Resource Issues: Military Activities
Overview of the issue
photo US Navy
Military use of the MBNMS includes air, surface and underwater operations. Some activity includes the use of non-explosive ordinance, live weapons fire, active sonar, discharge of smoke markers, and the temporary placement of objects for torpedo or sonar location training. The U.S. Navy conducts both surface fleet and submarine operations within the sanctuary. The Navy also operates acoustic emitters within and affecting sanctuary waters. Naval air activities include aircraft carrier takeoffs and landings, and low-level air combat maneuvering. The U.S. Army conducts helicopter operations in the southern Big Sur area. The U.S. Air Force conducts occasional rocket and missile operations that can impact the sanctuary's Davidson Seamount Management Zone. The military also conducts activities within the sanctuary, such as underwater cable repair, breakwater maintenance, acoustics testing, and research and development projects.
Military operations can potentially pose significant impacts to marine life and habitats, such as disturbance of seabird roosting areas by low-flying aircraft or spills of hazardous substances. Underwater acoustic devices, such as low-frequency transmitters, can potentially interfere with marine mammal communications—this is addressed further under the section on Acoustic Impacts.
How is the Sanctuary involved?
Military activities that were specifically identified in the 1992 Final Environmental Impact Statement and Management Plan (FEIS/MP) for the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary are exempt from Sanctuary regulations. But new activities and activities not identified in the FEIS/MP require Defense Department consultation with NOAA officials. Consultation may result in modification or repositioning of activities in order to minimize negative impacts to sanctuary resources.
Sanctuary staff investigate any reports of wildlife disturbance by military activities and consult with appropriate military commanders to resolve any issues of collateral impact to protected marine resources.