Breaking News: U.S. NAVY Banned From Using Sonar Which Harms Dolphins & Whales

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Amazing news for whales and dolphins in the United States. A federal appeals court ruled on Friday that the U.S. Navy was wrongly allowed to use sonar that could harm dolphins, whales, and other marine life.

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court decision upholding approval granted in 2012 for the Navy to use low-frequency sonar for training, testing, and routine operations.

The five-year approval covered peacetime operations in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans and the Mediterranean Sea.

Sonar (Sound Navigation And Ranging) is a technique that uses sound propagation (usually underwater, as in submarine navigation) to navigate, communicate with, or detect objects on or under the surface of the water, such as other vessels. Two types of technology share the name “sonar”:  Passive sonar is essentially listening for the sound made by vessels; active sonar is emitting pulses of sounds and listening for echoes.

Sonar may be used as a means of acoustic location and of measurement of the echo characteristics of “targets” in the water. Acoustic location in air was used before the introduction of radar. The acoustic frequencies used in sonar systems vary from very low (infrasonic) to extremely high (ultrasonic).

The powerful and educational documentary Sonic Sea which aired earlier this year on the Discovery Channel, may have had something to do with the decision made by the federal appeals court to ban the U.S. Navy from using harmful sonar. The 60-minute documentary about the impact of industrial and military ocean noise on whales and other marine life tells the story of a former U.S. Navy officer who solved a tragic mystery and changed forever the way we understand our impact on the ocean.

The 2012 rules adopted by the National Marine Fisheries Service permitted Navy sonar use to affect about 30 whales and two dozen pinnipeds, marine mammals with front and rear flippers such as seals and sea lions, each year.

The Navy was required to shut down or delay sonar use if a marine mammal was detected near the ship. Loud sonar pulses also were banned near coastlines and in certain protected waters.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, which led environmental groups filed a lawsuit in San Francisco in 2012, argued that the approval violated the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

The appellate court ruling said: “We have every reason to believe that the Navy has been deliberate and thoughtful in its plans to follow NMFS guidelines and limit unnecessary harassment and harm to marine mammals, although they did not give adequate protection to areas of the world’s oceans flagged by its own experts as biologically important.”

According to the decision, “The result is that a meaningful proportion of the world’s marine mammal habitat is under-protected.”

To find out more information on the documentary, Sonic Sea, visit: http://www.sonicsea.org 

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