So about 50 vessels representing 45 nations (including ours!) are right now playing war in the waters around Hawaii and southern California. Known as RIMPAC, it’s the largest naval exercise in the world, and runs for about six weeks during every even-numbered year (it’s also when the aliens struck in the 2012 movie Battleship!). The exercises will include the live-firing of various anti-ship missiles, as well as the sinking of two retired vessels.
Long controversial for the damage that all that active sonar inflicts on marine mammals, this year’s exercises are supposed to be quieter, under the terms of a settlement agreed on back in September 2015 between the U.S. Navy, which hosts the exercises, and a group of environmental organizations including Earthjustice and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
“We challenged the Navy’s plan because it would have unnecessarily harmed whales, dolphins, and endangered marine mammals, with the Navy itself estimating that more than 2,000 animals would be killed or permanently injured,” Earthjustice David Henkin said in a Sept. 14, 2015 statement by that organization. “By agreeing to this settlement, the Navy acknowledges that it doesn’t need to train in every square inch of the ocean and that it can take reasonable steps to reduce the deadly toll of its activities.”
Though that settlement is great, Earthjustice still wants the exercises to end entirely.
“The Navy itself estimates that training off the coasts of Hawai‘i and Southern California could result in the deaths of as many as 155 marine mammals and the permanent injury of more than 2,000 more [sic] over a five-year period,” states an Earthjustice news release sent out on June 30 of this year. “The Navy should cease these activities in sensitive marine mammal habitat. Sonar and explosions from these activities can seriously impair the hearing of whales, dolphins and other mammals, threatening their ability to survive. Reasonable steps can be taken to reduce the deadly toll of these impacts.”
Photo of Amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6), Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Yukon (T-AO 202) and Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Howard (DDG 83) during RIMPAC 2016: Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Joseph M. Buliavac/US Navy