Subject: Sound:Sonar tests linked to beached (fwd)

Mike Williamson (pita@www1.wheelock.edu)
Fri, 13 Mar 1998 11:47:37 -0500 (EST)

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---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 10 Mar 98 04:24:00 GMT 
From: r.mallon1@genie.geis.com
To: marmam@uvvm.uvic.ca, pita@whale.simmons.edu
Subject: Sonar tests linked to beached

Sonar tests linked to beached whales in Greece

    LONDON, March 4 (Reuters) - Greek scientists said on
Wednesday that NATO tests of an underwater sonar system could
have caused a mass stranding of whales off the coast of Greece.
     Twelve Cuvier beaked whales, a deep diving breed that is
rarely stranded, washed up on the west coast of Greece in May
1996 just days after the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation
tested a Low Frequency Active Sonar (LFAS) system used to detect
diesel and nuclear submarines.
     Alexandros Frantzis, and colleagues at the University of
Athens, think the two events are more than just a coincidence.
     "We know that LFAS was used in the Kyparissiakos Gulf. We
also know that no other LFAS or mass strandings have occurred in
the Greek Ionian (Mediterranean) Sea since 1981," he said in a
letter to the scientific journal Nature.
     "Taking the past 16.5 year period into account, the
probability of a mass stranding occurring for other reasons
during the period of the LFAS tests is less than 0.07 percent."
     The LFAS generates very loud, low-frequency sound which
enables long detection ranges. Although its effect on whales has
not been studied thoroughly, many specialists think that at high
levels it could physically damage the whales and affecttheir
behaviour.
     Mass strandings of the creatures are extremely rare. Since
1963 there have been only seven cases worldwide of four or more
whales and three of them occurred near the Canary Islands during
similar military manoeuvres.
     The latest stranding was also odd because the animals were
not stranded together, but over a 40 kilometre (25 mile) area.
Deep diving whales also seem especially affected by
low-frequency sounds, even at low levels.
     Frantzis said that more information is needed to solve the
mystery, but unfortunately most of the data about the use of
LFAS are a military secret.