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New court ruling on Navy sonar has big implications

July 20, 2016

A new court ruling could fundamentally change the standards that the Navy and National Marine Fisheries Service have been using to regulate Navy sonar, by requiring more areas to be set aside as off-limits to the Navy’s routine peacetime operations.  A federal appeals court has ruled that simply determining that Navy activities will have “negligible impact” […]

Navy agrees to exclusion zones for sonar, explosives training

September 17, 2015

After being slammed by a federal judge in March, the US Navy has agreed to keep sonar training and explosives testing and training out of several biologically important areas off the California and Hawaii coasts.  This week, settlement talks with NRDC, Earthjustice, and other plaintiffs resulted in a final order, which will remain in effect […]

NATO sonar exercises, strandings in Crete

April 8, 2014

While recent years have seen an apparent reduction in the number of sonar-related strandings, one of the world’s hot spots for such tragedies saw a rash of strandings in recent days.  Two different stranding events occurred along the southern shore of Crete, the first involving 5-7 Cuvier’s beaked whales along a 16km stretch of coast, and […]

Legal challenges mount to new round of Navy training permits

January 31, 2014

In December, the Navy’s current five-year plan for training and testing activities around Hawaii and off the southern California coast were approved by NOAA regulators, covering the years 2014-2018.  The approval authorized incidental takes of marine mammals, including both widespread behavioral changes and close-range injuries and some deaths, as a result of sound exposure from sonar […]

First ruling in new sonar challenges fails to limit huge take numbers

October 9, 2013

The first ruling is in from the latest round of legal challenges to Naval training permits, and it’s a split decision.  You’ll need to click through to read the full post to get all the details, but here’s a preview of the conclusion you’ll find at the end: It appears that the places that the […]

NRDC, allies mount new legal challenge to Navy sonar

October 20, 2012

2012 is shaping up as the year when the legal battle over the US Navy’s active sonar systems ramped back up to full-scale confrontation.  A 2009 agreement between NRDC and the Navy put legal challenges on the back burner – actually, entirely off the stovetop – in favor of dialogue.  But recent permits issued by NOAA’s National […]

NRDC re-opens legal battle with Navy, NOAA over sonar

January 27, 2012

Three years after the NRDC and U.S. Navy reached an agreement that was meant to create avenues for dialogue and collaboration, a new lawsuit filed this week suggests that the hopes both sides held have not been realized. The main sticking point remains the same now as it was then: environmental advocates insist that some […]

Mass whale stranding during Italian Navy exercises: sonar heard?

December 7, 2011

Over the past week, a mass stranding of Cuvier’s beaked whales has taken place along the shoreline of Corfu (a Greek island) and southern Italy. The first whales came ashore on November 30, halfway through an Italian Navy exercise taking place in waters on both sides of Italy, including the 130-mile wide Ionian Sea, which […]

Navy jumps on sonar EIS merry-go-round, aiming at 2014 renewals

July 20, 2010

As many of you know, over the past two years, the Navy has completed its first-ever Environmental Impact Statements for mid-frequency active sonar, in concert with applying for permits to allow them to do sonar training missions in Naval training ranges off most of the coastlines of the US.  This training activity has been ongoing for […]

Navy plans to add sonar training in Gulf of Alaska spurs local concerns, as NMFS prepares to issue permits

February 15, 2010

The final EIS in the Navy’s multi-year effort to get its training activities into legal compliance with NEPA requirements is heading for the finish line.  Adding to the drama, however, is the fact that the Navy is pushing to introduce active sonar training into the Gulf of Alaska—while previous EISs at other training ranges proposed continuing […]

NOAA steps up, announces new active sonar oversight with possible off-limits areas

January 22, 2010

NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco has announced a series of sweeping new initiatives designed to push the Navy forward in its efforts to understand and mitigate the impacts of mid-frequency active sonar on marine mammals.  In response to a request from the Council for Environmental Quality (CEQ), which asked NOAA to conduct a comprehensive review of […]

Georgia Questions “Considerable Speculation” in Navy sonar range assessment

July 29, 2009

The Navy is facing some push-back from the states of Georgia and Florida in the initial stages of gaining the necessary approvals for proceeding with their plans for a 500 square mile training range offshore from Jacksonville.  The Navy had hoped to have the states’ comments in hand by this week, but Florida expects to […]

Chinese Navy Harasses US Low-Frequency Active Sonar Ship Near Chinese Base

March 22, 2009

The USS Impeccable, one of two US Navy long-range Low Frequency Active Sonar (LFAS) surveillance ships deployed in the western Pacific, was repeatedly harassed by Chinese Navy and other Chinese ships during March. The Chinese attempted to snag the towed array cables with poles, and to obstruct the ship’s passage by dropping wood in the […]

Philippines Stranding Spurs Wild Speculation by Senator

February 11, 2009

In the Philippines this week, over 200 melon-headed whales appeared in near-shore waters across a large bay from Manilla, and appeared confused about how to get out.  Initial speculation ran wild, as a Philippine Senator called for an inquiry into whether the US research vessel the R.V. Langseth had created the trouble while doing a […]

NMFS Gives Sonar OK for Atlantic Coast

January 27, 2009

NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service has formally given the Navy its seal of approval for the third of the Navy’s “Big 3” sonar training EISs, just in the nick of time as the Navy’s 2-year national security exemption expires.  The Atlantic Fleet Active Sonar Training (AFAST) EIS, along with the recently approved EISs covering Hawaii […]

Navy Gets Formal OK from NOAA for Sonar Operations in Hawaii

January 13, 2009

The Navy took another step on its reformed NEPA compliance path this week, as it received a formal Letter of Authorization to proceed with sonar training missions in waters around Hawaii.  The Hawaii training range was the first of 11 Navy ranges to complete its Environmental Impact Statement; the Navy began planning this step of […]

Navy, NRDC Agree to Move Sonar Dispute out of Court

January 7, 2009

The US Navy and the NRDC and its co-plaintiffs have settled a long-running lawsuit that challenged the Navy’s overall management of its mid-frequency active sonar program (this suit was separate from more high-profile challenges to specific training missions, one of which recently ended up in the Supreme Court). The resulting agreement formalizes the Navy’s recent commitment […]

Navy Final EIS Says Sonar Training Doesn’t Need Restrictions

December 17, 2008

The Navy, as planned, has released its final EIS governing mid-frequency active sonar training along the entire eastern seaboard, as well as a similar EIS for southern California sonar use.  While the documents consider formal Alternatives that would limit sonar training to specific areas—either permanently or seasonally, based on marine mammal breeding, feeding, and migration […]

Supreme Court Hears Navy Sonar Case, Transcript Available

October 10, 2008

For two hours on Wednesday, the long-running dispute between the Navy and NRDC over mid-frequency active sonar had its day in the Supreme Court, and while the Justices did broach some questions about the relative likelihood of harm to cetaceans or Navy training, the legal case itself rests on more procedural grounds having to do […]

Supreme Court to Hear Sonar Case October 8

October 1, 2008

Oral arguments on the California sonar case will take place before the Supreme Court on Wednesday, October 8, in the culmination of perhaps the most convoluted sonar challenge to date. The case began as a simple NEPA challenge to routine Naval sonar training off the Southern California coast in early 2007, and has turned into […]

Navy Releases First EIS for Sonar Training; Hawaii Range Targeted for Continued Sonar Training, Using Current Safety Procedures

June 30, 2008

The US Navy has released its first completed Environmental Impact Statement examining active sonar training activities, this one covering training in waters around Hawaii, and proposing to continue current Navy operating procedures, rather than adopting more stringent safety measures. Eleven other regional training ranges are receiving similar scrutiny, with draft EISs released for two, and […]

SoCal Sonar Draft EIS: Navy Sticks to its Approach

April 9, 2008

Navy Releases Southern California Sonar Draft EIS, Proposals Fall Short of Court Orders – The Navy has released its long-planned Draft Environmental Impact Statement on offshore training exercises in Southern California, including the use of mid-frequency active sonar. Recent legal challenges to the Navy training, in which a circuit court judge imposed additional restrictions on use […]

Navy Asked Supreme Court to Rule on Sonar Restrictions

April 8, 2008

Navy Looks to Supreme Court for Sonar Relief – The US Navy has, as widely expected, asked the Supreme Court to review a decision by a Federal Appeals Court that upheld a lower court ruling imposing a larger buffer zone and other additional operational restrictions on its sonar training in southern California. The Justice Department petition […]

Navy, NMFS slammed by judge over training permits

April 9, 2015

The Navy and NMFS suffered a stunning legal defeat over the latest 5-year EIS and permits governing training exercises in Hawaii, California, and waters in between.  In marked contrast to other recent court rulings, which found fault with some procedural issues but largely backed the Navy and NMFS’s collaborative planning results (see detailed AEI summaries […]

Navy (mostly) prevails in LFA lawsuit

June 9, 2014

Eighteen months after a lawsuit challenged the latest 5-year authorization for the US Navy’s SURTASS-LFA low-frequency active sonar system, Federal Judge Elizabeth Laporte ruled in the Navy’s favor on nearly all counts.  And last week, the Navy agreed to do a Supplemental Environmental Impact statement that will address the key point on which she found […]