Hundreds of Marine Animals Could Become Deaf Due to US Air Force Bomb Testing

Animals, Ecology and Environment, Military

US Air Force bomb testing will disrupt the lives of hundreds of marine animals if the practice goes ahead. The testing of bombs around the waters just off the coast of Kauai, in Hawaii, could seriously affect the health of a number of different marine species that live in the area. If the tests are approved, they would begin in September 2017 and continue all the way through until August 2022. Michael Jasny, a leading expert in the law and policy of ocean noise pollution and director of the Marine Mammal Protection Project for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), told The Dodo, “The Air Force has proposed dropping about 100 bombs per year, some as large as 300 pounds, on waters north of Kauai. It says it will keep whales and dolphins out of harm’s way by looking for them on the surface, but that’s no easy task in the heavy waters around the islands.”

Recent reports from The Dodo have claimed that the Long Range Strike Weapons Systems Evaluation Program would explode bombs and missiles that are being tested for military use above or just below the surface of the water. If this takes place, it could permanently deafen an estimated 36 animals, according to data on the population density of the area issued by the Air Force. Along with these statistics, a further 382 animals could also sustain temporary hearing loss due to the bomb explosions. The threat of hearing hindering is of particular concern for whales and dolphins as they navigate and communicate by sound, using their sense of hearing. Therefore the explosions could severely impact their behavioural patterns, meaning that the way that the animals breed, migrate, eat and nurse their young could all be disrupted.

An array of wildlife organisations including the NRDC, the Animal Welfare Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Conservation Council for HawaiiEarthjustice and the Ocean Mammal Institute sent a joint letter to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), which is the agency that is in charge of approving the explosion testing proposal. The letter urges the government to consider the huge impact that the bombing could have on the marine animals that live in the area, taking the animal’s safety into account. Jasny continued by commenting on alternatives that the Air Force should consider if the bombing tests cannot be entirely shut down. He said,

“At the very least, the Air Force should use the Navy’s network of hydrophones (or underwater microphones) to help detect these vulnerable species around its bomb site. And it should keep to the northern end of the training area, where the islands’ resident whales and dolphins are less likely to go. Otherwise, the Air Force would be taking unnecessary risks in one of the most remarkable spots for marine mammals on the planet.”

Although the public comment period on this proposal has now finished, the NMFS can still be contacted on the matter through this [email protected] In addition to this, you can add your name here to speak up for the animals that cannot defend themselves and risk being seriously implicated by the acts of the US Air Force.

(b Jessica Murray for TrueActivist)

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