The U.S.S. Shoup docked at the Port of Anchorage Wednesday morning. The warship spent the last week and a half in the Gulf of Alaska training as part of Northern Edge 2015.
The Shoup is a Navy destroyer, one of three sailing in the Gulf as part of the exercise. It’s much bigger than the fishing boats normally found in the Gulf, but Cmdr. Bryant Trost says it’s all the same on the water.
“We follow the rules of the road,” he said. “It’s just like a highway system — there are certain rules you follow so we avoid collisions and avoid negative interactions. So you see, you communicate and you work together.”
Residents living along the Gulf in Kodiak and Cordova weren’t just worried about fishermen. They were also concerned about the impact training could have on the fish themselves and marine mammals swimming in the water.
Lt. Stephanie Conte says lookouts stationed around the ship sound the alert if a whale, dolphin or other marine mammal is spotted.
“We look for the flukes coming out of the water from the marine mammal,” she said. “We also look for any waterspouts, disturbances in the water. We also look for fluke prints.”
If that happens, training with active sonar stops.
“We’ve got a kill switch. We can kill that sonar immediately, move away from that animal, expand the range, get away from them,” Trost said.
That happened once during the Shoup’s training in the Gulf, which Trost described as very important to the crew’s military readiness.
“We’ve been able to train with air forces. We’ve been able to train with ground forces. We’ve been able to stress our communications and really, it’s been a great opportunity to do a lot of live, high-end warfare operations that we don’t normally get the opportunity to do,” he said.
Crew members say they were very aware of the community concerns surrounding Northern Edge, so they worked to make sure they has as small an impact as possible.
Community members from Kodiak and Cordova say so far, they haven’t seen any impact in fishermen or marine life but they will continue to monitor for potential long-term effects.
Northern Edge wraps up Friday, June 26.