Environmental groups sue U.S. Navy over sonar training

| Thu Oct. 20, 2005 7:53 PM EDT

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Cetacean Society International, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), the League for Coastal Protection, and Ocean Futures Society and its founder and president Jean Michel-Cousteau filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Navy toay because of the Navy's continual use of mid-frequency sonar in training exercises. The suit claims that the sonar frequencies injure and kill whales, dolphins, and other marine animals, and that the Navy refuses to implement common sense precautions that would eliminate the damage.

In 2003, a similar suit was settled that blocked the global deployment of the Navy's low-frequency active sonar system and restricted its use to a a limited area of the northwestern Pacific Ocean.

The U.S. Navy isn't the only culprit. NATO ocean exercises have also been responsible for the injuries and deaths of whales and dolphins. Nine dead Cuvier's beaked whales were found washed up on the Canary Islands three years ago. Six beached whales were sent back to the ocean, and two were spotted dead in the water. During that period, ten NATO countries were an exercised called Neo Tapon 2002. Autopsies on the deal whales found brain damage consistent with impact from military sonar systems, and the whales were shown to have been in good health prior to the sonar testing.

In June of this year, thirty conservation and animal welfare groups petitioned John Reid, British Secretary of State for Defence to investigate the increase of mass stranding of whales. A study done at the Zoological Society of London indicated that the whales suffered from some type of decompression sickness when sonar interfered with their navigation patterns. Following sonar tests, whales and dolphins are often found bleeding from the eyes and ears, with severe lesions in their organ tissue.

The evidence is clear. Eighty dolphins, thirty of whom died, were found beached off of the Florida keys following a sonar exercise. Thirty-nine died after tests were done off the coast of North Carolina. Seventeen whales died in the Bass Strait, fifty were stranded 300 miles away, and 150 whales and dolphins were found dying, all after sonar tests near Australia. Many whales and dolphins were found stranded within twenty-hours of U.S. Navy sonar tests near the Bahamas, twelve beaked whales died after testing off the coast of Greece, and six died after testing near Japan.

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