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Climate and Environment

After Deaths Of Two Whales Off SoCal Coast, Navy Agrees To Review Training Exercises

The top of a fin whale breaks the surface of the water with a sail boat in the background.
FILE: A fin whale rises to the surface off of Long Beach in 2012. A mother fin whale and calf were found dead under a destroyer earlier this year after a Navy training exercise.
(David McNew
/
Getty Images)
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The U.S. Navy has agreed to review how their training exercises impact on endangered whales that live off the coasts of Southern California and Hawaii. The decision comes after two dead fin whales, a mother and calf, were found stuck to the hull of an Australian destroyer in May. That ship was conducting joint training with the U.S. Navy off San Diego.

In response, the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental advocacy group, told the Navy they planned to sue. The federal government has recorded a few dozen whale strikes off the California coast from 2018 to 2020, but scientists believe that's an undercount.

Kristen Monsell, a lawyer for the group, says the Navy should also consider how its specialized technology can harm marine animals in other ways.

"The explosions and sonar used in their activities are incredibly harmful to marine mammals," she said. "These animals rely on hearing for essential behaviors like feeding and breeding and if they can't hear, they can't survive."

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Monsell says she's encouraged by the Navy's decision to evaluate these activities, and hopes it leads to changes like slower ship speeds and restrictions on sonar and explosives.

Naval training exercises have been protested for years by environmental groups who point out that even under current agreements, the Navy concedes that thousands of injuries to marine mammals are likely to occur each year.

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