Military sonar damages whales

This video is called Lethal Sounds: Deadly Sonar Harms Whales.

From the BBC:

Monday, 14 March 2011

Beaked whales ‘scared’ by navy sonar

By Ella Davies
Earth News reporter

Beaked whales are disturbed by naval sonar, according to scientists.

A new study suggests that the whales are particularly sensitive to unusual sounds.

Measuring their reactions to both simulated sonar calls and during actual naval exercises, researchers found the whales fell silent and moved away from the loud noises.

The use of sonar for naval communication has been linked to beaked whales stranding in the past.

Scientists from the University of St Andrews, Scotland have been working with marine experts from around the world to investigate how sonar affects beaked whales in the Bahamas.

Beaked whales are an elusive group of small whales named for their elongated snouts.

However, they are probably best known for their connection to the possible risks that naval sonar poses to marine mammals.

For example, in 2000 and 2002, large groups of beaked whales stranded and died.

Naval exercises involving sonar communication were taking place nearby on both occasions, raising concerns that the whales’ deaths were directly linked to the mid-frequency signals.

In their study, published in the journal PLoS One, researchers focussed on waters around the US Navy’s Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center.

Blainville’s beaked whales (Mesoplodon densirostris) have been identified foraging in the area by the navy’s acoustic monitoring equipment, used for listening to signals from submarines.

The scientists listened to the group of whales using these hydrophones – underwater microphones.

During live sonar exercises by the US Navy, the whales stopped making their clicking and buzzing calls, which they are thought to use to navigate and communicate.

“Results… indicate that the animals prematurely stop vocalisations during a deep foraging dive when exposed to sonar. They then ascend slowly and move away from the source, but they do resume foraging dives once they are farther away,” said David Moretti, Principal Investigator for the US Navy.

Study Shows Beaked Whale Sensitivity To Sonar: here. And here.

San Diego dolphin deaths linked to Navy training: here.

See also similar Dutch research; also here.

New Pacific humpback whale breeding grounds discovered near Hawaii: here.

This video is called Beautiful encounter with friendly humpback whale calf last week on Silver Bank.

Digging for whale fossils in Virginia: here.

(Ecological Society of America) Noise pollution has been shown to cause physical and behavioral changes in marine life, especially in dolphins and whales, which rely on sound for daily activities. Now a new study in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment (e-View), a journal of the Ecological Society of America, found that squid, octopus and cuttlefish exhibited massive acoustic trauma in the form of severe lesions in their auditory structures following exposure to low frequency sound: here. And here.

Whales Should Not Have to Suffer and Die for Military Practice: here.

April 2011: Research shows that low frequency sound, such as noise produced by offshore activities, causes lesions in the sensory organs of squid, octopus and cuttlefish: here.

Blainville’s beaked whales go silent in shallow waters, a stealth tactic that prevents them being found by predatory killer whales: here.

March 2012. The mass stranding event of common dolphins in Cape Cod that started in January 12, 2012 officially ended on February 16th with a total of 179 stranded dolphins (Found dead: 108; Found alive: 71 – Of which 53 were successfully released). Since no new dolphin strandings were reported during seven full days after that date, the event was considered to have finished. However more dolphins have been stranding since 1st March: here.

February 24th, 2014 (Moira Kerr). A WILDLIFE watchdog fears mock warfare and missile fire may be harming whales and dolphins, causing them to flee Scotland’s marine tourism hotspots: here.

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13 thoughts on “Military sonar damages whales

  1. Navy training linked to at least 3 dolphin deaths

    Associated Press | Posted: Saturday, March 26, 2011 1:49 pm

    A Naval training exercise that included an underwater blast off San Diego’s coast has been linked to at least three dolphin deaths earlier this month, prompting a probe into whether the military violated the federal law that protects marine mammals.

    Navy officials, who reported the deaths of the long-beaked common dolphins following the March 4 detonation off the coast, say they were following proper procedures and will continue with the training.

    The National Marine Fisheries Service plans to take another look at the Navy’s pending request to disturb marine mammals between Imperial Beach and Coronado, where it conducts amphibious and special warfare training, agency leaders told the San Diego Union-Tribune on Friday.

    The Navy’s application, which has been in the works for years, says it does not anticipate any dolphin deaths due to training. But following the March 4 incident, the fisheries service opened an enforcement case to determine whether the Navy violated the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, which is designed to safeguard dolphins, whales and similar creatures.

    Along with the three deaths reported to the fisheries service, two other dead dolphins were found later, but it’s not clear if they were injured by the Navy exercises.

    Environmentalists have called on the Navy to suspend activities involved in the deaths and conduct a transparent investigation.

    But Navy officials said the program it calls “mission-critical” would continue. They said they were following proper procedures on the day of the blast and are conducting their own investigation to see if changes are necessary.

    “We have an excellent track record in our training and have exacting standards that we apply to try to prevent these types of incidents,” Cmdr. Greg Hicks, a spokesman for the Navy’s Third Fleet, told the Union-Tribune. “We do our best to protect marine life while conducting essential training.”

    Hicks said there were no dolphins in view when the training countdown began, and when they could be seen it was too late to stop safely.

    He could not say how many underwater blasts the Navy has performed at the site in recent years. Documents show the Navy’s permit request for underwater explosives involve up to 415 “small” detonations during 311 training events a year.

    Underwater explosives are important for clearing obstacles out of harbors so ships can enter. When the Navy practices with them offshore, Hicks said observers look for dolphins, seals, whales and similar creatures that might swim into the danger zone.

    Michael Jasny of the Natural Resources Defense Council, which years ago sued the Navy to minimize damage to whales by sonar, said the Navy doesn’t have the best environmental record when it comes to ocean life.

    “There is training and there is training safely with full safeguards for the protection of the environment,” Jasny said. “They haven’t always done that.”


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