Contrary to Hyped Reports, the Navy Isn’t Out To Kill Whales and Dolphins

Did you see all of the posts on Facebook, tweets on Twitter, and blog posts around the Internet screaming that the Navy wants to kill or deafen thousands of whales and dolphins?

The petition reads, “Stop the killing of 1,800 whales and dolphins and the deafening of 15,900 more by ceasing the operation of the Navy’s underwater sound system in the Hawaiian Islands, the California and Atlantic Coasts, and the Gulf of Mexico.”

It has already been signed by 458,000 people, but it is wrong, wrong, wrong.
I spent three days reading through the 3,414 pages of Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) from the U.S. Navy and found that what the well-intentioned environmentalists are signing has been so blown out of proportion that it has more in common with a Cold War scare tactic than with scientific truth.

The petition creator, Lyndia Storey, and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) are unable or unwilling to refer to the specific pages that support those numbers.

If I told you that Jesus said all redheads will go to heaven, for example, shouldn’t I be able to point to the verse in the Bible where that was stated? It’s not there. Neither is this.

The reports say that over a five-year period 13,330 mammals could have hearing injuries akin to a human going to a loud rock concert and 60 beached whales could die from Navy sonar. This would only be true if the military takes no preventative measures — something they are already doing.

Before you start screaming about even those massively lower numbers be aware that they have been exaggerated to present an absolute worst-case projection. The report deliberately states higher than possible numbers in order to protect the Navy, which has been sued dozens of times by environmentalists.

In fact the Navy says that according to its studies no animals will be killed from sonar. No whale has died, they say, since 2008 when the Navy had to operate under a National Marine Fisheries permit, the terms of which the Navy will continue.

The thought of any dolphins or whales dying needlessly upsets me. Ships in the sea kill animals. Cargo and passenger ships kill as many as nine whales a year, according to the Whale Strike Database. Navy ships and sonar defense can also cause some deaths, but how do you measure that against national security?

I love nature and consider myself an environmentalist. I care about whales and dolphins and have contributed money to these causes in the past particularly the NRDC, based in San Francisco, which focuses time and money on protecting marine life.

The NRDC successfully and rightfully sued the Navy winning or settling in 20032006, and 2008 to stop or limit the use of powerful sonar which could have killed sea mammals along the whole West Coast.

The Navy uses sonar, an acronym for SOund NAvigation and Ranging, for searching out enemy submarines and mines, like in the movies  Das Boot, The Hunt For Red October  and Crimson Tide. Don’t think those hunts are just fictional. They are being done today just as they were during the Cold War and China has recently upped their military spending to over $100 billion while launching new, possibly silent submarines. They aren’t building them for pleasure cruises.

According to the New York Times, “China has a fleet of diesel-electric attack submarines, which can operate quietly and effectively in waters near China’s shore to threaten foreign warships.”

Early sonar did in fact kill dolphins and whales because it was too powerful, cast too wide a net and was used too close to shore. Now the Navy only uses certain types of sonar at specific times within 12 nautical miles of shore.

On top of that, in a move that might surprise petition signers, the Navy has used ships and planes to scout out larger whales and even dolphins to make sure the movable sonar was shut off when they were nearby. The Navy’s future plan is to cast the submarine-listening sonar net from only four ships around the world in shorter blasts that will have less possible effect on marine life.

In the past year there have been no sea mammal deaths directly attributable to Naval war exercises and drills. Zero.

So the numbers are nowhere near what the petition claims. And the real numbers never even take into consideration the vast methods employed by dedicated lookout personnel and other people watching on ships and aircraft.

What does the NRDC have to say about all of this? Jessica Lass, NRDC Senior Press Secretary, upped her figures in an email exchange saying that the Navy will cause “…more than 15,000 instances of permanent hearing loss, almost 9,000 lung injuries, and more than 1,800 deaths from the use of sonar and explosives.”

Explosives? Those weren’t mentioned in the petition.

When pressed for where in the thousands of pages specifically these numbers are derived the response was, “You can read the Navy’s reports here: and .” Those two websites simply contain the thousands of pages of EIS reports without ever pointing to the locations in those pages to support the claims.

Shouldn’t we expect better from non-profit organizations?

The NRDC is not supposed to be a political organization but one, according to its own website, that is “…the nation’s most effective environmental action group, combining the grassroots power of 1.3 million members and online activists with the courtroom clout and expertise of more than 350 lawyers, scientists and other professionals.”

Unfortunately what is being presented in this fast-breeding petition is yet another example of politics driven by fear.

Keep vigilant on protecting the environment. Protect our mammals of the sea. Keep watch on the military as Samuel Adams advised in 1768.

“Even when there is a necessity of the military power within a land,” he said. “A wise and prudent people will always have a watchful and jealous eye over it.”

But don’t let fear-mongering take over and dilute legitimate issues.

EDIT – Since the original article was written, more scientists have come out in defense of the United States Navy in face of the onslaught of lies from the environmentalists. Read an excellent analysis by a range of scientists called, “Research Matter U.S. Navy & Marine Mammals: Avoiding Scientific Gaffes in Journalism

(Dead sea lion washed ashore on the Monterey Bay, California)
(Dead sea lion washed ashore on the Monterey Bay, California)

Shooting Exposes Societal Problems



When I first heard the news from Aurora, Colorado about the shooting in the movie theater my heart sank and I thought about the Columbine High School shooting in April, 1999. But then the realization set in that the setting was a midnight showing at a movie theater and people were talking about children.

The tragedy of the Colorado shooting extends beyond the senseless deaths, the wounded bodies, the grieving families, shocked community, and stunned nation. This twisted, evil, remorseless individual’s actions have brought certain broken parts of our society to the fore.

This shooting exposes societal problems.

A self-centered focus on pleasure without responsibility has taken over along with a seemingly insatiable desire to indulge dark imagery.

Parents brought their children to a midnight showing of a frightfully violent film.  Children.  Why?

The answer, from any angle, is pure selfishness.  Perhaps the babysitter was a no-show. Cancel my plans to be the first to see the new Batman?  No way.  Maybe the child begged to come along.  Say no to the persistent nagging?  Set boundaries?  Too difficult.

One of the victims of the shooting, according to the Associated Press, was 6 year-old Veronica Moser-Sullivan. Her mother, Ashley Moser, was wounded. Many of the videos and articles interviewing witnesses describe small children in the theater.

One mother defended bringing her four year old and four month old to the movie reasoning that they would simply fall asleep. This is not just selfish but shows incredibly poor judgement. In this case tragically so.

Isn’t it a given that a good night’s sleep, attempts to preserve hearing, and shielding from violent imagery are all key in a child’s development? Apparently not.

We now know that sleep during childhood is nearly, if not equally, as important as nutrition – during sleep is when their little brains are developing. Taking a small child to a middle of the night showing of any movie deprives that child of the quality sleep the brain requires.

The sound volumes in the digital age have crept up over the years.  The standard sound level in movie theaters is 85 decibels and go as high as 110 decibels! According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology sound levels above 85 decibels can cause permanent hearing loss.

If sleep deprivation and hearing loss weren’t enough, the violence in The Dark Knight Rises is astounding. There is significant evidence that early childhood exposure to violence leads to behavioral problems soon after and continuing on in the child’s life. Studies show that this exposure to violence leads to poor social and academic life.

Parents bringing their children to midnight showings of violent movies not only deprive their children of full and proper brain development, they might be causing permanent hearing loss, and reducing life opportunities through the exposure to violence.

Now is the time for our society to reflect on these selfish behaviors that damage children’s futures. It ought to be entirely socially unacceptable for children attending midnight showings of violent movies.

Remember that children really are the future. What do we want that future to look like?