Defense

May 14, 2012

Navy study: Sonar, blasts might hurt more sea life

by Audrey McAvoy
Associated Press

The U.S. Navy says its training and testing using sonar and explosives could potentially hurt more dolphins and whales in Hawaii and California waters than previously thought.

The new research and more thorough analysis are part of a draft environmental impact statement covering Navy training and testing planned for 2014-2018. A notice about the study is due to appear in the Federal Register May 11.

In the study, the Navy estimates its use of explosives and sonar may unintentionally cause more than 1,600 instances of hearing loss or other injury to marine mammals in one year. The service calculates that its use of explosives may inadvertently cause more than 200 marine mammal deaths a year.

The old Navy analysis – covering 2009-2013 – estimated the service might unintentionally cause injury or death to about 100 marine mammals in Hawaii and California, although no deaths have been reported.

The Navy isn’t saying it will injure whales and dolphins as it trains sailors and tests equipment. It’s telling the public and environmental regulators that its actions have the potential to harm or otherwise prompt a reaction in the animals.

The Navy takes a variety of measures to prevent harm to the animals, including turning off sonar when marine mammals are spotted nearby. It says the actual numbers of injured animals would be lower as a result.

The Navy must provide the information to the National Marine Fisheries Service to earn a permit for its activities. If it didn’t do so and was later found to have harmed marine mammals, it would be found in violation of federal environmental law and have to stop its training and testing.

Some reasons the Navy is predicting a greater impact is its use of new research on marine mammal behavior and updated computer models that predict how sonar affects animals.

The Navy also expanded the scope of its study to include things like in-port sonar testing – something sailors have long done but wasn’t analyzed in the Navy’s last environmental impact statement. The analysis covers training and testing in waters between Hawaii and California for the first time as well.

“Each time around, each time we swing through this process, we get better, we take a harder look, we become more inclusive,” said John Van Name, senior environmental planner at the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

Zak Smith, staff attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said he’s encouraged the Navy reduced the threshold for the level of sonar it found to affect beaked whales – a species that appears to be particularly sensitive to the noise.

The Navy said it changed the threshold because research has shown beaked whales move away and otherwise react when exposed to a lower level of sound than earlier studies indicated.

“My first glance shows there’s positive steps,” Smith said after he took a quick look at the 1,800-page document. But he said he would have to look at the details before giving his full assessment.

The Navy uses sonar to track enemy submarines, torpedoes, mines and other potential threats underwater. Sonar operators send pulses of sound through the ocean and then listen for echoes from objects hit by the sound waves.

Scientists say the sound may disrupt the feeding patterns of marine mammals. The sound may also startle some species of whales, causing them to surface rapidly.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Headlines July 23, 2014

News: Israel’s Iron Dome defense in line for tripled U.S. spending - Israel’s iron Dome missile defense system may end up getting triple the U.S. funding that the Defense Department sought for it in March. Ukraine asked U.S. for systems to counter Russian missiles - A month before the United States says a Russian missile likely brought...
 
 

News Briefs July 23, 2014

U.S. military deaths in Afghanistan at 2,194 As of July 22, 2014, at least 2,194 members of the U.S. military had died in Afghanistan as a result of the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, according to an Associated Press count. The AP count is three less than the Defense Department’s tally. At least...
 
 
Raytheon photograph

Raytheon completes key Air, Missile Defense Radar reviews

Raytheon photograph Partially-populated, full-sized Air and Missile Defense Radar array. Raytheon has completed two critical program reviews for the new Air and Missile Defense Radar, the U.S. Navy’s next generation integ...
 

 
Insitu photograph

Insitu demonstrates long endurance capabilities of Integrator unmanned aircraft

Insitu photograph Insitu’s Integrator unmanned aircraft recovers via SkyHook; the aircraft recently completed a 24-hour endurance flight. Insitu announced July 22 the successful 24-hour flight of its Integrator unmanned a...
 
 

NASA partners punctuate summer with spacecraft development advances

Spacecraft and rocket development is on pace this summer for NASA’s aerospace industry partners for the agency’s Commercial Crew Program as they progress through systems testing, review boards and quarterly sessions under their† Space Act Agreements with the agency. NASA engineers and specialists continue their review of the progress as the agency and partners move...
 
 

U.S. Navy selects Northrop Grumman for ship self-defense system

The U.S. Navy has awarded Northrop Grumman a $12 million task order for a full range of engineering services to continue modernizing the Ship Self-Defense System Mark 2. The contract has a potential value of $61 million over five years, if all options are exercised. SSDS MK2 is a combat system designed for anti-air defense...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>