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Court Battle To Protect Whales Against Navy Sonar

Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)

Court Battle To Protect Whales Against Deadly Navy Sonar

We need your immediate support as we go to trial in a case that is critical to the future of marine mammals on this planet. Three weeks from now, NRDC litigators will face off against the Bush administration in federal court with the safety of entire populations of whales and dolphins at risk.

This long-awaited courtroom battle is the culmination of our eight-year campaign to stop the U.S. Navy from illegally deploying its Low Frequency Active (LFA) sonar system -- a new technology that blasts ocean habitats with noise so intense it can maim, deafen and even kill marine mammals.

I hope you'll go to right now to make an online emergency contribution in support of this historic case.

What's at stake? Consider: last year, the Bush administration issued the Navy a permit to deploy LFA sonar over 75 percent of the world's oceans and to harass or injure up to 12 percent of every single marine mammal species found anywhere in this vast expanse of ocean!

But before that disaster could unfold, your support enabled NRDC to race to court last fall and win a dramatic eleventh-hour reprieve for thousands of whales and dolphins. A federal judge blocked global deployment of the sonar system until a full trial could be held and all the evidence heard.

That all-important proceeding will begin on June 30th. It will determine whether this dangerous technology is finally unleashed upon our planet's oceans -- or whether it should be permanently blocked until the Navy obeys the law and demonstrates that LFA would not cause serious harm to ocean life.

Scientists are warning that LFA sonar may threaten the very survival of entire populations of whales, some already teetering on the brink of extinction. At close range, the system's shock waves are so intense they can destroy a whale's eardrums, cause its lungs to hemorrhage, and even kill.

Further away, LFA noise can cause permanent hearing loss in marine mammals after a single transmission. At 40 miles away, LFA noise is still so intense it can disrupt the mating, feeding, nursing and other essential activities of marine mammals.

Two years ago, the mere testing of high-intensity Navy sonar in mid-frequency range caused a mass stranding of whales in the Bahamas. Whales from at least three different species died, their inner ears bleeding from the explosive power of the sonar signal.

Just last month, a group of biologists off the coast of Washington state witnessed a "stampede" of distressed marine mammals as a U.S. destroyer, operating a powerful mid-frequency sonar system, passed through. Over the next several days, ten porpoises were discovered stranded on nearby beaches.

And the dangers go beyond marine mammals. In preparing for the upcoming trial, NRDC has uncovered the shocking results of the Navy's own LFA research on human scuba divers. One Navy test subject was exposed to 14 minutes of LFA noise at 160 decibels -- far below the level of 235 decibels at which the actual LFA system will be operating. The diver experienced uncontrollable shaking in his limbs and lapsed into a seizure-like state that recurred periodically for days. The Navy's report described him as a "casualty."

The Bush administration wants us to believe that the impacts of LFA will be negligible! Launching a massive acoustic assault on the world's oceans is not negligible. Threatening communities of whales, dolphins and humans with injury and death is not negligible.

The Bush administration's position on LFA is arrogant, inhumane and, almost certainly, illegal. But we cannot stop the deployment of this technological menace unless we have the financial resources to fight this courtroom battle to the very end and win a permanent ban.

Again, I urge you to help by going to right now and making an online emergency contribution.

With your help, we can make sure that no more whales have to suffer and die from high-power sonar. Let me know you'll stand with us at this critical moment in the fight to protect all ocean life. Thank you.


John H. Adams President
Natural Resources Defense Council

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