Monday, January 26, 2015

Whale threat cited as Navy plans to increase soar-emitting buoys

Phuong Le, Associated Press, Jan 25

SEATTLE – The U.S. Navy is seeking permits to expand sonar and other training exercises off the Pacific Coast, a proposal raising concerns from animal advocates who say that more sonar-emitting buoys would harm whales and other creatures that live in the water.
The Navy wants to deploy up to 720 sonobuoys at least 12 nautical miles off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and Northern California. The devices, about 3 feet long and 6 inches in diameter, send out sonar signals underwater so air crews can train to detect submarines.
"It sounds drastic in numbers, but it's really not drastic in its impact," said John Mosher, Northwest environmental manager for the U.S. Pacific Fleet. "Anti-submarine warfare is a critical mission for the U.S. Navy."
The Navy's training range is home to endangered whales such as orcas, humpback and blue, as well as seals, sea lions and dolphins.
Critics say the noise from sonar can harass and kill whales and other marine life. They worry the Navy is expanding training exercises without also increasing efforts to reduce the impacts.
Steve Mashuda, a lawyer with the public-interest law firm Earthjustice, said they're not asking the Navy to stop training in the area.
"But it's a big ocean out there. You don't need to have all of those square miles of training available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week," said Mashuda, whose group previously sued over permits issued to the Navy.
The Navy needs authorization from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, since explosive detonations, sonar and vessel strikes have the potential to disturb, injure or kill marine mammals. Its current five-year permit expires this year.

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