Subject: Case Study: Sound effects on whales, LFA UPDATE (fwd)

mike williamson (
Tue, 3 Mar 1998 13:56:06 -0500 (EST)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 3 Mar 1998 10:13:37 -0800 (PST)

Dear Cetacean Ambassador Network,

Here's the latest on the humpback sound experiments in Hawaii...

      Copyright &copy 1998 Reuters News Service

   HONOLULU (February 25, 1998 10:01 p.m. EST - The
   U.S. Navy began aiming piercing blasts of underwater sound at humpback
   whales on Wednesday, testing a new sonar submarine detection system
   that environmentalists say could harm the endangered marine mammals.

   The tests, designed to see how the whales react when bombarded by
   deafening noise, were cleared to begin after a federal judge in
   Honolulu Tuesday refused a request by environmental groups to stop

   "A week from today we're going to go back to ask for an injunction,"
   said Paul Achitoff, the Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund lawyer who
   filed the failed request for a restraining order.

   "We will go back to this same judge and try to persuade her that she
   misunderstood the situation."

   The Low Frequency Active (LFA) sonar tests, being run for the Navy's
   Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, will use huge transmitters
   towed behind ships to pump sound into waters just a few miles from the
   new Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

   The tests are part of a project to develop a new long-range sonar
   system to detect "quiet" submarines by flooding the oceans with

   Environmental groups, including Greenpeace and the Animal Welfare
   Institute, have described the noise as "a thousand times louder than a
   747 jet engine" and say it could harm the whales in their favorite
   breeding habitat.

   "They really have no idea how this is going to affect the whales, let
   alone other marine life," Achitoff said. "It is really a question of
   looking for a pain threshold."

   Navy scientists acknowledge that LFA will use sounds of up to 215
   decibels to see how loud a sound must be before it causes a
   "behavioral change" in the whales.

   But they say the test will not harm the humpbacks, and will help the
   Navy avoid disturbing marine life in future by obtaining data on what
   exactly the whales can and cannot tolerate.

   Similar tests have already been conducted on whale populations off the
   California coast without any noticeable adverse effect, navy
   scientists say.

from other emails...

>Mary Rose and I leave for Portland, Oregon Friday.  I am scheduled for two
>oral arguments before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Civil Rights
>cases pending in Oregon and then to the Environmental Law Conference in
>Eugene to recruit lawyers to continue the litigation aimed at stopping the
>flyby of the Cassini Mission.  If you get the e-mail for the Secretary
[of the Navy],
>please send that information to Chris Reid at <>.
>Chris can also keep you up to date on what is happening.  We just returned
>from a meeting at a harbor on the north end of the island.  Eight or nine
>boat owners volunteered to carry people willing to enter the water out to
>the Navy boat.  We also have six boats lined up in Kona.  The logistics are
>major.  An activist from Washington State has flown in to coordinate the
>direct action.