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While training and testing at sea, the United States (U.S.) Navy strives to protect the marine environment. Navy policy is to operate in full compliance with environmental laws. The Navy recognizes the need to protect marine life while conducting training and testing activities that are vital to fulfilling its national defense mission. Working with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the Navy has developed a sophisticated set of procedures and tools based on the best available science to minimize effects of training and testing on the ocean environment. Navy personnel aboard ships are required and thoroughly trained to follow these procedures.

Many marine mammals vocalize underwater, and marine mammals and sea turtles are visible when they are not submerged. Before certain activities are conducted, the area is scanned visually and, when possible, monitored acoustically to detect the presence of marine mammals and sea turtles.

Navy personnel undertake extensive training to qualify as a lookout in accordance with the Navy’s Lookout Training Handbook. All lookouts must complete Marine Species Awareness Training approved by the National Marine Fisheries Service. For specified activities, Navy lookouts visually observe for the presence of marine species within mitigation zones. The Navy uses all available sensors and optical systems during mid-frequency active sonar training to identify the potential presence and location of marine mammals.

A mitigation zone is designed to reduce potential impacts on marine species from certain training and testing activities. The size of a mitigation zone is unique for each specific Navy activity. The Navy visually observes each zone. If a marine mammal or sea turtle is detected within the mitigation zone, the activity will cease until the animal exits the zone.

While in transit, Navy vessel operators are alert at all times for objects in their path. Operators use extreme caution, operate at a speed consistent with mission and safety, and take proper action if there is a risk of collision with a marine animal.

The Navy works closely with the National Marine Fisheries Service on the Navy’s Integrated Comprehensive Monitoring Program, which is intended to coordinate monitoring efforts across all ocean regions where the Navy trains and tests. In addition, the Navy coordinates with the agency in the event of a stranding and provides annual reporting of training and testing activities.