In a new study, the U.S. Navy has said their use of explosives and sonar in ocean waters could cause over 1,600 cases of hearing loss or other injuries to marine mammals in a single year. They also said their use of explosives could cause 200 marine mammal deaths each year. These new estimates are much larger than those they previously used. Their old analysis, covering the period between 2009-2013, said just 100 marine mammals could be injured or killed by their open water tests. The geographic area for both analyses was California and Hawaiian waters.
The new research is part of a draft environmental impact statement for Navy testing and training from 2014 to 2019. The Navy is required to report such information to the National Marine Fisheries Service, in order to obtain a permit for their testing. They said their estimates of marine mammals injuries and mortality are worst-case scenarios, and they expect no deaths to occur.
Posting lookouts to spot marine mammals near ships, and reducing sonar intensity or turning it off when they are close are prevention measures they are undertaking. Not everyone is convinced self-policing will work though. “I am not saying they are not well-intentioned. But I am not sure their choices make them the best environmental stewards they could be,” said Zak Smith, staff attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. (Source: CNN)
The Navy will hold public hearings on their new study in Hawaii on June 11, and in California on June 20. They use sonar to track submarines, torpedoes, mines and other underwater threats.
Image Credit: Michael L. Baird, Wiki Commons