Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for the Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program
Pursuant to Title IV of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)/Office of Protected Resources (OPR) implements the Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program (MMHSRP). To meet the goals of the MMPA, the MMHSRP coordinates and oversees several important programs, including: the National Marine Mammal Stranding and Entanglement Response Network, John H. Prescott Marine Mammal Rescue Assistance Grant Program, Marine Mammal Unusual Mortality Event Program, Marine Mammal Biomonitoring and Tissue Bank, and the facilitation of several regional health assessment programs on wild marine mammal populations.
In 2009, pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Council on Environmental Quality Regulations (CEQ), the MMHSRP published a PEIS analyzing the effects of these activities on the human environment. Since 2009, several changes were made to increase efficiency and improve public health and safety during marine mammal entanglement response, stranding response, rehabilitation, and release of animals back to the wild, and additional scientific information on the effectiveness of activities and mitigation measures has been collected. Using a programmatic approach, the MMHSRP identified and prepared a new qualitative analysis of environmental impacts covering a range of activities conducted in support of its activities, and a new Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA)/Endangered Species Act (ESA) scientific research and enhancement permit. This new analysis (final PEIS) will supersede the 2009 PEIS and assesses the potential environmental effects of MMHSRP activities under a range of three alternatives, characterized by different methods, mitigation measures, and levels of response.
The three alternatives are:
- Continue Program Implementation at Current Activity Levels and Denial of a New Scientific Research and Enhancement Permit (No Action Alternative).
- Improved Program Implementation and Issuance of a New Scientific Research and Enhancement Permit (Preferred Alternative).
- More Stringent Protocols and Best Practices and Issuance of a New Scientific Research and Enhancement Permit.
For all potentially significant impacts, the final PEIS identifies avoidance, minimization, and mitigation measures to reduce these impacts, where feasible, to a level below significance.
The draft PEIS was published in the Federal Register in May 2021, with a 45-day public comment period, which was extended 30 days for a total public comment period of 75 days. In total, the MMHSRP received 382 comments on the draft PEIS from various agencies, organizations, and members of the public. Comments received during the public comment period were considered and incorporated (as appropriate) in the development of the final PEIS.
A Notice of Availability for the final PEIS was published in the Federal Register on November 18, 2022 and comments were accepted during the 30-day minimum public comment period mandated by CEQ regulations. The 30-day public comment period ended on December 19, 2022. NMFS reviewed and considered all comments in preparation of a Record of Decision. On December 20, 2022, a Record of Decision was signed, detailing NMFS' decision to adopt Alternative 2 (Preferred Alternative) of the final PEIS. Please contact the MMHSRP (email@example.com) if you have any questions regarding the final PEIS, Record of Decision, or the public comment process.