All the symptoms look consistent with death by sonar, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, as the investigation into the January death of a right whale dolphin on San Nicolas Island deepens. The smoking gun evidence isn't there yet, but the death of the deep-diving dolphin has all the hallmarks of an animal that got spooked and rose to the surface so fast the vessels in its brain exploded.
The most remote of California's Channel Islands, San Nicolas is a testing ground for all manner of Navy weapons and personnel. But because of the long reach of Navy sonar, given a last minute reprieve by President Bush despite consistent evidence and court rulings that it was too destructive to marine life, the activities on and around the tiny island have an outsized environmental impact.
The Navy is under federal court order to provide extra safeguards for whales and dolphins who appear by credible evidence to be extremely sensitive to sound waves in the ocean after all, it had been evolution's unique gift to them before the age of the submarine.
Here's a good question that demands an investigative report: Does the Navy's assertion that this sonar is needed hold water? It contends that the homeland needs the sonar to defend against quiet-running diesel-electric submarines now operated by Iran, China, North Korea and "possibly other hostile nations," as the Chronicle put it.
Is this another case of Iraqi WMD, or Iranian nuclear aggression? Is there truly an Axis of Submarine Evil awaiting the U.S.?
In an era when U.S. intelligence can't get its threats straight, maybe a little extra latitude (say, int he vicinity of Lat. 34.2 off the coast of Southern California) for dolphins and whales isn't such a big thing to ask.
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