In a landmark decision, the U.S. Navy has finally agreed to protect whales and dolphins from sonar testing and use of explosives in certain vital marine habitat. For years, scientists and the Navy itself have been aware of the extensive damage that sonar testing and explosives cause marine animals, including the rare and largest species in the ocean, the blue whale. Until now, the Navy has ignored these harmful impacts on marine mammals.
Marine mammals rely on sound much as we rely on sight. To detonate explosives and use sonar is akin to blinding them, and worse. It disrupts their ability to rear their young, results in stranding and habitat avoidance, and even death. In essence, if whales cannot hear, they cannot survive.
In 2013, the organization Earthjustice sued the National Marine Fisheries Service for approving the Navy’s 5-year Pacific weapons testing and training plan. A federal judge agreed in March of this year, stating that the Navy and fisheries service violated the National Environmental Policy Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act. As a result, vast areas of marine habitat off the island of Hawaii and the coast of southern California will be off limits for training and testing until the agreement expires in late 2018.
This is a huge win for the whales and other marine mammals!