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Soundings Archive

NMFS Publishes Final Take Rules for Navy Surtass LFA Sonar
On August 21, 2007, the National Marine Fisheries Service published regulations to govern the unintentional taking of marine mammals incidental to Navy operation of the Surveillance Towed Array Sensor System Low Frequency Active Sonar. The regulations are issued under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. They govern the Navy's use of SURTASS LFA sonar wherever the sonar is used. The regulations will be applied to specific Navy activities through Letters of Authorization issued by NMFS upon application by the Navy.

These regulations are controversial. The NMFS Federal Register notice of them contains 33 pages responding to comments on the rules. The vast majority of comments were filed by NGOs hostile to the Navy's use of sonar. The NMFS response to comments emphasized the Agency's conclusions that LFA sonar is very different from mid-frequency sonar with respect to marine mammal effects, and that marine mammals will not be harmed if the Navy implements the mitigation and monitoring requirements imposed by NMFS.

One of those requirements is the Navy's use of a new active acoustics technology to monitor for the presence of marine mammals within areas ensonified by the sonar at potentially harmful levels. The new technology is called HF/M3, and NMFS believes it may be the answer to many marine mammal monitoring problems. NMFS' response to comments states:

    "The final rule also requires passive acoustics, estimated to be 32 percent effective with visual monitoring and active acoustics, the HF/M3, which has a calculated effectiveness of 95 percent. The use of this tri-partite monitoring raises overall mitigation effectiveness to 98 percent."
  • Click here to read Navy LFA sonar rules

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