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US Federal Court Rejects Lower Court's Ruling for Navy's Sonar Use

A U.S. federal appeals court has ruled that a lower court was wrong to allow the Navy to use sonar that could harm whales and other marine life in the world's oceans.

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco Friday rejected the lower court's 2012 decision that gave the Navy permission to use low-frequency sonar during peacetime maneuvers in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans, and the Mediterranean Sea.

Sonar is used to detect submarines, but can harm whales, seals, dolphins, walruses and other marine life, including disrupting their mating and feeding habits.

The rules of the 2012 decision were adopted by the National Marine Fisheries Service, which allowed the Navy to turn off or delay sonar if a marine animal was detected near a Navy ship.

The appellate court ruled the lower court's decision failed to adhere to the standards set in the Marine Mammal Protection Act that requires peacetime programs to have "the least practicable adverse impact on marine mammals."

The court's decision says the fisheries service "did not give adequate protection to areas of the world's oceans flagged to its own experts as biologically important."

The decision said "The result is that a meaningful proportion of the world's marine mammal habitat is under-protected."