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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

What's at Stake

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.

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 Updates

September 14, 2015 | Map

Navy Sonar & Marine Mammals: Map 4

Areas off the coast of Southern California, near San Nicolas Island, Santa Catalina Island and San Clemente Island.

September 14, 2015 | Legal Document

Court Document: Navy Agrees to Limit Underwater Assaults on Whales and Dolphins

A federal court entered an order settling two cases challenging the U.S. Navy’s training and testing activities off the coasts of Southern California and Hawai‘i, securing long-sought protections for whales, dolphins, and other marine mammals by limiting Navy activities in vital habitat.

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