The researchers, the ship operator and the National Science Foundation (NSF) are following federal environmental compliance procedures for the proposed research activity and have received all environmental and foreign clearances. These procedures, with links to the prepared documents and the laws that call for this oversight, are described below.
In accordance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO) of Columbia University (operator of the R/V Langseth) on behalf of NSF and the University of Oregon, applied for an Incidental Harassment Authorization (IHA) from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). (The IHA is a protocol established by the MMPA to authorize, monitor, and mitigate activities that might result in unintentional disruption to the natural behavior of marine mammals.) In accordance with the Endangered Species Act (ESA), NSF submitted a formal interagency Section 7 consultation request to NMFS and conducted informal consultation with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure that the proposed research complies with the ESA. NSF also prepared environmental analysis pursuant to Executive Order 12114.
NMFS determined the application to be complete and posted NMFS’ intent to issue an IHA in the Federal Register. This opened a 30-day public comment period that began on September 4th 2015 and ended October 4th, 2015. When NMFS rules on the pending IHA, all comments it has received will be made public.