The Navy can use high-powered sonar during exercises off the Southern California coast, despite the technology's threat to whales and other marine mammals, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.
National security interests outweigh the possible harm to marine life, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals determined in overturning a judge's order banning the practice.
"The public does indeed have a very considerable interest in preserving our natural environment and especially relatively scarce whales," Judge Andrew Kleinfeld wrote for the majority. "But it also has an interest in national defense. We are currently engaged in war, in two countries."
Judge Milan Smith Jr. disagreed, writing that he would have kept the ban in place in part because the Natural Resources Defense Council is likely to win its lawsuit to stop the use of sonar.