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Navy resumes surface gunnery training in Juan de Fuca after years-long whale study

The Whiskey Hotel firing range located between Sooke and Port Renfrew
HMCS Calgary returns to CFB Esquimalt from an overseas operation. The ship will be one of many using Whiskey Hotel to conduct surface gunnery training beginning this year. (Cpl. Jay Naples – Canadian Armed Forces)

The Canadian Armed Forces will resume surface gunnery training this month in the Strait of Juan de Fuca following a three-year marine study of the area.

The Whiskey Hotel firing range located between Sooke and Port Renfrew is approximately 30 kilometres long, 11 kilometres wide and used by the Canadian Armed Forces, Coast Guard, U.S. Navy and other international militaries.

Surface gun training includes sea surface, aerial machine guns and other small weaponry. Combat-ready warfare capability requires on-water gunnery training to meet emerging maritime threats, the Armed Forces said.

The Canadian Armed Forces temporarily paused gunnery training within the operating area in 2019 to conduct a comprehensive third-party assessment of potential impacts on marine mammals, including southern resident killer whales.

A study by Golder Associates concluded that marine mammals would unlikely suffer any residual effects from using existing mitigation procedures.

Specific to southern resident killer whales, neither injury nor disturbance is likely to occur, Golder said.

All vessels and aircraft conducting gunnery within the operating area must comply with stringent mitigation procedures, including information sharing from the Canadian Coast Guard Marine Mammal Desk. Marine Mammal Desk notifications inform range users about recent and real-time marine mammal activity so that critical decisions can be made.

ALSO READ: More whales spotted in Salish Sea this year than any other

After a three-year break to study marine mammals' reactions to surface gunfire training in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the Canadian Armed Forces will resume training this month.

Kevin Laird

About the Author: Kevin Laird

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