Your Navy

Want to tell the Navy what you think about future exercises in the Gulf of Alaska?

JUNEAU, Alaska — The U.S. Navy will collect public comment about its proposal for permits to again use the Gulf of Alaska for training exercises, a spokeswoman said.

"Any time the Navy wants to do any sort of action, they have to go through an Environmental Impact Statement," said Julianne Stanford of Navy Region Northwest.

Exercise Northern Edge is a major Army, Navy and Air Force exercise held every two years across Alaska, the Juneau Empire reported.

The aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt and its escorts took part in exercises last year.

The public in the past has expressed concern about Navy sonar and explosive ordnance disturbing marine life.

The environmental review, Stanford said, is about hearing concerns so that the Navy can avoid negatively affecting marine mammals such as humpback whales, gray whales and Steller sea lions.

Steller sea lion pups on Gillon Point, Agattu Island, one of the Alaskan locations where the Marine Mammal Lab has remote cameras to monitor populations of the largest of the
Steller sea lion pups on Gillon Point, Agattu Island, one of the Alaskan locations where the Marine Mammal Lab has remote cameras to monitor populations of the largest of the "eared seals," which have been declining. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries)

The Gulf of Alaska has been a training ground for more than three decades, Stanford said, and best practices have been put in place to minimize disruptions.

The Navy and regulatory agencies have not noted changes in marine mammals numbers in training areas, she said.

“The Navy has developed numerous mitigations that include navigating away from marine mammals, implementing exclusion zones to cease activities or power down and shut down equipment if marine mammals are in proximity to training,” Stanford said.

A right whale mom and her calf. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)
Navy will help save right whales

Starting in mid-November, the Navy will expand areas off the East Coast where it limits the use of sonar and explosives. It also will broadcast more information on sightings to prevent military and commercial ships from striking right whales.

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