Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, December 20, 2018

Contacts:  Miyoko Sakashita, (510) 844-7108,
Steve Jones, (415) 305-3866,  

Navy’s Pacific Training Will Harm Marine Mammals 12.5 Million Times

Explosions, Sonar, Ship Strikes Menace Marine Life Near Hawaii, Southern California

WASHINGTON— U.S. Navy training exercises in the Pacific Ocean could kill, injure, or harass whales, dolphins and other marine mammals 12.5 million times over the next five years. That’s according to Marine Mammal Protection Act permits and final regulations issued today by the Trump administration.

Explosions, sonar and ship strikes during Navy exercises could harm blue whales 9,248 times over the next five years and the short-beaked common dolphin 6.8 million times under the incidental take permit issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service.

“The Trump administration is doing disturbingly little to reduce the enormous number of whales and dolphins harmed by these explosions, sonar and ship strikes,” said Miyoko Sakashita, ocean program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We don’t need to inflict this catastrophic damage to marine mammals to keep ourselves safe. Endangered whales and Hawaiian monk seals will pay a heavy price for the Navy’s war games in their habitat.” 

The permits also anticipate injuries to 3,346 marine mammals, including three endangered blue whales, 20 humpback whales, 10 minke whales, 93 California long-beaked dolphins, 46 Risso’s dolphins, three critically endangered Hawaiian monk seals and 480 northern elephant seals.

Ocean mammals depend on hearing for navigation, feeding and reproduction. Scientists have linked military sonar and live-fire activities to mass whale beaching, exploded eardrums and even death. In 2004, during war games near Hawaii, the Navy’s sonar was implicated in a mass stranding of up to 200 melon-headed whales in Hanalei Bay, Kauai.

The Navy and Fisheries Service estimate that, over the current plan’s five-year period, training and testing activities will result in thousands of animals suffering permanent hearing loss, lung injuries or death. Millions of animals will be exposed to temporary injuries and disturbances, with many subjected to multiple harmful exposures.

In response to a lawsuit filed by the Center and other groups, a federal judge ruled in 2015 that the Navy’s testing and training activities in the Pacific were illegal and ordered the Navy to adopt better protections for marine life.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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