Earthjustice, Greenpeace and the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) have won a battle to challenge the US Navy’s training and testing activities off the coasts of Hawaii and Southern California, including its highly controversial use of sonar.
Military sonar causes chaos to marine animals’ migration patterns, breeding and feeding ground, and their ability to communicate and hear. We’ve all read stories of dead whales washing up on the beach, and the Navy has now admitted that its use of sonar testing activities is helping to kill off these beautiful creatures. As Tim Donaghy, a senior research specialist with Greenpeace told the Guardian in June last year, “a deaf whale is a dead whale.” Take into account that many injured and dead whales and dolphins do not end up stranded on a beach, and it’s easy to see how difficult it is to accurately assess how many marine animals are affected by sonar use in our oceans.
In March, a US district court in Hawaii found that the National Marine Fisheries Services (NMFS) improperly gave approval to the Navy’s use of sonar in the Pacific, a cause for celebration for environmental groups. This month, a federal court went one step further by ruling that when the US Navy’s current contract expires in 2018, certain regulations to its activities will apply:
- The deal will prohibit the navy “from using mid-frequency active sonar for training and testing activities in important habitat for beaked whales between Santa Catalina Island and San Nicolas Island” and
- “from using mid-frequency active sonar for training and testing activities in important habitat for blue whales feeding near San Diego”.
- It also requires that “surface vessels must use ‘extreme caution’ and travel at a safe speed to minimize the risk of ship strikes in blue whale feeding habitat and migratory corridors for blue, fin, and gray whales.”
- Special prohibitions already in place in Hawaii restrict speed in order to protect humpback whales.
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