By Dan Bacher
Earthjustice, representing the InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Friends of the San Juans, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and People For Puget Sound, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Northern California challenging the National Marine Fisheries Service’s approval of the Navy’s training activities in its Northwest Training Range Complex.
“The lawsuit calls on the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to mitigate anticipated harm to marine mammals and biologically critical areas within the training range that stretches from Northern California to the Canadian border,” according to a statement from Earthjustice.
“These training exercises will harm dozens of protected species of marine mammals—southern resident killer whales, blue whales, humpback whales, dolphins, and porpoises—through the use of high-intensity mid-frequency sonar,” said Steve Mashuda, an Earthjustice attorney representing the groups. “The Fisheries Service fell down on the job and failed to require the Navy to take reasonable and effective actions to protect them.”
The groups said the Navy uses a vast area of the West Coast for training activities, including anti-submarine warfare exercises involving tracking aircraft and sonar; surface-to-air gunnery and missile exercises; air-to-surface bombing exercises; sink exercises; and extensive testing for several new weapons systems.
“Since the beginning of time, the Sinkyone Council’s member Tribes have gathered, harvested and fished for traditional cultural marine resources in this area, and they continue to carry out these subsistence ways of life, and their ceremonial activities along this Tribal ancestral coastline,” said Priscilla Hunter, chairwoman and co-founder of the InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council. “Our traditional cultural lifeways, and our relatives such as the whales and many other species, will be negatively and permanently impacted by the Navy’s activities.”
“Both NMFS and the Navy have failed in their obligations to conduct government-to-government consultation with the Sinkyone Council and its member Tribes regarding project impacts,” Hunter emphasized.