March 17, 1998
Via fax: 703-614-3477

The Honorable John Dalton
Secretary of the Navy
1000 Navy Pentagon
Washington, DC 20350

Re: U.S. Navy Sonar Research - Humpback Whales

Dear Mr. Dalton:

Recently, I learned that the United States Navy has begun a study involving humpback whales a few miles from the border of the Hawaiian Islands' Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. I am writing to implore you to abandon these tests immediately and look for alternative tests to gather your data.

As I understand it, this study involves blasting high-volume sounds at the whales and gathering data on how they react to low-frequency and high-volume noise. While I can sympathize with the need for research to enable the Navy to develop new sonar programs for the detection of quiet submarines, I sympathize more with these whales who are being made involuntary "volunteers" in an experiment that does not concern or benefit them or their species.

As you may be aware, humpback whales migrate to the tropical waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands from an area near Alaska during October to May largely for breeding purposes. These sound tests conducted by the Navy are likely to disturb and disrupt the whales' instinctual routines especially those of related to courtship and mating. The courtship and mating rituals of the humpback whale involve a complex variety of moans and screams by the male humpback commonly referred to as whale "songs." Sound tests could interfere with their communications and in so doing affect individual reproductive success--damaging their already threatened population.

Additionally, since whales not only communicate with potential mates with these songs, but use them for navigation (sound traveling better and faster through water than light, especially in deeper waters), the sound experiments could disorient and displace the whales increasing risks to their safety and their lives.

Certainly, as intelligent, reasoning creatures, we humans can show compassion on these animals and seek an alternate means of research in this area--one that does not hurt or disturb the lives of other species. As the daughter-in-law of a 28-year military (and war) veteran, I have a great respect for and pride in our military, but I must admit that I am not proud that the U.S. Armed Forces continues to use involuntary subjects for experimentation, especially experimentation of a non-biological nature. I have the utmost confidence that our competent and innovative U.S. Naval Researchers can find a productive and less aggressive means of study.

Thank you for your time and attention and for considering the lives and safety of those who cannot speak to you on their own behalf.

Sincerely,
Leigh-Anne Dennison


March 17, 1998
Via fax: 301-713-2258

Rolland Schmitten
Assistant Administrator
National Marine Fisheries Service
1315 East West Highway
Silver Spring, MD 20910

Re: 50 CFR Part 222 - Federal Regulations Protecting the Humpbacks

Dear Mr. Schmitten:

It is my understanding that the above-referenced regulation offers protection to the humpback whales who migrate (from about October to May each year) to the tropical waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands. I also understand that the U.S. Navy has, presumably with a research permit from the National Marine Fisheries Service, begun conducting sound-blasting research on the whales in that area to gather data for sonar system development. I am writing to you in the hopes that you consider revoking this permit.

As you are probably aware, this migrate occurs largely for breeding purposes. The sound tests conducted by the Navy are likely to disturb and disrupt the whales' instinctual routines especially those of related to courtship and mating--most specifically the complex variety of moans and screams by the male humpback (or his whale "songs"). If these sound tests interfere with their communications, they are likely to affect the whales' reproductive success--damaging their already threatened population.

Additionally, since whales not only communicate with potential mates with these songs, but use them for navigation (sound traveling better and faster through water than light, especially in deeper waters), the sound experiments could disorient and displace the whales increasing risks to their safety and their lives. This disruptions would fall under Item d of this regulation which states:

(d) Disrupt the normal behavior or prior activity of a whale by any other act or omission. A disruption of normal behavior may be manifested by, among other actions on the part of the whale, a rapid change in direction or speed; escape tactics such as prolonged diving, underwater course changes, underwater exhalation, or evasive swimming patterns; interruptions of breeding, nursing, or resting activities, attempts by a whale to shield a calf from a vessel or human observer by tail swishing or by other protective movement; or the abandonment of a previously frequented area.

With nearly two-thirds of their entire population migrating to this area in the Pacific at this time of year, it is essential that their safety be the primary factor in decisions regarding such experimentation. Therefore, I urge you to do whatever you can to protect these giant and gentle creatures. I also thank you for your time and attention and for looking out for the welfare of marine animals.

Sincerely,
Leigh-Anne Dennison


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