GOA Admin

The coastal and sea areas of the Gulf of Alaska (GOA) are critically important. They are places where people make their living and engage in recreation. These locations are also used for subsistence purposes by Alaska Native tribes. A wide variety of marine vegetation and animals, including whales, porpoises, dolphins, seals and sea lions, seabirds, invertebrates, and fish also make their home there.

The marine areas in the GOA are also important to the United States (U.S.) Department of the Navy (Navy). The GOA is one of the only places in the northeastern Pacific Ocean where U.S. Armed Forces can come together to learn and practice the skills they require to respond to an emergency or threat.

Protecting the marine environment of the GOA is an important goal of the Navy. In its commitment to the region and in compliance with existing laws, permits, and authorizations, the Navy follows strict guidelines and employs measures to protect marine species and reduce potential effects while training at sea.

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.

Pre-exercise monitoring

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.

Navy Lookout

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.

The Navy strives to be a world leader in marine species research and has provided more than $100 million over the past five years to universities, research institutions, federal laboratories, private companies, and independent researchers around the world to increase the understanding of marine species physiology and behavior. From 2011 to 2013 the Navy will have invested more than $1.6 million in marine species monitoring efforts within the GOA. This research helps the Navy to:

  • Better understand marine species distribution and location of important habitat areas
  • Refine its methods to detect and monitor marine species before and during training activities
  • Add to its understanding of the effects of underwater sound on marine mammals, sea turtles, fish, and birds
  • Develop improved tools to model and estimate potential effects of underwater sound
  • Develop new programs to safeguard marine protected species