Increases in Navy explosion, sonar activity underwater could hurt millions of dolphins and whales

Posted at 7:36 PM, Aug 30, 2013
and last updated 2013-08-30 19:36:37-04

An increase in Navy explosion and sonar activity underwater could hurt dolphins and whales.

186 whales and dolphins could be killed.

More than 11,000 incidents of serious injury, and 1.89 million incidents of minor injuries could also occur as a result of planned Navy testing and training in the Atlantic Ocean.

Those numbers are estimates from Fleet Forces Command, released in their final environmental impact report for the next five years.

Starting in 2014, through 2019, the Navy wants to drastically increase their use of explosives, sonar, and even lasers in the waters off our coast line.

According to Fleet Forces Command, it's "necessary to achieve and maintain fleet readiness."

That readiness, though, comes at a price for marine mammals.

The biggest culprit will be explosives. The Navy routinely does underwater exercises with live bombs on ranges up and down the east coast.

In addition, the Navy will be doing four ship shock tests over the next five years, including one to their new aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford.

Because it’s the first ship in its class, the Navy has to test how the carrier's systems respond to being blown up.

To do that, they will detonate a large explosive charge next to the ship out in the open ocean.

That type of testing alone could kill up to 25 dolphins and whales in the next five years.

Overall, the Navy says their impacts to dolphins and whales don't even come close to those caused by commercial vessels, pollution, or entanglement.

The Secretary of the Navy will be considering this request from Fleet Forces, and his decision is expected in the next 30 days.

If he allows it, then the Navy will formally apply to the National Marine Fisheries Service for its permit to start new operations this coming January.

*Our on-air version of this story stated 189 whales and dolphins would die. The correct number according to the Navy over 5 years is 186. Also, serious injuries and minor injuries are counted by incident, not by animal.*


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