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Can a high-tech navy coexist with marine mammals?

Federal biologists propose new rule to guide naval training

A humpback whale near Hawaii. Photo courtesy NOAA.

A humpback whale near Hawaii. Photo courtesy NOAA.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — In a preliminary assessment, federal biologists said the mid-frequency sound generated by active sonar, the sound and pressure generated by detonating explosives and other activities associated with naval exercises aren’t likely to have a significant impact on protected marine species.

Nevertheless, the National Marine Fisheries Service is proposing a new rule to minimize impacts from naval training activities, including mitigation zones and observers trained to spot marine life during exercises.

The rule also calls for implementing a stranding response plan that includes a training shutdown provision in certain circumstances, and allows for the Navy to contribute in-kind services to NOAA’s Fisheries Service if the agency has to conduct a stranding response and investigation. It would also designate a humpback whale cautionary area to protect high concentrations of humpback whales around Hawaii during winter months.

Those steps don’t go far enough protect marine life, said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

“Many whales and other marine mammals, like Hawaiian monk seals, are already struggling for survival. Now the Navy’s going to intensify war games in their habitat?” Sakashita said. We’re learning more and more about the tragic effects of sonar on whales and dolphins, yet the Navy’s being given carte blanche to blast the oceans with it and harm animals over and over again,” she added. Continue reading

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