Re: asae: NRDC: Press Release - New Permit Would Allow Navy to Harm Millions ...

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Feb 10, 2013, 1:02:57 PM2/10/13
Go to down to A Long-Overdue Issue to read about some activity on  Congress' part to protect sea mammals.  There were also other articles out at this time - over thirty years ago. In our book "Why Noise Matters (Earthscan, 2011), we covered the impacts of noise on sea animals and other animals as well.  Good luck with your continue efforts in this area.  Arline Bronzaft
In a message dated 2/8/2013 12:01:31 P.M. Eastern Standard Ti
There has never been a serious move in Congress to limit Navy noise-making at sea.  As the Obama administration came in, there were some indications that the new NOAA admins would be more receptive to efforts by NRDC and others to at least keep Navy training out of some of the areas most used by ocean life, but so far, little has changed.

The International Maritime Organization, which oversees international shipping, has been working (slowly) on voluntary ship-quieting measures; the US Chamber of Shipping has been receptive to building new ships in ways that will make them radiate less noise into the seas, but the idea of retrofitting existing ships is not really on the table.

Some coverage:
Shipping noise:
Great research program in Stellwagen bank off Boston:
Bigger-picture approach to considering effect of shipping and other background noise in reducing "communication space" of animals:

Navy/NRDC cease-fire in 2009:
Lubchenko memo (new NOAA chief):
Mid-frequency sonar new suit:
Low-frequency sonar new suit:

The MFA suit above challenges the LAST round of NMFS permits, covering 2010-2014 (it would seem that the suit was meant to try to push the Navy and NMFS to take a different, more cautionary route in the new round, for 2014-2018 and 2015-19 (various ranges on different pulses of permitting), which is what the recent Press Release is about; the LFA suit above challenges new ones just issued, very similarly to how the current press push by NRDC is addressing the current Draft Navy EIS and Proposed NMFS rules.  The new EIS and rule covers far more than simply sonar; it covers all Navy training and testing activities, and more than half of the possible/estimated injuries are due to non-sonar activities, mostly involving explosives.  

The Navy and NMFS considers the "take" estimates to be extreme numbers based on very conservative thresholds and that there will be far less harm than the numbers indicate.  For example, physical injury thresholds are set for juvenile whale masses and the level at which 1% of those exposed may be injured; and the "deafening" that is discussed is in many cases a frequency-specific overload, which could make that particular frequency somewhat harder to hear (ie it would be fainter), but not affect other frequencies of their communication.  Likewise the millions of "behavioral" takes/impacts/changes are considered likely insignificant because few last for more than a few hours or a day.  (the Navy does note that their counted behavioral takes are likely to affect fewer animals than the numbers indicate because many will be repeatedly affected; yet not real quantification of repeated or chronic disruption for any local populations is considered.)

The fact that the Navy has to quantify all this does highlight the extent of human noise-making at sea, especially the fact that many of these noise sources have a "noise footprint" that extends for 150 or more kilometers.  Shipping noise is the single largest noise source in the sea, with oil and gas exploration second (seismic surveys on the coasts of Brazil, Africa, and Canada are recorded on most days of the year along the mid-Atlantic ridge).  Navy activities add to this din, but are likely not making as big a difference for animals as we might fear. Still, this permitting process is about the only place where we get to raise a stink about it.

One more of the countless ways that humans are making things difficult for the rest of life.


Jim Cummings
Executive Director, Acoustic Ecology Institute

Needle clusters shirring in the wind—listen close, the sound gets better
                                  ---Gary Snyder, Mountains and Rivers Without End

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