(OCEANS/ANIMAL WELFARE) Is the killing of hundreds of whales and dolphins ever acceptable? The Navy says they may be doing just that while testing explosives underwater. Before even applying for federal permits to do so, the military conducted an environmental impact study that determined the explosions would cause most of the marine mammals’ deaths; though some whales and dolphins may perish from the sonar testing or even being hit by ships. Military officials say this is necessary because sailors need to test and train in real-life conditions in order to develop “the critical skills they need or ensure the new technologies can be operated effectively.” This impending massacre will reportedly take place over the next five years in waters off the East Coast, the Gulf of Mexico, Southern California, and Hawaii. However, some wildlife protection advocates say the navy is underestimating the damage these explosions will cause; believing it will disrupt the whales’ feeding and movement habits, and possibly even lead to death for the species. It’s understandable that our military needs to be prepared, but at what expense? Read below for more on this controversial testing and tell us what you think in the comments below. Is the sacrifice of all of these marine mammals’ lives worth it? – Global Animal
Hundreds of dolphins and whales will be killed as a result of military detonating underwater explosives for training and testing. Photo credit: J. D. Ebberly via Flickr
Hundreds of dolphins and whales may be killed as a result of the military detonating underwater explosives for training and testing. Photo credit: J. D. Ebberly via Flickr

Associated Press, Audrey McAvoy

HONOLULU (AP) — Navy training and testing could inadvertently kill hundreds of whales and dolphins and injure thousands over the next five years, mostly as a result of detonating explosives underwater, according to two environmental impact statements released by the military Friday.

The Navy said that the studies focused on waters off the East Coast, the Gulf of Mexico, Southern California and Hawaii from 2014 through 2019, the main areas that the service branch tests equipment and trains sailors.

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The studies were done ahead of the Navy applying to the National Marine Fisheries Service for permits for its activities. The Navy said that it if hadn’t done so and was later found to have harmed marine mammals, it would be found in violation of federal environmental law and have to stop its training and testing.

Most of the deaths would come from explosives, though some might come from testing sonar or animals being hit by ships.

Rear Adm. Kevin Slates, the Navy’s energy and environmental readiness division director, told reporters this week the Navy uses simulators where possible but sailors must test and train in real-life conditions.

“Without this realistic testing and training, our sailors can’t develop or maintain the critical skills they need or ensure the new technologies can be operated effectively,” Slates said in a conference call with reporters on Wednesday.

According to the reports, computer models show it may kill 186 whales and dolphins off the East Coast and 155 off Hawaii and Southern California.

The Navy said it developed the estimates by totaling the hours it will test and practice with sonar, torpedoes, missiles, explosives and other equipment over five years. Experts then combine the data with what’s known about the marine mammals and then use computer modeling.

Off the East Coast, there could be 11,267 serious injuries and 1.89 million minor injuries like temporary hearing loss. The reports said the testing and training might also cause marine mammals to change their behavior – such as swimming in a different direction – in 20 million instances.

Off Hawaii and Southern California, the reports said that the naval activities may cause 2,039 serious injuries, 1.86 million temporary injuries and 7.7 million instances of behavioral change.

But Michael Jasny, senior policy analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the Navy was underestimating the effect its activities on marine mammals.

For example, he pointed to a study by government and private sector scientists published just last month in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society showing mid-frequency active sonar can disrupt blue whale feeding. The study says feeding disruptions and the movement of whales away from their prey could significantly affect the health of individual whales and the overall health of baleen whale populations.

Jasny said the Navy’s ocean activities are “simply not sustainable.”

“These smaller disruptions short of death are themselves accumulating into something like death for species and death for populations,” Jasny said.

One of the statements covers Hawaii and Southern California, while the other covers the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico.

More Associated Press: http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_NAVY_ENVIRONMENT?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT

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  1. Horrible. And to even try to categorize estimated total numbers is wrong. You're talking about wreaking havoc on ecosystems. As you injure/kill these creatures, the effect is felt up and down the entire system. The pain and suffering is horrible, and extends far beyond the numbers. Wake up!