US Navy Agrees to Stop Sonar Testing Around Marine Wildlife

posted: 09/17/15
by: Discovery.com Staff
Breaching humpback whale
Jeff Foott/DCL

Facing considerable pressure from conservationists, the United States Navy has agreed to stop underwater sonar tests in close proximity to vulnerable marine wildlife.

The tests, located off of the coasts of California and Hawaii, employ "dangerous mid-frequency sonar" and "powerful explosives," according to a news release from the Center for Biological Diversity. Prolonged exposure to certain types of sonar has been shown to cause both temporary and permanent hearing loss in marine wildlife, which can interrupt feeding behaviors and drive animals from their habitat.

"Numerous beaked whale strandings and deaths have been linked to naval uses of high-intensity sonar," Bill Rossiter, executive director at Advocacy, Science & Grants of Cetacean Society International explains.

"Now, beaked whale populations in Southern California that have been suffering from the Navy's use of sonar will be able to find areas of refuge where sonar will be off-limits," he added.

In addition to prohibiting the use of sonar and explosives around known whale and dolphin habitats, the agreement also requires Navy vessels traveling near said habitats to exercise "extreme caution" to prevent whale strikes.

"We can protect our fleet and safeguard our whales," Natural Resources Defense Council President Rhea Suh said. "This settlement shows the way to do both, ensuring the security of U.S. Navy operations while reducing the mortal hazard to some of the most majestic creatures on Earth. Our Navy will be the better for this, and so will the oceans our sailors defend."

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