A federal court order has settled two cases against the U.S. Navy and has achieved safer habitats for marine mammals, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The settlement, entered Friday and accepted on Monday, limits the Navy’s sonar training, testing, and use of explosives in marine mammal breeding grounds, feeding zones, and migratory passages in the Pacific Ocean off Southern California and Hawai’i.
Such activity has proved harmful to large marine animals that communicate through sonar waves, such as whales and dolphins, because, as David Henkin, attorney for the environmental law nonprofit Earthjustice, said in a prepared statement, “If a whale or dolphin can’t hear, it can’t survive.”
The new agreement, effective until late 2018, designates biological sanctuaries where the Navy has agreed not to test. According to Michael Jasny, director of the NRDC’s Marine Mammal Protection Program, although the Navy’s testing range lies far south of Santa Barbara and Los Angeles, the settlement will protect many mammals who travel through the Santa Barbara area, “including blue, fin, and gray whales, all of which are in a better situation today than they were two days ago.”