NOAA’s Technical Guidance for Assessing the Effects of Anthropogenic Sound on Marine Mammals

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has published the following notice:

“The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is holding a third public comment period on a stand-alone document containing proposed changes to our draft acoustic guidance for assessing the effects of anthropogenic sound on marine mammal species [pdf] under our jurisdiction.

While NOAA was working to address public comments from the second public comment period and finalize the Guidance, NOAA and the Navy further evaluated certain aspects of the U.S. Navy’s methodology (Appendix A of Draft Guidance). As a result, several recommendations/modifications were suggested. After consideration of these recommendations. NOAA has revised the Draft Guidance to reflect these suggested changes and is proposing to solicit public comment on these changes via a focused public comment period.

The third public comment period will last 14-days and begin on March 16. Comment now  (Note: Please be sure to comment on the document containing the proposed changes to the Guidance, which is a 24-page stand-alone document separate from the July 2015 Draft Guidance. All other aspects of the Guidance remain unchanged).

Before the Guidance is finalized (anticipated May 2016), NOAA will address all substantive comments received from the initial and second public comment periods, as well as those from this focused third public comment period. There is no need to reiterate or resubmit comments made during the first and second public comment periods on other sections of the Draft Guidance. NOAA encourages the public to focus comment on the proposed changes to the document.

Purpose of the Acoustic Guidance

The Technical Guidance provides acoustic threshold levels for onset of permanent threshold shift (PTS) and temporary threshold shifts (TTS) for all sound sources. It is intended to be used by NOAA analysts/managers and other relevant user groups/stakeholders, including other federal agencies to better predict a marine mammal’s response to sound exposure. The manner of response has the potential to trigger certain requirements under one or more of NOAA’s statutes (MMPAESA, and National Marine Sanctuaries Act).

To develop these acoustic threshold levels, NOAA has compiled, interpreted, and synthesized best available information currently available on the effects of anthropogenic sound on marine mammals, as well as developed a method for updating these levels through a systematic, transparent process. The document outlines NOAA’s updated acoustic threshold levels and describes in detail how the thresholds were developed and how they will be updated in the future.

Due to the complexity and variability of marine mammal behavioral responses, NOAA will continue to work over the next year on developing guidance regarding the effects of anthropogenic sound on marine mammal behavior.”


Click here to read NOAA’s Federal Register notice of this action.

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