Navy Sued Over Sonar Use
The National Resources Defence Council has sued the U.S. Navy over the use of mid-frequency sonar during training exercises, alleging harm to marine mammals.
I've discussed before the problems the Navy has responding to hysterical attacks of this nature -- it's hard to prove a negative. Hopefully, though, the plantiff will have to use more than anecdotal evidence to prove their case (although the case was wisely filed in the area covered by the Ninth Circuit Court, home of the "Pledge of Allegiance" case, where illogical arguments seem to work).
Although I know I have my work cut out for me arguing against such a fine scientific mind as Pierce Brosnan (link is an mp3 file), I'll certainly try. First of all, the Navy could argue that there are several thousand instances of MF sonar each year that don't lead to marine mammal beachings, but the plantiffs could respond that the sonar simply disintegrates its victims in those cases. Likewise, there are cases of marine mammal beaching that occur nowhere near active sonar use -- this is easily countered by accusations that a Halliburton time machine/matter transmitter sends active sonar pulses back in time/across space to destroy cute dolphins.
All in all, what this lawsuit really proves is that the Navy made a big mistake settling an earlier lawsuit about LF sonar use. Now, they'll have to make a jury understand that there's a big difference in a 235 dB sonar noise level vs. 235 dB airborne noise as mentioned in the NRDC press release ("an intensity roughly comparable to a Saturn V rocket at blastoff") -- they're measured from a different reference level. [From the link: "The standard reference pressures used in underwater acoustics and in-air acoustics are not the same. In water, acousticians use a standard reference sound pressure of 1 micropascal (i.e. 10-6 newtons per square metre), abbreviated µPa. In air, acousticians use a higher standard reference sound pressure of 20 µPa. The in-air standard was chosen so that the threshold of hearing for a person with normal hearing would correspond to 0 dB at a frequency of 1000 Hz. Adopting different standards for air and water inevitably leads to a confusing consequence: the same sound pressure that acousticians label 0 decibels in air would be labelled 26 decibels in water."]
Seriously, though, I know that sonar use can cause damage to marine mammals. I also know that the Navy is taking precautions to limit the use of sonar near concentrations of dolphins and whales. The contention by the NRDC that they think they're not affecting the proficiency of our nation's warfighters by seeking to limit peacetime use of active sonar is so completely wrong on the face of it that it's laughable.
However, if you agree with the NRDC, you can express your own opinion by having them send a form letter in your name... to Gordon England, who will be Secretary of the Navy for another, oh, week or so... I expect this will be a very effective means of
Update 1651 24 Oct: The Navy Times reports that the Navy is discussing plans for opening up a sonar training range on the East Coast.