WASHINGTON (CN) – The National Marine Fisheries Service issued regulations allowing the Port of Anchorage to continue to use underwater pile drivers and chipping hammers to expand the port complex and construct new shipping facilities, noting that endangered “…beluga whales are not behaviorally reacting to noise from pile driving nor are longer term changes in habitat use or use frequency obvious.”
Sharon Young, Marine Issues Field Director for the Humane Society of the U.S. says that the agency underestimates the impact of chronic noise on marine mammals over time and calls it “simplistic” to assume that because whales have so far shown no behavioral changes that they are not suffering stress from construction noise. Young argues that the Service should take the greatest precautions possible with an endangered species, not the least. For instance, when construction began the agency required work to stop when belugas where detected within 1,300 meters of underwater activity but the new regulations reduce the distance to just 200 meters.
The Port of Anchorage is the largest port in Alaska, serving as the state’s commercial hub with 90 percent of all consumer goods passing through it. The expansion project is scheduled to be completed in 2014 and will increase the capacity of the port with new cranes able to extract cargo from the largest ocean freighters.