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 that inadvertently harms whales, dolphins and other marine mammals off Hawaii and California.
 
A centerpiece of the agreement with environmental groups includes limits or bans on mid-frequency active sonar and explosives in specified areas 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. Four dolphins died in 2011 in San Diego when they got too close to an explosives training exercise, he said.
 
The Navy's plans estimate it could inadvertently kill 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 could occur off Hawaii and Southern California.
 
Lt. Cmdr. Matt Knight, a Pacific Fleet spokesman, 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 that will protect Hawaiian monk seals and small populations of toothed whales. They 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. It includes 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 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 March 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?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (63)
  • gh2016-cla
    9/22/2015 - 01:47 a.m.

    Some whales are "filter feeders" and they keep the water clean, but the navy training is important because
    if the navy doesn't know the different noises from each other they could identify the wrong sound they could hit the wrong thing and give away their spot in war and be destroyed. I can't believe the navy hit four dolphins
    in a training session.

  • ae2016-cla
    9/22/2015 - 08:25 p.m.

    Wow! A lot of great information came from this article. For example; I never knew that using sonar equipment hurts animals. In my opinion; both things are very important, though I believe that saving the animals are more important. People can invent different ways to train that won't hurt the animals of the ocean. Just saying, if you were to choose that training is more important you would be risking whales to go extinct in some areas. If an important animal in the food chain were to go extinct, that food chain would no longer exist, and what would happen to the animals and humans after that? Taking the training route would be too risky,too risky to endanger the world.

    Critical Thinking Question: Why are both whales and Navy training important?

    Whales are important because they take up a large part in the world's ecosystem (such as every other animal). Imagine the world if we had no whales. Everything would be different. People and animals alike would have to adapt to the changes it would cost. Although whales are important, Navy training is also important. Navy training is important because their training is like our fire drills. We do it over and over, in practice so when the time comes and there is a fire somewhere, we would know what to do in that scenario. The same applies for training only that Navy training is no fire drill, it's preparing for something much more dangerous.

  • he2016-cla
    9/22/2015 - 10:14 p.m.

    I was surprised to hear that sonar can harm whales, dolphins, another marine animals by sound waves. I was also devastated to hear that 4 dolphins died in San Diego when they got too close to an explosives training exercise in 2011.

    Navy training is important because it can help find lost people, ships, treasure and more underwater, and without sonar it would be harder to find those things.

    Whales are important because they are apart of the food chain and if there were suddenly no more whales because of the Navy training, then the food chain would go crazy and then at some point we will all die in the process.

  • mp2016-cla
    9/22/2015 - 10:38 p.m.

    Well I agree with the earth justice completely but it is important to do army training because if we don't are going to have a completely uncoordinated navy because of the lack of places we are allowed to test they should have took into consideration but that's just my opinion.

    Both whales and navy are important because each has a purpose the navy to protect our ocean and the whales to keep the water rich with iron by means I'm not willing to tell.

  • jacobd-ver
    9/23/2015 - 08:57 a.m.

    The Navy estimated plans that the plans could kill many whales

  • kp2016-cla
    9/23/2015 - 12:25 p.m.

    whales are important because they are becoming extinct. That is why the are stopping the navy from using sonar. Also the navy training is important because the navy needs solders the fight.

  • mj2016-cla
    9/23/2015 - 12:31 p.m.

    My personal opinion on this article is very devastating to the wild life like the whales.

  • sl2016-cla
    9/23/2015 - 12:38 p.m.

    Because the navy has to save the whales from being instinct.The whales need to live or we do not live so keep saving the whales for there population

  • cg2016-cla
    9/23/2015 - 12:41 p.m.

    I actually heard a story about this topic awhile ago and it still just as heartbreaking as the first time I read this. Poor whales, dolphins, seals and other many marine mammals have gone deaf and have even died because of the sonar testing done by the Navy. This is both good and bad that they stopped doing most tests with theses sonars. If these rare and beautiful creatures aren't okay, then I believe that the Navy should stop testing in areas with high marine mammal population.

    Critical Thinking Question: Why are both whales and Navy training important?

    Whales and Navy training are both very important because whales keep the oceans in balance on what kind of fish and plants grow on the sea floor. While Navy training helps the Navy with where and how to use the proper tools in the proper situation.

  • kc2016-cla
    9/23/2015 - 12:43 p.m.

    Reaction: Good news! I am glad that the Navy is also thinking about the creatures in sea and not just about their training. I didn't even know there was an environmental group that had watched for things like the what the Navy did. But, at least the Navy agreed to not train near California's Coast.
    Critical Thinking:The Navy's training is important because they need to know what to do and practice what they need to do if they are ever threatened or need to fight back with explosives. The whales need to live because they are innocent animals and they are trying to live just as hard as the Navy. If the whales go extinct that's just one more animal we can add to the list that humans was the cause of theirs extinction.

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