The U.S. Navy has agreed to reduce its use of sonar and explosives testing, which some experts say can harm whales and dolphins in Hawaii and California.
The Navy reached a deal with environmental groups which was signed by a federal judge in Honolulu on Monday, reports the BBC.
Under the agreement, the Navy will restrict or end the use of mid-frequency active sonar and explosives during training exercises in established whale and dolphin habitats near Santa Catalina and San Diego. Navy explosives training will be banned or restricted near the Hawaiian islands of Maui and Big Island.
The deal also establishes that future whale and dolphins injuries and deaths will be investigated by the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Activists have campaigned against military sonar and explosive use for years, saying it can confuse and injure the marine mammals or even lead to their deaths. Mass strandings of whales are often attributed to being caused by sonar, while explosive testing was blamed for the deaths of four dolphins in San Diego four years ago.
The nonprofit law organization Earthjustice and other environmental groups involved in the deal say they are hopeful the new agreement will help reduce death and injuries to the marine mammals. It also will also resolve several legal cases brought against the fisheries services for allowing military training.
Lt Cmdr Matt Knight, a U.S. Pacific Fleet spokesman, said the deal would not affect the required training and testing needed by the U.S. Navy.
“Recognizing our environmental responsibilities, the Navy has been, and will continue to be, good environmental stewards as we prepare for and conduct missions in support of our national security,” Knight said.