NOAA 2004-R158
Contact: Connie Barclay

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

The 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 during scientific seismic studies in the Gulf of Alaska set for 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 environmental change in the region, including glacial melting of the past century and dynamics of erosion and deposition associated with glaciers. Scientists believe that this research has important implications for understanding long-term variability of North Pacific ecosystems, with relevance towards managing fisheries, marine mammals and other species.

Scientists onboard the R/V Maurice Ewing will deploy a pair of low intensity airguns as an energy source and tow a long hydrophone streamer behind the vessel. As the airguns are operated along the survey lines, the hydrophone receiving system will receive and record the returning acoustic signals. Because the noise generated by the airguns has the potential to disrupt the behavior 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 have 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 the volume of the 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.

NOAA Fisheries will accept comments on the application and proposed authorization through July 23, 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: 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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