A Victory for Whales

Do we want to kill and maim some of the most majestic creatures on earth to defend our seas and shores? No, we don’t – and now we have a federal court settlement to prove it. After years of litigation, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) and their partners reached a legal settlement requiring the U.S. Navy to […]
Do we want to kill and maim some of the most majestic creatures on earth to defend our seas and shores? No, we don’t – and now we have a federal court settlement to prove it. After years of litigation, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) and their partners reached a legal settlement requiring the U.S. Navy to take common-sense measures to protect endangered blue whales and other marine mammals from needless harm and hazard during training exercises and testing operations off the coasts of Hawaii and Southern California. For decades, far too many of these animals have suffered from the Navy’s use of powerful sonar and high explosives undersea. As marine mammals depend on their finely tuned sense of hearing to survive, sonar and explosives can cause injuries or impair their ability to communicate, navigate, and find food. They can go silent, become panicked, or be driven from their habitats. In some cases, high-intensity sonar has caused whales to beach themselves in large groups or left them with serious injuries. As a result of the settlement, spelled out in a September 14, 2015, order from the
Blainville's beaked whale
, the U.S. Navy must cease using sonar and high explosives in waters critical to the most vulnerable of these creatures. Captains and commanders must plan their expeditions and steer their vessels to give a wide berth to whales in these areas.   Naval security and readiness remain sound. The commander of the Pacific Fleet may override these measures if necessary for national defense, provided such decisions are made public afterward. This settlement shows the way to both protect our fleet and our whales, ensuring the security of naval operations while reducing the mortal hazard to some of the most magnificent animals on the planet. Our navy will be the better for this – and so will the oceans our sailors defend. That’s good news for the hundreds of endangered blue whales that return each year to feed off the coast of Southern California. The world’s largest creatures, blue whales can grow up to 110 feet long and weigh upwards of 330,000 pounds – as much as 100 Chevy sedans. They were hunted to near extinction, though, and are now endangered, with as few as 10,000 estimated alive in the wild. It’s good news for beaked whales, champion divers that can plunge to depths of 9,000 feet or more in search of fish and squid. And it’s good news for the many small populations of whales and dolphins that cluster around the Hawaiian Islands. Next, we need to protect important whale habitat on other U.S. Navy ranges: from the coasts of Virginia to central Florida, off the coasts of Northern California and the Pacific Northwest, in the Gulf of Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico, and off the Marianas Islands.


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Does Sonar Testing Causes Whales To Beach Themselves?

The new concrete evidence was recently published by Peter Tyack of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in the PLos One journal. Dr. Tyack and his colleagues describe a study in the Bahamas where they used underwater microphones to monitor “clicks” emitted by Blainville’s beaked whales while hunting. The whales that were hunting around Navy’s test […]
The new concrete evidence was recently published by Peter Tyack of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in the PLos One journal. Dr. Tyack and his colleagues describe a study in the Bahamas where they used underwater microphones to monitor “clicks” emitted by Blainville’s beaked whales while hunting. The whales that were hunting around Navy’s test range started to emit fewer “clicks” as soon as the sonar exercises began and then swam away miles away from the sound. They did return to the same spot a few days later. The problem is that sometimes the whales are unable to get out of the way of sonar quickly enough. The mid-frequency sonar blasts may drive certain whales to change their dive patters in a way their bodies can’t handle, causing fatal injuries. In fact, many of the beached whales have suffered physical trauma, including bleeding around brain, ears and other tissues. These are symptoms similar to “the bends”- the condition that can kill scuba divers if they surface too quickly. On the occasions listed below testing of mid-frequency to low-frequency active sonar was conducted in the area.
  • 1996: 12 Cuvier’s beaked whales beached in Greece
  • 1999: 4 beaked whales beached in the US Virgin Islands
  • 2000: 3 beaked whales beached in Madeira
  • 2002: 14 different whales beached in the Canary Islands
http://news.discovery.com/animals/navy-sonar-scares-whales-110323.html
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