NOAA 2004-R132
Contact: Connie Barclay

NOAA News Releases 2004
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Tests May Adversely Affect Marine Mammals


The Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) is seeking comments on a proposed authorization for the U.S. Air Force to conduct activities that may have incidental impacts on marine mammals in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida.

The Air Force plans to conduct Precision Strike Weapons Tests involving underwater detonations. The Air Force plans to launch as many as two live and four inert missiles and as many as six live and inert small-diameter bombs over the course of a year. These will be launched from an aircraft and directed at a target located approximately 15 to 24 nautical miles offshore of Eglin Air Force Base. Targets include a barge and a platform of five containers strapped, braced and welded together to form a single structure.

As part of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Air Force applied for an authorization to “incidentally harass” marine mammals. While the number of potential incidental harassments will depend on the distribution and abundance of marine mammals in the vicinity of the testing, the Air Force expects the activity to have a negligible impact on the effected species or stocks.

To reduce the potential for harassment to marine mammals, the proposed authorization would require the Air Force to incorporate mitigation measures, including aerial and vessel surveys prior to and after detonations. No detonations will occur if a marine mammal or sea turtle is detected within a predetermined safety zone designed to protect all animals from temporary or permanent hearing impairment or other harassment.

The Marine Mammal Protection Act allows for the incidental harassment, also called a “take,” of marine mammals. NOAA Fisheries must determine, based on the best science available, that these takes will have only a negligible impact on affected marine mammal species or stocks and will not have any unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of species or stocks involved for subsistence uses. Requirements would be imposed for the permissible methods of taking, and the monitoring and reporting of such taking.

NOAA Fisheries will accept comments on the application and proposed authorization through May 24, 2004. Comments should be addressed either to:

Michael Payne, Chief of the Marine Mammal Division
Office of Protected Resources, NOAA Fisheries
1315 East West Highway
Silver Spring, MD 20910
or e-mail comments

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, and the habitat on which they depend, through scientific research, management and enforcement. Stewardship of these resources benefits the nation by supporting coastal communities that depend upon them, while helping to provide safe and healthy seafood to consumers and recreational opportunities for the American public.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of America’s coastal and marine resources.

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