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Motion Filed in Case to Protect Pacific Whales, Dolphins from Navy Sonar

Millions of marine mammals face injury, death off Hawai‘i, Southern California
A U.S. Navy vessel, with a research ship and pod of orcas in the foreground.

A U.S. Navy vessel encounters a research ship and pod of orcas. The shrill, repetitive whistle produced by sonar harms marine mammals.

Photo provided by Center for Whale Research
October 30, 2014
Honolulu, HI —

Earthjustice, representing Conservation Council for Hawai‘i, the Animal Welfare Institute, Center for Biological Diversity and Ocean Mammal Institute, filed a motion for summary judgment with the federal court here today.

The filing represents the latest salvo in lawsuit originally filed in December 2013 that challenges the National Marine Fisheries Service’s approval of a 5-year plan by the U.S. Navy for testing and training activities off Hawai‘i and Southern California.

The Navy and Fisheries Service estimate this training will cause nearly 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.

Read the motion.

Read the memorandum, which lays out the arguments.

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 claim the Fisheries Service approved the Navy’s plan without evaluating any alternatives that would place biologically important areas off-limits to training and testing.

Since the initial filing, the lawsuit was expanded to also name the Navy as a defendant and to challenge the plan’s violations of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act.

BACKGROUND

Ocean mammals depend on hearing for navigation, feeding, and reproduction. Scientists have linked military sonar and live-fire activities to mass whale beaching, exploded eardrums, and even death. In 2004, during war games near Hawai‘i, the Navy’s sonar was implicated in a mass stranding of up to 200 melon-headed whales in Hanalei Bay, Kaua‘i.

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.

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Contacts

David Henkin, Earthjustice, (808) 599-2436, ext. 6614

Marjorie Ziegler, Conservation Council for Hawai‘i, (808) 593-0255

Susan Millward, Animal Welfare Institute, (202) 337-2332

Miyoko Sakashita, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 632-5308

Marsha Green, Ocean Mammal Institute, (610) 670-7386

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