The US Navy may be responsible for more marine mammal deaths than previously thought.
SFGate reported, in a draft environmental impact statement covering Navy training and testing planned for 2014 to 2018, the Navy estimated its use of explosives and sonar could unintentionally cause more than 1,600 instances of hearing loss or other injury to marine mammals in one year. The report also said the use of sonar and explosives could cause 200 marine mammal deaths in one year.
Previous reports covering 2009-2013 estimated the unintentional injury or death count to about 100 marine mammals in Hawaii and California. However no deaths were actually reported, according to the AP.
The 2014 to 2018 numbers are inflated due to the Navy’s use of new research on marine mammal behaviour and updated computer models that predict how sonar affects animals, said the AP.
According to Fox News, the Navy must provide the estimated impact information to the National Marine Fisheries Service to earn a permit for its activities. If they failed to provide the information and a marine mammal were killed, the Navy would be found in violation of federal environmental law and have to stop its training and testing.
John Van Name, senior environmental planner at the US Pacific Fleet, said “Each time we swing through this process, we get better, we take a harder look, we become more inclusive.” Fox News noted, the Navy isn’t saying it will definitively injure whales, dolphins or other marine life as it trains sailors and tests equipment, but rather, “It’s telling the public and environmental regulators that its actions have the potential to harm or otherwise prompt a reaction in the animals.”