WASHINGTON (CN) – The National Marine Fisheries Service is allowing the Navy to launch Coyote Supersonic Sea-skimming Target vehicles from California’s Channel Islands as part of “military readiness activities,” even though it may disturb seals and sea lions.
The service has issued regulations allowing for incidental harassment of 474 elephant seals, 467 harbor seals, and 1,606 California sea lions, over five years, under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Since the act was amended by the National Defense Authorization Act in 2004, this harassment may “cause disruption of natural behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, surfacing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering, to a point where such behavioral patterns are abandoned or significantly altered.”
The Navy believes supersonic booms, as the Coyote vehicle reaches speeds of Mach 2.5, are primarily what could cause disturbance. Two-hundred launches, at approximately 40 launches per year are expected for the stand-in for supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles.