US Navy To Limit Sonar and Underwater Explosives To Save Whales

  • Our Bureau
  • 10:53 AM, September 16, 2015
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US Navy To Limit Sonar and Underwater Explosives To Save Whales
Dolphins are also used to track down mines (Photo: nydailynews)

The US Navy has agreed to limit the use of sonar and underwater explosives used in training off the Hawaii and California coasts to save whales, dolphins and other aquatic mammals.

An estimated 155 whales and dolphins would be killed unintentionally off Hawaii and Southern California due to US Navy’s planned training programs. Around 11,000 serious injuries off the East Coast and 2,000 off Hawaii and Southern California is estimated.

The Honolulu court and the US Navy signed an agreement Mondaythat includes limits or bans on mid-frequency active sonar and explosives in specified areas around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California, although some of the training will still continue, Earthjustice Attorney David Henkin was quoted as saying by the Japan Times news daily.

“Sonar disrupts feeding and communication of marine mammals and can cause deafness or death at closer distance,” Henkin said. “Four dolphins died in 2011 in San Diego when they got too close to an explosive training exercise,” he said.

“Recognizing our environmental responsibilities, the Navy has been, and will continue to be, good environmental stewards as we prepare for and conduct missions in support of our national security,” Lt. Cmdr. Matt Knight, a U.S. Pacific Fleet spokesman said.

Under the agreement, the Navy cannot use sonar in Southern California habitat for beaked whales between Santa Catalina Island and San Nicolas Island. Sonar also is not allowed in blue whale feeding areas near San Diego, according to the environmental groups.

After the ruling, the Navy “faced the real possibility that the court would stop critically important training and testing,” said Knight, of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

In Hawaii, the deal prohibits sonar and explosives training on the eastern side of the Big Island and north of Molokai and Maui. The groups said that will protect Hawaiian monk seals and small populations of toothed whales, including the endangered false killer whale.

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