After two dead fin whales were removed from the hull of the HMAS Sydney, an Australian destroyer conducting exercises off the coast of San Diego, Calif. on May 8, U.S. Navy officials emphasized that the service takes protective measures to mitigate environmental risks, according to Military.com.
Officials linked the Sydney to the death of the whales when it berthed in San Diego. The incident is under joint review by U.S. and Australian agencies.
“Whenever the U.S. Navy trains and/or tests, it employs protective measures that have been developed in coordination with NOAA Fisheries," a spokesman for U.S. Pacific Fleet told Military.com. “Those measures include using qualified lookouts; reducing power or halting active sonar transmissions when marine mammals get within a predetermined safety range; establishing safety zones around detonations; and maneuvering vessels to avoid marine mammals/endangered species.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration attempts to prevent vessel strikes with marine life by establishing speed restrictions and tracking vessel strikes through carcass examinations with the Marine Mammal Stranding Network.
Military.com reported that Navy officials made a statement in the days immediately following the incident: “The Navy takes marine mammal safety seriously and is disheartened this incident occurred.”
The Center for Biological Diversity announced it may sue the U.S. Navy and the National Marine Fisheries Service for what it called “violations” of the Endangered Species Act following to the incident.
The Navy attaches long-term satellite tags to fin whales to study their movement patterns and help reduce the risk of vessel strikes, according to the Navy’s Hawaii-Southern California Training and Testing.
In addition to its own mitigation measures, the Navy utilizes the Early Warning System in various parts of the country to reduce ship strikes on whales.
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