Navy rejects coast panel’s call to curb use of sonar, explosives

Humpback whale
A humpback whale leaps out of the water in what is called breaching.
(Reed Saxon / Associated Press)

SAN DIEGO -- To the consternation of some environmentalists, the U.S. Navy has rejected a call by the California Coastal Commission to curtail use of sonar and underwater explosives during training.

In March, the commission voted unanimously that the Navy’s assertions that its training does not harm marine mammals was not supported by scientific evidence. The commission wants the Navy to declare some coastal areas to be off-limits for training.

But the Navy disagreed with the commission in a letter to the commission’s manager for energy, ocean resources, and federal consistency.

”... the Navy’s proposed mitigation measures are effective and appropriate for avoiding and minimizing impacts for all areas,” said the Navy’s letter, signed by Capt. C.M. Hansen, deputy civil engineer for the U.S. Pacific Fleet.


The Natural Resources Defense Council blasted the Navy’s refusal to follow the Coastal Commission directive.

“The Navy’s review comes in the wake of several new studies showing that its Southern California activities are harming marine mammal species, such as blue whales and beaked whales, far more than was previously known,” the council said.

During the March hearing, the Navy estimated that the training, at most, would kill 130 marine mammals in five years. Environmentalists branded that a gross underestimate.

The Navy asserts that it needs additional sonar training, particularly close to Hawaii and the California coast, because America’s adversaries are buying or building super-quiet submarines in hopes of striking a U.S. warship, possibly in the Persian Gulf.



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