Federal judge finds sound blasts harmful to whales

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SAN FRANCISCO -- A federal judge has ordered the National Science Foundation to stop firing blasts of sound into the Gulf of California, saying that practice has harmed whales.

U.S. District Judge James Larsen sided with conservationists Monday, ruling that sound blasts used to map the ocean floor likely have disrupted marine life in the vicinity.

Larsen ordered such aspects of a $1.6 million research project undertaken by the National Science Foundation to end immediately.

The region between the Baja California peninsula and mainland Mexico is a major breeding ground for many marine mammals.

The Center for Biological Diversity asked the court last week to stop the research, saying two dead whales found on the Mexican coast last month likely beached themselves because of noise from air guns aboard the government vessel.

The federal government claims environmentalists have proven no connection between the beached whales and noise from the air guns, said James Coda, assistant U.S. attorney for Northern California. Coda said the government may appeal.

The case is Center for Biological Diversity v. National Science Foundation, C-02-5065.


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