CHERRY POINT – The Marine Corps is asking for a five-year authorization from the National Marine Fisheries Service for incidental deaths of bottlenose dolphins during training exercises at a bombing and target range.
Connie Barclay of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the authorization guarantees the Marines will be in compliance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The Marine Corps has applied for the authorization before, and the five-year request is designed to streamline the process.
The request would allow for 30 incidental deaths of dolphins during training within the five-year period that begins in September and ends in September 2019.
The request includes a 30-day public comment period that runs through Aug. 15.
Previously, the Marine Corps has said no dolphins have been killed during training at either of the ranges. Procedures call for training to be halted or delayed if dolphins are seen in the area.
“Once this is approved, it will be good for five years and the Marine Corps will submit yearly reports to us and then they’ll have to renew their incidental harassment authorization in five years,” Barclay said.
The Brant Island Bombing Target and Piney Island Bombing Range are at the mouth of the Neuse River and in Pamlico Sound and are used for bombing and strafing practice by aircraft and small watercraft.
Though it may not be likely that a dolphin is injured from bullets or bombs, injuries from explosive shock waves also are considered, according to the request. Dolphins also can be injured from collisions with fast boats used at the ranges.