Next spring, the Supreme Court will weigh in on the U.S. Navy’s use of high-intensity, mid-frequency sonar off the southern California coast. Use of this type of sonar, which the Navy admits may significantly disturb or injure an estimated 170,000 marine mammals, was challenged in court based on protections found in the National Environmental Policy Act of 1970. Now that oral arguments before the Supreme Court have concluded, we must wait for its decision in 2009. But when you’re as passionate about the issues as our staff and supporters, waiting can be incredibly difficult, so thanks to a Wavemaker in St. Augustine, FL named Marcella, I have something that you can do to help protect marine mammals and other ocean wildlife from sonar. The Navy wants to build an east coast sonar range using this same mid-frequency sonar. It has several sites in mind along the Atlantic Coast, including off Jacksonville, FL because of its proximity to Mayport Naval Station and to Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base. However, each proposed range is also within the migration path of the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale and has the potential to impact a variety of other marine mammals like bottlenose dolphins and pilot whales. Check out the fact sheet for more info. Beyond the impact to marine mammals, the potential training ranges may also impact important ocean habitat. Oceana has worked with both the New England and South Atlantic Fishery Management Councils on proposals to protect and designate deep-sea canyons and deep sea coral habitats as Habitat Areas of Particular Concern. The Navy states in its review that some of these areas lie within/and or adjacent to all four range locations. Deep sea corals that lie in the affected areas include lophelia and oculina. Five species of sea turtles are also found in all four proposed Undersea Warfare Training Ranges. All sea turtles that swim in US waters are listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act because they are on the brink of extinction. The five species that may be impacted by the training ranges are hawksbills, leatherbacks, greens, loggerheads, and kemp’s ridley sea turtles. Using the postal service or a fax machine, write a letter to the Navy expressing your concern about the potential harm the sonar range will have on marine mammals, sea turtles, and ocean habitat. Written statements on the proposed sonar range must be postmarked by Oct. 27. They may be mailed to Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Atlantic Division, 6506 Hampton Blvd., Norfolk, Va., 23508-1278. Or the statement may be Faxed to (804) 200-5568.
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