Take is defined under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) as “to harass, hunt, capture, or kill, or attempt to harass, hunt, capture, or kill any marine mammal” (16 U.S.C. 1362) and further defined by regulation (50 CFR 216.3) as “to harass, hunt, capture, collect, or kill, or attempt to harass, hunt, capture, collect, or kill any marine mammal. This includes, without limitation, any of the following:
-the collection of dead animals, or parts thereof
-the restraint or detention of a marine mammal, no matter how temporary
-tagging a marine mammal
-the negligent or intentional operation of an aircraft or vessel
-the doing of any other negligent or intentional act which results in disturbing or molesting a marine mammal
-feeding or attempting to feed a marine mammal in the wild”
In June of 2017, the National Marine Fisheries Service received an application from the Navy requesting authorization to take individuals of 39 marine mammal species by Level A and B (behavioral) harassment incidental to training, testing, and routine military operations (all categorized as military readiness activities) from the use of sonar and other transducers, in-water detonations, air guns, and impact pile driving/vibratory extraction. In addition, the Navy is requesting nine mortalities of four marine mammal species during ship shock trials, and three takes (not to exceed two from any individual stock) by injury or mortality from vessel strikes over the five-year period. One marine mammal species, the North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis), has designated critical habitat in the AFTT Study Area. The Navy’s training and testing activities would occur over five years beginning October 2018. On August 4, 2017, the Navy sent an amendment to its application and Navy’s application was considered final and complete.
The Navy has proposed a suite of mitigation measures for marine mammals that could be implemented during training and testing activities in the AFTT Study Area. Procedural mitigation generally involves: (1) The use of one or more trained Lookouts to diligently observe for specific biological resources within a mitigation zone, (2) requirements for Lookouts to immediately communicate sightings of specific biological resources to the appropriate watch station for information dissemination, and (3) requirements for the watch station to implement mitigation (e.g., halt an activity) until certain recommencement conditions have been met. Mitigation measures are also conducted in specific mitigation zones and can consist of a variety of measures including, but not limited to: Conducting a certain number of major training exercise per year, not planning or avoid planning major training exercises, minimizing or not conducting active sonar, conducting a certain amount of hull-mounted mid-frequency active sonar per year, not expending explosive or non-explosive ordnance, and implementing vessel speed reductions.
The Navy also proposes to undertake monitoring and reporting efforts to track compliance with take authorizations and to help investigate the effectiveness of implemented mitigation measures in the AFTT Study Area.
To send comments:
The mailbox address for providing email comments is ITP.Egger@noaa.gov.
Instructions: All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted www.nmfs.noaa.gov/ pr/ permits/ incidental.htm#applications without change.