The USS John C.
Stennis aircraft carrier steams through the Gulf of Alaska during a past Northern
Edge exercise in Alaska
waters. This year’s planned use of sonar in the Gulf of
Alaska remains controversial. U.S. Navy Mate 3rd Class Mark J. Rebilas
the military plans to resume its Northern Edge exercises that include bombing
ranges in the Gulf of Alaska. This year's plan by the U.S. Navy to test medium-frequency
sonar for antisubmarine warfare practice has raised concerns about the impact
to marine mammals and fisheries.
. KMXT's Jacob Resneck reports.
-- navy sonar pkg 7:43 "This
summer's 14-day ... I'm Jacob Resneck."
summer's 14-day exercise will again bring together different branches of the
armed forces for a unique training opportunity in the North Pacific, says Air
Force Major Mike Cabral.
-- cabral 1
are Naval exercises in a 42,000-square-nautical mile area extending east of Kodiak
Island to just south of Seward. Over the next five years, the Navy wants to test
its medium-frequency sonar during two 21-day operations between April and
October. Its preferred plan would also include using a mothballed ship as
use of sonar near marine mammals has its critics. And past court battles have
pitted the Navy against the Natural Resources Defense Council over potential
harm to marine mammals, says NRDC staff attorney Taryn Kiekow.
action would be premature as the Navy still has to sign off on its
environmental impact statement. That's not for another two weeks. Meanwhile the
Navy has applied to the National Marine Fisheries Service for a permit required
under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
-- harrison 5
Jolie Harrison, a supervisory biologist with the NIMFS' Office of Protected
Resources. She says the Navy monitoring plan will likely minimize harm.
wants the Navy to go further and close off areas identified as sensitive
Navy plans to use employ monitors to look out for wildlife, says Alex Stone, a
senior civilian planner with the U.S. Navy's Pacific Command in San Diego.
proposed rule filed in the federal register, the National Marine Fisheries
Service would allow the Navy to cause the deaths of up to 15 beaked whales over
a five-year period.
because there have been documented cases of beached whales to become
disoriented, beached and killed from exposure to sonar. Still, Harrison says
it's unlikely to happen in Alaska.
-- Harrison 2
permitted are about 425,000 takes per year. "Take" is a legal term that
constitutes disruptions of behavior that run from minor things like causing a
seal to swim the other way to heavy disruptions in feeding, nursing and
migration patterns of marine mammals. But Stone says the Navy doesn't believe
there will be long-term effects.
Navy is on track to receive its permit from the National Marine Fisheries
Service, others remain unconvinced.
Kodiak commercial fisherman Dave Kubiak. He's president of the Alaska Marine
Conservation Council, an advocacy group for coastal communities.
have also weighed in. Rick Rowland, natural resources director for the Sun'aq
Tribe of Kodiak Island, says the tribe is one of several whose traditional
feeding grounds come from the Gulf of Alaska.
says the impact on fisheries would be minimal.
advisory role the National Marine Fisheries Service had asked the Navy to not
sink any ships in specialized habitat areas, do long-term monitoring and work
with federal biologists to develop a long-term fish mortality plan. But the
Navy declined on most counts, calling these proposals infeasible. In a written
response, it said it doubted the mortality plan would yield useful data.
says that outside the provisions of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, there's
little her agency can do to compel the Navy to change its course.
-- harrison 3
period on the Navy's environmental study closes April 11. After that the Navy
is free to issue its decision of the scope and length of its military exercises
this summer in the Gulf of Alaska.
I'm Jacob Resneck###