While training at sea, the Navy strives to protect the marine environment by conducting activities in strict compliance with applicable environmental laws. In coordination with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the Navy has developed measures to reduce the potential impacts of training activities on the ocean environment. Navy personnel are thoroughly trained on these procedures and are required to follow them.
Many marine mammals vocalize underwater. Marine mammals, sea turtles, and other species are visible when they are not submerged under water. Before certain activities are conducted, the area is scanned visually and, when possible, monitored acoustically to detect the presence of marine species.
Posting highly trained Lookouts
Navy personnel undertake extensive training to qualify as a Lookout in accordance with the Navy’s Lookout Training Handbook. All Lookouts must review Marine Species Awareness Training material, approved by NMFS. For specified activities, Navy Lookouts visually observe for the presence of marine species within mitigation zones. The Navy uses all available sensors and optical systems during mid-frequency active sonar training to identify the potential presence and location of marine mammals.
Establishing mitigation zones for marine species
A mitigation zone is designed to reduce potential impacts on marine species from certain training activities. Mitigation zones are unique to each specific activity and are measured as the radius from a source. The Navy visually observes each radius to help reduce impacts on marine species. If a specific marine species is detected within the mitigation zone, the activity will cease until the animal is thought to have exited the mitigation zone.
Conducting safe navigation
While in transit, Navy vessel operators are alert at all times for objects in their path, use extreme caution, operate at a speed consistent with mission and safety, and take proper action if there is a risk of collision with a marine animal.
Reporting sightings and monitoring results
The Navy works closely with NMFS, including monitoring efforts during training activities.