Is The Navy Killing Flipper?

by Daniel Russ on October 16, 2009

Dolphin With Locator On It

Dolphin With Locator On It

“Sonar can temporarily deafen dolphins, a new study has found, suggesting that mass strandings of cetaceans could be caused by military activities.

The US Navy has suspected as much for years. In 2002, it admitted that a beaching incident was caused by military sonar, and autopsies on the dead whales revealed haemorrhaging near the ears.

The new study, by Aran Mooney and colleagues at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology found that repeated sonar “pings” cause temporary hearing loss in dolphins.

The team say the sonar source has to be close to the dolphins to induce deafness, and that in the wild the animals will likely swim away before any damage is done (Biology Letters, DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2009.0099).

However, as in the 2002 case when 16 whales were stranded in the Bahamas, Mooney and colleagues say there can be special circumstances resulting in “sound traps”, where sonar is reflected back onto the animals from some underwater feature. The beached whales were caught by sonar in the Great Bahama Canyon, a deep-water trench favoured for military exercises.”


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