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BC-NC--Sonic Whales,0270

Group sues government for info about effects of sonar on whales

NEW YORK (AP) -- A national conservation group filed suit Wednesday to force the government to reveal the extent to which ocean mammals worldwide have died as a result of massive sonic blasts from intense military search equipment.

In the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, the Natural Resources Defense Council Inc. demanded the information from the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Department of Commerce.

The group said it was seeking thousands of pages of documents through the Freedom of Information Act related to mass strandings and deaths of marine mammals. It said the government has turned over only 12 documents totaling fewer than 25 pages.

Among materials sought by the group are documents relating to a mass stranding of whales along the Outer Banks of North Carolina in January.

A government spokesman did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment Wednesday.

A senior policy consultant for the national conservation group, Michael Jasny, said in a release that the group was seeking "box-loads of data that show the devastating impact of military sonar on whales."

"The public has a right to know what is happening to these majestic creatures," he said.

The group said the Navy's sonar systems generate sound of extreme intensity to locate objects in the ocean. It said the sounds can disturb, injure and even kill marine mammals, which have extraordinarily sensitive hearing.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

APTV-06-02-05 1044EDT
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