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Sonar Training That Deafens Whales and Dolphins Finally Limited By US Navy

Sep 18, 2015 06:22 PM EDT
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After facing several lawsuits, the US Navy has finally agreed to limit its use of sonar training devices that harm dolphins and whales, especially in areas off the coast of Hawaii and Southern California. A recent ruling ensures that the long-sought protections for whales, dolphins and other marine mammals will finally be met. This agreement limits or bans mid-frequency active sonar devices and explosives in areas surrounding Hawaiian Islands and Southern California.  

"This settlement proves what we've been saying all along," Marsha Green, president of Ocean Mammal Institute, said in a statement. "The Navy can meet its training and testing needs and, at the same time, provide significant protections to whales and dolphins by limiting the use of sonar and explosives in vital habitat."

This sonar technology sets off explosions that deafen whales and dolphins at close range and disrupt feeding and breeding patterns at further distances. It also distrupts communication among marine animals. 

"If a whale or dolphin can't hear, it can't survive," David Henkin, an attorney for the national legal organization Earthjustice, said in a news release. "We challenged the Navy's plan because it would have unnecessarily harmed whales, dolphins, and endangered marine mammals, with the Navy itself estimating that more than 2,000 animals would be killed or permanently injured. 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."

Lt. Cmdr. Matt Knight, a US Pacific Fleet spokesman, said that the settlement preserves key testing and training and that the Navy recognizes their environmental responsibilities. 

"This agreement will enhance the welfare of dozens of species that call the Pacific Ocean home by extending vital protections to places they need to rest, feed, reproduce and care for their young," Susan Millward, executive director at the Animal Welfare Institute, said in the release.

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