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Navy agrees to restrict sea training to protect marine life

The settlement ends litigation begun in 2013.

By Ed Adamczyk
Navy agrees to restrict sea training to protect marine life
The U.S. Navy agreed to a settlement protecting aquatic mammals by restricting offshore training in California and Hawaii. File photo by Aaron Kehoe/UPI | License Photo

HONOLULU, Sept. 15 (UPI) -- The U.S. Navy agreed to restrictions on use of sonar and underwater explosives tests which have disturbed marine life off the California and Hawaii coasts.

A settlement, signed in Honolulu by U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway, ends legal challenges from environmental groups, notably the National Resources Defense Council and Earthjustice, and restricts the Navy from conducting certain tests deemed harmful to marine mammals.

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The tests could be disruptive to feeding areas and migratory corridors where animals reside, Earthjustice lawyer David Henkin said.

"The fisheries service gave the green light to training that its own studies showed would cause the deaths of up to 155 whales and dolphins and other marine mammals and permanently injure more than 2,000 more. Here in Hawaii, it's all around the Hawaiian Islands with the areas that we protected through today's agreement focused on Maui County and around the Big Island," he said.

Lt. Cmdr. Matt Knight, spokesman for the U.S. Pacific Fleet, said the Navy agreed to the settlement to prevent "the real possibility that the court would stop critically important training and testing. The Navy has been, and will continue to be, good environmental stewards as we prepare for and conduct missions in support of our national security."

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Litigation, begun in 2013, focused on how many marine animals would be affected by the tests. In the settlement Monday, Mollway ruled the Navy significantly underestimated the threat.

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