July 15, 2016
U.S. officials have wrongly allowed the Navy to use sonar at levels that could harm whales and other marine mammals in the world’s oceans, a federal appeals court in San Francisco has ruled.
The decision Friday by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals would scale back the Navy’s use of low-frequency sonar in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans and the Mediterranean Sea under authority that was granted in 2012.
Sonar, used to detect submarines, can injure whales, seals and walruses and disrupt their feeding and mating. Environmental groups led by the Natural Resources Defense Council filed suit in San Francisco in 2012, arguing that the Obama administration had approved emissions at sound levels that violated the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
A federal magistrate disagreed but was overruled Friday by the appeals court, which said government officials had disregarded their own experts’ warnings about sonar’s potential impacts.