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A new Navy plan to test weapons that will protect the American people ironically means the sacrifice of millions of other non-human lives.
Have you ever seen a pod of wild dolphins or a group of sunbathing seals? Have you ever been lucky enough to swim with these animals or had the opportunity to learn about their behavior and lifestyle or meet one in person? If you have, then you know what I mean when I say that marine mammals make the world more intriguing and full. You also understand that to lose these animals because of human actions would be a tragedy. So what is the appropriate term if 33 million marine animals were negatively impacted, even killed, by human action? Would it be unfathomable?
According to Andrew Rosenthal’s New York Times article, “Marine Mammals and the Navy’s 5-Year Plan,” this unfathomable scenario is something the Navy is pushing for. The Navy recently revealed its hopeful plans for testing out sonar and explosives in the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. The only “okay” needed to make this hope a reality is from the National Marine Fisheries Service.
They need the “okay” because of one small detail: the Navy will be “taking” 33 million marine mammals. This very carefully chosen term, “take,” when stripped down to its naked truth, means “everything from killing these creatures to disturbing their habits,” Rosenthal explains.
Thirty-three million animals, “everything from blue whales to elephant seals,” Rosenthal says, will be negatively impacted.
For some animals, the impact will be instant and deadly. Science has already proven that the Navy sonar causes great harm and/or death to mammals like whales and dolphins, who themselves use sonar in every aspect of their lives. The article, “Lethal Sounds” explains more fully what marine mammals use sonar for, as well as the effects that the Navy’s sonar has on these animals. According to the article, dolphins and whales use sonar for communication between individuals and whole pods. They use sonar to find and track food, find a mate and to navigate their way through the ocean.
Man-made sonar completely interferes with these behaviors. The sonar used by the Navy is “thousands of times more powerful than a jet engine.” This blast of sound waves is shown to cause bleeding around the brain, ruptured eardrums and a complete change of behavior. Sonar used by the Navy is “a hundred times more intense than the level known to alter the behavior of large whales.”
Altered behavior can lead to self-beaching, the most obvious sign that sonar kills. The Navy is willing to use technology that may cause these detrimental events. For some species like the Right Whale, these effects could be irreversible, as they are already an endangered species.
The oceans seem very large. It can be hard imagining that anything the Navy might do in isolated locations could be so overwhelmingly hurtful to so many forms of ocean life. But it will. Though the ocean is large, sound travels far, and the Navy’s blast will be felt across long expanses of that watery world. Thirty-three million lives and unpredictable habitat destruction is not worth these tests. The Navy needs a new plan that keeps everyone’s well-being in mind.
If you are for the marine mammals, and agree that a new plan needs to be made, you can have your voice heard as well. The NRDC website offers a layout for you to write your opinions and send them to the Navy, in hopes that if enough public opposition is heard, the Navy will reassess their plan. Click here to voice your own opinion.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Katrina Winograd at Katrina.firstname.lastname@example.org