EnerGeo Alliance Testifies in Support of H.R. 6008 the "Requiring Integrity in Conservation Efforts Act’’ or the ‘‘R.I.C.E.’s Whale Act" to Halt the Administration’s Unscientific Rice’s Whale Critical Habitat Designation

Washington D.C., U.S., Oct. 25, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- EnerGeo Alliance supports U.S. Rep. Garret Graves’ (R-LA) bill blocking the Rice’s whale critical habitat designation in the Gulf of Mexico. Further actions are needed to ensure peer-reviewed scientific analysis is conducted and industry is afforded the opportunity to contribute to agency deliberations. EnerGeo’s Scientific Director Dr. Alex Loureiro testified before the House Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Wildlife and Fisheries on Oct. 25, 2023. During her remarks in support of Graves’ bill, Loureiro provided information proving the current proposal by the National Marine Fisheries Service is based on inadequate science and does not accurately reflect the intent of critical habitat designation under the Endangered Species Act. Her written testimony included, for the record, the submission of EnerGeo’s comment letter on NMFS’s proposed critical habitat designation detailing the severe economic impacts across numerous industries that are likely to result without intervention from Congress.

“Settling for an unscientific, overly broad critical habitat designation ultimately fails the species, and limits our ability to provide appropriate protection to individuals and the population,” said Loureiro.

Previously, Rice’s whales were considered a Gulf of Mexico subspecies of Bryde’s whales. NMFS estimates a population of about 51 Rice’s whales. Loureiro says there’s no evidence to support that the population is declining, nor that the population is vulnerable to a specific anthropogenic threat. However, despite inadequate information, NMFS is proposing a critical habitat designation for over 28,000 square miles of the Gulf of Mexico. This accounts for more than 500 square miles per whale. The agency fails to prove Rice’s whales occupy this entire area. Loureiro testified that sightings and acoustic detections of Rice’s whales occur with disproportionate frequency in the northeastern gulf in the De Soto Canyon area, along the continental shelf break between the 100- to 400-meter isobath. 

“Nearly all documented Rice’s whale visual detections have occurred in this area, and therefore, mitigation measures intended to reduce the risk of ship strikes in this region are appropriate,” said Loureiro.

EnerGeo Alliance leads an industry-driven effort to monitor marine mammal interactions during industry operations across the Gulf of Mexico through the Gulf of Mexico Proactive Regulatory and Observational Program. The alliance supports mitigation efforts in the De Soto Canyon area including visual monitoring, reporting transit plans, speed restrictions and avoiding nighttime transit. However, expanding the Rice’s whale area throughout the entire central and western Gulf of Mexico will not only fail to provide additional protection for Rice’s whales, but will also cause detrimental effects to other species and global emissions reduction goals.

Rep. Graves’ common-sense bill would correctly pause agency actions stemming from a stipulated settlement agreement and require peer-reviewed scientific analysis with a robust consultation process. Furthermore, the legislation would require the long-overdue revised Incidental Take Regulation for geoscience activities in the Gulf of Mexico to be issued, and specifically “to include a correction of the erroneous estimates of incidental take of marine mammals anticipated from the activities analyzed”.


About the EnerGeo Alliance
Founded in 1971, the EnerGeo Alliance is a global trade association for the energy geoscience
industry, the intersection where earth science and energy meet. The EnerGeo Alliance and its
member companies span more than 50 countries, and together, unify to open the gateway to the
safe discovery, development and delivery of mainstay sources of energy, alternative energy and
low-carbon energy solutions that meet our growing world’s needs.


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