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Suit Seeks Documents on Sonar Threat to Marine Mammals, Alleges Freedom of Information Act Violations
NEW YORK (June 1, 2005) -- The Bush administration is withholding a large quantity of evidence about severe harm caused to whales, dolphins and other marine life by high-intensity military sonar, according to a lawsuit filed today in New York federal court. Ocean mammals around the globe have been found dead or dying following the massive sonic blasts.
The lawsuit was brought under the Freedom of Information Act by NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), a national conservation group. It seeks thousands of pages of documents related to mass strandings and mortalities of marine mammals exposed to military sonar. NRDC requested the material from the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Department of Commerce more than a year ago, but so far those agencies have turned over only 12 documents totaling fewer than 25 pages.
Some of the documents withheld by the administration pertain to a recent mass stranding of whales along the Outer Banks of North Carolina, which garnered national attention last January. No information from that stranding has been released to the public despite repeated requests.
They wrote, "In March 2000, for example, seventeen whales from at least three species, including two minke whales, stranded over 150 miles of shoreline along the northern channels of the Bahamas. These beachings occurred within 24 hours of Navy ships using mid-frequency sonar in those same channels."
"Post-mortem examinations found, in all whales examined, hemorrhaging in and around the ears and other tissues related to sound conduction or production, such as the larynx and auditory fats, some of which was debilitative and potentially severe. It is now accepted that these mortalities were caused, through an unknown mechanism, by the Navy's use of mid-frequency sonar."