Navy agrees to create safe havens for marine wildlife

September 15, 2015

By OutdoorsNW Staff

Photo at right: A humpback whale and its calf in NOAA’s Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. Photo courtesy of NOAA


For the first time ever, the United States Navy has agreed to stop its use of mid-frequency sonar training and testing as well as the use of powerful explosives in large oceanic regions of important marine wildlife habitat.

In March 2015, a federal judge found that the Navy and the National Marine Fisheries Service had repeatedly been violating the National Environmental Policy Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act with their use of sonar and explosives.

On Monday, Sept. 14, 2015, the Navy agreed to create safe havens to protect vital marine species such as whales, dolphins and other sonar-using mammals.

According to Jessica Knoblauch with Earth Justice, the significance of this victory cannot be overstated.

“Ocean noise is one of the biggest threats to the health and well-being of marine mammals, which rely on sound to ‘see’ their world,” she wrote in a Sept. 14 press release. “For years, scientists have documented that high-intensity, mid-frequency sounds wreak havoc on the aquatic environment, causing serious impacts to marine mammals, such as strandings, habitat avoidance and abandonment, and even death.”

David Henkin, the Earth Justice attorney who brought the initial challenge to the Navy and National Marine Fisheries Service, said, “If a whale or dolphin can’t hear, it can’t survive. By agreeing to this settlement, the Navy acknowledges that it doesn’t need to train in every square inch of the ocean and that it can take reasonable steps to reduce the deadly toll of its activities.”

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