Underwater Navy Testing Plans: “Negligible Impacts” or “Unprecedented Harm”

Written by on January 31, 2013 in Marine Life, Policy & Ocean Law, Whales & Dolphins
Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus).

Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) rely on sonar, as do many other marine mammals. Exposure to sonar from man-made equipment has been associated with strandings of marine mammals. Photo credit: Allison Henry, NOAA/NEFSC.

A draft federal report states that the Navy’s plan for testing submarines, torpedoes and other weapons systems across the East Coast will have only “negligible” impacts on marine mammals. However, last July, 20 environmental groups signed a letter saying that the testing, which involves active sonar, air-to-surface missile practice and other activities, would cause “unprecedented harm” to marine life.

The disagreement about the consequences of the training activities continues.

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) writes that “based on that preliminary determination, it does not necessarily expect the exercises to result in serious injury or death to marine mammals.” The draft report does include that the health of marine mammals depends on the Navy following specific safety guidelines.

According to a NMFS statement, “These measures should minimize the potential for injury or death and significantly reduce the number of marine mammals exposed to levels of sound likely to cause temporary loss of hearing.”

Michael Jasny, senior policy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council, disagrees.

“The Navy has estimated that its new activities would kill hundreds and injure thousands of marine mammals off the east coast,” Jasny said. “Reading the administration’s response to this is like watching someone try to hide an elephant behind a shower curtain. When endangered species are at stake, ‘Nothing here, folks’ doesn’t cut it.”

The official report from the NMFS will be released soon. In the meantime, NOAA is seeking public comment on the issue. You can comment online through regulations.gov by clicking here.

To learn more:

Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of MarineScienceToday.com. She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .

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