March 21st, 2016 (Emily Stolarcyk). Now through March 28th, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is accepting public comments regarding allowable takes to marine mammals during Navy military trainings in the Gulf of Alaska.
NMFS has received a request from the U.S. Navy for authorization to take marine mammals incidental to the training activities conducted in the Gulf of Alaska Temporary Maritime Activities Area (TMAA) Study Area from May 2016 through May 2021. Pursuant to the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), NMFS is requesting comments on its proposal to issue regulations and subsequent Letter of Authorization (LOA) to the Navy to incidentally harass marine mammals.
The Navy is predicting up to 182,635 Level A and Level B “takes” to marine mammals in the Gulf of Alaska over the next five years. Level A is defined as the potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild. Level B “takes” have the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering.
There are nine endangered species threatened by U.S. Navy training in the Gulf of Alaska. They are blue whales, fin whales, humpback whales, sei whales, sperm whales, gray whales North Pacific right whales, Steller sea lions and sea otters. Healthy whale populations support healthy fish populations. Fish depend on whales for valuable nutrient cycling.
This comment period is the last chance for meaningful public participation; meaning that both NMSF and the Navy are required to respond to public comments. There will be a final public comment period when the Navy releases their Draft Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement sometime later this year; however, the Navy is not obligated to respond to public comments on the Draft Final EIS.
To submit a public comment on the Federal Register, visit https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2016/02/26/2016-03622/takes-of-marine-mammals-incidental-to-specified-activities-us-navy-training-activities-in-the-gulf.
The Eyak Preservation Council has drafted a public comment and invites interested parties to sign on. Sign on to EPC’s comment to NMFS by visiting http://www.eyakpreservationcouncil.org/.
You may submit comments, identified by NOAA-NMFS-2016-0008, by any of the following methods:
- Electronic submissions : submit all electronic public comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal, Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2016-0008, click the “Comment Now!” icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.
- Mail: Submit comments to Jolie Harrison, Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910-3225.
- Fax: (301) 713-0376 ; Attn : Jolie Harrison.
Instructions : Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered by NMFS.
Thank you to those taking action and making a comment.
Ed Sibylline : And don’t forget the last mass stranding of the dozens of whales (30 seen but how many in reality ?) in Alaska, after military training. You have to know if another mass stranding occurs, Navy will never be worried. So, protect whales now !