NOTE: I am a veteran of the Navy and support our armed forces and the tough jobs they do for us. But I love marine mammals, too, and there has to be a way for the Navy to fulfill its training and security needs without harming dolphins and whales. This is the first of what I expect to be several guest blogs about the Navy’s training and testing programs and how they can be fixed to protect and preserve the marine environment. – Ric O’Barry
By Rosalind Peterson
Agricultural Defense Program
The Washington Post (Associated Press) May 11, 2012, revealed that “…The U.S. Navy may hurt more dolphins and whales by using sonar and explosives in Hawaii and California…and reflects new research that covers naval activities in a wider area than previous studies…according to a draft environmental impact statement that covers training and testing planned from 2014 to 2019…”
In a letter to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which administers the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), dated June 19, 2009, several U.S. Senators, including U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein and U.S. Representative Henry Waxman, stated: “…In many regions, the Navy plans to increase the number of its exercises or expand the areas in which they may occur, and virtually every coastal state will be affected. Some exercises may occur in the nation’s most biologically sensitive marine habitats, including National Marine Sanctuaries and breeding habitat for the endangered North Atlantic right whale. In all, the Navy anticipates more than 2.3 million takes (significant disruptions in marine mammal foraging, breeding, and other essential behaviors) per year, or 11.7 million takes over the course of a five-year permit…”
The NOAA Definition of “Take”: Defined under the MMPA as “harass, hunt, capture, kill or collect, or attempt to harass, hunt, capture, kill or collect.” Defined under the Endangered Species Act as “to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct…”
Dr. Jane Lubchenco, NOAA Administrator, shortly after approving the “taking” of marine mammals in the U.S. Navy’s NWTRC (Northern California, Oregon, Washington & Idaho), made this brief statement after audience prompting, in a meeting in Ukiah, California on December 9, 2010: “also an area where I have serious concerns…” The answer raises an obvious question: How does NOAA approve the “taking” of marine mammals when there are still unresolved questions about the impact of sonar on whales?
With respect to military training and testing activities, the MMPA defines ‘‘harassment’’ as: “…(i) any act that injures or has the significant potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild [Level A Harassment]; or (ii) any act that disturbs or is likely to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of natural behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, surfacing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering, to a point where such behavioral patterns are abandoned or significantly altered [Level B Harassment]…training activities may expose some of the marine mammals present in the area to sound from various mid-frequency and high-frequency active tactical sonar sources or to pressure from underwater detonations..”
One of the most recent, and shocking, NOAA permits allows for the taking of thousands of marine mammals by the U.S. Navy in the Southern California Range Complex. This Navy document which lists the thousands of marine mammals that the Navy intends to “take” between 2012-2014, is available online and approved by NOAA in February 2012:
In the Gulf of Mexico, the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Air Force, with permits once again approved by NOAA, have now started an assault on this area using multifaceted warfare testing experiments that include bomb blasts, sonar use, missile exercises, and the testing of new weapons systems. NOAA has issued more than twelve permits allowing the U.S. Navy to “take” marine mammals in areas of the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans.
Our oceans and land areas, in the Pacific, Atlantic, and the Gulf of Mexico along with all inhabitants, are to be used as warfare test guinea pigs without public consent, debate, U.S. Congressional hearings or any public oversight. Mitigation measures, to protect marine mammals from sonar, are effective only 9% of the time according to NOAA & the U.S. Navy.
The Navy Warfare Testing Program will, according to their Environmental Impact Statement: “…utilize mid- and high-frequency active sonar sources and explosive detonations. These sonar and explosive sources will be utilized during Antisubmarine Warfare (ASW) Tracking Exercises, Mine Avoidance Training, Extended Echo Ranging and Improved Extended Echo Ranging (EER/IEER) events, Missile Exercises, Gunnery Exercises, Bombing Exercises, Sinking Exercises, and Mine Warfare Training…”
Public Comment for two new U.S. Navy 5-Year warfare ranges complexes in the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans started on May 11, 2012 and end July 10, 2012. The Atlantic Fleet Warfare Training and Testing Range Draft Environmental Statement is available for public comment. The map for this 5-Year Warfare Range is stunning, because it covers ocean and coastline training from the state of Maine to Florida and includes the Gulf of Mexico. The second U.S. Navy Range Warfare Complex expansion is in the Pacific. Public Comment can be made on each separate draft Environmental Impact Statement. No U.S. Congressional hearings have been held on this issue and none are planned in the future. WHY?
TAKE ACTION TODAY TO PROTECT OUR OCEANS!
With the recent Gulf of Mexico oil spill and many areas still struggling with the aftermath, all we need now is to subject this area and the people who live there to another ecological disaster that began this year with Navy warfare testing. Expanding and initiating warfare testing in more areas of the Pacific, the Atlantic, and the Gulf of Mexico, will also spell disaster for millions of marine mammals, and fish, and their habitats. We do not elect to be the guinea pigs for these experiments or to have our oceans used for massive warfare testing. Say “no” today…Ask for U.S. Congressional Hearings to protect human health and our marine mammals. (Call Your Elected Officials in Washington, D.C. Toll Free: 1-(866) 220-0044)
Visit the websites below for more U.S. Navy & Air Force Warfare Testing information in the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic & Pacific. All documents, backup references, letters, U.S. Navy range maps, and other information are located on this website link.
Visit these links for the latest in Maps and Government Documents on U.S. Navy Warfare Testing: