Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Court concerned about impact on marine life by high-powered navy sonar

Findlaw reports here on a decision from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals holding that the Navy must decrease the amount of harm its high-power sonar does to whales and other marine life during exercises off the Southern California coast that were scheduled for January. The court determined that the actions were necessary based on the likelihood that the Natural Resources Defense Council will win its lawsuit to force the Navy to lessen the harm. The opinion is available via the Ninth Circuit's website (pdf).

The NRDC's press release on the court's decision includes the following quotes from NRDC's attorney:
“There are simple, proven ways to avoid this problem without compromising the Navy’s readiness. The court’s decision prevents the needless infliction of harm to whales and other marine species during the Navy’s training off our coast,” said Joel Reynolds, senior attorney and director of the Marine Mammal Protection Project at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC ), which filed the lawsuit. “ We don’t train soldiers to shoot in the middle of crowded city streets , and the Navy shouldn’t practice hunting with sonar in California’s rich ocean habitat without the most basic precautions.”

1 comment:

Michael said...

My name is Petty Officer Michael Perez, and I have some information on the Navy’s perspective on this issue. The Navy issued the following news release regarding the court decision:

November 13, 2007

Navy Buoyed by Appeals Court Ruling

PEARL HARBOR – Navy officials said they are optimistic that a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals today ordered a lower court to rewrite restrictions on the Navy’s use of sonar in certain Southern California exercises

The Navy had asked the appeals court to overturn a preliminary injunction that was granted by a U.S. district judge on Aug. 6, 2007, that bars the Navy from using active sonar in certain multi-ship exercises off Southern California through January 2009. That injunction was granted in a lawsuit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council and other environmental and animal protection groups. In over 40 years of sonar training in the Southern California Operating Area, no stranding or injury of a marine mammal has been associated with the Navy’s use of sonar.

“We are encouraged that the appeals court found the original injunction was too broad and ordered the district court to tailor mitigation conditions under which the Navy may conduct its training,” said Navy spokesman Capt. Scott Gureck.

Whenever sonar is used in large exercises, the Navy employs 29 separate marine mammal protective measures, which were coordinated with and approved by the National Marine Fisheries Service.

“There’s no scientific proof that sonar by itself has ever directly killed or injured whales or other marine mammals,” Gureck said.

Adm. Robert Willard, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, said: “The use of sonar is a fundamental principle in anti-submarine warfare. It is very, very important that our Sailors are proficient in applications of active sonar and in their ability to hunt submarines. It’s a perishable skill. If we don't practice it a lot we are not going to be good at it. With the proliferation of very quiet diesel submarines throughout the world, and particularly here in the Pacific, it's very important to me that our ships, submarines and our Sailors have this skill.”

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