Subject: Case Study-ATOC (Marine Noise Pollution)

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Mon, 24 Aug 1994 13:00:37

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Subject: Case Study-ATOC (Marine Noise Pollution)
 
From:	SMTP%"MARMAM@UVVM.BITNET" 23-AUG-1994 13:05:26.65
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Subj:	ATOC update
 
Date:         Tue, 23 Aug 1994 11:52:45 AST
Reply-To:     Marine Mammals Research and Conservation Discussion
              <MARMAM@UVVM.BITNET>
Sender:       Marine Mammals Research and Conservation Discussion
              <MARMAM@UVVM.BITNET>
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From:         Hal Whitehead/Lindy Weilgart <HWHITEHEAD@Kilcom1.UCIS.Dal.Ca>
Organization: Dalhousie University
Subject:      ATOC update
X-To:         Marmam@uvvm.bitnet
To:           Multiple recipients of list MARMAM <MARMAM@UVVM.BITNET>
 
     As there have been some recent requests for information about
ATOC, I feel that perhaps an update would be useful.  The latest
meeting between ATOC scientists, independent concerned marine mammal
scientists, and environmental groups was held July 19 in San
Francisco.  While I was unable to attend myself, I was told that ATOC
still needs to obtain several permits.  The California Coastal
Commission, NOAA's Sanctuaries and Reserves Division in Washington,
as well as of course NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service are all
concerned about ATOC's potentially harmful effects on marine life and
appear to be waiting for ATOC's Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)--
which ATOC neglected to do at the outset--before deciding further on
whether to grant (or support the granting of) permits.  An EIS
generally takes about 1 year to prepare.  Environmental groups (NRDC,
EDF, SCLDF, Center for Marine Conservation, mainly) have made it
clear that the EIS needs to be complete and address their major
concerns (e.g. benign alternatives to ATOC) or else the EIS can be
challenged in the courts ad nauseum.  Given the temporal (years-
decades) and spatial (ocean basins) scale of the project, the
following concerns have been raised: 1) Inability to detect long-term
effects on any cetacean species; 2) Whether the location of the
speakers in some of the most productive areas of the world is an
appropriate or safe site for these studies; 3) Lack of any specific
designation on what constitutes "a harmful effect" which, according
to ATOC's assurances would halt the project; 4) ATOC broadcasts
scheduled during the biological (marine mammal) phase of ATOC, which
are not for the explicit benefit of the marine mammal study but
rather for engineering purposes; 5) No consideration of the effects
of ATOC on prey species; 6) The wide-spread perception that some
marine mammal scientists are not truly independent and unbiassed,
having made public statements (not based on hard evidence) that they
believe the source will be harmless to marine mammals.  One principal
marine mammal scientist even co-authored a newspaper article entitled
"Acoustic Sea Tests Won't Harm Mammals"; 7) The persistent disturbing
habit of ATOC to disseminate unsubstantiated, questionable statements
as being "fact", e.g. ATOC material available over e-mail and hard-
copies distributed by their PR firm states "No physiological damage
will occur to marine life as a result of ATOC sounds...".  In fact,
ATOC's own scientific advisory board notes in their 21 June report
that "ATOC documents assume that hearing damage...will not occur if
received levels of ATOC sounds are below 150-160 dB re 1 microPa.
The Advisory Board notes that this assumption may or may not be true,
but there are no supporting data from marine mammals."
  ATOC material has stated that "ships pass by animals hundreds of
times a day without their sounds harming them.  Scientific data and
years of observations support this finding."  In fact, the Advisory
Board of ATOC states in their 21 June report that "Early assessments
of 1994 baseline observations apparently indicate...that humpback
whales reacted overtly to most close approaches by vessels and
aircraft."  These are just a few of many examples.
     For those people who still feel the controversy over ATOC is
merely a result of an uninformed public and confused marine mammal
scientists speaking out of their area of expertise, let me assure you
that meetings such as the one on July 19 and the alterations that
ATOC has been forced to make in its project would not be occurring if
there were no valid legal, scientific, and ethical problems with this
project.
                          Lindy Weilgart
                          Dept. of Biology
                          Dalhousie Univ.