Military Sonar Affects Whales and Dolphins

military grade sonar

20 Feb Military Sonar Affects Whales and Dolphins

military grade sonar can be harmful to whales and dolphinsBefore creating a diagnostic tool that uses military grade sonar to map the underbelly of everyone’s favorite fishing holes, we asked scientists if our innovation could be harmful to marine life? 

They conducted extensive tests and came back with good news; FishHunter is not harmful to marine life.  After consulting biologists, fishing habitat experts and a celebrity chef, we have achieved consensus that our lithium battery powered ultrasonic sound emitting device is much too quiet to be anything more than a mosquito-like annoyance to freshwater fish; it could even be perceived a good vibration, and it is possible that trout or bass fish might find it curious enough to want to investigate?

But big navy warships are another story.

Navy destroyers, AEGIS cruisers and submarines burn diesel or harness nuclear fuel rods and (steam) generators to make hydro electric powered sonar systems that are much louder and in some cases actually deadly to fish.  The various navies of the world, not just the US Navy, but every marine force that uses a mid frequency sonar for naval surveillance really does PING the living daylights out of the hapless but otherwise intelligent marine animals. This must stop.

It has been suggested that Active Sonar, the audio transmission equipment used on some ships to assist with their navigation is harmful to marine life.  An international body of marine biologists believes all sonar and especially the powerful US Navy sonar testing in the waters off California and Hawaii are detrimental to the health and livelihood of all advanced marine animals.

Although the precise mechanisms for how this audio conflict affects whales or dolphin’s brain are not well understood yet, its pretty obvious that the more complex creatures who use echolocation or “biosonar” systems seem to be the most messed up when navy subs and surface warships conduct exercises in their area.

Pierce Brosnan, Save the Whales from SonarMany marine biologists believe that active sonar transmitters confuse the otherwise intelligent animals and interfere with their basic biological functions such as feeding and mating.  A recent study has shown that whales experience decompression sickness, a disease that forces nitrogen from the air they inhaled into gas bubbles up into their flesh and is caused by rapid and prolonged surfacing. Its called ‘the benz’ and although whales were originally thought to be immune to this disease, sonar has been implicated in causing behavioral changes that can lead to their bodies experiencing this decompression sickness.

Pierce Brosnan got active on this issue last year in connection with the NRDC initiative

He proposes sending a message to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel with 100,000 or more signatures telling him to direct the US Navy to put safeguards in place that will stop their deadly audio assault on whales and the marine environment. Natural resources defense council or NRDC has collected 32,330 signatures to date.

This issue has just recently come to the floor again as the US navy has just announced new plans for training and testing its new high-intensity sonar,  mid-frequency system that will bombard whales at up to 236 decibels – it can actually cause their internal organs to hemorrhage.
dolphins in Tasmania victims of sonar confusionThe mid-frequency sonar was developed for anti-submarine warfare. The standard post-WWII active sonars (which were usually above 7 kHz) had an insufficient range against nuclear powered vessels which could stay submerged at great depths for months. Active sonar went from a piece of equipment attached to a ship, to a piece of equipment that was central to the design of a ship. They are described in the same 1961 Time magazine article by the quote “the latest shipboard sonar weighs 30 tons and consumes 1,600 times as much power as the standard postwar sonar’.

According to Pierce Brosnan and the NRDC, thousands of animals have already been harmed and more than 1,000 whales and other marine mammals including rare and endangered species could be killed over the next five years, along with more than 5,000 cases of serious injury such as permanent hearing loss or lung damage and tens of millions of incidents in which marine mammals are harassed and harmed. And these alarming numbers come from the US Navy (according to the NRDC here).
FishHunter supports the NRDC and their campaign to bring awareness and change to the growing issue of noise pollution in the World’s oceans and commercial waterways.