Concern spreads about U.S. Navy sonar harm to dolphins

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November/December 2007:
SAN FRANCISCO, TEHRAN–Ruling on behalf of the Natural
Resources Defense Council, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit
U.S. Court of Appeals on November 13, 2007 allowed the U.S. Navy to
finish a training exercise off the coast of California that was
already underway and was to conclude on November 22, but ordered the
Navy to reduce the harm done to whales by sonar anti-submarine
detection equipment before beginning a new exercise near the Channel
Islands in January 2008.
Eight other planned Navy exercises may also be delayed by the
ruling, reported Bob Egelko of the San Francisco Chronicle. “Three
anti-submarine exercises had already been held,” Egelko wrote,
“when U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper ordered a halt on
August 7, saying the Navy’s protective measures were ‘woefully
ineffectual and inadequate.’ She said the underwater sound waves
would harm nearly 30 species of marine mammals, including five
species of whales. Overruling Cooper on August 31, an appeals court
panel said she had failed to consider the need for military
preparedness.” But the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel reversed
the earlier panel.

The 9th Circuit verdict only superficially appeared to
support the claim of Sha’aban-Ali Nezami, head of the Iranian
state-run fisheries organization, that U.S. military activity caused
the deaths of 152 dolphins who washed up in September and October
along the Iranian southern coast.
“Distressing pictures of rows of dead dolphins have appeared
in the Iranian media, alongside reports that they had ‘committed
suicide,’ wrote Guardian Tehran correspondent Robert Tait. “Nezami
told Iranian journalists that, ‘As these dolphins are not among the
species normally found in the Persian Gulf and Oman Sea, probably the
Americans brought them to carry out laboratory work. This group of
dolphins have not been able to tolerate the tests. The likely reason
for these deaths is water pollution, the spreading of
electromagnetic waves by military ships, or a kind of virus.'”
But tissue samples showed no sign of poisoning or pollution,
Tait wrote. The Iranian environmental protection agency “found
bruising on some corpses, arousing suspicion that the dolphins had
suffered violent blows,” in waters “rich in tuna and a site of
industrial-scale fishing.”
“We are basing our hypothesis on fishing,” said environmental
agency deputy chief of marine biology Mohammad Baqer Nabavi.

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