Thursday, July 12, 2007

Feds look to extend Navy sonar use

Left: A beaked whale beached in the Bahamas was one of 16 nearly simultaneous groundings following antisubmarine exercises using standard tactical sonars. The timing raised suspicions that the marine mammals had been disoriented by "barotrauma" -- pressure injuries to sensitive ear and brain tissues caused by sound waves. Once beached and deprived of the buoyancy of the water, a whale's weight can crush its own internal organs, leading to a painful death.

HONOLULU — The federal government wants to extend by five years its rules allowing the Navy to use a new low-frequency sonar, despite objections from environmentalists that the technology may harm whales and dolphins.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Tuesday that the low-frequency active sonar used to detect submarines at great distances would have a “negligible impact” on marine mammals species and stocks.

The Navy, in requesting the five-year rule extension, asked for permission to use the sonar in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans, as well as in the Mediterranean Sea, NOAA said in a document submitted to the Federal Register...

The Natural Resources Defense Council, which challenged the low-frequency rules when they were first established five years ago, said it was disappointed with NOAA’s move.

“This particular system generates noise pollution over a staggering geographic scale,” said Joel Reynolds, a council attorney. Reynolds said the council plans to sue again if NOAA finalizes the rule extension.

Read the rest at Navy Times

Related Link:
Naval exercise may mean whale strandings