Navy Sonar and Its Impact on Marine Mammals


Currently, a new technology is being developed and deployed by the United States Navy (USN), which creates intense underwater sound via powerful sonar emitters, without any apparent concern for the effect it may have on marine mammals. This research paper studies the various impact of use of active sonar by US Navy and its impact of marine mammals in detail.


Currently, new technology is being developed and deployed by the United States Navy (USN), which creates intense underwater sound via powerful sonar emitters, without any apparent concern for the effect it may have on marine mammals. The Navy is replacing their archaic passive-sonar system, which is not harmful to marine mammals, with a powerful active sonar system, which is shown the potential to be harmful or even fatal to marine mammals.

Unfortunately, it has been difficult for scientists to prove that sonar is harmful or potentially fatal to marine mammals. Specifically, the causal connection between the negative effects and active sonar has been entirely frustrated due to the lack of evidence. The bodies of beached whales are typically found in an advanced state of decomposition. Without verifying evidence, federal legislation prohibiting the use of active sonar technology is inadequate to protect and prevent the negative effect on whales and greater populations of marine mammals in the oceans today.

This paper begins with an overview of the types of active sonar being used by the Navy and examples and explanations of the potential effects on whales. This will include general statistics on the effect of active sonar on whale feeding, navigation, reproduction and communication. The second section will address the outcome of recent court decisions and how the courts have interpreted the legislation to protect whales. The third section will look at the federal legislation enacted to protect whales and marine mammals in general, and how they do or do not accomplish this objective. The next section will look at who may be ultimately responsible and where the liabilities for the damages caused by active sonar rest. The concluding section will be a synopsis of the overall objective of court and federal efforts at protecting whales as well as where there can be modest improvements for the maximum benefit of whales today given the continued use of active sonar.

Overview of Active Sonar use by the Navy and its effect on Marine Mammals

Active Sonar is being extensively used by the US Navy. US Navy is giving topmost priority to antisubmarine warfare. The Navy’s convoy witnesses a poignant risk from contemporary submarines of diesel-electric technology as these submarines are exceptionally arduous to find and chase since they can function almost noiselessly. Active sonar is the virtually efficient apparatus to detect submerged diesel-electric submarines as it leashes out beats of noise undersea and then accepts the audio waves that reverberate off the goal. Active sonar is intricate expertise, operators of sonar have to experience detailed training exercises to become master in using the sonar.

The environmental protection associations are of the view that MFA causes severe damage to marine mammals and too rare sea species. However, the Navy repudiates the claim by asserting that training of MFA sonar in SOCAL waters had been carried over for the last four decades without even single proven sonar–oriented harm to any marine mammal. It was alleged by these environmental activists’ groups that the Navy’s training had infringed the provisions of NEPA and other federal legislation. These groups also alleged that an environmental impact study should have been conducted by the Navy before commencing the recent cycle of SOCAL training drills.

a. Types and definitions of Active Sonar

i. How Active Sonar works

The active sonar system is capable of producing a severe sound that can flounce the ocean like a flood lamp thereby exposing the objects in their way. Some sonar systems function at a greater speed of 236 decibels emanating sound waves that can journey hundreds of miles of the ocean.

One of the improvements in submarine technology was the augmented expediency of active sonar. The active sonar hydrophone emits and transmits a sound when an electrical impulse is sent to a piezoelectric material that quivers when subjected to a time–changing electrical current. Vibrations emanating from the hydrophone propel a sound wave into the water and the wave spreads outward in the shape of a circular wave. When such sound hits on an object and returns back through echoes, the sonar computes the time from transmission to reception then divides the time in half, and then computes the distance of how far the way the object is by multiplying the half-time series by the speed of sound in water. It is to be noted that active sonar executes the functions that the radar does in the air. (DiMercurio, 2003, p298).

Types of Active Sonar

Since World War II, navies around the world are using SONAR (Sound Navigation and Ranging) for direction-finding and uncovering sea routes. Sonar is employed to trace and track submarines which fall into two groups: active and passive sonar. Passive sonar snoops for the sound made by the intended submarine. Active sonar puts sound energy into the water and then hears for a return after the sound returns off the intended submarine. It is to be observed that active sonar systems usually function both at medium and low frequencies. Operators can quickly calculate the distance between the underwater object and source, by measuring the speed of sound in water and the time required for the sound wave to travel to the target and back. The efficacy of this method depends on the wavelength, or frequency, of the sonar.

High-Frequency Active sonar

For a sailor, SONAR is the main strategy in his naval maneuvering. It is employed to find out hostile submarines that are venturing within several miles of the one nation’s navy ships. Without the help of sonar technology, a sailor serving aboard a ship is just sightless and susceptible to attack from enemy submarines.

At short wavelengths or high frequencies, the sound is scattered or attenuated rapidly in water, resulting in short detection distances.

Mid-frequency active sonar

The naval mid-range sonars have frequencies that have been maximized for considerations of these physics – scattering, distance, and power requirements – for undersea warfare. Since World War II, the Navy is using frequencies of 1 to 10 kilohertz (kHz) and this can typically sense objects 1 to 100 nautical miles away. Dolphins, bats, whales employ the same method for fixing their prey which is known as echolocation. For anti-submarine warfare, a mid-frequency sonar is employed as a key element by Russia, NATO, the United States and most other nations.

Low-frequency active sonar

“Low frequency Active sonar “(LFA) will release low-frequency noise at volumes of 215 decibels at the source. It employs sound frequencies of less than 1 kHz which suffer low attenuation in seawater and hence permit the Navy to sense objects those 100 miles away. According to the research study jointly conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S Navy revealed that the use of extremely loud “low–frequency active sonar” in March 2000 resulted in group mortality and beaching of whales in Abaco Island, Bahamas. Further, the U.S navy deployed two LFA one in the pacific and another in the Atlantic thereby covering about 80% of the globe’s oceans with man-created sounds which are far more severe than what is said to harm cetaceans.

Examples and Explanations of the effect of Active Sonar on Marine Mammals

What’s the Harm?

Environmentalists demonstrate that whales have been killed and stranded after being exposed to mid-frequency active sonar used by the submarine and navy. Low-frequency active sonar which is employed to locate submarines by the Navy is proving to be fatal for marine life including mammals, turtles, dolphins and fishes. It can be carried as much as 400 miles under the water and sea animals can suffer the sound pressure of about 140 decibels which is equivalent to the noise emanated from an earthquake. For instance, in the Bahamas, less powerful sonar has been responsible for the stranding of whales. Due to low-frequency active sonar, fish are said to be suffering internal injuries, damage in auditory and eye and temporal stunning. Further, there are enough evidence that MFA upsets the vital activities to the survival of marine mammals like mating, food and foraging.


Marine Mammals feed on a variety of prey species which starts from microscopic zooplankton to aquatic plants. Some marine mammals eat a large quantum of prey items at any given time (batch feeding). Some mammals attack and eat prey items singly which is known as raptorial feeding. Resident killer Whales are found in huge numbers in Johnson Strait where a large number of polar bears, Salmon and seals are found which will be consumed by the Whales as their feeds. Humpback whales are found in large numbers in the Gulf of Maine where there is plenty of availability of fish prey for them. Cetaceans and pinnipeds can be found in large numbers where they are a high probability of encountering prey. (Perrin et al, 2008, p86).


Navigation or migration seems to be driven by the variation in the availability of food. Migration happens frequently trade-offs between reproduction and feeding. For instance, Pinnipeds and Baleen whales feed only for a short duration of time in high latitude and in high productivity waters. For instance, northern elephant seals feed along the whole North Pacific and then migrate to California beaches mainly to breed and molt. (Perrin et al, 2008, p104).


Seals always prefer to be solitary except for the mother-calf bond association and short intervals during reproduction in which breeding males engage in mess up competition over receptive females. (Bertha and Sumich 1999). Further, the variation between female and male mammals alters the benefits and costs of varied elements of reproduction. Reproduction in the majority of female mammals is restricted by the quantum of nutrition and energy they can get for their lactation and pregnancy. Male mammal participation in reproduction is very limited by the number of female mammals with which they can mate. Blubber is the storage of energy for marine mammals like fats in the case of human beings. Blubber plays a critical role because they act as a storage point of lipid in the mammal’s ecology, survival and reproduction process. As far as female mammals are concerned, lactation symbolizes the greatest energy cost of reproduction demanding a large quantum of nutrient transfer. (Perrin et al 108).


Communication among marine mammals is a process by which a transmitter makes a signal which triggers the chance of a subsequent behavior in a receiver. The study of communicative manners is significant to aware the part that signaling plays in controlling social interactions. To comprehend the pattern of communication in a particular species, it is significant to look into the mode of signals like acoustic, visual, gustatory, tactile, or olfactory and the means in which the signal is transmitted either through water or air, mechanism of signal release, functions of signal and multi-modal nature of signals.

There seems to be an association between marine mammals’ communication patterns and social relations. (Tyack, 1986). For instance, pinnipeds and Baleen whales employ reproductive propaganda to mediate male-female interactions on the breeding ground.

Among terrestrial mammals, Chemoreception is very common, but very little is comprehended about how marine mammals feel or sense chemical signals in the water. (Reynolds and Bommel, 1999). (Perrin et al, 2008.p 260).

Bahamas Whale Landing in 2000 (Ground Zero)

In the first quarter of the 2000, there was the stranding of beaked whales. About seventeen whales which represented four species beached in the Bahamas. The beaching of whales happened incidentally at the same time when the US navy was carrying out some acoustic antisubmarine exercises in those provinces. Initial investigation revealed that whales had experienced some type of impulse or acoustic shock that paved to the stranding and due to that at least seven whales died. A coalition of environment groups, in response to the event, organized a press conference in Washington D.C. and offered evidence that there was direct linkage to the stranding of whales mainly due to the Navy’s operation.

After nine months of study, in December 2001, the US Navy and the National Fisheries Service made a joint interim report which discovered that tactical mid-range frequency sonar which was fitted on the board of US Navy ships which were in the use during the sonar exercise in question was the most credible reason of this impulse or acoustic trauma. (McCarthy, 2005, p116).

In the Bahamas and other places, in 2007, a mass stranding of various species of whales immediately after the Navy exercises had been documented. It was concluded by the International Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee that there is adequate evidence that the Navy’s MFAS is correlated with these standings. Likewise, the Navy’s Office of Naval Research has found that there is enough evidence to substantiate that active SONAR has caused stranding and this is completely convincing.

In the Bahamas, the post-mortem report of whales that have been stranded exposed that they had incurred hemorrhages in the tissues adjacent to ears, in their inner ears, and fluid space in and around their brains and there had been also blood clotting in the cerebral ventricles.

NRDC v. Evans (2002)

In this case, the plaintiff was from various environmental organisations that filed a suit thereby seeking a preliminary injunction against federal government officials thereby restraining them from the use of a low-frequency sonar system for testing, training and routine operations by the United States Navy in peacetime. Low-Frequency Active Sonar (LFA) and Surveillance Towed Array Sensors Systems (SUTRASS) are being used which emits out strong sonar pulses at a low frequency that travel hundreds of miles so as to find out the details of venturing of enemies’ submarines in their sea territory in a timely manner.

It was the contention of the plaintiff that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) wrongly sanctioned the use of SURTASS LFA in as much as three-fourths of the world’s oceans was in infringement of the Marine Manual Mammal Protections Act. (MMPA), the “National Environment Procedure Act (APA),” “the National Environmental Policy Act (EPA) “and the Administrative Procedure Act. (APA). According to plaintiffs, this infringement will create irrevocable damage by killing, injuring and harassing marine mammals with sensitive hearing and other types of sea species where many of them endangered and rare species like dolphins, whales, salmon and sea turtles. On the other hand, the defendant countered that they have observed the applicable laws. They also argued that the use of LFA sonar during peacetime if banned would jeopardize national security as it is necessary to impart training and testing for its sailors even during the peacetime though they are still free to use the same at the wartime and periods of increased tension. Relying on the above grounds, the plaintiff pleaded for an issue of a preliminary injunction.

On hearing both sides of the argument, the District Court held as follows:

  1. Though plaintiffs were able to corroborate serious violations like whether NMFS infringed MMPA by preferring vast undifferentiated geographical provinces for research, the plaintiffs were not expected to succeed on the claim that such preference was capricious and arbitrary.
  2. Plaintiff is likely to succeed on their claim that NMFS performed outside the scope of their power in extending the definition of ‘small numbers” for taking of marine mammals to research.
  3. In spite of significant prerequisite in the elucidation of “harassment” was justifiable, the plaintiff brought serious doubts as to whether NMFS narrowed down the definition of “harassment “impermissibly.
  4. Whether adoption of 180 decibels as the minimum exposure magnitude is likely to cause more harm to marine animals which will have a greater impact as pleaded by the plaintiffs.
  5. Whether NMFS acted capriciously and arbitrarily in considering acoustic ecology, hearing sensitivity, behavioural response of marine mammals that could be distressed by the sonar research.
  6. Whether failure to include the incidental take statement (ITS) that precise amount or magnitude of incidental takes arising from research infringed the provisions of ESA will lead to the plaintiff’s success.

After considering the above facts, the Court acknowledged the significance of this new sonar technology to national security. The court also appreciated the efforts of plaintiffs to carry out independent scientific research to enhance the court’s restricted understanding of the concept of impacts of low-frequency sound on marine mammals. The court gave due consideration to the plaintiff’s argument that the permission of harassment up to twelve percent of marine mammals infringes the ‘small numbers’ restriction and that NMFS has clandestinely limited the elucidation of harassment in infringement of the NMPA. Further, the plaintiff alleged that NMFS functioned capriciously in rescheduling the designation of further “off limits’ provinces within the ocean where endangered species and marine mammals are likely to be exist in abundance and did not adequately examine reasonable substitutes, in infringement of NEPA. Thus, by referring to the illegal regulatory elucidation of adverse changes and not including proper incidental take statements in its separate biological views, NMFS infringed the provisos of the ESA.

On the basis of the above, the court finally concluded that the plaintiff was entitled to interim injection relief. The court opined that the plaintiff has demonstrated the chance of irreparable loss and likelihood of infringement of the provisions of the ESA in the near future.

Further, the court also opined that it must give due regard to both the public interest in national security and in safeguarding endangered species and marine mammals. Thus, Court has issued an interim injection on the use of LFA sonar for training and testing in various ocean conditions and ordered that government should offer further safeguards to minimize the peril to endangered species and marine mammals.

General Statistics of the projected use of the Active Sonar systems

Regulating the Navy’s deployment of Active Sonar in and near the maritime environment

In fact, the scientific vagueness over the levels of decibel needed to cause such harms and behavioral retorts have been the causes of intense discussion in the Navy Sonar use. Vide amendments made in the year 2003, Congress efficiently sanctioned the greater authority to the military to harm marine mammals or to upset their behavior than the MMPA would otherwise mandate.

Congress had given a broad countrywide defense exception to the MMPA mainly through the amendments incorporated in 2003. The Navy first used this exception for its 2006 Pacific Rim war games. Again, in 2007, it exploited the exception for MFAS training programs for two years.

Due to this exception, between the periods from January 2007 through January 2009, it is to be observed that MMPA turned to be immaterial in the MFAS –focused litigation, including the MFAS suit in the Hawaii District Court and the Winter v NRDC.

Common law interpretation of the protections offered to Marine Mammals Natural Resources Defense Council NRDC v. Winter (129 S.Ct 365) 11/2008

NRDC v Winter

The Navy’s employment of mid-frequency active (MFA) sonar in instruction drills is considered by the environmental agencies that it would create serious peril to various species of marine endangered species that exist in the waters of southern California. These environmental agencies pleaded for a granting of interim injunction as it would infringe the provisions of the ESA, NEPA, APA and CZMA. “District Court for the Central District Court of California “granted the preliminary injunction. On appeal, the decision of the district court was affirmed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

However, the Supreme Court of USA reversed the judgment of “Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals”. It was held by Supreme Court that plaintiffs looking for preliminary relief are needed to show that severe harm supposedly arises in case if the prayer for the injection is denied. The Supreme Court cited the verdict made by Faith Center Church Evangelistic Ministries v Glover and “Earth Island Inst. V United States Forest Serv. “

Further, the Supreme Court opined that supposed irreparable harm to marine mammals due to training convened by the Navy by using mid-frequency active (MFA) sonar was offset by the interest of the public and the Navy’s concern in successful, practical preparation of its sailors. Hence, Supreme Court reversed the preliminary injection granted by imposing a shut–down zone of 2200 yards and thereby demanding the Navy to scale lower its “MFA sonar” during poignant exterior ducting scenarios had also been vacated by the Supreme Court.

Supreme Court observed that compelling the Navy to deploy a not sufficiently trained submarine team would harm the security of the convoy since the dynamic solar technology is only dependable expertise for tracking and detecting diesel-electric submarines pf enemies. Further, the President of the USA had concluded that active sonar training was primary to the nation’s security.

California Coastal Commission (CCC) v. U.S. Department of the Navy (2007) Pending the outcome of NRDC v. Winter.

In March 2007, the environmental groups have filed a new action preying that claims under the ESA, the NEPA and the CZMA in relation to the Navy’s fortitude to carry out SOCAL exercises without mitigation. The plaintiff’s preyed for an interim relief. The Central District of California in response to the environmental agencies motion for granting preliminary injunction held that MMFS’s February 2007 Biological Opinion and ITS complied with section 7 of the ESA and hence declined an interim injection mainly on ESA grounds in spite of the fact that Navy estimated that its SOCAL exercises would end up in 710 takes fin whales, blue whales, sei whales, humpback whales and sperm whales, where all these fishes have been listed for protection under the ESA.

NRDC v. Gutierrez (2008 WL 360852) 2/2008

This is the second case in the District Court of California pertaining to the use of sonar by the Navy. This case pertains to NMFS conclusion to allow the LFA sonar system has been successfully challenged by the environmental agencies, these agencies enlarged the present suit to confront the agency’s reauthorization of the identical sonar programs. In this case, both parties entered into a settlement thereby restricting the Navy’s sonar deployment to provinces with low populations of marine mammals.

Ocean Mammal Institute (OMI) v. Gates (546 F.Supp.2d 960) 02/2008

On January 14, 2009, U.S District Court discharged the OMI v Gates case. This case pertains to legal confront over environmental impact assessment for undersea water exercises by the Navy in Hawaii.

The National Marine Fisheries Services (NMFS) gave an assurance that there will be no danger to rare species due to the Navy’s intended training in the Hawaii Range Complex. In a settlement that arrived between parties, the plaintiff joined the Navy in requesting the Court to dismiss their legal suit. (Stewart, 2009).

However, the Navy has assured that it will implement all current safeguards framed by the experts of the NMFS.

Federal and Non-Profit efforts to protect marine mammal’s Federal Legislation

“National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)”

“National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)” was enacted in 1969 by Congress which demands the preparation of an exhaustive statement which probes the possible effect both socio-economically and environmentally of a proposed project in question. It also demands that this impact statement be developed earlier to the start of the project and that the public should be involved in its preparation.

Just before the introduction of the NEPA, the established attitude was to construct now and be concerned about the outcomes later. This irresponsible attitude had brought many environmental disasters like the extensive loss of wetland areas, Love Canal and other environmental mishaps. Now, because of NEPA, plans for a project are finalized and environmental impacts must be considered in advance.

Section 102(c) of NEPA demands not only that this environmental impact statement is developed in advance, but also that one should take into account many points under consideration. If, for instance, the outcomes of proceeding ahead which a projected scheme that contains some unwanted effects, then NEPA demands that extenuating initiatives be constructed into such scheme. Further, some viable substitutes to the planned project, which might create a comparable end result, but which might be with smaller destructive effects to the atmosphere, must be conceived. Sometimes, this includes the “Do Nothing” substitute. The rationale of the impact assessment is to offer all an opportunity to consider the brunt of a proposed project and to offer propositions for changes.

“Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 (MMPA)”

In the eastern tropical Pacific yellowfin tuna fishery, the accidental killing of dolphins connected with the employment of porpoise sets had become a hot legal topic. As the result, Congress enacted in 1972 “the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA).” The Act was chiefly prompted by unnecessary killings of the whale (Chapter 10) and the harvesting of harp seal pups and fur seals, but the porpoise/tuna issue was also redressed. Many provisions of the MMPA are predominantly significant. Congress in its findings expressed, “Some population stocks of marine mammals and species are, or maybe, in hazard of depletion or extinction as a result of human’s actions. They should not be allowed to reduce below their optimal sustainable numbers. Initiatives should be henceforth taken to stock up any population stock or species which has already lessened well below its optimum sustainable population.” The MMPA further defines the optimum sustainable population (OSP) as the number of animals that would result in the utmost output of the species or population.” A stockpile was to be regarded as “exhausted” if “the quantum of individuals within a population or species have reduced to a noteworthy quantity over a period of years or fall under the optimal carrying capacity for the stock or species within its atmosphere.” The “optimum carrying capacity” were then explained as, “the capacity of a given habitat to sustain the best possible sustainable population.” Although the slaughter of marine mammals was not plausibly prohibited by these provisions, the MMPA further explains that “In any occasion, it shall be the instant objective that the casual serious injury or casual killing of marine mammals allowed during the process of fishing on commercial activities be minimized to trivial stages impending a zero serious injury and mortality rate.”

With effect from October 21, 1974, the provisions of the MMPA with respect to commercial fishing took effect. In September of 1974, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) projected to allot permits to the U.S. tuna fleet to fish not more than a specific number of dolphins in the ETP yellowfin tuna fishery. The planned permits were instantly opposed by environmental groups. In May of 1976, U.S. District Court ruled against the NMFS permits. In August of 1976, the District Court ruling was challenged but upheld by a U.S. Court of Appeals. It was argued by the District Court that the NMFS did not possess enough information to make a technically sound decision as to whether the butchery of dolphins in combination with the ETP yellowfin tuna fishery did or did not infringe the MMPA. The district court further expressed that the NMFS required to make, “sensible estimates of (1) the present population level of each species of dolphin affected by the planned regulations, (2) the best sustainable population of each of those species, and (3) the anticipated effect of those rules on the effort, directed by the Act, to attain the most favorable sustainable population intensity for each species.”

In July of 1976, in Southwest Fisheries Center in La Jolla, California, the first Status of Porpoise Stocks Workshop was held in response to District Court’s ruling. The main agenda of the workshop was, “to arrive at approximations of present population levels, optimum sustainable population levels (OSP), and the effect of supplementary taking on those levels for each and every population stock or species of small cetaceans involved in the U.S yellowfin tuna purse seine fishery. The workshop arrived at projections footed on what the participants conclude to be the best potential analysis of information presently available; and hence, the projections may range in dependability from those articulated with connected confidence intervals to those representing only the best-informed estimations. Each approximation should be labeled as to its dependability and the skills employed to get it should be documented”. In the 1976 workshop, one of the main agendas of business was to arrive at an agreement on the significance of optimum sustainable population. The main issue was the words “utmost productivity”. The scientists studied numerous possibilities and finished that they would construe “productivity” to denote net productivity, i.e., the variation between natural mortality and reproduction. However, the scientists also noted that an objective of the MMPA was to lessen serious injury and incidental mortality of dolphins connected with the tuna fishery to levels forthcoming zero. Accomplishing that goal would rationally involve that the dolphin populations approached the carrying capacity of the ecosystem, i.e., a population size connected with zero net productivity. It was concluded by the scientists that there was in fact a series of population sizes dependable with the goals of the MMPA, the series being the population size connected with maximum net productivity (lower border) and the utmost population probable within the carrying capacity of the ecosystem (upper border). For implementation purposes, the OSP was therefore considered to be any population size larger than or equal to the population size connected with utmost net productivity.

” Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA)”

“The Endangered Species Act (ESA)” is being regarded as one of the significant and most influential environmental legislations of the 20th century. It has radically altered the method by which the” federal government” safeguards diverseness in the USA.

“The Endangered Species Act “was enacted in 1973by Congress. The ESA affirmed a national policy “that all federal agencies and departments shall look for to preserve rare species and susceptible genus and shall make use of their offices in promotion of the aims of this Act.” The ESA explains a rare species as “any species which is in hazard of extermination all around or a momentous segment of its range.” A vulnerable genus is defined as “any genus which is expected to become a scarce genus within the predictable prospect in almost all or a momentous segment of its sector.”

The following key sections of the ESA provide its basic structure:

  1. A recognized listing procedure employed to recognize rare and endangered species, shield critical habitats, and blueprint recovery strategies.
  2. Before taking any action that might affect a listed species, consultation with the Federal agency and the appropriate Secretary (Interior or Commerce) is necessary.
  3. Embargo on the “harassing” of listed genus and damage to their home ground. The term “harass” connotes “hurt, shoot, chase, wound, stalk, kill, capture, catch, or gather, or to effort to involve in any such conduct.”
  4. For violations of the ESA, penalties will be imposed.
  5. The ESA prescribes enforceable and specific necessities for safeguarding all genuses that the Secretary of Interior names as endangered or threatened.
  6. The ESA demands the “federal government” to safeguard rare genus despite the economic outcomes as laid down in “TVA v. Hill, 437 U.S. 153 (1978).”
  7. The ESA imposes new restrictions on the utilization of property owned by private as laid down in “Babbitt, Secretary of the Interior v. Sweet Home Chapter of Communities for a Greater Oregon, 515 U.S. 687 (1995).”
  8. The ESA authorises any resident to file suit at any time for action by the federal government which threatens an endangered or rare species.

“Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA)”

Congress enacted “the Coastal Zone Management Act “(CZMA) in 1972 to advance “a general interest in the efficient administration, protection, advantageous use development and protection of the Coastal Zone. So as to attain its main goals, the CZMA demands that states organize management schemes for their coastal wetlands and waters. The Secretary of Commerce has to vet each program to make sure whether the same is inconsistent with federal standards and guidelines. No sooner, a program is approved, there will be no interference from the federal authorities but with only limited supervision but prolongs to offer funding through federal grant programs.

The CZMA is found to be successful in coordinating both the federal and state agencies by conferring state agencies with wide powers and authority and demanding that states certify that federally approved activity is in line with its CZMA.

The CZMA is successful due to the following reasons.

  1. The federal government provides to states continuous funding to develop CZMA schemes.
  2. States have a great deal of flexibility
  3. States are empowered to structure their own jurisdiction.
  4. Minimal supervision is exercised by the Secretary of Commerce at the federal level.
  5. In case, if a state is not adhering to the principles of an approved program, the Secretary of Commerce has the authority to withdraw funding.
  6. In case of any violation of the CZMA, the federal government won’t implement any cause of action against any local, state governments or private parties.
  7. CZMA is being implemented differently in each state.
  8. It is to be observed that states have principal authority under the CZMA whereas the federal agencies offer to fund, extend limited supervision and demand some minimum standards. (Connolly et al, 2005, p 344).

National Marine Sanctuary Act (NMSA)

The NMSA act is a mighty apparatus to the government to safeguard the underwater cultural property. The recovery of cultural property without the proper authorization is prohibited under this Act. Under this Act, if the activity of any individual engaged in the activity of inflicting damage, injury or loss to underwater cultural property, then he will be strictly liable for damages.

The NMSA offers for an administrative observance action to be initiated by NOAA against the infringers under this Act. An action against infringers can be brought by NOAA at the federal district court. Further, the NMSA also provides forfeiture action and thus, the potency of this Act is to safeguard cultural property available underwater within a national marine sanctuary is incomparable.

For instance, in a case initiated against divers who took away cultural property available underwater in the Channel Islands National Park and National Marine Sanctuary without a federal permit. In “United States v Craft, the federal district court” upheld the decision made by the administrative judge in the assessment of levy f maximum fine of $ 50,000 per regulatory infringement for a total sum of $100,000 against the dive-master who set up a prior warning signal to drivers of any approaching enforcement patrols. It was appealed by Craft to the Ninth Court and the court on the ground of constitutionality of the regulation which restrained the alteration of the seabed to take away the cultural property. The Ninth Circuit court however viewed that the regulation was not only constitutional but also coherent with the NMSA’s objectives of safeguarding and preserving sanctuary resources and thus advocating recreation, research and the aesthetic value of the sanctuary. (Hutt et al.2004, p127).

“Who is responsible for the effect of Active Sonar on Marine Mammals?

Imposing Liability on the US Navy?”

The U.S. Navy’s major assignment is to sense and if necessary to wipe out enemy submarines. At the time of the Cold War, the submarines of the enemy were primarily nuclear-armed and nuclear powered which were of main concern to the US Navy. Now, these submarines are primarily “diesel‑electric craft.” “Nuclear submarines” can be easily observed by reflexive sonar due to their moderately deafening impetus machinery. The USA had created a system of hydrophones located on the floor of the sea linked to cables that ended at shore stations. This listening system in the Pacific was known as Oceanographic System Pacific. The secret simply could not be maintained when the true nature of the system became known and however, the exact placements of the hydrophone arrays still continued to be secret.

The U.S. Navy’s present and probable tactics to employ LFAS do seem to infringe global law, especially the responsibility of all states to safeguard the maritime atmosphere from pollution, the obligation to perform with safeguard and to embark on ecological assessments before initiating new projects, and the obligation to assist with other pretentious nations.

Global law is applicable since LFAS will affect provinces located in exterior the provinces under the authority of the USA and the NATO nations employing this expertise, and also because it will also be straddling and migrant genus that are in waters under NATO/ U.S authority for measurement of their life-phases and outside these waters for other stages of their experiences.

In the USA alone, about 3,500 marine mammals strand on the US seacoast every year. In the majority of the cases, stranding cannot be established through a common cause which may be attributed to ship strikes, disease, fishery entanglements, and use of active sonar by the Navy. However, if a stranding is found during the military training event, it may be qualified as an “uncommon stranding event” by the National Marine Fisheries Service. In such cases, the navy will temporarily stop the training events and will stop the employment of explosives or active sonar to desist injured or exposed mammals to undergo further stress. The Navy will also assist the “National Marine Fisheries Services” to carry out the investigations on uncommon stranding incidents.

Imposing Liability on the US Government?

The US Navy has developed new acoustic technologies and due to this, the species living in the global marines are now witnessing a new type of pollution. However, US Navy justifies the same as necessary for the military but with massive and unproven disparaging probabilities. The debate developing the employment of other acoustic devices and sonar in the oceans is definite to prolong into the future and will activate disputes by other countries and non-governmental agencies. The above-illustrated cases deliberated above point out that the appropriate implementation of environmental legislations of the U.S. may guard the marine atmosphere against the perils encountered by LFAS. However, if these laws should be demonstrated to be insufficient, or if Congress should excuse LFAS from U.S. ecological legislation that would else administer, other nations and clusters anxious about the aftermath of this expertise on their marine wealth, and the ocean-atmosphere normally, will be appreciative to use global law standards and tribunals to restrict the utilization of LFA sonar by the Navy and scientists of the United States of America and other nations.


However, the” National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) “had exempted in July 2002 the “LFAS system” from the provisions of the “Marine Mammal Protection Act” after assessing that it would have an “insignificant effect” on any rare genus. This outcome is directly opposite to the outcomes of the MMRP, which demonstrated that LFAS initiated distributional and behavioral alterations in all species examined, and the 2000 occurrence in the Bahamas. In fact, the Navy accepted that” mid-range sonar” had actually created the death of at least eight whales.

As one of the conditions of granting the exception, the Navy accepted not to emit LFAS from adjoining seashore provinces, but the noise will certainly reach these provinces and will be very noisy.

Major standards of global laws have developed through treaties and the progress of traditional global law, and they now obviously forbid the introduction of polluting ingredients into the marine atmosphere. No doubt, noise is one form of contaminating energy, and the amazingly deafening noises that will be let out by the Navy of the USA and its allies of NATO through their active sonar agenda, and by scientists employing this expertise for other intentions, have been exposed to hinder the marine existence and must definitely be termed as pollution. “U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California “in late 2002 and early 2003 in three different cases issued opinions forbidding the employment of sonar footed on infringement of U.S. laws. Legal confronts in U.S. courts footing on U.S. ecological legislations will perhaps remain the excellent technique of dealing with the risks made by LFAS and correlated sonar’s, but if these attempts fail, or if Congress should let off martial sonar from U.S. ecological legislations, then it will be essential to search for international remedies. Even though global law honors military actions essential for self-protection, decision framers of the military must give due consideration to the military advantage against jeopardizing the atmosphere. The employment of unproven expertise is liable to have a momentous effect on marine life for the restricted military objective that can possibly be accomplished through other ways that would positively be regarded by most watchdogs to be an infringement of global law.

Political endeavors can also be initiated thereby employing help from international organizations like the European Parliament and the International Maritime Organization. Legal suits can be initiated in both regional and national courts, in the USA employing the provisions of the “Alien Tort Claims Act” and also in the “European Court of Human Rights”, although major bureaucratic obstacles would need to be resolved.

The standards that have emanated from accords and latest case laws make it obvious that it is not possible to initiate contamination into the marine atmosphere, particularly not at the stage offered by the intended use of LFA sonar, which will inflict stern hazards on marine species. Due to the grave and perhaps upsetting effect LFAS can be anticipated to have on marine species and other marine mammals, it is probable that any judicature permitted to deal with the virtues of this debate would react alertly to limit the employment of this novel expertise, relying upon principles of international law and the existing treaties reported above.


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DemoEssays. (2022) 'Navy Sonar and Its Impact on Marine Mammals'. 18 February.


DemoEssays. 2022. "Navy Sonar and Its Impact on Marine Mammals." February 18, 2022.

1. DemoEssays. "Navy Sonar and Its Impact on Marine Mammals." February 18, 2022.


DemoEssays. "Navy Sonar and Its Impact on Marine Mammals." February 18, 2022.