Court Rules Navy War Games Violate Law Protecting Whales and Dolphins

Posted on April 1, 2015

U.S. District Court Deems That Nearly 9.6 Million Underwater Assaults on Whales and Dolphins Were Improperly Assessed as “Negligible”

For immediate release:

Lisa Franzetta, ALDF
Kimiko Martinez, NRDC

whales-article-image-cc-denis-hawkins-240pxLOS ANGELES (March 31, 2015) —A federal court today announced that the U.S. Navy’s training and testing activities off the coast of Southern California and Hawaii illegally harm more than 60 whale, dolphin, seal, and sea lion populations. The U.S. District Court, District of Hawaii, found that the National Marine Fisheries Service – the agency charged with protecting marine mammals – violated multiple requirements of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act when agreeing to the Navy’s plan.

“Searching the administrative record’s reams of pages for some explanation as to why the Navy’s activities were authorized by the National Marine Fisheries Service (‘NMFS’), this court feels like the sailor in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ who, trapped for days on a ship becalmed in the middle of the ocean, laments, ‘Water, water every where, Nor any drop to drink.’” the Court wrote in its 66-page opinion.

The case before the Court was brought by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Cetacean Society International, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Pacific Environment and Resources Center, and Michael Stocker.

Under its five-year plan for training and testing, the Navy is permitted to harm whales, dolphins, and other marine mammals nearly 9.6 million times while conducting high-intensity sonar exercises and underwater detonations. These harmful impacts include millions of instances of temporary hearing loss and significant disruptions in vital behaviors, such as habitat abandonment, as well as permanent hearing loss, permanent injury and more than 150 deaths.

Ocean noise is one of the biggest threats worldwide to the health and well-being of marine mammals, which rely on sound to ‘see’ their world. Navy sonar activities, shipping noise, and seismic exploration by oil and gas companies have made our oceans noisier in recent decades, resulting in widespread disruption to feeding, communication, mating, and more.

Following is a statement by Zak Smith, attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Marine Mammal Protection Project, representing plaintiffs:

“Defenseless marine mammals are going deaf and hungry and may die at the hands of our Navy. And the laws we have that are meant to limit such harms have been misused by the government.

“Instead of downplaying the impacts on marine mammals – including endangered blue, fin and humpback whales – the government should be doing more to protect them from these harmful activities.

“The Navy has solutions at its disposal to ensure it limits the harm to these animals during its exercises.  It’s time to stop making excuses and embrace those safety measures.”

8 thoughts on “Court Rules Navy War Games Violate Law Protecting Whales and Dolphins

  1. Marta Esposito says:

    Please get this stopped to save marine life!

  2. Susan witchey says:

    We need yo protect the oceans..seas. bays

  3. Robert Boehm says:

    I love mammals marine animals, animals are beautiful mammals, so please leave the marine mammals animals alone! Please protect the oceans and mammals animals! Mammals animals in the ocean just like people that lives, breath same air, eat to live and survive like the peoples!!

  4. family hood says:

    the pain in their head from sonar is often enough to kill them. How sad such a lovely animal has to suffer like that. No reason.

  5. lina Nicolia says:

    Yes, we know the Navy has endangered all marine life, especially the ones using sonar for navigation. It is criminal for them to do so, as they casually play their war games, while destroying our precious animals. The animals need to be protected from the foolishness of men. Too much damage has happened already.

  6. Beth says:

    good decision! The joint chiefs of Staff should be ashamed of themselves! You don’t own the oceans, skies, or ground.

  7. Ed Billeaud says:

    So much damage has already been done, and so much more damage, irreversible damage, is so close to happening. It is important beyond measure to keep resisting the stupidity, greed, and aggression which is on the brink of destroying life on this fragile biosphere. Keep resisting!

  8. Don’t just tell us what you think let us know where to SIGN!!!! Let’s DO something…hasn’t anyone heard all the good things and successes signing petitions has done already (see There is strength in numbers and the one things humans have been slow to do (but it’s catching on now) is STICK TOGETHER Come-on masses…STOP THIS INSANITY! THEY are supposed to be under OUR rule not the world under THEIRS! WE are the POWER WE are the MASSES and what WE say HOLDS!

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