[MARMAM] Final Rule for the Taking of Marine Mammals Incidental to the Navy's Training and Testing Activities in the Northwest Training and Testing (NWTT) Study Area

Leah Davis - NOAA Federal leah.davis at noaa.gov
Thu Nov 5 07:07:32 PST 2020

NOAA Fisheries will issue seven-year regulations under the Marine Mammal
Protection Act (MMPA) to govern the incidental take of marine mammals by
the U.S. Navy’s training and testing activities in the Northwest Training
and Testing (NWTT) Study Area from November 2020 through November 2027.
These regulations authorize take of individuals of 28 species of marine
mammals by Level A and Level B harassment incidental to the Navy’s training
and testing activities from the use of sonar and other transducers and
in-water detonations. In addition, the final rule includes authorization
for the potential serious injury or mortality of up to three large whales
from vessel strikes over the seven-year authorization period. You can
access the final rule online as of today at:
<https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2020-23757>*. We anticipate the
published version of the rule to appear in the November 12 issue of
the *Federal

NOAA Fisheries has also issued an Endangered Species Act (ESA) section 7
biological opinion on this action. Based on our biological opinion effects
analyses, we conclude that the proposed action would likely adversely
affect, but is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the
following species: blue whale, fin whale, humpback whale (Central America
DPS and Mexico DPS), sei whale, killer whale – Southern Resident DPS, sperm
whales, Guadalupe fur seal, leatherback sea turtle, and 30 ESA-listed fish
species (*i.e*., ESUs or DPSs). We have also concluded that the proposed
action is not likely to destroy or adversely modify designated (or
proposed) critical habitat for any of the ESA-listed species affected by
NWTT activities.

The Navy’s activities are likely to result in the incidental take of
ESA-listed species by exposing them to sonar and in-water detonations, as
well as incidental take to sea turtles from ship strike. NOAA Fisheries’
regulations require mitigation and monitoring measures that are expected to
reduce adverse impacts to marine mammals. NOAA Fisheries and the Navy have
worked together to develop a comprehensive suite of mitigation measures
including procedural mitigations that reduce the likelihood of mortality,
injury, hearing impairment, and more severe behavioral responses for most
species, as well as time/area mitigation that further protect areas where
marine mammals conduct important behaviors and/or sensitive species
congregate, which reduces the likelihood of takes that are likely to impact
reproduction or survival. Since publication of the proposed rule, and in
consideration of the comments received, additional geographic and
procedural mitigation requirements have been added to the final rule that
will further reduce the likelihood and/or severity of adverse impacts on
marine mammal species and their habitat and are practicable for
implementation. Overall, NOAA Fisheries and the Navy have developed
adaptive management and a robust monitoring plan specifically for these
training and testing activities to help better understand the effects of
Navy activities on protected marine species.

Please visit
more information on NOAA’s incidental take program under the MMPA.

Geographic Mitigation Areas for Marine Mammals in the NWTT Study Area

*Leah Davis*
Marine Resources Management Specialist, Office of Protected Resources

NOAA Fisheries | U.S. Department of Commerce

Office: (301) 427- 8431

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