Frances Beinecke, President, Natural Resources Defense Council
I’m writing to report a big stride in our campaign to protect whales and other marine mammals from mid-frequency naval sonar.
Two weeks ago, NRDC attorneys raced to court to block the U.S. Navy from unleashing a barrage of ear-splitting sonar into the waters off Hawaii as part of a massive military training exercise. Whales exposed to mid-frequency sonar have repeatedly stranded and died on beaches around the world – but the Navy refused to adopt even common-sense measures during peacetime exercises to help protect marine life from this deadly threat.
In an infuriating attempt to avoid our lawsuit, the Navy took the unprecedented step – on the eve of the Fourth of July weekend – of declaring itself exempt from the primary U.S. law that requires measures to protect marine mammals. But the court sided with us and found that the Navy’s planned sonar use violated a second key environmental law as well, noting that NRDC had submitted “considerable convincing scientific evidence” of the dangers of sonar to marine life.
The judge prohibited the Navy from going forward with its sonar use as planned and ordered the Navy to sit down with NRDC and decide on a set of protective measures to be put in place during the month-long exercise. In the settlement reached last Friday after days of tough negotiation with our attorneys, the Navy will be required to create a sonar-free buffer zone around the newly established Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument, as well as significantly improve its monitoring of marine mammals during sonar drills and implement other important safeguards.
This is an important victory, but much more needs to be done to protect whales and other marine life from high-intensity sonar, especially in biologically rich waters. As our campaign moves forward, we will continue to depend on your generous support and activism to compel the Navy to limit its use of harmful mid-frequency sonar. I hope you’ll go to www.savebiogems.org/whales/donate.asp right now and make a contribution to support our ongoing legal efforts.
On behalf of our entire legal team, I want to thank you for coming to the defense of marine mammals around the world.