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Navy Training Poses Grave Threat to Marine Mammals

Photo: 2005  Multispecies stranding North Carolina.NMFS Southeast Fisheries Science Center

The US Navy is proposing to expand their training operations and increase weapons testing throughout both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, including the use of sonar, underwater detonations, and chemical discharges. These exercises will affect every coastal state. The Navy is expecting 2.3 million “takes” (an act which kills or injures wildlife) per year, which is a total of 11.7 million takes over the course of the five-year permit.  The Environmental Protection Information Center believes that this proposed expansion is unwarranted, and should be stopped.

The Navy’s proposed mitigation measures are to have a visual observer looking out for whales from the ship deck, which the Navy admits is effective only 9 percent of the time. Furthermore, National Marine Sanctuaries and endangered species breeding habitat will not be protected from these perilous activities.  In January, several environmental organizations filed a lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service for failing to protect marine mammals and critical biological areas from the Navy’s training activities.

Whales and other marine mammals rely on their hearing for life’s most basic functions, such as navigation, communication, food and mating. The use of sonar and other weapons testing activities disorients them and can result in barotrauma that can cause severe injuries, mass strandings and sometimes death. These facts demonstrate that the US Navy’s proposed protection measures are completely inadequate; the cumulative effects of these activities on threatened and endangered species should be reassessed and mitigated.

EPIC would like to thank those that took the time to speak up for the marine life that would be harmed from the Navy’s proposed warfare testing.  In an effort to halt the proposal, EPIC has gathered about one thousand signed postcards from concerned citizens from Northwest California, and all around the nation, stating their opposition to this proposal. EPIC is forwarding these postcards to U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. We are asking Senator Boxer to hold congressional hearings to stop the unnecessary warfare testing that would harm marine mammals.

The last day to submit public comments to the Navy on the Atlantic and Pacific expansions was July 10, 2012.  The next opportunity to comment on the proposals will be in the fall of 2013.  In the meantime, EPIC and our allies will continue to request congressional hearings to support an override of the Navy’s ill-advised proposal.  Stay tuned for further news about this critical issue.


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