Every spring I travel to Mexico and sit in a fishing boat while massive gray whales slide through the water around me. The warm salty seas of Laguna San Ignacio attract gray whales that come to calve and nurse their young. Mothers often prod the babies close to our boats, and the little ones jump around like puppies. Sometimes the whales are so close I can look them in the eye. Seeing their strength and wild nature gives me renewed respect for these extraordinary creatures.
Unfortunately not everyone shares that respect. The U.S. Navy has just launched a training plan that will take an enormous toll on whales and other marine mammals. Commonsense precautions would allow the U.S. to protect whales without compromising military readiness, but the Navy has refused to use them.
Pierce explains that according to the Navy’s own estimates the training exercises could kill nearly 1,000 marine mammals and seriously injure more than 13,000.
The threat comes from the Navy’s use of sonar and explosives. Whales and other marine mammals use sound to locate food, find a mate, connect with friends and navigate their way through the world. When a sonar blast or explosion thousands of times more powerful than a jet engine fills their ears, the results can be devastating. “In the darkened sea, a deaf whale is a dead whale,” Pierce says.
And yet the Navy’s wants to blast ocean waters with nearly 300,000 hours of deafening mid-frequency sonar. This kind of barrage has been shown to cause whales’ internal organs to hemorrhage. The Navy also wants to conduct a range of underwater explosions averaging one detonation every two minutes for the next five year. Many of these bombardments will occur in and around sensitive whale habitat where animals mate and feed.
I am grateful to Pierce for helping NRDC shine a spotlight on this dangerous plan. He has long been a leader in the fight to protect whales and has supported NRDC’s effort to protect marine mammals from the hazards of ocean noise.
Now Pierce is helping hold the Navy accountable for its latest failure to safeguard whales. “The Navy should be putting vital whale habitat off limits to sonar and explosives during routine training,” he says in the video. “But they won’t do that unless you and I speak out right now.”
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