The U.S. Navy’s plan to conduct war games in the Gulf of Alaska in May has locals and environmentalists freaking out, and for good reason. Military data shows the Northern Edge 2017 exercises will severely pollute the pristine waters, and kill more than 180,000 marine mammals. Among the most worrisome potential casualties is the North Pacific Right Whale, which is on the brink of extinction.
According to NOAA, there are only about 25-30 North Pacific Right Whales left in the world, and are one of the most endangered marine mammals on the planet. In this year’s survey, none were found in the Gulf of Alaska, according to WhaleTales’ tweet. And that’s not a good sign.
By the time the U.S. Navy is done shooting torpedoes, missiles, and live ordnance bombs in the Gulf of Alaska, the North Pacific Right Whales could be wiped out. And they are not the only potential casualties of the scheduled military exercises. Dolphins, sea lions, fish, and other whale species will be innocent victims of these war games.
According to Truth Out, the Navy’s own estimates indicate that the damage to marine life will be devastating.
There will be more than 182,000 “takes” — direct deaths of marine mammals or disruptions of their essential behaviors like breeding, nursing, or surfacing.
A partial list of affected species includes blue, fin, gray, humpback, minke, sei, sperm, and killer whales, the highly endangered North Pacific right whale… as well as dolphins and sea lions.
The report further adds that toxic pollution will be dumped into the waters.
The Navy’s own EIS claims that fish in the area are at risk of chemical exposures of various sorts because the war games will introduce chromium, lead, tungsten, nickel, cadmium, cyanide, and ammonium perchlorate, along with numerous other heavy metals and toxic substances, into Alaskan waters… “potential effects” include “death or damage” and that “fish not killed or driven from a location by an explosion might change their behavior, feeding pattern, or distribution.”
Some protests have been reported, but the Navy does not appear to be willing to change their plans.
The Northern Edge 2017 war games are scheduled to run May 1-12, as part of a regular training schedule that runs every two years.
Local commercial fisherman say the timing of Northern Edge 2017 is what they object to most, since it’s scheduled just two weeks before Copper River salmon make their runs. Alaska News reports,
Nobody has asked the Navy to stop. We’re just saying change the time. That’s a pretty moderate request on behalf of people who make their living and feed their families and fill their freezers with fish,” said Emily Stolarcyk, program manager for the Eyak Preservation Council, a Cordova environmental group.
In a weak, and mostly symbolic effort to pander to the fishing industry, the Cordova Times reports, “Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-AK, has asked the Navy to give serious thought to conducting the Gulf component of Northern Edge 2019 in the fall.”
But that does nothing to stop the destruction this year, nor does it call for an end to using pristine wildlife refuges and the food supply sources of Native Americans for military target practice.
Whether or not the dates are changed, tens of thousands of marine mammals will die in the Navy’s war games in the Gulf of Alaska. If the remaining Pacific Right whale population is among the casualties, it will only prove something we should already know. The U.S. government has made it pretty clear that as far as they’re concerned, destroying life takes priority over caring about it.
Have your voice heard. Call the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121
Afterlife: The Journey Of A Dog’s Spirit is a heartwarming story told through the eyes of an animal spirit that has been sent back to earth in the body of a small dog. His mission is to help a young woman discover that their destinies are more connected to the powers of the Spirit World than either of them ever imagined. If you’ve ever shared your life with a dog or any other pet, you’ll never look at them the same way again after reading this book. Available now on Amazon.com