In January, AWI and 11 other groups filed suit against the US Navy and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for violations of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) over the Navy’s planned Undersea Warfare Training Range. The 500-square mile site off the northeast Florida coast will host thousands of Navy vessels and aircraft in hundreds of war game exercises every year, threatening the survival of countless marine animals. The site is adjacent to the only known calving grounds for the North Atlantic right whale, who number only an estimated 300-400 individuals. Already threatened by ship strikes, entanglement, noise pollution and other stressors, the species is listed as critically endangered under the ESA. NMFS has stated that the “loss of even a single individual right whale may contribute to the extinction of the species,” yet its biological opinion on the project concluded that it would not likely jeopardize “the continued existence of any threatened species.” If successful, the suit will compel the agencies to follow the law and take precautionary measures to protect marine life from the effects of the Navy’s training.
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