Judge: Navy Sonar Testing Caused Mass Death of Marine Life
September 28, 2013
US District Court Magistrate Judge Nandor Vadas ruled that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) did not consider scientific data of long-term effects of sonar testing on marine life when permits for the Navy were approved in 2012.
Vadas pointed out the initial review was “improperly focused on a narrow window of time to gauge the potential effects” and that consideration of long-term effects should prompt a reassessment of the continuation of the testing.
In his rule, Vadas wrote: “That is, a series of short-term analyses can mask the long-term impact of an agency action.”
Vadas 43 page opinion found that the user of high intensity noise from sonar pulses used by the US Navy to “pinpoint underwater objects at a distance through the echo they produce – can also disrupt marine mammals’ migration, nursing, breeding and feeding.”
In defense, the Navy claims they conduct testing in open waters off the coast of Washington State by a single warship for less than 2 hours at a time. They maintain that this sonar testing is not a danger to marine life.
Steve Mashuda, member of Earthjustice, said : “We’re not talking about stopping all training all the time, but maybe doing different training or refraining from training during seasons of the year or months of the year in certain areas, when we know the whales are there.”
The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has a petition to bring awareness to the killing of whales “from deadly sonar”.
The petition reads: “The Navy is prepared to kill more than 1,000 whales and other marine mammals during the next five years of testing and training with sonar and explosives. It’s time for the Navy to adopt common-sense measures that would protect marine mammals during routine training without compromising our military readiness. Tell Navy Secretary Ray Mabus to save whales from the deadly impact of its sonar systems during testing and training.”
Not mentioned by the US Navy is the fact that these sonar tests are actually technology used to search for underwater petrol deposits – just as is done off the coast of Madagascar.
This endeavor for more oil preformed on the behalf of ExxonMobil caused 100 melon-headed whales to beach themselves.
An ExxonMobil ship sat about 40 miles from the coastline and emitted “high power 12 kHz multi beam echosounder system (MBES).”
The purpose of the search is to find “the most plausible and likely behavioral trigger for the animals initially entering the lagoon system.”
Jacqueline Savitz, vice president of the US Oceans explained : “Seismic blasts can disturb the vital behaviors of dolphins and whales such as breathing, feeding, mating and communicating. This can quickly turn deadly when animals are startled into rushing to the surface or are driven into shallower areas, where they often die as these whales did.”
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) spear-headed groups and experts who published a report concerning the deaths of marine life and ExxonMobil’s search for petrol that outlines “there is cause for concern over the impact of noise on marine mammals as these high-frequency mapping sonar systems are used by various stakeholders including the hydrocarbon industry, military, and research vessels used by other industries.”
The report states: “The potential for behavioral responses and indirect injury or mortality from the use of similar MBES [multi-beam echosounder systems] should be considered in future environmental assessments, operational planning and regulatory decisions.”
The controlling mutli-stakeholder steering committee that provided guidance and structure prior to the release of the report included representatives from:
• NOAA Marine Mammal Stranding Network (MMSN)
• NOAA Ocean Acoustics Program (OAP)
• Marine Mammal Commission (MMC)
• A team of “independent” scientists