After a long, heated battle with environmentalists, the Navy came out victorious in a Supreme Court ruling last week. The ruling lifted restrictions approved by federal courts in California that limit the Navy’s use of sonar for training purposes.
Environmentalists have long attributed beached whales and internal bleeding in aquatic mammals to the use of sonar radar. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has fought against the use of sonar for years in the lower courts, only to be overturned in appeal. (Watch the NRDC's Lethal Sounds video here.)
Writing for the majority decision, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that overall public safety relies more upon the Navy’s ability to conduct sonar training than on aquatic life.
It’s an interesting response, given that the loss of biodiversity is considered by most scientists and environmentalists as one of the top risks to human health, right up there with climate change and ozone depletion.
Over-fishing, by-catch, habitat destruction and climate change — not to mention additional threats such as the effects of sonar on whales — have greatly contributed to the number of threatened or endangered marine life species, which the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List now cites as about 3,000 species.
But who will the Navy have to protect when there isn't enough species diversity to sustain thriving ecosystems — ecosystems on which every living being, including us, relies?