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By Miyoko Sakashita. The Huffington Post, September 27, 2013

Whales, dolphins, seals and sea lions got a good break this week when a judge told a federal wildlife agency it's not doing enough to protect them from Navy war exercises along the West Coast.

That means the National Marine Fisheries Service will have to go back and reassess the permits it approved for Navy to make sure they comply with protective measures spelled out in the Endangered Species Act.

Here's hoping this ruling finally begins turning corner on a rarely discussed price that wildlife pays when the military conducts war games in the same waters where these marine mammals live.

The Navy uses a vast area of the West Coast, stretching from Northern California to the Canadian border, for training. Activities include anti-submarine warfare exercises involving tracking aircraft and sonar, surface-to-air gunnery and missile exercises, air-to-surface bombing exercises, and extensive testing for several new weapons systems.

One of the biggest problems is noise, because these war games include underwater detonations, sinking of ships, gunnery exercises and active sonar.

The Navy sonar systems, for example, work like acoustic floodlights, sending out sound waves through ocean waters for tens or even hundreds of miles to find large objects in their path. But they are unbelievably loud: even one low-frequency sonar loudspeaker can be as loud as a twin-engine fighter jet at takeoff. Read more