Environmentalists win court fight to protect whales from navy sonar

A federal judge in California sided last month with environmental groups in their lawsuit against the US government over Navy training exercises off the West Coast involving sonar that they say harms endangered whales, dolphins and other protected marine mammals.

The ruling in a long-running dispute pitting whales against the military requires federal biologists to reconsider permits allowing the Navy to potentially kill or disrupt marine mammals while conducting anti-submarine warfare exercises off the Pacific Northwest.

Environmental groups said similar mid-frequency sonar by the Navy has been linked to fatal mass strandings of marine mammals around the world, including Hawaii, the Bahamas, Greece, the Canary Islands and Spain.

High-intensity noise from sonar - pulses of sound emitted to pinpoint underwater objects at a distance through the echo they produce - can also disrupt marine mammals’ migration, nursing, breeding and feeding, the plaintiffs argued.

Conservationists have said the technology can be especially disturbing for creatures such as whales and dolphins that use a natural form of bio-sonar, called echolocation, to hunt for prey, detect predators and communicate with each other.

- Reuters News

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