The U.S. Navy and federal environmental watchdogs have worked out rules aimed at protecting whales and porpoises during naval training exercises off Washington, Oregon and northern California.
Environmentalists contend navy sonar can deafen or panic nearby whales. Critics worry the new rules don’t do enough.
The Navy plans to expand its training activities in the open ocean off the Northwest Coast.
Beforehand, it consulted the National Marine Fisheries Service. These new rules are the result.
During exercises, the Navy now must use spotters to keep an eye out for whales, porpoises, and seals. If marine mammals are seen or heard, the Navy is to shut down sonar operations and not set off explosives.
Orca Network director Howard Garrett grants the Navy is trying to do right, but he worries the spotters will still miss things.
Ho0ward Garrett: “Especially the mammal eating orcas out there are very stealthy. Their prey of course are also very silent and can run for long distances underwater very silently. So they’re not likely to be very easily detected.”
The federal fisheries service concedes some whales might be disturbed by sonar noise. But it’s convinced any impact will be minimal, temporary and have no lasting ill effects.