In a move that will make life better, longer and quieter for whales, dolphins, oarfish and other underwater creatures, the U.S. Navy has finally agreed to restrict its usage of sonar, particularly around naval bases in California and Hawaii.
The settlement is the result of actions brought against the Navy by the environmental groups Earthjustice, Greenpeace and the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) who alleged that sonar and underwater explosions affect migration patterns, feeding locations, breeding and the ability of marine animals to hear and communicate. Sonar especially has been blamed for driving whales and dolphins ashore to their deaths.
The agreement was announced by Earthjustice lawyer David Henkin, who detailed the terms of the deal.
- Sonar and explosives are banned on the eastern side of Hawaii’s Big Island
- Sonar is banned off the coast of southern California between Santa Catalina Island and San Nicolas Island where beaked whales and oarfish are affected
- It cannot use sonar in the blue whale feeding area around San Diego
- Training exercises between Maui and the Big Island will be reduced
- Ships must use “extreme caution” and travel at safe speeds to minimize the risk of collisions with whales
- Any injuries or deaths of sea creatures will be investigated by the National Marine Fisheries Service
Despite putting up a fight, the Navy admits that the new limitations will not affect testing and training exercises. It has until 2018, when the existing agreement with the National Marine Fisheries Service expires, to put the new restrictions in place.
Good news for whales, dolphins and other marine creatures is good news for the humans they share the planet with. If the Navy needs something to test explosives on, maybe it can use that big plastic blob in the middle of the Pacific.