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Court rules Navy cannot deploy sonar that harms marine mammals

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November 6 2006

(NewsTarget) A federal appeals court recently rejected an attempt by the Bush administration to overturn a ruling that restricted the U.S. Navy's use of low-frequency active (LFA) sonar, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

Three years ago, the NRDC won a landmark federal case that put limitations on the Navy's use of LFA sonar, which was found to pose a serious threat to whales and other marine life.

Since losing its appeal, the Navy must stick to an agreement with the NRDC that limits its testing and training using LFA sonar to an area in the northwestern Pacific Ocean.

The Navy's LFA sonar system generates intense underwater sound waves that can travel in excess of 300 miles. LFA military sonar was developed to detect submarines at great distances, but the NRDC and other activists argued that the noise it creates can seriously injure or even kill whales and other marine animals that depend on their sensitive hearing for survival.

"This ruling affirms the fact that we can safeguard marine mammals without compromising national security," said Andrew Wetzler, a senior NRDC attorney who argued the case.

The NRDC legal team is currently preparing for another legal battle with the Navy to restrict its use of mid-frequency sonar, which the group claims has caused a number of whale strandings and deaths across the world in the past year.

A federal court ruled in May that the Navy must turn over information on its use of sonar to the NRDC. According to the NRDC's "Nature's Voice" newsletter, a federal judge will decide in the upcoming months whether or not the case against mid-frequency sonar can continue.


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