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 October 20, 2014

News: Navy grounds ‘Top Guns’ - The F/A-18s needs spare parts and in too many cases they’re being taken from brand new jets. This is a risk to national security and pilots’ lives.   Business: Boeing seeks revised schedule for U.S. aerial tanker - Boeing is revising its master schedule for developing the new U.S. Air Force...
 
 

News Briefs October 20, 2014

New military medical team to help with Ebola in U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered the military to prepare and train a 30-member medical support team that could provide short-term help to civilian health professionals if there are more Ebola cases in the United States. His spokesman, Rear Adm. John Kirby, says the team...
 
 

Dragon ‘fires up’ for flight

The Air Force and NATO are undergoing a cooperative development effort to upgrade the avionics and cockpit displays of AWACS aircraft belonging to the 552nd Air Control Wing at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., and the NATO E-3 Sentrys from Geilenkirchen, Germany. The Diminishing Manufacturing Sources Replacement of Avionics for Global Operations and Navigation, otherwise...
 

 
Boeing photographs

Boeing-built X-37B successfully completes third flight

Unmanned spacecraft concludes record-setting 674-day mission   Boeing photograph A third mission of the Boeing-built X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle was completed on Oct. 17, 2014, when it landed and was recovered at Vandenberg...
 
 

Boeing concludes commercial crew space act agreement for CST-100/Atlas V

Boeing has successfully completed the final milestone of its Commercial Crew Integrated Capability Space Act Agreement with NASA. The work and testing completed under the agreement resulted in significant maturation of Boeing’s crew transportation system, including the CST-100 spacecraft and Atlas V rocket. NASA in July approved the Critical Design Review Board milestone for Boeing’...
 
 

AF to release small business research solicitations

The Air Force Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer program office is set to release its fiscal year 2015 list of topics Oct. 22, on the SBIR/STTR website.  Small businesses and research institutions with expertise to address the topics’ technology challenges are encouraged to submit proposals. During 2014, the Defense Department SBIR...
 




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>