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About This Incident:
Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research narrates the incident recorded in the above video.
Navy sonar harms whales and dolphins. Watch a video shot by the Center for Whale Research in Washington State. Hear what the sonar sounds like and see what it does to these marine mammals. Earthjustice is working to get the Navy to use their sonar in places where it won't harm whales and dolphins.
The incident recorded in this video occurred in Puget Sound in May 2003. (Watch narrated video.) It was investigated by the National Marine Fisheries Service, Office of Protected Resources, who filed a report.
A whale's keen sense of hearing is vital in every aspect of its life history, including foraging for food, finding mates, bonding with offspring, communicating with other members of their species, navigating through lightless waters and avoiding predators.
Experts agree that exposure to sonar blasts can cause serious injury or death from hemorrhages or other tissue trauma. Whales can also suffer from temporary and permanent hearing loss, displacement from preferred habitat, and disruption of feeding, breeding, communication and other behaviors essential to survival.
The use of military sonar has been associated with whale strandings in Greece (1996), the Bahamas (2000), Madeira (2000), Vieques (1998, 2002), the Canary Islands (2002, 2004), the northwest coast of the U.S. (2003), Kaua'i (2004) and Spain (2006).
Related Earthjustice Litigation:
- Lawsuit to Reduce Harm from Navy Sonar in Pacific: On December 16, 2013 Earthjustice filed a lawsuit in Hawaiʻi federal court challenging the National Marine Fisheries Service’s approval of a 5-year plan by the U.S. Navy for testing and training activities off Hawaiʻi and Southern California. The Navy and Fisheries Service estimate this training will cause 9.6 million instances of harm to whales, dolphins and other marine mammals. The operations will include active sonar and explosives, which are known to cause permanent injuries and deaths to marine mammals. The National Environmental Policy Act requires that a range of alternatives be considered, including alternatives that could be pursued with less environmental harm, and that the public have an opportunity to review and comment on that analysis. Learn more about this case.
Navy Sonar in Pacific Northwest: On January 26, 2012, a coalition of conservation and American Indian groups sued the National Marine Fisheries Service for failing to protect thousands of whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals, and sea lions from U.S. Navy warfare training exercises along the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington. In September 2013, the court ruled that the Fisheries Service failed to protect thousands of whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals, and sea lions from U.S. Navy warfare training exercises. Later, the court set a deadline of August 2014 to develop a plan that will protect marine mammals. Learn more about this case.
- North Atlantic Right Whales: In 2010, conservation groups challenged the U.S. Navy's decision to build a $100 million Undersea Warfare Training Range 50 miles east of Jacksonville, FL, next to the only known calving ground for the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale. The warfare training grounds would include a system of approximately 300 underwater "sonar nodes" connected by cable to a landside facility some 50 nautical miles away. Scientists believe that the loss of even one right whale from non-natural causes could jeopardize the future of the species.
- Navy Sonar and Hawaiian Humpback Whales: In 2008, Hawai'i federal district Judge David A. Ezra found that the Navy violated federal law and enjoined it from carrying out its undersea warfare exercises in Hawai'i's waters without adhering to additional mitigation measures to protect marine mammals. Earthjustice had filed suit on behalf of the Ocean Mammal Institute, the Animal Welfare Institute, KAHEA: The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Surfrider Foundation's Kaua'i Chapter.
- Endangered Species Protections for Southern Residents: In 2005, Earthjustice successfully argued that the Southern Resident orcas in Washington State's Puget Sound deserve protection under the Endangered Species Act, resulting in new safeguards for the orcas, including the creation of a binding recovery plan, protection for the whales' critical habitat, and assurances that all federal projects will protect the whales before the projects can proceed.
Listen to an audio interview with VP For Litigation Patti Goldman.