FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Connie Barclay, Gordon Helm
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The National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries), an agency of the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), is seeking comments on a proposal that would allow incidental harassment to a number of marine mammal species in waters from Ventura to Santa Barbara, Calif., as the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) of the Department of the Interior studies the potential hazards posed by landslides, tsunamis and earthquakes.
The research, scheduled for June 2002, is part of a multi-year hazard analysis that requires high-resolution, seismic-reflection data using several underwater acoustic sources. Because underwater noise from the survey's scientific instruments could potentially disturb marine mammals, researchers are seeking an incidental harassment authorization under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). The MMPA allows the incidental, but unintentional harassment, of small numbers of marine mammals.
Before issuing the authorization, NOAA Fisheries will consider public comments, and determine whether the USGS seismic activities will have more than a negligible impact on marine mammal stocks in California waters.
NOAA Fisheries officials are asking the USGS to reduce the likelihood of marine mammal harassment by implementing several mitigation measures in a monitoring program. These include having marine mammal biologists monitor a pre-subscribed safety zone and have the ability to shut down the acoustic sources whenever a marine mammal enters the zone where hearing might be affected. Overall, the monitoring program will mitigate potential harassment of marine mammals, document the number and type of each species in the vicinity of the sound transmissions, and evaluate the reactions of marine mammals to these transmissions.
NOAA will accept comments on the application and proposed authorization through May 1. Comments should be addressed to Donna Wieting, Chief, Marine Mammal Division; Office of Protected Resources, NMFS; 1315 East-West Highway; Silver Spring, MD 20910. A copy of the application and Federal Register notice may be obtained by contacting the same office.
NOAA Fisheries is dedicated to protecting and preserving our nation's living marine resources through scientific research, management, enforcement, and the conservation of marine mammals and other protected marine species and their habitat. To learn more about NOAA Fisheries, please visit http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov.