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Thousands Of Marine Mammals May Be Harmed By Navy Sonar

— The Navy's draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) estimates more than 1,600 marine mammals each year will suffer from hearing loss or other injury from its use of sonar and explosives over the next five years.

A new report by the U.S. Navy predicts its use of explosives and sonar may hurt or kill thousands more marine mammals than previously thought.

The EIS also predicts 200 sea mammals could die each year in its Hawaiian and Southern California training and testing areas.

That’s double the anticipated deaths from the Navy’s last environmental impact report for 2009-2013.

The rise in anticipated deaths and injuries reflects better prediction tools and expanded study sites said John Van Name, the senior environmental planner at the U.S. Pacific Fleet in Hawaii.

“There in San Diego, here in Pearl Harbor there is pier side maintenance testing of the sonar systems. So we have that pier side activity that we now analyze. We also have the transit corridor between Hawaii and So-Cal that is expanding our study area,” explained Van Name.

According to Alex Stone, the EIS project manager in San Diego, the Navy uses aggressive protective measures to avoid harm to marine animals.

“A couple examples are having “look outs” on Navy ships at all times to avoid whale strikes. And if a marine mammal gets close to the ship, the sonar is shut off,” said Stone.

Comprehensive data collected every five years in the Navy’s EIS greatly benefits marine researchers, said Ann Bowles, a senior researcher at the Hubbs- Seaworld Research Institute.

Bowles also said commercial fisheries are far more dangerous than Navy testing for dolphins and other marine mammals.

“Worldwide, there’s an estimate that fisheries take as by-catch, that is unintentionally kill 300,000 marine mammals and in U.S. waters the estimate is around 1400 and 1500 animals," said Bowles.

She suggests consumers protect marine life by “knowing where their fish comes from” and by buying from dolphin friendly companies.

The Navy is required to provide environmental impact data in five year increments to the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Federally issued permits could be withheld if the Navy failed to take protective measures for marine mammals.

Public meetings on the EIS study will be held in June in San Diego and Hawaii.


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