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   Sonar and Marine Life Don't Mix, Says Natural Resources Defense Council


Sonar and Marine Life Don’t Mix, Says Natural Resources Defense Council

Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) attorneys have gone to US Federal Court to seek to stop the US Navy from operating what they describe as a new and “extremely dangerous” sonar system that could blast hundreds of thousands of square miles of ocean habitat with noise so intense that they say it can maim, deafen or even kill whales at close range.

NRDC has gone to court because the Bush administration has given its approval for the Navy to begin deploying its Low Frequency Active (LFA) sonar system across 75 percent of the world's oceans. The issued permit exempts the Navy from having to obey the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Marine scientists are warning that this sonar system may threaten the survival of entire populations of whales, some already nearing extinction.

Unlike traditional "passive" sonar, which locates submarines by listening for sound in the water, the new "active" sonar uses underwater loudspeakers to blast the ocean with an effective noise level of 235 decibels and then waits for a response. At close range, the shock waves are described by opponents as being so intense they can destroy whales' eardrums, cause their lungs to hemorrhage, and even kill. Permanent hearing loss in marine mammals, even at a distance, can result from a single transmission, according to NRDC,and cause whales to swerve from their migration paths.

Two years ago, during tests of this sonar in mid-frequency range, there was a mass stranding of whales in the Bahamas. Whales from at least three different species died, their inner ears bleeding from the explosive power of the sonar signal.

To learn more visit NRDC's website.

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This story was published on November 9, 2002.
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