Study: Navy sonar harms whales
Monday, December 24, 2001
By Associated Press
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico--U.S. Navy sonar tests likely caused
16 whales to beach themselves in the Bahamas last year,
according to a federal study.
The whales swam on shore on the islands of Abaco, Grand
Bahamas and North Eleuthera on March 15 and 16 as Navy
ships were testing sonar in the area. Six whales died,
including five Cuvier beaked whales and a Blainville's
beaked whale. The others were pushed back into the sea.
Earlier, the Navy had questioned a link between its sonar
tests and whale beachings.
But the joint study released Thursday by the Navy and U.S.
National Marine Fisheries Service was based on examinations
of the corpses of five of the six dead whales.
Each of the whales had hemorrhaged near its ears, said the
66-page report. It said the wounds would not be fatal but
could have led the animals to become disoriented and swim
"The investigation team concludes that tactical mid-range
frequency sonars aboard U.S. Navy ships that were in use
during the sonar exercise in question were the most
plausible source of this acoustic or impulse trauma," the
The ships from the U.S. Navy Atlantic Fleet had been
conducting intensive tests of multiple anti-submarine sonar
units in the Providence Channel separating the islands, the
report said. The unusual narrowness of the channel
aggravated the problem for the whales.
Previously, scientists' efforts to link whale beachings to
sonar have been frustrated because corpses were too
decomposed to study. They included the 1996 beachings of 12
Cuvier beaked whales in the Ionian Sea between Greece and
Italy during NATO anti-submarine exercises.
In the Bahamas, many of the whales were beached in front of
the Abaco Island home of Ken Balcomb, research director of
the Washington-based Center for Whale Research.
He made sure the corpses were well preserved for study.
In the report, the Navy said it will work to decrease the
chance of causing whales to beach themselves as long as
national security is not compromised.
Copyright 2001, Associated Press
All Rights Reserved
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