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Navy granted permit to use sonar in Hawaiian waters

January 14, 2009|ASSOCIATED PRESS

HONOLULU — The U.S. Navy has been granted a one-year permit to train with sonar and bombs in Hawaiian waters as long as it tries to protect whales and other marine animals from harm.

But the Navy warned that whales and other marine life may be harmed or killed.

The National Marine Fisheries Service is considering Navy requests to train with mid-frequency active sonar off Southern California, the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico.

The fisheries service said Monday it will reissue a permit each of the next five years as long as the Navy tries to protect the animals. Sailors must shut off sonar when marine mammals are nearby, use extra caution near Maui where humpback whales breed and calve, and avoid detonating explosives within certain areas.

Paul Achitoff, an Earthjustice attorney in Honolulu who has sued the Navy over sonar in the past, said Tuesday that the fisheries service should have required the Navy to do more.

"The fisheries service has acceded to the demands of the Navy with little critical oversight," he said.

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