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Is Low Frequency Sonar Blowing Away Dolphins and Whales?

"In more than a dozen instances dating back to the 1960s,
whales have stranded themselves on the beaches and sometimes
died at the time of naval training exercises miles away using mid-
frequency active sonar. An unprecedented stranding of 16 beaked
and minke whales in the Bahamas in 2000 brought worldwide
attention to military sonar. A NOAA investigation concluded that a
Navy testing maneuver using midfrequency sonar was the likely
cause. Necropsies found signs of brain hemorrhaging,
which is consistent with injury from sound."

-- San Francisco Chronicle,
12/13/04, front page

Months before in early 2000 a Boston CBS TV news station
reported that 100 dolphins had beached off the Florida keys
and twenty dolphins died. Flyby News, guided by Bart Jordan,
contacted rescuers and expressed concern that it was caused by
low frequency active sonar used by US Navy. We encouraged
biopsy tests around ears of the mammals
for locating hemorrhaging signs.

National Geographic Video - The Bahamas Incident:

US Navy Admits Its Sonar Killed Whales

"The U.S. Navy and the National Marine Fisheries Service
have released a report acknowledging the role that the Navy's
experimental sonar played in the deaths of 17 marine mammals
in the Bahamas [March 2000].. The report is the agency's first
official admission that sonar may contribute to whale beachings."

Critical News

25 September, 2013 - Science Daily -News
Whale Mass Stranding Attributed
to Sonar Mapping for First Time

FN Archives:

November 12, 2008
Court rules for Navy in dispute over sonar, whales

February 16, 2007 - Item 3
Navy to continue sonar training

December 29, 2006 - Item 3
Stop Navy Noise January 10th Hearing

May 2, 2006 - Item 3
Navy Sonar and Mass Dolphin Stranding

January 12, 2006 - Item 2
Protect Whales and other Marine Life from Navy's Sonar

October 21, 2005 - Item 3
US Navy sued over dolphin-stranding sonar!

May 10, 2005 - Item 5
Sign on to UN Ocean Noise Petition

March 6, 2005 - Item 1
Whales, dolphins, now under attack - LFAS sonar blasts!

July 26, 2004 - Item 3
Death of whales linked to NATO navy exercise

October 13, 2003 - Item 4
Study Says Sonar linked to death of whales

May 24, 2003 - Item 4
Defending Our Environment and Health from the US Military * LFA: House & Senate Pass Versions of Military Exemptions

March 13, 2003 - Item 6
Pentagon Seeks Freedom to Pollute Land, Air and Sea

November 17, 2002 - Item 4
Navy's Sonar and Protecting Marine Life

November 5, 2002 - Item 4
For Whales' Sake, Judge Halts Sonar

August 8, 2002 - Item 6
ENS - New Sonar System Could Deafen Marine Mammals

July 30, 2002 - Item 2
Massive Worldwide Whale Beachings

July 20, 2002 - Item 2
Navy Wins OK for New Sonar,

May 8, 2002 - Item 2
Can Navy sonar hurt whales?,

April 18, 2002 - Item 4
Navy Sonar Controversy Coming to a Head

June 1, 2000 - Item 1
Court Ruling to Stop Navy's LFAS Experiments

May 14, 2001 - Item 2
Navy testing whales' hearing level,

January 8, 2001 - Item 3
Information and Action to Stop Low Frequency Active Sonar Blasts for Ocean-Life

For more resources, visit:


Send a message to the secretary general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization
and to NATO ambassadors, urging their member countries to stop deploying
high-powered sonar systems in sensitive whale habitats around the world.

Call on NATO to take immediate steps to protect
marine mammals from deadly sonar.

Stop LFAS Worldwide!

Insist that people be told the truth about LFAS
and other high intensity sonars. For more information:

Stop LFAS Worldwide Network
1556 Halford Ave., Box 322
Santa Clara, CA 95051
(408) 516-9716

Recommended for breaking news on this topic:

Stop LFAS Listserve

Whales and sonar -- Under water, no one can hear you scream
Feb 28th 2002 | NEW YORK
From The Economist

The American navy may soon have a whale of a problem

IT MIGHT offer a plot for a Hollywood blockbuster. The usual suspects are present: evil military types, a plucky band of environmentalists and a cast of loveable animals fighting for their survival. The story is spoilt, though, by the fact that the would-be heroes of the drama (earnest biologists trying to make the truth heard over the political fray) are still off in a corner arguing with each other over the scientific evidence.

The loveable animals in question are the world's whales. At stake is the American navy's use of a new form of sonar. For the past two years, it has been trying to get permission to deploy low-frequency active sonar (LFAS), a system designed to hunt for very quiet submarines. But the frequency range of LFAS (100-500Hz) is the same as that used by baleen whales (blue, grey, fin and humpback (the most charismatic species) in their songs. Biologists worry that LFAS might thus damage these whales in some way. That would make its use illegal under an American law from which not even the navy is exempt. In the next couple of months, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the agency responsible for protecting the welfare of marine mammals, is due to announce whether it will let the navy deploy the new device. It's decision, one way or the other, is sure to infuriate somebody.

Sounding the depths

The reach of the proposed system is remarkable. Because of the distance that low-frequency sound waves can travel under water, a set of four ships emitting sound at 235 decibels could monitor 80% of the world's oceans for submarines. But it is precisely that reach which, from the whales' point of view, might be worrying. So, in 1997 and 1998, the navy gathered data on the response of whales to an LFAS test array. Kurt Fristrup, a marine biologist at Cornell University who helped to conduct this study, says humpback whales exposed to LFAS altered the lengths of their songs slightly, but resumed normal calling a few hours afterwards. Grey whales exposed to a test source in the middle of their migration path altered their routes to avoid it, but once the source was moved out of the migration corridor and further into the ocean, they appeared to ignore it.

That does not sound much to worry about, and in any case, the navy says the system can be made safe. It has been designed to switch off as soon as a broadcasting ship comes within 1km of a whale. At this distance the animal would hear the sonar at a volume of 180 decibels, which the navy says will cause no harm.

Some whale experts, however, disagree with the navy's boffins. Lack of alteration does not imply lack of injury, according to Naomi Rose, a marine biologist at the Humane Society, an American animal-welfare charity. The animals could have been disturbed or even partially deafened, but their mating and migrating activities may have been too important for them to change their patterns of behaviour. More pertinently, the navy's test array broadcast at a maximum level of 155 decibels. That is roughly 0.3% of the power of the 180-decibel cut-off point that the operational system would have.

Meanwhile, greens are fretting not only about the whales, but also about the vigour of the agency appointed to protect them, which they fear is the victim of "regulatory capture". According to Michael Jasny of the National Resources Defence Council, an environmental lobby group, the best available science has shown that LFAS causes "severely adverse effects" in marine mammals. "The NMFS would have to tie itself in knots to come up with a determination supporting the navy."

Dr Fristrup, though, doubts if more studies and more tests could assuage the fears of whale-lovers. Certain groups, he says, "oppose LFAS deployment on principle: their positions are clearly not susceptible to change based on any scientific evidence that can be developed."

Article from The Economist

Mark J. Palmer
Assistant Director
International Marine Mammal Project
Wildlife Alive
Earth Island Institute
300 Broadway, Suite 28
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 788-3666 x139
(415) 788-7324 (fax)
< >
(429-347 BC)
Above is also posted at FN's wordpress blog with images!

Is Low Frequency Sonar Blowing
Away Dolphins and Whales?

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