Amid environmental groups’ vocal opposition towards the U.S. Navy’s sonar use in the Santa Barbara Channel, Rear Admiral Lawrence Rice will discuss the navigation tool’s effects on marine mammals this afternoon.

Hosted by the Santa Barbara Navy League and held in the Maritime Museum, the lecture will cover the precautions the Navy has taken in recent years to protect wildlife from the high frequency sonar used by Navy ships to detect enemy submarines. SB Navy League spokesman Doug Crawford said that lectures like Rice’s are part of an important dialogue between citizens and the military.

“We have a very active campaign to have flag officers come in and discuss critical issues,” Crawford said. “In Santa Barbara this is very important, because Santa Barbara is a very opinionated and intelligent community, but we need the right facts to make informed decisions, so we are happy to provide them.”

Crawford said he was pleased to have Admiral Rice speak directly to the Santa Barbara community because he is influential in making changes.

“Rear Admiral Rice is the director, chief of Naval Operations Environmental Readiness Division,” Crawford said. “He commands a budget of $4 billion, which gives him more money to direct to environmental concerns than anyone in the world.”

The Navy has been criticized by environmental groups for not attempting to avoid damage to marine life, such as whales, dolphins and porpoises.

SB Environmental Defense Center analyst Shiva Polefka said that military sonar causes hemorrhaging to the animal’s brain and hearing structure, along with other negative impacts. Despite the military’s assurances to the contrary, Polefka said that National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration studies suggest sonar has a tangible and deadly effect on marine life.

“NOAA, a joint venture run under the Dept. of Commerce in conjunction with the Navy, released a study showing that military sonar use does indeed harm marine mammals,” Polefka said. “They surveyed a few instances of sonar use, and in those cases, there were 10 or 12 whales washing up dead onshore after the sonar was used, something we’ve never seen before. It was a tragic event, but perfect in getting to the bottom of what happened.”

According to Polefka, the Navy could take several precautionary measures to ensure that marine mammals are not in the direct acoustic line-of-fire, without compromising coastal security.

“It’s not a matter of deciding between whales and national security, but a matter of getting the Navy to follow the law,” Polefka said.

Santa Barbara Maritime Museum Executive Director Julie McDonald said that the lecture will take place in Munger Theatre at 10:30 a.m. No other associated events are on the docket for this afternoon. The event will include an hour-long lecture, followed by a question-and-answer session.