Biological Opinion Office of Naval Research (ONR) Arctic Activities
Endangered Species Act (ESA) Section 7(a)(2) Biological Opinion Office of Naval Research (ONR) Arctic Research Activities in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas Year 4 (2021-2022)
NMFS Consultation Number: AKRO-2021-01926.
In this document, the action agencies are the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR) which proposes to conduct Arctic Research Activities (ARA), and the NMFS Office of Protected Resources, Permits and Conservation Division (hereafter referred to as “the Permits Division”). The Permits Division plans to issue an incidental harassment authorization (IHA) pursuant to section 101(a)(5)(D) of the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, as amended (MMPA) (16 U.S.C. §1361 et seq.), to ONR for harassment of marine mammals incidental to the proposed research (86 FR 47065). When issued, the IHA will be valid from early October 2021 through early October 2022 and will authorize the incidental harassment of the threatened Arctic ringed seal. This opinion represents NMFS’s biological opinion on the effects of this proposal on endangered and threatened species and designated critical habitat that might be affected by the proposed action.
The consulting agency for this proposal is NMFS’s Alaska Region (AKR). AKR completed a biological opinion in 2018 (AKR-2018-9725) for the overarching research activities that were to be conducted from 2018-2021. In that consultation we acknowledged that ONR research activities might continue after 2021, but that the nature of the platforms and the locations of future deployments were unknown, and that such future activities would be covered under future environmental planning documents. Modifications to research activities were submitted by ONR in 2019 and we completed another biological opinion (AKRO-2019-00688), to cover those modifications and the time frame from 2019-2021. This opinion considers the effects of activities associated with ONR’s proposed Arctic Research Activities (ARA), from early October 2021 to early October 2022 and the associated proposed issuance of an IHA for these activities.