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Sounding Off on the Navy's Sonar.

At long last, the public got its turn to question the US Navy's proposal to deploy one of the loudest man-made noisemakers into the world's oceans to detect "enemy" submarines.

Underwater blasts of the Navy's Low Frequency Active Sonar (LFAS LFAS Low-Frequency Active Sonar (Navy) ) can be heard for thousands of miles across ocean basins. Sensitive marine life -- particularly whales and other marine mammals marine mammals

mammals inhabiting the sea; generally taken to include the cetaceans (whales, porpoise, dolphin), the sirenians (sea-cows, including manatees and dugong) and the pinnipeds (the carnivores of the group, seals, sealions, walruses).
 that use low frequency sound to find food, navigate and communicate -- are considered particularly at risk.

The National Marine Fisheries Service The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is a United States federal agency. A division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Department of Commerce, NMFS is responsible for the stewardship and management of the nation's living marine  (NMFS NMFS National Marine Fisheries Service
NMFS National Mortality Followback Survey
NMFS Network Multimedia File System
NMFS Nested Mount File System
) held a series of public hearings in late April and early May to consider whether to grant the Navy the right to "take" (e.g., harass and kill) a "small number" of marine mammals. NMFS officials made it clear that they do not see any problem with LFAS: It was up to the audience to prove them wrong.

On April 26, Earth Island's International Marine Mammal Project (IMMP IMMP Information Management Master Plan
IMMP Integrated Maintenance Management Program
IMMP Information Mission Management Plan
IMMP International Mountaineering Memorial Park (Nepal)
IMMP Integrated Maintenance and Modernization Planning
) joined other environmentalists to focus attention on the first public hearing in Los Angeles.

At 11 a.m., the Natural Resources Defense Council The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is a New York City-based, non-profit non-partisan international environmental advocacy group, with offices in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Beijing. Founded in 1970, NRDC today has 1.  (NRDC NRDC Natural Resources Defense Council
NRDC National Research and Development Centre (Institute of Education, London)
NRDC National Realty & Development Corp.
) hosted a well-attended press conference in nearby Santa Monica, featuring actor Pierce Brosnan, several scientists, NRDC attorney Joel Reynolds and a tape of ocean explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau opposing LFAS.

Acoustician ac·ous·ti·cian  
A specialist in acoustics.

Noun 1. acoustician - a physicist who specializes in acoustics
physicist - a scientist trained in physics
 Michael Stocker played a tape recording of an LFAS burst that rattled teeth throughout the room. Stocker pointed out that the sound merely simulated the impact of the blast five miles from the LFAS source. Any attempt to approximate the acoustic effect closer than five miles would destroy his equipment! On some local stations, Brosnan and the LFAS story led the evening news.

At 4 p.m., IMMP joined the LA-based group Eco-Link for a protest in front of the Renaissance Hotel, site of the NMFS hearings. Mark Berman brought out IMMP'S inflatable blue dolphin, restraining it in the ocean breeze. The demo got lots of supportive honks from passing drivers, and the hotel even joined in, dispatching a table and waiter to the sidewalk to serve cookies and punch.

More than 200 people attended the packed hearing. The Navy's Joseph Johnson led the evening with a (very misleading) 15-minute slide show. Johnson insisted very defensively that the LFAS would not harm marine mammals. The audience did not buy it. Virtually the entire audience wore IMMP's "Stop Navy Soundblasting" buttons.

Brosnan lead the public portion of the heating along with the NRDC, which made a strong case against issuing a permit to deploy the LFAS. Representatives from IMMP, Defenders of Wildlife Defenders of Wildlife is non-profit 501(c)(3) organization founded in 1947 out of concern for perceived cruelties of the use of steel-jawed leghold traps for trapping fur-bearing animals. , Sierra Club Sierra Club, national organization in the United States dedicated to the preservation and expansion of the world's parks, wildlife, and wilderness areas. Founded (1892) in California by a group led by the Scottish-American conservationist John Muir, the Sierra Club  Angeles Chapter, El Dorado Audubon, BayKeeper, American Cetacean cetacean

Any of the exclusively aquatic placental mammals constituting the order Cetacea. They are found in oceans worldwide and in some freshwater environments. Modern cetaceans are grouped in two suborders: about 70 species of toothed whales (Odontoceti) and 13 species of
 Society, Whaleman Foundation, Heal the Bay Heal the Bay is a U.S. environmental advocacy non-profit organization based in Santa Monica, California.

Heal the Bay is dedicated to protecting California's Santa Monica Bay, a region of the Pacific coast encompassed by Malibu's Point Dume on the north and the Palos Verdes
, Stop LFAS, and Council for a Living Ocean, among others, then presented their case. The room exploded with applause after every speaker.

The hearing officers were handed an antisonar letter signed by musicians Jackson Brown, Bonnie Raitt, Graham Nash and the Indigo Girls. Diana Mann of Eco-Link joined a group of Girl Scouts who read letters asking the delighted crowd to save the whales.

Towards the end, one speaker, who identified himself as a career Navy man, said he had come to the hearing planning to defend the Navy. Having heard the testimony, however, he had now decided that the people were right, and that "we should find some other way to protect ourselves from submarines, and leave the whales in peace."

Michael Stocker again set off his LFAS simulator through the hall. Not one person spoke in favor of the LFAS proposal.

A similar hearing in Honolulu, Hawai'i, on April 28 drew more than 50 speakers opposed to LFAS. A representative from US Congressmember Patsy Mink's (D-HI) office spoke out against the issuance of the permit. When the NMFS attempted to block testimony about the human consequences of using LFAS and its effects on divers, attorney Lanny Sinkin (who has spearheaded lawsuits with IMMP and other groups to block LFAS testing in Hawai'i) counterattacked: Had not the Navy itself, he asked, used studies on humans to justify the "safety" of LFAS?

A final hearing was held on May 3, in Silver Spring, Maryland Not to be confused with Silver Springs.
Silver Spring is an urbanized, unincorporated area in Montgomery County, Maryland, USA. After Baltimore and Columbia, Silver Spring is the third most populous Census Designated Place in Maryland.
, near Washington DC. For a second time, NMFS officials tried to block a simulation of the LFAS sound signal, but IMMP's Mac Hawley held his ground. He rattled the hearing room with the noise -- at a mere fraction of its power -- to demonstrate just how loud the LFAS signal will be through the world's oceans.

NMFS will be assessing public comments on the Navy's LFAS this summer. It is expected to decide by late summer or early fall whether to issue the requested permit. If NMFS bows to the Navy's political clout, IMMP and other groups will challenge the permit in court and in Congress.

"LFAS has the potential to deafen deaf·en
To make deaf, especially momentarily by a loud noise.

v to make deaf; to cause the loss of all usable hearing.
 every marine mammal on Earth," says IMMP Director David Phillips. "We cannot allow the Navy to go forward with deployment of this unnecessary sound-blasting of the oceans. Other technologies are available to achieve the goal of detection of submarines without destroying life in the oceans."

What You Can Do Urge your representatives [House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515; Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510] to oppose the LFAS. Also contact: George W. Bush [The White House, Washington, DC 20500], Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld [US Dept. of Defense, 1000 Defense, The Pentagon, Washington, DC 20301] and Secretary for the Navy, Robert R. England, [The Pentagon, Washington, DC 20350]. For further information, contact IMMP [300 Broadway, Suite 28, San Francisco, CA 94133; (415) 788-3666;].
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Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Article Details
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Author:Palmer, Mark J.
Publication:Earth Island Journal
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 22, 2001
Previous Article:Robo-Willy.
Next Article:Correction.

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