Biological Opinion Ice Exercise 2022, Alaska
Endangered Species Act (ESA) Section 7(a)(2) Biological Opinion Ice Exercise 2022, Alaska
NMFS Consultation Number: AKRO-2021-02659.
This opinion is based on information provided in the October 2021 Biological Assessment for the project (Navy 2021a), the August 2021 Request for an Incidental Harassment Authorization, the October 2021 Environmental Assessment/Overseas Environmental Assessment for the Ice Exercise Program (Navy 2021b), clarifying emails between NMFS and Navy staff, stock assessment reports, monitoring reports, and relevant peer reviewed literature. A complete record of this consultation is on file at NMFS’s Anchorage, Alaska office.
The proposed action involves the establishment of a temporary base camp on Arctic ice in the Beaufort Sea approximately 100–200 nautical miles north of Prudhoe Bay. The base camp would support submarine training and testing under Arctic conditions, test emerging technologies and their capabilities in the Arctic, and gather data on Arctic environmental conditions. The construction, use, and demobilization of the camp would occur over a six-week period from February to April 2022.
This opinion considers the effects of the Navy’s Ice Exercise (ICEX 2022) in the winter/spring of 2022. These actions have the potential to affect the threatened Arctic subspecies of ringed seal (Phoca hispida hispida). Critical habitat has been proposed for ringed seal (86 FR 1452) but it is not expected to be finalized before this project has concluded. Bowhead whales were not included in the IHA application because they migrate to the west and south in the winter and will not be present in the action area. Likewise, bearded seals are not included in the IHA and are discussed below in section 4.1.