Navy raises sonar impact on dolphins, whales dramatically
New Navy estimates showing many more dolphins, whales and other marine mammals could be hurt by sonar off Hawaii and Southern California caused alarm among environmentalists on Friday. The Navy, for its part, emphasized those were worst-case estimates and that the numbers cover a much larger testing area than before.
The numbers are in the Navy's new draft environmental impact statement for exercises planned from 2014-2018. In it, the Navy says that, under its preferred alternative, sonar training and testing might unintentionally harm marine mammals 2.8 million times a year over five years.
"The numbers are staggering and there is absolutely no corresponding mitigation to account for this harm," Zak Smith, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, told msnbc.com.
That's up from about 150,000 instances a year in the Navy's impact statement for 2009-2013, Smith added.
But the Navy said the numbers were misleading since the new area is much larger and more activities have been added since the last statement. "It's like comparing three grapes to a watermelon," Pacific Fleet spokesman Mark Matsunaga told msnbc.com.
"These are just worst-case estimates," he added. "That's not to say we're going to go out there and hurt them all."
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Image credit: James R. Evans / U.S. Pacific Fleet