A SILENT VICTORY 4/1/2015
A federal judge stands up to the noisy navy for the sake of marine mammals.
NRDC vs U.S.NAVY
HELP STOP THE NAVY’S ASSAULT ON WHALES!
The Navy is prepared to kill nearly 1,000 whales and other marine
mammals during the next five years of testing and training with dangerous
sonar and explosives. Tell Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to direct the
Navy to adopt commonsense safeguards that will protect marine mammals
during routine training without compromising military readiness.
★HELP STOP THE NAVY’S ATTACK ON WHALES!
Navy and Marine Mammals: Fact vs. Myth
The U.S. Navy is a responsible steward of the marine environment. While it is impossible
to guarantee that our activities at sea will have zero impacts on marine life, the Navy
works closely with environmental regulatory agencies (National Marine Fisheries Service,
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Environmental Protection Agency, state agencies) to
minimize impacts and comply with applicable laws while meeting our national security
obligations. We are also a world leader in funding independent research to learn more
about marine mammal populations and their sensitivity to underwater sound. We strive
to be transparent in describing our activities to the public, government agencies, and
At times, statements that appear in the press regarding the effects of sonar and other Navy
training and testing activities on marine life require clarification and/or contain inaccuracies.
To ensure that accurate, science-based information about Navy activities is accessible to
interested stakeholders, Navy responses to select media articles are included below.
12/27/13 Sacramento Bee
Navy Should Find Alternatives To Threatening Endangered Species
Navy Response (12/31/13)
I’m a Navy public affairs officer. There are some points in the 27 December editorial titled,
“Navy Should Find Alternatives To Threatening Endangered Species” that need clarification.
1. While the Navy does request authorization for 155 marine mammal mortalities for training
and testing off Hawaii and Southern California, we ultimately do not expect any marine
mammals to be harmed. The best available science indicates that the vast majority of
impacts to marine mammals will be behavioral responses which will not result in any physical
injury. There are zero marine mammal mortalities predicted by our computer modeling for
sonar use in these areas. Out of an abundance of caution we do request mortalities for
beaked whales, due to their apparent sensitivity to sonar, as part of our permit requests even
though the science does not show mortalities are likely.
2. There is no evidence sonar has killed or caused direct physical injury to marine mammals.
In the few cases where sonar has been associated with a stranding event, the animals’ injuries
have always been found to be a result of the beaching event rather than the sound source
causing ear or tissue damage.
3. U.S. Navy sonar has been linked to a small number of marine mammal stranding events
over the past 15 years, leading to fewer than 40 mortalities. The Navy takes precautions when
using sonar and works with the National Marine Fisheries Service to ensure that our activities
comply with the law and do not have major impacts on marine mammal populations.
4. Regarding monitoring, bear in mind that each and every time Navy Sailors see a dead or
injured marine mammal at sea, the Navy is required to report it to the National Marine Fisheries
Service. If there were large numbers of marine mammals popping up dead in the wake of
training and testing activities, especially in near-shore areas, the Navy and other users of the
marine environment would see those impacts (and wildlife regulatory agencies would be made
aware). The reality is that during the past five years, only four dolphin deaths, which occurred
during a single explosives training event in 2011, are known to have occurred as a result of Navy
activities. Since that time the Navy has modified our explosives training safety procedures to
be more protective of marine mammals.
5. During the melon-headed whale event in 2004 in Hanalei Bay, only one whale–an emaciated
calf–went ashore. It was an aggregation event where the animals milled about in the Bay. Similar
events have occurred elsewhere in the world in areas where no sonar was in use.
6. Far from disregarding new science, the Navy is a world leader in developing new science.
We have considered numerous studies as part of our analysis for this training and testing,
and these and other studies will be also considered as part of our adaptive management
process with the National Marine Fisheries Service. The Navy cannot guarantee that our
activities will have zero effects on marine mammals. However, for that very reason, we justify
our requirements to, and ultimately receive our permits from, the National Marine Fisheries
Service. These permits can only be issued if our proposed activities will have a negligible
impact on marine life. We will continue to conduct realistic training and testing to accomplish
our mission, while being respectful of the marine environment now and into the future.
12/23/13 OC Weekly
Navy Sonar Plan Riles Protectors of Whales
Navy Response (12/24/13)
Several of the statements in the article titled, “Navy Sonar Plan Riles Protectors of Whales”
are inaccurate and/or require clarification.
1. The estimates of marine mammals that may be affected by Navy training and testing are high,
but the numbers are based on mathematical modeling that assume a worst-case scenario.
In over 60 years of similar training and testing, there has been no evidence of major impacts to
marine mammal populations. We ultimately do not expect any marine mammals to be killed or
2. Sonar has never “exploded the eardrums” of marine mammals, nor has it directly injured or
killed any animal at sea.
3. Sonar has been linked to a small number of marine mammal strandings over the past 15 years,
affecting fewer than 40 animals total. The Navy takes precautions when using sonar and works
with the National Marine Fisheries Service to ensure that our activities comply with the law and
do not have major impacts on marine mammal populations.
4. No science has ever shown that live-fire training can lead marine mammals to strand.
5. During the melon-headed whale event in 2004 in Hanalei Bay, only one whale–an emaciated
calf–went ashore. It was an aggregation event where the animals milled about in in the Bay.
Similar events have occurred elsewhere in the world in areas where no sonar was in use.
6. The video link offered doesn’t accurately reflect what sonar sounds like or its effects on
12/22/13 Santa Barbra Independent
Lawsuit Seeks to Protect Whales, Dolphins From
Deadly Navy Sonar in Pacific
Navy Response (12/24/13)
I’m a Navy public affairs officer. There are many inaccurate statements in this piece.
Here are a few of them:
1. Sonar has never “exploded the eardrums” of marine mammals, nor has it directly
injured or killed any animal at sea. The headline of this piece is a great attention grabber,
but it distorts the facts and ignores the science.
2. Sonar has been linked to a small number of marine mammal strandings over the past
15 years, affecting fewer than 40 animals total. The Navy takes precautions when using
sonar and works with the National Marine Fisheries Service to ensure that our activities
comply with the law and do not have major impacts on marine mammals.
3. No science has ever shown that live-fire training can lead marine mammals to strand.
4. During the melon-headed whale event in 2004 in Hanalei Bay, only one whale–an
emaciated calf–went ashore. It was an aggregation event where the animals milled
about in in the Bay. Similar events have occurred elsewhere in the world in areas where
no sonar was in use.
5. The estimates of marine mammals that may be affected by Navy training and testing
are high, but the numbers are based on mathematical modeling that assume a
worst-case scenario. In over 60 years of similar training and testing, there has been no
evidence of major impacts to marine mammal populations. We do ultimately not expect
any marine mammals to be killed or injured.
The Navy Knows Sonar Will Hurt and Kill Dolphins,
Plans on It Anyway
Navy Response (10/11/13)
I’m a public affairs officer with the U.S. Navy. I want to point out that the headline above,
while scary to read, is inaccurate. Based on over 60 years of similar training and testing in
these areas with minimal impacts on marine life, we do not expect marine mammals to
die or be injured as a result of our activities.
To be clear, our environmental impact statements (EISs) and related documents do show
estimates of injuries and mortalities. However, these estimates are based on computer
modeling and analysis that use very conservative assumptions–meaning that the effects
they predict on marine mammals are far greater than they are likely to be in reality. Even
this conservative modeling predicts ZERO marine mammal mortalities from sonar.
In an abundance of caution, we do request a small number of mortalities from sonar for
beaked whales, because beaked whales have been shown to be more sensitive to sonar
than other whale species. While we actually do not expect any beaked whale mortalities
from sonar, we want to ensure we remain in compliance with our permits if the worst
should happen. It is important to note that there have never been beaked whale
strandings due to Navy activities in the areas covered by these EISs. For all sonar training,
we also use protective measures developed with the National Marine Fisheries Service
to reduce the potential for mariner mammals to be affected.
There has only been one case (March 2011, in which dolphins swam into the zone of an
explosives testing event) where marine mammals have been killed by Navy bombing
activities. This incident resulted in the Navy reviewing our procedures and developing
mitigation measures tailored to this type of event.
Each time we use explosives at sea, we conduct marine mammal monitoring before,
during and after the event as part of our standard mitigation. Every single time we see
an injured marine mammal, we report it to wildlife regulatory agencies through an
extensive marine mammal stranding reporting network.
The article mentions two studies. One study suggests that blue whales may swim away
or stop feeding when exposed to various sounds under some conditions. What isn’t
often reported in the press is that not all of the whales reacted to the sounds, and that
many of the whales that did react only had brief changes in behavior and quickly
reverted to normal activities.
The other study mentioned suggests that beaked whale populations may be declining
off the west coast of the U.S., and that the decline could be related to Navy sonar use.
However, the study also mentions other potential causes for the possible decline and
does not consider independent scientific monitoring data that shows two to five times
higher Cuvier beaked whale densities on the Navy’s Southern California Range Complex
(where sonar is frequently used) than the surveys upon which the study is based.
The Navy cares about marine mammals, and strives to be a responsible steward of the
environment as we conduct our activities. We continue to be a world leader in marine
mammal research , and to work with the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service to obtain permits for our at – sea training and testing.
8/30/13 Navy Live
Navy and Marine Life: Environmental Permits to
Enable Vital Training and Testing
Navy Blog Post (8/30/13)
Today, the Navy releases the final environmental impact statements that will allow us to
continue training and testing in the waters off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, Hawaii,
and in the Gulf of Mexico. As we reach this major milestone, it is important to stress the
value of at-sea training and testing as well as our track record of responsible
In alignment with the Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert’s tenets and our
Title 10 responsibilities, we have a mission to operate forward to keep the global
commons open and accessible.
We must maintain the ability to conduct realistic training to accomplish that national
security mission while being respectful of the marine environment.
A key reason we need to conduct live training and testing at sea is the worldwide
proliferation of quiet, modern submarines and other technologies. These threats are
not a Cold War artifact. Many adversaries have and continue to acquire modern, quiet
subs, torpedoes, and underwater mines that pose serious threats to the lawful use of
the sea, the global economy, and the safety of our forces. Active sonar is the most
effective means available today to detect, track, and target subs and other threats
under all ocean conditions.
While we use simulators for some of this training, active sonar operation and
underwater explosive ordnance handling are perishable skills that require training at
sea under realistic conditions that cannot be replicated by simulation alone. Newly
developed systems and ordnance also must be tested in the same conditions under
which they will be operated. Without this realistic training and testing, our Sailors
cannot develop and maintain the critical skills they need or ensure that new
technology can be operated effectively.
The best available science and more than 60 years of similar training and testing
demonstrate that our proposed activities will continue to have minimal effects on
marine mammal populations.
We have proactively coordinated with regulatory agencies and adopted their
suggestions for standard operating procedures to protect marine species and the
environment wherever possible, such as using trained lookouts to avoid marine
mammals while underway and ramping down or halting sonar if marine mammals
approach our ships within certain safety zones. With the care and diligence of Sailors
like you, we have been able to protect marine life without jeopardizing our ability to
conduct essential training and testing.
For years, the Navy also has partnered with universities, research institutions, federal
labs, private companies, and independent researchers around the world to study
marine species physiology and behavior, and share information to better understand
the ocean environment. As we learn more, we will continue to work with regulators to
refine and improve our analysis, and our protective measures, so we can continue to
train and test while respecting the oceans. Thank you for all you do on a daily basis to
ensure we remain ready and are good stewards of the environment.
Rear Admiral Kevin Slates
6/8/13 Navy Live
Navy Remains Committed to Responsible Marine
Navy Blog Post (6/8/13)
President Obama recently issued a proclamation that declared June 2013 as National
Oceans Month. Among other things, the proclamation recognizes the vital role the
oceans play in supporting our economy, providing food and energy, and enabling
national security. It calls upon Americans to do our part to maintain the oceans today
and for the future. The proclamation also touches on the National Oceans Policy, in
which the Navy participated, describing a focus on better decision-making through
science and data sharing.
As I mentioned in a previous blog, the Navy is pursuing permit renewals for the
continuation of our training and testing off the east coast, Southern California, Hawaii
and in the Gulf of Mexico through 2019. These activities are designed to prepare our
ships, submarines, aircraft and Sailors to perform our national security mission,
which – as an organization that operates forward at sea 24 hours a day, seven days
a week – means we are constantly interacting with the ocean environment. We consider
ourselves to be stewards of the environment, both at sea and ashore. To do this
responsibly, we have to incorporate scientific data in how we analyze our potential
effects. The Navy has made a significant investment for this purpose, committing
more than $250 million to marine mammal monitoring and marine mammal research
projects during the past decade.
The results of these research efforts, which range from defining hearing thresholds for
marine species and using and improving radio tagging for tracking marine mammal
movement and physiology, to creating more accurate mathematical models for predicting
how marine mammals perceive sound, have contributed greatly to our understanding
of how human activities may affect marine life.
Just this past month, a team of researchers from private, academic and Navy labs
completed a pilot “fast and light” marine mammal behavioral response study on our
Southern California Offshore Range using new, highly compact equipment that can be
deployed from small rigid hull inflatable boats. Past behavioral response studies used
much larger systems that required significant space on large research vessels and more
personnel to deploy and operate. Using this compact and less expensive equipment,
the researchers at the Southern California Offshore Range attached data tags to two
whales and tracked the animals’ responses to various sounds in an effort to predict how
they may react to sonar and other manmade sounds. In July, this team is planning a
different type of behavioral response study in coordination with Navy ships, using actual
sonar signals from the Navy vessels. This will be the first time this type of study has
ever been attempted. We’re excited and proud to support this type of cutting-edge
research and look forward to seeing the results.
As mentioned in the spring issue of Currents, the Navy’s Living Marine Resources
Program recently announced six priority areas for marine research funding from
FY 2013-2014. The Navy is currently reviewing pre-proposals from research organizations
to meet those needs, and plans to request formal proposals in July.
As we continue to work with the National Marine Fisheries Service to finalize our permits in
the coming months, I fully expect critics to debate the effects of our training and testing
activities on marine life. While we may not agree on those issues, we can agree that the
oceans are important to all of us. Furthermore, I believe the Sailors who depend on this vital
training and testing to meet our national defense mission deserve – and would appreciate –
acknowledgement that the Navy is a responsible steward of the environment based on what
we know about the oceans.
We will continue working closely with federal agencies, science institutions and other partners
in the United States and abroad to develop new science to increase our understanding and
guide our decision making. National Oceans Month is a perfect time to highlight the Navy’s
focus and investment in this area, and we will look for opportunities to do so this month and
Rear Admiral Kevin Slates
3/26/13 Navy Live
Navy Training, Testing and Marine Mammals:
Focus on the Facts
Navy Blog Post (3/26/13)
The Navy is renewing authorizations that will enable us to continue to train and test live
sonar and explosives at sea for another five years (2019). The process of renewing
authorizations involves analyzing the possible effects of training and testing and making
that data publicly available in the form of the Hawaii-Southern California Training and
Testing environmental impact statement (HSTT EIS) and the Atlantic Fleet Training and
Testing environmental impact statement (AFTT EIS).
Some of the information in those EISs has been misrepresented and exaggerated. Lost
in the discussion during a recent meeting of the California Coastal Commission is this
fact: the best available science—and the Navy’s long track record of conducting similar
training and testing—indicate our proposed activities will continue to have negligible
effects on marine mammal populations. For a better understanding of these issues, read
what several well-respected marine scientists have to say.
Each EIS includes numbers estimating marine mammal exposures to sonar or explosives
training and testing. Those numbers are based on mathematical modeling that assumes
the maximum exposure/worst case scenarios, and are often mistakenly cited with alarm
by people who do not recognize or accept that:
Live sonar and explosives training prepares Sailors to succeed in combat. The threats our
Sailors face in the world’s hot spots are not restricted to convenient times or places, nor
can simulators or inert weapons fully prepare them for those threats. That is why our
training must be both broad and realistic.
Exposure to sonar does not equate to injury. Laws such as the Marine Mammal Protection
Act (MMPA) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA) define human impacts to marine
mammals in degrees, ranging from simply hearing a sound, to mild behavioral effects, to
injury and mortality. The scientific analysis indicates that while marine mammals may be
exposed to sonar during Navy training and testing, the vast majority (if not all) of marine
mammals that are exposed will not be injured in any way. Animals may react to the sound,
or move away, but research shows that they are likely to return quickly and resume their
normal activities. Claims that the Navy is harming millions of marine mammals are ignoring
Our analysis overestimates the impact our activities have on marine mammals. The Navy
thoroughly analyzes all of the at-sea training and testing activities, we are planning for the
five-year period of our permits from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). With
NMFS concurrence, we use a mathematical model to estimate the total number of marine
mammal exposures that may result from those activities. That model, which uses the best
available science, estimates potential for injuries or mortalities in less than .05 percent
(five in 10,000) of the marine mammal exposures associated with our activities. It does
not account for avoidance actions that marine mammals are likely to take in response to
our activities, or protective measures (see below) which lessen marine mammal exposure
to potentially harmful activities. The reality is the impact of Navy training and testing activity
on marine mammals is likely to be significantly less than what our permit requests capture.
The EIS numbers do not take into account the protective measures (mitigations) the Navy
adopts whenever we conduct sonar or explosives training or testing. These measures
include using trained marine mammal lookouts; employing aircraft and underwater
listening systems to scan for marine mammals; establishing buffer zones to reduce or halt
sonar transmissions when we detect marine mammals near our ships; and software tools
that delineate what training and testing events we can undertake in areas associated with
marine mammal activity. We developed these measures in conjunction with NMFS and
re-evaluate them annually.
These proposed activities are not new. The Navy has trained and tested in these areas
for more than six decades, and there has been no evidence of extensive impacts to
marine mammal populations as a result. The EISs do account for increases in training
and testing, as well as testing of new and upgraded systems, but these activities will
continue to have negligible impacts. Some of the additional training and testing might
not even occur, especially in light of current and future budget restrictions. But we need
to plan for the possibility that they could.
Sonar and explosives training have been linked to only a handful of strandings, affecting
a few dozen animals over the past 17 years. We learned from these incidents. The March
2000 stranding in the Bahamas was a major factor behind the Navy’s decision to
implement an at-sea environmental policy that requires comprehensive analysis and
documentation for our training activities. Similarly, a March 2011 incident in which three
dolphins were killed when they swam into the scene of explosives training near
San Diego resulted in safer procedures for conducting such training. We sincerely regret
those instances where our activities have led to marine mammal deaths, and have since
made great strides in understanding how our actions affect marine mammals. Additionally,
we have become a world leader in funding marine mammal research, dedicating more
than $100 million to such research in the past five years.
The Navy cannot guarantee that our training and testing activities will have zero effects on
marine mammals, but for that very reason, we justify our requirements to, and ultimately
receive our permits from, the fisheries service. The experts at NMFS will only issue permits
if they are confident our proposed activities will have a negligible impact on marine life —
and that is exactly what NMFS has determined in its proposed final rule for the Hawaii-
Southern California and Atlantic Coast/Gulf of Mexico areas.
We strive to be responsible stewards of the environment as we support America’s security
and prosperity. I sincerely hope those interested in these issues will focus on the science
and the facts, and choose to ignore emotional, non-factual statements.
Rear Admiral Kevin Slates
10/11/12 New York Times
Marine Mammals and the Navy’s 5-Year Plan
Navy Response (10/11/12)
Contrary to “Marine Mammals and the Navy’s 5-Year Plan” (editorial, some editions, Oct.
12), the Navy hasn’t been “forced to acknowledge” anything with respect to the potential
damage done by sonar. The science you cite and the estimates you quote are largely our
We are recognized leaders in the field of marine mammal research. We know that there is
an effect on marine mammals, and we take that very seriously. That’s why we also stop
sonar transmissions when marine mammals are sighted, establish safety zones around
detonations and maneuver our ships to avoid marine life.
It’s not “wishful thinking” that leads us to believe that the impact of our sonar training
would be negligible. It is science and experience.
Americans expect us to be environmentally aware. We are. But they also expect us to
defend them, to protect this country at sea. We won’t do that irresponsibly. And we
can’t do that if we don’t train.
John F. Kirby
Additional Response by Respected Marine Biologist Dr. Darlene R. Ketten: The U.S.
Navy & Marine Mammals Avoiding Scientific Gaffes in Journalism
3/16/12 Puget Sounds Blogs
Balcomb wants to know if young orca was bombed
Navy Response (3/22/12)
I’m a public affairs officer with the Navy’s Energy and Environmental Readiness Division.
The U.S. Navy did not conduct any training with sonar, bombs or explosives in the Pacific
Northwest for at least a month before the orca known as Sooke, or L-112, stranded on
February 11. Examination of the animal by state wildlife officials and private research
organizations indicates the orca died just two to four days prior to stranding. Science
has much to learn about marine mammals, and that is one of the reasons the Navy has
become a world leader in funding marine mammal research. However, in the absence of
Navy activity in the weeks before the stranding, blaming the Navy for “blowing up” the
animal is irresponsible and inaccurate.
The Navy recognizes its role as an environmental steward. We view that role very seriously,
and take aggressive steps minimize the potential effects of our activities on the ocean
environment. We work with the National Marine Fisheries Service and other federal and
state and agencies to ensure our training and testing activities comply with the law and
do not pose an unnecessary risk to marine life.
To provide comments on and obtain information about the Northwest Training and Testing
EIS, please attend the public scoping meetings in your area or visit the project website at
Northwest Training and Testing EIS/OEIS and submit comments by April 27.
To learn more about the Navy’s efforts to protect marine mammals and the environment
while performing our mission, please visit U.S. Navy Environment.