Judge Orders Navy to Curtail Use of Sonar to Protect Marine Life

In a victory for ocean advocates, a federal judge in California ruled yesterday that the U.S. Navy can’t globally deploy a new submarine-hunting sonar system because the military neglected to follow federal laws when determining whether the sonar could harm whales and other marine animals. At the same time, Judge Elizabeth Laporte rejected requests from environmentalists for a total peacetime ban on the sonar. She ordered the Navy and enviro groups to negotiate a plan that would allow limited use of the technology in areas that are not considered to be rich in marine life. Enviros, who have argued for years that the very loud, low-frequency sounds emitted by the sonar can cause serious damage to whales, dolphins, and porpoises, were pleased with the decision. But the Bush administration, which wants to curtail a number of environmental laws in the name of national security, could get around the ruling by pushing a bill through Congress that would allow wider use of the sonar technology.