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Good News for Whales as Navy Agrees to Limit Sonar Testing in Pacific

HONOLULU -- The Navy agreed to limit its use of sonar and other training that inadvertently harms whales, dolphins and other marine mammals off Hawaii and California in a settlement with environmental groups approved Monday.

A centerpiece of the agreement signed by a federal judge in Honolulu includes limits or bans on mid-frequency active sonar and explosives in specified areas around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California, Earthjustice attorney David Henkin said. But some of the training will continue.

Sonar at a great distance can disrupt feeding and communication of marine mammals, and it can cause deafness or death at a closer distance, Henkin said. Four dolphins died in 2011 in San Diego when they got too close to an explosives training exercise, he said.

Image: Dolphins
This Oct. 15, 2014 photo shows dolphins swimming along the side of a boat off the coast of San Pedro, Calif. Richard Vogel / AP

The Navy's plans estimate it could inadvertently kill 155 whales and dolphins off Hawaii and Southern California, mostly from explosives. It estimated it could cause more than 11,000 serious injuries off the East Coast and 2,000 off Hawaii and Southern California.

Lt. Cmdr. Matt Knight, a U.S. Pacific Fleet spokesman, said the settlement preserves key testing and training.

Pod of Killer Whales Swims Past Kayakers 2:44