Don’t Let Navy Technology Harm Marine Life

orca whales

Target: Dr. Kathryn D. Sullivan, NOAA Administrator

Goal: Prevent the release of 720 sonobuoys that may have adverse effects on endangered marine life.

The coasts of Washington, Oregon, and Northern California will soon be home to 720 sonobuoys that confuse and harm marine animals with constant sound waves if the U.S. Navy gets its way. These buoys are used to send out sonar signals that the Navy can use to practice detecting submarines. Unfortunately, noise from these buoys is also believed to have harmful effects on marine life, including the endangered humpback, blue, and orca whales that live in these areas. Animal rights activists are asking the Navy to consider the adverse affects of this technology and whether all of the buoys need to be active all of the time.

With climate change, ocean acidification, overfishing, and a variety of other causes, the whale populations of the Pacific Northwest are in serious danger. Human activity has significantly impacted the ability of marine life to thrive, and allowing the Navy to have all these buoys running at the same time could confuse, disturb, and potentially hurt animals that rely on sound for communication.

To start this program, the Navy would need to renew its permit with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which expires this year. This permit is a requirement of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which is intended to protect marine life from disruptive activities such as explosives and sonar. Ask the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to reject this renewal unless precautions are taken to ensure the technology will not harm marine life in the Pacific Northwest—many populations are already failing, and it’s time to take action.


Dear Dr. Sullivan,

The Navy is seeking to renew its five-year permit to place 720 sonobuoys in the Pacific Northwest. These buoys, which use sonar to allow the Navy to practice detecting submarines, can have an adverse affect on marine life by confusing, disorienting, and potentially hurting them, particularly the ones that rely on sound for communication.

The Pacific Northwest is home to several endangered marine species, including humpback, blue, and orca whales. These animals are already under threat from many sources, and to add another could have catastrophic effects. Animals like these help manage the food chain by consuming animals that could overpopulate and destroy the ecosystem. The loss of these animals would mean significant, destructive effects on marine life, many of which we may be unable to recover from.

While animal rights activists would prefer these sonobuoys not be used at all, if they must be used then their environmental impact should be evaluated. The Navy likely doesn’t need all 720 buoys running at one time, and 720 may be more than they really need. Being conscious of the environmental impact of these sonobuoys will encourage the Navy to use only what is necessary for their training exercises and minimize harm to the environment.

Please don’t renew the permit unless the environmental impact of these sonobuoys is fully understood, and the Navy agrees to only use the technology when necessary.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Kurzon via Wikimedia Commons

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