Monday, September 10, 2007

Navy vs Whales: Navy one - Whales zero

Sonar as a graph
The U.S. Navy has long been pushing to conduct training exercises off the coast of Southern California using high-powered sonar. This particular stretch of coastline is an important habitat for orca and humpback whales and other marine mammals. Applying this invasive military technology in the waters of this coastal region poses a significant threat to the resident marine life.

In May 2007 two disoriented whales swim up the Sacramento Delta

[Caption: A disoriented and injured humpback whale mother and her calf at the Port of Sacramento, where they hit a dead-end after traveling 90 miles through the San Francisco Bay and up the Sacramento River in May 2007.]

The Natural Resources Defense Council, the plaintiff, alleges that the Navy's sonar causes whales to beach themselves. It may interfere with their sense of orientation.
"There is evidence that very loud noise from anti-submarine warfare sonar may hurt whales and lead to their beaching. On numerous occasions whales have been stranded shortly after military sonar was active in the area, suggesting a link."

(Found on Wikipedia)

On Friday, August 31, 2007, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled for the Navy and against the welfare of the whales.

The justification for the panel's decision was written by Judge Andrew Kleinfeld and reads:
"The public does indeed have a very considerable interest in preserving our natural environment and especially relatively scarce whales. But it also has an interest in national defense. We are currently engaged in war, in two countries."

Some facts and figures about humpback whalesThis ruling allows the Navy to use high-powered sonar in 11 planned training exercises.

This ruling is also a demonstration of the harmful tentacles of a dubious war reaching as far as our Pacific backyard, all under the guise of 'national security interests'.

Why is this not surprising?

Because, sadly, environmental and humanitarian concerns have always been subjugated by militaristic ones. This, however, is fast becoming an unsustainable rationale.

Some folks take a dim view of "tree-huggers", "whale-lovers" and "the Birkenstock crowd". But the fact is that we can no longer afford to tolerate this kind of self-righteous cynicism as the issues of preservation and rehabilitation of our eco-system become more pressing with each passing day.

Wake up and smell the scorched land
and the plundered oceans!



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