Court Rules Navy War Games Violate Law Protecting Whales and Dolphins

From the National Resources Defense Council. I for one, am glad I donate to their cause!
U.S. District Court deems that nearly 9.6 million underwater assaults on whales and dolphins were improperly assessed as “negligible”

LOS 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.

In 2014, the case was consolidated for administrative purposes with another action (Conservation Council for Hawaii v. National Marine Fisheries Service) challenging the government’s authorizations of Navy activities in Hawaii and Southern California. Today, the Court also ruled against the government in that action.

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.”

Superpod of Dolphins seen in Gulf Islands–CBC

Superpods are rare, but not unheard of. Photographer Chase Jarvis videotaped a superpod of dolphins off South Africa’s coast  last summer.  But to see them here is quite a treat. I’ve interviewed old timers who recalled seeing them in the 50s and 60s, along with superpods of Orcas. The best definition of them is a gathering of pods, likely for hunting when food is present.

Passengers aboard a BC Ferries vessel were treated to a rare sight on Friday, as a pod of about 1,000 Pacific white-sided dolphins swam next to the boat for several minutes. Rob Maguire caught it on video.

1,000 dolphins swim beside ferry off Gulf Islands

Off topic – Amazing video of Dolphin super pod off South Africa

While many of you know that I try and focus on the Olympic Peninsula, occasionally something from elsewhere really catches my eye. In my interviews for Voices of the Strait, I was told of super pod sitings off our coast of Orcas. I’ve sailed quite a bit on Puget Sound, not a lot outside the Straits. I like many of you, have had dolphins chase my bow.

Seattle video professional Chase Jarvis was onboard the sailboat of the adventurer Mike Horn off the coast of South Africa about two months ago. Equipped with some great professional gear and a lot of help, they ended up accidentally sailing into a dolphin super pod. As Mike says, “After sailing tens of thousands of nautical miles, over a lifetime, I’ve never seen anything like this.” It is an amazing window into a little seen part of life in the oceans.

Enjoy. With your efforts, perhaps we will see a return of a super pod here in the Salish Sea.

Spectacular film of Orcas chasing Dolphins

Thanks to Jules for sharing this with us. An amazing film of orcas hunting dolphins at Hyacinthe Bay BC (north of Nanaimo). And thanks to Grind TV for getting it up online!

Sonar, explosives pose high risk for marine mammals – Tacoma News Tribune

The Navy is continuing to promote that they can expand their training here inside Puget Sound without harming marine mammals, yet more and more troubling information keeps coming out. Given that we have little ability to monitor the Navy actitivites, and strange things like porpoises and whales washing up dead with odd problems, it’s worthy of concern….

The U.S. Navy may hurt more dolphins and whales by using sonar and explosives in Hawaii and California than thought, says an analysis that reflects new research and covers naval activities in a wider area than previous studies. The Navy estimates its use of explosives and sonar may unintentionally cause more than 1,600 instances of hearing loss or other injury to marine mammals each year, according to a draft environmental impact statement that covers training and testing planned from 2014 to 2019. The Navy calculates the explosives could potentially kill more than 200 marine mammals a year.

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