A federal judge in Los Angeles banned the U.S. Navy from using high-powered sonar in nearly a dozen upcoming training exercises off Southern California, ruling Monday that it could “cause irreparable harm to the environment.”
U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper issued the preliminary injunction after rejecting the Navy’s request to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The lawsuit, along with a similar one filed by the California Coastal Commission, argues for broader safeguards to protect marine mammals from powerful blasts of mid-frequency active sonar that have been linked elsewhere to panicked behavior and mass die-offs of whales.
The Navy, which plans to appeal the decision, said even a temporary ban would disrupt crucial training of sailors before they are sent overseas. The Navy uses the sonar to detect potentially hostile vessels, including quiet diesel submarines, which one captain called “the most lethal enemy known” on the high seas.
“It’s akin to sending a hunter into the woods after one of the most lethal preys known, but sending him in partly deaf and blind,” said Navy Capt. Neil May, assistant chief of staff for 3rd Fleet training and readiness.
Incidentally, having now learned that diesel submarines are the most lethal force in the known universe, I have to wonder again about the USN’s decision not to own any… Anyway, good day to be a whale.