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European, American Science Foundations Collaborate on Ocean Noise Research Strategies

Ocean, Science Comments Off on European, American Science Foundations Collaborate on Ocean Noise Research Strategies


An AEI lay summary of the following report:
Marine Board—European Science Foundation. The effects of anthropogenic sound on marine mammals: A draft research strategy .Coordinating author: Ian Boyd. Contributing authors: Bob Brownell, Doug Cato, Chris Clark, Dan Costa, Peter Evans, Jason Gedamke, Roger Gentry, Bob Gisiner, Jonathan Gordon, Paul Jepson, Patrick Miller, Luke Rendell, Mark Tasker, Peter Tyack, Erin Vos, Hal Whitehead, Doug Wartzok, Walter Zimmer. [DOWNLOAD REPORT(pdf)]

This important report has just been released, though the workshop at which the ideas were originally developed took place in 2005. An all-star cast of researchers from the US and UK gathered the year after an IEEE workshop on the impacts of seismic surveys on marine mammals (a topic also addressed that year at the IWC), to grapple with how best to coordinate and design future research, to assure that we move efficiently toward answering the key questions surrounding the effects of human sound on ocean life. The report states: “There is a need to pursue a vision of future management of marine resources where the expansion of human activities will be accompanied by a sound understanding of the risks and appropriate tools
to mitigate those risks.” Further, “a key message of this report is that it is unlikely that a small number of focused experiments will provide the information necessary to solve most of the major concerns. Instead, one must rely upon an accumulation of evidence combined with a process of objective assessment of this evidence through periodic independent review. Read the rest of this entry »

Scientists Call Strongly for More Stringent Safety Thresholds for Sonar Exposure

Ocean, Science, Sonar 2 Comments »


This is an AEI lay summary of the following academic paper:
Parsons, Dolman, Wright, Rose, Burns. Navy sonar and cetaceans: Just how much does the gun need to smoke before we act? Marine Pollution Bulletin 56 (2008) 1248–1257.
This paper represents a clarion call by several biologists who are convinced that we now have enough information about the impacts of sonar on whales to justify the imposition of more stringent safety measures. In contrast to Navy insistence that there is no widespread problem, and to the slow and patient progression of scientific data to clarify exactly what the mechanisms that lead to strandings may be, these authors lay out a compelling case for a change in course.

The paper begins with a litany of strandings that have stayed below the radar of most observers, Read the rest of this entry »

AEI News in Context: Supreme Court Sonar Ruling

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What does it mean? How will this ruling affect the ongoing debate as the Navy rolls out its regional EISs to govern sonar training in offshore ranges around the US coastlines and Pacific ocean? It’s interesting to note that the Navy did not appeal two aspects of the lower courts’ safety measures: establishing a 12-mile coastal buffer and avoiding a key biologically rich area in the offshore California range that this case concerned. A key issue in the EIS process is shaping up to be the Navy’s reluctance to set any areas off limits for sonar training; some observers speculate that the Navy’s hard line on this in draft EIS’s is designed to give them room to “give” a bit here in final negotiations with regulators and environmental advocates. It is also worth noting that the Navy did not appeal additional safety measures that were imposed by a Hawaiian court at nearly the same time as this California court made its decision;it appears that the California approach, which imposed shut-downs at larger distances (rather than simply reducing power gradually as whales came closer), and ordered mandatory power-downs in surface duct conditions whether whales were present or not, was too absolute for the Navy to accept, while the Hawaiian approach, which called for gradual shifts of operational procedures only when whales were observed, was deemed less disruptive to Naval training needs. Read the rest of this entry »

Navy Wins Supreme Court Sonar Case

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 This week, the Supreme Court ruled in the Winter v. NRDC case, finding that that the District Court “failed properly to defer to senior Navy officers’ specific, predictive judgments” about how the Court-imposed additional safety measures would impact the Navy’s ability to effectively train its personnel. The case addressed only two specific additional safety requirements that the Navy had appealed (it chose not to appeal 4 others): a much larger (over a mile) safety zone requiring shut-down of sonar whenever whales were present, and reduced power when surface ducts were present. Three opinions were written, expressing the range of responses among the nine Justices: Read the rest of this entry »

Wind Turbine Setback Requirements Vary Widely: From 300m to 1.5km

News, Wind turbines 1 Comment »


Underlying the spreading controversy about noise and health effects of wind turbines is the “million dollar question” for wind farm developers: how large a buffer must they leave between turbine towers and homes? In the US, pressure is on local and state authorities who are scrambling to write regulations to govern wind farm development, and many areas have taken the industry’s reassurances to heart, allowing towers as close as 300 meters (1000 feet) from homes. By contrast, Shear Wind, a Canadian wind developer, recently agreed to re-design an proposed wind farm to assure no turbines are any closer than 1.4km (1400m) from a residence. Read the rest of this entry »

Park Service Proposes First Real Limits on Snowmobiles at Yellowstone Since Guided Tours Provision

News, Vehicles, Wildlands 1 Comment »

Responding to a September Federal Court ruling that tossed the 3rd Yellowstone Winter Use Plan on the cusp of a new winter season, Park managers have released a proposed interim plan that will, for the first time since the original Clinton-era plan, reduce the actual numbers of snow machines in the Park on most of the busy winter holidays and weekends. Earlier plans had capped snowmobiles at 720, then more recently, 540 per day; the interim proposal will allow 318 per day. Last winter, an average of 290 snowmobiles entered the park each day, but on many weekends and other peak days, numbers reached 400-500, with the single highest day seeing 557. Read the rest of this entry »

Wind Turbine Sounds Spur Health Complaints, Force Residents to Move

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The spread of wind turbines into quiet rural areas is leading to increasing complaints that they make more noise than residents were led to believe. While simple annoyance and sleep disturbance are the most common effects, in some cases, nearby residents are reporting health problems that they associate with the presence of the turbines, leading some to move from their homes. Not long after wind turbines began to spin in March near Gerry Meyer’s home in Wisconsin, his son Robert, 13, and wife, Cheryl, complained of headaches. Cheryl also sometimes feels a fluttering in her chest, while Gerry is sometimes nauseated and hears crackling. The nearest turbine is 1,560 feet from Meyer’s house. His dismay over an energy source he once thought was benign has made the retired mailman, 59, an activist. He travels the state warning communities considering wind farms to be wary. “I don’t think anyone should have to put up with this,” says Meyer, who compares the sound to a helicopter or a jet taking off. Read the rest of this entry »