The U.S. Navy’s Proposed Use of a Type of Ocean Sonar has Prompted Environmental FearsTruth!

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.

The Truth:

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 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

A real example of the eRumor as it has appeared on the Internet:

Dear Friend,

The three of us have never teamed up like this before. But we all share


something in common: a deep love of the ocean and marine mammals. That’s why we’re very disturbed by a U.S. military program that, if approved, will soon be bombarding millions of whales and dolphins around the world with intense noise.

You may have read about the U.S. Navy’s “Low-Frequency Active” (LFA) sonar


program. The military has been testing this new, high-powered system in secret for years. Now, the Navy wants to deploy it across 80 percent of our planet’s oceans. LFA sonar is designed to detect enemy submarines by flooding vast expanses of the oceans with sound. Leaving aside the military wisdom of this sonar — which is still in dispute — the environmental dangers are becoming increasingly clear.

Here’s the problem: LFA noise is billions of times more intense than that


known to disturb whale migration and communication. Whales and dolphins depend on their sensitive hearing for survival. To put it simply, a deaf whale is a dead whale. Deafening noise from the LFA system will interfere with the vital biological activities of marine mammals. Scientists fear that long-term exposure to LFA could push entire populations over the brink into extinction.

Inevitably, there will also be marine mammals unlucky enough to swim too


close to LFA loudspeakers. Imagine an acoustic wave so powerful that, even at substantial distances, it can destroy your hearing, cause your lungs or ears to hemorrhage, or even kill you.

We’ve already seen a glimpse of the resulting carnage. Last year, whales


from four different species stranded themselves and died on beaches across the northern Bahamas during a Navy military exercise. All but one of the dead animals examined by researchers had suffered hemorrhaging around the inner ear — the telltale sign of acoustic trauma. The U.S. Navy’s own report concluded that it is “highly likely” that the stranding was caused by the use of mid-frequency active sonar. But despite this tragic event, the Navy now wants to deploy LFA, the most extensive active sonar system ever devised.

We know that different frequencies will affect different marine mammals and


that the lower the frequency, the farther it penetrates the ocean. We believe it is unconscionable to expose marine mammals around the world to more high intensity sonar. If you agree, then please join us in taking immediate action; it will take you only a few seconds.:

Just go to

:The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Ocean Futures Society (OFS)


have set up this web page to make it easy for you to send electronic messages of protest to your U.S. senators and representative. Congress is now deciding the Navy’s funding for next year — tell them to “Turn Off LFA

Sonar” by cutting off its funding.

And please forward this message to your family, friends and colleagues. NRDC


used web activism to help generate a million messages of protest to Mitsubishi and, just last year, stopped the company from destroying the last unspoiled birthing ground of the Pacific gray whale.

Congress cannot ignore millions of us. Together, we can keep whales and


dolphins safe from high-powered sonar.Thank you for your time and your concern.

Sincerely yours,

James Taylor, Pierce Brosnan, Jean-Michel Cousteau