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Letters to the Editor

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We welcome letters from our readers to
discuss material published in Oceanus
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Editor, Woods Hole
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MS#40, Woods Hole, MA 02543). We cannot
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April 3, 2009

To the Editor:

Had Oceanus contacted us, we could have corrected inaccuracies that undermine the force of your story (“Supreme Court Weighs in on Whales and Sonar”).

In fact, environmental enforcement has been responsible for millions of dollars in research on
noise in the ocean. The Marine Mammal Research Program under Scripps’ Acoustic
Thermometry of Ocean Climate project in 1995, the ONR-funded Scientific Research Program
regarding Low Frequency Active sonar in 1997, and, most recently, almost $15 million in new
research on both marine mammal acoustics and basic ecology under a settlement with the Navy
in December 2008 – all of these have been undertaken or expanded in direct response to
environmental advocacy, as Dr. Tyack, who was involved in both the ATOC and LFA research
initiatives, can attest.

Moreover, without this advocacy, the Navy would almost certainly still be training illegally with sonar around the world, with too little regard for marine impacts – just as it had for decades before environmental advocates forced them to respond. Time after time, the Navy has
rejected meaningful safeguards, and in case after case the federal courts have found them in
violation of the law. Although in Winter v. NRDC the Supreme Court, based on the Court
majority’s view of the public interest, lifted two of the six mitigation conditions imposed by the
lower courts, it did not challenge their legal judgment that the Navy had violated the law nor did
it accept the Navy’s astonishing claim that the President, at the Navy’s request, could overrule a
federal court.

All of us are fortunate to live in a nation of laws, but our environmental laws are meaningful
only if enforced. To portray environmental advocacy as hindering scientific research, as your
article does, is not only factually inaccurate but fundamentally at odds with the longstanding
commitment of the scientific community to conservation of our oceans.

Joel Reynolds
Natural Resources Defense Council