Over the past couple of years the Obama Administration has demonstrated great international leadership on the conservation of whales. This includes the US supporting the creation of the South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary at the last International Whaling Commission meeting, President Obama imposing diplomatic sanctions on Iceland for their commercial hunting of endangered fin whales and numerous other conservation initiatives. However here at home it’s a very different story with the Obama administration supporting multiple activities that will result in the harm to millions of whales and dolphins.
You might be thinking the Endangered Species Act and our Marine Mammal Protection Act should protect whales and dolphins allowing them to live safely in US waters? It should, but a common realization within the environmental movement is that legislative expectations and reality can be quite distant. The Obama administration is giving a free pass to both our Navy for their sonar use and training exercises using explosives and the oil and gas industry for seismic testing in their search for offshore oil and gas. Both of these activities will result in the injury or death of massive numbers of whales and dolphins.
Along the entire East Coast and in Hawaii, Southern California, and the Gulf of Mexico, the Navy will be testing sonar and explosive devices. The devices are so deafening, they cause whales to abandon their normal feeding grounds and migration patterns. The Navy’s own report states that over 40 marine mammal species will be impacted, including the endangered humpback whale and the blue whale.
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is responsible for the protection of these marine mammals, but instead of tossing out the Navy’s reckless training plan, it is about to give the Navy the green light. We can get NMFS to block the Navy’s dangerous proposal, but we have to work fast. NMFS is gathering public comments on the Navy’s plan, and it won’t say no to the Navy unless they feel public outrage.
Now and during the coming months we will have multiple opportunities throughout the permitting process to let President Obama and our government agencies know that Americans strongly oppose any activities that will harm whales and dolphins, and that we believe in our wildlife protection laws. These laws should be strengthened not circumvented for oil we don’t need or naval activities that can be in ways that don’t harm whales and dolphins.
Will we wait until the whales wash up on our beaches or will we forge a global energy policy that prioritizes clean energy sources over oil and gas, safeguards our coasts and wildlife and reduces the impact of climate change?
It’s up to us to make it happen.