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Navy expands sonar testing despite troubling signs

The National Marine Fisheries Service announced Monday that it has decided to grant the Navy permits for its plans that will intensify its sonar use in the Pacific over the next five years, despite the objection of environmentalists who say the military is not doing enough to protect marine mammals from the loud underwater noise.

The military estimates the training and testing program will have a negligible impact on marine populations.

The Navy estimates that its activities could inadvertently kill 186 whales and dolphins off the East Coast and 155 off Hawaii and Southern California, mostly from explosives.

It calculates more than 11,000 serious injuries off the East Coast and 2,000 off Hawaii and Southern California, along with nearly 2 million minor injuries, such as temporary hearing loss, off each coast. It also predicts marine mammals might change their behavior — such as swimming in a different direction — in 27 million instances.

NMFS granted the permits for the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico last month. The Pacific permit was the final one.

Environmentalists believe the harm will be greater. The California Coastal Commission in March rejected the plan but lacks the power to block the Navy.

In its ruling, NMFS said it will review the latest scientific data yearly with the Navy to determine if enough is being done to mitigate the risks.

Reported mass strandings of certain whale species have increased worldwide since the military started using sonar half a century ago. Scientists think the sounds scare animals into shallow waters where they can become disoriented and wash ashore, but technology capable of close monitoring has emerged only in about the last decade.

Aside from strandings, biologists are concerned that marine mammals could suffer prolonged stress from changes in diving, feeding and communication.

Two recent studies off the Southern California coast found certain endangered blue whales and beaked whales stopped feeding and fled from recordings of sounds similar to military sonar.

Beaked whales are highly sensitive to sound and account for the majority of beachings near military exercises.

Navy officials say it's vital to national security that sailors receive sonar training in real-life conditions, and they use simulators where possible.

Environmentalists want the Navy to create safety zones that would guarantee no high-intensity sonar activity near marine sanctuaries and areas with a high concentration of blue, fin and gray whales seasonally.

Comments

Avatar for user 'RegularChristian'

RegularChristian | December 16, 2013 at 7:27 a.m. ― 8 months, 2 weeks ago

This is so wrong. Can't they just take a chill pill and realize preparing for war at all costs is not the answer to a better future?

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | December 16, 2013 at 12:29 p.m. ― 8 months, 2 weeks ago

This is insane.

The California Coastal Commission blocked the Navy's plan and they should obey. The military serves the people, not the other way around.

This is exactly why the US defense budget must be slashed. They are too bloated which results in a "we'll do whatever we want, wherever we want, whenever we want" attitude.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | December 16, 2013 at 1:33 p.m. ― 8 months, 2 weeks ago

To whom would one write a letter of protest?

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | December 16, 2013 at 2:27 p.m. ― 8 months, 2 weeks ago

The bottom line here can be summed up quite simply with this equation:

Needs of Humans > Needs of Animals

Simple as that.

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Avatar for user 'Alex_Grebenshchikov'

Alex_Grebenshchikov | December 16, 2013 at 2:35 p.m. ― 8 months, 2 weeks ago

JeanMarc, I'll give an even more generalized and elegant form of your equation:

Any Human >> All Animals

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | December 16, 2013 at 2:54 p.m. ― 8 months, 2 weeks ago

And...

Progress > Neanderthals

"The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated."

-Mahatma Gandhi

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | December 16, 2013 at 3:53 p.m. ― 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Wow, did Gandhi really say that? And people think he was smart? Unreal...

Don't forget that in Gandhi's country people who are starving to death won't eat the cows that are wandering the streets because they worship them. I do not think this is the kind "greatness" we wan't in America.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | December 16, 2013 at 4:12 p.m. ― 8 months, 2 weeks ago

CAdefender:
"The military serves the people, not the other way around."

Well said, but unfortunately this is so often NOT the case on SD.

-------------------------

Alex G:
"Any human >> All animals"

You must really hate humans then because with all animals gone, the human animal dies out too

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Avatar for user 'Alex_Grebenshchikov'

Alex_Grebenshchikov | December 16, 2013 at 4:32 p.m. ― 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Peking, my point is not that I want all animals dead so that humans will die also, but rather, I am making a statement regarding which has greater worth. If it were possible for humans to live without any animals on earth, and you had the choice to either save one human life, or the lives of all the animals, which would you choose?

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | December 16, 2013 at 5:54 p.m. ― 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Save one human life or the lives of all animals on Earth?

Any person who even casually understands biodiversity and evolution would choose all the animals without question.

Humans are animals. We are no different with the exception of greater intellectual capacity but that does not make us more worthy of existence.

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Avatar for user 'Alex_Grebenshchikov'

Alex_Grebenshchikov | December 17, 2013 at 8:13 a.m. ― 8 months, 2 weeks ago

OK CaliforniaDefender, it's hypothetical, but I admire your willingness to lay down your own life for animals; that is assuming you wouldn't more readily discard the life of someone else over your own being that they are of equal value :-). So to narrow the gap a little between one human and all animals, the follow up question is, if you had to choose to save the lives of either one thousand cute little puppies and kittens, or ten Jews, what would you choose?

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | December 17, 2013 at 8:49 a.m. ― 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Since we are all animals, is it permissible for me to act like my fellow animals? When I find a woman that cannot physically overpower me, can I kill all of her children and replace them with my own? Can I fight and kill other males if I desire to take control of his harem? Can I eat my children?

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | December 17, 2013 at 10:45 a.m. ― 8 months, 2 weeks ago

CA OFF, we make moral judgments, not just intelligence. Non-humans cannot. obviously, you are not too fond of moral judgments.

Also, we pass on culture, non-humans cannot.

That said, I am still opposed to this Navy abuse of power.

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | December 17, 2013 at 12:30 p.m. ― 8 months, 2 weeks ago

MA, I think you may find some of the actions of Koko the gorilla demonstrate moral judgement.

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | December 18, 2013 at 9:11 a.m. ― 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Missionaccomplished what is culture but a set of rituals? Chimps have been observed passing on certain tool making and using techniques in the wild, is this not a basic form of culture inheritance?

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