A federal judge ruled the Navy was violating an environmental law (Coastal Zone Management Act) when it used powerful sonar off the California coastline during training exercises. The judge ordered the Navy to use special safety measures to protect whales and other marine mammals from the LOUD sonar noises that harmed them during sonar exercises.
The Natural Resources Defense Council had sued to force the Navy to lessen the harm of its sonar exercises. In November a federal appeals court said the sonar problem needed to be fixed. Scientists say loud sonar can damage marine mammal brains and ears. Sonar may also mask the echoes some whales and dolphins listen for when they use their own natural sonar to locate food.
President Bush has responded to the above court ruling by exempting the Navy from the environmental law in the name of national security. Bush claimed that complying with the environmental law would “undermine the Navy’s ability to conduct realistic training exercises that are necessary to ensure the combat effectiveness of carrier and expeditionary strike groups.”
“The president’s action is an attack on the rule of law,” said Joel Reynolds, director of the Marine Mammal Protection Project at the Natural Resources Defense Council in Santa Monica. “By exempting the Navy from basic safeguards under both federal and state law, the president is flouting the will of Congress, the decision of the California Coastal Commission and a ruling by the federal court.”
SO WHO’S RIGHT?
** Did the Navy really violate the law, as the judge said, by using its powerful sonar equipment and injuring marine mammals during training exercises along the California coast?
** Could the Navy follow the federal judge’s ruling to use special safety measures “to protect whales and other marine mammals” and still conduct adequate training exercises?
** Was Bush right to exempt the Navy from having to protect whales and other marine mammals?
** Should conservationists be filing papers with the District Court to challenge Bush’s exemption? (They plan to do this.)
** So what’s the big deal about a few whales and dolphins?
I’m interested in your thoughts on this. Please let me know what you think by clicking on “leave a comment” below and adding yours. Thanks. /gary