Many of you have written to your Congressional Representatives expressing your
concern about the Navy's use of LFAS. Many representatives then wrote to the Navy
asking for more information about this topic. Captain S. C. Miller, III, Head of the
Undersea Surveillance (N474) replied to the congressional inquiries with a tremendous
amount of misinformation. Below, we have provided Captain Miller's statements to your
elected representatives, and the facts.
Quotes from the Navy's Head of Undersea Surveillance Concerning LFAS:
Navy Statement 1- "The Navy is committed to operating this system in an
environmentally responsible manner."
- Fact - From 1980 to 1995 the Navy developed and tested LFAS without obeying any of the applicable environmental laws. (National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered
Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and the Coastal Zone Management Act.)
- Fact - While the Navy was illegally developing and testing LFAS, they were also
building a ship (TAGOS-23) estimated cost $60 million to deploy the sonar.
- Fact - In 1995, the Navy agreed to comply with federal laws and prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) prior to final deployment of the system only after pressure from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
Navy Statement 2 - "Prior to preparing the Draft Environmental Impact Statement
(DEIS) covering proposed system operation, the Navy sponsored an extensive Scientific
Research Program (SRP) to specifically evaluate any potential effects."
- Fact -This SRP tested LFAS on only 4 species of cetaceans (out of over 30) for about one month each in only 3 geographical areas.
- Fact - This SRP tested LFAS at an acoustic intensity at least 5,000 times lower than the Navy's planned deployment levels.
- Fact - After testing LFAS for only one month the impact on long term reproductive rates of whales, dolphins, fish and all marine life are not known.
- Fact - The Marine Mammal Commission, (a federal agency created to help protect marine mammals), expressed grave concerns in their 1997 annual report to Congress about the effects of the sonar on whales and other marine life. Specifically their report states:
"If the LFA system were made available for worldwide use as proposed, all species and
populations of marine mammals including those listed as endangered and threatened under the
Endangered Species Act possibly could be affected."
The report continues to explain that the possible effects on marine mammals could
- death from trauma
- hearing loss
- disruption of feeding, nursing, sensing and communication
- abandonment of traditional feeding and breeding habitants
- stress (making animals more vulnerable to disease and predation)
- changes in distribution and abundance of important marine mammal prey species
- subsequent decreases in marine mammal survival and productivity
Navy Statement 3 - "LFA Sonar has been thoroughly tested by not only Navy scientists, but independent marine biologists as well."
- Fact - All the Navy's LFAS tests were conducted by scientists paid by the Navy.
- Fact - There was no testing done by independent marine biologists.
- Fact - Disturbing reports from an independent experienced research team were ignored by the Navy and National Marine Fisheries Service. (The Ocean Mammal Institute (OMI) sent an experienced research team to observe the LFAS test area in Hawaii in March 1998. The Navy consistently ignored OMI's report of an agitated, lone humpback whale calf
observed in the LFAS test area on March 9, 1998.)
Navy Statement 4 - "The marine biologists conducting SRP Phase 1 with blue and fin whales off the coast of Southern California in September-October 1997 observed no decrease in whale vocalizations and saw no pronounced disruption of feeding behavior from whales exposed to received levels from 110 to 153 dB. The disruption of fin and blue whales appeared to be more influenced by the disruption of prey than the SRP sonar sound transmissions."
- Fact - Figure 28 in the Quicklook for Phase 1 Testing written by the Navy's hired scientist, Dr. Christopher Clark indicates that blue whales decreased their vocalizations by about 50% and fin whales decreased by about 30% when the LFA sonar sound was on.
Navy Statement 5 - "There are no data or information that substantiate the allegations that SRP Phase III testing off the Kona coast of Hawaii in March 1998 led to abandoned calves in the sonar test area."
- Fact - During the testing period the OMI research team documented an abandoned humpback whale calf displaying agitated behavior in the sonar test area. (This calf breached (jumped out of the water) a total of 230 times during a four-hour time frame. The calf also slapped its pectoral fin on the water 671 times during this same observation period)
- Fact - In violation of the NMFS permit requirements, the LFAS testing was not stopped after the highly agitated behavior of an abandoned calf was reported. (After observing this highly agitated behavior of the calf noted above, the OMI research team immediately contacted the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in Honolulu. NMFS is the governmental body that granted the research permit to Dr. Christopher Clark and other scientists to conduct the LFAS tests for the Navy.
NMFS was contacted because the testing permit application prepared for NMFS by the scientists hired by the Navy clearly stated:
"Once transmissions have commenced they will be suspended if an animal is observed
demonstrating acute stress or significant behavioral modifications. Examples of such stress or behavior modification include unusual, repeated or prolonged activity such as vocalizations, blowing, breaching, time on surface, as well as potential injurious activity such as charging the sound source vessel or other nearby animals."
- Fact - Navy's scientists refer to this abandoned calf in their own research
report. (Page 25 and 26 of the Hawaii Quicklook state, "This would be a highly unusual
event under normal conditions . .")
- Fact - The OMI research team and other individuals also observed an abandoned
spinner dolphin calf in the LFAS test area during the testing period.
- Fact - Several Honolulu newspapers had photographs of a third abandoned calf,
a melon headed whale calf found in the sonar test area a few days after LFAS testing
stopped. The calf was very dehydrated and was taken to a Sea Life Park in Honolulu.
- Fact - Lone cetacean calves are extremely rare. (Finding three in the small
LFAS test area in a 30-day period suggests that LFAS may disorient whales and /or disrupt
the mother-calf bond. Common sense would tell us to look more closely at a situation when
three lone calves appear in a small area in a 30-day time period.)
Navy Statement 6 - "There are no data or information that substantiate the allegations that SRP Phase III testing off the Kona coast of Hawaii in March 1998 led to whales leaving the test area."
- Fact - Testimony from whale-watch boat captains, an aerial survey done by OMI and data collected by the Navy's shore-based research team all indicate that whales left the LFAS test area during the testing.
- Fact - OMI experienced personnel (who also conduct surveys for the Navy at times) conducted an aerial survey of whales around the Big Island during the LFAS test period and found no whales around and just north of Keohole Point. (This is the area which was defined by the Navy as the northern area where the LFAS test sound would have the highest impact reaching shore. OMI's aerial survey team did, however, see whales just south and north of this prime sonar impact area.)
- Fact - Aerial surveys done around the Big Island in March, 1993 and March, 1995 when there was no LFAS testing showed that the largest concentration of whales was around and just north of Keohole Point. (The same area that was devoid of whales in 1998.)
- Fact - One Kona whalewatch company suspended operations one month earlier than usual because they hadn't seen a whale for 5 days in late March, 1998.
- Fact - The Navy's shore-based research team counted significantly fewer whales after March 18, 1998 than during that time period in previous years when the sonar was not being tested.
Navy Statement 7 - "There are no data or information that substantiate the allegations that SRP Phase III testing off the Kona coast of Hawaii in March 1998 led to an 80% reduction in humpback whale singing during tests."
- Fact - Page 21 of the Hawaii Quicklook, a report on the Hawaii LFAS test results prepared by the Navy's hired scientists, Dr.'s Clark and Tyack, report that 10 out of 17 humpback whales tested stopped singing when exposed to LFAS. (This means 80% of the tested whales stopped singing.)
Navy Statement 8 - "There is no evidence whatsoever that there were any mass strandings near Navy test sites, nor even the remotest indication that SRP testing could be correlated with any strandings."
- Fact - In 1991 Nature (the prestigious British science journal) published an article linking three strandings of beaked whales in the Canary Islands to visible U.S. Navy maneuvers in 1985, 1988 and 1989. These were the only times that whales stranded in the Canary Islands.
- Fact - LFAS tests in 1997 and 1998 were not correlated with specific strandings. But these tests were conducted at levels of acoustic intensity 5,000 times lower than the actual sonar.
- Fact - In 1998 Nature published a letter by Dr. Alexandros Frantzis in which he discussed a highly unusual stranding of Curvier beaked whales off the coast of Greece in 1996. Dr. Frantzis correlated the stranding with trials of LFAS from a NATO research vessel, "Alliance". According to the official NATO report on this stranding, these whales were exposed to 150-160 dB of LFAS.
- Fact - By not mentioning this unusual, and highly relevant beaked whale stranding during NATO trails in 1996 in their Draft EIS the Navy may have violated the National Environmental Policy Act. (This Act says you cannot ignore relevant data in an EIS).
- Fact - There is evidence that a stranding of beaked whales in the Caribbean in October 1999 may have been the result of LFAS. (People in the water, including a scientist conducting research, heard the loud sounds.)
- Fact - July and early August 1998 a beaked and sperm whale stranded on Kauai while the Navy was engaged in maneuvers in Hawaii. (RIMPAC 1998)
Navy Statement 9 - "Some of the world's most qualified specialists in marine biology, and baleen whales in particular, oversaw the SRP experiments. These experts felt that these levels were sufficient to allow extrapolation of results to determine the potential for the onset of nonserious injury."
- Fact - The tests done in Hawaii were at 5,000 times less acoustic intensity than the planned deployment levels stated in the DEIS.
- Fact - The Hawaii Quicklook, authored by Dr.'s Clark and Tyack, on page 5 state, "these tests did not use the full source level of LFA."
- Fact - This contradicts the Navy's own hired scientists. In the Executive Summary of the Hawaii Quicklook, Dr.'s Clark and Tyack say, "...it will be difficult to extrapolate from these results to predict responses at higher exposure levels." They are saying that it will be difficult to predict effects at levels higher than the test levels used in Hawaii.
- Fact - The Navy is planning to test LFAS on beaked and sperm whales in the summer of 2000 in the Azores if they get the required permits. (Why retest if the previous testing was adequate?)
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