The core mission of the United States Navy is to meet America’s global security commitments at sea. In order to do this they are continuously carrying out tests and training, in the major water bodies surrounding the country. These include using sonar technology and carefully monitored underwater explosions. The effects of these tests on marine life are still not completely understood. In order to ensure that the animals are being protected as well as possible the US Navy monitors and reports conditions that might affect them, following guidelines which are outlined under the Endangered Species and the Marine Mammal Protection Acts.
The Navy forms partnerships with other agencies, universities and private companies in order to get the best results. Together they conduct research which shows them the most efficient way to monitor and protect marine life. Many of the scientists are civilian employees, even though the projects that they work on are funded by the Navy. All the findings are reviewed by leaders in the field to determine how accurate they are, before the results are published.
The program that the US Navy has put in place to minimise the harm of at sea training and testing, is the Marine Mammal Research Program. In order to fulfil this objective, the program is divided into 4 main areas of study which work together to determine the possible effects on marine mammals.
- Marine Mammal Ecology and Population Dynamics.
This team’s main objectives are to determine the number of species that are located in areas that the navy conducts training. In addition, it aims to understand their seasonal distribution and unique behaviours.
- Criteria and Thresholds to Measure the Effects of Navy Generated Sounds.
This area is responsible for concluding what the effects of sound are on the animals’ behaviour, including both manmade and natural noises. The main concern is that the mid-frequency sonar does not reach levels that might affect any of the mammals.
- Improving Monitoring Techniques
Properly monitoring a species is the best way to determine how to provide the safest possible environment for them. This department spends most of its time trying to decide what the best way to observe, detect and classify marine life is, in order to help them as much as possible.
- Sound Field Characterization
Directly concerned with the results of their sonar experiments, this branch is tasked with developing protocols and models to predict how the sounds will spread in water.
The US Navy has already committed to continuing its research and monitoring of the animals throughout the next decade. This will allow the Navy to meet its national security requirements, by protecting the US as well as our beautiful marine mammals.