Navy and Marine Mammals: Fact vs. Myth

Dolphins and Navy ship

Santa Barbra Independent
Lawsuit Seeks to Protect Whales, Dolphins From Deadly Navy Sonar in Pacific

Navy Response (12/24/13)

I’m a Navy public affairs officer. There are many inaccurate statements in this piece. Here are a few of them:

1. Sonar has never “exploded the eardrums” of marine mammals, nor has it directly injured or killed any animal at sea. The headline of this piece is a great attention grabber, but it distorts the facts and ignores the science.

2. Sonar has been linked to a small number of marine mammal strandings over the past 15 years, affecting fewer than 40 animals total. The Navy takes precautions when using sonar and works with the National Marine Fisheries Service to ensure that our activities comply with the law and do not have major impacts on marine mammals.

3. No science has ever shown that live-fire training can lead marine mammals to strand.

4. During the melon-headed whale event in 2004 in Hanalei Bay, only one whale–an emaciated calf–went ashore. It was an aggregation event where the animals milled about in in the Bay. Similar events have occurred elsewhere in the world in areas where no sonar was in use.

5. The estimates of marine mammals that may be affected by Navy training and testing are high, but the numbers are based on mathematical modeling that assume a worst-case scenario. In over 60 years of similar training and testing, there has been no evidence of major impacts to marine mammal populations. We do ultimately not expect any marine mammals to be killed or injured.

Kenneth Hess

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