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Soundings Archive

Navy Commits to Marine Mammal Monitoring Research and Workshop
During January, 2009, the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service published final rules under the Marine Mammal Protection Act that authorize marine mammal takes incidental to various U.S. Navy activities. NMFS published three separates sets of MMPA rules for the Navy: one for the Hawaii range Complex; another for the Southern California Range complex; and a third for the Navy's Atlantic Fleet Active Sonar Training. All three rules praise the Navy's extensive research on the effects of anthropogenic sound on marine mammals, and all three rules commit the Navy to specific marine mammal research and workshops.

For example, NMFS and the Navy have agreed to conduct research on monitoring marine mammals during the use of sonar and other sound sources, and to conduct a public workshop on this issue. The workshop is currently scheduled for sometime in 2011. There follows NMFS' discussion of this monitoring research and workshop in the SOCAL rule:

    " NMFS believes that a workshop consisting of the Navy, NMFS, researchers, invited experts, and other interested parties, in combination with an adaptive management plan that allows for modification to the monitoring plan, would provide a means for the Navy to potentially make changes to the Monitoring Plan that would more effectively accomplish some of the goals of monitoring set forth earlier in the Monitoring section. NMFS and the Navy have coordinated on this point and the Navy will convene a workshop, to include (among others) outside marine mammal experts, in 2011. The workshop and how it will interact with the adaptive management component are discussed in the Monitoring Workshop section of this final rule. The Monitoring Workshop participants will be asked to submit individual recommendations to the Navy and NMFS, and both agencies will work together to determine whether modifications to the SOCAL Range Complex monitoring are necessary based on the recommendations. As necessary, NMFS would incorporate any changes into future LOAs [MMPA Letters of authorization] and future rules."
SOCAL rule published on January 21, 2009, and available online at

In addition to this monitoring research and workshop, the Navy and NMFS are also conducting research on marine mammal strandings:
    "Long-Term Prospective Study Apart from this final rule, NMFS, with input and assistance from the Navy and several other agencies and entities, will perform a longitudinal observational study of marine mammal strandings to systematically observe and record the types of pathologies and diseases and investigate the relationship with potential causal factors (e.g., sonar, seismic surveys, weather). The proposed rule contained an outline of the proposed study (73 FR 60836, pages 60837-60838). No changes have been made to the longitudinal study as described in the proposed rule."
SOCAL rule published on January 21, 2009, and available online at

This is not all the research the Navy's doing. The SOCAL rule discusses in considerable detail the other additional marine mammal research being performed by the Navy:
    "The Navy provides a significant amount of funding and support for marine research. The Navy provided $26 million in Fiscal Year 2008 and plans for $22 million in Fiscal Year 2009 to universities, research institutions, federal laboratories, private companies, and independent researchers around the world to study marine mammals. Over the past five years the Navy has funded over $100 million in marine mammal research.

    The U.S. Navy sponsors seventy percent of all U.S. research concerning the effects of human-generated sound on marine mammals and 50 percent of such research conducted worldwide. Major topics of Navy-supported research include the following: Better understanding of marine species distribution and important habitat areas, Developing methods to detect and monitor marine species before and during training, Understanding the effects of sound on marine mammals, sea turtles, fish, and birds, and Developing tools to model and estimate potential effects of sound.

    The Navy's Office of Naval Research currently coordinates six programs that examine the marine environment and are devoted solely to studying the effects of noise and/or the implementation of technology tools that will assist the Navy in studying and tracking marine mammals. The six programs are as follows:

      Environmental Consequences of Underwater Sound, Non-Auditory Biological Effects of Sound on Marine Mammals, Effects of Sound on the Marine Environment, Sensors and Models for Marine Environmental Monitoring, Effects of Sound on Hearing of Marine Animals, and Passive Acoustic Detection, Classification, and Tracking of Marine Mammals."
The AFAST and HRC and SOCAL rules contain essentially the same discussion of the Navy's marine mammal research program. The Navy should be commended for research above and beyond the call to duty.
  • Click here for AFAST rule
  • Click here for HRC rule

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