2: For cultural and biological reasons Me highest-profile bio- logical issues associated wig OCS oil and gas development involve Me bowhead whale. Lack of adequate biological information about bowheads- particularly fall m~grabon routes and He sigruficance of feeding in near- shore Alaskan waters has led to controversy about when and where OCS advises should occur. Recommendation 2: Continue satellite tagging of Towheads to document fad migration routes and to collect data on diving ant! feeding behavior. The use of satellite tags can provide a weals of information on m~gradon routes and speeds, diving and feeding behavior, and to some degree on Be bowhead's response to of} and gas activity. This would require 3 years of effort. Alternative: Delete Be bowhead migration corridors from potential lease areas and restrict of} and gas activity to periods when Towheads are not present. Conclusion 3: There are no monitoring programs for key species of marine mammals in Be Beautort and Chukchi seas lease areas.

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BIOTIC RESOURCES 123 Recommendation 3: Develop a monitoring program for key arctic mange rename! species that reside in areas that wiR be affected by of! and gas activities. Tote monitoring programs should be supplemented by stock-identification studies arm by satellite-tagging studies of marine mammals to identify important feeding aru] concentration areas and migratory routes. Monitoring of ringed seals was begun in 1985-1987 but has not continued. It should be resumed and accompanied by studies to explain Me use of habitat and Me reasons for annual variations In seal distribution and density. Monitoring should be con- ducted periodically for beluga whales and spotted seals in the Chukchi Sea. The ringed seal studies should occur for a 3-year span every 6 years and would cost $150,000 per year (including aircraft). The beluga and spotted seal studies should span 2 years every 4-5 years. Without monitoring programs for these species, there is no means of assessing whether significant changes in abundance occur as a result of of} and gas activities. It is also possible that of! and gas activities could be significantly and perhaps unnecessarily restricted if marine mammal population levels are unknown because of federal legislation protecting them. Without monitoring programs, it is likely that popu- lation declines will be detected only after they are well advanced, which could precipitate crisis responses by managing agencies and the public. Alternative: None recommended. Conclusion 4: There are very few data available on baseline contaminant loads in marine mammals in northern Alaska. It has been repeatedly dem- onstrated that contamination of food is an issue of great concern to northern residents. Recommendation 4: Conduct contaminant studies for arctic marine mammals that are used for food by humans (bowhead ana! beluga whales, walruses, arm ringed arm bearded sealsJ. These studies should be conducted in cooperation with other agencies Mat conduct continuing studies of some of these species (for example North Slope Borough for Towheads and the Fish and Wildlife Service for wal- ruses).

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124 OCS DECISIONS: ALASKA Alterru~ve: The alternative is to conduct no contaminant studies and to wait for a problem to arise. However, without periodic, continu- ing analysis of contaminant loads in marine mammals, it will not be possible to assess whether of! and gas activities are to blame. It also is likely that if contaminants are detected in the future and Were are no historical data for comparative purposes, of! and gas activities uall be considered the cause. This is particularly significant to Lose who eat marine mammals, because blubber concentrates contaminants at much higher levels Man do over tissues and it is preferred for eating. Conclusion 5: Polar bears are often attracted to industrial facilities in Be north, despite considerable care in managing waste disposal and human activities. This can result in injury to humans or He dead of bears. Recommendation S: Conduct studies to determine why industrial facilities attract polar bears, and develop and test methods of keeping them away or repelling them once they enter these areas. There are some promising techniques for deterring polar bears dial need furler development and testing. This would require 3 seasons of observa- tions. Alternative: None recommended. Marine BIrlis Conclusion 6: Large numbers of flightless ducks and geese congregate at sea in summer and are vulnerable to spilled oil or over disturbances. Also, it is not known if odler seabird species gamer predictably in high densities where Hey might be vulnerable to oil or over disturbance. Recommendation 6: Identify the molting areas used subsequent to nesting and determine whether there are open-water areas in the Ch~chi Sea (and the Beaufort Sea) where large congregations of eiders and other abundant waterfowl gather. The areas used and He regularity of Heir use needs documentation Trough radiotelemetry and aerial surveys. This would require 3 person-years of effort. Without the information, it will not be possible to protect these resources or provide appropriate mitigation.

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Alternative: None recommended. BIOTIC RESOURCES 125 Conclusion 7: Avian use of He spring lead and polynya system is known to be sigruficant, but Be timing and distribution of movement is not well documented. Recommendation 7: Determine timing and distribution of avatar use of the sprutg lead Art poppa system This would require 3 field sea- sons of effort, aerial surveys, and land-based, smalI-boat work to determine feeding habits. If Me study is not conducted, it might be impossible to provide He appropriate and timely mitigation measures if an accident occurred. We do not know over how broad a front spring m~grabon takes place or He extent to which marine birds are restricted to using any one area of open water. Alternative: None recommended. Conclusion S: In addidon to He potential for short-term seasonal and ~nterannual vanadon in He dis~ibudon and abundance of birds, Here is He potential for long-term changes in population size, which in some circum- stances might Greaten He continued existence of a species. Recommendation S: Develop and implement long-term periodic monitoring of the distribution aru] Abidance of seabirds and water- few! at important colonies ~ uz the nearshore waters of the Beaumont and Cha~chi seas. The monitoring should be at several sites, should occur once every 3-5 years, and should be of sufficient duration at each site in He year of sway to cover He entire season of occupancy. This effort would require 2~ persomyears at one to Free sites and would last throughout He exploration, development, and producdon phases. The committee knows of no over memos for obtaining a historical data base and for detecting trends in populations Hat would indicate He gradual development of serious problems. A~elnative: None recommended. Conclusion 9: If production and development were to occur, spilled oil might affect He estuarine and lagoon systems on which birds depend for part of Heir food base. l l

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126 OCS DECISIONS: ALASKA Recorr negation 9: Determine ways to minimize contamination aru! to restore the food base on which birds depend in nearshore aru! estuarine arm lagoon systems. Locate areas of avian concentrations and develop plans for protecting these areas from incursion of spilled of} anti for remediadon should a spill occur. This would require 2 or 3 field seasons of effort plus ~ year for developing mechanisms to protect the most vulnerable sites (Iocation of site wig respect to oit- spill probability multiplied by the number of birds using site). Without such studies, it would be more difficult to respond to a spill in a timely and appropriate manner. The fouling of a critical lagoon system could have extremely adverse effects on certain species of North American waterfowl and shorebirds. Alternative: None recommended. FISh Conclusion 10: The available information on fish species in He near- shore areas of the Beautort Sea is generally good. Information on ma- rine fishes in Me Beaufort and Chukchi is limited to very basic distribu- tion studies. With the exception of Kotzebue Sound, little is known about the nearshore fishes in the Chukchi Sea. The information is considered adequate for informed leasing and exploration decisions because species are widely distributed. For decisions about development, production, and termination, more site-specific information on nearshore and fresh- water habitat use by coastal, anadromous, and amphidromous species will be required in most places outside Be central Beautort Sea. For Be Bering Sea (Navarin Basin), sufficient information on fish is available to make informed decisions on whether to lease, but careful review of erasing information would be needed if a decision were made to proceed wig development and production; a considerable amount of additional site-specific information might be needed at such times as well. Recommendation 10: Determine whether it is practical to obtain information on the spring locations of arctic cod in the Beaufort and C7r~chi seas. For nearshore an~romous species in the central Beau

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BIOTIC RESOURCES 127 fort, studies of nugrati~n patterns arid the effects of onshore structures and causeways shouk] be continued, as should shies of the use of freshwater overwinter~ng areas by various species. These studies should provide a basis for understating and for conducting studies in other areas. Alternative: None recommended. OUler Blota (vegetation. nentnos. etc.) Conclusion If: For marine invertebrates, Emetic algae, and especially the estuarine assemblage, responses to pollution of various sorts, mainte- nance of assemblage integrity, productivity in the face of imposed stress, and potential for recovery subsequent to stress should have been invesd- gated. Questions relating to benthic invertebrates and algae are difficult to answer and must be carefully focused. Recommendation If: Site-speci~c studies should be initiated as questions arise. Altemative: None recommended. Terrestrial Systems Conclusion 12: Production and development would result in building onshore facilities to support offshore development. The impacts of the increased infrastructure on biotic resources are not known. Recommendation 12: Assess the local and cumulative effects of in- creased infrastructure development on nesting waterbirds aru! other wildlife. Account must be taken of increased disturbance, the loss of breeding habitat, and potential increases in predatory species that would be attracted to the construction of new shore facilides and the additional development likely to follow these new facilities. We do not imply that a new research effort is needed, but cumulative effects need better analysis by all decision makers and EISs should reflect this

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128 OCS DECISIONS: ALASKA emphasis. Estimates of He cumulative effects derived from assess- ment of long-term development scenarios will be usefi~1 in assessing alternative strategies for site-specific development. Lessons learned from Pnu~hoe Bay development should be built in. Alternative: None recommended.