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article imageCalifornia rejects Navy offshore explosives training program

By Ken Hanly     Mar 11, 2013 in Environment
San Diego - Meeting in San Diego, the California Coastal Commissioners unanimously rejected a Navy offshore explosives and sonar training program. The commissioners claimed that the Navy did not show that the threat to marine life was negligible as claimed.
The Navy estimated that the proposed program would kill 130 marine mammals and cause hearing loss in another 1600 over a five-year period. Michael Jasny of the Natural Resources Defence Council told commissioners that he thought the Navy was underestimating the damage to marine mammals. Jasny said that the increase in sonar, explosives and other aspects of the training would disrupt both the foraging and breeding of several species of whales and also destroy their hearing leaving them to die. Commission member, Esther Sanchez of the Oceanside City Council claimed:"The Navy's conclusions are not supported by evidence."
While the panel and the Navy could attempt mediation to reach an agreement, the Navy could simply go ahead with the training as it has done in the past twice. The commissioners might then sue, as they also did unsuccessfully in the past. Before the vote was taken the director of the training program, Alex Stone, told the commissioners that the Navy opposed any additional conditions that might make the training program less realistic or limit its scope. He also told them he thought the program had sufficient protections for marine life.
Navy Cmdr. John Doney, director of training exercises claimed the increase in training is needed to prepare sailors for a shift in U.S. military emphasis to the Pacific Ocean region. He also argued that America's adversaries are building super-quiet submarines and US navy personnel needed to be trained in the use of sonar to detect them.
The area encompassed by the testing is 412,11 square kilometres off the southern coast of California. The commission staff recommended that any approval be contingent upon certain conditions. The conditions included not testing within a kilometre of the shore in order to protect bottle-nose dolphins. Another recommendation was that the Navy create safety zones, where there would be no high-intensity sonar activity, near protected areas and sanctuaries which experienced a high concentration of blue, fin and grey whales in certain seasons.
Similar conditions had been set out in earlier tests in 2007 and 2008 but the Navy refused to accept them. Scientists claim that there is still very much that is unknown about the effects of sonar activity on marine animals.
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