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USS Dewey and USS Cape St. George Step Up for Groundbreaking Marine Mammal Research

By Rear Adm. Kevin Slates
Director, Energy and Environmental Readiness Division

As you may have read in a recent article, a Navy-funded research team worked with the USS Dewey (DDG 105) and USS Cape St. George (CG 71) to safely conduct sound exposure studies on marine mammals on the Southern California Offshore Range in July. The researchers temporarily attached data tags to six marine mammals (two blue whales, two Risso’s dolphins, a fin whale and a Cuvier’s beaked whale) and conducted a series of successful sound exposures using mid-frequency active sonar signals from the ships.

Ari Friedlaender, a Duke University researcher, tags a blue whale with a data tag during a Navy-funded behavioral response study off Southern California, Aug. 28, 2010. The research teams tagged six marine mammals and monitored the animals' responses to sonar transmissions from the guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey (DDG 105) and the guided-missile cruiser USS Cape St. George (CG 71). (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Cascadia Research by John Calambokidis/Released)
Ari Friedlaender, a Duke University researcher, tags a blue whale with a data tag during a Navy-funded behavioral response study off Southern California, Aug. 28, 2010. The research teams tagged six marine mammals and monitored the animals’ responses to sonar transmissions from the guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey (DDG 105) and the guided-missile cruiser USS Cape St. George (CG 71). (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Cascadia Research by John Calambokidis/Released)

 

This was the first time our tactical sonar has been used for this type of controlled exposure behavior test. While we should be cautious and avoid drawing broad-sweeping conclusions from these individual studies based on the small sample sizes involved,

we are optimistic that data from this type of study, in combination with other research, will help us to better understand our potential impacts on marine life.

We are currently working with environmental regulatory agencies to renew Marine Mammal Protection Act and Endangered Species Act authorizations for our vital training and testing activities off the east and west coasts, in the Gulf of Mexico, and around Hawaii. As a condition of those permits, data from these and other studies will be considered as part of our ongoing adaptive management process with the National Marine Fisheries Service.

As I discussed in a previous blog this summer,

the Navy strives to be a responsible steward of the environment in all that we do.

In addition to protecting marine life through this permitting process and our at-sea protective measures, we commit millions in funding annually to marine mammal research (like these studies); conserve threatened or endangered species and their habitats on and around our installations and land-based training areas; clean up past disposal areas; and safely manage oil, plastics and other materials at sea to protect the oceans.

Great job to the research team — and the commanding officers and crews of Dewey and Cape St. George, who went above and beyond to assist with these projects — for helping to advance marine mammal science in this area and demonstrating our strong environmental commitment as we pursue our national security mission.

For more details on the studies, read U.S. Navy Ships Participate in Marine Mammal Studies.

For more information about the Navy’s environmental stewardship initiatives, please visit the Department of the Navy’s Energy, Environment and Climate Change website.

What do you think? Let us know by commenting below.

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