Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Right whales face challenges in Florida waters

U.S. Navy exercises and the resulting concern for marine animals isn't new. Usually, you hear about sonar possibly causing marine mammals like dolphins and whales to beach themselves despite the Navy's insistence sonar doesn't do any harm.

Navy exercises off Florida's eastern coast and in the Gulf of Mexico, which are close to being approved by the National Marine Fisheries Service, could cause two million deaths of marine mammals each year, according to the current issue of Right Whale News, a newsletter produced by the North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium. That number is the Navy's own estimate, according to the article.

Right whale proponents are alarmed because an undersea warfare training site could be located off Jacksonville -- key calving grounds for the North Atlantic right whale, which numbers only in the hundreds. And considering a record number of the whales have been entangled this winter (calving season) off the Florida and Georgia coasts where the whales give birth, according to The Boston Globe, this is even more bad news for the highly endangered species.

The Right Whale News article reported, "The Navy has rejected a long list of mitigation measures that could reduce the harmful impacts of its sonar training, including seasonal restrictions during the right whale calving period and geographic exclusions of the right whale calving ground." See the article for more details.

Image from North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium site

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