U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Healy in the Arctic Ocean. (USCG)
Overview and Management Relevance:
The NSSI Senior Staff Committee provided the STAP with questions relevant to increased marine activity. These questions are specifically addressed below. Although each question was addressed individually, we discussed a number of other approaches to organizing information contained in responses, for example:
No single approach was chosen, but aspects of each of these approaches are woven into the findings presented below in association with each question.
We discussed cumulative effects as a general topic of relevance to this emerging issue and others and it is covered in part under Question 3. It is worth noting that practicable short- and long-term monitoring that retains comparability over time will be needed in any approach to assessing cumulative impacts. MMS efforts such as ANIMIDA and COMIDA provide good examples of affordable methods that can be consistently applied to produce relevant results. Similar efforts will be needed throughout the foreseeable future to support any approach to assessing cumulative effects.
However, the whole issue of how to assess cumulative effects is broader than North Slope or even Alaskan concerns. Although cumulative effects analyses are a routine part of the planning process and a large literature describes various approaches to assessing cumulative effects, the subject continues to generate debate throughout the scientific and management communities, especially with regard to the cumulative effects of underwater sounds associated with marine activities.
Any effort to assess cumulative effects should begin with a thorough understanding of the methodological literature on cumulative effects analyses and a thorough knowledge of past work assessing North Slope cumulative effects, including work associated with various National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documents as well as work undertaken by the National Research Council. However, unique new ways to assess cumulative effects may be necessary to address North Slope issues.
Finally, some of the questions from the staff were in fact not issues that warranted scientific or technical advice, but rather were issues that needed management action or legal interpretations beyond the purpose of the STAP. The following are the STAP’s responses to individual questions:
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