U.S. Navy agrees to cut whales a break Kurt Gross of the U.S. Navy works in the Command in Control room during an active sonar exercise on board the USS Howard off the coast of Hawaii. (AP Photo/Hugh E. Gentry)
U.S. Navy agrees to cut whales a break
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The Navy has agreed to limit its use of sonar and other training. The training can inadvertently harm whales, dolphins and other marine mammals. The agreement involves animals living off Hawaii and California.
 
The Navy's agreement is with environmental groups. It includes limits or bans on mid-frequency active sonar and explosives in specified areas. Those are around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California. That is according to Earthjustice attorney David Henkin. But some of the training will continue.
 
Sonar at a great distance can disrupt feeding and communication of marine mammals. It can also cause deafness or death at a closer distance, Henkin said. Several dolphins died in 2011 in San Diego. They got too close to an explosives training exercise, he said.
 
The Navy's plans estimate it could inadvertently harm whales and dolphins off Hawaii and Southern California. The injuries mostly could occur from explosives. The Navy also estimated it could cause serious injuries off the East Coast. And more injuries could occur off Hawaii and Southern California.
 
Lt. Cmdr. Matt Knight is a spokesman for the Navy's Pacific Fleet. He said the settlement preserves key testing and training.
 
"Recognizing our environmental responsibilities, the Navy has been, and will continue to be, good environmental stewards," Knight said.
 
Under the agreement, the Navy cannot use sonar in Southern California habitat for beaked whales. The area is between Santa Catalina Island and San Nicolas Island. Sonar also is not allowed in blue whale feeding areas near San Diego. That is according to environmental groups.
 
In Hawaii, the deal prohibits sonar and explosives training on the eastern side of the Big Island and north of Molokai and Maui. The groups said the deal will protect Hawaiian monk seals and small populations of toothed whales. Those include the endangered false killer whale.
 
The Navy also won't be able to exceed a set number of major training exercises in specific Hawaiian areas. They include the channel between Maui and the Big Island and on the western side of the Big Island.
 
"The goal of the settlement is to try to reduce as much as we can through an agreement with the Navy," Henkin said. "By establishing some safe havens ... the hope is to bring down those estimated numbers of injury and death."
 
The agreement also says that if there are injuries or deaths, there will be a swift review. It will be carried out by the National Marine Fisheries Service. The service approved the Navy's plans, Henkin said.
 
The settlement comes after Earthjustice and other environmental groups sued in 2013. The groups challenged the fisheries service's decision to allow the training. Additional environmental groups later filed a similar lawsuit in San Francisco. The two cases were consolidated in Hawaii. This deal resolves both.
 
U.S. District Court Judge Susan Oki Mollway ruled in March that the fisheries service violated environmental laws when it approved the Navy's plans. The Navy, she said, also failed to take a hard look at alternatives. Those include training in different areas or at different times. That would avoid potentially harming dolphins, whales and other species.
 
After the ruling, the Navy "faced the real possibility that the court would stop critically important training and testing," said the Pacific Fleet's Knight.
 
The ruling set the stage for settlement talks, Henkin said. But it didn't stop the Navy from continuing with training allowed by the service's five-year permit approved in 2013.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why are both whales and Navy training important?
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COMMENTS (50)
  • lilyg-2-bar
    9/21/2015 - 07:41 p.m.

    Both whales and Navy training are important because we do not want to hurt or kill whales and sea creatures and Navy people do need to keep up with their training. It surprised me that Navy training could affect the dolphins and whales.

  • ryan0420-yyca
    9/21/2015 - 07:54 p.m.

    That is great the animals in the ocean are now safe.But I think that the navy still keep on practicing incase of a war or attack. The people should build a big net in the water so that the doliphns or what ever animal cannot cross it so that they can keep on trainig but i think it is still a good idea because it help animals not go extint

  • andrewc1-win
    9/22/2015 - 08:52 a.m.

    Whales are important because without whales there would be to much fish. Without navy training the navy couldn't protect the USA

  • elenag-ver
    9/22/2015 - 11:43 a.m.

    The navy has agreed to limit its use of sonar and other training. The training can really harm whales, dolphins and other marine mammals.

  • GigiSylvester-Ste
    9/22/2015 - 06:36 p.m.

    Whales are very important to the aquatic ecosystem. They help balance things out. However, the navy is very important to us also. It protects us.

  • colek-1-bar
    9/22/2015 - 07:52 p.m.

    Whales are important because they stable out the amount of krill, shrimp, and small fish in the ocean. They keep the ocean environments in balance. The Navy training is important because they keep us protected and safe. I found this article very interesting and intriguing to learn how sonar effects wild life. It surprised me many big mammals in the ocean (such as whales and dolphins) can die from sonar training exercises.

  • caymanm-2-bar
    9/22/2015 - 08:33 p.m.

    Whales are important because they keep sea life in balance by eating a lot of shrimp and other sea life. The Navy training is important because the navy is ready in case someone attacks. The article says that the navy will not be able to test in certain areas. This article was informative.

  • TaylorSeifert-Ste
    9/22/2015 - 09:45 p.m.

    It's great that this problem has been resolved and the Navy has moved its training out of the way of the whales and other species that were harmed from it. The only thing I wonder about is where the Navy now trains and if it affects any other environment. If they are training never a forest or any animal habitats, they are most likely doing harm there as well. I can imagine it's a tough situation to keep the environment safe, yet also perform necessary Naval training.

  • hollynoce-bak
    9/23/2015 - 01:03 p.m.

    I love this beceause i love dolfins

  • taylornelson-bak
    9/23/2015 - 02:51 p.m.

    I love the navy !!!!!!!!!!!????????

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