Whales Should Not Have to Suffer and Die for Military Practice

The U.S. Navy has new plans for testing and training exercises with sonar and explosives -- and those plans spell disaster for whales.

If the Navy proceeds, more than 1,000 whales and other marine mammals could be killed over the next five years. There will be 5,000 cases of serious injury such as permanent hearing loss or lung damage, as well as tens of millions of incidents in which marine mammals are harassed or harmed.

I have no reason to doubt these alarming numbers. They come from the Navy itself.

The sheer scope of the Navy's plan is staggering. The Navy would detonate more than 50,000 underwater explosives each year off the coast of Southern California alone. Hundreds of these explosives pack enough charge to sink a warship, which is exactly what they're used for. And the Navy's use of mid-frequency sonar would bombard whales with noise up to 236 decibels -- noise so intense it can actually cause their internal organs to hemorrhage. Hundreds of whales around the world have already stranded after getting blasted with this kind of sonar. Many have died.

For years, the Navy denied that sonar was responsible. Now, it admits that sonar can take a terrible toll on whales. Its own projections for injured and dead animals have soared.

So it's all the more distressing that the Navy refuses to put common-sense precautions in place that could protect whales during routine training -- especially since taking such steps would in no way compromise our military readiness. For example, the Navy could avoid key habitats where whales are known to migrate and raise their young.

Time is of the essence. Once the Navy's plan goes into effect, it will take a terrible and mounting toll on marine mammals for five long years. Now is the time for concerned citizens to come to their defense. I'm working alongside NRDC, the Natural Resources Defense Council, to challenge the Navy's reckless plan for training with sonar and explosives. Our message is simple: Whales should not have to suffer or die for military practice.

Please help save whales from this senseless assault by signing a Petition to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. Ask him to direct the Navy to put safeguards in place right away that will protect whales without sacrificing national security.