Pangelinan Asks for Postponement of Sonar Project Around Marianas Until Navy Provides More Information About It

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Guam – Senator Ben Pangelinan has asked for a postponement of a proposed sonar training and testing project in the waters around the Marianas “until the Navy provides more information and education to the general public.”

NOAA is collecting the testimony for the Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specific Activities; U.S. Naval Training and Testing Activities in the Mariana Islands Training and Testing Study Area.”.

According to a release from the Senator, the testimony is being solicited ahead of the issuance of regulations and a subsequent Letter of Authorization (LOA) to the Navy “to incidentally harass marine mammals”.  Public input is required by the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA).

The Navy is proposing training and testing activities from 2015 until 2020.  If approved, the release states that the Navy would be permitted to:

* expose marine mammals present in the Study Area to sound and potential physical harm from active sonar and underwater detonations

* incidental ‘takes’ [deaths] of marine mammals may occur from ship strikes

Senator Pangelinan is quoted in his release as saying that the proposed testing “is of great concern to our community, which relies on our Marine environment for our livelihoods as well as our economic well-being.”

He says the Navy’s proposed activities “lack the clarity and detail for our community to assess … the effects” and he wants the Navy to “be made to answer these questions” to allow “non-technical citizens to make informed decisions.”

 

READ the release from Senator Pangelinan below:

PANGELINAN SUBMITS TESTIMONY TO THE NATIONAL OCEANIC ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION ON MITT

FOR IMMEDIATE NEWS RELEASE (May 6, 2014 – Hagåtña, GU) – Senator Vicente “ben” C. Pangelinan (D), Chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, Public Debt, Retirement, Legal Affairs, Public Parks, Recreation, Historic Preservation, and Land (Committee) has provided testimony on the Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specific Activities; U.S. Naval Training and Testing Activities in the Mariana Islands Training and Testing Study Area. Pursuant to the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), Senator Pangelinan submitted testimony to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) who is the entity responsible for the collection of testimony on the proposal to issue regulations and subsequent Letter of Authorization (LOA) to the Navy to incidentally harass marine mammals.

The Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to specific activities will allow the U.S. Navy to expose marine mammals present in the Study Area to sound and potential physical harm from active sonar and underwater detonations. In addition, incidental ‘takes’ of marine mammals may occur from ship strikes. The Navy in its report categorizes a ‘take’ into two (2) categories, which include (A) behavioral harassment and (B) injury or mortality harassment. Specified in its proposal, the Navy expects to ‘take’ twenty-six (26) marine mammal species by (A) behavioral harassment and thirteen (13) marine mammals by (B) injury or mortality harassment. Of the twenty-six (26) species impacted by the extended training and testing activities, five (5) mammals currently on the Endangered Species list (Humpback whale, Blue whale, Sei whale, Fin whale and Sperm whale) are expected to be affected. The area covered in the study area will encompass 984,601 square nautical miles of ocean, which is an area greater than the states of Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, Montana and New Mexico combined. In addition to the ‘takes’ request, the Navy via a Letter of Authorization seeks to conduct training and testing activities in the Study Area from 2015 until 2020.

Senator Pangelinan said in his letter to the NOAA, “This is of great concern to our community, which relies on our Marine environment for our livelihoods as well as our economic well-being.”  He went on to further state, “The activities that will be allowed in this proposal lack the clarity and detail for our community to assess and quantify for ourselves the effects of these expanded and extended activities. The Navy should be made to answer these questions to the members of our community in a manner that allows non-technical citizens to make informed decisions.”

Senator Pangelinan also requested that the proposal be deferred until the Navy provides more information and education to the general public.