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Navy Expects To Kill Hundreds Of Dolphins And Whales

Above: A pod of dolphins swims in front of the USNS Alan Shepard.

In two reports published Aug. 30, the U.S. Navy acknowledges that bomb testing and sonar use over the next five years will likely kill hundreds of marine mammals and seriously injure thousands more.

Aired 9/2/13 on KPBS News.

In two reports published Friday, the U.S. Navy acknowledged that bomb testing and sonar use over the next five years will likely kill hundreds of marine mammals and seriously injure thousands more.

To get permits for these training exercises, the military is required to report on the environmental impact of its proposed operations. By the Navy's own count, training procedures from 2014 through 2019 could result in the deaths of over 340 dolphins and whales.

Most of those deaths would be caused by bombs the Navy plans to detonate off the East Coast, in the Gulf of Mexico, and between Southern California and Hawaii. But some deaths—as well as "behavioral changes" for millions more susceptible marine mammals—could stem from the Navy's active sonar use, which environmentalists have been criticizing for years.

"Mid-frequency sonar is an intense noise source that propagates through the ocean at the frequency that certain whales and dolphins are most sensitive to," says Giulia Good Stefani, an attorney with the Southern California office of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Researchers are still trying to fully understand the effects of sonar on marine mammals, but they've found connections between sonar and recent mass whale strandings. Sonar has been known to damage hearing in marine mammals, which can prove fatal for creatures that rely on echolocation to move through the ocean and find food.

But the Navy contends that bomb training and sonar operation are crucial to national security and cannot be simulated. In a video statement, Rear Admiral Kevin Slates describes these as "perishable skills that require training at sea under realistic conditions."

"We don't argue that the Navy doesn't need to train," counters Stefani. "We simply have asked the Navy to try to reduce the impact it's having on marine mammal populations."

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | September 3, 2013 at 2:06 p.m. ― 3 years, 6 months ago

Where are all the anti-government spending people now?

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | September 3, 2013 at 4:59 p.m. ― 3 years, 6 months ago

This is absolutely unconscionable. The US Navy is intent on wasting money on naval skills that have little to no practical value.

The US Navy hasn't even seen actual anti-sub warfare since 1945.

In this case, the welfare of marine life far outweighs live bomb and sonar training. Use of simulators is far cheaper, accessible 24/7, and has zero environmental impact.

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Avatar for user 'jburke'

jburke | February 27, 2014 at 2:06 p.m. ― 3 years, 1 month ago

This is not right and should not be allowed!

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | February 27, 2014 at 2:35 p.m. ― 3 years, 1 month ago

Yeah I think we should just never ever use sonar and not be prepared for any kind of attack because animals. They are, after all, more important than the security of this country right? We should definitely advertise to the world that we want to save dolphins and in order to do so we are completely impotent when it comes to submarine warfare and countermeasures. I am sure all of the other countries in the world will not take advantage of such a weakness in a time of war, and I am sure China and Russia would never dream of hurting poor little fishies during their Navy training exercises.

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Avatar for user 'DeLaRick'

DeLaRick | February 27, 2014 at 3:59 p.m. ― 3 years, 1 month ago

I bet tuna fisherman who get death threats for using long-line fishing nets are having WTF moments as they hear about this. Sorry boys! You don't have the correct license to kill.

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