September 26th, 2013 Eureka, California release from whalesandmarineflauna posts:
A federal court has ruled that National Marine Fisheries Service failed to protect thousands of whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals, and sea lions from U.S. Navy warfare training exercises along the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington.
The opinion was released late Wednesday by Magistrate Judge Nandor, U.S. District Court for the District of Northern California, which found that the agency’s approval of the Navy’s training activities in its Northwest Training Range Complex failed to use the best available science to assess the extent and duration of impacts to whales and other marine mammals. The decision requires the federal agency to reassess its permits to ensure that the Navy’s training activities comply with protective measures in the Endangered Species Act.
Steve Mashuda, an earthjustice attorney representing a coalition of conservation and Northern California Indian Tribes, said: “NMFS must now employ the best science and require the Navy to take reasonable and effective actions to avoid and minimize harm from its training activities.”
Naval activities in the Northwest Coast include Northern California to the Canadian border; include anti-submarine war exercises involving tracking aircraft and sonar. Research in sonar in 2010 and 2011 proved that whales and other marine sea life are affected more than previously recorded, according to the Earthjustice legal team.
Since the National Marine Fisheries Service ignored the new information of studies in 2010 and 2012, the court found that the agency violated its legal duty to use this “best available data” when evaluating impacts to endangered whales and other marine life.
The US Navy had issued a letter on July 31, 2013 in response to the California Central Coastal Commission’s open meeting earlier in March regarding the US Navy’s continued plan to test in the Bay of California from January 2014 through 2019. This decision of the court’s ruling against the National Marine Fisheries Service will give more debate as to how the US Navy proceeds in California waters. The NRDC has been highly active in that area of the coast, also.
“The Navy’s Northwest Training Range is the size of the state of California, yet not one square inch was off-limits to the most harmful aspects of naval testing and training activities,” said Zak Smith, staff attorney for NRDC. “NMFS relied on faulty science when approving the Navy’s permits and thousands of marine mammals suffered the consequences.
According to the ruling, the Fisheries Service must now reassess the permits using the latest science, which could trigger a requirement that the Navy do more to protect whales and dolphins in its ongoing training exercises. The Central Coast Commission of California has strongly fought for this during their reviews and public meeting of March 2013.
“Today’s ruling gives whales and other marine mammals a fighting chance against the Navy” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director at the Center for Biological Diversity.
Earthjustice represents the InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, and Friends of the San Juans and has partnered with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in the lawsuit.