Tuesday, May 02, 2006

U.S. Navy Responsible For Marine Mammal Deaths

About a week ago, at least 400 dead dolphins washed up on the shores of a popular tourist destination on Zanzibar's northern coast; where tourists fo to watch & swim with the wild dolphins.
The 400+ carcasses were strewn along a 2 1/2 mile stretch of Nungwi. Scientists have ruled out poisoning, after necropsy. The dolphins had empty stomachs, which suggests they could have been swimming for some time to reorient themselves. They did not starve to death, nor were poisoned.
This is not a new occurance, & experts here in the U.S. are & have been investigating the very real possibility that sonar from U.S. Navy subs could be responsible for similar incidents around the world.
In fact, in March 2005, 68 deep water dolphins stranded themselves in Marathon, Florida.
Currently, a U.S. Navy task force patrols the East African coast as part of a "counter-terrorism" operation. This is the area the dolphins washed ashore. Although the U.S. Navy had no comment on this particular incident, they have admited in the past that the use of their LFA sonar signal does pose a risk to sea mammals, "...there could be something in the structure of the LFA signal that posed a special risk for behavioral disruption in marine animals."
Not only that, but the U.S. Navy has released a detailed report called, " Joint Interim Report Bahamas Marine Mammal Stranding Event of 15-16 March 2000", which I will quote from a bit later.
Active sonar, used by the Navy, emits very loud pulses of sound into the ocean, then listens to the echoes to paint a snapshot picture of all the objects within their range.
It is a known fact that whales have died on the same day that U.S. & NATO Navy forces utilized active sonar nearby.
And just because we haven't seen more dolphins & whales wash up dead on more shores does not mean that they aren't dying.
Keep in mind that when a whale dies, it almost always sinks. The below documented cases managed to beach themselves, providing rare opprotunities to learn of the Navy's activities.

Navy tests linked to whale/dolphin deaths worldwide:

Oct.2005-Tasmania-130 pilot whales dead

March 2005-Florida-80 dolphins stranded, 29 dead

Jan. 2005-N.Carolina-37 multi-species whales dead

July 2004-Hawaii-200 melon-headed whales harassed

May 2003-Washinton-22 orcas harassed,10 dolphins dead

May 2003-Canada-7 dolphins dead

Nov.2002-Tasmania-9 sperm whales dead

Nov.2002-Scottland-indisclosed # of whales dead

Sept.2002-Spain-17 multi-species whales dead

June 2001-Florida-2 cuvier whales dead

May 2000-Vieques,Puerto Rico-10 multi-species whales dead

March 2000-Bahamas-16 multi-species whales dead

March 1998-Hawaii-3 humpback whales dead

May 1996-Greece-12 cuvier whales dead

March 1996-Florida-5 right whales dead

Here are excerpts from the official "Joint Interim Report" by the U.S. Navy:

Executive Summary/Overview:

" On March 15 and 16, 2000, a multi species mass stranding of 17 cetaceans was discovered in the Northeast and Northwest Providence Channels of the Bahamas Islands ( a mass stranding is defined as two or more animals). Seven of the animals are known to have died, ten other animals were returned to the water alive. A comprehensive investigation into all possible causes of the stranding was quickly launched. Based upon necropsies of the dead animals it was preliminarily determined that they had experienced some sort of acoustic or impulse trauma that led to their stranding and subsequent death. Detailed microscopic studies were initiated to identify the mechanism by which this acoustic or impulse source caused trauma. Most, but not all, lines of investigation have now been completed."

"Based on the way in which the strandings coincided with ongoing naval activity involving tactical mid-range frequency sonar use in terms of both time and geography, the nature of the physiological efffects experienced by the dead animals, and the absence of any other acoustic sources, the investigation team concludes that tactical mid-range frequency sonars aboard U.S. Navy ships that were in use during the sonar exercise in question were the most plausible source of this acoustic or impulse trauma. This sound source was active in a complex enviroment that included the presence of a strong surface duct, unusual underwater bathymetry, intensive active use of multiple sonar units over an extended period of time, a constricted channel with limited egress, and the presence of beaked whales that appear to be sensitive to the frequencies provided by these sonars. The investigation team concludes that the cause of this stranding event was the confluence of the Navy tactical mid-range frequency sonar and the contributory factors noted above acting together."

"The actual mechanisms by which these sonar sounds could have caused animals to strand, or their tissues to be damaged, have not yet been revealed, but research is under way. This research, along with other research on the impacts of sonar sounds on marine mammals, increased knowledge of marine mammal densities, increased knowledge of causes of beaked whale strandings, increased knowledge of beaked whale anatomy, physiology and medicine, and further research on sonar propagation, will provide valuable info for determining which factors are most likely to cause another mass stranding event."

Biological Investigation:

"A biological report compiled by NOAA describes the stranding event and the results of biological exams that were conducted on the dead animals. Only two other mass strandings of beaked whales have been reported in the Bahamas since 1864. From their condition, the animals in this investigation most likely all stranded March 15, although some were not discovered until March 16. Strandings were first noted at the southern end of the channels and reports proceeded northwest throughout March 15."

"Seven animals dies, including five Cuvier's beaked whales, one Blainville's beaked whale, and one spotted dolphin. Of the six necropsies that were performed, only three animals were sufficiently fresh to clearly examine the lesions. Two of the six animals were buried for two days and were later exhumed for complete necropsy. A sixth animal was examined five days later and found to be in advanced decomposition."

"All five beaked whales examined by necropsy were in good body condition, and none showed evidence if debilitating infectious disease, ship strike, blunt contact trauma, or fishery related injuries. 3 of the beaked whales had food remains in thier stomachs. Some type of auditory structural damage was found in 4 whales examined, specifically bloody effusions or hemorrhage near and around the ears. The most significant findings, which were found in the 2 freshest species, consisted of bilateral intraochlear and unilateral temporal region subarachnoid hemorrhage with blood clots bilaterally in the lateral ventricles. Pathologists concluded that the hemorrhages occured before death and would not necessarily have been fatal or have caused permanent hearing loss in terrestrial animals. Howeverm such hemorrhages are debilitative and may have compromised hearing or navigational abilities, resulting in disorientation and subsequent stranding. 3 animals also had small hemorrhages in the acoustic fats, but it has not yet been determined whether these hemorrhages occured before or after death."

"The most likely cause of the observed trauma was either acoustic or impulse injuries. Review of acoustic records show that no explosions occured at the time of the strandings. Therefore, by deduction, it is reasonbale to assume that the hemorrhages were acoustically induced. The beaked whales showed evidence of overheating, cardiovascular collapse, and physiological shock, a cascade of physiological events that commonly results in death after stranding. They were the most likely cause of death, although the offshore acoustic event triggered this cascade of events."

Passive Acoustic Recording:

" A report prepared by NOAA notes that the agency was operating 2 passive acoustic monitoring arrays that could detect sounds from the Bahamas during the time frame in question. One array, that was located 100 nautical miles south of the stranding site was not recording continuously and may have missed an explosion oif one occured.The other array, located on the mid-Atlanitc ridge, was recording continuously, but showed no evidence of an explosion or geographical event (earthquake). These recordings ruled out the possibility that a distant explosion could have been the causative acoustic event."

Ship Movements and Acoustic Modeling:

" Commander in Chief, US Atlantic Fleet prepared a report, which describes in detail the timing and courses of US Navy ships in the Northeast and Northwest Providence Channels on March 15,2000, the kinds of sonar used, modes of operation, and frequencies and power settings used. Numerous ships transited from the southeast to the northwest in generally the same pattern in which strandings were discovered. 5 ships used their mainframe active sonar in the channels during the time of interest. During the 16 hour period in which the ships transisted the channel using sonar, each ship pinged its sonar approximatley every 24 seconds, wih pings from nearby ships staggered in time so not to coincide. "

Conclusions and Recommendations:

To the maximum extent practical, the Navy will adopt measures in its future peacetime training, including those involving the use of tactical mid-range sonars, to avoid the taking of marine mammals. Under the circumstances investigated in this report, 2 actions are recommended for the Navy. These are to understand the mechanisms by which sonar sounds affect marine mammal tissue or behavior, and to concurrently put into place mitigation measures that will protect animals to the maximum extent possible and not jeopardize National Security."

So it looks as if the Navy not only recognizes it is the cause of many, many sad deaths of marine mammals, but for the "National Security" it will continue these practices that cause the death of so many beautiful creatures. That may explain why the 400+ dead dolphins just last week washed up in Zanzibar. Not only has the Navy ignored its own findings and recommendations on how to remedy this issue, but is currently using this sonar in the oceans of the world, all for the interest of "National Security". I guess the US Navy says to hell with the dying whales and dolphins.