After Surveillance Towed Array Sonar System - Low Frequency Active Testing

While reviewing the many documents and comments addressing SURTASS LFA, we feel, at best, it is confusing. Because the test was set up as a classified military operation, it is extremely difficult to accept "independent scientist" opinion on harmful effects to whales. The situation is further complicated by comments and actions of some of the National Marine Fisheries Service personnel who are only able to theorize on the impacts since they, too, do not have factual information about LFA to make educated determinations.

Take, for example, this quote from a memo obtained under FOIA from NOAA/Sacturaries and Reserves Division expressing additional concerns about testing that had been articulated in a previous memo on the subject:

"One clarification. You state that the LFA source will transmit at a lower intensity level than ATOC. The LFA *transmissions* may or may not be at a lower level than the ATOC transmissions. The LFA folks have promised that during the research phase the *received level* at target animals will be no greater than 160 dB. However, depending on how far away those animals are, the transmissions may be much louder (estimates are in about the 210-230 dB range, but the actual source transmission level is classified). Some individuals have expressed concern that there may be animals closer to the source that are inadvertently exposed to higher dB levels."

Like many of you, we operate on a very small budget and are limited as to what we can do to evaluate or understand what, if any, impact LFA may have. We started off reviewing LFA tests conducted in Central California, targeting the Gray Whale. The tests took place between January 5 and January 23, 1998. The following data - presented in chart form by Jerye Mooney, http://members.aol.com/OrcaInfo - was compiled from Stranding Reports obtained from the National Marine Fisheries Service. The data does not say conclusively that the whales died from LFA testing. However, EnviroWatch, Inc. believes that the high incidence of Gray Whale calf strandings is abnormal and should trigger concern within the scientific community and the National Marine Fisheries Service. In particular we are questioning whether the calves may have been more sensitive to the high decibel testing then adult whales, or, perhaps the adult whales so affected by the testing they abandoned their young. Or, is NMFS studying other possible causes for the abnormally number of calf deaths during this time period?

We will be compiling and evaluating more data on this study, both in Hawaii and California. If any one has information on strandings, we would appreciate your sharing it with us at Envirowatch@envirowatch.org.   We can also be reached at:

 P.O. Box 89-3062
Mililani, HI 96789
(808) 625-2175

Synopsis - California Cetacean Strandings

  Jan 5 - Jan 23 testing period Jan 24 - Feb 23 month after Sept 27 - Oct 13 testing period Oct 14 - Nov 13 month after
1998 8 gray whales 4 gray whales -- --
1997 3 gray whales 1 gray whale? gray whale? --
1996 -- 3 gray whales? -- 1 gray whale
1995 -- 1 gray whale 1 gray whale --
1994 1 gray whale? 4 gray whales -- --
1993 1 gray whale 1 gray whale -- --

red indicates strandings during and one month after testing periods.

? indicates unidentified whale (possibly gray whale)

more details on gray whale strandings...

01/05/98 gray whale Crescent City alive (calf, 447 cm - died during treatment)
01/08/98 gray whale Redwoods State Park dead (no details)
01/14/98 gray whale Redondo Beach alive (calf, est 144 inches - pushed out to sea)
01/16/98 gray whale Bolinas alive (calf - died in treatment)
01/16/98 gray whale Crescent City alive (calf - died in treatment)
01/17/98 gray whale Fort Bragg alive (calf - umbilicus attached, died in treatment)
01/18/98 gray whale Bolinas alive (calf, 168 inches - pushed out to sea)
01/20/98 gray whale Monterey alive (calf, 454 cm - euthanized)
01/26/98 gray whale Redondo Beach dead (calf - 445 cm)
01/29/98 gray whale Aliso Beach alive (calf, est 144 inches - swam out to sea)
02/03/98 gray whale Ocean Beach (SD) dead (calf - natural abandonment)
02/05/98 gray whale Coronado dead (calf - natural abandonment)
01/10/97 gray whale "JJ" Venice Beach alive (calf - to Sea World 01/11, released)
01/10/97 gray whale Mendecino alive (calf, euthanized - maternal abandonment)
01/20/97 gray whale Coronado alive (calf - died 01/29)
01/31/97 un/id whale Mexican waters dead (fishery interaction)
02/15/97 gray whale Catalina dead (hit by boat)
09/30/97 un/id whale Coronado dead (360 inches)
01/29/96 gray whale San Luis Obispo dead (13-15 ft) [calf]
01/30/96 gray whale state line (CA/OR) dead (est 14 ft) [calf]
02/01/96 gray whale Cardiff dead (female, 200 cm) [calf]
02/20/96 un/id whale Pt. Loma dead (720 cm)
02/23/96 un/id whale Santa Cruz dead (female)
11/05/96 gray whale San Luis Obispo dead (est 300 inches)
02/12/95 gray whale Pt. Piedros Blancas dead (9.8 m)
09/29/95 gray whale Salt Creek (OrCo) dead (female, 680 cm)
10/25/95 un/id cetacean Pt. Piedros Blancas dead (185 cm)
01/12/94 un/id whale Santa Rosa Island dead (360 inches)
01/23/94 gray whale Malibu dead (468 inches)
01/25/94 gray whale San Nicholas Island dead (14 ft) [calf]
01/25/94 gray whale Pt. Reyes dead
01/25/94 gray whale Del Mar dead (est 1100 cm - tail stock gone)
01/26/94 gray whale Coronado dead (calf, 398 cm)
01/16/93 gray whale Del Mar died (calf, 422 cm)
01/30/93 gray whale Santa Cruz Island dead (calf, 422 cm)

Many thanks to Jerye Mooney, http://members.aol.com/OrcaInfo for providing above chart