PEARL HARBOR –
The Navy is disappointed with EarthJustice's decision to pursue litigation against critical training activities in Hawaiian waters, the deputy commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet said.
"These fleet training activities are essential to the Navy's ability to ensure our nation's armed forces are fully combat ready and adequately trained according to established, time-tested standards," said Rear Adm. John M. Bird.
The suit, filed May 16 by EarthJustice on behalf of five non-government organizations, asks the court to prohibit naval sonar exercises near Hawaii, saying that sonar can have a negative impact on marine mammals.
But such exercises have already taken place in Hawaiian waters with no problems.
"Since January the Navy has conducted two undersea warfare exercises, incorporating mid-frequency active sonar, with no issues," said Capt. Scott Gureck, Pacific Fleet public affairs officer. "We take steps to identify and avoid marine mammals during training, and we are complying with all laws that protect marine mammals throughout the Hawaiian Islands-the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act."
As part of the process of protecting marine mammals that inhabit Hawaii's waters, the Navy coordinated closely with the National Marine Fisheries Service to identify the mitigation measures in place during these exercises, Gureck noted.
The Navy complies with all applicable statutes, regulations and executive orders and strives to protect the environment, prevent pollution and protect natural, historic and cultural resources. Navy policy requires that major fleet exercises be reviewed for environmental compliance and for potential effect on marine mammals and other marine life.
The Navy has developed and implemented procedures based on the best available science throughout the fleet that are designed to help individual ship commanders maintain readiness and protect the environment during routine training and exercises by identifying and employing appropriate protective measures for sensitive marine resources. These measures provide environmental situational awareness as well as specific operating procedures based on place, date and type of training event.
"As a Navy, we live on and in the sea," Bird said. "We take our responsibility for protecting the oceans and marine life very seriously and have committed resources and a significant amount of effort to that end. We are also committed to provide safe, realistic, and meaningful training."