Navy Agrees to Limit Sonar Testing in Pacific

Sep 15, 2015

Credit Gregory "Slobirdr" Smith / Flickr

The US Navy has agreed to limit its use of sonar and explosive training off the coast of Hawai‘i and Southern California that may harm marine life.

A lawsuit filed in 2013 by environmental group Earthjustice challenged the National Marine Fisheries’ five-year permit for testing. 

From a distance - Sonar can disrupt the feeding and communication of marine animals.  Exposure at a closer distance can cause deafness or even death for whales, dolphins and other creatures.  The Navy's plans estimate it could inadvertently kill 155 whales and dolphins off Hawaii and Southern California - mostly from explosives.  It also estimated it could cause more than 11,000 serious injuries off the East Coast and 2,000 off Hawaii and Southern California.

Under the agreement, the Navy will limit sonar and explosive testing in proximity to biologically sensitive areas.  David Henkin is an attorney representing Earth-Justice’s Honolulu office.  He says the agreement shows that the Navy is capable of negotiating an agreement, while continuing to protect the environment. 

The approval covers the next few years of the five-year permit – and will be re-negotiated in 2018.