FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Gordon Helm
NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service is seeking comment on an application and proposed permit that would authorize the military to harass dolphins incidental to testing a new system to clear minefields from the surf of future battleground beaches, while ensuring that marine animals are protected during the testing.
The test has a small potential to incidentally harrass a small number of marine mammals and the U.S. Air Force, in cooperation with the U.S. Navy, is requesting the authorization because the U.S. Navy's Naval Surface Warfare Systems Station has requested permission to test these new explosives in waters controlled by the U.S. Air Force.
Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, NOAA Fisheries reviews ocean activities that may affect marine animals. In this case, the Air Force is seeking an incidental harassment authorization under the MMPA because of the potential for harassment of dolphins during their explosives testing. A completed authorization, which would be issued after the opportunity for public comment, will provide guidance to the Air Force on how to reduce effects on marine animals during the requested activity.
The location of the proposed test area is Santa Rosa Island, approximately 17 miles west of Destin, Fla. In order to avoid impacting sea turtles and dolphins, tests are proposed to be conducted in the fall and winter 2000/2001. Additional mitigation measures that will be undertaken include:
The military's current ability to clear obstacles and mines in the surf zone is limited to hand placement of explosive charges by Navy combat swimmers. Such operations are highly hazardous and reliability is poor. During the Gulf War, U.S. forces were prevented from landing on the beaches of Kuwait because of the nature and density of the mines and obstacles present. To facilitate future amphibious assaults, the U.S. Navy is committed to developing and testing methods to safely and effectively clear a path though such obstacles, allowing U.S. Marines to conduct an amphibious assault.
Fisheries will accept comments
on the application and proposed authorization through November
19, 2000. Comments should be addressed to Donna Wieting, Chief,
Mammal Division, Office
of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service,
1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910-3225.