NOAA issues Mid-Atlantic OCS incidental harassment authorizations

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fisheries division issued long-awaited incidental harassment authorizations to five geophysical contractors to conduct the first oil and gas seismic evaluations on the US Mid-Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf since the 1980s. Oil and gas associations welcomed the agency’s Nov. 30 move while environmental organizations strongly criticized it.

CGG, ION Geoventures, Spectrum Geo Inc., TGS-NOPEC Geophysical Co., and Schlumberger subsidiary Western Geco now must get permits from the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management before proceeding with their evaluations, NOAA Fisheries officials said. The authorizations are good for a year.

“These authorizations require appropriate mitigation measures and monitoring and reporting of any marine take, which will involve harassment in this case,” said Donna Weiting, who directs the Protected Resources Office within NOAA Fisheries.

“There was a lot of interest in this matter across the board. We concentrate on protecting marine mammals and species, and don’t speculate on why this happened,” she said.

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