BOEM Issues Voluntary Precautionary Measures for Rice’s Whale in Gulf of Mexico

Release Date

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) today released a Notice to Lessees and Operators (NTL) providing recommendations related to voluntary precautionary measures to expand protections for the Rice’s whale in the Gulf of Mexico. The NTL will remain in effect during the period when BOEM and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) are engaged in reinitiated consultation with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) on the 2020 Biological Opinion.  
These recommendations apply to the area comprising the northern Gulf of Mexico Outer Continental Shelf between the 100- and 400-m isobaths. This delineation is based on recent third-party, scientific information indicating that Rice’s whale may occur in portions of this area. Because the possibility of incidental take of Rice’s whale in the Expanded Rice’s Whale Area cannot be dismissed at this time, these additional precautions may be warranted.  

The recommended voluntary measures within this area include:

  • training visual observers to monitor the vessel for strike avoidance,
  • documenting and retaining records for three years on details of transit,
  • all vessels engaged in oil and gas activities, regardless of size, maintaining 10-knots or less and avoiding transit through the area after dusk and before dawn, as practicable and consistent with safe operations
  • maintaining a minimum of 500-m from Rice’s whales, and
  • using an automatic identification system onboard all vessels 65 feet or greater that are engaged in oil and gas activity.

The recommendations do not apply when compliance would place the safety of the vessel or crew, or the safety of life at sea, in doubt.
BOEM recommends that the operators and lessees document their implementation of all measures across the Expanded Rice’s Whale Area. For more information on the NTL, see BOEM’s website.

-- BOEM --

The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is responsible for America’s offshore energy and mineral resources. The bureau promotes energy independence, environmental protection and economic development through responsible, science-based management of energy and mineral resources on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf.