Divided Supreme Court OKs Navy’s sonar use – San Jose Mercury News

“The public interest in conducting training exercises with active sonar under realistic conditions plainly outweighs” the concerns voiced by environmentalists, Roberts said, speaking for a five-justice majority. This “does not strike us as a close question,” he added.

Roberts questioned whether whales had been harmed by sonar. He said the Navy had been operating off the California coast for 40 years “without a single documented sonar-related injury to any marine mammal.”

The Natural Resources Defense Council and other environmentalists strongly disagreed. They said studies conducted around the world showed the piercing underwater sounds caused whales to flee in panic or dive too deeply. Whales have been found beached in Greece, the Canary Islands and in the Bahamas after sonar was used there, and autopsies showed signs of internal bleeding near the ears.

Last year, the NRDC and several other groups went to court in Los Angeles to challenge the Navy’s plans to conduct 14 training exercises off the Southern California coast. They said the Navy had failed to prepare an environmental impact statement and, therefore, had violated the National Environmental Policy Act. The use of high-intensity sonar would threaten 170,000 marine mammals, the group said. It predicted that the Southern California exercises would cause permanent injury to more than 500 whales and cause temporary deafness in at least 8,000 whales.

via Divided Supreme Court OKs Navy’s sonar use – San Jose Mercury News

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