Cetacean Society International

Whales Alive!

Vol. VI No. 1 January 1997


Navy Noises Continue

by William Rossiter


Motivated by growing concerns with potentially harmful impacts on marine mammals and endangered species resulting from U.S. Navy operations with the developing Low Frequency Active (LFA) sonar system (see Whales Alive!, Oct. 1996), Bill Rossiter and Dr. Stormy Mayo attended a Pentagon dialogue in December with U.S. Navy officers and contractors responsible for the system. Dr. Mayo is more than an expert cetologist with passionate concerns for the creatures; he is officially involved with every aspect of the effort to save the North Atlantic right whale and an authority on cetacean behavior.

Our purpose was to learn more, which we didn't, and to assess the Navy's awareness of potential problems with LFA operational mitigation procedures, which they weren't. Among our efforts to help, we suggested mitigations relevant to behavioral impacts, which could be severe, and methods to acquire better data, which they seemed to ignore. It is clear that the Navy is seriously committed to limiting environmental impacts, but we independently felt that they were too secure in their belief that their data and assumptions were good, which they weren't, and that their mitigation procedures were adequate, which we questioned to no avail. In other words, they want to do the right thing, but will they? The LFA Draft Environmental Impact Statement is due in August, and is being written by the contractor for the system. We both also felt that a major part of the problem lies right there; the contractor is telling the Navy what it wants to hear, and not telling the rest of us much of anything. Current procedures and data can't prove the contractor's assumptions or conclusions, but the Navy has been told to believe in them. Unless things change there may be some major conflicts over this growing issue. Meanwhile, the Navy continues to test the LFA, and all we care about is that no marine mammals are impacted behaviorally or physically. Another, larger meeting in January may provide more clues and less anxiety. We hope that this concerns you as well, and many more details are available from CSI to anyone who asks.


Refer to the next article on the LFA: Update on the Low Frequency Active (LFA) Sonar, in Vol. VI No. 3, July 1997

Previous article on the LFA: Sound Sound Policies and the LFA, in Vol. V No. 4, October 1996


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