Navy to limit sonar, explosions in more areas off East Coast to protect endangered whales

The Navy is expanding its mitigation areas off the East Coast for the endangered right whale.

The Navy is expanding the area it limits the use of sonar and explosives off the East Coast as part of an effort to help protect the endangered North Atlantic right whale.

The whales were nearly hunted into extinction by the 1890s and today there are only about 450 left, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service.

While the biggest modern day threats to the whales are entanglement in fishing gear and direct strikes from vessels, underwater noise pollution can interfere with their communication and affect their behavior, the fisheries service said.

The large black whales travel between New England in the warm months to feed and mate and south to Florida to have their offspring in winter. They're recognizable by their lack of a dorsal fin, broad tails and raised patches of rough skin on their heads. Occasionally, they roam in the same areas that submarines, warships and helicopters that use sonar or deploy torpedoes or other explosives train and operate in.

To comply with federal laws protecting marine mammals and endangered species, the Navy works with the fisheries service to reduce its impacts through mitigation areas. In the northeast, the mitigation area is expanding to include the right whale's entire critical habitat area to limit the use of sonar and explosives. Read full article.