Five environmental groups sue Navy over sonar use off Hawaii

Tensions over the U.S. Navy’s use of sonar in anti-submarine exercises off Hawaii have resurfaced, and five green groups are suing to change the practice. Citing concerns that sonar can kill and injure whales, dolphins, and other marine mammals, the lawsuit names both the Navy and the National Marine Fisheries Service, which issues permits for the activities. It asks the court to stop the exercises — 12 of which are planned through 2008 — until an environmental impact study is completed and protective measures are enacted. The Navy maintains that it has gone “to great lengths” to be wicked careful, keeping an eye out for whales from on deck and from airplanes, and turning off sonar when the creatures get too close. But activists say some such practices have been abandoned, and claim the Navy is violating environmental laws. “The Navy is not above the law,” says Marti Townsend of KAHEA, a Hawaiian environmental coalition. “Protecting the country includes following its laws, not skirting them.”