Navy Sounds


Okay, this is not a portrait of a whale, art, or our oceans. It is a heads-up image about the US Navy’s test and training activities off the coast of Washington and Oregon for the next 5 years. A revised environmental impact statement (EIS) is out and awaits your input before November 2nd.

(For those of you more interested in the creative art side of things, all of this is my attempt to corral recent information on what’s happening in the whales’ world which will nourish future art, mine and perhaps that of others.)

Listening Sticks

The revised EIS lowered the number of explosive events but upped the number of “listening stick” sonobuoys from 20 to 720. These yard-long devices, shown in the photo, are parachuted into the water where they find things with sonar sound pulses. Initial targets were enemy subs but they are also useful for civilian purposes as when used to try to search for the lost Malaysia Airlines plane. The effect of the sounds on marine life (way more than “one ping only”) with be behavioral rather than physical. That means the sounds affect how the animals feed, migrate, and breed.

Complicated Environmental Impact Statements (EIS)

I admit I then got lost trying to find out how loud and what frequency and how long the sounds would go on for each of the 720 items. I applaud the Northwest Environmental Defense Center(NEDC) of the Lewis and Clark Law School for their clear 5-page comment on the Navy’s first EIS. I can only hope these worthy lawyers are working on comments to the revisions.

Leatherback Turtles

leatherback turtle and jellyfish

leatherback turtle and jellyfish

Even though I could not pin down the effects of the sonar on our echolocating whales, the sonobuoy’s effect on leatherback turtles did catch my eye in a way I could understand all too clearly. The problem for these long-lived vulnerable creatures is that the sonobuoy parachutes end up looking like jellyfish when they enter the water. And, you guessed it, jellyfish are the leatherbacks' main diet. Gulp!

Actions You Can Take

1. If you have opinions you want heard or even a taste for sorting out the technical details, please do review the EIS yourself and send in your comments to Kimberly Kler by November 2nd using only snail mail:
NWTT EIS/OEIS Project Manager
1101 Tautog Circle, Suite 203
Silverdale, WA 98315-1101

2. And if you’d like to support the expert input of the Northwest Environmental Defense Center, they’ll be happy to have your donation at: