The U.S. Navy’s Proposed Use of a Type of Ocean Sonar has Prompted Environmental Fears–Truth!
Summary of eRumor:
There are several emails circulating about this, but the most popular one says it’s endorsed by musician James Taylor, actor Pierce Bronson, and adventurer/oceanographer Jean-Michel Cousteau. It says that they are disturbed that the Navy is going to start bombarding the oceans of the world with noise in the form of “Low-Frequency Active” sound waves (LFA). The sonar, which is due to be used in 80 per cent of the world’s oceans, is to detect and track enemy submarines. The signers of the email are especially concerned about the sonar’s effect on whales and dolphins, which depend on their sensitive hearing for survival. The email says that if any ocean life swims too close to the devices that originate the sound waves, the powerful emissions could destroy hearing, cause lungs or ears to hemorrhage, and cause death. They cite an episode in The Bahamas in which whales from four different species mysteriously beached themselves. It was discovered that most of the whales had hemorrhaging around the inner ear and a U.S. Navy report concluded that the beachings were probably the result of use of mid-frequency sonar. The email says that funding for the program is being decided right now in congress and gives you a website to use to register your opinion.
This is a real issue and the eRumor about James Taylor, Pierce Bronsan, and Jean-Michel Cousteau joining together about the controversy is true. They teamed with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Ocean Futures Society (OFS) in April, 2001 when hearings were held by the National Marine Fisheries Service on whether the Navy would be allowed to deploy the system.
Critics of the sonar say a significant event occurred in the Spring of 1991 that underscored their concerns. The Navy was using a sonar system in exercises in the Bahamas and, according to the New York Times (April 15, 2001), 16 beaked whales and a dolphin became disoriented and stranded on beaches and in shallow water around the northern islands. Most of the whales were guided back to the open sea, but six of them and the dolphin died. Necropsies showed the mammals had hemorrhaging around the brain and the ears. A year later, a task force that included the Navy concluded that it was “…highly likely…” that the strandings were linked to the sonar. The Navy has responded by saying that they were using a medium-frequency sonar in the Bahamas and the one they want permits to use is a low-frequency sonar and that they propose standards for its use that would protect and monitor marine life.
Still, according to the U.S. Navy, whales being killed or injured by sonar is largely unproven. Lt. William Marks, the Navy’s spokesman on sonar and marine mammal policy, told TruthOrFiction.com that the website of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric administration lists more than 35,000 incidents of stranded mammals over a period of ten years. Only one of those has been conclusively linked to the use of Navy sonar–and that’s the one in the Bahamas in 1991. Lt. Marks said that since that event, the Navy has been careful to not to operate under the conditions that existed in the Bahamas.
The Natural Resources Defense Council
The United States Navy page on LFA