Navy against expansion of sanctuary

SUBHEAD: The US Navy plans for little interruption of its killing of ocean life through its activities in Hawaiian waters.

By Lyn McNutt on 7 February 2013 in Island Breath -

Image above: Rescue efforts in New Zealand after US Navy sonar beaches whales in 2005. Study suggests whales get the bends after being startled by naval sonar. From (

The Navy has responded to a proposal by Ms. Elia Herman who is Co-Manager of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. The sanctuary is managed by the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources and The US National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration. As stated on the NOAA website:
"The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, which is jointly managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the State of Hawai`i, lies within the shallow warm waters surrounding the main Hawaiian Islands and constitutes one of the world's most important humpback whale habitats. Through education, research and resource protection activities, the sanctuary strives to protect humpback whales and their habitat in Hawaii."
The Whale Sanctuary has made a proposal to add additional species besides whales to species to be protected. As a result this accompanies a proposal to modify the sanctuary's boinadries.

Basically the Navy seems to be saying that NOAA has to go back to Congress to make any changes since this Whale Sanctuary was set up for a single species, and it has defined boundaries based on that legislation.

I'm sure their lawyers looked at this, but the legislation does say that the Sanctuary can include other species if it is in the 'national interest', whatever that means.

Ironically, it is the same clause the Navy uses to operate within any sanctuary.

Below is the Navy letter from PDF file
February 4, 2013
Ms. Elia Herman
Sanctuary Co-Manager
Department of Land and Natural Resources
Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary
1151 Punchbowl Street, Room 330
Honolulu, HI 96813

Dear Ms. Herman,

These comments are submitted in response to the Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement and Management Plan for the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary published on January 8, 2013.

On October 15, 2010, initial comments were submitted by this office to Mr. Tom Allen, Management Plan Review Coordinator, Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary following the Invitation of Review of Management Plan/Regulations of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary; Intent to Prepare Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Management Plan; Scoping Meetings, as published in the Federal Register on July 14, 2010, Vol. 75. No. 134.

Those comments responded to the proposal to expand the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary (the sanctuary) as set forth in the Federal Register notice and more fully articulated in "Kohola Connection, The Voice of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary", Summer 2010, State of the Sanctuary, Management Plan Review Special Edition. The text quoted below is from that document.
"At this time, the sanctuary is proposing that it expand its scope and direction to protect and conserve other living marine resources, in addition to humpback whales and submerged cultural heritage within the sanctuary. The sanctuary is interested in adding one or more of the following resources: Hawaiian monk seals, other whales and dolphins, sea turtles, federally protected coral species, areas of significant habitat, submerged cultural and historic resources." P. 24
The sanctuary will work with communities, private sector and government agencies to determine which activities are compatible with natural resource protection and are suitable to take place within the sanctuary." P. 25

At the outset, we would like to express our appreciation for the sanctuary's continuing recognition that the Navy and DoD are important members of the Hawaii community and significant stakeholders in and beneficiaries of the sanctuary. We have appreciated the opportunity to host annual Advisory Council meetings at Pearl Harbor. We have every expectation that that relationship will only improve and deepen as NOAA continues to move more of its operations and facilities to Ford Island.

We also acknowledge that the sanctuary has maintained consistency with the purposes for which it was created. The sanctuary has protected the humpback whales and their habitat as evidenced by today's abundance of the species. As well, the sanctuary has focused on education and the promotion of and coordination of scientific research on humpback whales. The sanctuary has educated small boat operators in methods to avoid approaching a humpback whale while allowing an active whale watching tourist industry to grow.

That being said, we must express great concern that the sanctuary is considering a boundary expansion, adding resources to be protected beyond those in the original designation, and an expressed intention to determine which activities are suitable to take place within the sanctuary. This threat of restrictions generates concerns especially given the accompanying interest in a larger sanctuary boundary which could adversely affect military training activities across Hawaii.

We do not believe that the sanctuary is proceeding in concert with the law in characterizing this significant modification as a management plan update. As you are aware, Section 304(a) (4) of the National Marine Sanctuaries Act requires that any modification in designation be accomplished by the same procedures in which the initial designation was made. The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary was initially designated by statute and thus any change in designation would require additional legislation. Similar requirements exist for boundary modifications under Section 2305(d) of the Hawaiian Islands National Marine Sanctuary Act.

Thank you in advance for taking these comments into consideration. We look forward to continuing our working relationship. Should you have any additional questions, my point of contact for this matter is Commander Rick McGuire at (808) 474-6389.

S .    A .    WEIKERT
Fleet Civil Engineer

In reply refer to:
5090 Ser N01CE1/0149

Navy sees massive harm, shrugs shoulders

By Zak Smith on 22 June 2012 for Natural Resources Defense Council Staff Blog - 


Earlier this week, I attended a public meeting hosted by the Navy in San Diego on its plan for training and testing activities in Southern California and Hawaii from 2014 to 2019.

The predicted level of carnage from the Navy’s activities over the five-year period is staggering – over 14 million instances of marine mammal take (“take” means any harm that ranges from a significant behavioral impact, like habitat abandonment, to death), including almost 3 million instances of temporary hearing loss, over 5,000 instances of permanent hearing loss, 3,000 lung injuries, and 1,000 deaths.

Unfortunately, the Navy’s astonishing estimation of harm contained in its Draft Environmental Impact Statement did not trigger a corresponding identification and analysis of alternatives or mitigation measure that would in any way significantly reduce the harm to the area’s whales and dolphins. The document tells a story of devastation, offering no pathways for lessening the harm.

         Navy Study Area

While all of the Navy personnel at this particular “meet and greet” were friendly and more than willing to talk about how great the Navy is, I didn’t find any “forest through the trees” comprehension of the magnitude of harm the proposed activities will have on wildlife. There aren’t other government agencies out there proposing activities that will have anywhere near this level of impact on wildlife, much of which is endangered.

The Navy seems very proud of the fact that it has conducted such a “comprehensive” (in its opinion) analysis of impacts. But where’s the pride in its development of alternatives that allow it to achieve its training and testing needs, while dramatically reducing the impact to whales and dolphins?

On the 21st anniversary of Ireland’s declaration that its coastal waters are a sanctuary for whales and dolphins, the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group has called for an extension of Ireland’s whale and dolphin sanctuary to all of Europe. The Irish sanctuary extends up to 200 nautical miles offshore and bans the hunting of whales and dolphins and otherwise raises awareness about Ireland’s marine mammals. According to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group’s Brendan Price, “The sanctuary declaration was unique in Europe and no EU member stat had made such an unequivocal statement about the importance of their waters for cetaceans.”

Let’s hope the rest of Europe jumps on board.

Making a no-brainer decision, a federal administrative law judge for the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission said that killer whale trainers “must either remain at a greater distance from them, stand behind a physical barrier or use other devices to keep them safer during performances.” According to the judge, “Once a trainer is in the water with a killer whale that chooses to engage in undesirable behavior, the trainer is at the whale’s mercy. All of the emergency procedures, nets, underwater signals and hand slaps are useless if the whale chooses to ignore them.”

Yeah, they’re called wild animals for a reason. The Judge also cited to a report by the unfortunately named Dr. Duffus, which states, “To be repeatedly held underwater, grasped in the mouth of a rapidly swimming killer whale and to be pursued under and at the surface of the water…. It is not whales playing, or an accident, it is a large carnivorous predator undertaking what thousands of generations of natural selection prepare it for.” In reaching its conclusion that employers, like SeaWorld, must protect their employees when it places them in danger, the Judge rejected SeaWorld’s claim that orca behavior can be predicted with more than 98 percent accuracy, noting that the claim was not based on scientific data.

Scientists are combining data from tagged whales with data on human activities to better manage interactions between whales and humans on the West Coast. The hope is that the data will support management practices that will reduce the number of whales accidentally killed by ship strikes and entanglement from fishing gear. There’s a history of blue whales being killed by ship strikes in Southern California and gray whales have recently been entangled by fishing nets. Mapping out where the whales are and where the human activity is may help shift some of the human activity away from the whales during migration.


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