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Reducing Harm to Marine Mammals from Navy Sonar in the Pacific

Bottlenose dolphin.

The Navy and Fisheries Service estimate that training and testing activities will result in thousands of animals suffering permanent hearing loss, lung injuries or death.

David Aleksandrowicz / Shutterstock

Case Overview

Earthjustice is representing Conservation Council for Hawaiʻi, the Animal Welfare Institute, Center for Biological Diversity and Ocean Mammal Institute in a lawsuit 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 Navy and Fisheries Service estimate that, over the plan’s five-year period, training and testing activities will result in thousands of animals suffering permanent hearing loss, lung injuries or death. Millions of animals will be exposed to temporary injuries and disturbances, with many subjected to multiple harmful exposures.

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. The groups have gone to court because the Fisheries Service approved the Navy’s plan without evaluating any alternatives that would place biologically important areas off-limits to training and testing.

Case ID



Case Updates

April 15, 2015 | Blog Post

Whales Blow Hole in Sonar Plan

A judge tells the Navy that it doesn’t need access to every square inch of the ocean to conduct training exercises. There is a better way to protect both our country and our wildlife.

November 24, 2014 | Blog Post

Protecting Marine Eardrums

Navy training is essential to national security, but there's a way to minimize the harm that it inflicts on marine mammals.

October 30, 2014 | Legal Document

Pacific Sonar: Motion for Summary Judgment

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 and Local Rule 56.1, plaintiffs Conservation Council for Hawai‘i, Animal Welfare Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Ocean Mammal Institute, through their counsel Earthjustice, hereby move for summary judgment.

January 15, 2014 | Legal Document

Navy Sonar Amended Complaint

Amended complaint in California / Hawaii Navy Sonar case adds the U.S. Navy as defendant and expands the argument.

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