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Kauai groups to protest RIMPAC naval exercise in Hawaii

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  • Courtesy U.S. Navy

LIHUE >> Kauai organizations are planning to protest international maritime exercises hosted by the U.S. Navy this summer.

A coalition called Oceans 4 Peace says it will educate the public on the dangers of what it calls “permanent war preparation and naval military harm” to oceans. Among its concerns is how sonar affects marine mammals.

More than 20 countries are expected to participate in Rim of the Pacific exercises starting June 26. Some of the exercises will take place in waters off Kauai. China will be sending ships to the drills for the first time. The drills are held every other year in Hawaii waters.

The activists will kick off a series of public events with a teach-in panel discussion and film in Lihue on Saturday, The Garden Island newspaper reported.

Kip Goodwin of Kauai Alliance for Peace and Justice says preparing for war will only encourage more war.

“It is time nations prepare for peace and do training exercises that build bridges instead of walls,” he wrote in a release.

Kalasara Setaysha, chair of Kohola Leo, said naval sonar harms whale and dolphin hearing, which the marine mammals need to survive.

Pacific Missile Range Facility spokesman Stefan Alford said the Navy has permits to conduct training and activities around Hawaii. He said most of the time the only way sonar affects marine mammals is to temporarily disrupt their feeding or foraging. No marine mammals are expected to die as a result of the exercises, he said.

The coalition also expressed concerns about the Navy’s plans to sink decommissioned vessels, saying they would be left to pollute the ocean floor.

Alford says the vessels have been “rigorously cleaned in accordance with federal Environmental Protection Agency requirements.”

Oceans 4 Peace, which includes the Kauai Sierra Club and People for the Preservation of Kauai, has set up a RIMPAC hotline where people can call in and report strange or dangerous activities that may have been caused by the exercises.

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