The United States Navy is working on a plan to test weapons in Puget Sound, Washington. Because of concerns over orca whales and other marine life in the area, state officials are asking the Navy to modify the program. Marine mammals, like orca whales, are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

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Source: Air Force Test Center

Multiple weapons will be tested over a 7 year period by the navy, including one that can travel at 7 times the speed of sound, according to the Seattle Times. Washington’s governor, attorney general, and state agencies oppose the plans and have noted that the exercises would affect local mammals’ “hunting, feeding, socializing, and breeding.”

The Navy’s Northwest Training Range Complex runs along the Washington, Oregon, and California coasts for 250 miles. Marine mammals including sperm whales, sei whales, humpback whales, blue whales, sea otters, fin whales, and sea lions all live along the range.

Experts are concerned over the small population of orcas in the area waters currently. Only 72 orcas make up the resident population, the lowest level in 40 years. Deborah Giles, science director and research director for the nonprofit Wild Orca, said of the Navy’s plans, “The potential for harm is too great to wager on such a small population of animals. The thing that is just crazy is NOAA has designated these one of the most critically endangered animals, and for them to say these activities have negligible impact, something is not right and the public needs to know that.”

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