A U.S. federal judge Monday barred the U.S. Navy from using a type of sonar, which environmental groups said harms whales and other marine life, during war games scheduled for California waters.
U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper ordered the preliminary injunction on a request by the Natural Resources Defense Council and other groups, which contended the Navy failed to do sufficient environmental analysis of the effects of the mid-frequency active sonar.
The groups said the sonar, which uses high-intensity bursts of sound that span large distances underwater, can kill and injure whales, leaving them stranded on beaches, as well as causing marine mammals and fish to lose their hearing or abandon their habitat.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy said the tests of the sonar -- three have already taken place, and 11 more are scheduled through 2009 --are necessary in order to properly train personnel on how to detect quiet submarines.
"The U.S. Navy's use of sonar, and the ability to test and train with it, is critical to the national security of the United States," the U.S. government argued in court papers in advance of Monday's hearing.
The Navy was planning to complete its environmental analysis of the sonar by the end of the 2009 fiscal year, and in the meantime had "interim protective measures" in place for marine mammals, the papers stated.
On the other side, the plaintiffs' attorneys argued that the Navy should not be allowed to continue with the tests.
While noting that the issues on both sides are "tremendously important," the judge found there is a "near certainty" the sonar tests will cause irreparable harm to the environment without effective mitigation.
The court order will remain in place while a lawsuit filed by the environmental groups is pending.
Navy officials said they will appeal, and in addition to appealing the order, the government can ask the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to put it on hold until the appeal is resolved.
Last Mod: 07 Ağustos 2007, 12:21