Los Angeles The Navy must abide by limits on its sonar training off the Southern California coast because the exercises could harm dozens of species of whales and dolphins, a federal appeals court ruled.
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday night rejected the Navy's appeal of restrictions that banned high-powered sonar within 12 miles of the coast and set other limits that could affect Navy training exercises to begin this month.
Also on Friday, a federal judge in Hawaii issued a similar ban for that state's coastline.
In the California case, the three-member appellate panel let stand most of a lower court injunction that set the limits but did alter two restrictions that the Navy argued could harm the readiness of its ships for potential combat duty.
Conservation groups that had sued to block the Navy's use of high-powered sonar said the decision was a victory for their side.
"The court is saying that neither the president nor the U.S. Navy is above the law," Joel Reynolds, director of the Marine Mammal Protection Project at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement Saturday.