Conservation Council for Hawaii et al. v. National Marine Fisheries Service et al.

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whales underwater

Every five years, the U.S. Navy must seek renewed authorization from the National Marine Fisheries Service to conduct training and testing exercises using high-powered sonar and explosives in the waters off Southern California and Hawaii. The U.S. Navy’s use of sonar and explosives can kill, injure, and disturb whales and other marine mammals that rely on their hearing to survive. In this case, the navy planned to substantially increase its activities and projected an unprecedented level of harm to marine mammals: 155 deaths, more than 2,000 permanent injuries, and nearly 9.6 million instances of temporary hearing loss and significant disruptions of vital behaviors. Despite this, the National Marine Fisheries Service concluded that the navy’s activities would have a “negligible impact” on marine mammal species and stocks.

NRDC and our partners disagreed, so we took the U.S. Navy and the National Marine Fisheries Service to court. And in March 2015, the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii ruled for us, saying the Fisheries Service’s analysis was deeply flawed. Following the ruling, NRDC and our partners achieved a landmark settlement with the navy that placed important habitat for vulnerable whale and other marine mammal species off-limits to dangerous activities, like the use of midfrequency active sonar and explosives.

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