Nov 12, 2008 | 16
The U.S. Supreme Court in a 5–4 decision today ruled that the Navy does not have to consider the effect of sonar on whales when training with sonar off the coast of California. "The Court does not question the importance of plaintiffs' ecological, scientific and recreational interests, but it concludes that the balance of equities and consideration of the overall public interest tip strongly in favor of the Navy," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority. "The determination of where the public interest lies in this case does not strike the Court as a close question."
Environmentalists, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, which sued to stop the sonar exercises, and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) charged that the high-intensity mid-frequency active (MFA) sonar blankets vast areas of the ocean with noise pollution, causing whales, including endangered beak whales, to beach and/or die. The Navy does not dispute the potential danger to the mammals, acknowledging in its own environmental assessments that the sonar may permanently damage as many as 500 whales and temporarily deafen at least 8,000 whales.
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