CNN reports that the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed the Navy to continue training with SONAR despite the fact that the impact on whales has not been studied. I remember this coming up around 1995-96 while I was on board Billfish. The Assistant Weapons Office was completing an audit that had a question: "What if anything has the ship done to minimize the impact of SONAR on marine mammals?" The officer, who graduated from Berkeley and who I was relieving as tokin liberal on baord, thought it was a pretty funny question. We determined that we were doing nothing. Perhaps things have changed.
I do believe the folks that say practicing using SONAR can seriously harm marine mammals. For example, it can kill divers that are in the water and for that reason the Navy has special safety tags it hangs on SONAR equipment when divers are working on the ship.
I also believe practicing active SONAR is essential. It is a skill that the US did not have to rely on during the cold war because loud Russian submarines allowed us to use passive SONAR. Furthermore, when engaging diesel submarines running on the battery, active SONAR is an important tool, and our current enemies, e.g. Iran, have diesels.
So, I'm torn.
Finally, I find it frustrating that the Bush Administration has not performed the necessary studies and provided the public and the courts with a realistic picture of the potential impact on marine mammals. Then people other than the Bush administration could actually weigh the risks and gains and develop a position. But President Bush's absolute disregard for American Democracy is one of the many reasons he is a terrible president. I hope that President Obama realizes he is not a king and restores the rule of law in the United States.