This morning we received the first official response to the letter from 20 marine scientists regarding silencing sonar in the Salish Sea. The response (below) came from the head of the Canadian Navy — Peter MacKay, the Minister of National Defence in Canada — 60 days after receipt of the scientists’ letter. It implies that discussions have been initiated between the Department of National Defence (DND), the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), and Environment Canada. This seems to set the stage for re-evaluating how (or even whether) the Canadian Navy trains in the habitat of marine species of concern.
Dear Mr. Veirs: Thank you for your email of March 1, 2012, concerning military sonar operations in the Salish Sea. I understand your concerns about the conduct of military operations and training exercises and their effect on critical habitat and the Southern Resident Killer Whale population. To that end, subject matter experts from the Department of National Defence (DND) are working in consultation with staff at Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Environment Canada. The goal is to ensure that the best possible practices are in place so that our activities are conducted in a responsible manner with relation to the Fisheries Act and the Species at Risk Act. Defending Canadians is a top priority for the Government of Canada, and the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) needs to conduct regular exercises in our national maritime approaches. These activities ensure RCN overall readiness and familiarity with its primary area of operation. Being conscious of our responsibilities to Canadians, the environment, and its inhabitants, DND is dedicated to continuously improving operational policies and procedures to responsibly manage the impact of military activities. This management will be based on the best scientific information available at the time. I trust this is of assistance, and thank you for your interest in the recovery and preservation of the Southern Resident Killer Whales. Your recognition of the importance of the national security role of the RCN is appreciated. Sincerely, Peter MacKay Minister of National Defence