Science for Oil and Gas Leasing-related Decisions

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Through the Changing Arctic Ecosystems (CAE) Initiative, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is informing key resource management decisions by better understanding how wildlife populations of special interest to the Department of the Interior (DOI) are responding to rapid physical changes in the Arctic. Below are some examples of how CAE research is informing decision-making for oil and gas leasing-related decisions.

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Incidental Take Regulations for Polar Bears and Pacific Walruses for the Chukchi Sea issued June 12, 2013

A walrus looking around a piece of sea ice

Pacific walrus resting behind a piece of sea ice in the Chukchi Sea, Alaska. 

(Credit: Rebecca Taylor, USGS. Public domain.)

On June 12, 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued regulations authorizing incidental take of small numbers of Pacific walruses and polar bears during oil and gas industry exploration activities in the Chukchi Sea.  The regulations were issued in accordance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

The regulations designate the "Hanna Shoal Walrus Use Area" (page 35371), noting that the Hanna Shoal region has long been recognized as a critical foraging area for walruses in summer and fall.  The Hanna Shoal Walrus Use Area was delineated using walrus foraging and occupancy utilization distributions from Jay et al. (2012)  for June through September.

Jay, C. V., A. S. Fischbach, and A. A. Kochnev. 2012. Walrus areas of use in the Chukchi Sea during sparse sea ice cover. Marine Ecology Progress Series 468:1-13. doi:10.3354/meps10057