Navy Sonar Ruling Overturned
A U.S. federal appeals court has reversed a 2012 decision that allowed the Navy to use sonar for peacetime training, testing and routine operations.
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a 2012 lower court decision 3-0 on Friday on the grounds that it did not establish means of “effecting the least practicable adverse impact on” marine mammal species, stock and habitat.
Environmental group the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed a lawsuit in in 2012 arguing that the approval violated the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
DRDC says that naval sonar drills leave whales disoriented and impaired. They can go silent and abandon their habitat, and some can become stranded and die in a desperate bid to escape the noise.
After years of litigation, NRDC and its partners reached a legal settlement last year requiring the U.S. Navy to take measures to minimize the impact of their operations in Hawaii and Southern California. As a result of the September 14 settlement from the U.S. District Court of Hawaii, the U.S. Navy was required to stop using sonar and high explosives in waters critical to the most vulnerable marine mammals. Captains and commanders must also plan their expeditions and steer their vessels to give a wide berth to whales.
Operations that create ocean noise include naval sonar used to search for submarines, commercial shipping and seismic air gun blasting used in oil and gas exploration.
The Ninth Court ruling is available here.