Navy Training and Testing Activities Imperil Marine Mammals and Sea Turtles in Waters off Hawaii and Southern California

Conservation groups’ amended complaint sues U.S. Navy, expands claims

Honolulu, HI – Today, a coalition of conservation groups, represented by Earthjustice, amended their complaint in a case filed in Hawai‘i federal court last month that challenges a 5-year plan by the U.S. Navy for testing and training activities off Hawai‘i and Southern California. The operations include active sonar and explosives, which are known to cause permanent injuries and deaths to marine mammals and sea turtles.

Read the amended complaint here:

The amended complaint adds the Navy as a defendant, claiming that the Navy and National Marine Fisheries Service violated the National Environmental Policy Act when they relied on a legally defective environmental impact statement to give the green light to the Navy’s plan, which the agencies admit will cause nearly 9.6 million instances of harm to whales, dolphins and other marine mammals – including 155 marine mammal deaths and over 2,000 permanent injuries – and will kill up to 85 critically imperiled sea turtles.

“The Navy and Fisheries Service refused to take a serious look at any alternatives that would reduce harm to marine species by placing biologically important areas off-limits to training and testing,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “An open and objective analysis of alternate ways the Navy can accomplish its mission is, however, precisely what the law requires and is the only way to prevent needless harm to vulnerable whales, dolphins, seals and turtles.”

The amended complaint further claims that, in authorizing the Navy’s training and testing, the Fisheries Service violated its legal duty under the Endangered Species Act to protect endangered whales and turtles from extinction and under the Marine Mammal Protection Act to prevent harm to marine mammal populations.

“The Fisheries Service basically issued a blank check to the Navy, allowing it to kill scores of marine mammals – including endangered whales – and critically imperiled turtles, with no meaningful limits to ensure these species will not be pushed closer to extinction,” said David Henkin of Earthjustice. “The law requires the Fisheries Service to protect these animals, not force them to play Russian roulette.”

“The Fisheries Service knows very well that the death of 17 endangered leatherback or loggerhead sea turtles would be disastrous for the survival and recovery of either species,” said Susan Millward, executive director of the Animal Welfare Institute. “But that’s precisely what they are allowing the Navy to do here.”

“The Fisheries Service is on record saying that bottlenose dolphins in the waters off Hawai‘i Island can withstand the loss of less than one animal per year due to human activities,” said Dr. Marsha Green, Ocean Mammal Institute’s president. “They then turn around and hand out a permit that lets the Navy kill nearly ten times that number. It’s completely unacceptable.”

“We are not asking the Navy to stop all training,” explained Conservation Council for Hawai‘i’s Marjorie Ziegler. “We’re simply asking the Navy and Fisheries Service to live up to their legal responsibilities and avoid needless harm to whales, dolphins and turtles.”

The original lawsuit was filed on December 16, 2013. Earthjustice represents Conservation Council for Hawai‘i, the Animal Welfare Institute, Center for Biological Diversity and Ocean Mammal Institute in this matter.

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Susan Millward, Animal Welfare Institute, 202-337-2332
David Henkin, Earthjustice, 808-599-2436 x6614
Marjorie Ziegler, Conservation Council for Hawai‘i, 808-593-0255
Miyoko Sakashita, Center for Biological Diversity, 415-632-5308
Marsha Green,Ocean Mammal Institute, 610-670-7386


Animal Welfare Institute is a national non-profit charitable organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere – in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild. For more information, visit

Earthjustice is a non-profit, public-interest, environmental law firm. The Mid-Pacific office opened in Honolulu in 1988 as the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, and has represented dozens of environmental, native Hawaiian, and community organizations. Earthjustice is the only non-profit environmental law firm in Hawai‘i and the Mid-Pacific, and does not charge clients for its services. For more information, visit

Conservation Council for Hawai‘i is a Hawai‘i-based, non-profit environmental organization founded in 1950 to protect native Hawaiian species and ecosystems for future generations. For more information, visit

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, non-profit conservation organization with more than 625,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places. For more information, visit

Ocean Mammal Institute is a non-profit organization dedicated to doing ecologically sensitive research on cetaceans and their interactions with humans and on the protection of marine life and marine ecosystems. For more information, visit

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