NOAA 2004-R153
Contact: Connie Barclay

NOAA News Releases 2004
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Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory Wants to Conduct Ocean Surveys

The Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service is seeking comments on a proposal by the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University that may result in harassment of marine mammals, incidental to conducting scientific seismic studies in the northeastern Pacific Ocean, during August, 2004. NOAA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

L-DEO scientists want to conduct the surveys to learn more about the structure of the oceanic crust created at the Juan de Fuca Ridge off the coasts of Washington state and Oregon, and to obtain information on the geologic nature of boundaries of the earth's crust created at the intermediate-spreading Juan de Fuca Ridge.

Researchers plan to conduct the main survey near the intersection of the Blanco Transform with the Juan de Fuca Ridge, at least 450 kilometers (243 nautical miles) offshore and outside the Exclusive Economic Zone. Time permitting, researchers may perform a second survey at Gorda Ridge, approximately 155.6 kilometers (84 nautical miles) offshore, but within the EEZ of the United States.

Scientists will use the R/V Maurice Ewing to deploy an array of 10-12 airguns as an energy source, plus a 6 kilometer (3.2 nautical mile) towed streamer to deploy and retrieve ocean bottom seismometers. As the airgun array is towed along the survey line, the towed hydrophone streamer or OBSs will receive the returning acoustic signals and transfer the data to the on-board processing system. Because the noise generated by the airgun array has the potential to disrupt the behaviour patterns of marine mammals in the vicinity of the ship, the L-DEO must request an authorization under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

While the number of potential incidental harassment takes will depend on the distribution and abundance of marine mammals in the vicinity of seismic operations, NOAA Fisheries believes the number of potential harassment takings will not have more than a negligible impact on affected marine mammal stocks. Low numbers of marine mammals are expected in the North Pacific, where the activities will take place. Also, the activities will take place for a relatively short period of time. The scientists involved in this activity plan to incorporate mitigation measures, such as ramping up airguns over several minutes to allow marine mammals to move away from the noise, and ensuring no marine mammals are within established safety zones, through monitoring by trained biologists and passive listening devices.

NOAA Fisheries will accept comments on the application and proposed authorization through June 30, 2004. Comments should be addressed to:

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

Comments may be sent via e-mail to 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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