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July 10, 2012 Midnight
(Central Standard Time)

Naval Sonar Testing
Thousands of Marine Mammals
Could be Killed and Harmed

Humpback breach
Humpback Whale Breaching
Photo: Thomas R. Kieckhefer


I am outraged that the U.S. Navy would go ahead with sonar testing that could kill and harm marine mammals 2.8 million times a year over a five year period. The proposed training and testing activities off the coasts of Hawaii, Southern California, the Atlantic seaboard and the Gulf States from 2014 to 2019 gives these figures in your Draft Environmental Impact Statements.
  The Navy's projected damage to whales and dolphins is astounding. It is a vast increase over previous estimates of potential harm for the same regions. The numbers for far-reaching harm that will be inflicted on marine mammals during these testing activities is staggering: over 5,000,000 instances of temporary hearing loss, 16,000 instances of permanent hearing loss, almost 9,000 lung injuries, and over 1,800 deaths. An estimated 11,200 whales and dolphins will be deafened. What is unstated is that whales and dolphins depend on sound to navigate, communicate and survive.
  What is not presented in your analysis are reasonable alternatives to reduce the unprecedented damage to marine animals.Your mitigation plan, based on the ability of lookouts to detect whales and dolphins, will not achieve a significant reduction in damage to marine life.These same plans have been found by Federal courts to be inadequate and ineffective. Visual surveillance may be impaired at sea and unsuitable for distinguishing deep-diving species that spend little time at the surface. If fully effective, it would only protect species from the most serious injuries.
  I call on the Navy to please identify and set aside areas of high marine mammal density which is acknowledged to be the most effective means of reducing marine mammal injury. If the United States and its Navy wish to be seen as a leader in saving marine life, it must significantly reduce the levels of death and injury to whales, dolphins and other marine life involved in these plans.
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If you read the sidebar re our 1994 victory, almost 20 years later the same battle is being fought but on a gargantuan scale. The Navy does not appear to have been working very hard to come up with new methods to protect animals. At the public comment hearing in our 1994 efforts, when the Navy was asked why they were going to test in a marine sanctuary, they replied because it was "convenient."     

  This is an extremely important issue, and action is required to save dolphins, whales and other animals. Please take the time to help them.



Maris Sidenstecker I
Executive Director, Save The Whales
501(c)(3) nonprofit organization

Save The Whales

Voted Top-Rated Green Nonprofit 2011 


Ship Shock
Naval Tests Halted by
Save The Whales - 1994

In 1994, Save The Whales, with legal support from the Natural Resources Defense Council, stopped the Navy "ship shock" tests in the Channel Islands Marine Sanctuary, a biologically sensi- tive area off the coast of Southern California where blue, sperm, fin and humpback whales, as well as dolphins, seals and sea lions, are often present.
  The Navy planned  to proceed with its plans to test the hull integrity of its new cruisers by detonating 270 underwater explosives over a five-year period. Estimates were that tens of thousands of marine mammals and other marine life would be killed outright. Others would face a slow death from damage to their internal organs and hearing.

  Natural Resources Defense Council legal department, headed by Joel Reynolds, took on the case and obtained the Los Angeles firm of Shearman & Sterling. This team was headed by attorney Richard Kendall with assistance from several of his associates.

  Before our case was ready, we had to obtain PhD experts for every animal that could be affected by the tests. This was very difficult as the experts we con- tacted thought our position was correct, but  the government funded them or their university, and they could not take a public position.     

  With less than two weeks until the hearing, we obtained an expert who agreed to testify: Hal Whitehead, PhD, a Canadian and the world's foremost authority on sperm whales. After he joined, other experts came onboard and we had our team.

  A five-day hearing was held in the U.S. District Court, Central District, Los Angeles. Judge Stephen V. Wilson presided and at the end of the five-day hearing, he found: 



The Navy had failed in its obligation to protect marine mammals, that it hadn't prepared a full environmental impact statement, and that it hadn't investigated all reasonable alternative sites and properly mitigated the impact of detonations on marine life.



  One detonation was allowed farther offshore with observers of our choice. Airplanes and safety measures were used to detect any deep-diving marine mammals.  


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