Written by Frances Beinecke, President, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council)
The U.S. Navy has announced new plans for training and testing with sonar and explosives — plans that spell disaster for whales.
If the Navy proceeds, more than 1,000 whales and other marine mammals — including rare and endangered species — could be killed over the next five years. There will be more than 5,000 cases of serious injury — such as permanent hearing loss or lung damage — and tens of millions of incidents in which marine mammals are harassed or harmed.
What’s even more shocking? These numbers come from the Navy itself!
NRDC has joined forces with actor and NRDC Member Pierce Brosnan to launch a campaign aimed squarely at forcing the Navy to change course and take steps to protect whales during routine training with sonar and explosives.
In this video, Pierce explains more about the grave dangers that the Navy’s use of sonar and explosives pose to whales and other marine mammals:
The scope of the Navy’s plans is staggering — threatening entire populations of marine wildlife off the East Coast, Southern California, Hawaii and the Gulf Coast.
The Navy would detonate more than 50,000 underwater explosives each year off the coast of Southern California alone. Hundreds of these explosives pack enough charge to sink a warship, which is exactly what they’re used for.
And the Navy’s high-intensity mid-frequency sonar will bombard whales with noise so intense — up to 236 decibels — that it can actually cause their internal organs to hemorrhage.
This type of sonar has already been linked to numerous marine mammal deaths and mass strandings around the world — from Greece to the Bahamas, from Japan to the UK to the United States. Just this week, investigators concluded that a 2008 mass stranding of 60 dolphins off the coast of Cornwall, England, was most likely caused by naval exercises involving active sonar.
The Navy knows full-well that its indiscriminant use of sonar and explosives will take a terrible toll. So it’s all the more distressing that they refuse to put common-sense precautions in place that could protect whales during routine training — especially since taking such steps would in no way compromise our national security.
NRDC has called on the Navy to take a number of simple, proven measures to safeguard whales from the deadly impact of its sonar and explosives— for example, avoiding key habitats where whales are known to migrate and raise their young.
But it seems the Navy will not budge from its old way of doing things. And it will not do so until it hears a terrific outcry from the American public.
Make your voice heard! Join Pierce in sending a message to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, urging him to direct the Navy to put safeguards in place to protect whales during routine training.
Here’s the bottom line: Whales should not have to suffer and die for military practice. It’s up to us to make sure they don’t — not now, not ever.
Take Action: Tell Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to direct the Navy to protect whales from deadly sonar and explosives.