Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Navy Research, Development, Test and Evaluation Activities at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division, 34047-34069 [2013-13340]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 109 / Thursday, June 6, 2013 / Notices invited to attend and participate with oral or written statements regarding agenda issues. Special Accommodations This meeting is physically accessible to people with disabilities. For more information or request for sign language interpretation and/other auxiliary aids, ´ please contact Mr. Miguel A. Rolon, Executive Director, Caribbean Fishery ˜ Management Council, 270 Munoz Rivera Avenue, Suite 401, San Juan, Puerto Rico, 00918, telephone: (787) 766–5926, at least 5 days prior to the meeting date. Dated: May 31, 2013. Tracey L. Thompson, Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2013–13369 Filed 6–5–13; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XC497 Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Navy Research, Development, Test and Evaluation Activities at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; proposed Incidental Harassment Authorization; request for comments. AGENCY: NMFS has received an application from the U.S. Navy (Navy) for an Incidental Harassment Authorization (IHA) to take marine mammals, by harassment, incidental to conducting research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E) activities at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division (NSWC PCD). Pursuant to the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), NMFS is requesting comments on its proposal to issue an IHA to the Navy to incidentally harass, by Level B harassment only, 6 species of marine mammals during the specified activity. DATES: Comments and information must be received no later than July 8, 2013. ADDRESSES: Comments on the application should be addressed to P. Michael Payne, Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910. The mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:35 Jun 05, 2013 Jkt 229001 mailbox address for providing email comments is ITP.Goldstein@noaa.gov. NMFS is not responsible for email comments sent to addresses other than the one provided here. Comments sent via email, including all attachments, must not exceed a 10-megabyte file size. Instructions: All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted to https:// www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/ incidental.htm without change. All Personal Identifying Information (for example, name, address, etc.) voluntarily submitted by the commenter may be publicly accessible. Do not submit Confidential Business Information or otherwise sensitive or protected information. A copy of the application containing a list of the references used in this document may be obtained by writing to the address specified above, telephoning the contact listed below (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT), or visiting the internet at: https:// www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/ incidental.htm#applications. The Navy has prepared an ‘‘Overseas Environmental Assessment Testing the An/AQS–20A Mine Reconnaissance Sonar System in the NSWC PCD Testing Range, 2012–2014,’’ which is also available at the same internet address. NMFS has prepared an ‘‘Environmental Assessment for the Issuance of an Incidental Harassment Authorization to Take Marine Mammals by Harassment Incidental to Conducing HighFrequency Sonar Testing Activities in the Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division’’ and signed a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) on July 24, 2012, prior to the issuance of the IHA for the Navy’s activities in July 2012 to July 2013. This notice and the documents it references provide all relevant environmental information and issues related to the Navy’s activities and the proposed IHA. NMFS is soliciting comments which it will consider in determining whether to supplement the original EA and reaffirm the FONSI before making a final determination on the IHA. Documents cited in this notice may also be viewed, by appointment, during regular business hours, at the aforementioned address. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Howard Goldstein or Jolie Harrison, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, 301–427–8401. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background Sections 101(a)(5)(A) and (D) of the MMPA, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1361(a)(5)(D)), direct the Secretary of PO 00000 Frm 00017 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 34047 Commerce (Secretary) to authorize, upon request, the incidental, but not intentional taking of small numbers of marine mammals by U.S. citizens who engage in a specified activity (other than commercial fishing) if certain findings are made and, if the taking is limited to harassment, a notice of a proposed authorization is provided to the public for review. Authorization for incidental taking of marine mammals shall be granted if NMFS finds that the taking will have a negligible impact on the species or stock(s), will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of the species or stock(s) for subsistence uses (where relevant). The authorization must set forth the permissible methods of taking and requirements pertaining to the mitigation, monitoring and reporting of such takings. NMFS has defined ‘‘negligible impact’’ in 50 CFR 216.103 as: ‘‘. . . an impact resulting from the specified activity that cannot be reasonably expected to, and is not reasonably likely to, adversely affect the species or stock through effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival.’’ The National Defense Authorization Act of 2004 (NDAA) (Pub. L. 108–136) removed the ‘‘small numbers’’ and ‘‘specified geographical region’’ limitations and amended the definition of ‘‘harassment’’ as it applies to a ‘‘military readiness activity’’ to read as follows (Section 3(18)(B) of the MMPA): (i) Any act that injures or has the significant potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild [Level A harassment]; or (ii) Any act that disturbs or is likely to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of natural behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, surfacing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering, to a point where such behavioral patterns are abandoned or significantly altered [Level B harassment]. Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA established an expedited process by which citizens of the United States can apply for an authorization to incidentally take small numbers of marine mammals by harassment. Section 101(a)(5)(D) establishes a 45-day time limit for NMFS’s review of an application followed by a 30-day public notice and comment period on any proposed authorizations for the incidental harassment of marine mammals. Within 45 days of the close of the public comment period, NMFS must either issue or deny the authorization. E:\FR\FM\06JNN1.SGM 06JNN1 34048 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 109 / Thursday, June 6, 2013 / Notices Summary of Request On November 26, 2012, NMFS received an application from the Navy requesting that NMFS issue an IHA for the take, by Level B harassment only, of marine mammals incidental to conducting testing of the AN/AQS–20A Mine Reconnaissance Sonar System (hereafter referred to as the Q–20) in the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Panama City Division (NSWC PCD) testing range in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) from July, 2013 through July, 2014. The Q–20 sonar test activities are proposed to be conducted within the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) seaward of the territorial waters of the United States (beyond 22.2 kilometers [km] or 12 nautical miles [nmi]) in the GOM (see Figure 2–1 of the Navy IHA application). mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Description of the Proposed Specific Activity The purpose of the Navy’s activities is to meet the developmental testing requirements of the Q–20 sonar system by verifying its performance in a realistic ocean and threat environment and supporting its integration with the Remote Multi-Mission Vehicle (RMMV), and ultimately the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). Testing would include component, subsystem-level, and fullscale system testing in an operational environment. The need for the proposed activities is to support the timely deployment of the Q–20 to the operational Navy for Mine Countermeasure (MCM) activities abroad, allowing the Navy to meet its statutory mission to deploy naval forces equipped and trained to meet existing and emergent threats worldwide and to enhance its ability to operate jointly with other components of the armed forces. Testing would include component, sub-system level, and fullscale system testing in the operational environment. The proposed activities are to test the Q–20 from the RMMV and from surrogate platforms such as a small surface vessel or helicopter. The RMMV or surrogate platforms will be deployed from the Navy’s new LCS or its surrogates. The Navy is evaluating potential environmental effects associated with the Q–20 test activities proposed for the Q–20 Study Area (see below for detailed description of the Study Area), which includes nonterritorial waters of Military Warning Area 151 (W–151; includes Panama City Operating Area [OPAREA]). Q–20 test activities occur at sea in the waters present within the Q–20 study area and do not involve any land-based facilities. VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:35 Jun 05, 2013 Jkt 229001 No hazardous waste is generated at sea during Q–20 test activities. There are two components associated with the Q– 20 test activities, which are addressed below: Surface Operations A significant portion of Q–20 test activities rely on surface operations (i.e., naval and contracted vessels, towed bodies, etc.) to successfully complete the missions. The proposed action includes up to 42 testing events lasting no more than 10 hours each (420 hours cumulatively) of surface operations during active sonar testing per year in the Q–20 study area. Other surface operations occur when sonar is not active. Three subcategories make up surface operations: Support activities; tows; and vessel activity during deployment and recovery of equipment. Testing requiring surface operations may include a single test event (one day of activity) or a series of test events spread out over several days. The size of the surface vessels varies in accordance with the test requirements and vessel availability. Often multiple surface craft are required to support a single test event. The first subcategory of surface operations is support activities that are required by nearly all of the Q–20 test missions within the Q–20 study area. These surface vessels serve as support platforms for testing and would be utilized to carry test equipment and personnel to and from the test sites, and are also used to secure and monitor the designated test area. Normally, these vessels remain on site and return to port following the completion of the test event; occasionally; however, they occasionally remain on station throughout the duration of the test cycle (a maximum of 10 hours of sonar per day) for guarding sensitive equipment in the water. Additional surface operations include tows, and vessel activity during deployment and recovery of equipment. Tows involve either transporting the system to the designated test area where it is deployed and towed over a prepositioned inert minefield or towing the system from shore-based facilities for operation in the designated test area. Surface vessels are also used to perform the deployment and recovery of the RMMV, mine-like objects, and other test systems. Surface vessels that are used in this manner normally return to port the same day. However, this is test dependent, and under certain circumstance the surface vessel may be required to remain on site for an extended period of time. PO 00000 Frm 00018 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Sonar Operations For the proposed action, the Navy would test the Q–20 for up to 420 hours of active sonar use for 12 months starting in July, 2013. Q–20 sonar operations involve the testing of various sonar systems at sea as a means of demonstrating the systems’ software capability to detect, locate, and characterize mine-like objects under various environmental conditions. The data collected are used to validate the sonar systems’ effectiveness and capability to meet its mission. As sound travels through water, it creates a series of pressure disturbances (see Appendix C of the IHA application). Frequency is the number of complete cycles a sound or pressure wave occurs per unit of time (measured in cycles per second, or Hertz (Hz)). The Navy has characterized low-, mid-, or high-frequency active sonars as follows: • Low-frequency active sonar (LFAS)—Below 1 kilohertz (kHz) (lowfrequency sound sources will not be used during any Q–20 test operations) • Mid-frequency active sonar (LFAS)—From 1 to 10 kHz (midfrequency source sources will not be used during any Q–20 test operations) • High-frequency active sonar (HFAS)—Above 10 kHz (only highfrequency sound sources would be used during Q–20 test operations) The Q–20 sonar systems proposed to be tested within the Q–20 study area ranges in frequencies from 35 kHz to greater than 200 kHz, therefore, these are HFAS systems. Those systems that operate at very high frequencies (i.e., greater than 200 kHz), well above the hearing sensitivities of any marine mammals, are not considered to affect marine mammals. Therefore, they are not included in this document. The source levels associated with Q–20 sonar systems that could affect marine mammals range from 207 decibels (dB) re 1 micro pascal (mPa) at 1 meter (m) to 212 dB re 1 mPa at 1 m. Operating parameters of the Q–20 sonar systems can be found in Appendix A, ‘‘Supplemental Information for Underwater Noise Analysis’’ of the Navy’s IHA application. A Brief Background on Sound An understanding of the basic properties of underwater sound is necessary to comprehend many of the concepts and analyses presented in this document. A summary is included below. Sound is a wave of pressure variations propagating through a medium (for the sonar considered in this proposed rule, the medium is marine water). Pressure E:\FR\FM\06JNN1.SGM 06JNN1 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 109 / Thursday, June 6, 2013 / Notices variations are created by compressing and relaxing the medium. Sound measurements can be expressed in two forms: intensity and pressure. Acoustic intensity is the average rate of energy transmitted through a unit area in a specified direction and is expressed in watts per square meter (W/m2). Acoustic intensity is rarely measured directly, it is derived from ratios of pressures; the standard reference pressure for underwater sound is 1 mPa; for airborne sound, the standard reference pressure is 20 mPa (Urick, 1983). Acousticians have adopted a logarithmic scale for sound intensities, which is denoted in decibels (dB). Decibel measurements represent the ratio between a measured pressure value and a reference pressure value (in this case 1 mPa or, for airborne sound, 20 mPa). The logarithmic nature of the scale means that each 10 dB increase is a tenfold increase in power (e.g., 20 dB is a 100-fold increase, 30 dB is a 1,000-fold increase). Humans perceive a 10-dB increase in noise as a doubling of sound level, or a 10 dB decrease in noise as a halving of the sound level. The term ‘‘sound pressure level’’ implies a decibel measure and a reference pressure that is used as the denominator of the ratio. Throughout this document, NMFS uses 1 mPa as a standard reference pressure unless noted otherwise. It is important to note that decibels underwater and decibels in air are not the same and cannot be directly compared. To estimate a comparison between sound in air and underwater, because of the different densities of air and water and the different decibel standards (i.e., reference pressures) in water and air, a sound with the same intensity (i.e., power) in air and in water would be approximately 63 dB lower in air. Thus, a sound that is 160 dB loud underwater would have the same approximate effective intensity as a sound that is 97 dB loud in air. Sound frequency is measured in cycles per second, or Hertz (abbreviated Hz), and is analogous to musical pitch; high-pitched sounds contain high frequencies and low-pitched sounds contain low frequencies. Natural sounds in the ocean span a huge range of frequencies: from earthquake noise at 5 Hz to harbor porpoise clicks at 150,000 Hz (150 kHz). These sounds are so low or so high in pitch that humans cannot even hear them; acousticians call these infrasonic and ultrasonic sounds, respectively. A single sound may be made up of many different frequencies together. Sounds made up of only a small range of frequencies are called ‘‘narrowband,’’ and sounds with a broad VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:35 Jun 05, 2013 Jkt 229001 range of frequencies are called ‘‘broadband;’’ airguns are an example of a broadband sound source and tactical sonars are an example of a narrowband sound source. When considering the influence of various kinds of sound on the marine environment, it is necessary to understand that different kinds of marine life are sensitive to different frequencies of sound. Based on available behavioral data, audiograms derived using auditory evoked potential, anatomical modeling, and other data, Southall et al. (2007) designate ‘‘functional hearing groups’’ and estimate the lower and upper frequencies of functional hearing of the groups. Further, the frequency range in which each group’s hearing is estimated as being most sensitive is represented in the flat part of the M-weighting functions developed for each group. The functional groups and the associated frequencies are indicated below: • Low-frequency cetaceans (13 species of mysticetes): Functional hearing is estimated to occur between approximately 7 Hz and 22 kHz. • Mid-frequency cetaceans (32 species of dolphins, six species of larger toothed whales, and 19 species of beaked and bottlenose whales): Functional hearing is estimated to occur between approximately 150 Hz and 160 kHz. • High-frequency cetaceans (eight species of true porpoises, six species of river dolphins, Kogia, the franciscana, and four species of cephalorhynchids): Functional hearing is estimated to occur between approximately 200 Hz and 180 kHz. • Pinnipeds in Water: Functional hearing is estimated to occur between approximately 75 Hz and 75 kHz, with the greatest sensitivity between approximately 700 Hz and 20 kHz. • Pinnipeds in Air: Functional hearing is estimated to occur between approximately 75 Hz and 30 kHz. Because ears adapted to function underwater are physiologically different from human ears, comparisons using decibel measurements in air would still not be adequate to describe the effects of a sound on a whale. When sound travels away from its source, its loudness decreases as the distance traveled (propagates) by the sound increases. Thus, the loudness of a sound at its source is higher than the loudness of that same sound a kilometer distant. Acousticians often refer to the loudness of a sound at its source (typically measured one meter from the source) as the source level and the loudness of sound elsewhere as the received level. For example, a humpback whale three PO 00000 Frm 00019 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 34049 kilometers from an airgun that has a source level of 230 dB may only be exposed to sound that is 160 dB loud, depending on how the sound propagates. As a result, it is important not to confuse source levels and received levels when discussing the loudness of sound in the ocean. As sound travels from a source, its propagation in water is influenced by various physical characteristics, including water temperature, depth, salinity, and surface and bottom properties that cause refraction, reflection, absorption, and scattering of sound waves. Oceans are not homogeneous and the contribution of each of these individual factors is extremely complex and interrelated. The physical characteristics that determine the sound’s speed through the water will change with depth, season, geographic location, and with time of day (as a result, in actual sonar operations, crews will measure oceanic conditions, such as sea water temperature and depth, to calibrate models that determine the path the sonar signal will take as it travels through the ocean and how strong the sound signal will be at a given range along a particular transmission path). As sound travels through the ocean, the intensity associated with the wavefront diminishes, or attenuates. This decrease in intensity is referred to as propagation loss, also commonly called transmission loss. Metrics Used in This Document This section includes a brief explanation of the two sound measurements (sound pressure level (SPL) and sound exposure level (SEL)) frequently used in the discussions of acoustic effects in this document. Sound Pressure Level Sound pressure is the sound force per unit area, and is usually measured in microPa, where 1 Pa is the pressure resulting from a force of one newton exerted over an area of one square meter. SPL is expressed as the ratio of a measured sound pressure and a reference level. The commonly used reference pressure level in underwater acoustics is 1 mPa, and the units for SPLs are dB re: 1 mPa. SPL (in dB) = 20 log (pressure/reference pressure) SPL is an instantaneous measurement and can be expressed as the peak, the peak-peak, or the root mean square (rms). Root mean square, which is the square root of the arithmetic average of the squared instantaneous pressure values, is typically used in discussions E:\FR\FM\06JNN1.SGM 06JNN1 34050 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 109 / Thursday, June 6, 2013 / Notices of the effects of sounds on vertebrates and all references to SPL in this document refer to the root mean square. SPL does not take the duration of a sound into account. SPL is the applicable metric used in the risk continuum, which is used to estimate behavioral harassment takes (see Level B Harassment Risk Function [Behavioral Harassment] Section). • Sea heights less than 0.91 m (3 ft) during 80 percent of the time in summer and 50 percent of the time in winter (DON, 2009a). The Navy requests an IHA for a time period of one year beginning July, 27 2013. A total of 42 Q–20 (RDT&E) test days would be conducted with a maximum sonar operation of 10 hours per a test day. Sound Exposure Level Description of Marine Mammals in the Area of the Proposed Specified Activity The marine mammal species that potentially occur within the GOM include 28 species of cetaceans and one sirenian (Jefferson and Schiro, 1997; Wursig et al., 2000; see Table 1 below). In addition to the 28 species known to occur in the GOM, the long-finned pilot whale (Globicephala melas), longbeaked common dolphin (Delphinus capensis), and short-beaked common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) could potentially occur there; however, there are no confirmed sightings of these species in the GOM, they have been seen close and could eventually be found there (Wursig et al., 2000). NMFS considers it unlikely that these three species would be exposed to sound from the proposed activities and potential impacts are thus discountable. Those three species are not considered further in this document. The marine mammals that generally occur in the proposed action area belong to three taxonomic groups: mysticetes (baleen whales), odontocetes (toothed whales), and sirenians (the West Indian manatee). Of the marine mammal species that potentially occur within the GOM, 21 species of cetaceans (20 odontocetes, 1 mysticete) are routinely present and have been included in the analysis for incidental take to the proposed Q–20 testing operations. Marine mammal species listed as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA; 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), includes the North Atlantic right (Eubalaena glacialis), humpback (Megaptera novaeangliae), sei (Balaenoptera borealis), fin (Balaenoptera physalus), blue (Balaenoptera musculus), and sperm (Physeter macrocephalus) whale, as well as the West Indian (Florida) manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris). Of those endangered species, none are likely to be encountered in the proposed study area. No species of pinnipeds are known to occur regularly SEL is an energy metric that integrates the squared instantaneous sound pressure over a stated time interval. The units for SEL are dB re: 1 microPa2¥s. SEL = SPL + 10 log (duration in seconds) As applied to tactical sonar, the SEL includes both the SPL of a sonar ping and the total duration. Longer duration pings and/or pings with higher SPLs will have a higher SEL. If an animal is exposed to multiple pings, the SEL in each individual ping is summed to calculate the total SEL. The total SEL depends on the SPL, duration, and number of pings received. The thresholds that NMFS uses to indicate at what received level the onset of temporary threshold shift (TTS) and permanent threshold shift (PTS) in hearing are likely to occur are expressed in SEL. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Dates and Duration of the Proposed Specified Activity The Q–20 study area includes target and operational test fields located in W– 151, an area within the GOM subject to military operations which also encompasses the Panama City OPAREA (see Figure 2–1 of the Navy’s IHA application). The Q–20 test activities will be conducted in the non-territorial waters off the United States (beyond 22.2 km or 12 nmi) within the U.S. EEZ in the GOM. The locations and environments include: • Wide coastal shelf to 183 meters (m) [600 feet (ft)]. • Sea surface temperature range of 27 degrees Celsius (°C) [80 degrees Fahrenheit (°F)] in summer to 10 °C (50 °F) in winter. Seasons are defined as December 23 through April 2 (winter) and July 2 through September 24 (summer) (DON, 2007a). • Mostly sandy bottom and good underwater visibility. VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:35 Jun 05, 2013 Jkt 229001 PO 00000 Frm 00020 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 in the GOM and any pinniped sighted in the proposed study area would be considered extralimital. The Caribbean monk seal (Monachus tropicalis) used to inhabit the GOM, but is considered extinct and has been delisted from the ESA. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has jurisdiction and authority for managing the West Indian manatee including authorizing incidental take under both the MMPA and ESA. This species is thus not considered further in this analysis. All other referenced species are subject to NMFS’s jurisdiction and thus included in our analysis. In general, cetaceans in the GOM appear to be partitioned by habitat preferences likely related to prey distribution (Baumgartner et al., 2001). Most species in the northern GOM concentrated along the upper continental slope in or near areas of cyclonic circulation in waters 200 to 1,000 m (656.2 to 3,280.8 ft) deep. Species sighted regularly in these waters include Risso’s, rough-toothed, spinner, striped, pantropical spotted, and Clymene dolphins, as well as shortfinned pilot, pygmy and dwarf sperm, sperm, Mesoplodon beaked, and unidentified beaked whales (Davis et al., 1998). In contrast, continental shelf waters (< 200 m deep) are primarily inhabited by two species: bottlenose and Atlantic spotted dolphins (Davis et al., 2000, 2002; Mullin and Fulling, 2004). Bottlenose dolphins are also found in deeper waters (Baumgartner et al., 2001). The narrow continental shelf south of the Mississippi River delta (20 km [10.8 nmi] wide at its narrowest point) appears to be an important habitat for several cetacean species (Baumgartner et al., 2001; Davis et al., 2002). There appears to be a resident population of sperm whales within 100 km (54 nmi) of the Mississippi River delta (Davis et al., 2002). The North Atlantic right, humpback, sei, fin, blue, minke, and True’s beaked whale are considered extralimital and are excluded from further consideration of impacts from the NSWC PCD Q–20 testing analysis. Table 2 (below) presents information on the abundance, distribution, population status, conservation status, and population trend of the species of marine mammals that may occur in the proposed study area during July 2013 to July 2014. E:\FR\FM\06JNN1.SGM 06JNN1 34051 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 109 / Thursday, June 6, 2013 / Notices TABLE 2—THE HABITAT, REGIONAL ABUNDANCE, AND CONSERVATION STATUS OF MARINE MAMMALS THAT MAY OCCUR IN OR NEAR THE PROPOSED Q–20 STUDY AREA IN THE GULF OF MEXICO [See text and Table 3–1, 3–2, and 3–3 in the Navy’s application for further details] Species Population estimate 3 (minimum) Habitat ESA 1 MMPA 2 Population trend 3 Mysticetes North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis). Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae). Minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata). Bryde’s whale (Balaenoptera brydei/edeni). Sei whale (Balaenoptera borealis). Fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus). Blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus). Coastal and shelf .... Extralimital ............................... EN D ............................. Increasing. Pelagic, nearshore Rare ......................................... waters, and banks. Pelagic and coastal Rare ......................................... EN D ............................. Increasing. NL NC ........................... Pelagic and coastal 33 (16)—Northern GOM stock NL NC ........................... No information available. Unable to determine. Primarily offshore, pelagic. Continental slope, pelagic. Pelagic, shelf, coastal. Rare ......................................... EN D ............................. Unable to determine. Rare ......................................... EN D ............................. Unable to determine. Extralimital ............................... EN D ............................. Unable to determine. EN D ............................. Unable to determine. Deep waters off the shelf. 763 (560)—Northern GOM stock. 186 (90)—Northern GOM stock. NL NC ........................... Unable to determine. Pelagic .................... 74 (36)—Northern GOM stock NL NC ........................... Unable to determine. Pelagic .................... 149 (77)—Northern GOM stock. NL NC ........................... Unable to determine. Pelagic, shelf, coastal. Pelagic, shelf coastal. 28 (14)—Northern GOM stock NL NC ........................... Unable to determine. 2,415 (1,456)—Northern GOM stock. NL NC ........................... Unable to determine. Pelagic .................... NA—Northern GOM stock ...... NL NC ........................... Unable to determine. Pelagic .................... 2,235 (1,274)—Northern GOM stock. 152 (75)—Northern GOM stock. 2,442 (1,563)—Northern GOM stock. NA (NA)—32 Northern GOM Bay, Sound and Estuary stocks. NA (NA)—Northern GOM continental shelf stock. 7,702 (6,551)—GOM eastern coastal stock. 2,473 (2,004)—GOM northern coastal stock. NA (NA)—GOM western coastal stock. 5,806 (4,230)—Northern GOM oceanic stock. 624 (311)—Northern GOM stock. NA (NA)—Northern GOM stock. 1,849 (1,041)—Northern GOM stock. 50,880 (40,699)—Northern GOM stock. NA (NA)—Northern GOM stock. NL NC ........................... Unable to determine. NL NC ........................... Unable to determine. NL NC ........................... Unable to determine. NL NC S–32 stocks inhabitiing the bays, sounds, and estuaries along GOM coast, and GOM western coastal stock. Unable to determine. NL NC ........................... Unable to determine. NL NC ........................... Unable to determine. NL NC ........................... Unable to determine. NL NC ........................... Unable to determine. NL NC ........................... Unable to determine. Odontocetes Sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus). Pygmy sperm whale (Kogia breviceps) and Dwarf sperm whale (Kogia sima). Cuvier’s beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris). Mesoplodon beaked whale (includes Blainville’s beaked whale [M. densirostris], Gervais’ beaked whale [M. europaeus], and Sowerby’s beaked whale [M..bidens]. Killer whale (Orcinus orca) ...... mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Short-finned pilot whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus). False killer whale (Pseudorca crassidens). Melon-headed whale (Peponocephala electra). Pygmy killer whale (Feresa attenuata). Risso’s dolphin (Grampus griseus). Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus). Rough-toothed dolphin (Steno bredanensis). Fraser’s dolphin (Lagenodelphis hosei). Striped dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba). Pantropical spotted dolphin (Stenella attenuata). Atlantic spotted dolphin (Stenella frontalis). VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:35 Jun 05, 2013 Pelagic, deep sea ... Pelagic .................... Deep water, seamounts. Offshore, inshore, coastal, estuaries. Pelagic .................... Pelagic .................... Pelagic .................... Pelagic .................... Coastal and pelagic Jkt 229001 PO 00000 Frm 00021 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 E:\FR\FM\06JNN1.SGM 06JNN1 34052 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 109 / Thursday, June 6, 2013 / Notices TABLE 2—THE HABITAT, REGIONAL ABUNDANCE, AND CONSERVATION STATUS OF MARINE MAMMALS THAT MAY OCCUR IN OR NEAR THE PROPOSED Q–20 STUDY AREA IN THE GULF OF MEXICO—Continued [See text and Table 3–1, 3–2, and 3–3 in the Navy’s application for further details] Species Spinner dolphin (Stenella longirostris). Clymene dolphin (Stenella clymene). Population estimate 3 (minimum) Habitat Mostly pelagic ......... Pelagic .................... ESA 1 Population trend 3 NL NC ........................... Unable to determine. NL 11,441 (6,221)—Northern GOM stock. 129 (64)—Northern GOM stock. MMPA 2 NC ........................... Unable to determine. EN D ............................. Increasing or stable throughout much of Florida. Sirenians West Indian (Florida) manatee (Trichechus manatus latrostris). Coastal, rivers, and estuaries. 3,802—U.S. stock ................... mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES NA = Not available or not assessed. 1 U.S. Endangered Species Act: EN = Endangered, T = Threatened, DL = Delisted, NL = Not listed. 2 U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act: D = Depleted, S = Strategic, NC = Not Classified. 3 NMFS Draft 2012 Stock Assessment Reports. 4 USFWS Stock Assessment Reports. The information contained herein relies heavily on the data gathered in the Marine Resource Assessments (MRAs). The Navy Marine Resources Assessment (MRA) program was implemented by the Commander, United States Fleet Forces Command, to collect data and information on the protected and commercial marine resources found in the Navy OPAREAs. Specifically, the goal of the MRA program is to describe and document the marine resources present in each of the Navy’s OPAREAs. As such, an MRA was finalized in 2007 for the GOM, which comprises three adjacent OPAREAs, one of which is the Panama City OPAREA (DON, 2007a). The MRA represents a compilation and synthesis of available scientific literature (e.g., journals, periodicals, theses, dissertations, project reports, and other technical reports published by government agencies, private businesses, or consulting firms) and NMFS reports, including stock assessment reports (SARs), recovery plans, and survey reports. The MRA summarize the physical environment (e.g., marine geology, circulation and currents, hydrography, and plankton and primary productivity) for each test area. In addition, an in-depth discussion of the biological environment (marine mammals, sea turtles, fish, and EFH), as well as fishing grounds (recreational and commercial) and other areas of interest (e.g., maritime boundaries, navigable waters, marine managed areas, recreational diving sites) are also provided. Where applicable, the information contained in the MRA was used for analyses in this document. Appendix A of the Navy’s IHA application contains more information about each marine mammal species VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:35 Jun 05, 2013 Jkt 229001 potentially found in the Q–20 study area. The GOM MRA also contains detailed information, with a species description, status, habitat preference, distribution, behavior and life history, as well as information on its acoustics and hearing ability (DON, 2007a). A detailed description of marine mammal density estimates and their distribution in the Q–20 study area is provided in the Navy’s Q–20 IHA application. Potential Effects on Marine Mammal The Navy considers that the proposed Q–20 sonar testing activities in the Q– 20 study area could potentially result in harassment to marine mammals. Although surface operations related to sonar testing involve ship movement in the vicinity of the Q–20 test area, NMFS considers it unlikely that ship strike could occur as analyzed below. Surface Operations Typical operations occurring at the surface include the deployment or towing of mine countermeasures (MCM) equipment, retrieval of equipment, and clearing and monitoring for nonparticipating vessels. As such, the potential exists for a ship to strike a marine mammal while conducting surface operations. In an effort to reduce the likelihood of a vessel strike, the mitigation and monitoring measures discussed below would be implemented. Collisions with commercial and U.S. Navy vessels can cause major wounds and may occasionally cause fatalities to marine mammals. The most vulnerable marine mammals are those that spend extended periods of time at the surface in order to restore oxygen levels within their tissues after deep dives (e.g., the PO 00000 Frm 00022 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 sperm whale). Laist et al. (2001) identified 11 species known to be hit by ships worldwide. Of these species, fin whales are struck most frequently; followed by right whales, humpback whales, sperm whales, and gray whales. More specifically, from 1975 through 1996, there were 31 dead whale strandings involving four large whales along the GOM coastline. Stranded animals included two sei whales, four minke whales, eight Bryde’s whales, and 17 sperm whales. Only one of the stranded animals, a sperm whale with propeller wounds found in Louisiana on 9 March 1990, was identified as stranding as a result of a possible ship strike (Laist et al., 2001). In addition, from 1999 through 2003, there was only one stranding involving a false killer whale in the northern GOM (Alabama, 1999) (Waring et al., 2006). According to the 2010 Stock Assessment Report (NMFS, 2011), during 2009 there was one known Bryde’s whale mortality as a result of a ship strike. Otherwise, no other marine mammal that is likely to occur in the northern GOM has been reported as either seriously or fatally injured as a result of a ship strike from 1999 through 2009 (Waring et al., 2007). It is unlikely that activities in nonterritorial waters will result in a ship strike because of the nature of the operations and size of the vessels. For example, the hours of surface operations take into consideration operation times for multiple vessels during each test event. These vessels range in size from small Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB) to surface vessels of approximately 128 m (420 ft). The majority of these vessels are small RHIBs and medium-sized vessels. A large proportion of the timeframe for the Q–20 test events E:\FR\FM\06JNN1.SGM 06JNN1 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 109 / Thursday, June 6, 2013 / Notices include periods when ships remain stationary within the test site. The greatest time spent in transit for tests includes navigation to and from the sites. At these times, the Navy follows standard operating procedures (SOPs). The captain and other crew members keep watch during ship transits to avoid objects in the water. Furthermore, with the implementation of the proposed mitigation and monitoring measures described below, NMFS believes that it is unlikely vessel strikes would occur. Consequently, because of the nature of the surface operations and the size of the vessels, the proposed mitigation and monitoring measures developed to minimize or avoid impacts of noise, and the fact that cetaceans typically more vulnerable to ship strikes are not likely to be in the project area, the NMFS concludes that ship strikes are unlikely to occur in the Q–20 study area. Acoustic Effects: Exposure to Sonar For activities involving active tactical sonar, NMFS’s analysis will identify the probability of lethal responses, physical trauma, sensory impairment (permanent and temporary threshold shifts and acoustic masking), physiological responses (particular stress responses), behavioral disturbance (that rises to the level of harassment), and social responses that would be classified as behavioral harassment or injury and/or would be likely to adversely affect the species or stock through effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival. In this section, we will focus qualitatively on the different ways that exposure to sonar signals may affect marine mammals. Then, in the ‘‘Estimated Take of Marine Mammals’’ section, NMFS will relate the potential effects on marine mammals from sonar exposure to the MMPA regulatory definitions of Level A and Level B harassment and attempt to quantify those effects. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Direct Physiological Effects Based on the literature, there are two basic ways that Navy sonar might directly result in physical trauma or damage: Noise-induced loss of hearing sensitivity (more commonly-called ‘‘threshold shift’’) and acoustically mediated bubble growth. Separately, an animal’s behavioral reaction to an acoustic exposure might lead to physiological effects that might ultimately lead to injury or death, which is discussed later in the Stranding section. VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:35 Jun 05, 2013 Jkt 229001 Threshold Shift (Noise-Induced Loss of Hearing) When animals exhibit reduced hearing sensitivity (i.e., sounds must be louder for an animal to recognize them) following exposure to a sufficiently intense sound, it is referred to as a noise-induced threshold shift (TS). An animal can experience temporary threshold shift (TTS) or permanent threshold shift (PTS). TTS can last from minutes or hours to days (i.e., there is recovery), occurs in specific frequency ranges (e.g., an animal might only have a temporary loss of hearing sensitivity between the frequencies of 1 and 10 kHz)), and can be of varying amounts (for example, an animal’s hearing sensitivity might be reduced by only 6 dB or reduced by 30 dB). PTS is permanent (i.e., there is no recovery), but also occurs in a specific frequency range and amount as mentioned in the TTS description. The following physiological mechanisms are thought to play a role in inducing auditory TSs: Effects on sensory hair cells in the inner ear that reduce their sensitivity, modification of the chemical environment within the sensory cells, residual muscular activity in the middle ear, displacement of certain inner ear membranes, increased blood flow, and post-stimulatory reduction in both efferent and sensory neural output (Southall et al., 2007). The amplitude, duration, frequency, temporal pattern, and energy distribution of sound exposure all affect the amount of associated TS and the frequency range in which it occurs. As amplitude and duration of sound exposure increase, so, generally, does the amount of TS. For continuous sounds, exposures of equal energy (the same SEL) will lead to approximately equal effects. For intermittent sounds, less TS will occur than from a continuous exposure with the same energy (some recovery will occur between exposures) (Kryter et al., 1966; Ward, 1997). For example, one short but loud (higher SPL) sound exposure may induce the same impairment as one longer but softer sound, which in turn may cause more impairment than a series of several intermittent softer sounds with the same total energy (Ward, 1997). Additionally, though TTS is temporary, very prolonged exposure to sound strong enough to elicit TTS, or shorter-term exposure to sound levels well above the TTS threshold, can cause PTS, at least in terrestrial mammals (Kryter, 1985) (although in the case of Navy sonar, animals are not expected to be exposed to levels high enough or durations long enough to result in PTS). PO 00000 Frm 00023 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 34053 PTS is considered auditory injury (Southall et al., 2007). Irreparable damage to the inner or outer cochlear hair cells may cause PTS, however, other mechanisms are also involved, such as exceeding the elastic limits of certain tissues and membranes in the middle and inner ears and resultant changes in the chemical composition of the inner ear fluids (Southall et al., 2007). Although the published body of scientific literature contains numerous theoretical studies and discussion papers on hearing impairments that can occur with exposure to a loud sound, only a few studies provide empirical information on the levels at which noise-induced loss in hearing sensitivity occurs in nonhuman animals. For cetaceans, published data are limited to the captive bottlenose dolphin and beluga whale (Finneran et al., 2000, 2002b, 2005a; Schlundt et al., 2000; Nachtigall et al., 2003, 2004). Marine mammal hearing plays a critical role in communication with conspecifics, and interpreting environmental cues for purposes such as predator avoidance and prey capture. Depending on the frequency range of TTS degree (dB), duration, and frequency range of TTS, and the context in which it is experienced, TTS can have effects on marine mammals ranging from discountable to serious (similar to those discussed in auditory masking, below). For example, a marine mammal may be able to readily compensate for a brief, relatively small amount of TTS in a non-critical frequency range that takes place during a time when the animal is traveling through the open ocean, where ambient noise is lower and there are not as many competing sounds present. Alternatively, a larger amount and longer duration of TTS sustained during a time when communication is critical for successful mother/calf interactions could have more serious impacts. Also, depending on the degree and frequency range, the effects of PTS on an animal could range in severity, although it is considered generally more serious because it is a long term condition. Of note, reduced hearing sensitivity as a simple function of development and aging has been observed in marine mammals, as well as humans and other taxa (Southall et al., 2007), so we can infer that strategies exist for coping with this condition to some degree, though likely not without cost. There is no empirical evidence that exposure to Navy sonar can cause PTS in any marine mammals; instead the probability of PTS has been inferred E:\FR\FM\06JNN1.SGM 06JNN1 34054 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 109 / Thursday, June 6, 2013 / Notices mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES from studies of TTS (see Richardson et al., 1995). Acoustically Mediated Bubble Growth One theoretical cause of injury to marine mammals is rectified diffusion (Crum and Mao, 1996), the process of increasing the size of a bubble by exposing it to a sound field. This process could be facilitated if the environment in which the ensonified bubbles exist is supersaturated with gas. Repetitive diving by marine mammals can cause the blood and some tissues to accumulate gas to a greater degree than is supported by the surrounding environmental pressure (Ridgway and Howard, 1979). The deeper and longer dives of some marine mammals (for example, beaked whales) are theoretically predicted to induce greater supersaturation (Houser et al., 2001). If rectified diffusion were possible in marine mammals exposed to high-level sound, conditions of tissue supersaturation could theoretically speed the rate and increase the size of bubble growth. Subsequent effects due to tissue trauma and emboli would presumably mirror those observed in humans suffering from decompression sickness. It is unlikely that the short duration of sonar pings would be long enough to drive bubble growth to any substantial size, if such a phenomenon occurs. Recent work conducted by Crum et al. (2005) demonstrated the possibility of rectified diffusion for short duration signals, but at sound exposure levels and tissue saturation levels that are improbable to occur in a diving marine mammal. However, an alternative but related hypothesis has also been suggested: Stable bubbles could be destabilized by high-level sound exposures such that bubble growth then occurs through static diffusion of gas out of the tissues. In such a scenario the marine mammal would need to be in a gas-supersaturated state for a long enough period of time for bubbles to become of a problematic size. Yet another hypothesis (decompression sickness) has speculated that rapid ascent to the surface following exposure to a startling sound might produce tissue gas saturation sufficient for the evolution of nitrogen bubbles (Jepson et al., 2003; Fernandez et al., 2005). In this scenario, the rate of ascent would need to be sufficiently rapid to compromise behavioral or physiological protections against nitrogen bubble formation. Collectively, these hypotheses can be referred to as ‘‘hypotheses of acoustically mediated bubble growth.’’ Although theoretical predictions suggest the possibility for acoustically VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:35 Jun 05, 2013 Jkt 229001 mediated bubble growth, there is considerable disagreement among scientists as to its likelihood (Piantadosi and Thalmann, 2004; Evans and Miller, 2003). Crum and Mao (1996) hypothesized that received levels would have to exceed 190 dB in order for there to be the possibility of significant bubble growth due to supersaturation of gases in the blood (i.e., rectified diffusion). More recent work conducted by Crum et al. (2005) demonstrated the possibility of rectified diffusion for short duration signals, but at SELs and tissue saturation levels that are highly improbable to occur in diving marine mammals. To date, Energy Levels (ELs) predicted to cause in vivo bubble formation within diving cetaceans have not been evaluated (NOAA, 2002). Although it has been argued that traumas from some recent beaked whale strandings are consistent with gas emboli and bubble-induced tissue separations (Jepson et al., 2003), there is no conclusive evidence of this (Hooker et al., 2011). However, Jepson et al. (2003, 2005) and Fernandez et al. (2004, 2005) concluded that in vivo bubble formation, which may be exacerbated by deep, long duration, repetitive dives may explain why beaked whales appear to be particularly vulnerable to sonar exposures. A recent review of evidence for gas-bubble incidence in marine mammal tissues suggest that diving mammals vary their physiological responses according to multiple stressors, and that the perspective on marine mammal diving physiology should change from simply minimizing nitrogen loading to management of the nitrogen load (Hooker et al., 2011). This suggests several avenues for further study, ranging from the effects of gas bubbles at molecular, cellular and organ function levels, to comparative studies relating the presence/absence of gas bubbles to diving behavior. More information regarding hypotheses that attempt to explain how behavioral responses to Navy sonar can lead to strandings is included in the ‘‘Behaviorally Mediated Bubble Growth’’ section, after the summary of strandings. Acoustic Masking Marine mammals use acoustic signals for a variety of purposes, which differ among species, but include communication between individuals, navigation, foraging, reproduction, and learning about their environment (Erbe and Farmer, 2000; Tyack, 2000; Clark et al., 2009). Masking, or auditory interference, generally occurs when sounds in the environment are louder than, and of a similar frequency to, PO 00000 Frm 00024 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 auditory signals an animal is trying to receive. Masking is a phenomenon that affects animals that are trying to receive acoustic information about their environment, including sounds from other members of their species, predators, prey, and sounds that allow them to orient in their environment. Masking these acoustic signals can disturb the behavior of individual animals, groups of animals, or entire populations. The extent of the masking interference depends on the spectral, temporal, and spatial relationships between the signals an animal is trying to receive and the masking noise, in addition to other factors. In humans, significant masking of tonal signals occurs as a result of exposure to noise in a narrow band of similar frequencies. As the sound level increases, though, the detection of frequencies above those of the masking stimulus also decreases. This principle is also expected to apply to marine mammals because of common biomechanical cochlear properties across taxa. Richardson et al. (1995) argued that the maximum radius of influence of an industrial noise (including broadband low frequency sound transmission) on a marine mammal is the distance from the source to the point at which the noise can barely be heard. This range is determined by either the hearing sensitivity of the animal or the background noise level present. Industrial masking is most likely to affect some species’ ability to detect communication calls and natural sounds (i.e., surf noise, prey noise, etc.; Richardson et al., 1995). The echolocation calls of odontocetes (toothed whales) are subject to masking by high frequency sound. Human data indicate low-frequency sound can mask high-frequency sounds (i.e., upward masking). Studies on captive odontocetes by Au et al. (1974, 1985, 1993) indicate that some species may use various processes to reduce masking effects (e.g., adjustments in echolocation call intensity or frequency as a function of background noise conditions). There is also evidence that the directional hearing abilities of odontocetes are useful in reducing masking at the high frequencies these cetaceans use to echolocate, but not at the low-tomoderate frequencies they use to communicate (Zaitseva et al., 1980). As mentioned previously, the functional hearing ranges of mysticetes (baleen whales) and odontocetes (toothed whales) all encompass the frequencies of the sonar sources used in the Navy’s Q–20 test activities. Additionally, almost all species’ vocal E:\FR\FM\06JNN1.SGM 06JNN1 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 109 / Thursday, June 6, 2013 / Notices mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES repertoires span across the frequencies of the sonar sources used by the Navy. The closer the characteristics of the masking signal to the signal of interest, the more likely masking is to occur. However, because the pulse length and duty cycle of the Navy sonar signals are of short duration and would not be continuous, masking is unlikely to occur as a result of exposure to these signals during the Q–20 test activities in the designated Q–20 study area. Impaired Communication In addition to making it more difficult for animals to perceive acoustic cues in their environment, anthropogenic sound presents separate challenges for animals that are vocalizing. When they vocalize, animals are aware of environmental conditions that affect the ‘‘active space’’ of their vocalizations, which is the maximum area within which their vocalizations can be detected before it drops to the level of ambient noise (Brenowitz, 2004; Brumm et al., 2004; Lohr et al., 2003). Animals are also aware of environmental conditions that affect whether listeners can discriminate and recognize their vocalizations from other sounds, which are more important than detecting a vocalization (Brenowitz, 1982; Brumm et al., 2004; Dooling, 2004; Marten and Marler, 1977; Patricelli et al., 2006). Most animals that vocalize have evolved an ability to make vocal adjustments to their vocalizations to increase the signal-to-noise ratio, active space, and recognizability of their vocalizations in the face of temporary changes in background noise (Brumm et al., 2004; Patricelli et al., 2006). Vocalizing animals will make one or more of the following adjustments to their vocalizations: Adjust the frequency structure; adjust the amplitude; adjust temporal structure; or adjust temporal delivery. Many animals will combine several of these strategies to compensate for high levels of background noise. Anthropogenic sounds that reduce the signal-to-noise ratio of animal vocalizations, increase the masked auditory thresholds of animals listening for such vocalizations, or reduce the active space of an animal’s vocalizations impair communication between animals. Most animals that vocalize have evolved strategies to compensate for the effects of short-term or temporary increases in background or ambient noise on their songs or calls. Although the fitness consequences of these vocal adjustments remain unknown, like most other trade-offs animals must make, some of these strategies probably come at a cost (Patricelli et al., 2006). For example, vocalizing more loudly in VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:35 Jun 05, 2013 Jkt 229001 noisy environments may have energetic costs that decrease the net benefits of vocal adjustment and alter a bird’s energy budget (Brumm, 2004; Wood and Yezerinac, 2006). Shifting songs and calls to higher frequencies may also impose energetic costs (Lambrechts, 1996). Stress Responses Classic stress responses begin when an animal’s central nervous system perceives a potential threat to its homeostasis. That perception triggers stress responses regardless of whether a stimulus actually threatens the animal; the mere perception of a threat is sufficient to trigger a stress response (Moberg, 2000; Sapolsky et al., 2005; Seyle, 1950). Once an animal’s central nervous system perceives a threat, it mounts a biological response or defense that consists of a combination of the four general biological defense responses: behavioral responses, autonomic nervous system responses, neuroendocrine responses, or immune response. In the case of many stressors, an animal’s first and most economical (in terms of biotic costs) response is behavioral avoidance of the potential stressor or avoidance of continued exposure to a stressor. An animal’s second line of defense to stressors involves the autonomic nervous system and the classical ‘‘fight or flight’’ response, which includes the cardiovascular system, the gastrointestinal system, the exocrine glands, and the adrenal medulla to produce changes in heart rate, blood pressure, and gastrointestinal activity that humans commonly associate with ‘‘stress.’’ These responses have a relatively short duration and may or may not have significant long-term effects on an animal’s welfare. An animal’s third line of defense to stressors involves its neuroendocrine or sympathetic nervous systems; the system that has received the most study has been the hypothalmus-pituitaryadrenal system (also known as the HPA axis in mammals or the hypothalamuspituitary-interrenal axis in fish and some reptiles). Unlike stress responses associated with the autonomic nervous system, virtually all neuro-endocrine functions that are affected by stress— including immune competence, reproduction, metabolism, and behavior—are regulated by pituitary hormones. Stress-induced changes in the secretion of pituitary hormones have been implicated in failed reproduction (Moberg, 1987; Rivier, 1995) and altered metabolism (Elasser et al., 2000), reduced immune competence (Blecha, PO 00000 Frm 00025 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 34055 2000) and behavioral disturbance. Increases in the circulation of glucocorticosteroids (cortisol, corticosterone, and aldosterone in marine mammals; Romano et al., 2004) have been equated with stress for many years. The primary distinction between stress (which is adaptive and does not normally place an animal at risk) and distress is the biotic cost of the response. During a stress response, an animal uses glycogen stores that can be quickly replenished once the stress is alleviated. In such circumstances, the cost of the stress response would not pose a risk to the animal’s welfare. However, when an animal does not have sufficient energy reserves to satisfy the energetic costs of a stress response, energy resources must be diverted from other biotic functions, which impair those functions that experience the diversion. For example, when mounting a stress response diverts energy away from growth in young animals, those animals may experience stunted growth. When mounting a stress response diverts energy from a fetus, an animal’s reproductive success and its fitness will suffer. In these cases, the animals will have entered a pre-pathological or pathological state which is called ‘‘distress’’ (sensu Seyle, 1950) or ‘‘allostatic loading’’ (sensu McEwen and Wingfield, 2003). This pathological state will last until the animal replenishes its biotic reserves sufficient to restore normal function. Relationships between these physiological mechanisms, animal behavior, and the costs of stress responses have also been documented fairly well through controlled experiments; because this physiology exists in every vertebrate that has been studied, it is not surprising that stress responses and their costs have been documented in both laboratory and freeliving animals (for examples see, Holberton et al., 1996; Hood et al., 1998; Jessop et al., 2003; Krausman et al., 2004; Lankford et al., 2005; Reneerkens et al., 2002; Thompson and Hamer, 2000). Although no information has been collected on the physiological responses of marine mammals to exposure to anthropogenic sounds, studies of other marine animals and terrestrial animals would lead us to expect some marine mammals to experience physiological stress responses and, perhaps, physiological responses that would be classified as ‘‘distress’’ upon exposure to midfrequency and low-frequency sounds. For example, Jansen (1998) reported on the relationship between acoustic exposures and physiological responses E:\FR\FM\06JNN1.SGM 06JNN1 34056 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 109 / Thursday, June 6, 2013 / Notices mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES that are indicative of stress responses in humans (for example, elevated respiration and increased heart rates). Jones (1998) reported on reductions in human performance when faced with acute, repetitive exposures to acoustic disturbance. Trimper et al. (1998) reported on the physiological stress responses of osprey to low-level aircraft noise while Krausman et al. (2004) reported on the auditory and physiology stress responses of endangered Sonoran pronghorn to military overflights. Smith et al. (2004a, 2004b) identified noise induced physiological transient stress responses in hearing-specialist fish that accompanied short- and long-term hearing losses. Welch and Welch (1970) reported physiological and behavioral stress responses that accompanied damage to the inner ears of fish and several mammals. Hearing is one of the primary senses cetaceans use to gather information about their environment and to communicate with conspecifics. Although empirical information on the relationship between sensory impairment (TTS, PTS, and acoustic masking) on cetaceans remains limited, it seems reasonable to assume that reducing an animal’s ability to gather information about its environment and to communicate with other members of its species would be stressful for animals that use hearing as their primary sensory mechanism. Therefore, we assume that acoustic exposures sufficient to trigger onset PTS or TTS would be accompanied by physiological stress responses because terrestrial animals exhibit those responses under similar conditions (NRC, 2003). More importantly, marine mammals might experience stress responses at received levels lower than those necessary to trigger onset TTS. Based on empirical studies of the time required to recover from stress responses (Moberg, 2000), we also assume that stress responses are likely to persist beyond the time interval required for animals to recover from TTS and might result in pathological and pre-pathological states that would be as significant as behavioral responses to TTS. Behavioral Disturbance Behavioral responses to sound are highly variable and context-specific. Exposure of marine mammals to sound sources can result in (but is not limited to) the following observable responses: Increased alertness; orientation or attraction to a sound source; vocal modifications; cessation of feeding; cessation of social interaction; alteration of movement or diving behavior; habitat abandonment (temporary or permanent); VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:35 Jun 05, 2013 Jkt 229001 and, in severe cases, panic, flight, stampede, or stranding, potentially resulting in death (Southall et al., 2007). Many different variables can influence an animal’s perception of and response to (nature and magnitude) an acoustic event. An animal’s prior experience with a sound type affects whether it is less likely (habituation) or more likely (sensitization) to respond to certain sounds in the future (animals can also be innately pre-disposed to respond to certain sounds in certain ways) (Southall et al., 2007). Related to the sound itself, the perceived nearness of the sound, bearing of the sound (approaching vs. retreating), similarity of a sound to biologically relevant sounds in the animal’s environment (i.e., calls of predators, prey, or conspecifics), and familiarity of the sound may affect the way an animal responds to the sound (Southall et al., 2007). Individuals (of different age, gender, reproductive status, etc.) among most populations will have variable hearing capabilities, and differing behavioral sensitivities to sounds that will be affected by prior conditioning, experience, and current activities of those individuals. Often, specific acoustic features of the sound and contextual variables (i.e., proximity, duration, or recurrence of the sound or the current behavior that the marine mammal is engaged in or its prior experience), as well as entirely separate factors such as the physical presence of a nearby vessel, may be more relevant to the animal’s response than the received level alone. There are only few empirical studies of behavioral responses of free-living cetaceans to military sonar being conducted to date, due to the difficulties in implementing experimental protocols on wild marine mammals. An opportunistic observation was made on a tagged Blainville’s beaked whale (Mesoplodon densirostris) before, during, and after a multi-day naval exercises involving tactical midfrequency sonars within the U.S. Navy’s sonar testing range at the Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC), in the Tongue of the Ocean near Andros Island in the Bahamas (Tyack et al., 2011). The adult male whale was tagged with a satellite transmitter tag on May 7, 2009. During the 72 hrs before the sonar exercise started, the mean distance from whale to the center of the AUTEC range was approximately 37 km. During the 72 hrs sonar exercise, the whale moved several tens of km farther away (mean distance approximately 54 km). The received sound levels at the tagged whale during sonar exposure were estimated to be 146 PO 00000 Frm 00026 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 dB re 1 mPa at the highest level. The tagged whale slowly returned for several days after the exercise stopped (mean distance approximately 29 km) from 0— 72 hours after the exercise stopped (Tyack et al., 2011). In the past several years, controlled exposure experiments (CEE) on marine mammal behavioral responses to military sonar signals using acoustic tags have been started in the Bahamas, the Mediterranean Sea, southern California, and Norway. These behavioral response studies (BRS), though still in their early stages, have provided some preliminary insights into cetacean behavioral disturbances when exposed to simulated and actual military sonar signals. In 2007 and 2008, two Blainville’s beaked whales were tagged in the AUTEC range and exposed to simulated mid-frequency sonar signals, killer whale (Orcinus orca) recordings (in 2007), and pseudo-random noise (PRN, in 2008) (Tyack et al., 2011). For the simulated mid-frequency exposure BRS, the tagged whale stopped clicking during its foraging dive after 9 minutes when the received level reached 138 dB SPL, or a cumulative SEL value of 142 dB re 1 mPa2-s. Once the whale stopped clicking, it ascended slowly, moving away from the sound source. The whale surfaced and remained in the area for approximately 2 hours before making another foraging dive (Tyack et al., 2011). The same beaked whale was exposed to killer whale sound recording during its subsequent deep foraging dive. The whale stopped clicking about 1 minute after the received level of the killer whale sound reached 98 dB SPL, just above the ambient noise level at the whale. The whale then made a long and slow ascent. After surfacing, the whale continued to swim away from the playback location for 10 hours (Tyack et al., 2011). In 2008, a Blainville’s beaked was tagged and exposed with PRN that has the same frequency band as the simulated mid-frequency sonar signal. The received level at the whale ranged from inaudible to 142 dB SPL (144 dB cumulative SEL). The whale stopped clicking less than 2 minutes after exposure to the last transmission and ascended slowly to approximately 600 m. The whale appeared to stop at this depth, at which time the tag unexpectedly released from the whale (Tyack et al., 2011). During CEEs of the BRS off Norway, social behavioral responses of pilot whales and killer whales to tagging and sonar exposure were investigated. Sonar exposure was sampled for 3 pilot whale E:\FR\FM\06JNN1.SGM 06JNN1 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 109 / Thursday, June 6, 2013 / Notices marine mammals to anthropogenic sound and developing criteria, the authors differentiate between single pulse sounds, multiple pulse sounds, and non-pulse sounds. HFAS/MFAS sonar is considered a non-pulse sound. Southall et al., (2007) summarize the reports associated with low-, mid-, and high-frequency cetacean responses to non-pulse sounds (there are no pinnipeds in the Gulf of Mexico [GOM]) in Appendix C of their report (incorporated by reference and summarized in the three paragraphs below). The reports that address responses of low-frequency cetaceans to non-pulse sounds include data gathered in the field and related to several types of sound sources (of varying similarity to HFAS/MFAS) including: Vessel noise, drilling and machinery playback, low frequency M-sequences (sine wave with multiple phase reversals) playback, low frequency active sonar playback, drill vessels, Acoustic Thermometry of Ocean Climate (ATOC) source, and nonpulse playbacks. These reports generally indicate no (or very limited) responses to received levels in the 90 to 120 dB re 1 mPa range and an increasing likelihood of avoidance and other behavioral effects in the 120 to 160 dB range. As mentioned earlier, however, contextual variables play a very important role in the reported responses and the severity of effects are not linear when compared to received level. Also, few of the laboratory or field datasets had common conditions, behavioral contexts or sound sources, so it is not surprising that responses differ. The reports that address responses of Behavioral Responses mid-frequency cetaceans to non-pulse sounds include data gathered both in Southall et al., (2007) reports the results of the efforts of a panel of experts the field and the laboratory and related to several different sound sources (of in acoustic research from behavioral, varying similarity to HFAS/MFAS) physiological, and physical disciplines including: Pingers, drilling playbacks, that convened and reviewed the vessel and ice-breaking noise, vessel available literature on marine mammal noise, Acoustic Harassment Devices hearing and physiological and (AHDs), Acoustic Deterrent Devices behavioral responses to man-made (ADDs), HFAS/MFAS, and non-pulse sound with the goal of proposing exposure criteria for certain effects. This bands and tones. Southall et al. were unable to come to a clear conclusion compilation of literature is very regarding these reports. In some cases, valuable, though Southall et al. note animals in the field showed significant that not all data is equal, some have responses to received levels between 90 poor statistical power, insufficient and 120 dB, while in other cases these controls, and/or limited information on responses were not seen in the 120 to received levels, background noise, and 150 dB range. The disparity in results other potentially important contextual variables—such data were reviewed and was likely due to contextual variation and the differences between the results sometimes used for qualitative in the field and laboratory data (animals illustration, but were not included in responded at lower levels in the field). the quantitative analysis for the criteria The reports that address the responses recommendations. In the Southall et al., (2007) report, for of high-frequency cetaceans to nonpulse sounds include data gathered both the purposes of analyzing responses of mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES (Globicephala spp.) groups and 1 group of killer whales. Results show that when exposed to sonar signals, pilot whales showed a preference for larger groups with medium-low surfacing synchrony, while starting logging, spyhopping and milling. While killer whales showed the opposite pattern, maintaining asynchronous patterns of surface behavior: decreased surfacing synchrony, increased spacing, decreased group size, tailslaps and loggings (Visser et al., 2011). Although the small sample size of these CEEs reported here is too small to make firm conclusions about differential responses of cetaceans to military sonar exposure, none of the results showed that whales responded to sonar signals with panicked flight. Instead, the beaked whales exposed to simulated sonar signals and killer whale sound recording moved in a well oriented direction away from the source towards the deep water exit from the Tongue of the Ocean (Tyack et al., 2011). In addition, different species of cetaceans exhibited different social behavioral responses towards (close) vessel presence and sonar signals, which elicit different, potentially tailored and species-specific responses (Visser et al., 2011). Much more qualitative information is available on the avoidance responses of free-living cetaceans to other acoustic sources, like seismic airguns and lowfrequency active sonar, than midfrequency active sonar. Richardson et al., (1995) noted that avoidance reactions are the most obvious manifestations of disturbance in marine mammals. VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:35 Jun 05, 2013 Jkt 229001 PO 00000 Frm 00027 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 34057 in the field and the laboratory and related to several different sound sources (of varying similarity to HFAS/ MFAS) including: Acoustic harassment devices, Acoustical Telemetry of Ocean Climate (ATOC), wind turbine, vessel noise, and construction noise. However, no conclusive results are available from these reports. In some cases, high frequency cetaceans (harbor porpoises) are observed to be quite sensitive to a wide range of human sounds at very low exposure RLs (90 to 120 dB). All recorded exposures exceeding 140 dB produced profound and sustained avoidance behavior in wild harbor porpoises (Southall et al., 2007). In addition to summarizing the available data, the authors of Southall et al. (2007) developed a severity scaling system with the intent of ultimately being able to assign some level of biological significance to a response. Following is a summary of their scoring system, a comprehensive list of the behaviors associated with each score may be found in the report: • 0–3 (Minor and/or brief behaviors) includes, but is not limited to: No response; minor changes in speed or locomotion (but with no avoidance); individual alert behavior; minor cessation in vocal behavior; minor changes in response to trained behaviors (in laboratory). • 4–6 (Behaviors with higher potential to affect foraging, reproduction, or survival) includes, but is not limited to: Moderate changes in speed, direction, or dive profile; brief shift in group distribution; prolonged cessation or modification of vocal behavior (duration > duration of sound); minor or moderate individual and/or group avoidance of sound; brief cessation of reproductive behavior; or refusal to initiate trained tasks (in laboratory). • 7–9 (Behaviors considered likely to affect the aforementioned vital rates) includes, but are not limited to: Extensive of prolonged aggressive behavior; moderate, prolonged or significant separation of females and dependent offspring with disruption of acoustic reunion mechanisms; long-term avoidance of an area; outright panic, stampede, stranding; threatening or attacking sound source (in laboratory). In Table 2 NMFS has summarized the scores that Southall et al. (2007) assigned to the papers that reported behavioral responses of low-frequency cetaceans, mid-frequency cetaceans, and high-frequency cetaceans to non-pulse sounds. E:\FR\FM\06JNN1.SGM 06JNN1 34058 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 109 / Thursday, June 6, 2013 / Notices TABLE 3—DATA COMPILED FROM THREE TABLES FROM SOUTHALL et al. (2007) INDICATING WHEN MARINE MAMMALS (LOW-FREQUENCY CETACEAN = L, MID-FREQUENCY CETACEAN = M, AND HIGH-FREQUENCY CETACEAN = H) WERE REPORTED AS HAVING A BEHAVIORAL RESPONSE OF THE INDICATED SEVERITY TO A NON-PULSE SOUND OF THE INDICATED RECEIVED LEVEL. AS DISCUSSED IN THE TEXT, RESPONSES ARE HIGHLY VARIABLE AND CONTEXT SPECIFIC Received RMS sound pressure level (dB re 1 microPa) Response score 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0 ........................................... ........................................... ........................................... ........................................... ........................................... ........................................... ........................................... ........................................... ........................................... 80 to < 90 100 to < 110 M H 90 to < 100 M L/H M L/H L/H mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Potential Effects of Behavioral Disturbance The different ways that marine mammals respond to sound are sometimes indicators of the ultimate effect that exposure to a given stimulus will have on the well-being (survival, reproduction, etc.) of an animal. There is little marine mammal data quantitatively relating the exposure of marine mammals to sound to effects on reproduction or survival, though data exists for terrestrial species to which we can draw comparisons for marine mammals. Attention is the cognitive process of selectively concentrating on one aspect of an animal’s environment while ignoring other things (Posner, 1994). Because animals (including humans) have limited cognitive resources, there is a limit to how much sensory information they can process at any time. The phenomenon called ‘‘attentional capture’’ occurs when a stimulus (usually a stimulus that an animal is not concentrating on or attending to) ‘‘captures’’ an animal’s attention. This shift in attention can occur consciously or unconsciously (for example, when an animal hears sounds that it associates with the approach of a predator) and the shift in attention can be sudden (Dukas, 2002; van Rij, 2007). Once a stimulus has captured an animal’s attention, the animal can respond by ignoring the stimulus, assuming a ‘‘watch and wait’’ posture, or treat the stimulus as a disturbance and respond accordingly, which includes scanning for the source of the stimulus or ‘‘vigilance’’ (Cowlishaw et al., 2004). Vigilance is normally an adaptive behavior that helps animals determine the presence or absence of predators, assess their distance from conspecifics, VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:35 Jun 05, 2013 Jkt 229001 110 to <120 120 to < 130 130 to < 140 140 to < 150 L L M L L/H M L/H L/M/H H L/M L M L/M/H L/M/H L/M L/M M L/M/H L/M/H M L/M M L M L/M/H Frm 00028 Fmt 4703 190 to < 200 M M M/H 170 to < 180 180 to < 190 M H 160 to < 170 M M L L L L M or to attend cues from prey (Bednekoff and Lima, 1998; Treves, 2000). Despite those benefits, however, vigilance has a cost of time: When animals focus their attention on specific environmental cues, they are not attending to other activities such a foraging. These costs have been documented best in foraging animals, where vigilance has been shown to substantially reduce feeding rates (Saino, 1994; Beauchamp and Livoreil, 1997; Fritz et al., 2002). Animals will spend more time being vigilant, which may translate to less time foraging or resting, when disturbance stimuli approach them more directly, remain at closer distances, have a greater group size (for example, multiple surface vessels), or when they co-occur with times that an animal perceives increased risk (for example, when they are giving birth or accompanied by a calf). Most of the published literature, however, suggests that direct approaches will increase the amount of time animals will dedicate to being vigilant. For example, bighorn sheep and Dall’s sheep dedicated more time being vigilant, and less time resting or foraging, when aircraft made direct approaches over them (Frid, 2001; Stockwell et al., 1991). Several authors have established that long-term and intense disturbance stimuli can cause population declines by reducing the body condition of individuals that have been disturbed, followed by reduced reproductive success, reduced survival, or both (Daan et al., 1996; Madsen, 1994; White, 1983). For example, Madsen (1994) reported that pink-footed geese (Anser brachyrhynchus) in undisturbed habitat gained body mass and had about a 46percent reproductive success compared with geese in disturbed habitat (being consistently scared off the fields on PO 00000 150 to < 160 Sfmt 4703 which they were foraging), which did not gain mass and had a 17 percent reproductive success. Similar reductions in reproductive success have been reported for mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) disturbed by all-terrain vehicles (Yarmoloy et al., 1988), caribou disturbed by seismic exploration blasts (Bradshaw et al., 1998), caribou disturbed by low-elevation military jetfights (Luick et al., 1996), and caribou disturbed by low-elevation jet flights (Harrington and Veitch, 1992). Similarly, a study of elk (Cervus elaphus) that were disturbed experimentally by pedestrians concluded that the ratio of young to mothers was inversely related to disturbance rate (Phillips and Alldredge, 2000). The primary mechanism by which increased vigilance and disturbance appear to affect the fitness of individual animals is by disrupting an animal’s time budget and, as a result, reducing the time they might spend foraging and resting (which increases an animal’s activity rate and energy demand). For example, a study of grizzly bears (Ursus horribilis) reported that bears disturbed by hikers reduced their energy intake by an average of 12 kcal/min (50.2 × 103kJ/ min), and spent energy fleeing or acting aggressively toward hikers (White et al., 1999). On a related note, many animals perform vital functions, such as feeding, resting, traveling, and socializing, on a diel cycle (24-hr cycle). Substantive behavioral reactions to noise exposure (such as disruption of critical life functions, displacement, or avoidance of important habitat) are more likely to be significant if they last more than one diel cycle or recur on subsequent days (Southall et al., 2007). Consequently, a behavioral response lasting less than E:\FR\FM\06JNN1.SGM 06JNN1 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 109 / Thursday, June 6, 2013 / Notices one day and not recurring on subsequent days is not considered particularly severe unless it could directly affect reproduction or survival (Southall et al., 2007). mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Stranding and Mortality When a live or dead marine mammal swims or floats onto shore and becomes ‘‘beached’’ or incapable of returning to sea, the event is termed a ‘‘stranding’’ (Geraci et al., 1999; Perrin and Geraci, 2002; Geraci and Lounsbury, 2005; NMFS, 2007). Marine mammals are known to strand for a variety of reasons, such as infectious agents, biotoxicosis, starvation, fishery interaction, ship strike, unusual oceanographic or weather events, sound exposure, or combinations of these stressors sustained concurrently or in series. However, the cause or causes of most stranding are unknown (Geraci et al., 1976; Eaton, 1979, Odell et al., 1980; Best, 1982). Several sources have published lists of mass stranding events of cetaceans during attempts to identify relationships between those stranding events and military sonar (Hildebrand, 2004; IWC, 2005; Taylor et al., 2004). For example, based on a review of stranding records between 1960 and 1995, the International Whaling Commission (IWC, 2005) identified 10 mass stranding events of Cuvier’s beaked whales that had been reported and one mass stranding of four Baird’s beaked whales (Berardius bairdii). The IWC concluded that, out of eight stranding events reported from the mid-1980s to the summer of 2003, seven had been associated with the use of midfrequency sonar, one of those seven had been associated with the use of low frequency sonar, and the remaining stranding event had been associated with the use of seismic airguns. None of the strandings has been associated with high frequency sonar such as the Q–20 sonar proposed to be tested in this action. Therefore, NMFS does not consider it likely that the proposed Q– 20 testing activity would cause marine mammals to strand. Anticipated Effects on Marine Mammal Habitat There are no areas within the NSWC PCD that are specifically considered as important physical habitat for marine mammals. The prey of marine mammals are considered part of their habitat. The Navy’s Final Environmental Impact Statement and Overseas Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) on the research, development, test and evaluation activities in the NSWC PCD VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:35 Jun 05, 2013 Jkt 229001 study area contains a detailed discussion of the potential effects to fish from HFAS/MFAS. These effects are the same as expected from the proposed Q– 20 sonar testing activities within the same area. The extent of data, and particularly scientifically peer-reviewed data, on the effects of high intensity sounds on fish is limited. In considering the available literature, the vast majority of fish species studied to date are hearing generalists and cannot hear sounds above 500 to 1,500 Hz (depending upon the species), and, therefore, behavioral effects on these species from higher frequency sounds are not likely. Moreover, even those fish species that may hear above 1.5 kHz, such as a few sciaenids and the clupeids (and relatives), have relatively poor hearing above 1.5 kHz as compared to their hearing sensitivity at lower frequencies. Therefore, even among the species that have hearing ranges that overlap with some mid- and high frequency sounds, it is likely that the fish will only actually hear the sounds if the fish and source are very close to one another. Finally, since the vast majority of sounds that are of biological relevance to fish are below 1 kHz (e.g., Zelick et al., 1999; Ladich and Popper, 2004), even if a fish detects a mid- or high frequency sound, these sounds will not mask detection of lower frequency biologically relevant sounds. Based on the above information, there will likely be few, if any, behavioral impacts on fish. Alternatively, it is possible that very intense mid- and high frequency signals could have a physical impact on fish, resulting in damage to the swim bladder and other organ systems. However, even these kinds of effects have only been shown in a few cases in response to explosives, and only when the fish has been very close to the source. Such effects have never been indicated in response to any Navy sonar. Moreover, at greater distances (the distance clearly would depend on the intensity of the signal from the source) there appears to be little or no impact on fish, and particularly no impact on fish that do not have a swim bladder or other air bubble that would be affected by rapid pressure changes. Proposed Mitigation In order to issue an Incidental Take Authorization (ITA) under section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA, NMFS must set forth the permissible methods of taking pursuant to such activity, and other means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact on such species or stock and its habitat, paying PO 00000 Frm 00029 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 34059 particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance, and the availability of such species for taking for certain subsistence uses. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2004 amended the MMPA as it relates to military-readiness activities and the ITA process such that ‘‘least practicable adverse impact’’ shall include consideration of personnel safety, practicality of implementation, and impact on the effectiveness of the ‘‘military readiness activity.’’ The Q–20 sonar testing activities described in the Navy’s IHA application are considered military readiness activities. For the proposed Q–20 sonar testing activities in the GOM, NMFS worked with the Navy to develop mitigation measures. The Navy then proposed the following mitigation measures, which include a careful balancing of minimizing impacts to marine mammals with the likely effect of that measure on personnel safety, practicality of implementation, and impact on the ‘‘military-readiness activity.’’ Protective Measures Related to Surface Operations Visual surveys will be conducted for all test operations to reduce the potential for vessel collisions to occur with a protected species. If necessary, the ship’s course and speed will be adjusted. Personnel Training Marine mammal mitigation training for those who participate in the active sonar activities is a key element of the protective measures. The goal of this training is for key personnel onboard Navy platforms in the Q–20 study area to understand the protective measures and be competent to carry them out. The Marine Species Awareness Training (MSAT) is provided to all applicable participants, where appropriate. The program addresses environmental protection, laws governing the protection of marine species, Navy stewardship, and general observation information including more detailed information for spotting marine mammals. Marine mammal observer training will be provided before active sonar testing begins. Marine observers would be aware of the specific actions to be taken based on the RDT&E platform if a marine mammal is observed. Specifically, the following requirements for personnel training would apply: • All marine mammal observers onboard platforms involved in the Q–20 sonar test activities will review the E:\FR\FM\06JNN1.SGM 06JNN1 34060 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 109 / Thursday, June 6, 2013 / Notices NMFS-approved MSAT material prior to use of active sonar. • Marine mammal observers shall be trained in marine mammal recognition. Marine mammal observer training shall include completion of the MSAT, instruction on governing laws and policies, and overview of the specific Gulf of Mexico species present, and observer roles and responsibilities. • Marine mammal observers will be trained in the most effective means to ensure quick and effective communication within the command structure in order to facilitate implementation of mitigation measures if marine species are spotted. Range Operating Procedures The following procedures would be implemented to maximize the ability of Navy personnel to recognize instances when marine mammals are in the vicinity. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES (1) Marine Mammal Observer Responsibilities • Marine mammal observers will have at least one set of binoculars available for each person to aid in the detection of marine mammals. • Marine mammal observers will scan the water from the ship to the horizon and be responsible for all observations in their sector. In searching the assigned sector, the lookout will always start at the forward part of the sector and search aft (toward the back). To search and scan, the lookout will hold the binoculars steady so the horizon is in the top third of the field of vision and direct the eyes just below the horizon. The lookout will scan for approximately five seconds in as many small steps as possible across the field seen through the binoculars. They will search the entire sector in approximately fivedegree steps, pausing between steps for approximately five seconds to scan the field of view. At the end of the sector search, the glasses will be lowered to allow the eyes to rest for a few seconds, and then the lookout will search back across the sector with the naked eye. • Marine mammal observers will be responsible for informing the Test Director of any marine mammal that may need to be avoided, as warranted. • These procedures would apply as much as possible during RMMV operations. When an RMMV is operating over the horizon, it is impossible to follow and observe it during the entire path. An observer will be located on the support vessel or platform to observe the area when the system is undergoing a small track close to the support platform. VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:35 Jun 05, 2013 Jkt 229001 (2) Operating Procedures • Test Directors will, as appropriate to the event, make use of marine species detection cues and information to limit interaction with marine species to the maximum extent possible, consistent with the safety of the ship. • During Q–20 sonar activities, personnel will utilize all available sensor and optical system (such as night vision goggles) to aid in the detection of marine mammals. • Navy aircraft participating will conduct and maintain, when operationally feasible, required, and safe, surveillance for marine species of concern as long as it does not violate safety constraints or interfere with the accomplishment of primary operational duties. • Marine mammal detections by aircraft will be immediately reported to the Test Director. This action will occur when it is reasonable to conclude that the course of the ship will likely close the distance between the ship and the detected marine mammal. • Exclusion Zones—The Navy will ensure that sonar transmissions are ceased if any detected marine mammals are within 200 yards (183 m [600.4 ft]) of the sonar source. Active sonar will not resume until the marine mammal has been seen to leave the area, has not been detected for 30 minutes, or the vessel has transited more than 2,000 yards (1,828 m [5,997.4 ft]) beyond the location of the last detection. • Special conditions applicable for bow-riding dolphins only: If, after conducting an initial maneuver to avoid close quarters with dolphins, the Test Director or the Test Director’s designee concludes that dolphins are deliberately closing to ride the vessel’s bow wave, no further mitigation actions are necessary while the dolphins continue to exhibit bow wave riding behavior because the dolphins are out of the main transmission axis of the active sonar while in the shallow-wave area of the vessel bow. • Sonar levels (generally)—Navy will operate sonar at the lowest practicable level, except as required to meet testing objectives. Clearance Procedures When the test platform (surface vessel or aircraft) arrives at the test site, an initial evaluation of environmental suitability will be made. This evaluation will include an assessment of sea state and verification that the area is clear of visually detectable marine mammals and indicators of their presence. For example, large flocks of birds and large schools of fish are considered indicators of potential marine mammal presence. PO 00000 Frm 00030 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 If the initial evaluation indicates that the area is clear, visual surveying will begin. The area will be visually surveyed for the presence of protected species and protected species indicators. Visual surveys will be conducted from the test platform before test activities begin. When the platform is a surface vessel, no additional aerial surveys will be required. For surveys requiring only surface vessels, aerial surveys may be opportunistically conducted by aircraft participating in the test. Shipboard monitoring will be staged from the highest point possible on the vessel. The observer(s) will be experienced in shipboard surveys, familiar with the marine life of the area, and equipped with binoculars of sufficient magnification. Each observer will be provided with a two-way radio that will be dedicated to the survey, and will have direct radio contact with the Test Director. Observers will report to the Test Director any sightings of marine mammals or indicators of these species, as described previously. Distance and bearing will be provided when available. Observers may recommend a ‘‘Go’’/‘‘No Go’’ decision, but the final decision will be the responsibility of the Test Director. Post-mission surveys will be conducted from the surface vessel(s) and aircraft used for pre-test surveys. Any affected marine species will be documented and reported to NMFS. The report will include the date, time, location, test activities, species (to the lowest taxonomic level possible), behavior, and number of animals. NMFS has carefully evaluated the Navy’s proposed mitigation measures and considered a range of other measures in the context of ensuring that NMFS prescribes the means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact on the affected marine mammal species and stocks and their habitat. NMFS’s evaluation of potential measures included consideration of the following factors in relation to one another: (1) The manner in which, and the degree to which, the successful implementation of the measure is expected to minimize adverse impacts to marine mammals; (2) The proven or likely efficacy of the specific measure to minimize adverse impacts as planned; and (3) The practicability of the measure for applicant implementation, including consideration of personnel safety, practicality of implementation, and impact on the effectiveness of the military readiness activity. Based on our evaluation of the Navy’s proposed measures, as well as other E:\FR\FM\06JNN1.SGM 06JNN1 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 109 / Thursday, June 6, 2013 / Notices measures considered by NMFS, we have preliminarily determined that the proposed mitigation measures provide the means of effecting the least practicable adverse impacts on marine mammals species or stocks and their habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance, while also considering personnel safety, practicality of implementation, and impact on the effectiveness of the military readiness activity. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Proposed Monitoring and Reporting In order to issue an ITA for an activity, section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA states that NMFS must set forth ‘‘requirements pertaining to the monitoring and reporting of such taking.’’ The MMPA implementing regulations at 50 CFR 216.104(a)(13) indicate that requests for IHAs must include the suggested means of accomplishing the necessary monitoring and reporting that will result in increased knowledge of the species and of the level of taking or impacts on populations of marine mammals that are expected to be present in the action area. The RDT&E Monitoring Program, proposed by the Navy as part of its IHA application, is focused on mitigationbased monitoring. Main monitoring techniques include use of civilian personnel as marine mammal observers during pre-, during-, and post-test events. Systematic monitoring of the affected area for marine mammals will be conducted prior to, during, and after test events using aerial and/or ship-based visual surveys. Observers will record information during the test activity. Data recorded will include exercise information (time, date, and location) and marine mammal and/or indicator presence, species, number of animals, their behavior, and whether there are changes in the behavior. Personnel will immediately report observed stranded or injured marine mammals to NMFS stranding response network and NMFS Regional Office. Reporting requirements will be included in the NSWC PCD Mission Activity Report and NSWC PCD Mission Activities Annual Monitoring Report as required by its Final Rule (DON, 2009a; NMFS, 2010). Ongoing Monitoring The Navy has an existing Monitoring Plan that provides for site-specific monitoring for MMPA and Endangered Species Act (ESA) listed species, primarily marine mammals within the Gulf of Mexico, including marine water areas of the Q–20 Study Area. The VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:35 Jun 05, 2013 Jkt 229001 NSWC PCD Monitoring Plan (DON, 2011) was initially developed in support of the NSWC PCD Mission Activities Final Environmental Impact Statement/ Overseas Environmental Impact Statement and subsequent Final Rule by NMFS (DON, 2009a; NMFS, 2010). The primary goals of monitoring are to evaluate trends in marine species distribution and abundance in order to assess potential population effects from Navy training and testing events and determine the effectiveness of the Navy’s mitigation measures. The monitoring plan, adjusted annually in consultation under an adaptive management review process with NMFS, includes aerial- and ship-based visual observations, acoustic monitoring, and other efforts such as oceanographic observations. The U.S. Navy is not currently committing to increased visual surveys at this time, but will research opportunities for leveraged work that could be added under an adaptive management provision of the IHA application for future Q–20 study area monitoring. On-going Reporting Due to changes in the program schedule, the Navy has not yet conducted any Q–20 activities under their current IHA. The Navy plans to conduct tests under the current IHA in April, 2013. Additional monitoring data is contained in the NSWC PCD 2013 Monitoring Report submitted to NMFS in September, 2012. Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment Definition of Harassment As mentioned previously, with respect to military readiness activities, Section 3(18)(B) of the MMPA defines ‘‘harassment’’ as: (i) Any act that injures or has the significant potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild [Level A harassment]; or (ii) any act that disturbs or is likely to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of natural behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, surfacing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering, to a point where such behavioral patterns are abandoned or significantly altered [Level B harassment]. Level B Harassment Of the potential effects that were described in the ‘‘Potential Effects of Exposure of Marine Mammals to Sonar’’ section, the following are the types of effects that fall into the Level B harassment category: PO 00000 Frm 00031 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 34061 Behavioral Harassment—Behavioral disturbance that rises to the level described in the definition above, when resulting from exposures to active sonar exposure, is considered Level B harassment. Some of the lower level physiological stress responses will also likely co-occur with the predicted harassments, although these responses are more difficult to detect and fewer data exist relating these responses to specific received levels of sound. When Level B harassment is predicted based on estimated behavioral responses, those takes may have a stress-related physiological component as well. In the effects section above, we described the Southall et al., (2007) severity scaling system and listed some examples of the three broad categories of behaviors: (0–3: Minor and/or brief behaviors); 4–6 (Behaviors with higher potential to affect foraging, reproduction, or survival); 7–9 (Behaviors considered likely to affect the aforementioned vital rates). Generally speaking, MMPA Level B harassment, as defined in this document, would include the behaviors described in the 7–9 category, and a subset, dependent on context and other considerations, of the behaviors described in the 4–6 categories. Behavioral harassment generally does not include behaviors ranked 0–3 in Southall et al., (2007). Acoustic Masking and Communication Impairment—Acoustic masking is considered Level B harassment as it can disrupt natural behavioral patterns by interrupting or limiting the marine mammal’s receipt or transmittal of important information or environmental cues. TTS—As discussed previously, TTS can affect how an animal behaves in response to the environment, including conspecifics, predators, and prey. The following physiological mechanisms are thought to play a role in inducing auditory fatigue: Effects to sensory hair cells in the inner ear that reduce their sensitivity, modification of the chemical environment within the sensory cells, residual muscular activity in the middle ear, displacement of certain inner ear membranes, increased blood flow, and post-stimulatory reduction in both efferent and sensory neural output. Ward (1997) suggested that when these effects result in TTS rather than PTS, they are within the normal bounds of physiological variability and tolerance and do not represent a physical injury. Additionally, Southall et al. (2007) indicate that although PTS is a tissue injury, TTS is not because the reduced hearing sensitivity following exposure to intense sound results primarily from E:\FR\FM\06JNN1.SGM 06JNN1 34062 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 109 / Thursday, June 6, 2013 / Notices fatigue, not loss, of cochlear hair cells and supporting structures and is reversible. Accordingly, NMFS classifies TTS (when resulting from exposure to Navy sonar) as Level B harassment, not Level A harassment (injury). Level A Harassment Of the potential effects that were described in the Potential Effects of Exposure of Marine Mammal to Sonar section, following are the types of effects that fall into the Level A harassment category: PTS—PTS (resulting from exposure to active sonar) is irreversible and considered an injury. PTS results from exposure to intense sounds that cause a permanent loss of inner or outer cochlear hair cells or exceed the elastic limits of certain tissues and membranes in the middle and inner ears and results in changes in the chemical composition of the inner ear fluids. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Acoustic Take Criteria For the purposes of an MMPA incidental take authorization, three types of take are identified: Level B harassment; Level A harassment; and mortality (or serious injury leading to mortality). The categories of marine mammal responses (physiological and behavioral) that fall into the two harassment categories were described in the previous section. Because the physiological and behavioral responses of the majority of the marine mammals exposed to military sonar cannot be detected or measured, a method is needed to estimate the number of individuals that will be taken, pursuant to the MMPA, based on the proposed action. To this end, NMFS uses acoustic criteria that estimate at what received level (when exposed to Navy sonar) Level B harassment and Level A harassment of marine mammals would occur. These acoustic criteria are discussed below. Relatively few applicable data exist to support acoustic criteria specifically for HFAS (such as the Q–20 active sonar). However, because MFAS systems have larger impact ranges, NMFS will apply the criteria developed for the MFAS systems to the HFAS systems. NMFS utilizes three acoustic criteria for HFAS/MFAS: PTS (injury—Level A harassment), behavioral harassment from TTS, and sub-TTS (Level B harassment). Because the TTS and PTS criteria are derived similarly and the PTS criteria was extrapolated from the TTS data, the TTS and PTS acoustic criteria will be presented first, before the behavioral criteria. VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:35 Jun 05, 2013 Jkt 229001 For more information regarding these criteria, please see the Navy’s FEIS for the NSWC PCD (Navy 2009). Level B Harassment Threshold (TTS) As mentioned above, behavioral disturbance, acoustic masking, and TTS are all considered Level B harassment. Marine mammals would usually be behaviorally disturbed at lower received levels than those at which they would likely sustain TTS, so the levels at which behavioral disturbance is likely to occur are considered the onset of Level B harassment. The behavioral responses of marine mammals to sound are variable, context specific, and, therefore, difficult to quantify (see Risk Function section, below). TTS is a physiological effect that has been studied and quantified in laboratory conditions. NMFS also uses acoustic criteria to estimate the number of marine mammals that might sustain TTS incidental to a specific activity (in addition to the behavioral criteria). A number of investigators have measured TTS in marine mammals. These studies measured hearing thresholds in trained marine mammals before and after exposure to intense sounds. The existing cetacean TTS data are summarized in the following bullets. • Schlundt et al. (2000) reported the results of TTS experiments conducted with 5 bottlenose dolphins and 2 belugas exposed to 1-second tones. This paper also includes a reanalysis of preliminary TTS data released in a technical report by Ridgway et al. (1997). At frequencies of 3, 10, and 20 kHz, sound pressure levels (SPLs) necessary to induce measurable amounts (6 dB or more) of TTS were between 192 and 201 dB re 1 mPa (EL = 192 to 201 dB re 1 mPa2-s). The mean exposure SPL and EL for onset-TTS were 195 dB re 1 mPa and 195 dB re 1 mPa2-s, respectively. • Finneran et al. (2001, 2003, 2005) described TTS experiments conducted with bottlenose dolphins exposed to 3-kHz tones with durations of 1, 2, 4, and 8 seconds. Small amounts of TTS (3 to 6 dB) were observed in one dolphin after exposure to ELs between 190 and 204 dB re 1 microPa2-s. These results were consistent with the data of Schlundt et al. (2000) and showed that the Schlundt et al. (2000) data were not significantly affected by the masking sound used. These results also confirmed that, for tones with different durations, the amount of TTS is best correlated with the exposure EL rather than the exposure SPL. • Nachtigall et al. (2003) measured TTS in a bottlenose dolphin exposed to octave-band sound centered at 7.5 kHz. PO 00000 Frm 00032 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Nachtigall et al. (2003a) reported TTSs of about 11 dB measured 10 to 15 minutes after exposure to 30 to 50 minutes of sound with SPL 179 dB re 1 mPa (EL about 213 dB re mPa2-s). No TTS was observed after exposure to the same sound at 165 and 171 dB re 1 mPa. Nachtigall et al. (2004) reported TTSs of around 4 to 8 dB 5 minutes after exposure to 30 to 50 minutes of sound with SPL 160 dB re 1 mPa (EL about 193 to 195 dB re 1 mPa2-s). The difference in results was attributed to faster post exposure threshold measurement—TTS may have recovered before being detected by Nachtigall et al. (2003). These studies showed that, for long duration exposures, lower sound pressures are required to induce TTS than are required for short-duration tones. • Finneran et al. (2000, 2002) conducted TTS experiments with dolphins and belugas exposed to impulsive sounds similar to those produced by distant underwater explosions and seismic waterguns. These studies showed that, for very short-duration impulsive sounds, higher sound pressures were required to induce TTS than for longer-duration tones. Some of the more important data obtained from these studies are onsetTTS levels (exposure levels sufficient to cause a just-measurable amount of TTS) often defined as 6 dB of TTS (for example, Schlundt et al., 2000) and the fact that energy metrics (sound exposure levels (SEL), which include a duration component) better predict when an animal will sustain TTS than pressure (SPL) alone. NMFS’s TTS criteria (which indicate the received level at which onset TTS (>6dB) is induced) for HFAS/MFAS are as follows: • Cetaceans—195 dB re 1 mPa2-s (based on mid-frequency cetaceans—no published data exist on auditory effects of noise in low or high frequency cetaceans) (Southall et al., 2007). A detailed description of how TTS criteria were derived from the results of the above studies may be found in Chapter 3 of Southall et al. (2007), as well as the Navy’s Q–20 IHA application. Level A Harassment Threshold (PTS) For acoustic effects, because the tissues of the ear appear to be the most susceptible to the physiological effects of sound, and because threshold shifts tend to occur at lower exposures than other more serious auditory effects, NMFS has determined that PTS is the best indicator for the smallest degree of injury that can be measured. Therefore, the acoustic exposure associated with E:\FR\FM\06JNN1.SGM 06JNN1 onset-PTS is used to define the lower limit of the Level A harassment. PTS data do not currently exist for marine mammals and are unlikely to be obtained due to ethical concerns. However, PTS levels for these animals may be estimated using TTS data from marine mammals and relationships between TTS and PTS that have been discovered through study of terrestrial mammals. NMFS uses the following acoustic criteria for injury: • Cetaceans—215 dB re 1 mPa2-s (based on mid-frequency cetaceans—no published data exist on auditory effects of noise in low or high frequency cetaceans) (Southall et al., 2007). These criteria are based on a 20 dB increase in SEL over that required for onset-TTS. Extrapolations from terrestrial mammal data indicate that PTS occurs at 40 dB or more of TS, and that TS growth occurs at a rate of approximately 1.6 dB TS per dB increase in EL. There is a 34-dB TS difference between onset-TTS (6 dB) and onset-PTS (40 dB). Therefore, an animal would require approximately 20dB of additional exposure (34 dB divided by 1.6 dB) above onset-TTS to reach PTS. A detailed description of how TTS criteria were derived from the results of the above studies may be found in Chapter 3 of Southall et al. (2007), as well as the Navy’s NSWC PCD LOA application. Southall et al. (2007) recommend a precautionary dual criteria for TTS (230 dB re 1 mPa (SPL) in addition to 215 re 1 mPa2-s (SEL)) to account for the potentially damaging transients embedded within non-pulse exposures. However, in the case of HFAS/MFAS, the distance at which an animal would receive 215 (SEL) is farther from the source than the distance at which they would receive 230 (SPL) and therefore, it is not necessary to consider 230 dB. We note here that behaviorally mediated injuries (such as those that have been hypothesized as the cause of some beaked whale strandings) could potentially occur in response to received levels lower than those believed to directly result in tissue damage. As mentioned previously, data to support a quantitative estimate of these potential effects (for which the exact mechanism is not known and in which factors other than received level may play a significant role) do not exist. Level B Harassment Risk Function (Behavioral Harassment) The first MMPA authorization for take of marine mammals incidental to tactical active sonar was issued in 2006 for Navy Rim of the Pacific training exercises in Hawaii. For that VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:35 Jun 05, 2013 Jkt 229001 authorization, NMFS used 173 dB SEL as the criterion for the onset of behavioral harassment (Level B harassment). This type of single number criterion is referred to as a step function, in which (in this example) all animals estimated to be exposed to received levels above 173 dB SEL would be predicted to be taken by Level B harassment and all animals exposed to less than 173 dB SEL would not be taken by Level B harassment. As mentioned previously, marine mammal behavioral responses to sound are highly variable and context specific (affected by differences in acoustic conditions; differences between species and populations; differences in gender, age, reproductive status, or social behavior; or the prior experience of the individuals), which does not support the use of a step function to estimate behavioral harassment. Unlike step functions, acoustic risk continuum functions (which are also called ‘‘exposure-response functions,’’ ‘‘dose-response functions,’’ or ‘‘stress response functions’’ in other risk assessment contexts) allow for probability of a response that NMFS would classify as harassment to occur over a range of possible received levels (instead of one number) and assume that the probability of a response depends first on the ‘‘dose’’ (in this case, the received level of sound) and that the probability of a response increases as the ‘‘dose’’ increases. The Navy and NMFS have previously used acoustic risk functions to estimate the probable responses of marine mammals to acoustic exposures in the Navy FEISs on the SURTASS LFA sonar (DoN, 2001c) and the North Pacific Acoustic Laboratory experiments conducted off the Island of Kauai (ONR, 2001). The specific risk functions used here were also used in the MMPA regulations and FEIS for Hawaii Range Complex (HRC), Southern California Range Complex (SOCAL), and Atlantic Fleet Active Sonar Testing (AFAST). As discussed in the Effects section, factors other than received level (such as distance from or bearing to the sound source) can affect the way that marine mammals respond; however, data to support a quantitative analysis of those (and other factors) do not currently exist. NMFS will continue to modify these criteria as new data becomes available. To assess the potential effects on marine mammals associated with active sonar used during training activity, the Navy and NMFS applied a risk function that estimates the probability of behavioral responses that NMFS would classify as harassment for the purposes of the MMPA given exposure to specific PO 00000 Frm 00033 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 34063 received levels of MFA sonar. The mathematical function is derived from a solution in Feller (1968) as defined in the SURTASS LFA Sonar Final OEIS/ EIS (DoN, 2001), and relied on in the Supplemental SURTASS LFA Sonar EIS (DoN, 2007a) for the probability of MFA sonar risk for MMPA Level B behavioral harassment with input parameters modified by NMFS for MFA sonar for mysticetes and odontocetes (NMFS, 2008). The same risk function and input parameters will be applied to high frequency active (HFA) (>10 kHz) sources until applicable data becomes available for high frequency sources. In order to represent a probability of risk, the function should have a value near zero at very low exposures, and a value near one for very high exposures. One class of functions that satisfies this criterion is cumulative probability distributions, a type of cumulative distribution function. In selecting a particular functional expression for risk, several criteria were identified: • The function must use parameters to focus discussion on areas of uncertainty; • The function should contain a limited number of parameters; • The function should be capable of accurately fitting experimental data; and • The function should be reasonably convenient for algebraic manipulations. As described in U.S. Department of the Navy (2001), the mathematical function below is adapted from a solution in Feller (1968). Where: R = Risk (0–1.0) L = Received level (dB re: 1 mPa) B = Basement received level = 120 dB re: 1 mPa K = Received level increment above B where 50 percent risk = 45 dB re: 1 mPa A = Risk transition sharpness parameter = 10 (odontocetes) or 8 (mysticetes) In order to use this function to estimate the percentage of an exposed population that would respond in a manner that NMFS classifies as Level B harassment, based on a given received level, the values for B, K and A need to be identified. B Parameter (Basement)—The B parameter is the estimated received level below which the probability of disruption of natural behavioral patterns, such as migration, surfacing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering, E:\FR\FM\06JNN1.SGM 06JNN1 EN06JN13.000</GPH> mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 109 / Thursday, June 6, 2013 / Notices mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES 34064 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 109 / Thursday, June 6, 2013 / Notices to a point where such behavioral patterns are abandoned or significantly altered approaches zero for the HFAS/ MFAS risk assessment. At this received level, the curve would predict that the percentage of the exposed population that would be taken by Level B harassment approaches zero. For HFAS/ MFAS, NMFS has determined that B = 120 dB. This level is based on a broad overview of the levels at which many species have been reported responding to a variety of sound sources. K Parameter (representing the 50 percent Risk Point)—The K parameter is based on the received level that corresponds to 50 percent risk, or the received level at which we believe 50 percent of the animals exposed to the designated received level will respond in a manner that NMFS classifies as Level B harassment. The K parameter (K = 45 dB) is based on three datasets in which marine mammals exposed to mid-frequency sound sources were reported to respond in a manner that NMFS would classify as Level B harassment. There is widespread consensus that marine mammal responses to HFA/MFA sound signals need to be better defined using controlled exposure experiments (Cox et al., 2006; Southall et al., 2007). The Navy is contributing to an ongoing behavioral response study in the Bahamas that is expected to provide some initial information on beaked whales, the species identified as the most sensitive to MFAS. NMFS is leading this international effort with scientists from various academic institutions and research organizations to conduct studies on how marine mammals respond to underwater sound exposures. Until additional data is available, however, NMFS and the Navy have determined that the following three data sets are most applicable for the direct use in establishing the K parameter for the HFAS/MFAS risk function. These data sets, summarized below, represent the only known data that specifically relate altered behavioral responses (that NMFS would consider Level B harassment) to exposure to HFAS/MFAS sources. Even though these data are considered the most representative of the proposed specified activities, and therefore the most appropriate on which to base the K parameter (which basically determines the midpoint) of the risk function, these data have limitations, which are discussed in Appendix J of the Navy’s EIS for the NSWC PCD (DoN, VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:35 Jun 05, 2013 Jkt 229001 2009) and summarized in the Navy’s IHA application. Calculation of K Parameter—NMFS and the Navy used the mean of the following values to define the midpoint of the function: (1) The mean of the lowest received levels (185.3 dB) at which individuals responded with altered behavior to 3 kHz tones in the SSC data set; (2) the estimated mean received level value of 169.3 dB produced by the reconstruction of the USS SHOUP incident in which killer whales exposed to MFA sonar (range modeled possible received levels: 150 to 180 dB); and (3) the mean of the 5 maximum received levels at which Nowacek et al. (2004) observed significantly altered responses of right whales to the alert stimuli than to the control (no input signal) is 139.2 dB SPL. The arithmetic mean of these three mean values is 165 dB SPL. The value of K is the difference between the value of B (120 dB SPL) and the 50 percent value of 165 dB SPL; therefore, K=45. A Parameter (Steepness)—NMFS determined that a steepness parameter (A) = 10 is appropriate for odontocetes (except harbor porpoises) and pinnipeds and A = 8 is appropriate for mysticetes. The use of a steepness parameter of A = 10 for odontocetes (except harbor porpoises) for the HFAS/MFAS risk function was based on the use of the same value for the SURTASS LFA risk continuum, which was supported by a sensitivity analysis of the parameter presented in Appendix D of the SURTASS/LFA FEIS (DoN, 2001c). As concluded in the SURTASS FEIS/EIS, the value of A = 10 produces a curve that has a more gradual transition than the curves developed by the analyses of migratory gray whale studies (Malme et al., 1984; Buck and Tyack, 2000; and SURTASS LFA Sonar EIS, Subchapters 1.43, 4.2.4.3 and Appendix D, and NMFS, 2008). NMFS determined that a lower steepness parameter (A = 8), resulting in a shallower curve, was appropriate for use with mysticetes and HFAS/MFAS. The Nowacek et al. (2004) dataset contains the only data illustrating mysticete behavioral responses to a midfrequency sound source. A shallower curve (achieved by using A=8) better reflects the risk of behavioral response at the relatively low received levels at which behavioral responses of right whales were reported in the Nowacek et al. (2004) data. Compared to the odontocete curve, this adjustment results in an increase in the proportion PO 00000 Frm 00034 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 of the exposed population of mysticetes being classified as behaviorally harassed at lower RLs, such as those reported in and supported by the only dataset currently available. Basic Application of the Risk Function—The risk function is used to estimate the percentage of an exposed population that is likely to exhibit behaviors that would qualify as harassment (as that term is defined by the MMPA applicable to military readiness activities, such as the Navy’s testing and research activities with HFA/MFA sonar) at a given received level of sound. For example, at 165 dB SPL (dB re: 1 mPa rms), the risk (or probability) of harassment is defined according to this function as 50 percent, and Navy/NMFS applies that by estimating that 50 percent of the individuals exposed at that received level are likely to respond by exhibiting behavior that NMFS would classify as behavioral harassment. The risk function is not applied to individual animals, only to exposed populations. The data primarily used to produce the risk function (the K parameter) were compiled from four species that had been exposed to sound sources in a variety of different circumstances. As a result, the risk function represents a general relationship between acoustic exposures and behavioral responses that is then applied to specific circumstances. That is, the risk function represents a relationship that is deemed to be generally true, based on the limited, best-available science, but may not be true in specific circumstances. In particular, the risk function, as currently derived, treats the received level as the only variable that is relevant to a marine mammal’s behavioral response. However, we know that many other variables—the marine mammal’s gender, age, and prior experience; the activity it is engaged in during an exposure event, its distance from a sound source, the number of sound sources, and whether the sound sources are approaching or moving away from the animal—can be critically important in determining whether and how a marine mammal will respond to a sound source (Southall et al., 2007). The data that are currently available do not allow for incorporation of these other variables in the current risk functions; however, the risk function represents the best use of the data that are available (Figure 1). BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\06JNN1.SGM 06JNN1 BILLING CODE 3510–22–C mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES As more specific and applicable data become available for HFAS/MFAS sources, NMFS can use these data to modify the outputs generated by the risk function to make them more realistic. Ultimately, data may exist to justify the use of additional, alternate, or multivariate functions. For example, as mentioned previously, the distance from the sound source and whether it is perceived as approaching or moving away can affect the way an animal responds to a sound (Wartzok et al., 2003). Estimated Exposures of Marine Mammals Acoustical modeling provides an estimate of the actual exposures. Detailed information and formulas to model the effects of sonar from Q–20 sonar testing activities in the Q–20 Study Area are provided in Appendix A, Supplemental Information for Underwater Noise Analysis of the Navy’s IHA application. The quantitative analysis was based on conducting sonar operations in 13 different geographical regions, or provinces. Using combined marine mammal density and depth estimates, VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:35 Jun 05, 2013 Jkt 229001 which are detailed later in this section, acoustical modeling was conducted to calculate the actual exposures. Refer to Appendix B, Geographic Description of Environmental Provinces of the Navy’s IHA application, for additional information on provinces. Refer to Appendix C, Definitions and Metrics for Acoustic Quantities of the Navy’s IHA application, for additional information regarding the acoustical analysis. The approach for estimating potential acoustic effects from Q–20 test activities on cetacean species uses the methodology that the DON developed in cooperation with NMFS for the Navy’s HRC Draft EIS (DON, 2007c). The exposure analysis for behavioral response to sound in the water uses energy flux density for Level A harassment and the methods for risk function for Level B harassment (behavioral). The methodology is provided here to determine the number and species of marine mammals for which incidental take authorization is requested. NMFS concurs with the Navy’s approach and that these are the appropriate methodologies. To estimate acoustic effects from the Q–20 test activities, acoustic sources to PO 00000 Frm 00035 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 34065 be used were examined with regard to their operational characteristics as described in the previous section. Systems with an operating frequency greater than 200 kHz were not analyzed in the detailed modeling as these signals attenuate rapidly resulting in very short propagation distances. Based on the information above, the Navy modeled the Q–20 sonar parameters including source levels, ping length, the interval between pings, output frequencies, directivity (or angle), and other characteristics based on records from previous test scenarios and projected future testing. Additional information on sonar systems and their associated parameters is in Appendix A, Supplemental Information for Underwater Noise Analysis of the Navy’s IHA application. Every active sonar operation includes the potential to expose marine animals in the neighboring waters. The number of animals exposed to the sonar is dictated by the propagation field and the manner in which the sonar is operated (i.e., source level, depth, frequency, pulse length, directivity, platform speed, repetition rate). The modeling for Q–20 test activities E:\FR\FM\06JNN1.SGM 06JNN1 EN06JN13.001</GPH> Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 109 / Thursday, June 6, 2013 / Notices 34066 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 109 / Thursday, June 6, 2013 / Notices involving sonar occurred in five broad steps listed below, and was conducted based on the typical RDT&E activities planned for the Q–20 Study Area. 1. Environmental Provinces: The Q– 20 Study Area is divided into 13 environmental provinces, and each has a unique combination of environmental conditions. These represent various combinations of eight bathymetry provinces, one Sound Velocity Profile (SVP) province, and three LowFrequency Bottom Loss geo-acoustic provinces and two High-Frequency Bottom Loss classes. These are addressed by defining eight fundamental environments in two seasons that span the variety of depths, bottom types, sound speed profiles, and sediment thicknesses found in the Q–20 Study Area. The two seasons encompass winter and summer, which are the two extremes for the GOM, the acoustic propagation characteristics do not vary significantly between the two. Each marine modeling area can be quantitatively described as a unique combination of these environments. 2. Transmission Loss: Since sound propagates differently in these environments, separate transmission loss calculations must be made for each, in both seasons. The transmission loss is predicted using Comprehensive Acoustic Simulation System/Gaussian Ray Bundle (CASS–GRAB) sound modeling software. 3. Exposure Volumes: The transmission loss, combined with the source characteristics, gives the energy field of a single ping. The energy of more than 10 hours of pinging is summed, carefully accounting for overlap of several pings, so an accurate average exposure of an hour of pinging is calculated for each depth increment. At more than 10 hours, the source is too far away and the energy is negligible. Repeating this calculation for each environment in each season gives the hourly ensonified volume, by depth, for each environment and season. This step begins the method for risk function modeling. 4. Marine Mammal Densities: The marine mammal densities were given in two dimensions, but using reliable peerreviewed literature sources (published literature and agency reports) described in the following subsection, the depth regimes of these marine mammals are used to project the two dimensional densities (expressed as the number of animals per area where all individuals are assumed to be at the water’s surface) into three dimensions (a volumetric approach whereby two-dimensional animal density incorporates depth into the calculation estimates). 5. Exposure Calculations: Each marine mammal’s three-dimensional (3D) density is multiplied by the calculated impact volume to that marine mammal depth regime. This value is the number of exposures per hour for that particular marine mammal. In this way, each marine mammal’s exposure count per hour is based on its density, depth habitat, and the ensonified volume by depth. The planned sonar hours were inserted and a cumulative number of exposures was determined for the proposed action. Based on the analysis, Q–20 sonar operations in non-territorial waters may expose up to six species to sound likely to result in Level B (behavioral) harassment (Table 2). They include the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), Atlantic spotted dolphin (Stenella frontalis), pantropical spotted dolphin (Stenella attenuata), striped dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba), spinner dolphin (Stenella longirostris), and Clymene dolphin (Stenella clymene). No marine mammals would be exposed to levels of sound likely to result in TTS. The Navy requests that the take numbers of marine mammals for its IHA reflect the exposure numbers listed in Table 2. TABLE 2—ESTIMATES AND REQUESTED TAKE OF MARINE MAMMAL EXPOSURES FROM SONAR IN NON-TERRITORIAL WATERS PER YEAR [See Table 5–1 in the IHA application] mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Atlantic spotted dolphin ............................................................................................................... Bottlenose dolphin ....................................................................................................................... Clymene dolphin .......................................................................................................................... Pantropical spotted dolphin ......................................................................................................... Spinner dolphin ............................................................................................................................ Striped dolphin ............................................................................................................................. Potential for Long-Term Effects Q–20 test activities will be conducted in the same general areas, so marine mammal populations could be exposed to repeated activities over time. However, as described earlier, this analysis assumes that short-term noninjurious SELs predicted to cause temporary behavioral disruptions qualify as Level B harassment. It is highly unlikely that behavioral disruptions will result in any long-term significant effects. Potential for Effects on ESA-Listed Species To further examine the possibility of whale exposures from the proposed VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:35 Jun 05, 2013 Jkt 229001 testing, CASSGRAB sound modeling software was used to estimate transmission losses and received sound pressure levels (SPLs) from the Q–20 when operating in the test area. Specifically, four radials out towards DeSoto Canyon (which is considered an important habitat for the ESA-listed sperm whales) were calculated. The results indicate the relatively rapid attenuation of sound pressure levels with distance from the source, which is not surprising given the high frequency of the source. Below 120 dB, the risk of significant change in a biologically important behavior approaches zero. This threshold is reached at a distance of only 2.8 km (1.5 nm) from the source. PO 00000 Frm 00036 Level B harassment (TTS) Level A harassment Marine mammal species Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 0 0 0 0 0 0 Level B harassment (behavioral) 0 0 0 0 0 0 315 399 42 126 126 42 With the density of sperm whales being near zero in this potential zone of influence, this calculation reinforces NMFS’s conclusion that the proposed activity is not likely to result in the take of sperm whales. It should also be noted that DeSoto Canyon is well beyond the distance at which sound pressure levels from the Q–20 attenuate to zero. Encouraging and Coordinating Research The Navy sponsors a significant portion of research concerning the effects of human-generated sound in marine mammals. Worldwide, the Navy funded over $16 million in marine E:\FR\FM\06JNN1.SGM 06JNN1 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 109 / Thursday, June 6, 2013 / Notices mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES mammal research in 2012. Major topics of Navy-supported research include: • Gaining a better understanding of marine species distribution and important habitat areas. • Developing methods to detect and monitor marine species before and during training. • Understanding the effects of sound on marine mammals. • Developing tools to model and estimate potential effects of sound. This research is directly applicable to the Q–20 study area, particularly with respect to the investigations of the potential effects of underwater noise sources on marine mammals and other protected species. Furthermore, various research cruises by NMFS and academic institutions have been augmented with additional funding from the Navy. The Navy has also sponsored several workshops to evaluate the current state of knowledge and potential for future acoustic monitoring of marine mammals. The workshops brought together acoustic experts and marine biologists from the Navy and other research organizations to present data and information on current acoustic monitoring research efforts and to evaluate the potential for incorporating similar technology and methods on instrumented ranges. The Navy will continue to fund ongoing marine mammal research, and includes projected funding at levels greater than $14 million per year in subsequent years. The Navy also has plans to continue in the coordination of long-term monitoring and studies of marine mammals on various established ranges and within its OPAREAs. The Navy will continue to research and contribute to university/external research to improve the state of the knowledge of the science regarding the biology and ecology of marine species, and potential acoustic effects on species from naval activities. These efforts include mitigation and monitoring programs, data sharing with NMFS and via the literature for research and development efforts, and future research, as described previously. Impact on Availability of Affected Species or Stock for Taking for Subsistence Uses Section 101(a)5)(D) of the MMPA also requires NMFS to determine that the authorization will not have an unmitigable adverse effect on the availability of marine mammal species or stocks for subsistence use. There are no relevant subsistence uses of marine mammals in the study area (in the Gulf of Mexico) that implicate MMPA section 101(a)(5)(D). VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:35 Jun 05, 2013 Jkt 229001 34067 Negligible Impact Determination Behavioral Harassment Pursuant to NMFS’s regulations implementing the MMPA, an applicant is required to estimate the number of animals that will be ‘‘taken’’ by the specified activities (i.e., takes by harassment only, or takes by harassment, injury, serious injury, and/ or death). This estimate informs NMFS’s analysis of whether the activity will have a ‘‘negligible impact’’ on the species or stock. To issue an IHA, NMFS must determine among other things, that the incidental take by harassment caused by the specified activity will have a negligible impact on affected species or stocks of marine mammals. NMFS has defined ‘‘negligible impact’’ in 50 CFR 216.103 as ‘‘ . . . an impact resulting from the specified activity that cannot be reasonably expected to, and is not reasonably likely to, adversely affect the species or stock through effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival.’’ Level B (behavioral) harassment occurs at the level of the individual(s) and does not necessarily result in populationlevel consequences, though there are known avenues through which behavioral disturbance of individuals can result in population-level effects. A negligible impact finding is based on the lack of likely adverse effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival (i.e., population-level effects). An estimate of the number of Level B harassment takes, alone, is not enough information on which to base an impact determination. In addition to considering estimates of the number of marine mammals that might be ‘‘taken’’ through behavioral harassment, NMFS must consider other factors, such as the likely nature of any responses (their intensity, duration, etc.), the context of any responses (critical reproductive time or location, migration, etc.), or any of the other variables mentioned in the first paragraph (if known), as well as the number and nature of estimated Level A takes, the number of estimated serious injuries and/or mortalities, and effects on habitat. The Navy’s specified activities have been described based on best estimates of the number of Q–20 sonar test hours that the Navy will conduct. Taking the above into account, considering the sections discussed below, and dependent upon the implementation of the proposed mitigation measures, NMFS has preliminarily determined that Navy’s Q–20 sonar test activities in the non-territorial waters will have a negligible impact on the marine mammal species and stocks present in the Q–20 study area. Behavioral harassment from the Navy’s proposed training activities are expected to occur as discussed in the ‘‘Potential Effects of Exposure of Marine Mammals to Sonar’’ section and illustrated in the conceptual framework, marine mammals can respond to HFAS/ MFAS in many different ways, a subset of which qualifies as harassment. One thing that the take estimates do not take into account is the fact that most marine mammals will likely avoid strong sound sources to one extent or another. Although an animal that avoids the sound source will likely still be taken in some instances (such as if the avoidance results in a missed opportunity to feed, interruption of reproductive behaviors, etc.), in other cases avoidance may result in fewer instances of take than were estimated or in the takes resulting from exposure to a lower received level than was estimated, which could result in a less severe response. The Navy proposes a cumulative total of only 420 hours of high-frequency sonar operations per year for the Q–20 sonar testing activities, spread among 42 days with an average of 10 hours per day, in the Q–20 study area. There will be no powerful tactical mid-frequency sonar involved. Therefore, there will be no disturbance to marine mammals resulting from MFAS systems (such as 53C). The effects that might be expected from the Navy’s major training exercises at the Atlantic Fleet Active Sonar Training (AFAST) Range, Hawaii Range Complex (HRC), and Southern California (SOCAL) Range Complex will not occur here. The source level of the Q–20 sonar is much lower than the 53C series MFAS system, and high frequency signals tend to have more attenuation in the water column and are more prone to lose their energy during propagation. Therefore, their zones of influence are much smaller, thereby making it easier to detect marine mammals and prevent adverse effects from occurring. The Navy has been conducting monitoring activities since 2006 on its sonar operations in a variety of the Naval range complexes (e.g., AFAST, HRC, SOCAL) under the Navy’s own protective measures and under the regulations and LOAs. Monitoring reports based on these major training exercises using military sonar have shown that no marine mammal injury or mortality has occurred as a result of the sonar operations (DoN, 2011a; 2011b). PO 00000 Frm 00037 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Diel Cycle As noted previously, many animals perform vital functions, such as feeding, E:\FR\FM\06JNN1.SGM 06JNN1 34068 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 109 / Thursday, June 6, 2013 / Notices resting, traveling, and socializing on a diel cycle (24-hr cycle). Substantive behavioral reactions to noise exposure (such as disruption of critical life functions, displacement, or avoidance of important habitat) are more likely to be significant if they last more than one diel cycle or recur on subsequent days (Southall et al., 2007). Consequently, a behavioral response lasting less than one day and not recurring on subsequent days is not considered particularly severe unless it could directly affect reproduction or survival (Southall et al., 2007). In the previous section, we discussed the fact that potential behavioral responses to HFAS/MFAS that fall into the category of harassment could range in severity. By definition, the takes by behavioral harassment involve the disturbance of a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of natural behavioral patterns (such as migration, surfacing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering) to a point where such behavioral patterns are abandoned or significantly altered. In addition, the amount of time the Q–20 sonar testing will occur is 420 hours per year in non-territorial waters, and is spread among 42 days with an average of 10 hours per day. Thus the exposure is expected to be sporadic throughout the year and is localized within a specific testing site. NMFS anticipates that the Navy’s proposed training activities will not result in substantial behavioral disturbance to recruitment or survival because the exposure is expected to be less intense than other sound sources and spread out over time, which should allow for periods of recovery. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES TTS Based on the Navy’s model and NMFS analysis, it is unlikely that marine mammals would be exposed to sonar received levels that could cause TTS due to the lower source level (207 to 212 dB re 1 mPa at 1 m) and high attenuation rate of the HAFS signals (above 35 kHz). Acoustic Masking or Communication Impairment As discussed above, it is possible that anthropogenic sound could result in masking of marine mammal communication and navigation signals. However, masking only occurs during the time of the signal (and potential secondary arrivals of indirect rays), versus TTS, which occurs continuously for its duration. The Q–20 ping duration is in milliseconds and the system is relatively low-powered making its range of effect smaller. Therefore, masking effects from the Q–20 sonar signals are VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:35 Jun 05, 2013 Jkt 229001 expected to be minimal. If masking or communication impairment were to occur briefly, it would be in the frequency range of above 35 kHz (the lower limit of the Q–20 signals), which overlaps with some marine mammal vocalizations; however, it would likely not mask the entirety of any particular vocalization or communication series because the pulse length, frequency, and duty cycle of the Q–20 sonar signal does not perfectly mimic the characteristics of any marine mammal’s vocalizations. PTS, Injury, or Mortality Based on the Navy’s model and NMFS analysis, it is unlikely that PTS, injury, or mortality of marine mammals would occur from the proposed Q–20 sonar testing activities. As discussed earlier, the lower source level (207–212 dB re 1 mPa at 1 m) and high attenuation rate of the HFAS signals (above 35 kHz) make it highly unlikely that any marine mammals in the vicinity would be injured (including PTS) or killed as a result of sonar exposure. Therefore, no take by Level A harassment, serious injury, or mortality is anticipated; nor would it be authorized under the proposed IHA. Based on the aforementioned assessment, NMFS determines that approximately 399 bottlenose dolphins, 126 pantropical spotted dolphins, 315 Atlantic spotted dolphins, 126 spinner dolphins, 42 Clymene dolphins, and 42 striped dolphins would be affected by Level B behavioral harassment as a result of the proposed Q–20 sonar testing activities. Based on the supporting analyses suggesting that no marine mammals would be killed, seriously injured, injured, or receive TTS as a result of the Q–20 sonar testing activities coupled with our assessment that these impacts will be of limited intensity and duration and likely not occur in areas and times critical to significant behavioral patterns such as reproduction, NMFS has preliminarily determined that the taking by Level B harassment of these species or stocks as a result of the Navy’s Q–20 sonar test will have a negligible impact on the marine mammal species and stocks present in the Q–20 study area. Endangered Species Act Under section 7 of the ESA, the Navy has made a no effect determination on ESA-listed species (e.g., sperm whales, sea turtles, Gulf sturgeon, sawfish), an no critical habitat for ESA-listed species would be impacted; therefore, consultation with NMFS, Office of Protected Resources, Endangered Species Act Interagency Cooperation Division, on this proposed Q–20 testing PO 00000 Frm 00038 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 is not required. NMFS (Permits and Conservation Division will also not formally consult with NMFS (Endangered Species Act Interagency Cooperation Division) on the issuance of an IHA under section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA for this activity. Based on the analysis of the Navy Marine Resources Assessment (MRA) data on marine mammal distributions, there is near zero probability that the sperm whale will occur in the vicinity of the proposed Q– 20 study area. No other ESA-listed marine mammal is expected to occur in the vicinity of the test area. In addition, acoustic modeling analysis indicates that none of the ESA-listed marine mammal species would be exposed to levels of sound that would constitute a ‘‘take’’ under the MMPA, due to the low source level and high attenuation rates of the Q–20 sonar signal. National Environmental Policy Act In 2009, the Navy prepared a ‘‘Final Environmental Impact Statement/ Overseas Environmental Impact Statement for the NSWC PCD Mission Activities’’ (FEIS/OEIS), and NMFS subsequently adopted the FEIS/OEIS for its rule governing the Navy’s RDT&E activities in the NSWC PCD study area. With its IHA application, the Navy also prepared and submitted an ‘‘Overseas Environmental Assessment Testing the AN/AQS–20A Mine Reconnaissance Sonar System in the NSWC PCD Testing Range, 2012–2014.’’ To meet NMFS’s National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA; 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) requirements for the issuance of an IHA to the Navy, NMFS prepared an Environmental Assessment for the Issuance of an Incidental Harassment Authorization to Take Marine Mammals by Harassment Incidental to Conducting High-Frequency Sonar Testing Activities in the Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division’’ and signed a FONSI on July 24, 2012 prior to the issuance of the IHA for the Navy’s activities in July 2012 to July 2013. The currently proposed Q–20 sonar testing activities that would be covered by the proposed IHA from July 2013 to July 2014 are similar to the sonar testing activities described in the NMFS EA for the issuance of an IHA and the Navy’s FEIS/OEIS and EA for NSWC PCD mission activities, and the effects of the proposed IHA fall within the scope of those documents and do not require further supplementation. Based on the public comments received in response to publication in the Federal Register notice and proposed IHA, NMFS will decide whether to reaffirm its FONSI before making a final determination on the IHA. E:\FR\FM\06JNN1.SGM 06JNN1 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 109 / Thursday, June 6, 2013 / Notices Proposed Authorization NMFS proposes to issue an IHA authorizing the incidental take of six species of marine mammals, by Level B harassment, at levels specified in Table 2 (above) to the Navy for testing the Q– 20 sonar system in non-territorial waters of the NSWC PCD testing range in the GOM, provided the proposed mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements are incorporated. The duration of the IHA would not exceed one year from the date of its issuance. Information Solicited NMFS requests interested persons to submit comments and information concerning this proposed project and NMFS’s preliminary determination of issuing an IHA (see ADDRESSES). Concurrent with the publication of this notice in the Federal Register, NMFS is forwarding copies of this application to the Marine Mammal Commission and its Committee of Scientific Advisors. Dated: May 31, 2013. Helen M. Golde, Deputy Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2013–13340 Filed 6–5–13; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XC461 Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Marine Geophysical Survey in the Northeast Atlantic Ocean, June to July 2013 National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; issuance of an Incidental Take Authorization (ITA). AGENCY: In accordance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) regulations, notification is hereby given that NMFS has issued an Incidental Harassment Authorization (IHA) to the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University (L– DEO) to take marine mammals, by Level B harassment, incidental to conducting a marine geophysical (seismic) survey in the northeast Atlantic Ocean, June to July 2013. DATES: Effective June 1 through August 25, 2013. ADDRESSES: A copy of the final IHA and application are available by writing to P. Michael Payne, Chief, Permits and mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:35 Jun 05, 2013 Jkt 229001 Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910 or by telephoning the contacts listed here. A copy of the IHA application containing a list of the references used in this document may be obtained by writing to the above address, telephoning the contact listed here (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT) or visiting the internet at: https://www. nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental. htm#applications. An ‘‘Environmental Analysis of a Marine Geophysical Survey by the R/V Marcus G. Langseth for the Northeast Atlantic Ocean, June-July 2013,’’ was prepared by LGL Ltd., Environmental Research Associates, on behalf of the National Science Foundation (NSF) (which owns the R/V Marcus G. Langseth) and L–DEO (which operates the R/V Marcus G. Langseth). NMFS also issued a Biological Opinion under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to evaluate the effects of the survey and IHA on marine species listed as threatened and endangered. The NMFS Biological Opinion is available online at: https://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/ consultations/opinions.htm. Documents cited in this notice may be viewed by appointment, during regular business hours, at the aforementioned address. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Howard Goldstein or Jolie Harrison, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, 301–427–8401. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1371 (a)(5)(D)), directs the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) to authorize, upon request, the incidental, but not intentional, taking of small numbers of marine mammals of a species or population stock, by United States citizens who engage in a specified activity (other than commercial fishing) within a specified geographical region if certain findings are made and, if the taking is limited to harassment, a notice of a proposed authorization is provided to the public for review. Authorization for the incidental taking of small numbers of marine mammals shall be granted if NMFS finds that the taking will have a negligible impact on the species or stock(s), and will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of the species or stock(s) for subsistence uses (where relevant). The authorization must set forth the permissible methods of taking, other PO 00000 Frm 00039 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 34069 means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact on the species or stock and its habitat, and requirements pertaining to the mitigation, monitoring and reporting of such takings. NMFS has defined ‘‘negligible impact’’ in 50 CFR 216.103 as ‘‘. . . an impact resulting from the specified activity that cannot be reasonably expected to, and is not reasonably likely to, adversely affect the species or stock through effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival.’’ Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA established an expedited process by which citizens of the United States can apply for an authorization to incidentally take small numbers of marine mammals by harassment. Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA establishes a 45-day time limit for NMFS’s review of an application followed by a 30-day public notice and comment period on any proposed authorizations for the incidental harassment of small numbers of marine mammals. Within 45 days of the close of the public comment period, NMFS must either issue or deny the authorization. Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, the MMPA defines ‘‘harassment’’ as: any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance which (i) has the potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild [Level A harassment]; or (ii) has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering [Level B harassment]. Summary of Request On January 8, 2013, NMFS received an application from the L–DEO requesting that NMFS issue an IHA for the take, by Level B harassment only, of small numbers of marine mammals incidental to conducting a marine seismic survey on the high seas (i.e., International Waters) and within the Exclusive Economic Zone of Spain during June to July 2013. L–DEO plans to use one source vessel, the R/V Marcus G. Langseth (Langseth) and a seismic airgun array to collect seismic data as part of the seismic survey in the northeast Atlantic Ocean. In addition to the operations of the seismic airgun array and hydrophone streamer, L–DEO intends to operate a multibeam echosounder and a sub-bottom profiler continuously throughout the survey. On March 21, 2013, NMFS published a notice in the Federal Register (78 FR 17359) making preliminary determinations and proposing to issue E:\FR\FM\06JNN1.SGM 06JNN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 109 (Thursday, June 6, 2013)]
[Notices]
[Pages 34047-34069]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-13340]


-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XC497


Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Navy 
Research, Development, Test and Evaluation Activities at the Naval 
Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division

AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and 
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

ACTION: Notice; proposed Incidental Harassment Authorization; request 
for comments.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: NMFS has received an application from the U.S. Navy (Navy) for 
an Incidental Harassment Authorization (IHA) to take marine mammals, by 
harassment, incidental to conducting research, development, test and 
evaluation (RDT&E) activities at the Naval Surface Warfare Center 
Panama City Division (NSWC PCD). Pursuant to the Marine Mammal 
Protection Act (MMPA), NMFS is requesting comments on its proposal to 
issue an IHA to the Navy to incidentally harass, by Level B harassment 
only, 6 species of marine mammals during the specified activity.

DATES: Comments and information must be received no later than July 8, 
2013.

ADDRESSES: Comments on the application should be addressed to P. 
Michael Payne, Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of 
Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West 
Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910. The mailbox address for providing 
email comments is ITP.Goldstein@noaa.gov. NMFS is not responsible for 
email comments sent to addresses other than the one provided here. 
Comments sent via email, including all attachments, must not exceed a 
10-megabyte file size.
    Instructions: All comments received are a part of the public record 
and will generally be posted to https://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental.htm without change. All Personal Identifying Information 
(for example, name, address, etc.) voluntarily submitted by the 
commenter may be publicly accessible. Do not submit Confidential 
Business Information or otherwise sensitive or protected information.
    A copy of the application containing a list of the references used 
in this document may be obtained by writing to the address specified 
above, telephoning the contact listed below (see FOR FURTHER 
INFORMATION CONTACT), or visiting the internet at: https://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental.htm#applications.
    The Navy has prepared an ``Overseas Environmental Assessment 
Testing the An/AQS-20A Mine Reconnaissance Sonar System in the NSWC PCD 
Testing Range, 2012-2014,'' which is also available at the same 
internet address. NMFS has prepared an ``Environmental Assessment for 
the Issuance of an Incidental Harassment Authorization to Take Marine 
Mammals by Harassment Incidental to Conducing High-Frequency Sonar 
Testing Activities in the Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City 
Division'' and signed a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) on 
July 24, 2012, prior to the issuance of the IHA for the Navy's 
activities in July 2012 to July 2013. This notice and the documents it 
references provide all relevant environmental information and issues 
related to the Navy's activities and the proposed IHA. NMFS is 
soliciting comments which it will consider in determining whether to 
supplement the original EA and reaffirm the FONSI before making a final 
determination on the IHA. Documents cited in this notice may also be 
viewed, by appointment, during regular business hours, at the 
aforementioned address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Howard Goldstein or Jolie Harrison, 
Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, 301-427-8401.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    Sections 101(a)(5)(A) and (D) of the MMPA, as amended (16 U.S.C. 
1361(a)(5)(D)), direct the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) to 
authorize, upon request, the incidental, but not intentional taking of 
small numbers of marine mammals by U.S. citizens who engage in a 
specified activity (other than commercial fishing) if certain findings 
are made and, if the taking is limited to harassment, a notice of a 
proposed authorization is provided to the public for review.
    Authorization for incidental taking of marine mammals shall be 
granted if NMFS finds that the taking will have a negligible impact on 
the species or stock(s), will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on 
the availability of the species or stock(s) for subsistence uses (where 
relevant). The authorization must set forth the permissible methods of 
taking and requirements pertaining to the mitigation, monitoring and 
reporting of such takings. NMFS has defined ``negligible impact'' in 50 
CFR 216.103 as: ``. . . an impact resulting from the specified activity 
that cannot be reasonably expected to, and is not reasonably likely to, 
adversely affect the species or stock through effects on annual rates 
of recruitment or survival.''
    The National Defense Authorization Act of 2004 (NDAA) (Pub. L. 108-
136) removed the ``small numbers'' and ``specified geographical 
region'' limitations and amended the definition of ``harassment'' as it 
applies to a ``military readiness activity'' to read as follows 
(Section 3(18)(B) of the MMPA):
    (i) Any act that injures or has the significant potential to injure 
a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild [Level A 
harassment]; or
    (ii) Any act that disturbs or is likely to disturb a marine mammal 
or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of natural 
behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, 
surfacing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering, to a point where 
such behavioral patterns are abandoned or significantly altered [Level 
B harassment].
    Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA established an expedited process 
by which citizens of the United States can apply for an authorization 
to incidentally take small numbers of marine mammals by harassment. 
Section 101(a)(5)(D) establishes a 45-day time limit for NMFS's review 
of an application followed by a 30-day public notice and comment period 
on any proposed authorizations for the incidental harassment of marine 
mammals. Within 45 days of the close of the public comment period, NMFS 
must either issue or deny the authorization.

[[Page 34048]]

Summary of Request

    On November 26, 2012, NMFS received an application from the Navy 
requesting that NMFS issue an IHA for the take, by Level B harassment 
only, of marine mammals incidental to conducting testing of the AN/AQS-
20A Mine Reconnaissance Sonar System (hereafter referred to as the Q-
20) in the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Panama City Division (NSWC 
PCD) testing range in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) from July, 2013 through 
July, 2014. The Q-20 sonar test activities are proposed to be conducted 
within the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) seaward of the 
territorial waters of the United States (beyond 22.2 kilometers [km] or 
12 nautical miles [nmi]) in the GOM (see Figure 2-1 of the Navy IHA 
application).

Description of the Proposed Specific Activity

    The purpose of the Navy's activities is to meet the developmental 
testing requirements of the Q-20 sonar system by verifying its 
performance in a realistic ocean and threat environment and supporting 
its integration with the Remote Multi-Mission Vehicle (RMMV), and 
ultimately the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). Testing would include 
component, subsystem-level, and full-scale system testing in an 
operational environment. The need for the proposed activities is to 
support the timely deployment of the Q-20 to the operational Navy for 
Mine Countermeasure (MCM) activities abroad, allowing the Navy to meet 
its statutory mission to deploy naval forces equipped and trained to 
meet existing and emergent threats worldwide and to enhance its ability 
to operate jointly with other components of the armed forces. Testing 
would include component, sub-system level, and full-scale system 
testing in the operational environment.
    The proposed activities are to test the Q-20 from the RMMV and from 
surrogate platforms such as a small surface vessel or helicopter. The 
RMMV or surrogate platforms will be deployed from the Navy's new LCS or 
its surrogates. The Navy is evaluating potential environmental effects 
associated with the Q-20 test activities proposed for the Q-20 Study 
Area (see below for detailed description of the Study Area), which 
includes non-territorial waters of Military Warning Area 151 (W-151; 
includes Panama City Operating Area [OPAREA]). Q-20 test activities 
occur at sea in the waters present within the Q-20 study area and do 
not involve any land-based facilities. No hazardous waste is generated 
at sea during Q-20 test activities. There are two components associated 
with the Q-20 test activities, which are addressed below:

Surface Operations

    A significant portion of Q-20 test activities rely on surface 
operations (i.e., naval and contracted vessels, towed bodies, etc.) to 
successfully complete the missions. The proposed action includes up to 
42 testing events lasting no more than 10 hours each (420 hours 
cumulatively) of surface operations during active sonar testing per 
year in the Q-20 study area. Other surface operations occur when sonar 
is not active. Three subcategories make up surface operations: Support 
activities; tows; and vessel activity during deployment and recovery of 
equipment. Testing requiring surface operations may include a single 
test event (one day of activity) or a series of test events spread out 
over several days. The size of the surface vessels varies in accordance 
with the test requirements and vessel availability. Often multiple 
surface craft are required to support a single test event.
    The first subcategory of surface operations is support activities 
that are required by nearly all of the Q-20 test missions within the Q-
20 study area. These surface vessels serve as support platforms for 
testing and would be utilized to carry test equipment and personnel to 
and from the test sites, and are also used to secure and monitor the 
designated test area. Normally, these vessels remain on site and return 
to port following the completion of the test event; occasionally; 
however, they occasionally remain on station throughout the duration of 
the test cycle (a maximum of 10 hours of sonar per day) for guarding 
sensitive equipment in the water.
    Additional surface operations include tows, and vessel activity 
during deployment and recovery of equipment. Tows involve either 
transporting the system to the designated test area where it is 
deployed and towed over a pre-positioned inert minefield or towing the 
system from shore-based facilities for operation in the designated test 
area. Surface vessels are also used to perform the deployment and 
recovery of the RMMV, mine-like objects, and other test systems. 
Surface vessels that are used in this manner normally return to port 
the same day. However, this is test dependent, and under certain 
circumstance the surface vessel may be required to remain on site for 
an extended period of time.

Sonar Operations

    For the proposed action, the Navy would test the Q-20 for up to 420 
hours of active sonar use for 12 months starting in July, 2013. Q-20 
sonar operations involve the testing of various sonar systems at sea as 
a means of demonstrating the systems' software capability to detect, 
locate, and characterize mine-like objects under various environmental 
conditions. The data collected are used to validate the sonar systems' 
effectiveness and capability to meet its mission.
    As sound travels through water, it creates a series of pressure 
disturbances (see Appendix C of the IHA application). Frequency is the 
number of complete cycles a sound or pressure wave occurs per unit of 
time (measured in cycles per second, or Hertz (Hz)). The Navy has 
characterized low-, mid-, or high-frequency active sonars as follows:
     Low-frequency active sonar (LFAS)--Below 1 kilohertz (kHz) 
(low-frequency sound sources will not be used during any Q-20 test 
operations)
     Mid-frequency active sonar (LFAS)--From 1 to 10 kHz (mid-
frequency source sources will not be used during any Q-20 test 
operations)
     High-frequency active sonar (HFAS)--Above 10 kHz (only 
high-frequency sound sources would be used during Q-20 test operations)
    The Q-20 sonar systems proposed to be tested within the Q-20 study 
area ranges in frequencies from 35 kHz to greater than 200 kHz, 
therefore, these are HFAS systems. Those systems that operate at very 
high frequencies (i.e., greater than 200 kHz), well above the hearing 
sensitivities of any marine mammals, are not considered to affect 
marine mammals. Therefore, they are not included in this document. The 
source levels associated with Q-20 sonar systems that could affect 
marine mammals range from 207 decibels (dB) re 1 micro pascal ([mu]Pa) 
at 1 meter (m) to 212 dB re 1 [mu]Pa at 1 m. Operating parameters of 
the Q-20 sonar systems can be found in Appendix A, ``Supplemental 
Information for Underwater Noise Analysis'' of the Navy's IHA 
application.

A Brief Background on Sound

    An understanding of the basic properties of underwater sound is 
necessary to comprehend many of the concepts and analyses presented in 
this document. A summary is included below.
    Sound is a wave of pressure variations propagating through a medium 
(for the sonar considered in this proposed rule, the medium is marine 
water). Pressure

[[Page 34049]]

variations are created by compressing and relaxing the medium. Sound 
measurements can be expressed in two forms: intensity and pressure. 
Acoustic intensity is the average rate of energy transmitted through a 
unit area in a specified direction and is expressed in watts per square 
meter (W/m\2\). Acoustic intensity is rarely measured directly, it is 
derived from ratios of pressures; the standard reference pressure for 
underwater sound is 1 [mu]Pa; for airborne sound, the standard 
reference pressure is 20 [mu]Pa (Urick, 1983).
    Acousticians have adopted a logarithmic scale for sound 
intensities, which is denoted in decibels (dB). Decibel measurements 
represent the ratio between a measured pressure value and a reference 
pressure value (in this case 1 [mu]Pa or, for airborne sound, 20 
[mu]Pa). The logarithmic nature of the scale means that each 10 dB 
increase is a tenfold increase in power (e.g., 20 dB is a 100-fold 
increase, 30 dB is a 1,000-fold increase). Humans perceive a 10-dB 
increase in noise as a doubling of sound level, or a 10 dB decrease in 
noise as a halving of the sound level. The term ``sound pressure 
level'' implies a decibel measure and a reference pressure that is used 
as the denominator of the ratio. Throughout this document, NMFS uses 1 
[mu]Pa as a standard reference pressure unless noted otherwise.
    It is important to note that decibels underwater and decibels in 
air are not the same and cannot be directly compared. To estimate a 
comparison between sound in air and underwater, because of the 
different densities of air and water and the different decibel 
standards (i.e., reference pressures) in water and air, a sound with 
the same intensity (i.e., power) in air and in water would be 
approximately 63 dB lower in air. Thus, a sound that is 160 dB loud 
underwater would have the same approximate effective intensity as a 
sound that is 97 dB loud in air.
    Sound frequency is measured in cycles per second, or Hertz 
(abbreviated Hz), and is analogous to musical pitch; high-pitched 
sounds contain high frequencies and low-pitched sounds contain low 
frequencies. Natural sounds in the ocean span a huge range of 
frequencies: from earthquake noise at 5 Hz to harbor porpoise clicks at 
150,000 Hz (150 kHz). These sounds are so low or so high in pitch that 
humans cannot even hear them; acousticians call these infrasonic and 
ultrasonic sounds, respectively. A single sound may be made up of many 
different frequencies together. Sounds made up of only a small range of 
frequencies are called ``narrowband,'' and sounds with a broad range of 
frequencies are called ``broadband;'' airguns are an example of a 
broadband sound source and tactical sonars are an example of a 
narrowband sound source.
    When considering the influence of various kinds of sound on the 
marine environment, it is necessary to understand that different kinds 
of marine life are sensitive to different frequencies of sound. Based 
on available behavioral data, audiograms derived using auditory evoked 
potential, anatomical modeling, and other data, Southall et al. (2007) 
designate ``functional hearing groups'' and estimate the lower and 
upper frequencies of functional hearing of the groups. Further, the 
frequency range in which each group's hearing is estimated as being 
most sensitive is represented in the flat part of the M-weighting 
functions developed for each group. The functional groups and the 
associated frequencies are indicated below:
     Low-frequency cetaceans (13 species of mysticetes): 
Functional hearing is estimated to occur between approximately 7 Hz and 
22 kHz.
     Mid-frequency cetaceans (32 species of dolphins, six 
species of larger toothed whales, and 19 species of beaked and 
bottlenose whales): Functional hearing is estimated to occur between 
approximately 150 Hz and 160 kHz.
     High-frequency cetaceans (eight species of true porpoises, 
six species of river dolphins, Kogia, the franciscana, and four species 
of cephalorhynchids): Functional hearing is estimated to occur between 
approximately 200 Hz and 180 kHz.
     Pinnipeds in Water: Functional hearing is estimated to 
occur between approximately 75 Hz and 75 kHz, with the greatest 
sensitivity between approximately 700 Hz and 20 kHz.
     Pinnipeds in Air: Functional hearing is estimated to occur 
between approximately 75 Hz and 30 kHz.
    Because ears adapted to function underwater are physiologically 
different from human ears, comparisons using decibel measurements in 
air would still not be adequate to describe the effects of a sound on a 
whale. When sound travels away from its source, its loudness decreases 
as the distance traveled (propagates) by the sound increases. Thus, the 
loudness of a sound at its source is higher than the loudness of that 
same sound a kilometer distant. Acousticians often refer to the 
loudness of a sound at its source (typically measured one meter from 
the source) as the source level and the loudness of sound elsewhere as 
the received level. For example, a humpback whale three kilometers from 
an airgun that has a source level of 230 dB may only be exposed to 
sound that is 160 dB loud, depending on how the sound propagates. As a 
result, it is important not to confuse source levels and received 
levels when discussing the loudness of sound in the ocean.
    As sound travels from a source, its propagation in water is 
influenced by various physical characteristics, including water 
temperature, depth, salinity, and surface and bottom properties that 
cause refraction, reflection, absorption, and scattering of sound 
waves. Oceans are not homogeneous and the contribution of each of these 
individual factors is extremely complex and interrelated. The physical 
characteristics that determine the sound's speed through the water will 
change with depth, season, geographic location, and with time of day 
(as a result, in actual sonar operations, crews will measure oceanic 
conditions, such as sea water temperature and depth, to calibrate 
models that determine the path the sonar signal will take as it travels 
through the ocean and how strong the sound signal will be at a given 
range along a particular transmission path). As sound travels through 
the ocean, the intensity associated with the wavefront diminishes, or 
attenuates. This decrease in intensity is referred to as propagation 
loss, also commonly called transmission loss.

Metrics Used in This Document

    This section includes a brief explanation of the two sound 
measurements (sound pressure level (SPL) and sound exposure level 
(SEL)) frequently used in the discussions of acoustic effects in this 
document.

Sound Pressure Level

    Sound pressure is the sound force per unit area, and is usually 
measured in microPa, where 1 Pa is the pressure resulting from a force 
of one newton exerted over an area of one square meter. SPL is 
expressed as the ratio of a measured sound pressure and a reference 
level. The commonly used reference pressure level in underwater 
acoustics is 1 [mu]Pa, and the units for SPLs are dB re: 1 [mu]Pa.

SPL (in dB) = 20 log (pressure/reference pressure)

    SPL is an instantaneous measurement and can be expressed as the 
peak, the peak-peak, or the root mean square (rms). Root mean square, 
which is the square root of the arithmetic average of the squared 
instantaneous pressure values, is typically used in discussions

[[Page 34050]]

of the effects of sounds on vertebrates and all references to SPL in 
this document refer to the root mean square. SPL does not take the 
duration of a sound into account. SPL is the applicable metric used in 
the risk continuum, which is used to estimate behavioral harassment 
takes (see Level B Harassment Risk Function [Behavioral Harassment] 
Section).

Sound Exposure Level

    SEL is an energy metric that integrates the squared instantaneous 
sound pressure over a stated time interval. The units for SEL are dB 
re: 1 microPa\2\-s.

SEL = SPL + 10 log (duration in seconds)

    As applied to tactical sonar, the SEL includes both the SPL of a 
sonar ping and the total duration. Longer duration pings and/or pings 
with higher SPLs will have a higher SEL. If an animal is exposed to 
multiple pings, the SEL in each individual ping is summed to calculate 
the total SEL. The total SEL depends on the SPL, duration, and number 
of pings received. The thresholds that NMFS uses to indicate at what 
received level the onset of temporary threshold shift (TTS) and 
permanent threshold shift (PTS) in hearing are likely to occur are 
expressed in SEL.

Dates and Duration of the Proposed Specified Activity

    The Q-20 study area includes target and operational test fields 
located in W-151, an area within the GOM subject to military operations 
which also encompasses the Panama City OPAREA (see Figure 2-1 of the 
Navy's IHA application). The Q-20 test activities will be conducted in 
the non-territorial waters off the United States (beyond 22.2 km or 12 
nmi) within the U.S. EEZ in the GOM. The locations and environments 
include:
     Wide coastal shelf to 183 meters (m) [600 feet (ft)].
     Sea surface temperature range of 27 degrees Celsius 
([deg]C) [80 degrees Fahrenheit ([deg]F)] in summer to 10 [deg]C (50 
[deg]F) in winter. Seasons are defined as December 23 through April 2 
(winter) and July 2 through September 24 (summer) (DON, 2007a).
     Mostly sandy bottom and good underwater visibility.
     Sea heights less than 0.91 m (3 ft) during 80 percent of 
the time in summer and 50 percent of the time in winter (DON, 2009a).
    The Navy requests an IHA for a time period of one year beginning 
July, 27 2013. A total of 42 Q-20 (RDT&E) test days would be conducted 
with a maximum sonar operation of 10 hours per a test day.

Description of Marine Mammals in the Area of the Proposed Specified 
Activity

    The marine mammal species that potentially occur within the GOM 
include 28 species of cetaceans and one sirenian (Jefferson and Schiro, 
1997; Wursig et al., 2000; see Table 1 below). In addition to the 28 
species known to occur in the GOM, the long-finned pilot whale 
(Globicephala melas), long-beaked common dolphin (Delphinus capensis), 
and short-beaked common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) could potentially 
occur there; however, there are no confirmed sightings of these species 
in the GOM, they have been seen close and could eventually be found 
there (Wursig et al., 2000). NMFS considers it unlikely that these 
three species would be exposed to sound from the proposed activities 
and potential impacts are thus discountable. Those three species are 
not considered further in this document. The marine mammals that 
generally occur in the proposed action area belong to three taxonomic 
groups: mysticetes (baleen whales), odontocetes (toothed whales), and 
sirenians (the West Indian manatee). Of the marine mammal species that 
potentially occur within the GOM, 21 species of cetaceans (20 
odontocetes, 1 mysticete) are routinely present and have been included 
in the analysis for incidental take to the proposed Q-20 testing 
operations. Marine mammal species listed as endangered under the U.S. 
Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA; 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), includes 
the North Atlantic right (Eubalaena glacialis), humpback (Megaptera 
novaeangliae), sei (Balaenoptera borealis), fin (Balaenoptera 
physalus), blue (Balaenoptera musculus), and sperm (Physeter 
macrocephalus) whale, as well as the West Indian (Florida) manatee 
(Trichechus manatus latirostris). Of those endangered species, none are 
likely to be encountered in the proposed study area. No species of 
pinnipeds are known to occur regularly in the GOM and any pinniped 
sighted in the proposed study area would be considered extralimital. 
The Caribbean monk seal (Monachus tropicalis) used to inhabit the GOM, 
but is considered extinct and has been delisted from the ESA. The U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has jurisdiction and authority for 
managing the West Indian manatee including authorizing incidental take 
under both the MMPA and ESA. This species is thus not considered 
further in this analysis. All other referenced species are subject to 
NMFS's jurisdiction and thus included in our analysis.
    In general, cetaceans in the GOM appear to be partitioned by 
habitat preferences likely related to prey distribution (Baumgartner et 
al., 2001). Most species in the northern GOM concentrated along the 
upper continental slope in or near areas of cyclonic circulation in 
waters 200 to 1,000 m (656.2 to 3,280.8 ft) deep. Species sighted 
regularly in these waters include Risso's, rough-toothed, spinner, 
striped, pantropical spotted, and Clymene dolphins, as well as short-
finned pilot, pygmy and dwarf sperm, sperm, Mesoplodon beaked, and 
unidentified beaked whales (Davis et al., 1998). In contrast, 
continental shelf waters (< 200 m deep) are primarily inhabited by two 
species: bottlenose and Atlantic spotted dolphins (Davis et al., 2000, 
2002; Mullin and Fulling, 2004). Bottlenose dolphins are also found in 
deeper waters (Baumgartner et al., 2001). The narrow continental shelf 
south of the Mississippi River delta (20 km [10.8 nmi] wide at its 
narrowest point) appears to be an important habitat for several 
cetacean species (Baumgartner et al., 2001; Davis et al., 2002). There 
appears to be a resident population of sperm whales within 100 km (54 
nmi) of the Mississippi River delta (Davis et al., 2002). The North 
Atlantic right, humpback, sei, fin, blue, minke, and True's beaked 
whale are considered extralimital and are excluded from further 
consideration of impacts from the NSWC PCD Q-20 testing analysis. Table 
2 (below) presents information on the abundance, distribution, 
population status, conservation status, and population trend of the 
species of marine mammals that may occur in the proposed study area 
during July 2013 to July 2014.

[[Page 34051]]



 Table 2--The Habitat, Regional Abundance, and Conservation Status of Marine Mammals That May Occur in or Near the Proposed Q-20 Study Area in the Gulf
                                                                        of Mexico
                                  [See text and Table 3-1, 3-2, and 3-3 in the Navy's application for further details]
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                            Population estimate
              Species                      Habitat             \3\ (minimum)          ESA \1\            MMPA \2\              Population trend \3\
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                       Mysticetes
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
North Atlantic right whale          Coastal and shelf....  Extralimital.........  EN              D....................  Increasing.
 (Eubalaena glacialis).
Humpback whale (Megaptera           Pelagic, nearshore     Rare.................  EN              D....................  Increasing.
 novaeangliae).                      waters, and banks.
Minke whale (Balaenoptera           Pelagic and coastal..  Rare.................  NL              NC...................  No information available.
 acutorostrata).
Bryde's whale (Balaenoptera brydei/ Pelagic and coastal..  33 (16)--Northern GOM  NL              NC...................  Unable to determine.
 edeni).                                                    stock.
Sei whale (Balaenoptera borealis).  Primarily offshore,    Rare.................  EN              D....................  Unable to determine.
                                     pelagic.
Fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus).  Continental slope,     Rare.................  EN              D....................  Unable to determine.
                                     pelagic.
Blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus)  Pelagic, shelf,        Extralimital.........  EN              D....................  Unable to determine.
                                     coastal.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                       Odontocetes
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Sperm whale (Physeter               Pelagic, deep sea....  763 (560)--Northern    EN              D....................  Unable to determine.
 macrocephalus).                                            GOM stock.
Pygmy sperm whale (Kogia            Deep waters off the    186 (90)--Northern     NL              NC...................  Unable to determine.
 breviceps) and Dwarf sperm whale    shelf.                 GOM stock.
 (Kogia sima).
Cuvier's beaked whale (Ziphius      Pelagic..............  74 (36)--Northern GOM  NL              NC...................  Unable to determine.
 cavirostris).                                              stock.
Mesoplodon beaked whale (includes   Pelagic..............  149 (77)--Northern     NL              NC...................  Unable to determine.
 Blainville's beaked whale [M.                              GOM stock.
 densirostris], Gervais' beaked
 whale [M. europaeus], and
 Sowerby's beaked whale
 [M..bidens].
Killer whale (Orcinus orca).......  Pelagic, shelf,        28 (14)--Northern GOM  NL              NC...................  Unable to determine.
                                     coastal.               stock.
Short-finned pilot whale            Pelagic, shelf         2,415 (1,456)--        NL              NC...................  Unable to determine.
 (Globicephala macrorhynchus).       coastal.               Northern GOM stock.
False killer whale (Pseudorca       Pelagic..............  NA--Northern GOM       NL              NC...................  Unable to determine.
 crassidens).                                               stock.
Melon-headed whale (Peponocephala   Pelagic..............  2,235 (1,274)--        NL              NC...................  Unable to determine.
 electra).                                                  Northern GOM stock.
Pygmy killer whale (Feresa          Pelagic..............  152 (75)--Northern     NL              NC...................  Unable to determine.
 attenuata).                                                GOM stock.
Risso's dolphin (Grampus griseus).  Deep water, seamounts  2,442 (1,563)--        NL              NC...................  Unable to determine.
                                                            Northern GOM stock.
Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops        Offshore, inshore,     NA (NA)--32 Northern   NL              NC S-32 stocks         Unable to determine.
 truncatus).                         coastal, estuaries.    GOM Bay, Sound and                     inhabitiing the
                                                            Estuary stocks.                        bays, sounds, and
                                                           NA (NA)--Northern GOM                   estuaries along GOM
                                                            continental shelf                      coast, and GOM
                                                            stock.                                 western coastal
                                                           7,702 (6,551)--GOM                      stock.
                                                            eastern coastal
                                                            stock.
                                                           2,473 (2,004)--GOM
                                                            northern coastal
                                                            stock.
                                                           NA (NA)--GOM western
                                                            coastal stock.
                                                           5,806 (4,230)--
                                                            Northern GOM oceanic
                                                            stock.
Rough-toothed dolphin (Steno        Pelagic..............  624 (311)--Northern    NL              NC...................  Unable to determine.
 bredanensis).                                              GOM stock.
Fraser's dolphin (Lagenodelphis     Pelagic..............  NA (NA)--Northern GOM  NL              NC...................  Unable to determine.
 hosei).                                                    stock.
Striped dolphin (Stenella           Pelagic..............  1,849 (1,041)--        NL              NC...................  Unable to determine.
 coeruleoalba).                                             Northern GOM stock.
Pantropical spotted dolphin         Pelagic..............  50,880 (40,699)--      NL              NC...................  Unable to determine.
 (Stenella attenuata).                                      Northern GOM stock.
Atlantic spotted dolphin (Stenella  Coastal and pelagic..  NA (NA)--Northern GOM  NL              NC...................  Unable to determine.
 frontalis).                                                stock.

[[Page 34052]]

 
Spinner dolphin (Stenella           Mostly pelagic.......  11,441 (6,221)--       NL              NC...................  Unable to determine.
 longirostris).                                             Northern GOM stock.
Clymene dolphin (Stenella clymene)  Pelagic..............  129 (64)--Northern     NL              NC...................  Unable to determine.
                                                            GOM stock.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                        Sirenians
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
West Indian (Florida) manatee       Coastal, rivers, and   3,802--U.S. stock....  EN              D....................  Increasing or stable throughout
 (Trichechus manatus latrostris).    estuaries.                                                                           much of Florida.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
NA = Not available or not assessed.
\1\ U.S. Endangered Species Act: EN = Endangered, T = Threatened, DL = Delisted, NL = Not listed.
\2\ U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act: D = Depleted, S = Strategic, NC = Not Classified.
\3\ NMFS Draft 2012 Stock Assessment Reports.
\4\ USFWS Stock Assessment Reports.

    The information contained herein relies heavily on the data 
gathered in the Marine Resource Assessments (MRAs). The Navy Marine 
Resources Assessment (MRA) program was implemented by the Commander, 
United States Fleet Forces Command, to collect data and information on 
the protected and commercial marine resources found in the Navy 
OPAREAs. Specifically, the goal of the MRA program is to describe and 
document the marine resources present in each of the Navy's OPAREAs. As 
such, an MRA was finalized in 2007 for the GOM, which comprises three 
adjacent OPAREAs, one of which is the Panama City OPAREA (DON, 2007a).
    The MRA represents a compilation and synthesis of available 
scientific literature (e.g., journals, periodicals, theses, 
dissertations, project reports, and other technical reports published 
by government agencies, private businesses, or consulting firms) and 
NMFS reports, including stock assessment reports (SARs), recovery 
plans, and survey reports. The MRA summarize the physical environment 
(e.g., marine geology, circulation and currents, hydrography, and 
plankton and primary productivity) for each test area. In addition, an 
in-depth discussion of the biological environment (marine mammals, sea 
turtles, fish, and EFH), as well as fishing grounds (recreational and 
commercial) and other areas of interest (e.g., maritime boundaries, 
navigable waters, marine managed areas, recreational diving sites) are 
also provided. Where applicable, the information contained in the MRA 
was used for analyses in this document. Appendix A of the Navy's IHA 
application contains more information about each marine mammal species 
potentially found in the Q-20 study area. The GOM MRA also contains 
detailed information, with a species description, status, habitat 
preference, distribution, behavior and life history, as well as 
information on its acoustics and hearing ability (DON, 2007a).
    A detailed description of marine mammal density estimates and their 
distribution in the Q-20 study area is provided in the Navy's Q-20 IHA 
application.

Potential Effects on Marine Mammal

    The Navy considers that the proposed Q-20 sonar testing activities 
in the Q-20 study area could potentially result in harassment to marine 
mammals. Although surface operations related to sonar testing involve 
ship movement in the vicinity of the Q-20 test area, NMFS considers it 
unlikely that ship strike could occur as analyzed below.

Surface Operations

    Typical operations occurring at the surface include the deployment 
or towing of mine countermeasures (MCM) equipment, retrieval of 
equipment, and clearing and monitoring for non-participating vessels. 
As such, the potential exists for a ship to strike a marine mammal 
while conducting surface operations. In an effort to reduce the 
likelihood of a vessel strike, the mitigation and monitoring measures 
discussed below would be implemented.
    Collisions with commercial and U.S. Navy vessels can cause major 
wounds and may occasionally cause fatalities to marine mammals. The 
most vulnerable marine mammals are those that spend extended periods of 
time at the surface in order to restore oxygen levels within their 
tissues after deep dives (e.g., the sperm whale). Laist et al. (2001) 
identified 11 species known to be hit by ships worldwide. Of these 
species, fin whales are struck most frequently; followed by right 
whales, humpback whales, sperm whales, and gray whales. More 
specifically, from 1975 through 1996, there were 31 dead whale 
strandings involving four large whales along the GOM coastline. 
Stranded animals included two sei whales, four minke whales, eight 
Bryde's whales, and 17 sperm whales. Only one of the stranded animals, 
a sperm whale with propeller wounds found in Louisiana on 9 March 1990, 
was identified as stranding as a result of a possible ship strike 
(Laist et al., 2001). In addition, from 1999 through 2003, there was 
only one stranding involving a false killer whale in the northern GOM 
(Alabama, 1999) (Waring et al., 2006). According to the 2010 Stock 
Assessment Report (NMFS, 2011), during 2009 there was one known Bryde's 
whale mortality as a result of a ship strike. Otherwise, no other 
marine mammal that is likely to occur in the northern GOM has been 
reported as either seriously or fatally injured as a result of a ship 
strike from 1999 through 2009 (Waring et al., 2007).
    It is unlikely that activities in non-territorial waters will 
result in a ship strike because of the nature of the operations and 
size of the vessels. For example, the hours of surface operations take 
into consideration operation times for multiple vessels during each 
test event. These vessels range in size from small Rigid Hull 
Inflatable Boat (RHIB) to surface vessels of approximately 128 m (420 
ft). The majority of these vessels are small RHIBs and medium-sized 
vessels. A large proportion of the timeframe for the Q-20 test events

[[Page 34053]]

include periods when ships remain stationary within the test site.
    The greatest time spent in transit for tests includes navigation to 
and from the sites. At these times, the Navy follows standard operating 
procedures (SOPs). The captain and other crew members keep watch during 
ship transits to avoid objects in the water. Furthermore, with the 
implementation of the proposed mitigation and monitoring measures 
described below, NMFS believes that it is unlikely vessel strikes would 
occur. Consequently, because of the nature of the surface operations 
and the size of the vessels, the proposed mitigation and monitoring 
measures developed to minimize or avoid impacts of noise, and the fact 
that cetaceans typically more vulnerable to ship strikes are not likely 
to be in the project area, the NMFS concludes that ship strikes are 
unlikely to occur in the Q-20 study area.

Acoustic Effects: Exposure to Sonar

    For activities involving active tactical sonar, NMFS's analysis 
will identify the probability of lethal responses, physical trauma, 
sensory impairment (permanent and temporary threshold shifts and 
acoustic masking), physiological responses (particular stress 
responses), behavioral disturbance (that rises to the level of 
harassment), and social responses that would be classified as 
behavioral harassment or injury and/or would be likely to adversely 
affect the species or stock through effects on annual rates of 
recruitment or survival. In this section, we will focus qualitatively 
on the different ways that exposure to sonar signals may affect marine 
mammals. Then, in the ``Estimated Take of Marine Mammals'' section, 
NMFS will relate the potential effects on marine mammals from sonar 
exposure to the MMPA regulatory definitions of Level A and Level B 
harassment and attempt to quantify those effects.

Direct Physiological Effects

    Based on the literature, there are two basic ways that Navy sonar 
might directly result in physical trauma or damage: Noise-induced loss 
of hearing sensitivity (more commonly-called ``threshold shift'') and 
acoustically mediated bubble growth. Separately, an animal's behavioral 
reaction to an acoustic exposure might lead to physiological effects 
that might ultimately lead to injury or death, which is discussed later 
in the Stranding section.

Threshold Shift (Noise-Induced Loss of Hearing)

    When animals exhibit reduced hearing sensitivity (i.e., sounds must 
be louder for an animal to recognize them) following exposure to a 
sufficiently intense sound, it is referred to as a noise-induced 
threshold shift (TS). An animal can experience temporary threshold 
shift (TTS) or permanent threshold shift (PTS). TTS can last from 
minutes or hours to days (i.e., there is recovery), occurs in specific 
frequency ranges (e.g., an animal might only have a temporary loss of 
hearing sensitivity between the frequencies of 1 and 10 kHz)), and can 
be of varying amounts (for example, an animal's hearing sensitivity 
might be reduced by only 6 dB or reduced by 30 dB). PTS is permanent 
(i.e., there is no recovery), but also occurs in a specific frequency 
range and amount as mentioned in the TTS description.
    The following physiological mechanisms are thought to play a role 
in inducing auditory TSs: Effects on sensory hair cells in the inner 
ear that reduce their sensitivity, modification of the chemical 
environment within the sensory cells, residual muscular activity in the 
middle ear, displacement of certain inner ear membranes, increased 
blood flow, and post-stimulatory reduction in both efferent and sensory 
neural output (Southall et al., 2007). The amplitude, duration, 
frequency, temporal pattern, and energy distribution of sound exposure 
all affect the amount of associated TS and the frequency range in which 
it occurs. As amplitude and duration of sound exposure increase, so, 
generally, does the amount of TS. For continuous sounds, exposures of 
equal energy (the same SEL) will lead to approximately equal effects. 
For intermittent sounds, less TS will occur than from a continuous 
exposure with the same energy (some recovery will occur between 
exposures) (Kryter et al., 1966; Ward, 1997). For example, one short 
but loud (higher SPL) sound exposure may induce the same impairment as 
one longer but softer sound, which in turn may cause more impairment 
than a series of several intermittent softer sounds with the same total 
energy (Ward, 1997). Additionally, though TTS is temporary, very 
prolonged exposure to sound strong enough to elicit TTS, or shorter-
term exposure to sound levels well above the TTS threshold, can cause 
PTS, at least in terrestrial mammals (Kryter, 1985) (although in the 
case of Navy sonar, animals are not expected to be exposed to levels 
high enough or durations long enough to result in PTS).
    PTS is considered auditory injury (Southall et al., 2007). 
Irreparable damage to the inner or outer cochlear hair cells may cause 
PTS, however, other mechanisms are also involved, such as exceeding the 
elastic limits of certain tissues and membranes in the middle and inner 
ears and resultant changes in the chemical composition of the inner ear 
fluids (Southall et al., 2007).
    Although the published body of scientific literature contains 
numerous theoretical studies and discussion papers on hearing 
impairments that can occur with exposure to a loud sound, only a few 
studies provide empirical information on the levels at which noise-
induced loss in hearing sensitivity occurs in nonhuman animals. For 
cetaceans, published data are limited to the captive bottlenose dolphin 
and beluga whale (Finneran et al., 2000, 2002b, 2005a; Schlundt et al., 
2000; Nachtigall et al., 2003, 2004).
    Marine mammal hearing plays a critical role in communication with 
conspecifics, and interpreting environmental cues for purposes such as 
predator avoidance and prey capture. Depending on the frequency range 
of TTS degree (dB), duration, and frequency range of TTS, and the 
context in which it is experienced, TTS can have effects on marine 
mammals ranging from discountable to serious (similar to those 
discussed in auditory masking, below). For example, a marine mammal may 
be able to readily compensate for a brief, relatively small amount of 
TTS in a non-critical frequency range that takes place during a time 
when the animal is traveling through the open ocean, where ambient 
noise is lower and there are not as many competing sounds present.
    Alternatively, a larger amount and longer duration of TTS sustained 
during a time when communication is critical for successful mother/calf 
interactions could have more serious impacts. Also, depending on the 
degree and frequency range, the effects of PTS on an animal could range 
in severity, although it is considered generally more serious because 
it is a long term condition. Of note, reduced hearing sensitivity as a 
simple function of development and aging has been observed in marine 
mammals, as well as humans and other taxa (Southall et al., 2007), so 
we can infer that strategies exist for coping with this condition to 
some degree, though likely not without cost. There is no empirical 
evidence that exposure to Navy sonar can cause PTS in any marine 
mammals; instead the probability of PTS has been inferred

[[Page 34054]]

from studies of TTS (see Richardson et al., 1995).

Acoustically Mediated Bubble Growth

    One theoretical cause of injury to marine mammals is rectified 
diffusion (Crum and Mao, 1996), the process of increasing the size of a 
bubble by exposing it to a sound field. This process could be 
facilitated if the environment in which the ensonified bubbles exist is 
supersaturated with gas. Repetitive diving by marine mammals can cause 
the blood and some tissues to accumulate gas to a greater degree than 
is supported by the surrounding environmental pressure (Ridgway and 
Howard, 1979). The deeper and longer dives of some marine mammals (for 
example, beaked whales) are theoretically predicted to induce greater 
supersaturation (Houser et al., 2001). If rectified diffusion were 
possible in marine mammals exposed to high-level sound, conditions of 
tissue supersaturation could theoretically speed the rate and increase 
the size of bubble growth. Subsequent effects due to tissue trauma and 
emboli would presumably mirror those observed in humans suffering from 
decompression sickness.
    It is unlikely that the short duration of sonar pings would be long 
enough to drive bubble growth to any substantial size, if such a 
phenomenon occurs. Recent work conducted by Crum et al. (2005) 
demonstrated the possibility of rectified diffusion for short duration 
signals, but at sound exposure levels and tissue saturation levels that 
are improbable to occur in a diving marine mammal. However, an 
alternative but related hypothesis has also been suggested: Stable 
bubbles could be destabilized by high-level sound exposures such that 
bubble growth then occurs through static diffusion of gas out of the 
tissues. In such a scenario the marine mammal would need to be in a 
gas-supersaturated state for a long enough period of time for bubbles 
to become of a problematic size. Yet another hypothesis (decompression 
sickness) has speculated that rapid ascent to the surface following 
exposure to a startling sound might produce tissue gas saturation 
sufficient for the evolution of nitrogen bubbles (Jepson et al., 2003; 
Fernandez et al., 2005). In this scenario, the rate of ascent would 
need to be sufficiently rapid to compromise behavioral or physiological 
protections against nitrogen bubble formation. Collectively, these 
hypotheses can be referred to as ``hypotheses of acoustically mediated 
bubble growth.''
    Although theoretical predictions suggest the possibility for 
acoustically mediated bubble growth, there is considerable disagreement 
among scientists as to its likelihood (Piantadosi and Thalmann, 2004; 
Evans and Miller, 2003). Crum and Mao (1996) hypothesized that received 
levels would have to exceed 190 dB in order for there to be the 
possibility of significant bubble growth due to supersaturation of 
gases in the blood (i.e., rectified diffusion). More recent work 
conducted by Crum et al. (2005) demonstrated the possibility of 
rectified diffusion for short duration signals, but at SELs and tissue 
saturation levels that are highly improbable to occur in diving marine 
mammals. To date, Energy Levels (ELs) predicted to cause in vivo bubble 
formation within diving cetaceans have not been evaluated (NOAA, 2002). 
Although it has been argued that traumas from some recent beaked whale 
strandings are consistent with gas emboli and bubble-induced tissue 
separations (Jepson et al., 2003), there is no conclusive evidence of 
this (Hooker et al., 2011). However, Jepson et al. (2003, 2005) and 
Fernandez et al. (2004, 2005) concluded that in vivo bubble formation, 
which may be exacerbated by deep, long duration, repetitive dives may 
explain why beaked whales appear to be particularly vulnerable to sonar 
exposures. A recent review of evidence for gas-bubble incidence in 
marine mammal tissues suggest that diving mammals vary their 
physiological responses according to multiple stressors, and that the 
perspective on marine mammal diving physiology should change from 
simply minimizing nitrogen loading to management of the nitrogen load 
(Hooker et al., 2011). This suggests several avenues for further study, 
ranging from the effects of gas bubbles at molecular, cellular and 
organ function levels, to comparative studies relating the presence/
absence of gas bubbles to diving behavior. More information regarding 
hypotheses that attempt to explain how behavioral responses to Navy 
sonar can lead to strandings is included in the ``Behaviorally Mediated 
Bubble Growth'' section, after the summary of strandings.

Acoustic Masking

    Marine mammals use acoustic signals for a variety of purposes, 
which differ among species, but include communication between 
individuals, navigation, foraging, reproduction, and learning about 
their environment (Erbe and Farmer, 2000; Tyack, 2000; Clark et al., 
2009). Masking, or auditory interference, generally occurs when sounds 
in the environment are louder than, and of a similar frequency to, 
auditory signals an animal is trying to receive. Masking is a 
phenomenon that affects animals that are trying to receive acoustic 
information about their environment, including sounds from other 
members of their species, predators, prey, and sounds that allow them 
to orient in their environment. Masking these acoustic signals can 
disturb the behavior of individual animals, groups of animals, or 
entire populations.
    The extent of the masking interference depends on the spectral, 
temporal, and spatial relationships between the signals an animal is 
trying to receive and the masking noise, in addition to other factors. 
In humans, significant masking of tonal signals occurs as a result of 
exposure to noise in a narrow band of similar frequencies. As the sound 
level increases, though, the detection of frequencies above those of 
the masking stimulus also decreases. This principle is also expected to 
apply to marine mammals because of common biomechanical cochlear 
properties across taxa.
    Richardson et al. (1995) argued that the maximum radius of 
influence of an industrial noise (including broadband low frequency 
sound transmission) on a marine mammal is the distance from the source 
to the point at which the noise can barely be heard. This range is 
determined by either the hearing sensitivity of the animal or the 
background noise level present. Industrial masking is most likely to 
affect some species' ability to detect communication calls and natural 
sounds (i.e., surf noise, prey noise, etc.; Richardson et al., 1995).
    The echolocation calls of odontocetes (toothed whales) are subject 
to masking by high frequency sound. Human data indicate low-frequency 
sound can mask high-frequency sounds (i.e., upward masking). Studies on 
captive odontocetes by Au et al. (1974, 1985, 1993) indicate that some 
species may use various processes to reduce masking effects (e.g., 
adjustments in echolocation call intensity or frequency as a function 
of background noise conditions). There is also evidence that the 
directional hearing abilities of odontocetes are useful in reducing 
masking at the high frequencies these cetaceans use to echolocate, but 
not at the low-to-moderate frequencies they use to communicate 
(Zaitseva et al., 1980).
    As mentioned previously, the functional hearing ranges of 
mysticetes (baleen whales) and odontocetes (toothed whales) all 
encompass the frequencies of the sonar sources used in the Navy's Q-20 
test activities. Additionally, almost all species' vocal

[[Page 34055]]

repertoires span across the frequencies of the sonar sources used by 
the Navy. The closer the characteristics of the masking signal to the 
signal of interest, the more likely masking is to occur. However, 
because the pulse length and duty cycle of the Navy sonar signals are 
of short duration and would not be continuous, masking is unlikely to 
occur as a result of exposure to these signals during the Q-20 test 
activities in the designated Q-20 study area.

Impaired Communication

    In addition to making it more difficult for animals to perceive 
acoustic cues in their environment, anthropogenic sound presents 
separate challenges for animals that are vocalizing. When they 
vocalize, animals are aware of environmental conditions that affect the 
``active space'' of their vocalizations, which is the maximum area 
within which their vocalizations can be detected before it drops to the 
level of ambient noise (Brenowitz, 2004; Brumm et al., 2004; Lohr et 
al., 2003). Animals are also aware of environmental conditions that 
affect whether listeners can discriminate and recognize their 
vocalizations from other sounds, which are more important than 
detecting a vocalization (Brenowitz, 1982; Brumm et al., 2004; Dooling, 
2004; Marten and Marler, 1977; Patricelli et al., 2006). Most animals 
that vocalize have evolved an ability to make vocal adjustments to 
their vocalizations to increase the signal-to-noise ratio, active 
space, and recognizability of their vocalizations in the face of 
temporary changes in background noise (Brumm et al., 2004; Patricelli 
et al., 2006). Vocalizing animals will make one or more of the 
following adjustments to their vocalizations: Adjust the frequency 
structure; adjust the amplitude; adjust temporal structure; or adjust 
temporal delivery.
    Many animals will combine several of these strategies to compensate 
for high levels of background noise. Anthropogenic sounds that reduce 
the signal-to-noise ratio of animal vocalizations, increase the masked 
auditory thresholds of animals listening for such vocalizations, or 
reduce the active space of an animal's vocalizations impair 
communication between animals. Most animals that vocalize have evolved 
strategies to compensate for the effects of short-term or temporary 
increases in background or ambient noise on their songs or calls. 
Although the fitness consequences of these vocal adjustments remain 
unknown, like most other trade-offs animals must make, some of these 
strategies probably come at a cost (Patricelli et al., 2006). For 
example, vocalizing more loudly in noisy environments may have 
energetic costs that decrease the net benefits of vocal adjustment and 
alter a bird's energy budget (Brumm, 2004; Wood and Yezerinac, 2006). 
Shifting songs and calls to higher frequencies may also impose 
energetic costs (Lambrechts, 1996).

Stress Responses

    Classic stress responses begin when an animal's central nervous 
system perceives a potential threat to its homeostasis. That perception 
triggers stress responses regardless of whether a stimulus actually 
threatens the animal; the mere perception of a threat is sufficient to 
trigger a stress response (Moberg, 2000; Sapolsky et al., 2005; Seyle, 
1950). Once an animal's central nervous system perceives a threat, it 
mounts a biological response or defense that consists of a combination 
of the four general biological defense responses: behavioral responses, 
autonomic nervous system responses, neuroendocrine responses, or immune 
response.
    In the case of many stressors, an animal's first and most 
economical (in terms of biotic costs) response is behavioral avoidance 
of the potential stressor or avoidance of continued exposure to a 
stressor. An animal's second line of defense to stressors involves the 
autonomic nervous system and the classical ``fight or flight'' 
response, which includes the cardiovascular system, the 
gastrointestinal system, the exocrine glands, and the adrenal medulla 
to produce changes in heart rate, blood pressure, and gastrointestinal 
activity that humans commonly associate with ``stress.'' These 
responses have a relatively short duration and may or may not have 
significant long-term effects on an animal's welfare.
    An animal's third line of defense to stressors involves its 
neuroendocrine or sympathetic nervous systems; the system that has 
received the most study has been the hypothalmus-pituitary-adrenal 
system (also known as the HPA axis in mammals or the hypothalamus-
pituitary-interrenal axis in fish and some reptiles). Unlike stress 
responses associated with the autonomic nervous system, virtually all 
neuro-endocrine functions that are affected by stress--including immune 
competence, reproduction, metabolism, and behavior--are regulated by 
pituitary hormones. Stress-induced changes in the secretion of 
pituitary hormones have been implicated in failed reproduction (Moberg, 
1987; Rivier, 1995) and altered metabolism (Elasser et al., 2000), 
reduced immune competence (Blecha, 2000) and behavioral disturbance. 
Increases in the circulation of glucocorticosteroids (cortisol, 
corticosterone, and aldosterone in marine mammals; Romano et al., 2004) 
have been equated with stress for many years.
    The primary distinction between stress (which is adaptive and does 
not normally place an animal at risk) and distress is the biotic cost 
of the response. During a stress response, an animal uses glycogen 
stores that can be quickly replenished once the stress is alleviated. 
In such circumstances, the cost of the stress response would not pose a 
risk to the animal's welfare. However, when an animal does not have 
sufficient energy reserves to satisfy the energetic costs of a stress 
response, energy resources must be diverted from other biotic 
functions, which impair those functions that experience the diversion. 
For example, when mounting a stress response diverts energy away from 
growth in young animals, those animals may experience stunted growth. 
When mounting a stress response diverts energy from a fetus, an 
animal's reproductive success and its fitness will suffer. In these 
cases, the animals will have entered a pre-pathological or pathological 
state which is called ``distress'' (sensu Seyle, 1950) or ``allostatic 
loading'' (sensu McEwen and Wingfield, 2003). This pathological state 
will last until the animal replenishes its biotic reserves sufficient 
to restore normal function.
    Relationships between these physiological mechanisms, animal 
behavior, and the costs of stress responses have also been documented 
fairly well through controlled experiments; because this physiology 
exists in every vertebrate that has been studied, it is not surprising 
that stress responses and their costs have been documented in both 
laboratory and free-living animals (for examples see, Holberton et al., 
1996; Hood et al., 1998; Jessop et al., 2003; Krausman et al., 2004; 
Lankford et al., 2005; Reneerkens et al., 2002; Thompson and Hamer, 
2000). Although no information has been collected on the physiological 
responses of marine mammals to exposure to anthropogenic sounds, 
studies of other marine animals and terrestrial animals would lead us 
to expect some marine mammals to experience physiological stress 
responses and, perhaps, physiological responses that would be 
classified as ``distress'' upon exposure to mid-frequency and low-
frequency sounds.
    For example, Jansen (1998) reported on the relationship between 
acoustic exposures and physiological responses

[[Page 34056]]

that are indicative of stress responses in humans (for example, 
elevated respiration and increased heart rates). Jones (1998) reported 
on reductions in human performance when faced with acute, repetitive 
exposures to acoustic disturbance. Trimper et al. (1998) reported on 
the physiological stress responses of osprey to low-level aircraft 
noise while Krausman et al. (2004) reported on the auditory and 
physiology stress responses of endangered Sonoran pronghorn to military 
overflights. Smith et al. (2004a, 2004b) identified noise induced 
physiological transient stress responses in hearing-specialist fish 
that accompanied short- and long-term hearing losses. Welch and Welch 
(1970) reported physiological and behavioral stress responses that 
accompanied damage to the inner ears of fish and several mammals.
    Hearing is one of the primary senses cetaceans use to gather 
information about their environment and to communicate with 
conspecifics. Although empirical information on the relationship 
between sensory impairment (TTS, PTS, and acoustic masking) on 
cetaceans remains limited, it seems reasonable to assume that reducing 
an animal's ability to gather information about its environment and to 
communicate with other members of its species would be stressful for 
animals that use hearing as their primary sensory mechanism. Therefore, 
we assume that acoustic exposures sufficient to trigger onset PTS or 
TTS would be accompanied by physiological stress responses because 
terrestrial animals exhibit those responses under similar conditions 
(NRC, 2003). More importantly, marine mammals might experience stress 
responses at received levels lower than those necessary to trigger 
onset TTS. Based on empirical studies of the time required to recover 
from stress responses (Moberg, 2000), we also assume that stress 
responses are likely to persist beyond the time interval required for 
animals to recover from TTS and might result in pathological and pre-
pathological states that would be as significant as behavioral 
responses to TTS.

Behavioral Disturbance

    Behavioral responses to sound are highly variable and context-
specific. Exposure of marine mammals to sound sources can result in 
(but is not limited to) the following observable responses: Increased 
alertness; orientation or attraction to a sound source; vocal 
modifications; cessation of feeding; cessation of social interaction; 
alteration of movement or diving behavior; habitat abandonment 
(temporary or permanent); and, in severe cases, panic, flight, 
stampede, or stranding, potentially resulting in death (Southall et 
al., 2007).
    Many different variables can influence an animal's perception of 
and response to (nature and magnitude) an acoustic event. An animal's 
prior experience with a sound type affects whether it is less likely 
(habituation) or more likely (sensitization) to respond to certain 
sounds in the future (animals can also be innately pre-disposed to 
respond to certain sounds in certain ways) (Southall et al., 2007). 
Related to the sound itself, the perceived nearness of the sound, 
bearing of the sound (approaching vs. retreating), similarity of a 
sound to biologically relevant sounds in the animal's environment 
(i.e., calls of predators, prey, or conspecifics), and familiarity of 
the sound may affect the way an animal responds to the sound (Southall 
et al., 2007). Individuals (of different age, gender, reproductive 
status, etc.) among most populations will have variable hearing 
capabilities, and differing behavioral sensitivities to sounds that 
will be affected by prior conditioning, experience, and current 
activities of those individuals. Often, specific acoustic features of 
the sound and contextual variables (i.e., proximity, duration, or 
recurrence of the sound or the current behavior that the marine mammal 
is engaged in or its prior experience), as well as entirely separate 
factors such as the physical presence of a nearby vessel, may be more 
relevant to the animal's response than the received level alone.
    There are only few empirical studies of behavioral responses of 
free-living cetaceans to military sonar being conducted to date, due to 
the difficulties in implementing experimental protocols on wild marine 
mammals.
    An opportunistic observation was made on a tagged Blainville's 
beaked whale (Mesoplodon densirostris) before, during, and after a 
multi-day naval exercises involving tactical mid-frequency sonars 
within the U.S. Navy's sonar testing range at the Atlantic Undersea 
Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC), in the Tongue of the Ocean near 
Andros Island in the Bahamas (Tyack et al., 2011). The adult male whale 
was tagged with a satellite transmitter tag on May 7, 2009. During the 
72 hrs before the sonar exercise started, the mean distance from whale 
to the center of the AUTEC range was approximately 37 km. During the 72 
hrs sonar exercise, the whale moved several tens of km farther away 
(mean distance approximately 54 km). The received sound levels at the 
tagged whale during sonar exposure were estimated to be 146 dB re 1 
[micro]Pa at the highest level. The tagged whale slowly returned for 
several days after the exercise stopped (mean distance approximately 29 
km) from 0--72 hours after the exercise stopped (Tyack et al., 2011).
    In the past several years, controlled exposure experiments (CEE) on 
marine mammal behavioral responses to military sonar signals using 
acoustic tags have been started in the Bahamas, the Mediterranean Sea, 
southern California, and Norway. These behavioral response studies 
(BRS), though still in their early stages, have provided some 
preliminary insights into cetacean behavioral disturbances when exposed 
to simulated and actual military sonar signals.
    In 2007 and 2008, two Blainville's beaked whales were tagged in the 
AUTEC range and exposed to simulated mid-frequency sonar signals, 
killer whale (Orcinus orca) recordings (in 2007), and pseudo-random 
noise (PRN, in 2008) (Tyack et al., 2011). For the simulated mid-
frequency exposure BRS, the tagged whale stopped clicking during its 
foraging dive after 9 minutes when the received level reached 138 dB 
SPL, or a cumulative SEL value of 142 dB re 1 [micro]Pa\2\-s. Once the 
whale stopped clicking, it ascended slowly, moving away from the sound 
source. The whale surfaced and remained in the area for approximately 2 
hours before making another foraging dive (Tyack et al., 2011).
    The same beaked whale was exposed to killer whale sound recording 
during its subsequent deep foraging dive. The whale stopped clicking 
about 1 minute after the received level of the killer whale sound 
reached 98 dB SPL, just above the ambient noise level at the whale. The 
whale then made a long and slow ascent. After surfacing, the whale 
continued to swim away from the playback location for 10 hours (Tyack 
et al., 2011).
    In 2008, a Blainville's beaked was tagged and exposed with PRN that 
has the same frequency band as the simulated mid-frequency sonar 
signal. The received level at the whale ranged from inaudible to 142 dB 
SPL (144 dB cumulative SEL). The whale stopped clicking less than 2 
minutes after exposure to the last transmission and ascended slowly to 
approximately 600 m. The whale appeared to stop at this depth, at which 
time the tag unexpectedly released from the whale (Tyack et al., 2011).
    During CEEs of the BRS off Norway, social behavioral responses of 
pilot whales and killer whales to tagging and sonar exposure were 
investigated. Sonar exposure was sampled for 3 pilot whale

[[Page 34057]]

(Globicephala spp.) groups and 1 group of killer whales. Results show 
that when exposed to sonar signals, pilot whales showed a preference 
for larger groups with medium-low surfacing synchrony, while starting 
logging, spyhopping and milling. While killer whales showed the 
opposite pattern, maintaining asynchronous patterns of surface 
behavior: decreased surfacing synchrony, increased spacing, decreased 
group size, tailslaps and loggings (Visser et al., 2011).
    Although the small sample size of these CEEs reported here is too 
small to make firm conclusions about differential responses of 
cetaceans to military sonar exposure, none of the results showed that 
whales responded to sonar signals with panicked flight. Instead, the 
beaked whales exposed to simulated sonar signals and killer whale sound 
recording moved in a well oriented direction away from the source 
towards the deep water exit from the Tongue of the Ocean (Tyack et al., 
2011). In addition, different species of cetaceans exhibited different 
social behavioral responses towards (close) vessel presence and sonar 
signals, which elicit different, potentially tailored and species-
specific responses (Visser et al., 2011).
    Much more qualitative information is available on the avoidance 
responses of free-living cetaceans to other acoustic sources, like 
seismic airguns and low-frequency active sonar, than mid-frequency 
active sonar. Richardson et al., (1995) noted that avoidance reactions 
are the most obvious manifestations of disturbance in marine mammals.

Behavioral Responses

    Southall et al., (2007) reports the results of the efforts of a 
panel of experts in acoustic research from behavioral, physiological, 
and physical disciplines that convened and reviewed the available 
literature on marine mammal hearing and physiological and behavioral 
responses to man-made sound with the goal of proposing exposure 
criteria for certain effects. This compilation of literature is very 
valuable, though Southall et al. note that not all data is equal, some 
have poor statistical power, insufficient controls, and/or limited 
information on received levels, background noise, and other potentially 
important contextual variables--such data were reviewed and sometimes 
used for qualitative illustration, but were not included in the 
quantitative analysis for the criteria recommendations.
    In the Southall et al., (2007) report, for the purposes of 
analyzing responses of marine mammals to anthropogenic sound and 
developing criteria, the authors differentiate between single pulse 
sounds, multiple pulse sounds, and non-pulse sounds. HFAS/MFAS sonar is 
considered a non-pulse sound. Southall et al., (2007) summarize the 
reports associated with low-, mid-, and high-frequency cetacean 
responses to non-pulse sounds (there are no pinnipeds in the Gulf of 
Mexico [GOM]) in Appendix C of their report (incorporated by reference 
and summarized in the three paragraphs below).
    The reports that address responses of low-frequency cetaceans to 
non-pulse sounds include data gathered in the field and related to 
several types of sound sources (of varying similarity to HFAS/MFAS) 
including: Vessel noise, drilling and machinery playback, low frequency 
M-sequences (sine wave with multiple phase reversals) playback, low 
frequency active sonar playback, drill vessels, Acoustic Thermometry of 
Ocean Climate (ATOC) source, and non-pulse playbacks. These reports 
generally indicate no (or very limited) responses to received levels in 
the 90 to 120 dB re 1 [micro]Pa range and an increasing likelihood of 
avoidance and other behavioral effects in the 120 to 160 dB range. As 
mentioned earlier, however, contextual variables play a very important 
role in the reported responses and the severity of effects are not 
linear when compared to received level. Also, few of the laboratory or 
field datasets had common conditions, behavioral contexts or sound 
sources, so it is not surprising that responses differ.
    The reports that address responses of mid-frequency cetaceans to 
non-pulse sounds include data gathered both in the field and the 
laboratory and related to several different sound sources (of varying 
similarity to HFAS/MFAS) including: Pingers, drilling playbacks, vessel 
and ice-breaking noise, vessel noise, Acoustic Harassment Devices 
(AHDs), Acoustic Deterrent Devices (ADDs), HFAS/MFAS, and non-pulse 
bands and tones. Southall et al. were unable to come to a clear 
conclusion regarding these reports. In some cases, animals in the field 
showed significant responses to received levels between 90 and 120 dB, 
while in other cases these responses were not seen in the 120 to 150 dB 
range. The disparity in results was likely due to contextual variation 
and the differences between the results in the field and laboratory 
data (animals responded at lower levels in the field).
    The reports that address the responses of high-frequency cetaceans 
to non-pulse sounds include data gathered both in the field and the 
laboratory and related to several different sound sources (of varying 
similarity to HFAS/MFAS) including: Acoustic harassment devices, 
Acoustical Telemetry of Ocean Climate (ATOC), wind turbine, vessel 
noise, and construction noise. However, no conclusive results are 
available from these reports. In some cases, high frequency cetaceans 
(harbor porpoises) are observed to be quite sensitive to a wide range 
of human sounds at very low exposure RLs (90 to 120 dB). All recorded 
exposures exceeding 140 dB produced profound and sustained avoidance 
behavior in wild harbor porpoises (Southall et al., 2007).
    In addition to summarizing the available data, the authors of 
Southall et al. (2007) developed a severity scaling system with the 
intent of ultimately being able to assign some level of biological 
significance to a response. Following is a summary of their scoring 
system, a comprehensive list of the behaviors associated with each 
score may be found in the report:
     0-3 (Minor and/or brief behaviors) includes, but is not 
limited to: No response; minor changes in speed or locomotion (but with 
no avoidance); individual alert behavior; minor cessation in vocal 
behavior; minor changes in response to trained behaviors (in 
laboratory).
     4-6 (Behaviors with higher potential to affect foraging, 
reproduction, or survival) includes, but is not limited to: Moderate 
changes in speed, direction, or dive profile; brief shift in group 
distribution; prolonged cessation or modification of vocal behavior 
(duration > duration of sound); minor or moderate individual and/or 
group avoidance of sound; brief cessation of reproductive behavior; or 
refusal to initiate trained tasks (in laboratory).
     7-9 (Behaviors considered likely to affect the 
aforementioned vital rates) includes, but are not limited to: Extensive 
of prolonged aggressive behavior; moderate, prolonged or significant 
separation of females and dependent offspring with disruption of 
acoustic reunion mechanisms; long-term avoidance of an area; outright 
panic, stampede, stranding; threatening or attacking sound source (in 
laboratory).
    In Table 2 NMFS has summarized the scores that Southall et al. 
(2007) assigned to the papers that reported behavioral responses of 
low-frequency cetaceans, mid-frequency cetaceans, and high-frequency 
cetaceans to non-pulse sounds.

[[Page 34058]]



 Table 3--Data Compiled From Three Tables From Southall et al. (2007) Indicating When Marine Mammals (Low-Frequency Cetacean = L, Mid-Frequency Cetacean
   = M, and High-Frequency Cetacean = H) Were Reported as Having a Behavioral Response of the Indicated Severity to a Non-Pulse Sound of the Indicated
                              Received Level. As Discussed in the Text, Responses Are Highly Variable and Context Specific
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                  Received RMS sound pressure level (dB re 1 microPa)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                80 to  <   90 to  <   100 to <   110 to   120 to <  130 to <  140 to <  150 to <  160 to <  170 to <  180 to <  190 to <
        Response score             90        100        110       <120       130       140       150       160       170       180       190       200
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
9
8............................  .........  M          M          ........  M         ........  M         ........  ........  ........  M         M
7............................  .........  .........  .........  ........  ........  L         L
6............................  H          L/H        L/H        L/M/H     L/M/H     L         L/H       H         M/H       M
5............................  .........  .........  .........  ........  M
4............................  .........  .........  H          L/M/H     L/M       ........  L
3............................  .........  M          L/M        L/M       M
2............................  .........  .........  L          L/M       L         L         L
1............................  .........  .........  M          M         M
0............................  L/H        L/H        L/M/H      L/M/H     L/M/H     L         M         ........  ........  ........  M         M
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Potential Effects of Behavioral Disturbance

    The different ways that marine mammals respond to sound are 
sometimes indicators of the ultimate effect that exposure to a given 
stimulus will have on the well-being (survival, reproduction, etc.) of 
an animal. There is little marine mammal data quantitatively relating 
the exposure of marine mammals to sound to effects on reproduction or 
survival, though data exists for terrestrial species to which we can 
draw comparisons for marine mammals.
    Attention is the cognitive process of selectively concentrating on 
one aspect of an animal's environment while ignoring other things 
(Posner, 1994). Because animals (including humans) have limited 
cognitive resources, there is a limit to how much sensory information 
they can process at any time. The phenomenon called ``attentional 
capture'' occurs when a stimulus (usually a stimulus that an animal is 
not concentrating on or attending to) ``captures'' an animal's 
attention. This shift in attention can occur consciously or 
unconsciously (for example, when an animal hears sounds that it 
associates with the approach of a predator) and the shift in attention 
can be sudden (Dukas, 2002; van Rij, 2007). Once a stimulus has 
captured an animal's attention, the animal can respond by ignoring the 
stimulus, assuming a ``watch and wait'' posture, or treat the stimulus 
as a disturbance and respond accordingly, which includes scanning for 
the source of the stimulus or ``vigilance'' (Cowlishaw et al., 2004).
    Vigilance is normally an adaptive behavior that helps animals 
determine the presence or absence of predators, assess their distance 
from conspecifics, or to attend cues from prey (Bednekoff and Lima, 
1998; Treves, 2000). Despite those benefits, however, vigilance has a 
cost of time: When animals focus their attention on specific 
environmental cues, they are not attending to other activities such a 
foraging. These costs have been documented best in foraging animals, 
where vigilance has been shown to substantially reduce feeding rates 
(Saino, 1994; Beauchamp and Livoreil, 1997; Fritz et al., 2002).
    Animals will spend more time being vigilant, which may translate to 
less time foraging or resting, when disturbance stimuli approach them 
more directly, remain at closer distances, have a greater group size 
(for example, multiple surface vessels), or when they co-occur with 
times that an animal perceives increased risk (for example, when they 
are giving birth or accompanied by a calf). Most of the published 
literature, however, suggests that direct approaches will increase the 
amount of time animals will dedicate to being vigilant. For example, 
bighorn sheep and Dall's sheep dedicated more time being vigilant, and 
less time resting or foraging, when aircraft made direct approaches 
over them (Frid, 2001; Stockwell et al., 1991).
    Several authors have established that long-term and intense 
disturbance stimuli can cause population declines by reducing the body 
condition of individuals that have been disturbed, followed by reduced 
reproductive success, reduced survival, or both (Daan et al., 1996; 
Madsen, 1994; White, 1983). For example, Madsen (1994) reported that 
pink-footed geese (Anser brachyrhynchus) in undisturbed habitat gained 
body mass and had about a 46-percent reproductive success compared with 
geese in disturbed habitat (being consistently scared off the fields on 
which they were foraging), which did not gain mass and had a 17 percent 
reproductive success. Similar reductions in reproductive success have 
been reported for mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) disturbed by all-
terrain vehicles (Yarmoloy et al., 1988), caribou disturbed by seismic 
exploration blasts (Bradshaw et al., 1998), caribou disturbed by low-
elevation military jetfights (Luick et al., 1996), and caribou 
disturbed by low-elevation jet flights (Harrington and Veitch, 1992). 
Similarly, a study of elk (Cervus elaphus) that were disturbed 
experimentally by pedestrians concluded that the ratio of young to 
mothers was inversely related to disturbance rate (Phillips and 
Alldredge, 2000).
    The primary mechanism by which increased vigilance and disturbance 
appear to affect the fitness of individual animals is by disrupting an 
animal's time budget and, as a result, reducing the time they might 
spend foraging and resting (which increases an animal's activity rate 
and energy demand). For example, a study of grizzly bears (Ursus 
horribilis) reported that bears disturbed by hikers reduced their 
energy intake by an average of 12 kcal/min (50.2 x 103kJ/min), and 
spent energy fleeing or acting aggressively toward hikers (White et 
al., 1999).
    On a related note, many animals perform vital functions, such as 
feeding, resting, traveling, and socializing, on a diel cycle (24-hr 
cycle). Substantive behavioral reactions to noise exposure (such as 
disruption of critical life functions, displacement, or avoidance of 
important habitat) are more likely to be significant if they last more 
than one diel cycle or recur on subsequent days (Southall et al., 
2007). Consequently, a behavioral response lasting less than

[[Page 34059]]

one day and not recurring on subsequent days is not considered 
particularly severe unless it could directly affect reproduction or 
survival (Southall et al., 2007).

Stranding and Mortality

    When a live or dead marine mammal swims or floats onto shore and 
becomes ``beached'' or incapable of returning to sea, the event is 
termed a ``stranding'' (Geraci et al., 1999; Perrin and Geraci, 2002; 
Geraci and Lounsbury, 2005; NMFS, 2007). Marine mammals are known to 
strand for a variety of reasons, such as infectious agents, 
biotoxicosis, starvation, fishery interaction, ship strike, unusual 
oceanographic or weather events, sound exposure, or combinations of 
these stressors sustained concurrently or in series. However, the cause 
or causes of most stranding are unknown (Geraci et al., 1976; Eaton, 
1979, Odell et al., 1980; Best, 1982).
    Several sources have published lists of mass stranding events of 
cetaceans during attempts to identify relationships between those 
stranding events and military sonar (Hildebrand, 2004; IWC, 2005; 
Taylor et al., 2004). For example, based on a review of stranding 
records between 1960 and 1995, the International Whaling Commission 
(IWC, 2005) identified 10 mass stranding events of Cuvier's beaked 
whales that had been reported and one mass stranding of four Baird's 
beaked whales (Berardius bairdii). The IWC concluded that, out of eight 
stranding events reported from the mid-1980s to the summer of 2003, 
seven had been associated with the use of mid-frequency sonar, one of 
those seven had been associated with the use of low frequency sonar, 
and the remaining stranding event had been associated with the use of 
seismic airguns. None of the strandings has been associated with high 
frequency sonar such as the Q-20 sonar proposed to be tested in this 
action. Therefore, NMFS does not consider it likely that the proposed 
Q-20 testing activity would cause marine mammals to strand.

Anticipated Effects on Marine Mammal Habitat

    There are no areas within the NSWC PCD that are specifically 
considered as important physical habitat for marine mammals.
    The prey of marine mammals are considered part of their habitat. 
The Navy's Final Environmental Impact Statement and Overseas 
Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) on the research, development, 
test and evaluation activities in the NSWC PCD study area contains a 
detailed discussion of the potential effects to fish from HFAS/MFAS. 
These effects are the same as expected from the proposed Q-20 sonar 
testing activities within the same area.
    The extent of data, and particularly scientifically peer-reviewed 
data, on the effects of high intensity sounds on fish is limited. In 
considering the available literature, the vast majority of fish species 
studied to date are hearing generalists and cannot hear sounds above 
500 to 1,500 Hz (depending upon the species), and, therefore, 
behavioral effects on these species from higher frequency sounds are 
not likely. Moreover, even those fish species that may hear above 1.5 
kHz, such as a few sciaenids and the clupeids (and relatives), have 
relatively poor hearing above 1.5 kHz as compared to their hearing 
sensitivity at lower frequencies. Therefore, even among the species 
that have hearing ranges that overlap with some mid- and high frequency 
sounds, it is likely that the fish will only actually hear the sounds 
if the fish and source are very close to one another. Finally, since 
the vast majority of sounds that are of biological relevance to fish 
are below 1 kHz (e.g., Zelick et al., 1999; Ladich and Popper, 2004), 
even if a fish detects a mid- or high frequency sound, these sounds 
will not mask detection of lower frequency biologically relevant 
sounds. Based on the above information, there will likely be few, if 
any, behavioral impacts on fish.
    Alternatively, it is possible that very intense mid- and high 
frequency signals could have a physical impact on fish, resulting in 
damage to the swim bladder and other organ systems. However, even these 
kinds of effects have only been shown in a few cases in response to 
explosives, and only when the fish has been very close to the source. 
Such effects have never been indicated in response to any Navy sonar. 
Moreover, at greater distances (the distance clearly would depend on 
the intensity of the signal from the source) there appears to be little 
or no impact on fish, and particularly no impact on fish that do not 
have a swim bladder or other air bubble that would be affected by rapid 
pressure changes.

Proposed Mitigation

    In order to issue an Incidental Take Authorization (ITA) under 
section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA, NMFS must set forth the permissible 
methods of taking pursuant to such activity, and other means of 
effecting the least practicable adverse impact on such species or stock 
and its habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating 
grounds, and areas of similar significance, and the availability of 
such species for taking for certain subsistence uses. The National 
Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2004 amended the MMPA as it relates 
to military-readiness activities and the ITA process such that ``least 
practicable adverse impact'' shall include consideration of personnel 
safety, practicality of implementation, and impact on the effectiveness 
of the ``military readiness activity.'' The Q-20 sonar testing 
activities described in the Navy's IHA application are considered 
military readiness activities.
    For the proposed Q-20 sonar testing activities in the GOM, NMFS 
worked with the Navy to develop mitigation measures. The Navy then 
proposed the following mitigation measures, which include a careful 
balancing of minimizing impacts to marine mammals with the likely 
effect of that measure on personnel safety, practicality of 
implementation, and impact on the ``military-readiness activity.''

Protective Measures Related to Surface Operations

    Visual surveys will be conducted for all test operations to reduce 
the potential for vessel collisions to occur with a protected species. 
If necessary, the ship's course and speed will be adjusted.

Personnel Training

    Marine mammal mitigation training for those who participate in the 
active sonar activities is a key element of the protective measures. 
The goal of this training is for key personnel onboard Navy platforms 
in the Q-20 study area to understand the protective measures and be 
competent to carry them out. The Marine Species Awareness Training 
(MSAT) is provided to all applicable participants, where appropriate. 
The program addresses environmental protection, laws governing the 
protection of marine species, Navy stewardship, and general observation 
information including more detailed information for spotting marine 
mammals. Marine mammal observer training will be provided before active 
sonar testing begins.
    Marine observers would be aware of the specific actions to be taken 
based on the RDT&E platform if a marine mammal is observed. 
Specifically, the following requirements for personnel training would 
apply:
     All marine mammal observers onboard platforms involved in 
the Q-20 sonar test activities will review the

[[Page 34060]]

NMFS-approved MSAT material prior to use of active sonar.
     Marine mammal observers shall be trained in marine mammal 
recognition. Marine mammal observer training shall include completion 
of the MSAT, instruction on governing laws and policies, and overview 
of the specific Gulf of Mexico species present, and observer roles and 
responsibilities.
     Marine mammal observers will be trained in the most 
effective means to ensure quick and effective communication within the 
command structure in order to facilitate implementation of mitigation 
measures if marine species are spotted.

Range Operating Procedures

    The following procedures would be implemented to maximize the 
ability of Navy personnel to recognize instances when marine mammals 
are in the vicinity.
(1) Marine Mammal Observer Responsibilities
     Marine mammal observers will have at least one set of 
binoculars available for each person to aid in the detection of marine 
mammals.
     Marine mammal observers will scan the water from the ship 
to the horizon and be responsible for all observations in their sector. 
In searching the assigned sector, the lookout will always start at the 
forward part of the sector and search aft (toward the back). To search 
and scan, the lookout will hold the binoculars steady so the horizon is 
in the top third of the field of vision and direct the eyes just below 
the horizon. The lookout will scan for approximately five seconds in as 
many small steps as possible across the field seen through the 
binoculars. They will search the entire sector in approximately five-
degree steps, pausing between steps for approximately five seconds to 
scan the field of view. At the end of the sector search, the glasses 
will be lowered to allow the eyes to rest for a few seconds, and then 
the lookout will search back across the sector with the naked eye.
     Marine mammal observers will be responsible for informing 
the Test Director of any marine mammal that may need to be avoided, as 
warranted.
     These procedures would apply as much as possible during 
RMMV operations. When an RMMV is operating over the horizon, it is 
impossible to follow and observe it during the entire path. An observer 
will be located on the support vessel or platform to observe the area 
when the system is undergoing a small track close to the support 
platform.
(2) Operating Procedures
     Test Directors will, as appropriate to the event, make use 
of marine species detection cues and information to limit interaction 
with marine species to the maximum extent possible, consistent with the 
safety of the ship.
     During Q-20 sonar activities, personnel will utilize all 
available sensor and optical system (such as night vision goggles) to 
aid in the detection of marine mammals.
     Navy aircraft participating will conduct and maintain, 
when operationally feasible, required, and safe, surveillance for 
marine species of concern as long as it does not violate safety 
constraints or interfere with the accomplishment of primary operational 
duties.
     Marine mammal detections by aircraft will be immediately 
reported to the Test Director. This action will occur when it is 
reasonable to conclude that the course of the ship will likely close 
the distance between the ship and the detected marine mammal.
     Exclusion Zones--The Navy will ensure that sonar 
transmissions are ceased if any detected marine mammals are within 200 
yards (183 m [600.4 ft]) of the sonar source. Active sonar will not 
resume until the marine mammal has been seen to leave the area, has not 
been detected for 30 minutes, or the vessel has transited more than 
2,000 yards (1,828 m [5,997.4 ft]) beyond the location of the last 
detection.
     Special conditions applicable for bow-riding dolphins 
only: If, after conducting an initial maneuver to avoid close quarters 
with dolphins, the Test Director or the Test Director's designee 
concludes that dolphins are deliberately closing to ride the vessel's 
bow wave, no further mitigation actions are necessary while the 
dolphins continue to exhibit bow wave riding behavior because the 
dolphins are out of the main transmission axis of the active sonar 
while in the shallow-wave area of the vessel bow.
     Sonar levels (generally)--Navy will operate sonar at the 
lowest practicable level, except as required to meet testing 
objectives.

Clearance Procedures

    When the test platform (surface vessel or aircraft) arrives at the 
test site, an initial evaluation of environmental suitability will be 
made. This evaluation will include an assessment of sea state and 
verification that the area is clear of visually detectable marine 
mammals and indicators of their presence. For example, large flocks of 
birds and large schools of fish are considered indicators of potential 
marine mammal presence.
    If the initial evaluation indicates that the area is clear, visual 
surveying will begin. The area will be visually surveyed for the 
presence of protected species and protected species indicators. Visual 
surveys will be conducted from the test platform before test activities 
begin. When the platform is a surface vessel, no additional aerial 
surveys will be required. For surveys requiring only surface vessels, 
aerial surveys may be opportunistically conducted by aircraft 
participating in the test.
    Shipboard monitoring will be staged from the highest point possible 
on the vessel. The observer(s) will be experienced in shipboard 
surveys, familiar with the marine life of the area, and equipped with 
binoculars of sufficient magnification. Each observer will be provided 
with a two-way radio that will be dedicated to the survey, and will 
have direct radio contact with the Test Director. Observers will report 
to the Test Director any sightings of marine mammals or indicators of 
these species, as described previously. Distance and bearing will be 
provided when available. Observers may recommend a ``Go''/``No Go'' 
decision, but the final decision will be the responsibility of the Test 
Director.
    Post-mission surveys will be conducted from the surface vessel(s) 
and aircraft used for pre-test surveys. Any affected marine species 
will be documented and reported to NMFS. The report will include the 
date, time, location, test activities, species (to the lowest taxonomic 
level possible), behavior, and number of animals.
    NMFS has carefully evaluated the Navy's proposed mitigation 
measures and considered a range of other measures in the context of 
ensuring that NMFS prescribes the means of effecting the least 
practicable adverse impact on the affected marine mammal species and 
stocks and their habitat. NMFS's evaluation of potential measures 
included consideration of the following factors in relation to one 
another:
    (1) The manner in which, and the degree to which, the successful 
implementation of the measure is expected to minimize adverse impacts 
to marine mammals;
    (2) The proven or likely efficacy of the specific measure to 
minimize adverse impacts as planned; and
    (3) The practicability of the measure for applicant implementation, 
including consideration of personnel safety, practicality of 
implementation, and impact on the effectiveness of the military 
readiness activity.
    Based on our evaluation of the Navy's proposed measures, as well as 
other

[[Page 34061]]

measures considered by NMFS, we have preliminarily determined that the 
proposed mitigation measures provide the means of effecting the least 
practicable adverse impacts on marine mammals species or stocks and 
their habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating 
grounds, and areas of similar significance, while also considering 
personnel safety, practicality of implementation, and impact on the 
effectiveness of the military readiness activity.

Proposed Monitoring and Reporting

    In order to issue an ITA for an activity, section 101(a)(5)(D) of 
the MMPA states that NMFS must set forth ``requirements pertaining to 
the monitoring and reporting of such taking.'' The MMPA implementing 
regulations at 50 CFR 216.104(a)(13) indicate that requests for IHAs 
must include the suggested means of accomplishing the necessary 
monitoring and reporting that will result in increased knowledge of the 
species and of the level of taking or impacts on populations of marine 
mammals that are expected to be present in the action area.
    The RDT&E Monitoring Program, proposed by the Navy as part of its 
IHA application, is focused on mitigation-based monitoring. Main 
monitoring techniques include use of civilian personnel as marine 
mammal observers during pre-, during-, and post-test events.
    Systematic monitoring of the affected area for marine mammals will 
be conducted prior to, during, and after test events using aerial and/
or ship-based visual surveys. Observers will record information during 
the test activity. Data recorded will include exercise information 
(time, date, and location) and marine mammal and/or indicator presence, 
species, number of animals, their behavior, and whether there are 
changes in the behavior. Personnel will immediately report observed 
stranded or injured marine mammals to NMFS stranding response network 
and NMFS Regional Office. Reporting requirements will be included in 
the NSWC PCD Mission Activity Report and NSWC PCD Mission Activities 
Annual Monitoring Report as required by its Final Rule (DON, 2009a; 
NMFS, 2010).

Ongoing Monitoring

    The Navy has an existing Monitoring Plan that provides for site-
specific monitoring for MMPA and Endangered Species Act (ESA) listed 
species, primarily marine mammals within the Gulf of Mexico, including 
marine water areas of the Q-20 Study Area. The NSWC PCD Monitoring Plan 
(DON, 2011) was initially developed in support of the NSWC PCD Mission 
Activities Final Environmental Impact Statement/Overseas Environmental 
Impact Statement and subsequent Final Rule by NMFS (DON, 2009a; NMFS, 
2010). The primary goals of monitoring are to evaluate trends in marine 
species distribution and abundance in order to assess potential 
population effects from Navy training and testing events and determine 
the effectiveness of the Navy's mitigation measures. The monitoring 
plan, adjusted annually in consultation under an adaptive management 
review process with NMFS, includes aerial- and ship-based visual 
observations, acoustic monitoring, and other efforts such as 
oceanographic observations. The U.S. Navy is not currently committing 
to increased visual surveys at this time, but will research 
opportunities for leveraged work that could be added under an adaptive 
management provision of the IHA application for future Q-20 study area 
monitoring.

On-going Reporting

    Due to changes in the program schedule, the Navy has not yet 
conducted any Q-20 activities under their current IHA. The Navy plans 
to conduct tests under the current IHA in April, 2013. Additional 
monitoring data is contained in the NSWC PCD 2013 Monitoring Report 
submitted to NMFS in September, 2012.

Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment

Definition of Harassment

    As mentioned previously, with respect to military readiness 
activities, Section 3(18)(B) of the MMPA defines ``harassment'' as: (i) 
Any act that injures or has the significant potential to injure a 
marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild [Level A harassment]; 
or (ii) any act that disturbs or is likely to disturb a marine mammal 
or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of natural 
behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, 
surfacing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering, to a point where 
such behavioral patterns are abandoned or significantly altered [Level 
B harassment].

Level B Harassment

    Of the potential effects that were described in the ``Potential 
Effects of Exposure of Marine Mammals to Sonar'' section, the following 
are the types of effects that fall into the Level B harassment 
category:
    Behavioral Harassment--Behavioral disturbance that rises to the 
level described in the definition above, when resulting from exposures 
to active sonar exposure, is considered Level B harassment. Some of the 
lower level physiological stress responses will also likely co-occur 
with the predicted harassments, although these responses are more 
difficult to detect and fewer data exist relating these responses to 
specific received levels of sound. When Level B harassment is predicted 
based on estimated behavioral responses, those takes may have a stress-
related physiological component as well.
    In the effects section above, we described the Southall et al., 
(2007) severity scaling system and listed some examples of the three 
broad categories of behaviors: (0-3: Minor and/or brief behaviors); 4-6 
(Behaviors with higher potential to affect foraging, reproduction, or 
survival); 7-9 (Behaviors considered likely to affect the 
aforementioned vital rates). Generally speaking, MMPA Level B 
harassment, as defined in this document, would include the behaviors 
described in the 7-9 category, and a subset, dependent on context and 
other considerations, of the behaviors described in the 4-6 categories. 
Behavioral harassment generally does not include behaviors ranked 0-3 
in Southall et al., (2007).
    Acoustic Masking and Communication Impairment--Acoustic masking is 
considered Level B harassment as it can disrupt natural behavioral 
patterns by interrupting or limiting the marine mammal's receipt or 
transmittal of important information or environmental cues.
    TTS--As discussed previously, TTS can affect how an animal behaves 
in response to the environment, including conspecifics, predators, and 
prey. The following physiological mechanisms are thought to play a role 
in inducing auditory fatigue: Effects to sensory hair cells in the 
inner ear that reduce their sensitivity, modification of the chemical 
environment within the sensory cells, residual muscular activity in the 
middle ear, displacement of certain inner ear membranes, increased 
blood flow, and post-stimulatory reduction in both efferent and sensory 
neural output. Ward (1997) suggested that when these effects result in 
TTS rather than PTS, they are within the normal bounds of physiological 
variability and tolerance and do not represent a physical injury. 
Additionally, Southall et al. (2007) indicate that although PTS is a 
tissue injury, TTS is not because the reduced hearing sensitivity 
following exposure to intense sound results primarily from

[[Page 34062]]

fatigue, not loss, of cochlear hair cells and supporting structures and 
is reversible. Accordingly, NMFS classifies TTS (when resulting from 
exposure to Navy sonar) as Level B harassment, not Level A harassment 
(injury).

Level A Harassment

    Of the potential effects that were described in the Potential 
Effects of Exposure of Marine Mammal to Sonar section, following are 
the types of effects that fall into the Level A harassment category:
    PTS--PTS (resulting from exposure to active sonar) is irreversible 
and considered an injury. PTS results from exposure to intense sounds 
that cause a permanent loss of inner or outer cochlear hair cells or 
exceed the elastic limits of certain tissues and membranes in the 
middle and inner ears and results in changes in the chemical 
composition of the inner ear fluids.

Acoustic Take Criteria

    For the purposes of an MMPA incidental take authorization, three 
types of take are identified: Level B harassment; Level A harassment; 
and mortality (or serious injury leading to mortality). The categories 
of marine mammal responses (physiological and behavioral) that fall 
into the two harassment categories were described in the previous 
section.
    Because the physiological and behavioral responses of the majority 
of the marine mammals exposed to military sonar cannot be detected or 
measured, a method is needed to estimate the number of individuals that 
will be taken, pursuant to the MMPA, based on the proposed action. To 
this end, NMFS uses acoustic criteria that estimate at what received 
level (when exposed to Navy sonar) Level B harassment and Level A 
harassment of marine mammals would occur. These acoustic criteria are 
discussed below.
    Relatively few applicable data exist to support acoustic criteria 
specifically for HFAS (such as the Q-20 active sonar). However, because 
MFAS systems have larger impact ranges, NMFS will apply the criteria 
developed for the MFAS systems to the HFAS systems.
    NMFS utilizes three acoustic criteria for HFAS/MFAS: PTS (injury--
Level A harassment), behavioral harassment from TTS, and sub-TTS (Level 
B harassment). Because the TTS and PTS criteria are derived similarly 
and the PTS criteria was extrapolated from the TTS data, the TTS and 
PTS acoustic criteria will be presented first, before the behavioral 
criteria.
    For more information regarding these criteria, please see the 
Navy's FEIS for the NSWC PCD (Navy 2009).

Level B Harassment Threshold (TTS)

    As mentioned above, behavioral disturbance, acoustic masking, and 
TTS are all considered Level B harassment. Marine mammals would usually 
be behaviorally disturbed at lower received levels than those at which 
they would likely sustain TTS, so the levels at which behavioral 
disturbance is likely to occur are considered the onset of Level B 
harassment. The behavioral responses of marine mammals to sound are 
variable, context specific, and, therefore, difficult to quantify (see 
Risk Function section, below). TTS is a physiological effect that has 
been studied and quantified in laboratory conditions. NMFS also uses 
acoustic criteria to estimate the number of marine mammals that might 
sustain TTS incidental to a specific activity (in addition to the 
behavioral criteria).
    A number of investigators have measured TTS in marine mammals. 
These studies measured hearing thresholds in trained marine mammals 
before and after exposure to intense sounds. The existing cetacean TTS 
data are summarized in the following bullets.
     Schlundt et al. (2000) reported the results of TTS 
experiments conducted with 5 bottlenose dolphins and 2 belugas exposed 
to 1-second tones. This paper also includes a reanalysis of preliminary 
TTS data released in a technical report by Ridgway et al. (1997). At 
frequencies of 3, 10, and 20 kHz, sound pressure levels (SPLs) 
necessary to induce measurable amounts (6 dB or more) of TTS were 
between 192 and 201 dB re 1 [micro]Pa (EL = 192 to 201 dB re 1 
[micro]Pa\2\-s). The mean exposure SPL and EL for onset-TTS were 195 dB 
re 1 [micro]Pa and 195 dB re 1 [micro]Pa\2\-s, respectively.
     Finneran et al. (2001, 2003, 2005) described TTS 
experiments conducted with bottlenose dolphins exposed to 3-kHz tones 
with durations of 1, 2, 4, and 8 seconds. Small amounts of TTS (3 to 6 
dB) were observed in one dolphin after exposure to ELs between 190 and 
204 dB re 1 microPa\2\-s. These results were consistent with the data 
of Schlundt et al. (2000) and showed that the Schlundt et al. (2000) 
data were not significantly affected by the masking sound used. These 
results also confirmed that, for tones with different durations, the 
amount of TTS is best correlated with the exposure EL rather than the 
exposure SPL.
     Nachtigall et al. (2003) measured TTS in a bottlenose 
dolphin exposed to octave-band sound centered at 7.5 kHz. Nachtigall et 
al. (2003a) reported TTSs of about 11 dB measured 10 to 15 minutes 
after exposure to 30 to 50 minutes of sound with SPL 179 dB re 1 
[micro]Pa (EL about 213 dB re [micro]Pa\2\-s). No TTS was observed 
after exposure to the same sound at 165 and 171 dB re 1 [micro]Pa. 
Nachtigall et al. (2004) reported TTSs of around 4 to 8 dB 5 minutes 
after exposure to 30 to 50 minutes of sound with SPL 160 dB re 1 
[micro]Pa (EL about 193 to 195 dB re 1 [micro]Pa\2\-s). The difference 
in results was attributed to faster post exposure threshold 
measurement--TTS may have recovered before being detected by Nachtigall 
et al. (2003). These studies showed that, for long duration exposures, 
lower sound pressures are required to induce TTS than are required for 
short-duration tones.
     Finneran et al. (2000, 2002) conducted TTS experiments 
with dolphins and belugas exposed to impulsive sounds similar to those 
produced by distant underwater explosions and seismic waterguns. These 
studies showed that, for very short-duration impulsive sounds, higher 
sound pressures were required to induce TTS than for longer-duration 
tones. Some of the more important data obtained from these studies are 
onset-TTS levels (exposure levels sufficient to cause a just-measurable 
amount of TTS) often defined as 6 dB of TTS (for example, Schlundt et 
al., 2000) and the fact that energy metrics (sound exposure levels 
(SEL), which include a duration component) better predict when an 
animal will sustain TTS than pressure (SPL) alone. NMFS's TTS criteria 
(which indicate the received level at which onset TTS (>6dB) is 
induced) for HFAS/MFAS are as follows:
     Cetaceans--195 dB re 1 [micro]Pa\2\-s (based on mid-
frequency cetaceans--no published data exist on auditory effects of 
noise in low or high frequency cetaceans) (Southall et al., 2007).
    A detailed description of how TTS criteria were derived from the 
results of the above studies may be found in Chapter 3 of Southall et 
al. (2007), as well as the Navy's Q-20 IHA application.

Level A Harassment Threshold (PTS)

    For acoustic effects, because the tissues of the ear appear to be 
the most susceptible to the physiological effects of sound, and because 
threshold shifts tend to occur at lower exposures than other more 
serious auditory effects, NMFS has determined that PTS is the best 
indicator for the smallest degree of injury that can be measured. 
Therefore, the acoustic exposure associated with

[[Page 34063]]

onset-PTS is used to define the lower limit of the Level A harassment.
    PTS data do not currently exist for marine mammals and are unlikely 
to be obtained due to ethical concerns. However, PTS levels for these 
animals may be estimated using TTS data from marine mammals and 
relationships between TTS and PTS that have been discovered through 
study of terrestrial mammals. NMFS uses the following acoustic criteria 
for injury:
     Cetaceans--215 dB re 1 [micro]Pa\2\-s (based on mid-
frequency cetaceans--no published data exist on auditory effects of 
noise in low or high frequency cetaceans) (Southall et al., 2007).
    These criteria are based on a 20 dB increase in SEL over that 
required for onset-TTS. Extrapolations from terrestrial mammal data 
indicate that PTS occurs at 40 dB or more of TS, and that TS growth 
occurs at a rate of approximately 1.6 dB TS per dB increase in EL. 
There is a 34-dB TS difference between onset-TTS (6 dB) and onset-PTS 
(40 dB). Therefore, an animal would require approximately 20-dB of 
additional exposure (34 dB divided by 1.6 dB) above onset-TTS to reach 
PTS. A detailed description of how TTS criteria were derived from the 
results of the above studies may be found in Chapter 3 of Southall et 
al. (2007), as well as the Navy's NSWC PCD LOA application. Southall et 
al. (2007) recommend a precautionary dual criteria for TTS (230 dB re 1 
[micro]Pa (SPL) in addition to 215 re 1 [micro]Pa\2\-s (SEL)) to 
account for the potentially damaging transients embedded within non-
pulse exposures. However, in the case of HFAS/MFAS, the distance at 
which an animal would receive 215 (SEL) is farther from the source than 
the distance at which they would receive 230 (SPL) and therefore, it is 
not necessary to consider 230 dB.
    We note here that behaviorally mediated injuries (such as those 
that have been hypothesized as the cause of some beaked whale 
strandings) could potentially occur in response to received levels 
lower than those believed to directly result in tissue damage. As 
mentioned previously, data to support a quantitative estimate of these 
potential effects (for which the exact mechanism is not known and in 
which factors other than received level may play a significant role) do 
not exist.

Level B Harassment Risk Function (Behavioral Harassment)

    The first MMPA authorization for take of marine mammals incidental 
to tactical active sonar was issued in 2006 for Navy Rim of the Pacific 
training exercises in Hawaii. For that authorization, NMFS used 173 dB 
SEL as the criterion for the onset of behavioral harassment (Level B 
harassment). This type of single number criterion is referred to as a 
step function, in which (in this example) all animals estimated to be 
exposed to received levels above 173 dB SEL would be predicted to be 
taken by Level B harassment and all animals exposed to less than 173 dB 
SEL would not be taken by Level B harassment. As mentioned previously, 
marine mammal behavioral responses to sound are highly variable and 
context specific (affected by differences in acoustic conditions; 
differences between species and populations; differences in gender, 
age, reproductive status, or social behavior; or the prior experience 
of the individuals), which does not support the use of a step function 
to estimate behavioral harassment.
    Unlike step functions, acoustic risk continuum functions (which are 
also called ``exposure-response functions,'' ``dose-response 
functions,'' or ``stress response functions'' in other risk assessment 
contexts) allow for probability of a response that NMFS would classify 
as harassment to occur over a range of possible received levels 
(instead of one number) and assume that the probability of a response 
depends first on the ``dose'' (in this case, the received level of 
sound) and that the probability of a response increases as the ``dose'' 
increases. The Navy and NMFS have previously used acoustic risk 
functions to estimate the probable responses of marine mammals to 
acoustic exposures in the Navy FEISs on the SURTASS LFA sonar (DoN, 
2001c) and the North Pacific Acoustic Laboratory experiments conducted 
off the Island of Kauai (ONR, 2001). The specific risk functions used 
here were also used in the MMPA regulations and FEIS for Hawaii Range 
Complex (HRC), Southern California Range Complex (SOCAL), and Atlantic 
Fleet Active Sonar Testing (AFAST). As discussed in the Effects 
section, factors other than received level (such as distance from or 
bearing to the sound source) can affect the way that marine mammals 
respond; however, data to support a quantitative analysis of those (and 
other factors) do not currently exist. NMFS will continue to modify 
these criteria as new data becomes available.
    To assess the potential effects on marine mammals associated with 
active sonar used during training activity, the Navy and NMFS applied a 
risk function that estimates the probability of behavioral responses 
that NMFS would classify as harassment for the purposes of the MMPA 
given exposure to specific received levels of MFA sonar. The 
mathematical function is derived from a solution in Feller (1968) as 
defined in the SURTASS LFA Sonar Final OEIS/EIS (DoN, 2001), and relied 
on in the Supplemental SURTASS LFA Sonar EIS (DoN, 2007a) for the 
probability of MFA sonar risk for MMPA Level B behavioral harassment 
with input parameters modified by NMFS for MFA sonar for mysticetes and 
odontocetes (NMFS, 2008). The same risk function and input parameters 
will be applied to high frequency active (HFA) (>10 kHz) sources until 
applicable data becomes available for high frequency sources.
    In order to represent a probability of risk, the function should 
have a value near zero at very low exposures, and a value near one for 
very high exposures. One class of functions that satisfies this 
criterion is cumulative probability distributions, a type of cumulative 
distribution function. In selecting a particular functional expression 
for risk, several criteria were identified:
     The function must use parameters to focus discussion on 
areas of uncertainty;
     The function should contain a limited number of 
parameters;
     The function should be capable of accurately fitting 
experimental data; and
     The function should be reasonably convenient for algebraic 
manipulations.
    As described in U.S. Department of the Navy (2001), the 
mathematical function below is adapted from a solution in Feller 
(1968).
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TN06JN13.000

Where:

R = Risk (0-1.0)
L = Received level (dB re: 1 [mu]Pa)
B = Basement received level = 120 dB re: 1 [mu]Pa
K = Received level increment above B where 50 percent risk = 45 dB 
re: 1 [mu]Pa
A = Risk transition sharpness parameter = 10 (odontocetes) or 8 
(mysticetes)

    In order to use this function to estimate the percentage of an 
exposed population that would respond in a manner that NMFS classifies 
as Level B harassment, based on a given received level, the values for 
B, K and A need to be identified.
    B Parameter (Basement)--The B parameter is the estimated received 
level below which the probability of disruption of natural behavioral 
patterns, such as migration, surfacing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or 
sheltering,

[[Page 34064]]

to a point where such behavioral patterns are abandoned or 
significantly altered approaches zero for the HFAS/MFAS risk 
assessment. At this received level, the curve would predict that the 
percentage of the exposed population that would be taken by Level B 
harassment approaches zero. For HFAS/MFAS, NMFS has determined that B = 
120 dB. This level is based on a broad overview of the levels at which 
many species have been reported responding to a variety of sound 
sources.
    K Parameter (representing the 50 percent Risk Point)--The K 
parameter is based on the received level that corresponds to 50 percent 
risk, or the received level at which we believe 50 percent of the 
animals exposed to the designated received level will respond in a 
manner that NMFS classifies as Level B harassment. The K parameter (K = 
45 dB) is based on three datasets in which marine mammals exposed to 
mid-frequency sound sources were reported to respond in a manner that 
NMFS would classify as Level B harassment. There is widespread 
consensus that marine mammal responses to HFA/MFA sound signals need to 
be better defined using controlled exposure experiments (Cox et al., 
2006; Southall et al., 2007). The Navy is contributing to an ongoing 
behavioral response study in the Bahamas that is expected to provide 
some initial information on beaked whales, the species identified as 
the most sensitive to MFAS. NMFS is leading this international effort 
with scientists from various academic institutions and research 
organizations to conduct studies on how marine mammals respond to 
underwater sound exposures. Until additional data is available, 
however, NMFS and the Navy have determined that the following three 
data sets are most applicable for the direct use in establishing the K 
parameter for the HFAS/MFAS risk function. These data sets, summarized 
below, represent the only known data that specifically relate altered 
behavioral responses (that NMFS would consider Level B harassment) to 
exposure to HFAS/MFAS sources.
    Even though these data are considered the most representative of 
the proposed specified activities, and therefore the most appropriate 
on which to base the K parameter (which basically determines the 
midpoint) of the risk function, these data have limitations, which are 
discussed in Appendix J of the Navy's EIS for the NSWC PCD (DoN, 2009) 
and summarized in the Navy's IHA application.
    Calculation of K Parameter--NMFS and the Navy used the mean of the 
following values to define the midpoint of the function: (1) The mean 
of the lowest received levels (185.3 dB) at which individuals responded 
with altered behavior to 3 kHz tones in the SSC data set; (2) the 
estimated mean received level value of 169.3 dB produced by the 
reconstruction of the USS SHOUP incident in which killer whales exposed 
to MFA sonar (range modeled possible received levels: 150 to 180 dB); 
and (3) the mean of the 5 maximum received levels at which Nowacek et 
al. (2004) observed significantly altered responses of right whales to 
the alert stimuli than to the control (no input signal) is 139.2 dB 
SPL. The arithmetic mean of these three mean values is 165 dB SPL. The 
value of K is the difference between the value of B (120 dB SPL) and 
the 50 percent value of 165 dB SPL; therefore, K=45.
    A Parameter (Steepness)--NMFS determined that a steepness parameter 
(A) = 10 is appropriate for odontocetes (except harbor porpoises) and 
pinnipeds and A = 8 is appropriate for mysticetes.
    The use of a steepness parameter of A = 10 for odontocetes (except 
harbor porpoises) for the HFAS/MFAS risk function was based on the use 
of the same value for the SURTASS LFA risk continuum, which was 
supported by a sensitivity analysis of the parameter presented in 
Appendix D of the SURTASS/LFA FEIS (DoN, 2001c). As concluded in the 
SURTASS FEIS/EIS, the value of A = 10 produces a curve that has a more 
gradual transition than the curves developed by the analyses of 
migratory gray whale studies (Malme et al., 1984; Buck and Tyack, 2000; 
and SURTASS LFA Sonar EIS, Subchapters 1.43, 4.2.4.3 and Appendix D, 
and NMFS, 2008).
    NMFS determined that a lower steepness parameter (A = 8), resulting 
in a shallower curve, was appropriate for use with mysticetes and HFAS/
MFAS. The Nowacek et al. (2004) dataset contains the only data 
illustrating mysticete behavioral responses to a mid-frequency sound 
source. A shallower curve (achieved by using A=8) better reflects the 
risk of behavioral response at the relatively low received levels at 
which behavioral responses of right whales were reported in the Nowacek 
et al. (2004) data. Compared to the odontocete curve, this adjustment 
results in an increase in the proportion of the exposed population of 
mysticetes being classified as behaviorally harassed at lower RLs, such 
as those reported in and supported by the only dataset currently 
available.
    Basic Application of the Risk Function--The risk function is used 
to estimate the percentage of an exposed population that is likely to 
exhibit behaviors that would qualify as harassment (as that term is 
defined by the MMPA applicable to military readiness activities, such 
as the Navy's testing and research activities with HFA/MFA sonar) at a 
given received level of sound. For example, at 165 dB SPL (dB re: 1 
[mu]Pa rms), the risk (or probability) of harassment is defined 
according to this function as 50 percent, and Navy/NMFS applies that by 
estimating that 50 percent of the individuals exposed at that received 
level are likely to respond by exhibiting behavior that NMFS would 
classify as behavioral harassment. The risk function is not applied to 
individual animals, only to exposed populations.
    The data primarily used to produce the risk function (the K 
parameter) were compiled from four species that had been exposed to 
sound sources in a variety of different circumstances. As a result, the 
risk function represents a general relationship between acoustic 
exposures and behavioral responses that is then applied to specific 
circumstances. That is, the risk function represents a relationship 
that is deemed to be generally true, based on the limited, best-
available science, but may not be true in specific circumstances. In 
particular, the risk function, as currently derived, treats the 
received level as the only variable that is relevant to a marine 
mammal's behavioral response. However, we know that many other 
variables--the marine mammal's gender, age, and prior experience; the 
activity it is engaged in during an exposure event, its distance from a 
sound source, the number of sound sources, and whether the sound 
sources are approaching or moving away from the animal--can be 
critically important in determining whether and how a marine mammal 
will respond to a sound source (Southall et al., 2007). The data that 
are currently available do not allow for incorporation of these other 
variables in the current risk functions; however, the risk function 
represents the best use of the data that are available (Figure 1).
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P

[[Page 34065]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TN06JN13.001

BILLING CODE 3510-22-C
    As more specific and applicable data become available for HFAS/MFAS 
sources, NMFS can use these data to modify the outputs generated by the 
risk function to make them more realistic. Ultimately, data may exist 
to justify the use of additional, alternate, or multivariate functions. 
For example, as mentioned previously, the distance from the sound 
source and whether it is perceived as approaching or moving away can 
affect the way an animal responds to a sound (Wartzok et al., 2003).

Estimated Exposures of Marine Mammals

    Acoustical modeling provides an estimate of the actual exposures. 
Detailed information and formulas to model the effects of sonar from Q-
20 sonar testing activities in the Q-20 Study Area are provided in 
Appendix A, Supplemental Information for Underwater Noise Analysis of 
the Navy's IHA application.
    The quantitative analysis was based on conducting sonar operations 
in 13 different geographical regions, or provinces. Using combined 
marine mammal density and depth estimates, which are detailed later in 
this section, acoustical modeling was conducted to calculate the actual 
exposures. Refer to Appendix B, Geographic Description of Environmental 
Provinces of the Navy's IHA application, for additional information on 
provinces. Refer to Appendix C, Definitions and Metrics for Acoustic 
Quantities of the Navy's IHA application, for additional information 
regarding the acoustical analysis.
    The approach for estimating potential acoustic effects from Q-20 
test activities on cetacean species uses the methodology that the DON 
developed in cooperation with NMFS for the Navy's HRC Draft EIS (DON, 
2007c). The exposure analysis for behavioral response to sound in the 
water uses energy flux density for Level A harassment and the methods 
for risk function for Level B harassment (behavioral). The methodology 
is provided here to determine the number and species of marine mammals 
for which incidental take authorization is requested. NMFS concurs with 
the Navy's approach and that these are the appropriate methodologies.
    To estimate acoustic effects from the Q-20 test activities, 
acoustic sources to be used were examined with regard to their 
operational characteristics as described in the previous section. 
Systems with an operating frequency greater than 200 kHz were not 
analyzed in the detailed modeling as these signals attenuate rapidly 
resulting in very short propagation distances. Based on the information 
above, the Navy modeled the Q-20 sonar parameters including source 
levels, ping length, the interval between pings, output frequencies, 
directivity (or angle), and other characteristics based on records from 
previous test scenarios and projected future testing. Additional 
information on sonar systems and their associated parameters is in 
Appendix A, Supplemental Information for Underwater Noise Analysis of 
the Navy's IHA application.
    Every active sonar operation includes the potential to expose 
marine animals in the neighboring waters. The number of animals exposed 
to the sonar is dictated by the propagation field and the manner in 
which the sonar is operated (i.e., source level, depth, frequency, 
pulse length, directivity, platform speed, repetition rate). The 
modeling for Q-20 test activities

[[Page 34066]]

involving sonar occurred in five broad steps listed below, and was 
conducted based on the typical RDT&E activities planned for the Q-20 
Study Area.
    1. Environmental Provinces: The Q-20 Study Area is divided into 13 
environmental provinces, and each has a unique combination of 
environmental conditions. These represent various combinations of eight 
bathymetry provinces, one Sound Velocity Profile (SVP) province, and 
three Low-Frequency Bottom Loss geo-acoustic provinces and two High-
Frequency Bottom Loss classes. These are addressed by defining eight 
fundamental environments in two seasons that span the variety of 
depths, bottom types, sound speed profiles, and sediment thicknesses 
found in the Q-20 Study Area. The two seasons encompass winter and 
summer, which are the two extremes for the GOM, the acoustic 
propagation characteristics do not vary significantly between the two. 
Each marine modeling area can be quantitatively described as a unique 
combination of these environments.
    2. Transmission Loss: Since sound propagates differently in these 
environments, separate transmission loss calculations must be made for 
each, in both seasons. The transmission loss is predicted using 
Comprehensive Acoustic Simulation System/Gaussian Ray Bundle (CASS-
GRAB) sound modeling software.
    3. Exposure Volumes: The transmission loss, combined with the 
source characteristics, gives the energy field of a single ping. The 
energy of more than 10 hours of pinging is summed, carefully accounting 
for overlap of several pings, so an accurate average exposure of an 
hour of pinging is calculated for each depth increment. At more than 10 
hours, the source is too far away and the energy is negligible. 
Repeating this calculation for each environment in each season gives 
the hourly ensonified volume, by depth, for each environment and 
season. This step begins the method for risk function modeling.
    4. Marine Mammal Densities: The marine mammal densities were given 
in two dimensions, but using reliable peer-reviewed literature sources 
(published literature and agency reports) described in the following 
subsection, the depth regimes of these marine mammals are used to 
project the two dimensional densities (expressed as the number of 
animals per area where all individuals are assumed to be at the water's 
surface) into three dimensions (a volumetric approach whereby two-
dimensional animal density incorporates depth into the calculation 
estimates).
    5. Exposure Calculations: Each marine mammal's three-dimensional 
(3-D) density is multiplied by the calculated impact volume to that 
marine mammal depth regime. This value is the number of exposures per 
hour for that particular marine mammal. In this way, each marine 
mammal's exposure count per hour is based on its density, depth 
habitat, and the ensonified volume by depth.
    The planned sonar hours were inserted and a cumulative number of 
exposures was determined for the proposed action.
    Based on the analysis, Q-20 sonar operations in non-territorial 
waters may expose up to six species to sound likely to result in Level 
B (behavioral) harassment (Table 2). They include the bottlenose 
dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), Atlantic spotted dolphin (Stenella 
frontalis), pantropical spotted dolphin (Stenella attenuata), striped 
dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba), spinner dolphin (Stenella 
longirostris), and Clymene dolphin (Stenella clymene). No marine 
mammals would be exposed to levels of sound likely to result in TTS. 
The Navy requests that the take numbers of marine mammals for its IHA 
reflect the exposure numbers listed in Table 2.

 Table 2--Estimates and Requested Take of Marine Mammal Exposures From Sonar in Non-territorial Waters per Year
                                     [See Table 5-1 in the IHA application]
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                      Level B         Level B
                      Marine mammal species                           Level A       harassment      harassment
                                                                    harassment         (TTS)       (behavioral)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Atlantic spotted dolphin........................................               0               0             315
Bottlenose dolphin..............................................               0               0             399
Clymene dolphin.................................................               0               0              42
Pantropical spotted dolphin.....................................               0               0             126
Spinner dolphin.................................................               0               0             126
Striped dolphin.................................................               0               0              42
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Potential for Long-Term Effects

    Q-20 test activities will be conducted in the same general areas, 
so marine mammal populations could be exposed to repeated activities 
over time. However, as described earlier, this analysis assumes that 
short-term non-injurious SELs predicted to cause temporary behavioral 
disruptions qualify as Level B harassment. It is highly unlikely that 
behavioral disruptions will result in any long-term significant 
effects.

Potential for Effects on ESA-Listed Species

    To further examine the possibility of whale exposures from the 
proposed testing, CASSGRAB sound modeling software was used to estimate 
transmission losses and received sound pressure levels (SPLs) from the 
Q-20 when operating in the test area. Specifically, four radials out 
towards DeSoto Canyon (which is considered an important habitat for the 
ESA-listed sperm whales) were calculated. The results indicate the 
relatively rapid attenuation of sound pressure levels with distance 
from the source, which is not surprising given the high frequency of 
the source. Below 120 dB, the risk of significant change in a 
biologically important behavior approaches zero. This threshold is 
reached at a distance of only 2.8 km (1.5 nm) from the source. With the 
density of sperm whales being near zero in this potential zone of 
influence, this calculation reinforces NMFS's conclusion that the 
proposed activity is not likely to result in the take of sperm whales. 
It should also be noted that DeSoto Canyon is well beyond the distance 
at which sound pressure levels from the Q-20 attenuate to zero.

Encouraging and Coordinating Research

    The Navy sponsors a significant portion of research concerning the 
effects of human-generated sound in marine mammals. Worldwide, the Navy 
funded over $16 million in marine

[[Page 34067]]

mammal research in 2012. Major topics of Navy-supported research 
include:
     Gaining a better understanding of marine species 
distribution and important habitat areas.
     Developing methods to detect and monitor marine species 
before and during training.
     Understanding the effects of sound on marine mammals.
     Developing tools to model and estimate potential effects 
of sound.
    This research is directly applicable to the Q-20 study area, 
particularly with respect to the investigations of the potential 
effects of underwater noise sources on marine mammals and other 
protected species.
    Furthermore, various research cruises by NMFS and academic 
institutions have been augmented with additional funding from the Navy. 
The Navy has also sponsored several workshops to evaluate the current 
state of knowledge and potential for future acoustic monitoring of 
marine mammals. The workshops brought together acoustic experts and 
marine biologists from the Navy and other research organizations to 
present data and information on current acoustic monitoring research 
efforts and to evaluate the potential for incorporating similar 
technology and methods on instrumented ranges.
    The Navy will continue to fund ongoing marine mammal research, and 
includes projected funding at levels greater than $14 million per year 
in subsequent years. The Navy also has plans to continue in the 
coordination of long-term monitoring and studies of marine mammals on 
various established ranges and within its OPAREAs. The Navy will 
continue to research and contribute to university/external research to 
improve the state of the knowledge of the science regarding the biology 
and ecology of marine species, and potential acoustic effects on 
species from naval activities. These efforts include mitigation and 
monitoring programs, data sharing with NMFS and via the literature for 
research and development efforts, and future research, as described 
previously.

Impact on Availability of Affected Species or Stock for Taking for 
Subsistence Uses

    Section 101(a)5)(D) of the MMPA also requires NMFS to determine 
that the authorization will not have an unmitigable adverse effect on 
the availability of marine mammal species or stocks for subsistence 
use. There are no relevant subsistence uses of marine mammals in the 
study area (in the Gulf of Mexico) that implicate MMPA section 
101(a)(5)(D).

Negligible Impact Determination

    Pursuant to NMFS's regulations implementing the MMPA, an applicant 
is required to estimate the number of animals that will be ``taken'' by 
the specified activities (i.e., takes by harassment only, or takes by 
harassment, injury, serious injury, and/or death). This estimate 
informs NMFS's analysis of whether the activity will have a 
``negligible impact'' on the species or stock. To issue an IHA, NMFS 
must determine among other things, that the incidental take by 
harassment caused by the specified activity will have a negligible 
impact on affected species or stocks of marine mammals. NMFS has 
defined ``negligible impact'' in 50 CFR 216.103 as `` . . . an impact 
resulting from the specified activity that cannot be reasonably 
expected to, and is not reasonably likely to, adversely affect the 
species or stock through effects on annual rates of recruitment or 
survival.'' Level B (behavioral) harassment occurs at the level of the 
individual(s) and does not necessarily result in population-level 
consequences, though there are known avenues through which behavioral 
disturbance of individuals can result in population-level effects. A 
negligible impact finding is based on the lack of likely adverse 
effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival (i.e., population-
level effects). An estimate of the number of Level B harassment takes, 
alone, is not enough information on which to base an impact 
determination. In addition to considering estimates of the number of 
marine mammals that might be ``taken'' through behavioral harassment, 
NMFS must consider other factors, such as the likely nature of any 
responses (their intensity, duration, etc.), the context of any 
responses (critical reproductive time or location, migration, etc.), or 
any of the other variables mentioned in the first paragraph (if known), 
as well as the number and nature of estimated Level A takes, the number 
of estimated serious injuries and/or mortalities, and effects on 
habitat.
    The Navy's specified activities have been described based on best 
estimates of the number of Q-20 sonar test hours that the Navy will 
conduct. Taking the above into account, considering the sections 
discussed below, and dependent upon the implementation of the proposed 
mitigation measures, NMFS has preliminarily determined that Navy's Q-20 
sonar test activities in the non-territorial waters will have a 
negligible impact on the marine mammal species and stocks present in 
the Q-20 study area.

Behavioral Harassment

    Behavioral harassment from the Navy's proposed training activities 
are expected to occur as discussed in the ``Potential Effects of 
Exposure of Marine Mammals to Sonar'' section and illustrated in the 
conceptual framework, marine mammals can respond to HFAS/MFAS in many 
different ways, a subset of which qualifies as harassment. One thing 
that the take estimates do not take into account is the fact that most 
marine mammals will likely avoid strong sound sources to one extent or 
another. Although an animal that avoids the sound source will likely 
still be taken in some instances (such as if the avoidance results in a 
missed opportunity to feed, interruption of reproductive behaviors, 
etc.), in other cases avoidance may result in fewer instances of take 
than were estimated or in the takes resulting from exposure to a lower 
received level than was estimated, which could result in a less severe 
response. The Navy proposes a cumulative total of only 420 hours of 
high-frequency sonar operations per year for the Q-20 sonar testing 
activities, spread among 42 days with an average of 10 hours per day, 
in the Q-20 study area. There will be no powerful tactical mid-
frequency sonar involved. Therefore, there will be no disturbance to 
marine mammals resulting from MFAS systems (such as 53C). The effects 
that might be expected from the Navy's major training exercises at the 
Atlantic Fleet Active Sonar Training (AFAST) Range, Hawaii Range 
Complex (HRC), and Southern California (SOCAL) Range Complex will not 
occur here. The source level of the Q-20 sonar is much lower than the 
53C series MFAS system, and high frequency signals tend to have more 
attenuation in the water column and are more prone to lose their energy 
during propagation. Therefore, their zones of influence are much 
smaller, thereby making it easier to detect marine mammals and prevent 
adverse effects from occurring.
    The Navy has been conducting monitoring activities since 2006 on 
its sonar operations in a variety of the Naval range complexes (e.g., 
AFAST, HRC, SOCAL) under the Navy's own protective measures and under 
the regulations and LOAs. Monitoring reports based on these major 
training exercises using military sonar have shown that no marine 
mammal injury or mortality has occurred as a result of the sonar 
operations (DoN, 2011a; 2011b).

Diel Cycle

    As noted previously, many animals perform vital functions, such as 
feeding,

[[Page 34068]]

resting, traveling, and socializing on a diel cycle (24-hr cycle). 
Substantive behavioral reactions to noise exposure (such as disruption 
of critical life functions, displacement, or avoidance of important 
habitat) are more likely to be significant if they last more than one 
diel cycle or recur on subsequent days (Southall et al., 2007). 
Consequently, a behavioral response lasting less than one day and not 
recurring on subsequent days is not considered particularly severe 
unless it could directly affect reproduction or survival (Southall et 
al., 2007).
    In the previous section, we discussed the fact that potential 
behavioral responses to HFAS/MFAS that fall into the category of 
harassment could range in severity. By definition, the takes by 
behavioral harassment involve the disturbance of a marine mammal or 
marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of natural 
behavioral patterns (such as migration, surfacing, nursing, breeding, 
feeding, or sheltering) to a point where such behavioral patterns are 
abandoned or significantly altered. In addition, the amount of time the 
Q-20 sonar testing will occur is 420 hours per year in non-territorial 
waters, and is spread among 42 days with an average of 10 hours per 
day. Thus the exposure is expected to be sporadic throughout the year 
and is localized within a specific testing site. NMFS anticipates that 
the Navy's proposed training activities will not result in substantial 
behavioral disturbance to recruitment or survival because the exposure 
is expected to be less intense than other sound sources and spread out 
over time, which should allow for periods of recovery.

TTS

    Based on the Navy's model and NMFS analysis, it is unlikely that 
marine mammals would be exposed to sonar received levels that could 
cause TTS due to the lower source level (207 to 212 dB re 1 [micro]Pa 
at 1 m) and high attenuation rate of the HAFS signals (above 35 kHz).

Acoustic Masking or Communication Impairment

    As discussed above, it is possible that anthropogenic sound could 
result in masking of marine mammal communication and navigation 
signals. However, masking only occurs during the time of the signal 
(and potential secondary arrivals of indirect rays), versus TTS, which 
occurs continuously for its duration. The Q-20 ping duration is in 
milliseconds and the system is relatively low-powered making its range 
of effect smaller. Therefore, masking effects from the Q-20 sonar 
signals are expected to be minimal. If masking or communication 
impairment were to occur briefly, it would be in the frequency range of 
above 35 kHz (the lower limit of the Q-20 signals), which overlaps with 
some marine mammal vocalizations; however, it would likely not mask the 
entirety of any particular vocalization or communication series because 
the pulse length, frequency, and duty cycle of the Q-20 sonar signal 
does not perfectly mimic the characteristics of any marine mammal's 
vocalizations.

PTS, Injury, or Mortality

    Based on the Navy's model and NMFS analysis, it is unlikely that 
PTS, injury, or mortality of marine mammals would occur from the 
proposed Q-20 sonar testing activities. As discussed earlier, the lower 
source level (207-212 dB re 1 [micro]Pa at 1 m) and high attenuation 
rate of the HFAS signals (above 35 kHz) make it highly unlikely that 
any marine mammals in the vicinity would be injured (including PTS) or 
killed as a result of sonar exposure. Therefore, no take by Level A 
harassment, serious injury, or mortality is anticipated; nor would it 
be authorized under the proposed IHA.
    Based on the aforementioned assessment, NMFS determines that 
approximately 399 bottlenose dolphins, 126 pantropical spotted 
dolphins, 315 Atlantic spotted dolphins, 126 spinner dolphins, 42 
Clymene dolphins, and 42 striped dolphins would be affected by Level B 
behavioral harassment as a result of the proposed Q-20 sonar testing 
activities.
    Based on the supporting analyses suggesting that no marine mammals 
would be killed, seriously injured, injured, or receive TTS as a result 
of the Q-20 sonar testing activities coupled with our assessment that 
these impacts will be of limited intensity and duration and likely not 
occur in areas and times critical to significant behavioral patterns 
such as reproduction, NMFS has preliminarily determined that the taking 
by Level B harassment of these species or stocks as a result of the 
Navy's Q-20 sonar test will have a negligible impact on the marine 
mammal species and stocks present in the Q-20 study area.

Endangered Species Act

    Under section 7 of the ESA, the Navy has made a no effect 
determination on ESA-listed species (e.g., sperm whales, sea turtles, 
Gulf sturgeon, sawfish), an no critical habitat for ESA-listed species 
would be impacted; therefore, consultation with NMFS, Office of 
Protected Resources, Endangered Species Act Interagency Cooperation 
Division, on this proposed Q-20 testing is not required. NMFS (Permits 
and Conservation Division will also not formally consult with NMFS 
(Endangered Species Act Interagency Cooperation Division) on the 
issuance of an IHA under section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA for this 
activity. Based on the analysis of the Navy Marine Resources Assessment 
(MRA) data on marine mammal distributions, there is near zero 
probability that the sperm whale will occur in the vicinity of the 
proposed Q-20 study area. No other ESA-listed marine mammal is expected 
to occur in the vicinity of the test area. In addition, acoustic 
modeling analysis indicates that none of the ESA-listed marine mammal 
species would be exposed to levels of sound that would constitute a 
``take'' under the MMPA, due to the low source level and high 
attenuation rates of the Q-20 sonar signal.

National Environmental Policy Act

    In 2009, the Navy prepared a ``Final Environmental Impact 
Statement/Overseas Environmental Impact Statement for the NSWC PCD 
Mission Activities'' (FEIS/OEIS), and NMFS subsequently adopted the 
FEIS/OEIS for its rule governing the Navy's RDT&E activities in the 
NSWC PCD study area. With its IHA application, the Navy also prepared 
and submitted an ``Overseas Environmental Assessment Testing the AN/
AQS-20A Mine Reconnaissance Sonar System in the NSWC PCD Testing Range, 
2012-2014.'' To meet NMFS's National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA; 42 
U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) requirements for the issuance of an IHA to the 
Navy, NMFS prepared an Environmental Assessment for the Issuance of an 
Incidental Harassment Authorization to Take Marine Mammals by 
Harassment Incidental to Conducting High-Frequency Sonar Testing 
Activities in the Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division'' 
and signed a FONSI on July 24, 2012 prior to the issuance of the IHA 
for the Navy's activities in July 2012 to July 2013. The currently 
proposed Q-20 sonar testing activities that would be covered by the 
proposed IHA from July 2013 to July 2014 are similar to the sonar 
testing activities described in the NMFS EA for the issuance of an IHA 
and the Navy's FEIS/OEIS and EA for NSWC PCD mission activities, and 
the effects of the proposed IHA fall within the scope of those 
documents and do not require further supplementation. Based on the 
public comments received in response to publication in the Federal 
Register notice and proposed IHA, NMFS will decide whether to reaffirm 
its FONSI before making a final determination on the IHA.

[[Page 34069]]

Proposed Authorization

    NMFS proposes to issue an IHA authorizing the incidental take of 
six species of marine mammals, by Level B harassment, at levels 
specified in Table 2 (above) to the Navy for testing the Q-20 sonar 
system in non-territorial waters of the NSWC PCD testing range in the 
GOM, provided the proposed mitigation, monitoring, and reporting 
requirements are incorporated. The duration of the IHA would not exceed 
one year from the date of its issuance.

Information Solicited

    NMFS requests interested persons to submit comments and information 
concerning this proposed project and NMFS's preliminary determination 
of issuing an IHA (see ADDRESSES). Concurrent with the publication of 
this notice in the Federal Register, NMFS is forwarding copies of this 
application to the Marine Mammal Commission and its Committee of 
Scientific Advisors.

    Dated: May 31, 2013.
Helen M. Golde,
Deputy Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2013-13340 Filed 6-5-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P