[MARMAM] New standards for anthropogenic noise impacts?

Rossitercsi at aol.com Rossitercsi at aol.com
Sat Jan 14 06:42:51 PST 2006

Scientists interested in standards for anthropogenic noise impacts on marine 
mammals may wish to consider the default standards that may be established by 
the Environmental Impact Statement for the US Navy's Undersea Warfare Training 
Range, the Draft of which is currently open for public comment until 30 
January 2006. The outcome of this process is likely to influence the broader 
acoustic criteria now being developed by the National Marine Fisheries Service.

190 dB re 1 µPa²-s is considered the threshold of significant behavioral 
disturbance for all cetaceans (DEIS page 4.3-24).  This impact threshold was 
derived from subjective observations of "altered behavior" during Temporary 
Threshold Shift (TTS) experiments with captive dolphins and belugas at the US Navy's 
SPAWAR lab, and is used to define Marine Mammal Protection Act Level B 
harassment. All dB values are as received, and include a factor for duration of 

190 dB re 1 µPa²-s is the received level at which beaked whales are 
considered behaviorally disturbed, and as a special case, considered potentially 
injured, MMPA Level A Harassment. This value is defined as receiving a single sonar 
ping, is based on selective data, and is considered conservative (4.3-30 
through 32). Do you agree with the DEIS discussion of various theories and data 
relating to induced behaviors leading to injury in beaked whales? Do you know of 
additional references and data that might apply? 

195 dB re 1 µPa²-s is defined as the onset of TTS in all cetaceans, and 
establishes MMPA Level B physiological harassment. The single value onset-TTS for 
all cetaceans was derived from very few experiments with highly conditioned 
captive bottlenose dolphins and belugas (4.3-6. and 12+). 

215 dB re 1 µPa²-s is the threshold for Permanent Threshold Shift (PTS), the 
onset of injury for all cetaceans (expect beaked whales), and MMPA Level A 
Harassment. PTS was extrapolated from the onset-TTS assumptions and research on 
terrestrial mammals including humans (4.3-15 to 18).

The DEIS concludes, from acoustic modeling, that right whales will not be 
affected by the activities at the Preferred Alternative, Site A, in the Cherry 
Point OPAREA between Cape Fear and Cape Lookout, North Carolina, USA. One of 
several ramifications is that ESA Section 7 consultation with NMFS will not 
include right whales unless another alternative is selected The DEIS concludes that 
"Navy vessels are not likely to adversely affect North Atlantic Right 
Whales," and that "the proposed action will not adversely modify or destroy any 
critical habitats, nor will the action jeopardize the continued existence of any 
listed species" (3.2-23 to 24. 4.3-13, and 44 to 45).

The DEIS redefines some parameters without references or substantiation. For 
example "The definition of physiological effect and behavioral effect used 
here are specific to this OEIS/EIS and should not be confused with more global 
definitions applied to the field of biology" (4.3-3+). Page numbers given here 
may not be the only location for conclusions, which may be fragmented or stated 
in different ways. Calculated harassment distances are not given for all 
sonar sources, but with a threshold value of 190dB the DEIS assumes harassment 
within only a few meters of any source, often only within a narrow arc. Bowriding 
dolphins are not considered threatened by exposure.

Comments on the DEIS for the Undersea Warfare Training Range must be 
postmarked by 30 January 2006. Comments must be sent to: Naval Facilities Engineering 
Command Atlantic, Attn: Mr. Keith Jenkins (Code EV21KJ), 6506 Hampton 
Boulevard, Norfolk, VA 23508, Fax: 757-322-4894. The USWTR DEIS may be downloaded from 
http://projects.earthtech.com/USWTR/ .

Please consider whatever time you can give to this as a gift to whales.

Thank you,

William W. Rossiter
Cetacean Society International
P.O.Box 953, Georgetown, CT 06829 USA
ph 203-770-8615, fx 860-561-0187
rossiter at csiwhalesalive.org
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