Subject: Sound:U.S. Navy begins disputed test (fwd)

Mike Williamson (
Fri, 13 Mar 1998 11:47:21 -0500 (EST)

                      J. Michael Williamson
Principal Investigator-WhaleNet <>
                   Associate Professor-Science
  Wheelock College, 200 The Riverway, Boston, MA 02215
             voice: 617.734.5200, ext. 256
            fax:    617.734.8666, or 978.468.0073

          "Mother, Mother Ocean, I have heard your call,
   Wanted to sail upon your waters, since I was three feet tall"
                        Jimmy Buffett

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 10 Mar 98 04:13:00 GMT 
Subject: U.S. Navy begins disputed test

U.S. Navy begins disputed tests on whales

    HONOLULU (Reuters) - The U.S. Navy began aiming piercing
blasts of underwater sound at humpback whales 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 them.
     "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
     "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 soundwaves.
     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 effect 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
     Similar tests have already been conducted on whale
populations off the California coast without any noticeable
adverse effect, navy scientists say.