The war “games” run from June 15 – June 26, 2015.
War Games Set to Begin Today in the Pristine Gulf of Alaska
by Sonia Luokkala – June 15, 2015
Earth Island Journal
As the Navy unleashes 6,000 personnel for training exercises, local communities protest impacts on wildlife and fisheries
Today the US Navy plans to unleash 6,000 sailors, soldiers, airmen, Marines and Coast Guard members along with three Navy Destroyers, 200 aircrafts, untold weaponry, and a submarine to converge in war games in the Gulf of Alaska. The training exercises are scheduled to continue through June 26.
The Navy’s choice of the Gulf of Alaska – one of the most pristine places left on Earth, and at the peak of migration and breeding periods of marine life – has left locals baffled and upset.
In the last month, protests have been held in Cordova, Kodiak, and Homer, Alaska. Emily Stolarcyk, a program manager with the Eyak Preservation Council, an environmental and social change organization based in Cordova, says local communities have never before united in such a way, pointing to the 100-plus fishing vessels that joined the protest against the Navy.
“It was incredible to see the commercial fleet turnout and unite like that with tons of support from people on shore as well,” she says.
Regional tribal villages have also been vocal in their opposition, worried that the Navy’s trainings could affect their subsistence foods. Several tribes have passed resolutions opposing the trainings and others are requesting formal government-to-government consultations regarding the plans. Local people are also concerned about the possible impacts on marine life.
According to Stolarcyk, the Navy has not been receptive to these concerns. “The Navy is refusing to negotiate at all with local communities,” she says.
The Navy has conducted Northern Edge training exercises in Alaska every two years since 1994. In 2011, the Navy expanded the scope of their training exercises and the use of the highly controversial low-frequency active sonar was authorized for the first time. The 2013 training was cancelled due to the federal government’s budget crisis.
The Gulf of Alaska training area includes more than 42,000 nautical miles of surface and subsurface waters. The area of impact spans more than 8,429 nautical miles, including Alaskan Marine Protected Areas and NOAA designated Fisheries Protected Areas
Residents of Homer, Alaska have been vocal in their opposition to the Navy’s war games in the Gulf of Alaska.
The pristine waters of the Gulf of Alaska provide critical habitat for over 383 species of marine life. Its nutrient-rich waters call forth as many as 20 different species of whales every summer, including three different species of elusive beaked whales that are especially sensitive to the effects of the Navy’s active sonar.
Training exercises will be carried out simultaneously with the key breeding and migratory season for marine life in the area, including five species of Pacific Salmon that return from the ocean to lay their eggs in the rivers and streams of their origin.