Sonic rumblings

After a federal district judge issued an injunction in early January to stop the Navy from performing sonar exercises in the ocean, the Bush administration granted a waiver to allow the Navy to continue the practice. The Navy uses sonar to train sailors to detect “quiet” submarines, an exercise President Bush has called a matter of national security. The sonar can produce deafening sounds underwater that marine biologists say can disorient, hurt, disrupt mating patterns and sometimes kill marine mammals. Under the Endangered Species Act, this is against the law. To protect whale species, U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper cited the Coastal Zone Management Act in her decision. The president’s waiver exempts the Navy from that law.

The Seattle Post Intelligencer reports: “By the Navy’s own estimate, it would harass or harm marine mammals … about 170,000 times, the judge said. The Navy said the series of 14 exercises would temporarily deafen whales 8,000 times and cause permanent injuries in more than 400 cases.” A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco sent the case back to district court after Bush’s waiver.