Navy denies sonar training near dead pilot whale discovery

Researchers begin necropsies on dead pilot whales on Kice Island

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Photo courtesy of Mote Marine Laboratory
Laura Dias, of NOAA, labels a skin sample from a pilot whale for genetic analysis.

Photo courtesy of Mote Marine Laboratory Laura Dias, of NOAA, labels a skin sample from a pilot whale for genetic analysis.

Photo courtesy of NOAA
Deceased pilot whales line the beach of Kice Island, part of the Cape Romano Preserve south of Marco Island.  Officials are still trying to determine why the whales are beaching themselves.

Photo courtesy of NOAA Deceased pilot whales line the beach of Kice Island, part of the Cape Romano Preserve south of Marco Island. Officials are still trying to determine why the whales are beaching themselves.

Photo courtesy of Mote Marine Laboratory
More marine laboratory staff biologist Rebeccah Hazelkorn begins a necropsy on the largest stranded pilot whale on Kice Island Friday before noon. 25 whales were found on the rookery bay national estuarine research reserve island on Thursday afternoon.

Photo courtesy of Mote Marine Laboratory More marine laboratory staff biologist Rebeccah Hazelkorn begins a necropsy on the largest stranded pilot whale on Kice Island Friday before noon. 25 whales were found on the rookery bay national estuarine research reserve island on Thursday afternoon.

A team of researchers will spend the day performing necropsies, or animal autopsies, on 25 dead pilot whales on Kice Island, south of Marco Island.

It still could take several weeks or months to learn what caused the whales to beach themselves, said Kim Amendola, an NOAA spokeswoman. She said it was likely the team would return Friday night without much news about the cause.

“Every once in a while, we can see something that might immediately strike us,” Amendola said. “(But) it’s pretty rare that in a gross necropsy to see signs of what could cause stranding.”

Samples taken today from the whales will require a full analysis, possibly to include blood work.

The NOAA did contact the Navy, which said it had not been doing any sonar training in the area, according to Amendola. Military sonar is thought to be responsible for certain strandings of marine mammals.

Amendola said officials still were trying to decide what to do with the dead whales after the necropsies.

Check back to naplesnews.com later today as more details become available.

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Comments » 3

MrBreeze writes:

I see the paper was quick to respond to its own remark of sonar testing. Something is causing this to happen. The public may never hear what has caused this to happen.

CopWatch writes:

One of the most persistent theories about the cause of whale stranding is that something disrupts the whales’ navigation system, causing them to lose their bearings, stray into shallow water, and end up on the beach.

Scientists and government researchers have linked the low-frequency and mid-frequency sonar used by military ships, such as those operated by the U.S. Navy, to several mass strandings as well as other deaths and serious injuries among whales and dolphins. Military sonar sends out intense underwater sonic waves, essentially a very loud sound, that can retain its power across hundreds of miles.

Evidence of how dangerous sonar might be for marine mammals emerged in 2000, when whales of four different species stranded themselves on beaches in the Bahamas after a U.S. Navy battle group used mid-frequency sonar in the area. The Navy initially denied responsibility, but a government investigation concluded that Navy sonar caused the whale strandings.

Many beached whales in strandings associated with sonar also show evidence of physical trauma, including bleeding in their brains, ears and internal tissues. In addition, many whales stranded in areas where sonar is being used have symptoms that in humans would be considered a severe case of decompression sickness, or “the bends,” a condition that afflicts SCUBA divers who resurface too quickly after a deep dive. The implication is that sonar may be affecting the whales’ dive patterns.

Other possible causes put forth for the disruption of whale and dolphin navigation include:

weather conditions;
diseases (such as viruses, brain lesions, parasites in the ears or sinuses);
underwater seismic activity (sometimes called seaquakes);
magnetic field anomalies; and
unfamiliar underwater topography.
Despite the many theories, and growing evidence of the danger that military sonar poses for whales and dolphins worldwide, scientists have not found an answer that explains all whale and dolphin strandings. Perhaps there is no single answer.

ajm3s writes:

in response to CopWatch:

One of the most persistent theories about the cause of whale stranding is that something disrupts the whales’ navigation system, causing them to lose their bearings, stray into shallow water, and end up on the beach.

Scientists and government researchers have linked the low-frequency and mid-frequency sonar used by military ships, such as those operated by the U.S. Navy, to several mass strandings as well as other deaths and serious injuries among whales and dolphins. Military sonar sends out intense underwater sonic waves, essentially a very loud sound, that can retain its power across hundreds of miles.

Evidence of how dangerous sonar might be for marine mammals emerged in 2000, when whales of four different species stranded themselves on beaches in the Bahamas after a U.S. Navy battle group used mid-frequency sonar in the area. The Navy initially denied responsibility, but a government investigation concluded that Navy sonar caused the whale strandings.

Many beached whales in strandings associated with sonar also show evidence of physical trauma, including bleeding in their brains, ears and internal tissues. In addition, many whales stranded in areas where sonar is being used have symptoms that in humans would be considered a severe case of decompression sickness, or “the bends,” a condition that afflicts SCUBA divers who resurface too quickly after a deep dive. The implication is that sonar may be affecting the whales’ dive patterns.

Other possible causes put forth for the disruption of whale and dolphin navigation include:

weather conditions;
diseases (such as viruses, brain lesions, parasites in the ears or sinuses);
underwater seismic activity (sometimes called seaquakes);
magnetic field anomalies; and
unfamiliar underwater topography.
Despite the many theories, and growing evidence of the danger that military sonar poses for whales and dolphins worldwide, scientists have not found an answer that explains all whale and dolphin strandings. Perhaps there is no single answer.

Nice! and adds credence to my belief that the comments are more illuminating than the news article.

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