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Sonar Killing Whales & other Sea Life

Discussion in 'General Yachting Discussion' started by brian eiland, May 2, 2006.

  1. brian eiland

    brian eiland Senior Member

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    back in this posting I made reference to a "Texas Size Kill Zone"

    Just yesterday I found this article in the Washington Post:

    Sonar Called Likely Stranding Cause

    By Marc Kaufman
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Friday, April 28, 2006;



    Federal marine specialists have concluded that Navy sonar was the most likely cause of the unusual stranding of melon-headed whales in a Hawaiian bay in 2004.

    The appearance of as many as 200 of the normally deep-diving whales in Hanalei Bay in Kauai occurred while a major American-Japanese sonar training exercise was taking place at the nearby Pacific Missile Range Facility.

    The report is the latest in a series of scientific reviews linking traditional mid-frequency naval sonar to whale strandings. Sonar has been used for decades, but it was only recently that the apparent connection to strandings was established.

    While the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists said they could not definitely state that sonar caused the strandings, they said extensive study led them to the conclusion that there was no other likely cause.

    "Our analyses indicate there was no significant weather, natural oceanographic event or known biological factors that would explain the animals' movement into the bay nor the group's continued presence in the bay," said Teri Rowles, NOAA Fisheries Service's lead marine mammal veterinarian and lead author of the report.

    NOAA concluded that sonar was "a plausible, if not likely, contributing factor" to the stranding.

    The Navy has said it was virtually impossible for its sonar to have led to the Hanalei Bay stranding, and officials maintained that position yesterday. "I think that if you look at the report, there are just so many unknown factors at work that to say sonar was a plausible if not likely cause is erroneous," said Lt. Commander Christy Hagen of the U.S. Pacific Fleet in Hawaii.

    The Navy is planning another major sonar testing maneuver in the same area in July and -- for the first time -- NOAA has formally asked the Navy to use expanded measures to protect whales from the possible effects of its sonar.

    The active sonar used by navies sends out loud pings of sound that seem to frighten and disorient whales, especially deep-diving species such as the beaked and melon-headed whales. The effect was documented off Greece in 1996 and established later during naval exercises in the Bahamas, off the Canary Islands and off Spain.

    The findings have complicated the Navy's efforts to set up a 500-square-nautical-mile sonar training facility off the coast of North Carolina. Naval officials say the sonar training is essential, especially now that possibly hostile foreign navies have developed diesel submarines that are not detected by the kind of passive sonar used to follow large nuclear submarines.

    Rowles said that the melon-headed stranding in Hawaii was highly unusual, and only the second recorded in the United States in modern times. The other occurred off Florida earlier this year, and Rowles said NOAA is trying to determine if any naval activity occurred in the area.

    In the 2000 Bahamas stranding, a local marine biologist collected some of the whales that died onshore and froze them for later study -- which helped NOAA conclude that sonar was the likely cause. In Hanalei Bay, the whales were ultimately led back to sea and one young animal died, apparently of starvation. So there was no physical evidence of injury to examine.

    Yesterday's NOAA conclusion was based instead on the lack of other possible causes, the unusual nature of the whale movement, and an analysis that concluded the extensive sonar use occurred close enough to Hanalei Bay for the whales to swim there by early July 3.

    A number of environmental groups have become increasingly concerned about the effects of sonar, and the Natural Resources Defense Council has sued the Navy a number of times on the issue. Michael Jasny, a senior consultant with NRDC, said the NOAA report was worrisome.

    "This was by far the largest stranding of melon-headed whales ever recorded in Hawaii," he said. "Once again, the Navy's denial has been contradicted by the official government investigation.. It's time for the Navy to stop this needless infliction of harm."


    As many as 200 melon-headed whales appeared in a Hawaiian bay in 2004​

    Attached Files:

  2. Kevin

    Kevin YF Moderator

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    Now what about the 600+ dolphins found dead in Zanzibar just last week? It's pretty crazy, but sonar may be at fault there too. The findings of the initial study are supposed to be released today.
  3. Sean

    Sean New Member

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    im far more concerned about the RAND corporation in association with the reverse vampires conspiring to eliminate the meal known as dinner. :cool: :p

    sonar transmission today is but a shadow of what it was until 1991 and the previous 40 years prior to that. they should find a new scapegoat, i reccomend the internet.
  4. brian eiland

    brian eiland Senior Member

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    Sean, I would suggest you do a little more studying of the subject. I think you will find the new ACTIVE sonars are FAR MORE destructive than older technologies.
    "The source level of this sonar is 240 decibels (equivalent to the intensity of a Saturn rocket). But, because low frequency underwater sound can travel hundreds of miles with little loss of power, it will actually create a "kill zone" several hundred miles in diameter. NATO naval exercises using low frequency sonar conducted off Greece in 1996 killed whales that were more than 100 km away. In the final EIS for its sonar system, the Navy admits that an intensity of 160 decibels (a lethal level) will be felt several hundred miles away from the source."
  5. Sean

    Sean New Member

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    sorry but marine radiation levels are significantly lower now then they have been in the past. this is despite the increased level of sea traffic. why? there is not as large an amount of military traffic on marine transmission channels. the lack of cold war combined with the implementation of gps systems in a commercial and military capacity has reduced the traffic. submarine bandwidth use will continue to decrease as other location systems such as GLONASS and gallileo come online, and more sattelite communication systems become more accessible in the short and long term future.

    as a resident of perth, i've grown up extremely aquatic and with a huge deal of concern for our marine life, especially cetaceans (whom i first encountered whilst swimming at the age of 8). but the old arguement of "sonar is making the whales beach " is one that has far less in its favour in terms of facts then a lot of lobby groups would have you believe.

    as an audio engineer and someone with an above average interest in electronics i have a far greater concern of the effect of high frequency extra earth radiation then i do of today's commercial and military sub marin sonar.

    apologies if it looks like im trying to have it out with you, i've been browsing for a while but have only just signed up to post and have addressed the posts at the top of the forum :)
  6. brian eiland

    brian eiland Senior Member

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    Killing Off Our Sea Life

    No problem, all participation is invited. That's what forums are all about.



    We're not talking marine transmission technology here, we're talking very high powered LFA (Low Frequency Active) sonar signals.

    I'll excerpt a few quotes from a paper on the subject:

    As you know, LFA sonar is designed to detect and track quiet submarines. According to its Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), the Navy is planning to deploy it in 80% of the world’s oceans (omitting only the waters of the Arctic and Antarctic). Scientists and organizations have expressed concern about the potential adverse impact of LFA sonar (including tissue rupture and death) on marine mammals, fish and other marine life because its high intensity sound is transmitted over very long distances. We are particularly concerned about its direct and indirect lethal effects on the imperiled large pelagics - white marlin, blue marlin, bluefin tuna, bigeye tuna, swordfish, sailfish, spearfish and many species of large sharks of the Atlantic -and other marine resources, including their prey, all of which will be at risk.

    This high intensity sonar is described as the loudest sound made by man (presumably not including bombs) and is equivalent in intensity to the noise created by a Saturn rocket at liftoff. Actually, the Navy has indicated it has the capability to produce an even higher decibel level sonar, but that particular level is "classified." So, we know it will be actually even worse for marine life than 240 dB.

    As you may know, the Navy tested LFA sonar at least 22 times secretly, in violation of several federal laws including NEPA, MMPA, ESA and the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA), before the Natural Resources Defense Council discovered the activity in 1995. Under pressure, the Navy then agreed to write an EIS.....the Navy concludes in its FEIS that it is safe to expose marine mammals to LFA sonar at sound pressure levels of 180 dB, even though the scientific research program never exposed them to levels above 155 dB. In its FEIS (Appendix D) the Navy admits, "the lack of empirical data in the received level range of 155-180 dB is an issue." That is an understatement!

    It is important to realize that the decibel scale is not linear, but logarithmic. This means that 160 dB is 10 times the intensity of 150 dB, 170 dB is 100 times the intensity of 150 dB and so on. Therefore, the full deployment intensity of LFA sonar is 1,000,000,000 (one billion) times the intensity of 150 dB - the intensity at which lethal effects are documented

    In March of 2000, more than a dozen beaked whales, two minke whales and at least one dolphin stranded in the Bahamas following mid-frequency range sonar exercises conducted by the Navy. (The rest of the resident population of beaked whales, which had been studied intensively by a research scientist who had photographed and named each one, has not been seen since.) After denying responsibility for more than a year, the Navy/NOAA report (December 2001) on this stranding http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/prot_res/overview/new.html admitted that the animals that died had been exposed to sound pressure levels below 180 dB, which is the level that the Navy had said (in its FEIS) is safe.

    LFA sonar does not attenuate as rapidly as does mid-range sonar of the same intensity. Since LFA sonar maintains much more of its initial intensity over much greater distances, it affects a much broader area than does the mid-range (or "tactical") sonar employed by the Navy in the Bahamas. This is precisely why LFA sonar is being developed. To illustrate, LFA sonar used during previous NATO exercises in the Mediterranean off Greece resulted in marine mammal strandings and mortality at exposure distances of 100 km and estimated exposure intensity levels of 150 to 160 dB, according to the calculation made from the SACLANTCEN Bioacoustics Panel report on this stranding. The direct "kill zone" of LFA sonar can thus be 200 km in diameter vs. the 40 km "kill-zone" of mid-range sonar.

    Sound behaves differently in water compared to air. It travels five times faster in water than in air. In water, it is also transmitted much farther with much less attenuation than in air. (And LFA sonar maintains its intensity much farther than does mid-range sonar.) LFA sonar will maintain relatively high intensity levels hundreds of miles from the source. For example, a marine mammal scientist working off the Washington coast recorded a loud sound (measured at 140 dB). After investigating, he learned it was produced by Navy LFA sonar exercises conducted off Southern California - a distance of over 900 miles!

    Sound penetrates an animal's body when immersed in water. In air, 99.97% of the acoustic energy is reflected from a body. In water, however, there is no reflection or reduction of energy because the body is mostly water. Essentially all of acoustic energy goes into a body immersed in water. This effect, which can cause tissue rupture and hemorrhage, has not been adequately addressed in the Navy's FEIS. The implications (of the effect of sound penetration) for marine life are very serious, as described next.

    The possible mechanisms causing lethal injuries to mammals as well as other marine animals such as fish include gas bubble activation and resonance.

    The first lethal mechanism, discussed by three Navy scientists (Houser, Howard and Ridgway) in The Journal of Theoretical Biology (November 2001), involves moderate level sound waves (as low as 150 dB, which was the lowest level they modeled) activating the growth of microscopic bubbles in the supersaturated blood and tissue of cetaceans. These bubbles then grow and can cause embolisms, hemorrhaging and localized pressure on the nervous system. Significant oxygen deprivation by blood vessel blockage can kill brain cells and produce stroke. For supersaturated gasses dissolved in cells rather than the blood, activation of bubble formation can rupture the cell walls.

    The Navy has argued that the Bahamas stranding is not relevant to concerns about LFA sonar because it was using mid-frequency sonar in the Bahamas, not LFA sonar. However, bubble growth is essentially independent of the frequency of the sound wave and LFA sonar would, in fact, affect more animals since low frequency sound travels farther.

    Gas supersaturation will be greatest in those species that dive to great depths in search of prey. Obvious examples include the imperiled bluefin tuna, swordfish, blue marlin, bigeye tuna and deep-diving whales. Deep-diving species will accumulate the highest concentrations of gasses dissolved in their blood and tissues and thus will be especially vulnerable to supersaturated gas bubble activation by high intensity sonar. The Navy's FEIS does not address the potential for injury from sound-activated bubble growth in fishery resources or marine mammals.

    The second mechanism for lethal injury involves hemorrhaging caused by acoustic resonance of the LFA sonar signal in cranial and other airspaces such as lungs and swim bladders. Specifically, the rapid change in pressure (from very high to very low several times per second for the duration of the one-minute LFA sonar blast) can rupture the delicate membranes enclosing the airspace. Animals with air filled lungs and swim bladders are especially vulnerable because of the large difference in impedance between air in the lungs or swim bladders and their body tissues or seawater. Submerged animals exposed to explosions at short range showed hemorrhage in the lungs and ulceration of the gastro-intestinal tract.

    Kenneth Balcomb, director of the Friday Harbor Orca Research Laboratory and the marine mammal scientist who discovered the Bahamas stranding, suggested in a letter to Joseph Johnson, the LFA sonar OEIS/EIS program manager (February, 2001) that those beaked whales stranded from non-auditory physiological impacts caused by acoustic resonance of the sonar signal in their cranial airspaces (at exposure intensity levels estimated to be 150 to 160 dB). This resulted in the hemorrhages observed during necropsies. (The frequencies of LFA and mid-range sonars match the cranial airspace resonance frequencies of beaked whales at normal foraging depths.) He has stated: "I have had the unique opportunity to witness and study a mass stranding of whales and a dolphin caused by a U.S. Naval Sonar Exercise in the Bahamas (Pirie, ltr. June 15, 2000). That incident unequivocally demonstrated the lethality of high-powered sonars, and it provided the opportunity to understand how sonar has been inadvertently killing whales in vast expanses of ocean around the world.

    The killing is largely due to resonance phenomena in the whales' cranial airspaces that are tearing apart delicate tissues around the brains and ears. This is an entirely separate issue from auditory thresholds and traumas that the Navy has fixated upon. In my earlier comments, I questioned whether there might be a problem with injurious resonance phenomena created by the sonar system described in your OEIS/EIS; but, now I have seen the problem and can attest to the fact that there is massive injury to whales caused by sonar. This is not an exaggerated statement, and I am reasonably sure that the Navy knows that.

    At least seven beaked whales died in the Bahamas stranding that I witnessed; and, I had opportunity to examine four of the carcasses by necropsy. All of these whales that were examined evidenced similar lesions, i.e. hemorrhage in the acoustic regions of the cranium and mandible and in tissues adjacent to airspaces around the earbones (NMFS ltr. June 14, 2000). One fresh specimen that was examined by ultra high resolution computerized tomography (UHR-CT) evidenced a subarachnoid hemorrhage (brain hemorrhage) with a direct path to the ear hemorrhage. This same specimen evidenced lung hemorrhage and laryngeal hemorrhage upon dissection. These hemorrhages are of the type of damage reported in laboratory animals exposed to LFA at lung resonance frequency, and they strongly corroborate the theoretical explanation of such injuries in these whales."

    Therefore, through these two potentially lethal mechanisms, not only marine mammals but also most fish species and many other forms of marine life are vulnerable to the direct lethal effects of sonar at intensity levels of 150 to 160 dB - well below (100 to 1,000 times less than) that which the Navy has claimed is safe (i.e., 180 dB). Because LFA sonar travels very long distances with little attenuation, the area so affected will be quite large - more than 200 km in diameter. In fact, the Navy states in its FEIS that LFA sonar can still be 160 dB several hundred miles from the source. Therefore, the potential direct "kill-zone" for LFA sonar is an area larger than the state of Texas.

    In addition, sublethal effects produced at intensity levels well below 180 dB are also of concern, particularly for many species of fish. As you are well aware, a large number of fish species have evolved elegant, highly sensitive auditory and lateral line systems that detect bodies moving throughout their environment. Some such as many species of sharks have pressure-sensing systems covering much of their bodies. Such a sensory apparatus allows schooling species to move in unison. Predatory species such as sharks, tunas, marlin, swordfish and sailfish depend on this system and especially their auditory systems to locate potential prey well beyond the limits of their vision. These systems are also essential in warning the large pelagics and other species of approaching predators. Thus, these are extremely important sensory mechanism for many marine fishes, which could easily be damaged by sonar levels lower than those causing direct mortality, as described above. Exposure to such sonar levels might not kill them by trauma, but could certainly render them incapable of locating their prey or detecting onrushing predators. Even temporary loss of function could be fatal. Damage to fishes' auditory and lateral line systems could thus become a significant cause of additional indirect mortality in a much larger area that extends well beyond the direct "kill zone" caused by trauma resulting from gas bubble activation and resonance effects, which is at least 200 km in diameter.

    In our listing petition we identified high intensity sonar as a continuing threat to the white marlin's existence. These critical habitat areas for white marlin, which have been either used by the Navy or identified for future use for active sonar exercises, are also prime spawning and feeding areas (thus are critical habitat) of Atlantic blue marlin, whose population is nearly as endangered as is that of white marlin, as well as the imperiled north Atlantic swordfish. The Azores are also a known prime fall feeding ground for the north Atlantic bluefin tuna whose population is equally imperiled as are the two Atlantic marlin species and bigeye tuna which are more imperiled than is the swordfish. Based on the new information summarized above, it appears that LFA sonar deployment as proposed (and even mid-range sonar use) in these critical habitat areas will kill many individuals of these species, whose populations (i.e., white marlin, blue marlin and bluefin tuna) are already on the brink of extinction, and adversely affect many other forms of marine life, including their prey, in adjacent areas. As noted above, the direct and indirect "kill zones" around such high intensity sonar blasts could, according to the Navy's FEIS, extend several hundreds of miles and thus affect many imperiled species in thousands of square miles of their critical habitats.


    Want to read the whole report?
    http://www.bigmarinefish.com/sonar_effects.htm
  7. brian eiland

    brian eiland Senior Member

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    Testing, Varification, Deployment

    The Navy has stated in testimony before a Congressional subcommittee that it has passive listening systems that can detect quiet submarines in littoral waters where previously they were thought to be undetectable. Evidence concerning the present and future availability of new and advanced passive sonar technologies (such as Advanced Deployable Systems tested off California, Robust Passive Sonar (RPS) and towed arrays equipped with Acoustic Rapid Commercial-off-the-shelf Insertion (ARCI) processing) which have the potential to locate quiet submarines without harm to marine life are not discussed in the FEIS. (See RADM Malcolm I. Fages and RADM J.P. Davis, Statement before the House Armed Services Committee, Military Procurement Subcommittee (June 27, 2000) and Presentation of Dr. Thomas J. Green, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), to Department of Defense (Sept. 6-8, 2000) noting the potential effectiveness of a "Robust Passive Sonar" system apparently in development at DARPA). Why authorize highly dangerous LFA sonar when safe alternatives exist?

    The precautionary principle should be adopted here as well as in the fishery management arena - deployment of LFA sonar should be approved only if the Navy can demonstrate that there will be no significant adverse effects on marine life over broad areas of the ocean at full deployment intensity levels. We do not believe NMFS should approve the Navy's deployment or even additional potentially lethal testing in marine environments until NMFS and the Navy can answer the question "what will likely be the lethal and sublethal effects of LFA sonar at full deployment intensity levels on marine life for which NMFS is the federal steward, including fish as well as marine mammals and other protected species?" Specifically for fish, we need to know

    "at what decibel level does LFA sonar no longer cause direct mortality and at what lower decibel level is there no longer any debilitating injury?"
    Only then will we know how large an area of ocean and how much marine life could be seriously affected.
    Sincerely,
    James R. Chambers
  8. Sean

    Sean New Member

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    when i reffered to transmission at low frequency i was reffering to any low frequency transmission which for all intents and purposes is the same whether it is sonar or communications.

    a large problem is that there is a lack of long term empirical data on marine mammals and even fish that would allow a truely accurate study to take place that can discount other causes and possible anomalies.

    i would be interested to see if any civilian sub marine listening stations have any data publicly available that would allow one to extrapolate the approximate level of transmission. although given its classified nature, it wouldnt be surprising that they aren't willing to disclose such raw data to the public.

    i will admit i have a limited knowledge on the resonant frequency of marine mammal's skulls or its effective range, so im not sure that i can simply suggest a modification of the operating frequency of the sonar in development.

    my primary concerns for marine life is the effects of pollution and overfishing that forces the animals to change their behaviour and either move towards humans or in to territory that they are not used to (or suited to).

    ok apart from the tree hugging concerns it's the high frequency traffic from the hundreds of satelites in the sky raining down relentlessly and the increasing high frequency traffic that is terrestrial in origin that worries me. although high frequency transmissions travel less distance and are more specific in their directionality, i am concerned about their effects on echolocation for both hunting and navigation of some animals. i honestly believe they have a greater potential for damage on our marine life than low frequency signals.
  9. Codger

    Codger YF Wisdom Dept.

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    I have no experience with LF in the marine environment. But I have seen firsthand the results of 4-10 hz at somewhere in the 110db range on people in a foundry, not pretty or pleasant to the nose... I can't imagine what the results would have been at 150 db let alone 180+.
  10. Kevin

    Kevin YF Moderator

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    I once had the chance to stand in a ported (door) room with four 24" subwoofers cycling at 4Hz. Inside was no problem since they were mounted straight in relation to walls, so refraction cancelled out the sound, but... standing in the port (doorway) of this room was mind-numbing. An intense headache and dizziness set in within seconds.
  11. brian eiland

    brian eiland Senior Member

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  12. Codger

    Codger YF Wisdom Dept.

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    The crazy part is that although it's a satire I'm not sure that I'd have to look very far to find a government official whose responses would be quite close.
  13. catmando

    catmando Senior Member

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    I stopped reading at "tree huggers". That tells me all I need to know about your mindset. I'm a tree hugger; I love trees. Trees take in CO2 and give off oxygen so I can breathe. IMO anybody who doesn't love trees doesn't want to breathe.