California Coastal Commission Rejects Navy Sonar and Explosives Training

Navy likely to press ahead with plans despite widespread opposition


David Henkin, Earthjustice, (808) 599-2436

Today, at its meeting in San Diego, the California Coastal Commission rejected the U.S. Navy’s plan for explosives and sonar training off the Southern California Coast.

Gray whale.  (Merrill Gosho / NOAA)
Video: Navy Sonar and Marine Mammals

The commissioners, as reported by the Associated Press, “ruled unanimously that the Navy lacked enough information to back up its argument that the threat to marine mammals would be negligible.”

At risk are endangered blue and fin whales, beaked whales, and migrating gray whales.

Proposed federal rules published in January would allow the Navy to kill, injure, or disrupt marine mammals 9.6 million times in the Hawaiʻi and Southern California training ranges over a five-year period starting in January 2014.

“Critically endangered marine mammals like the Hawaiʻi Insular Stock of false killer whales, which numbers only 150 animals, rely heavily on their acoustic sensory capabilities to find food, for navigation, and to breed,” said David Henkin, attorney for Earthjustice who has argued against the proposed training. “Blasting their ears through the ramped up training the Navy proposes risks pushing this species, and a host of other marine mammals, closer to extinction.”

By the Navy’s own estimates, the proposed training program would kill nearly 160 marine mammals and cause hearing loss in over 1,600 over five years.

Conservation groups are asking the National Marine Fisheries Service to exclude particular ocean regions known to be vital marine mammal habitat from naval activities.

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