NOAA seeks comments on measures to protect marine mammals

WASHINGTON D.C. (KHNL) - The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration wants to hear from you.

NOAA is seeking comments on its proposed authorization for Navy training exercises around the main Hawaiian Islands.  The proposal includes protective measures to protect marine mammals.

The Navy has requested an authorization under the Marine Mammal Protection Act because the mid-frequency sound from tactical sonar and detonating explosives may harm some marine mammals.

Under the authorization, the Navy would have to follow mitigation measures including:

- establishing marine mammals safety zones around each vessel using sonar

- shut down sonar operations if marine mammals are seen within designated safety zones

- the use of exclusion zones to ensure explosives are not detonated when animals are within a certain distance

- a stranding response plan that includes a training shutdown provision in certain circumstances and a memorandum of agreement to allow the Navy to contribute in-kind services to NOAA's Fisheries Service if the agency has to conduct a stranding response and investigation

- establishing an area of caution in the Maui Basin because of its high density of humpback whales

NOAA says these measures should minimize the potential for injury or death and reduce the number of marine mammals exposed to sounds likely to cause temporary hearing loss.

Public comments may be submitted online by clicking on the Federal eRulemaking Portal link on this page and using the identifier: 0648-AW86.

NOAA will accept comments through July 23.