03 August 2007

Update: Whale Songs

UPDATE 2, January 2008: Letter from NRDC President

Fantastic news! A federal court in California has just imposed the strongest-ever protections for whales against an onslaught of military sonar.

The new controls are the result of an NRDC lawsuit that demanded the Navy rein in its deadly sonar before beginning two years of maneuvers near the Channel Islands -- one of the world's most sensitive environments and home to five endangered species of whales.

The Navy itself estimates that the booming sonar would harass or harm marine mammals some 170,000 times -- and cause permanent injury in more than 400 cases.

U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper said the Navy's existing plan for protecting marine mammals was "grossly inadequate." And she has ordered the Navy to put a series of precautionary measures in place -- many of them recommended by NRDC -- that will go a long way toward protecting whales from needless injury and death.

For starters, the Navy will not be permitted to use its dangerous mid-frequency sonar within 12 miles of the California coast, a zone that is heavily used by migrating whales and dolphins. Sonar will also be banned in the Catalina Basin, an underwater canyon with a high density of whales.

The Navy will also have to monitor for marine mammals -- from the ship and from the air -- both before and during its sonar exercises. If any marine mammals are spotted within 2200 yards of the ship, the Navy will have to shut down its sonar.

These safeguards represent a giant leap forward in our decade-long campaign to make sure that whales don't have to die for the sake of military practice.

I want to thank you for advancing our campaign for whales through your tenacious online activism. Needless to say, this fight is far from over and many more court battles lay ahead.

But case by case, we are accomplishing what many thought impossible: forcing the Navy to obey our environmental laws and stop its needless killing of whales -- and all without compromising military readiness.

Thank you for standing with NRDC in defense of the world's marine mammals.


Frances Beinecke

P.S. In the wake of this landmark victory, please help us build nationwide opposition to a separate Navy plan that would put a sonar range right next to a key migratory route for endangered whales by clicking here:

UPDATE 1, AUTUMN 2007: The Pentagon has taken the unprecedented step of exempting the US Navy from the Marine Mammal Protection Act for six months while it conducts training exercises with dangerous mid-frequency sonar. This WILL cause strandings and internal hemorrhaging of marine mammals and will certainly kill many.

Please take a moment to send this note as soon
as possible to Secretary Winter. Thank you.

Ear-splitting military sonar is needlessly threatening whales and other marine mammals throughout the world's oceans. Yet the U.S. Navy has resisted legal requirements to put safeguards in place during testing and training to protect marine life. In response to this dangerous breach of environmental laws, NRDC is waging a campaign of courtroom action and public pressure to compel the Navy to restrict its use of deadly sonar.

High-intensity sonar blasts whales with noise billions of times more intense than levels known to disturb them and can cause their internal organs to hemorrhage. Scientists have linked the use of mid-frequency military sonar to hundreds of whale strandings and deaths around the world, in areas such as North Carolina, the Bahamas, Greece, the Canary Islands and Japan. Such sonar can also interfere with a whale's hearing, affecting its ability to navigate, avoid predators, find food, care for its young and, ultimately, survive.

Please take a moment to send a note as soon as possible
to the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service. Thank you.

Sites with whale songs to download: