Judge temporarily restricts Navy’s sonar use to protect whales

The U.S. Navy is temporarily forbidden to use high-intensity sonar in war-game exercises off the coast of Hawaii, a federal judge declared on Monday. She ruled that environmental groups had provided “considerable convincing scientific evidence that the Navy’s use of … sonar can kill, injure, and disturb many species, including marine mammals.” Two summers ago, Navy war games off of Hawaii disoriented more than 150 melon-headed whales (no, we’re not making fun of them — that’s what they’re called), which left their deep-water habitat and were found swimming chaotically in the shallows of a bay. On Friday, the Department of Defense granted the Navy a six-month national-security exemption from the Marine Mammal Protection Act, apparently in an effort to circumvent the lawsuit, but the judge ruled that the exemption did not cover the National Environmental Policy Act, so the suit could go forward. The Navy and NRDC have until July 12 to discuss a settlement; on July 18, the judge will consider making the ban permanent.