Biological Opinion on Hilcorp Cook Inlet Tugs Towing a Jack-up Rig
Opinion on the effects of tugs towing a jack-up rig on the endangered fin whale, threatened Mexican DPS humpback whale, endangered Western North Pacific DPS humpback whale, endangered Western DPS Steller sea lion and endangered Cook Inlet Beluga Whale.
NOAA Fisheries proposes to authorize incidental take from the tugs towing a jack-up rig through two sequential incidental harassment authorizations (IHAs), rather than amend the partially vacated Incidental Take Regulations (ITRs), given that there are no other activities occurring under the ITRs and no serious injury or mortality is expected. This action effectively withdraws the ITRs for Hilcorp’s planned activities post-partial vacatur, replacing the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) authorization with the two sequential IHAs. These IHAs cover the few remaining activities mentioned by Hilcorp in their IHA request to NMFS for 2022/2023 and 2023/2024. Thus, NMFS Alaska Region is consulting on the new IHAs, and this biological opinion supersedes the biological opinion for the ITRs for activities in years 4 and 5.