Contributing Monkie G Living Staff Monkies
Published on February 10, 2008
The whales just can’t get a break. Only this time we can’t lay the blame on Japanese fishermen. It seems our Navy is set to start underwater sonar training off the coast of San Diego this week, despite a federal lawsuit filed in December by the California Coastal Commission and various environmental organizations. While the suit brought a small victory in the form of tight restrictions, President Bush threw a curve ball by declaring the navy exempt from the ruling.
Pundits are questioning whether the president’s action is legal, and furthermore, why initiate a Coastal Zone Management Act if the organization for which it was created is allowed to bypass it?
The issue at hand, as described by a recent Wired article, is the high-frequency pings the training will pump into the Pacific, an act that could permanently injure hundreds of thousands of whales by damaging their sophisticated hearing, which whales use for navigation, food location and inter-species communication. Michael Jasny, a Vancouver-based NRDC attorney, likens the sonar’s sound as fingernails on a chalkboard from the whales’ point of view. While it’s unclear exactly how the noise, — which travels quickly through the water — affects the whale’s own sonar, it is known that the disruption causes disorientation and panic in the animal, which can result in beaching and even death.
An estimated 8,000 whales will be affected by the training.
According to the article, a Navy lieutenant “confirmed that a battle group of approximately 5,000 people and an aircraft carrier are training on submarine detection, using midfrequency sonar”, but says “the Navy is taking precautions to minimize and prevent injury to marine mammals during the two-week training.”
A spokesman for L.A.’s Natural Resources Defense Council has called this “unacceptable” and is taking steps to overturn the president’s waiver.