2003 CPEO Military List Archive

From: CPEO Moderator <cpeo@cpeo.org>
Date: 13 May 2003 16:26:01 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] Sonar incident prompts focus on legislation
Sonar incident prompts focus on legislation
Congress is considering a bill that would exempt the military from key
environmental laws.
Christopher Dunagan
Sun Staff
May 12, 2003

The Navy might have violated federal law last week when USS Shoup
employed high-intensity sonar around marine mammals, but that's the
least of the concerns, environmentalists say.

"I happen to believe that what they did was a violation of the Marine
Mammal Protection Act," said Michael Jasny of the Natural Resources
Defense Council.

But Jasny said he's more worried about a bill working its way through
Congress that would allow the military to ignore any harm to marine

U.S. and Canadian officials are investigating Monday's incident in which
the Shoup, a guided-missile destroyer based in Everett, apparently
passed by the San Juan Islands using sonar that caused noticeable
agitation to about 20 killer whales and up to 100 porpoises.

Observers said many of the animals tried to escape the pinging noise,
which reverberated off the hulls of whale-watching boats in the area.

Commercial whale watchers remain on the lookout for behavioral changes
in marine mammals, whose sensitive hearing could have been damaged by
the noise.

Under U.S. and Canadian law, it is considered illegal to harm or harass
marine mammals, which generally means anything that significantly alters
their behavior.

Brian Gorman of NOAA Fisheries, which oversees the Marine Mammal
Protection Act, said his agency is looking into the incident, but
investigators have not reached a stage of formal inquiry, let alone

"At this point, we need to know what went on and where it happened,"
Gorman said.

The Navy typically applies for federal permits when proposed actions are
likely to disturb marine mammals, Jasny noted.

The bigger concern, he said, is a Bush administration proposal to give
the Navy and other armed forces "blanket exemptions" from key
environmental laws, including those dealing with marine mammals,
endangered species and hazardous wastes.

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