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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
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
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.,
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
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~.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
98 OCSDEClSIONS: ALASKA of high productivity in which to molt and forage prior to their southward migrations (Johnson, 1983; Johnson and Richardson, 1981; Johnson et al., 1992~. During Me fall, large numbers of shorebirds, including abundant red-necked phalaropes (Phalaropus lobatus) and red phalaropes (P. fuli- cari), also use the littoral zone (and nearshore waters, in We case of We phalaropes) for foraging before they migrate south (Connors et al., 1979; Connors and Connors, 1982; Connors, 1984~. In contrast to many areas of Alaska where pelagic environments support the major portion of avian biomass, the most important habitats in the Beautort for water- and shorebirds are the nearshore, lagoon, and littoral zones. Use of these areas is seasonal, of short duration, and very intense (Connors et al., 1979; Divoly, 1984; Johnson et al., 1992~. The ice edge is an area of concen~a- tion for ivory gulls (Pagophyla ebumeas), and a significant portion of the world population of Ross' gulls migrate Trough the Chukchi and Beautort seas in the fall (Bailey, 1948; Watson and Divoly, 1972; Divoly, 1983~. The Bering and (to a lesser extent) Chukchi seas are We principal foraging areas for millions of short-tailed shearwaters (Puffinus tenuirostr~s), which migrate from colonies in Australia to molt and forage in Alaskan waters between June and October (Roseneau and Herter, 1984; Divoky, 1987; Guzman and Myers, 19871. This species also can be a large contributor to avian biomass in He offshore waters of He Beautort Sea, where it is associated with intrusions of Bering Sea water (Divoky, 1984~. However, overall, He glaucous gull (Laws hyperboreus) is He major contributor of avian biomass in offshore waters of He Beaufort Sea (Divoly, 1984~. The Chukchi Sea, eastern Bering Sea, and Bering Strait support some of He largest colonies of marine birds in He northern hemisphere (SowIs et al., 1978~. Several colonies consist of ~ million birds or more each (on St. George, St. Lawrence, and Big and Little Diomede islands, for example) (Sowis et al., 1978), arm densities of foraging birds near these colonies can exceed 5,000 birds/km2 (Hunt et al., 1981a, 19901. In contrast, compara- tively few seabirds nest along He arctic coasts norm and east of Capes Lisburne and Thompson, bow of which support large numbers of nesting seabirds (Divoly, 1978b). The lack of significant numbers of nesting seabirds along most of He Chukchi and Beaufort Sea coasts is most likely He result of He lack of nesting sites Cat afford protection from terrestrial predators such as arctic foxes (Alopex lagopus) and grizzly bears (U. arctos). Beaufort Sea barrier islands are used as nesting sites by scattered small colonies of black guillemots (Cepphus grylle) (Johnson and Herter, 1989~. These birds are of interest because Hey are an outlying population
BIOTIC RESOURCES 99 of a species with He center of its distribution in the Norm Adantic (Nethe- ship and Evans, 1985~. These populations are also significant because Hey have been the subject of an unusually long-term population biology study at the University of Alaska. Small numbers of common eider breed on the battier islands of He Chukchi Sea; most king eiders breed along He Norm Slope east of Point Barrow and in He western Canadian Arctic (Roseneau and Herter, 1984~. Oldsq~aw nest along He maindand coasts of He Chukchi and Beaulort seas; relatively few nest on Heir barrier islands (Roseneau and Herter, 1984~. Status of ~nowle~ide Colonies at Bask We now believe we know the distribution and size of most nesting populations of seabirds in arctic Alaska. All major colonies breeding on the Alaska coasts and islands of the Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort seas have been identified and mapped, and rough estimates of their sizes are available (Sowls et al., 1978~. Although in most cases the data are insufficient to provide baselines against which to measure change (or assess He damage from an of} spiel, the data are sufficient to determine the approximate sizes of the populations at risk. Data on the distribution and abundance of breeding loons (G`rvia spp.), grebes (family Podicipedidae), waterfowl, and shorebirds on the North Slope are less precise (for reviews see Roseneau and Herter, 1984; Johnson et al., 1987) but are probably sufficient in most areas for estimating the numbers of birds that could be exposed to an of! spill along the coast of the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, where these birds assemble after breeding (e.g. Johnson, 1983; Johnson et al., 1992~. The nesting densities and colony locations are best known for the barrier islands of the Beautort and Chukchi seas and immediate coastal areas (Divoky, 1978b; Derksen et al., 1981~; less is known about the density of nesting waterfowl and shorebirds over the broad areas of tundra inland from the cam (e.g., data nu~an=1 in Johnson and Herter, 1989~. Derksen et al. (1981) comment on the potential for harm to water birds breeding on the tundra, and more information on these nesting populations would be appropriate before the development of shore-based infrastructure is approved pursuant to offshore production.
100 OCS DECISIONS: ALASKA Pelagic Girds at disk i Information on the pelagic distributions of marine birds in Be Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort seas is relatively scattered and provides less com- plete coverage An is available for colony sites. There is only a relatively short period during which a large expanse of open water is present in the Beaufort Sea. Few birds are believed to use the open water of the Beaufort Sea (Divoky, 1984) other than the nearshore areas and the ice edge (discussed below). The work of Divoky (1983, 1984) and knowledge of the species of birds that use the Beaufort Sea and those birds' preferences leads us to anticipate that no large or important aggregations of birds occur in the offshore waters of He BeauLort. The data are therefore adequate for leasing and exploration decisions but should be augmented before development and production. It should be noted that the presentation of the data in the two publications cited is insufficient as a basis for judgments about where and when birds are likely to congregate. As a first step, as in any new work, current data should be reanalyzed and mapped. There are few published data on the at-sea dis~ibudon of marine birds in the Chukchi Sea during the open-water season, but He unpublished report of Divoky (1987) provides a useful overview and documents a moderately high number of shearwaters and alcids using He central and southern Chukchi Sea. Studies by Piatt et al. (1992), Andrew and Haney (1993), and Schauer (1993) provide a useful overview of the pelagic distribution of birds in the Bering Strait and the southern Chukchi Sea, in which large concentrations of birds are to be expected between June and September. Data for He northern Chukchi Sea are inadequate to assess the potential effects of offshore of} development in Hat region, and data are lacking on the mechanisms and locations Hat might lead to predictable, large concentrations of foraging seabirds in the central and eastern Chukchi Sea. Knowledge of at-sea distributions of birds at sites in He Bering Sea, ncluding the Navarin Basin and regions distant from the proposed lease areas, is important because of} spills resulting from the loss of support vessels or their cargo can damage birds. For He eastern Bering Sea, information on He pelagic distributions of seabirds was summarized in the early 198Os (Hunt et al., 198Ib; Gould et al., 1982; Eppley and Hunt, 1984), but numerous studies have been completed since then. New infor- madon for dis~ibudons In the vicinity of colonies on He Pribilofs (Coyle et al., 1992), St. Matthew Island (Hunt et al., 1988), St. Lawrence Island
BIOTIC RESOURCES 101 (Hunt et al., 1990; Haney, 1991; Elphick and Hunt, 1993 - all in He vicinity of He Navarin Basin-and King Island (Hunt and Harrison, 19903 is available and Here are extensive additional unpublished data for seabird distributions around the Pribilof Islands and St. Matthew Island. Consider- affon of these new data for He Bering Sea will be important for assessing risks from acffviffes of supply vessels. The nearshore waters of He Bering, Chukchi, and Beautort seas particularly He coastal lagoons-are critically important habitats for m'- grating waterfowl, as are Heir shorelines for shorebirds. Virtually all studies of these habitats have documented large concentrations of birds conducting He foraging and molting necessary for successful m~graffon (Craig et al., 1984; Divoly, 1984; Johnson et al., 1992~. Birds in these areas are particularly vulnerable because Hey need to acquire food rapidly for successful completion of migration or because Hey are molting and can be flightless. Contam~naffon of coastal resources by oil spills can affect birds, whether birds are present or not, because He of! can contaminate or kill food organisms such as mysids, euphasiids, and small fish needed by birds during migratory stopovers (Sanders et al., 1980~. The oil also can remain in He lagoon and foul birds once Hey arrive (Humphrey et al., 19903. Although there is considerable knowledge of avian use of lagoons, significant gaps may remain. As recently as 1990, Johnson and colleagues (1992) obtained the first scientific documentation that 40~5% of He North American West Coast population of black brant assemble to stage in Kasegaluk Lagoon on the Chukchi coast before continuing Heir migration. This is an area of concentration long known to Alaska Natives. Because visits to these lagoons by large numbers of birds are often very brief-but still of critical importance it is possible that there are over areas, espe- cially along He Chukchi Sea coast, where unrecorded significant concentra- tions of birds occur. Because the bird aggregations are vulnerable to disturbance as well as to direct oiling, additional studies of remote lagoon systems in the likely path of a possible oil spill are warranted before development begins. Use of He traditional knowledge of Native hunters can facilitate this process. Sea ice is a conspicuous feature of polar oceans, and one Hat has considerable influence on He distribution and concentration of seabirds? including Ross' and ivory gulls, which are primarily ice-associated species (Blomquist and Elander, 1981; Divoly, 1984, 1978, 1991; Hunt, 1991~. Seabirds tend to concentrate near the edge of the ice and in leads. The
102 OCS DECISIONS: ALASKA annual spring lead that forms between the shorefast ice and the arctic ice pack is a critical source of access to open water and prey for seaducks returning to arctic breeding sites in spring (Roseneau and Herter, 1984~. Although published information on avian use of this lead system is sparse, it is sufficient for judgments to be made about the importance of Me lead system to birds. Despite the availability of considerable data on seasonal variation in use of various marine regions by birds, we generally lack information of temporal variability for periods of days to weeks and for periods of more than a year. Given the generally sparse sampling efforts, we do not know what is typical, or what range of variation should be expected. The lack of data on temporal patterns of use is most acute in areas where the major portions of a species' population can occur, and it is important for assessing risks associated with development and production of offshore oil. The recent "discovery" of a previously unrecorded staging ground for black brant is illustrative of the problems of undersampling and of inadequate communication with people who live in and know the area and its resources. Undersampling is a particular problem for the lead systems in early spring and for the ice edge and pack ice in the late summer and early fall. It would be prudent to conduct long-term, periodic monitoring of Me distribu- don and abundance of marine birds and waterfowl in the nearshore waters of the Beautort and Chukchi seas most likely to be affected by OCS development. A start towards implementing such a program is He MMS- fi~ed development of a monitoring protocol (Johnson and Gazey, 1992~. Processes Affecting 12esoonses of Colonies to Ofishore 011 Develooment The reproductive ecology and food habits are well known for many species of seabirds Hat breed in He Bering and Chukchi seas (Hunt et al., 1981a; Springer et al., 1985; Fadely et al., 1989; Mendenhall, 1993), as they are for black guillemots on He barrier islands of He Beaufort Sea (Divoly, 1984; G. I. Divoly, University of Alaska, pers. commun., Aug. 19931. Data also are becoming available for waterfowl and shorebirds Hat nest on He barrier islands of He Chukchi and Beaufort seas and on He tundra of He Norm Slope (Iohnson and Herter, 1989~. These data show when the birds will be present on Heir breeding grounds or colonies, He Ends of foods Hey use while raising young, and in some cases, He range
~ BlOTICRESOURCE5 103 of productivity that can be expected. The data are insufficient to allow us to construct accurate life tables, to predict how the birds we respond to major Lifts; In the environment, or to predict how Heir population ecology would change after a major loss of individuals. Eventually, we might be able to learn about Be responses of various species Mat lost segments of Weir populations in He Exxon Vaklez of} spill, but in many cases He pre- spill (and post-spill) studies have not been sufficicndy detailed or of sufficient duration to be very useful. Given our experience web the Exxon Valdez of] spill, and given He difficulty of obtaining He data necessary to fully implement He charge to MMS Hat it must predict environmental impacts and He recovery of ecosystems, He committee acknowledges the ~mpracdcalib of attempting to gamer enough dam for MMS to provide more Can generalized understanding and predictions of responses of populations to major losses. Processes at Sea Affec~ne Responses ~ Offshore Oil Develooment Process studies of He foraging ecology of birds along He coasts of He Beautort and Chukchi seas have been more extensive Han those devoted to birds foraging in waters outside the barrier islands. Littoral zone foraging by shorebirds has been studied in detail along He Arctic coast and par~cu- larly in He Barrow area (Connors et al., 1979, 1981a, b; Connors and Connors, 1982) Likewise, studies of waterfowl use of Simpson Lagoon have provided a good understanding of the critical linkages between shorebirds and waterfowl and Heir prey in lagoon environments Johnson and Richardson, 1981; Craig et al., 1984; Johnson, 1984a,b). Surveys of Alan use of over lagoons, although less detailed and lacking in integrated process studies, provide sufficient information to let us know that these systems are ~mpor~nt for m~gradng and moldng birds and that interruption Of He lagoon food webs could displace tens to hundreds of thousands of birds (Divoky, 1978a; Johnson et al., 19921. Connors (1984) discussed in~rannua1 vanabon in breeding success, He number of shorebirds present in the littoral zone, and He dining of migration wig respect to environmen- tal variables. Considerable effort has also been devoted to determining He distribution of birds in He offshore and nearshore waters of the Beautort Sea (Divoky, 19841. Relatively little information is available on He offshore distribution
104 OCS DECISIONS: ALASKA of seabirds In Me northern and eastern Chukchi Sea or on We processes that result in particular areas of concentration. Divoky (1983, 1984) provided information on We average biomass of birds encountered in the Beaufort. We can infer from his examination of avian stomach contents (Divoky, 1976; 1978a; 1984) and from studies in the Canadian Arctic (Bradstreet, 1980; Bradstreet and Cross, 1982) and in the northern Barents Sea (L0nne and Gabrielson, 1992) Mat arctic cod and various invertebrates associated win the undersurface of tile ice (i.e., epontic biota) are Me most important sources of food for larids and alcids at sea. We also can infer Mat Me use of the larger epiben~ic invertebrates predominates in Be littoral and sublittoral zones (Divoky, 1984~. Little is published on Be at-sea distribu- tion of seabirds in the northern Chukchi Sea or on the processes Hat determine patterns of distribution and abundance. Process studies from other areas can be useful for identifying birds in open-water situations where they might concentrate to forage. Piatt et al. (1992) provided information on the diets and foraging ecology of seabirds, particularly anklets, in the Bering Strait and in the southern Chukchi Sea, and they identify processes and the circumstances in which these birds are likely to accumulate and feed. Springer et al. (1979, 1982) provided useful information on foot s used by colonial seabirds in the southern Chukchi Sea, but they gave little information on where foraging takes place or about the factors that determine where food will be available. Knowledge of the distribution and abundance of foraging seabirds in the Bering Sea is important, not only because processes identified there also could function in over regions but also because increased ship traffic in the Bering Sea, in support of Chukchi and Beaufort OCS of} and gas develop- ment, might lead to an increased probability, of spills in the Bering Sea. Most of these studies have focused on plankton-forag~ng anklets (Aeth~a spp.) in He northern Bering Sea (Springer and Roseneau, 19X5; Springer et al., 1987; Hunt and Harrison, 1990; Hunt et al., 1990), although some work on over alcids and larids at sea is also available (Hunt et al., 19X8; Haney, 1991; Elphick and Hunt, 1993~. In most instances, tile most critical information for predicting where seabirds will aggregate at sea concerns He factors Hat make prey such as small fish or plankton available. In most of these cases, He behavior of prey in response to physical processes creates regions wig concentrations of prey that are especially favorable for foraging birds. These areas can be identified based on properties of He ocean currents, and one can estimate how regularly Hey will be used by
BIOTIC RESOURCES 105 birds. Similar features are likely to be important in areas yet unstudied. Certain biological associations, such as seabird attendance of foraging gray whales in He Chirikof Basin (Harrison, 1979; Obst and Hunt, 19903, are sufficiency consistent Hat it is possible that foraging gray whales are attended by similar concentrations of birds in He Chukchi Sea. - In contrast, we know little about He physical or biological factors responsible for He observed distribution of short-tailed shearwaters. These birds aggregate in huge flocks, and Hey are tile largest component of seabird biomass in He Bering Sea. Their principal prey, at least as determined in the southeastern Bering Sea, is the euphausiid Thcysanoesa raschii (Hunt et al., 1981a), but we do not know what determines where and when this euphausiid will be profitably preyed on by shearwaters. Predicting Ille I esoonses of Bird Populations The immediate response of birds to oiling is well known; most die within a short time, others show effects of varying duration (Hunt, 1987~. Much less is known about long-term responses, including rates of population recovery, redistribution of populations, and changes in species composition due to removal of other species. Given appropriate studies, some of these questions could be answered wag regard to populations affected by the Down Vaidez spill and by He T/V Baer spill January 1993, in He She~dand Islands in northern Scotland. However, for the most part, it is unlikely to prove practical to obtain enough information for precise prediction of long- term responses and recovery times. The task of obtaining He required information is too immense. Marine birds and others could also react to various forms of disturbance and chronic, sublethal impacts. In the case of disturbance, depending on its severity, birds sometimes desert traditionally used areas, or Hey can become habituated if He disturbance becomes accepted as non~reaten~ng (Hunt, 1987; Fjeld et al., 19881. The committee does not know what Armies how arctic birds will react to a given level of disturbance either at nesting areas or on feeding grounds. Many site-specific studies have been conducted in the Pru~hoe Bay area Hat have yet to be collated and reviewed as a whole. Such review could point to additional studies on how and to what extent noise, construction activity, or over aspects of infra- structure development and operation will influence birds.
106 OCS DECISIONS: ALASKA FISHI S ED FISH[~II S The fishes of Me Beautort and Chukchi do not form a diverse assem- blage; only 72 species have been reported from Me northeastern Chukchi Sea (MMS, 199Ib) and 62 from Me Alaskan Beaufort Sea (MMS, 199O3. Of Bose, a small number of species are of considerable direct and indirect importance to humans. The most important species are members of the salmon and cod families (Salmoru~e and Gadidae). The salmon and whitefish (both In the salmon family) species use bow fresh and salt water. Species in Be salmon subfamily are generally anadromous, spawning in fresh water and migrating to salt water to grow and mature. The arctic members of the whitefish subfamily are amphidromous; Hey overwater in free water but spawn and mature at sea. The cods are marine and are of key trophic importance in the Arctic. One species, the arctic cod (Boreo- gadds saida), is a major food source for marine mammals and birds, and probably strongly influences Heir migration (Frost and Lowry, 1981, 1984; Bradstreet et al., 19861. The saffron cod (Elegirlus gracilis) is also locally abundant and of considerable trophic importance in nearshore waters (Frost and Lowry, 19811. Other species occur in these waters, notably scuipins (family Coronae) and a few Catfishes (family Pleuronectidae). Knowledge of these high-latitude fishes derives largely from subsistence fishing and from smbies related to oil and gas activities on He arctic coast, including He Canadian Arctic. There is a commercial salmon fishery in Kotzebue Sound (southeastern Chllkchi Sea), and some studies were done at He Project Chariot site near Point Hope on He Chukchi coast (Alverson and Wilimovsky, 1966~. The most detailed knowledge of the effects of of} and gas ac~vides comes from shoddies of causeways around the Pru~hoe Bay, Kup~uk, and Endicott of} fields in He central Beautort Sea; the most important fishes potentially at risk are ciscoes and whitefishes (so regoru~s ships. Some studies of coastal fishes have been done off He 1002 area of He Arctic National Wildlife Refine In He eastern Beaufort, and subsistence fishing has yielded local knowledge of ciscoes, whitefishes, and saffron cod. Many of He studies have focused on nearshore areas (Craig, 1984), ald~ough samples have been Ken offshore (Frost and Lowry, 1981; Lowry and Frost, 19811. In tile Chukchi Sea, additional studies, motivated by attempts to understand the trophic ecology of marine mammals, have also emphasized offshore areas. Kouebue Sound, a large, protected bay, pro- vid~es a considerably different habitat from He rest of the more exposed Chukchi coast (Alverson and Wilimovsky, 19661.
BIOTIC RESOURCES 107 The Bering Sea differs considerably from the Chukchi and He Beautort seas in that it harbors enormous commercial fishery resources, including salmon, herring (Clupea pallasi), walleye pollock (Theragra chalco- gramma), and several Catfish species (MMS, 199Ic), in addition to im- portant subsistence fisheries and a small sport fishery. Crustaceans (crabs atop Crimps are also commercially important in this area. Some of He fish and crustacean species in He Bering Sea are important as forage for marine mammals and birds, as Hey are in He Beautort and Chukchi seas. Although the Bering Sea contains greater species diversity and biomass Han do the Beautort and Chukchi seas, the current relative lack of interest in leasing in He Bering Sea led He committee to focus on He Beautort and Chukchi seas. However, if industry interest in die Bering Sea revives, it is likely Hat He information base Here will need careful review. General DlstrIDution and [COIOdY In He Beaufort Sea, He common fish species are Dolly Varden or arctic char (Salvelinus malma or alpinus),~ rainbow smelt (Osmerus mortar, arctic cod, saffron cod, twohorn scuIpin (Icelus bicornis) and fourhorn sculpin (Myoxecepha~s quadricomis), Canadian eelpout (Ly codes Polaris), arctic flounder (Pleuronectes glacialis), and ciscoes and whitefishes (Coregonus spp.~. Inhabitants of Barrow, Nuiqsut, and Kaktovik use more whitefishes and saffron cod Man they do other species. A few pink salmon (Oncorhynch~s go~uscha) and chum salmon (O. keta) occur in He Beaufort as well (Craig, 1984; MMS, 1990; EGL, 1992~. In the Chukchi Sea, the assemblage of fishes is similar to that in the BeauLort, wig some additional species. Salmon, especially chum, are more common in He Chukchi than in He Beautort, as are char. Starry flounder (Pk~tichthys steZlatus) and shorthorn scuIpin (M. scorpius) are common species in the Chukchi Sea. Ciscoes and whitefishes are less abundant and ~ There is not agreement on the taxonomy of the arctic char-Dolly Varden complex of species. The American Fisheries Society's Committee on Names of Fishes (1991) lists them as separate species, wad He arctic char (Salvelinus malma) being He form found off Alaska's arctic coast, despite earlier works Hat indicate that the complex should be referred to as Salvelinus malma.
108 OCS DECISIONS: ALASKA diverse Man in We Beautort; saffron cod are more abundant Man in Me Beaufort (MMS, 199Ib). Salmon are abundant in Kotzebue Sound, where they and char are Me subject of subsistence fisheries. There is a growing sport finery for char. Although a considerable amount is known of Be life histories of anadromous species (LGL, 1992), less is known about some .. . . arctic marme species. Potential Affects of OCS 011 and Gas ActI`llles The primary concern in Be Beaufort Sea is He possibility of effects on the near-coastal zone, where many fish species feed, migrate, and gain access to freshwater overwatering sites. If arctic cod spawn near or at He shore, then potential effects on Rem would also be of concern because of Heir great importance as food for marine mammals and birds (Frost and Lowry, 1981~. In He Chukchi Sea, He fiches are probably less susceptible, except in coastal lagoons. Offshore oil and gas activities would probably not affect large sections of a population, and even if they did, their effects could not be measured without spending a very large amount of money and dine, if at all. However, an oil spill or over impact might be serious if it affected the local concentrations of arctic cod known to occur offshore and near ice edges (Bradstreet et al., 1986~. Therefore, although offshore surveys are valuable for determining He distribution and abundance of marine species and for assessing Heir roles in marine ecosystems, Hey probably would not sign'ficandy improve our ability to assess or mitigate the effects of OCS activities on marine fish populations off He Norm Slope or He Chukchi Sea. Nearshore effects might include those attributable to chemical contam~- nants introduced by various onshore and offshore activities; alteration of hydrography from structures such as causeways and islands; withdrawal or impoundment of fresh water, making it unavailable for overwintering; contam~nadon caused by abandonment and termination of oil fields; and interference wig migration caused by road crossings of steams, causeways, and offshore structures. Under He current regulatory framework, seismic work is unlikely to have significant effects on fishes. Finally, He problem of tainting should be mentioned. Contamination of ~.~
BIOTIC RESOURCES 109 the environment with petroleum products or byproducts can taint fish and render them unfit or undesirable for human consumption. In some cases (e.g., the Micron Vamp spill), Be perception that fish have been tainted can affect their marketability or availability for subsistence, whether or not they are actually unsafe or unpalatable. Malor Data Laos It appears that enough is known about the biology and use by humans to identify possible effects on most fish species. In over cases, even though not enough is known, populations are so widespread that it seems unlikely that a significant proportion of the populations would be affected. In the case of actual development, it would be useful to know more about the effects of terminating and disassembling oilfields. Because of the potential effects on marine fishes and related species, it would be useful to know more about their trophic ecology and life histories, including migration patterns, grown rates, feeding habits, and reproduction, as well as offshore distribution. To obtain such information would require major research ef- forts, and the costs might not be commensurate with the potential effects on those species. However, because of their trophic importance, knowledge of the spawning habits of arctic cod would be of great interest. ETHIC ORGANISMS Knowledge of He benthos in terms of its species richness (diversity), standing stock biomass, dynamics and natural history, and capacity to persist in He face of anthropogenic forces or recover from Hem once He forces are removed is minimal for the three lease-sale areas. The benthic community in the eastern Chukchi Sea is very rich. Large colonies of benthic amphipods support gray whales. Walruses and bearded seals feed on clams and gastropods. The Beaufort Sea benthic community is restricted to a narrower continental shelf and therefore is less significant to marine mammal populations-very few gray whales and few bearded seals and walruses can be found in the Beautort. Zoopla~n is a major trophic link. Copepods are one of the main foods
110 OCS DECISIONS: ALASKA of bowheads and arctic cod. Little is known about zooplankton vertical layenng and concentrations or interannual variability. Euphausiids and pe- lag~c amphipods (Parathem~sto) are a major food of ringed seals, arctic cod, seabirds, and Towheads. Mysids are abundant in nearshore waters, which are a major resource for birds and fishes. Little is known about mysid populations' interannual variability and how that variability affects the consumers. Work conducted in Me Simpson Lagoon area has shown it to be an rnpor~nt feeding area for fishes and seabirds. Craig et al. (1984) reviewed work on the trophic dynamics in an arctic lagoon. They reviewed various taxa, especially primary producers, invertebrates, and birds in Simpson Lagoon and compared Me overlap in diets of fish and oldsquaw. Primary production was determined by using C~4 methodology (the results from sampling invertebrates were converted to ash-free grams of dry weight per square meter). Fishes' and birds' diets were surprisingly similar, with bow groups being dominated by the "mobile epiben~os," i.e., crustacea and polychaetes. Food chains were short; on average Hey comprised only decree lindcs. Because stomach samples were taken in summer and winter, Craig et al. were able to conclude Mat Mere was little annual variation in diet and that mysids and amphipods play a major role in nearshore food webs. They concluded Hat food supply exceeds demand by 50 times. Even if one makes a more conservative estimate, a food surplus is indicated. The Boulder Patch (Gwy~yr Bay) is considered a biologically unique area in He Beaufort because of its unusual flora and fauna, which probably can be attributed to substrate availability. Almost no information is available for the nearshore Chukchi except for an OCSEAP report by Feder et al. (1989~. Except for mammal and bird studies, little is known about He major lagoon system at Kasegaluk very rudimentary fish studies were conducted; no studies were conducted on invertebrates. In this report, we emphasize He Beaufort and Chukchi seas because He possibility of leasing is greater Here. However, He data gaps are a generic problem, as might be anticipated in remote, vast regions characterized by difficult access. Dunton (1992) provided summary biogeographic informa- tion on He regents fauna and flora. He identified no references on He capacity of resident ben~ic assemblages to respond to or recover from imposed stresses. There dlus appear to be few, if any, process studies completed in the region. No data are available to assess He long-term effects of subledlal stresses. i,
Adeaaac:Y of the Descrlo~ve Data BIOTIC RESOURCES 111 Both EISs for Sale Areas 124 and 126 provide references to studies of marine benthos. These are minimally adequate as lists, considering the sub- stantial cost of acquiring further data. They appear to provide little infor- mation on spatial variation and no basis for time series analysis of popula- tion trends. A recent compilation (Dunton, 1992) lists 51 publications each for the Chukchi and Beautort seas. Those publications deal who 150 spe- cies in the Chukchi Sea and 206 species in the Beautort Sea. They cover the area from the shore out to a depth of 50 m, and record 13 arctic endem~cs in the Chukchi Sea and 16 in the Beautort Sea. It seems impor- tant that the EISs identify the endemic species, because their restricted geographic distribution, by definition, renders them more vulnerable. Pro- bably the most significant, yet missing, natural historical detail on any of the resident invertebrate or algal species is how they disperse. High-arctic invertebrates are wed known to be characterized by restricted dispersal abil- ity (Thorson, 1950), which bears serious implications for the rate of recovery following local extinction. Conseauences of Proceeding Without ODIaInind the enforma~on Until He problems associated wig transportation of oil in ice-fi~led waters have been addressed and resolved, study of He fate of invertebrate and plant populations should not receive high priority. More information on the topics listed here would be useful for assessing He effects of development and production, especially when information about transporta- tion routes and mesons because that is where most significant spills come from-is available. Holes excavated by gray whales and walruses (Kvitek and Oliver, 1986; Oliver et al., 1985) could provide a surrogate for understanding He biotic impact of He deep trenching associated wig pipelines buried in He subtidal sediments. Data on He impacts of pipeline trenching are generally unavailable. Without them community response to disturbance and recovery rates cannot be estimated fairly. · Not enough is known about He importance of He rich estuarine system
112 OCS DECISIONS: ALASKA bordering the Arctic Ocean in terms of primary production and detrital flow to offshore assemblages. In other places, esmarine productivity is important to offshore assemblages. Does this hold for the Arctic Ocean? Is it an ecologically significant factor? These esmarine assemblages have been minimally examined. The studies of Simpson Lagoon are a valuable exception to this generalization (see Craig et al., 1984~. Over coastal lagoons have not been studied or have been studied only minimally. They are certain to be highly significant feeding grounds and migration routes for fish, shorebirds, and waterfowl. Oil spilled in these waters could accumulate on shorelines or be incorpo- rated into sediment deposits and could have serious effects on these systems. Predicting recovery from even a modest spill requires data on sensitivity, reinvasion, and growth rates, at the least. Such data appear to be lacking for most marine arctic ecosystems. However, the Simpson Lagoon (Craig et al.. 1984) study suggested that Beautort Sea lagoons represent an ecosystem subjected to periodic and intense disturbance. Thus, the aquatic plant and invertebrate assemblages might be expected to recover rapidly following anthropogenic disturbance. Such a conclusion is not likely to apply to the extensive bird populations. On the other hand, hydrocarbons can be retained for long periods in lagoons; 19% by volume of of} remained in the sediment eight years after the experimental Baffin Island of! spill (Humphrey et al., 1990~. Recovery clearly will not be instantaneous, and its broader ecological and social implications deserve serious consideration. ALT[~ATIVI S TO ADDITIONAL STUDIES There are no alternatives to minimally adequate biological data. For instance, Table 34 of a National Research Council report (NRC, 1992a) shows that the fauna at He shelf break in the Beautort Sea were "not studied," and on the outer shelf they were "not delineated." The Chukchi Sea appears only slightly better studied. Highly desirable information, such as stock variability and interannual variations in recruitment, probably cannot be acquired quickly. Does this matter or would such information prove useful? The NRC report cited above implies Hat the answer is either "no" or unlalown, even for OCS regions with better characterized benefit assemblages. One conclusion, based on He dominance of largely descriptive studies Hat place little
· BIOTIC RESOURCES 113 emphasis on ecologically critical, process-oriented studies, is that "benthic studies . . . have failed to increase our ability to predict impacts on He OCS"(NRC,1992a,p.51~. One alternative to farther exploratory or descriptive studies would be to examine sites known to have been affected by OCS of! and gas activities. Data on current faunal composition, compiled with information on the dates and areas of disruption and the types of disturbance, could add a valuable perspective on rates of recovery. The lack of this information makes it harder to assess the effects of OCS activities or to predict changes in areas where no activities have yet occurred. At a minimum, the errors of the past should not be repeated; careful monitoring of the effects of OCS activities should be required if any development and production occur. QUALITY. AVAIIABILITY. AND USI OF BIOLOGICAL I~FO~T10~ In the course of its deliberations, the committee heard several uncompli- mentary characterizations of the quality of the science in MMS's environ- mental studies. The committee did not have Be time, the inclination, or the resources to judge the relative merits of consulting firm, academic, indus- trial, and government science. We found good examples of all of ~em, as well as examples that might have been better. Instead, Me committee provides some guidance here for commonly accepted medlods of improving scientific quality. This guidance is provided within the context that the committee judges Me biological information generally sufficient to be useful for informing decisions about whether to sell leases in the Free areas under consideration here. Basic Versus MIssion-Oriented Science The most difficult issue is Me degree to which MMS should fund basic science as opposed to focusing narrowly on the information it needs for malting decisions. The resolution of this issue does not lie in an "ei~er-or" answer. Although it is clear that MMS has a legal and practical mandate to provide information for decision malting, it is equally clear that providing this information does not preclude obtaining sound, broadly useful scientific information. A recent NRC (1993a) report recommended Mat MMS develop a national
114 OCSDEClSIONS: ALASKA framework for in studies and rely much more extensively than it has on Me advice of its Scientific Committee for formulating Mat framework and developing an overall studies plan. If MMS had a broad, national view of the scientific problems it faces and were able to place its regional studies into that context, this committee considers it likely that both the needs of decision makers and the interests of basic science would be better served. For example, a leasing decision in the Beautort Sea might require informa- don on Me birds Mat occur in the area. A narrow view of MMS's mandate might lead only to a single survey of the birds there. But other lease sales should be anticipated ok Alaska's coasts, and some of We birds found there spend parts of their lives in temperate or tropical regions, so broader, longer-term studies would help MMS's decision making and contribute to basic science. Peer review is widely recognized as an integral part of quality assurance in scientific endeavors. MMS has been requiring that contractors submit papers based on their results to professional journals for peer review and publication. An additional and equally important aspect of quality control is er¢unng peer review of the proposed research. The committee is aware of government procurement regulations and of the dangers of awarding grants instead of contracts-scientists have a tendency to follow their interests instead of those of their sponsor if Hey have grants instead of contracts. Nonetheless, contracts wig detailed specifications are not necessarily He best route to obtaining good science, especially if peer review of Be proposed research is not included in He process. MMS has Regional Technical Working Groups (RTWGs) Hat help to identify ~mpor~nt problems for He regional offices. By their composition, He RTWGs ensure at least some community input into decisions about what studies are most important. However, it is not clear Hat MMS takes sufficient account of indigenous and local knowledge and review by other state or federal agencies, or that He study proposals receive sufficient review by independent scientists. It seems essential that such information be incorporated into He design and interpretation of studies. Lono-Term Studies Many biological processes-especially Hose Hat involve long-lived organisms wig long generation times take many years or decades to be
BIOTIC RESOURCES 115 completed and understood. Annual variability in Me far north is great and short-term At- or 2-year) studies often misrepresent or underestimate this variability. Although it is not expected that MMS wall solve such problems as understanding Me relationship between parent stock and recruitment of fish populations or Me determinants of abundance of marine mammals and birds, it is pertinent for MMS to have information on such basic aspects of vertebrate population biology as average generation times, average repro- duc~ve rates, food habits, and Me variability of their populations over long periods. This should not be interpreted as an endorsement of the attempt to establish a fixed baseline against which any future effects of OCS of! and gas development can be measured. The natural variability in most popula- tions is so great that such an undertaking is unlikely to succeed (NRC, 197X). Ens ead, long-term and periodic studies can provide information on the range of natural variability and more important can provide process information Mat will be crucial in trying to understand any changes that are observed. Knowledge of what organisms eat, how and when Key repro- duce, and how long they live is crucial to understanding the effects of disturbances on Rem and predicting how soon they are likely to recover from those effects. In addidon, periodic surveys can provide information on whether animals Mat breed in colonies return to Me same sites in similar numbers each year or vary their choice of breeding sites and colony sizes over some period. Obtaining such long-term information requires a com- m~tment to long-term studies of selected species in selected areas, and it requires some method of ensuring Mat Me results of those studies can be incorporated into decisions and plans for future studies. The committee notes Mat Be budget available to Me Alaska OCS region, and hence its staff, have been reduced in recent years. These reductions will impair MMS's ability to perform long-term research and monitoring and to incorporate Me knowledge gained into its planning and into ElSs. SUMMARY The committee's view of the quality and availability of biological information is summarized in Tables 5-! through 5~. Except for Table 5- I, Key should not be regarded as final judgments, because it is impossible to know exactly what information is needed und1 He size, nature, and location of Me oil or gas resources are known. In addition, it is important
116 OCS DECISIONS: ALASKA V) A> as Cat o C, of as - V) at: - - o - - U. .~ G So: o ._ ·C) as o _' - 3 o ~ .o ~ A_ o o ~ _ _ ~ _ ~ G m ~ Cal - SO AD - c: - ~ ~ AS: ._ m - Ct IS ._ AD I: Cal C) _ _ ~ C C) ~ _ _ ~ ct as cat 5 ~ C C) ~C) ~ -_ _ _ _, ~C cat at ~ ¢ <: ~ ¢ - c - - - - - ce ~ us us : - ~ ~ c) ~ ~ ~ ~ ¢ - - us c a, c) ~ At ~ c c) ¢ ~ cO O a: ~:^ so as so: G) au- ~ 3 .,-c ,. O Z
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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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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
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
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.
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).
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.
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
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
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
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.