Court Orders Navy To Stop Using Sonar Linked To Harming Marine Mammals

A U.S. federal court has ruled against the Navy’s use of sonar off the coast of Southern California and Hawaii in a practice that interferes with sea animals in their natural habitat. The ruling had been long sought by environmental groups concerned over the fate of the sea fish in the hands of the Navy. The ruling looks set to increase petitions against military activities that have been blamed for the destruction of the environment.

The settlement, announced on Monday, has established new regulations which the Navy must strictly follow. The regulations govern the Navy’s use of sonar, a naval location tool that is often used in wargame scenarios. The technology has been blamed for a host of environmental effects, chief among them the destruction of fish migration patterns.

Earthjustice, an environmental aid organization, reported that the settlement prohibited the Navy from “using mid-frequency active sonar for training and testing activities in important habitat for beaked whales between Santa Catalina Island and San Nicolas Island” and from “using mid-frequency active sonar for training and testing activities in important habitat for blue whales feeding near San Diego.”

According to Earthjustice, the settlement secures “long-sought protections for whales, dolphins, and other marine mammals by limiting Navy activities in vital habitats.”

Environmental groups have long argued the use of sonar damages marine animals’ migration patterns, destroys feeding locations, breeding and their ability to listen underwater and communicate.

Earthjustice, National Resources Defence Council and Greenpeace have all brought claims against the Navy for its use of sonar and other training methods that are viewed as harmful to whales and other marine life.

Animal rights conservationists have lauded the settlement for the possibility it holds to change things for the better along the Pacific south coast. Environmentalist Marsha Green, president of Ocean Mammal Institute, said, “The Navy can meet its training and testing needs and, at the same time, provide significant protections to whales and dolphins by limiting the use of sonar and explosives in vital habitat.”

The new regulations will only take effect after 2018 when the current Navy agreement expires.

The Navy’s use of sonar training equipment has destroyed the natural habitat for fish and other marine animals along the U.S. south coast. Through the settlement, marine life in the Pacific will finally go back to normal.

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