Navy Wins Court Battle to Install Underwater Warfare Training Near Calving Ground of Endangered Whale
A federal judge has sided with the U.S. Navy in its fight with environmentalists over a proposed undersea naval training site off the coast of Florida.
Located near Jacksonville, the anti-submarine training would take place in shallow waters near the only calving ground for the endangered North Atlantic right whale. Defenders of Wildlife and 11 other environmental groups sued the Navy to prevent it from installing undersea cables and other equipment in a 500-square-nautical-mile area of the ocean.
The plaintiffs contended the training range would actually involve intensive warfare exercises taking place over tens of thousands of square miles
Naval officials said the work and the training would not pose a significant risk to the whales, which number only 313. Judge Lisa Wood acknowledged that the North Atlantic right whale is “the world's most critically endangered large whale species and one of the world's most endangered mammals.”
However, Judge Wood concluded that the Navy properly analyzed “marine mammal densities and bottom habitat surveys” while performing its environmental impact statement. Wood also noted the service plans to conduct more studies in the future to assess any impact that the training might have on the whales and other species.
In 2008, the National Marine Fisheries Service tried to help the Navy by changing the name of the Northern right whale to the North Atlantic right whale and thus removing it fromm the list of species for which there is a legally recognized critical habitat.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky
To Learn More:
Whale Defenders Lose Navy Training Challenge (by Deshayla Strachan, Courthouse News Service)
Defenders of Wildlife v. U.S. Navy (U.S. District Court, Southern Georgia) (pdf)
Fisheries Service Gives Navy Permission to Kill or Harm 27 Species in Pacific Training (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
U.S. Fisheries Service Accused of Removing Protection of Right Whale by Changing Its Name (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
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