Environmental groups seeking to protect whales from the possibly harmful effects of sonar scored a legal victory against the Navy and the Bush administration.
U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper ruled Monday (Feb. 4) that the Navy is not exempt from complying with the National Environmental Policy Act and a court injunction that created a 12 nautical-mile no-sonar zone off Southern California.
The president signed a waiver Jan. 15 exempting the Navy and its anti-submarine warfare exercises from the injunction.
The judge also said she has “significant concerns about the constitutionality of the President’s exemption,” but that “a finding on this issue is not necessary” to reinstate the sonar injunction.
Scientists have said loud sonar can damage the brains and ears of marine mammals, and may mask the echoes from natural sonar that some whales and dolphins use to locate food.
Whales throughout the Pacific reportedly showed their approval of the ruling by spraying HUGE spouts of water up through their blowholes.
Ocean waters all along the California coastline looked like they were covered with giant lawn sprinklers.
Let’s hear it for the whales! /Gary
Posted on Tuesday, February 5th, 2008
Under: Navy, President Bush, Sonar, Whales | No Comments »
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
Posted on Thursday, January 17th, 2008
Under: Dolphins, Navy, President Bush, Sonar, Whales | No Comments »