On January 31, 2013, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) issued a proposed rule to regulate the impact of United States Navy exercises on marine mammals. The rule would affect areas off the Southern California, Atlantic, and Hawaiian coastlines.
The proposed rule is in response to the Navy’s request for authorization to incidentally take (e.g., harm or kill) 62 species of marine mammals as a result of training exercises. The proposed rule would authorize over 31 million takes during a five-year period.
All of the 62 species at issue are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which generally prohibits the unauthorized take of marine mammals. In addition, eight species (blue whale, humpback whale, fin whale, sei whale, sperm whale, the Hawaiian insular stock of false killer whale, Guadalupe fur seal, and Hawaiian monk seal) are listed as threatened or endangered, and afforded protection under the Endangered Species Act. The Navy will be consulting with NMFS to further discuss mitigating any impacts on these eight species.
The comment period for the proposed rule ends on March 11.