A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order on July 3rd to bar the United States Navy from using a type of sonar in exercises near the Hawaiian Islands. This sonar has been proven to have caused the death of whales and dolphins in previous tests. The Pacific warfare exercise is scheduled to begin this week.
The order by the U.S. Federal Judge was issued three days after the U.S. Navy was given a six-month national defense exemption from the Defense Department allowing it to use "mid-frequency active sonar."
Environmental groups had sued to stop the sonar use during the exercises off Hawaii. The sonar portion of the war games was set to start Thursday.
U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper wrote in her order that the plaintiffs "have shown a possibility that RIMPAC 2006 will kill, injure, and disturb many marine species, including marine mammals, in waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands."
In 2001, U.S. Navy sonar testing near the Bahamas killed a number of whales.
The Sea Shepherd ship Ocean Warrior was in the area at the time and publicly condemned the Navy for the fatalities. The Navy denied any responsibility. Two year later, the U.S. Navy announced that the tests were indeed a factor in the deaths of the whales.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society disputes the U.S. Navy's argument that the testing of low and mid-frequency sonar is in the interest of national security.
"This is a technology initially designed during the cold war to combat Soviet submarine warfare. It is no longer relevant. AL Qaeda does not have any submarines, the Soviet Union no longer exists, and it is a colossal waste of tax dollars for a technology that has no purpose and succeeds only in killing whales," said Captain Paul Watson, Founder and President of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. "The American people do not want their Navy to be killing whales and dolphins. This is insanity to continue to waste huge expenditures on something which makes no logical sense and inflicts such gross cruelty and death on innocent sentient creatures."