In a historic victory for marine mammals, a federal court ruled that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) was wrong to allow the Navy to cause the injury or death of approximately 9.6 million marine mammals, including whales, dolphins, and sea lions. This court's ruling marks an exciting victory for environmental and animal protection groups, including the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), led by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Courts generally review federal agency decisions with tremendous deference to the agency's discretion.
Whales and other marine mammals rely on their hearing for orientation and communication, to find a mate, and to find food. It is how they "see" the world. The Navy sonar tests, approved by NMFS, involve creating sounds thousands of times louder than a jet engine. The results can be devastating and cause irreversible hearing loss, reproductive decline, changes in migratory patterns, and death. The Navy's own environmental review estimates that sonar tests, underwater explosions, and gunnery exercises will potentially harm animals nearly 10 million times in a five year period (2013 to 2018), kill 155 animals, and cause 2,000 instances of permanent injury.