02 June 2005

Sub SONAR and the Environment

I am not going to try and make a case that submarines are environmentally friendly. As one of the left-leaning members of my old wardroom once said, “It is hard to feel like an environmentalist when you pump aft bilge to sea.” However, some of the claims aimed at subs by enviro-folks are just downright silly. The NRDC is making noise again about Naval SONAR, and when they talk about it, they include -all- SONAR, including subs.

The NRDC states that, “The Navy's mid-frequency, active sonar systems generate sound of extreme intensity to locate objects in the ocean. Marine mammals have extraordinarily sensitive hearing, and there is no scientific dispute that intense sonar blasts can disturb, injure, and even kill them, according to NRDC.

Actually, they are confused. The SONAR that has been proven to be truly dangerous is Low Freq, such as is used on SURTASS ships. Mid Freq, such as what is used on surface cans and subs, has more mixed results. At the powers subs use it at, well, we have all seen dolphins jumping in front of our bow, I am sure. I have seen them do it while going active for reduced vis. Our power range is not harmful, as we have shown in numerous Environmental Analyses that we are required to conduct prior to any SONAR testing.

The NRDC’s Michael Jasny, a senior policy consultant (so how much does he know about SONAR in particular, I don’t know) states, “Whales exposed to high-intensity sonar have been found bleeding from the eyes and ears, with lesions the size of golf balls in their organ tissue.

Sad, and true – but these were LFA (Low Freq. Active) cases. In general, the Navy sticks to MFA (Mid Freq. Active).

Now, the general thrust of this new push by the NRDC is to get documents from The National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Department of Commerce. They are asking for “thousands of pages of documents.” How well funded is the Fisheries Service? Not well, I am thinking. Have they managed to finish all their documentation, much less collate it all for the NRDC? They are probably rather manpower limited. But no, it is a coverup. *sigh*


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