Marine reserves would probably not protect whales and other ocean mammals from the severe acoustic trauma of submarine-detecting Low-Frequency Active (LFA) sonar—which transmits sounds of up to 215 decibels. The good news on this front is the recent decision by Judge Elizabeth Laporte of the Northern District Court of California barring the Navy from greatly expanding its current sonar deployment area in the western Pacific. Laporte held that permits issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service for the deployment violated provisions of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act. The bad news is that this decision may be negated by the Defense Authorization bill currently being considered by a Senate-House conference committee. The House version of the bill contains language exempting the military from the Endangered Species and Marine Mammal Protection Acts. The International Marine Mammal Program of the Earth Island Institute is urging citizens to immediately contact Senators John McCain (R-Ariz) and John Warner (R-Va) and their own congressional representatives to express their opinions on this matter.
Bay Nature magazine ◦ October-December 2003