Responding to questions about the Marianas Islands training and testing area, NOAA Fisheries assure they will only adopt U.S. Navy impact documents if they are determined “adequate and appropriate.”
Right now, the U.S. Navy is requesting permission for the incidental harm, or accidental injury, and harassment of thousands of dolphins and whales in the Marianas per year.
NOAA Fisheries would authorize this incidental take. Their authorizations for the Navy’s current training expire on Aug. 3.
“NOAA Fisheries will only adopt the Navy’s Marianas Islands Training and Testing study area environmental impact statement if we determine it to be adequate and appropriate,” public affairs director Connie Barclay said in an email to Saipan Tribune.
She was responding to questions whether NOAA Fisheries would adopt Navy findings that environmental groups like the Center of Biological Diversity say fail to consider a true “no action” alternative and alternatives with lesser impact.
Barclay said NOAA Fisheries is preparing its own National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, document. This is a “Record of Decision” for the Navy’s proposed activity and would include and address a “no-action alternative,” she said.
“This would be used for issuance of regulations, pursuant to section 101(a)(5)(A) of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, to the Navy for the taking of marine mammals incidental to the conduct of specified activities in the study area,” she said.
Barclay was also directed to a court case in Hawaii, where a federal judge in March ruled in favor of environmental groups who said the Navy failed to comply with the NEPA for similar sonar, and deep sea training there. Essentially, the court had found illegal the National Marine Fisheries Service, under NOAA, adoption of the Navy’s findings in authorizing this training.
Center of Biological Diversity senior attorney Marc Fink earlier agreed that the MITT impact documents were similar to the ones at issue in Hawaii “by failing to consider a true “no action” alternative, and by failing to consider a broad enough range of alternatives.”
Barclay, though, did not directly comment on the Hawaii case or its relation to the Marianas.