Navy Sonar Causes Beached Whale Deaths February 27, 2006 10:35 PM
Navy Sonar Causes Beached Whale Deaths
Civilian Oversight Agency Claims Navy Endangers Marine Mammals
In a recent letter, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) criticized the Navy for ignoring scientific evidence that their mid-frequency sonar tests harm whales and for using a measure for allowable noise 100 times louder than NOAA's recommended level. The letter also challenged the Navy's plans to build a 500-square-nautical-mile underwater sonar training range in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of North Carolina where they plan to hold submarine warfare training exercises.
NOAA is the civilian agency responsible for issues affecting the marine environment and submitted the letter in response to the Navy's draft environmental impact statement for the proposed testing facility. While NOAA have always in general publicly agreed with the Navy's stance on sonar experimentation, the letter indicates that officials have expressed their concerns to Navy personnel on a number of occasions to no avail, reflecting fundamental disagreements between the groups. The Navy bases their conclusion that sonar tests pose no serious threat to migratory whales on research they have conducted on captive whales, but NOAA points out that studies of marine mammals in the wild indicate that military sonar is causing their organs to hemorrhage with fatal results. The Navy's draft also proposes using a maximum allowable sound level of 190 decibels, which is over 100 times noisier than NOAA's 173 decibel standard.
Since the Navy began conducting sonar experiments in 2000, dozens of whales have fatally or near-fatally stranded themselves on beaches in the Bahamas, the Canary Islands, Japan, Hawaii and Washington State. NOAA is still investigating the stranding deaths of 37 whales from three different species off the North Carolina coastline last year and has expressed concerns that the Navy's proposed testing facility could disrupt the endangered right whale's annual migration through the area.
What You Can Do:
Please write to Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter and urge him to take practical measures against harming whales with dangerous sonar experiments, such as conducting tests in areas identified as low-risk for whales and reducing the decibel level of signals.
The Honorable Donald C. Winter
Secretary of the Navy
1000 Navy Pentagon
Washington, DC 20350
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