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DOC/NOAA RIN: 0648-BL68 Publication ID: Fall 2022 
Title: ●Taking and Importing Marine Mammals; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Geophysical Surveys in the Gulf of Mexico 

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is preparing a proposed rule to consider updated information informing the standards that underlie NMFS’ regulations governing the unintentional taking of marine mammals incidental to geophysical surveys in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM). The current regulations were issued on January 19, 2021 under section 101(a)(5)(A) of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq .) in response to an application from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and set forth the permissible methods of taking; means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact on the affected species or stocks and their habitats ( i.e ., mitigation); and requirements pertaining to the monitoring and reporting of such taking. Letters of Authorization (LOAs) issued under the regulations authorize the take of marine mammals incidental to the specified activities for the remainder of the original 5-year period. The regulations became effective on April 19, 2021. This rulemaking will account for updated information that has since been provided to NMFS by BOEM. While processing requests for individual LOAs under the current incidental take regulations, NMFS discovered that the estimated incidental take from the proposed survey activities (annual and 5-year totals) that BOEM submitted in connection with a revision to its application had been miscalculated. As a result, take levels were reached much sooner than anticipated for some species. BOEM determined that it miscalculated the level of take when it reduced its scope of specified activity in March 2020 by removing the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) moratorium area from the then proposed action. Generally, this miscalculation caused BOEM to underestimate the total predicted exposures of species from all survey activities. The practical effect of this is that the full amount of activity for which BOEM sought incidental take coverage in its application cannot be authorized under the current incidental take regulations. BOEM has provided NMFS with revised take estimates and an explanation of the miscalculation. Accordingly, NMFS is undertaking this rulemaking to adjust the take estimates and, provided the necessary findings can continue to be made, revise the current incidental take regulations as appropriate.

Agency: Department of Commerce(DOC)  Priority: Other Significant 
RIN Status: First time published in the Unified Agenda Agenda Stage of Rulemaking: Proposed Rule Stage 
Major: No  Unfunded Mandates: No 
CFR Citation: 50 CFR 217   
Legal Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.   
Legal Deadline:  None
Action Date FR Cite
NPRM  12/00/2022 
Regulatory Flexibility Analysis Required: No  Government Levels Affected: None 
Federalism: No 
Included in the Regulatory Plan: No 
RIN Data Printed in the FR: No 
Agency Contact:
Kim Damon-Randall
Director, Office of Protected Resources
Department of Commerce
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
1315 East-West Highway,
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Phone:301 427-8400