Navy agrees to restrict use of SURTASS-LFA sonar
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2003:
SAN FRANCISCO–U.S. Magistrate Elizabeth D. Laporte was at
press time for the October 2003 edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE expected to
ratify an agreement by the U.S. Navy that will restrict peacetime
use of Surveillance Towed Array Sensor System-Low Frequency Active
(SURTASS-LFA) to protect whales.
Settling a lawsuit brought by the Natural Resources Defense
Council and the Humane Society of the U.S., the pact follows a
permanent injunction issued by Laporte on August 26 against any use
of the new sonar system within a 14-million-square-mile area,
constituting 40% of the Pacific Ocean.
“Under the injunction,” said Washington Post staff writer
Marc Kaufman, “the Navy can use the new sonar–which emits
low-frequency sound waves that travel for hundreds of miles–only
off the eastern seaboard of Asia, an area of about 1.5 million
square miles. Both sides said they could not discuss the reasons for
that exception. The agreement prohibits the use of SURTASS-LFA
within 30 to 60 miles of the coastlines of the approved area,
including China, Korea, Japan and the Philippines. In addition,
the sonar cannot be used when marine mammals are migrating through.”
This is about 1% of the range within which the Navy was
authorized to use the sonar by the National Marine Fisheries Service,
under a permit granted in mid-2002.
New research published in the October 9 edition of Nature
reinforces the theory that tests of mid-range and low-frequency sonar
have caused numerous whale strandings since the early 1980s.
Surfacing rapidly to try to escape the noise, the victims apparently
die from internal decompression.