Hawaii folks aren't the only ones unhappy with the Navy conducting war games in their local waters.
Fishermen are also protesting the Navy's plans to use sonar and live ordnance in training exercises in the Gulf of Alaska. Some 6,000 to 14,000 military personnel from the U.S. and allied nations are expected to converge on the Gulf for the “Northern Edge” training exercises between June 15-29.
The Cordova Times reports James Mykland, a Prince William Sound Area E commercial fisherman, as saying:
The harm and long-lasting detrimental effects to millions of salmon and marine species by the U.S. Navy exploding bombs, shooting missiles and deploying sonar buoys in the Gulf of Alaska is not worth whatever ultimate goal the Navy is striving for. Our oceans cannot be healthy if we keep dumping toxic chemicals into them. Tell the U.S. Navy they are not welcome in the Gulf of Alaska.
Though the Navy has been training in Alaska for more than 30 years, the Eyak Preservation Council says the upcoming Northern Edge exercises are significantly more intense than any conducted before, with “a 6,500 percent increase in sonobuoys, a 200 percent increase in bombs and missile, and the potential to leave more than 352,000 lbs. of expended and hazardous materials in the Gulf of Alaska.”
The Council contends “the Navy's exercises would affect state Marine Protected Areas, NOAA Fisheries protected areas and essential fish habitat, taking place during the most prolific breeding and migratory periods of the marine-supported life in the region.”
Just like in Hawaii, the Navy cites a need to maintain “fleet readiness.” Its supplemental EIS contends that “very few injuries and no mortalities [are] expected or predicted” among marine mammals, and offers this rationale:
Compared to the potential mortality, stranding, and injury resulting from commercial ship strikes, bycatch, entanglement, ocean pollution and other human causes, the maximum of three potential predicted injuries (a permanent loss of hearing sensitivity) to Dall’s porpoises will have no measurable population‐level effects.
As in, yeah, maybe we're bad, but others are worse. It's the same argument raised repeatedly in the comment section of this blog to justify all sorts of behavior and activities.
The Alaska fishermen protest brought to mind a letter from Steve McMacken in The Garden Island yesterday, supporting the expansion of the humpback whale sanctuary to protect whales from Navy sonar and other military activities.
But what Steve and others apparently don't realize is the Navy is routinely exempted from such designations. As I reported in the Honolulu Weekly back in 2008, the Navy is still free to use the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and surrounding waters, even though it's been declared a national monument:
Military activities that could be conducted within the monument include shooting down aerial targets and using high- and mid-intensity sonar, which has been linked to death and stranding in whales and other marine mammals.
Capt. Dean Leech, environmental counsel for the U.S. Pacific Fleet, says the Navy wants to operate in the monument, which lies within the Hawai’i Range Complex, “because when these guys are training, they need a lot of space.” And they can’t train outside the monument’s boundaries, he says, because the Navy often is “integrating a number of exercises simultaneously” within the Range that must be proximate to one another.
Capt. Leech says that while the Navy is allowed to conduct sonar activities within the monument, “I don’t foresee guys going up there much, if at all,” because most of the acoustic monitoring devices are placed on the ocean floor off the west coast of Kaua’i.
Navy activities that likely will be conducted within the monument, according to Leech, include “sink exercises,” in which old boats and other unmanned craft are destroyed with missiles or torpedoes, and using missiles launched from Kaua’i to shoot down targets over Nihoa and Necker (also known as Mokumanamana).
It seems that no place is safe from the long reach of the Navy.
And that brought to mind a video clip that a friend sent over this morning, in one of those intriguing instances of serendipity: "It's just a ride….and we can change it any time we want."