US Navy banned from using sonar that harms dolphins and walruses

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A federal appeals court ruled on Friday that the US Navy was wrongly allowed to use in the nation’s oceans that could harm whales and other marine life.

The ninth circuit court of appeals reversed a lower court decision upholding approval granted in 2012 for the Navy to use low-frequency sonar for training, testing and routine operations.

The five-year approval covered peacetime operations in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans and the Mediterranean Sea.

The appellate panel sent the matter back to the lower court for further proceedings.A message seeking comment from representatives of the US Pacific Fleet in Honolulu was not immediately returned.

Sonar, used to detect submarines, can injure whales, , dolphins and walruses and disrupt their feeding and mating.

The 2012 rules adopted by the National Marine Fisheries Service permitted Navy sonar use to affect about 30 whales and two dozen pinnipeds; marine mammals with front and rear flippers such as seals and , each year.

Dolphins in front of US Navy ship Benfold. Marine life will now be protected from Navy sonar. Photograph: Mark Wilson/Reuters

The Navy was required to shut down or delay sonar use if a marine mammal was detected near the ship. Loud sonar pulses also were banned near coastlines and in certain protected waters.

Environmental groups, led by the Natural Resources Defense Council, filed a lawsuit in San Francisco in 2012, arguing the approval violated the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

“We have every reason to believe that the Navy has been deliberate and thoughtful in its plans to follow NMFS guidelines and limit unnecessary harassment and harm to marine mammals,” the appellate ruling said.

However, the panel concluded the fisheries service “did not give adequate protection to areas of the world’s oceans flagged by its own experts as biologically important,” according to a summary accompanying the court’s decision.

“The result is that a meaningful proportion of the world’s marine mammal habitat is under-protected,” according to the decision.

This article was first published by The Guardian on 16 Jul 2016.


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george mira

Active sonar ruptures eardrums and since cetaceans are as dependent upon their hearing as humans are their eyes, along with communicating complex information through sound, a better , more accurate analogy is that it destroys both eyes AND ears of animals, many with significantly larger and more complex brains than our own. The US Navy seeks large areas in Pacific US waters which are frequented by numerous species of odontoceti and mysticeti, some of which are endangered and at least one has become critically endangered. Every five years permission is renewed, and this permission must be denied, as it constitutes… Read more »

Anne Grice
Anne Grice

Enforcement is paramount to save ocean lives! They cant be trusted to do the right thing!

Jacqueline Deely Photography

About time! Now needs to happen world wide.

Vanessa Yo Jendes


Heidi Bresilge

I hope that someone will see to it that they stick to the ruling and not use sonar!!

Robert Piller