Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Whales, 100 Yards?, and Sonar

I am kind of wrapping up things here. I need to do a post on whales.

Whales and 100 yards?:

First, in the February Taskforce Committee Hearing (they just had the March meeting and we got no report on it, except from Joan Conrow) it was voluntarily reported that HSF came within 100 yards of a whale 3 times. Nobody at the meeting questioned the significance of that. When I reported that, an expert who was not at the meeting sent me the following:

"Which has been my point all along....whale strikes that have occurred in HI have been a result of ‘surprise encounters.’ HSF claimed they could detect all whales and avoid them, approaching no closer than 500 yards. What is even more interesting is in court they testified to a 100 yard blind spot in front of the vessel. How did they ‘see’ these whales then? They must have been holding their collective breaths."

A few weeks later I went to an evening seminar at the Pacific Whale Foundation where I saw a really neat one page handout regarding federal regulations and safe recommended distances to whales in the water. Here is a quote/links from that:

"Be Whale Aware"
"To prevent vessel/whale collisions in Hawaii and reduce disturbances to whales by vessels, Pacific Whale Foundation is proud to introduce our "Be Whale Aware" educational campaign for vessel operators and other water users.
[Highly recommend] Click here to view our "Be Whale Aware" Fact Sheet including a helpful diagram for vessel operators.
In addition to conducting workshops for vessel operators, we offer free educational stickers for boat operators, kayakers, windsurfers and other recreational water users. Free copies of the stickers can be obtained by calling 1-800-WHALE-1-1 or 249-8811.
To view the "Stop Your Prop. 100 Yards. It's the Law" sticker, click here.
To view the "Slow Down, Whales Around. 15 Knots or Less, Dec - May" sticker, click here.
To view the "Stay Back With Your Kayak: 100 yards. It's the Law" sticker, click here.
To view the "See a Whale, Drop Your Sail: 100 yards. It's the Law" sticker, click here.
To view the "See a Blow, Go Extra Slow: Now wake speed within 400 yards" sticker, click here.
[Editor's note: I have these on my car now.]

To prevent whale collisions, boaters should stay alert at the helm and always post an observer while underway. From December to May, reduce your speed to 15 knots or less in whale waters. When within 400 yards or less of a whale or dolphin group, reduce speed to 6 knots or less. Avoid abrupt course changes. Remember, Federal regulations prohibit approaching humpback whales closer than 100 yards. If your vessel unexpectedly encounters a humpback whale within 100 yards, STOP IMMEDIATELY and allow the whales to pass. Keep clear of the whales' path. Avoid positioning your vessel within 400 yards of the path of traveling whales."

Whales and sonar:

I am sure many of you are aware that the Navy would like to be able to use powerful active sonar in a number of areas of the world to practice finding the "300 of 380 foreign submarines [China, Iran, et.al.] in the world that run quiet diesel electric engines." It has been reported that that powerful active sonar ruptures marine mammal hearing organs causing brain damage that can kill marine mammals. There is a case on this on the mainland with the Navy currently at the losing end of a court challenge. There was also a recent ruling on this type of sonar use here in Hawaiian waters by the esteemed conservative U.S. District Judge David Ezra, reported at: http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/2008/Mar/01/ln/hawaii803010343.html.

I noticed recently a related letter to the editor in the Maui News on March 1st:
"U.S. Navy to answer questions about sonar at March meeting"
"...here’s the opportunity to ask the Navy that very question and any others you have on the use of mid-frequency active sonar in a whale sanctuary and surrounding Hawaiian waters. March 14 at Maui Waena Intermediate School on Onehee Avenue in Kahului from 5 to 9 p.m., there will be an information and comment session conducted by the Navy. The public can submit oral and written questions and comments on this issue at this forum. For varied perspectives on the issue see www.HawaiiONC.org and www.govsupport.us/hrc."
Mike Moran

And lastly for now, I got the following e-mail on this yesterday:

"Notice: The Navy wants to expand its 'training range' and sonar testing into the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, the new 'National Monument,' the whale sanctuary and marine preserve! Make your voice heard!

Navy Public Comment Hearing: Friday, March 14 at 5pm at Maui Waena Intermediate School, 795 Onehee Ave, Kahului (Onehee Ave radiates out from behind Kaahumanu Mall off of Papa Ave or Wakea Ave. You can mail or email comments if you can't attend.)

Sign Waving Rally with Dr Marsha Green and HONC Friday, March 14 at 3:30pm at Queen Kaahumanu Mall entrance.

Here are the details from HONC (Hawaii Ocean Noise Coalition):
We have a sign waving rally with Dr Marsha Green on Friday 3/14 starting at 3:30 PM at the Queen Ka'ahumanu mall entrance, followed by the Navy hearing & comment period following at 5:00 PM at the Maui Waena Intermediate School at 795 Onehee Av in Kahului. You can submit oral or written comments (or both) here. If you can't make it, but still care, go to http://www.govsupport.us/hrc to see how you can submit comments through this site, or snail or email them, but must be done by April 7. The Navy has released a Supplement to the Hawaii Range Complex Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Overseas Environmental Impact Statement on which the public can comment. Details of the plan can be seen on this website http://www.govsupport.us/hrc, or can call toll free 866-767-3347 for more information (from the Navy's point of view)." Mahalo, Mike for the HONC team.

Aloha, Brad

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