Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Navy Sonar: Wreaking Havoc or Protecting the World's Oceans?

For the past 10 years the U.S. Navy has evaded public scrutiny, ducked environmental laws and regulations and ignored the horrible effects of their low-frequency active sonar (LFA) on marine mammals throughout the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, where they currently use the sub-locating technology.

Truthout reports on the latest casualities of this sonar technology. Submarine technology has evolved so that they have become invisible to ships on the surface. This new technology will give American naval vessels the ability to "see" enemy subs. In a time of war, this is a good thing. However, the price the marine world is paying is drastic.

The Navy blasts the sonar so loudly that it breaks the eardrums, causes sinuses to explode, and causes massive hemorrhaging within the skull of whales, dolphins and other mammals that use their own sonar to locate food and navigate. In March of 2000, right after a Navy sonar test off the coast of the Bahamas, 14 whales washed ashore. Biologists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute examined them to find massive tissue damage throughout their skulls and ears. The Navy's test was only 195 decibels. The standard Navy sonar is blared at a staggering 240 db---20,000 times louder.

The debate here is whether the loss and destruction of marine mammals and their already fragile populations is worth this technology. What is extremely frustrating is that the majority of these are tests...like firing blanks with your .45, except they aren't blanks because you're causing fatalities and wreaking havoc on marine ecosystems. The Navy claims the environmental impacts are being controlled yet we still have mammals washing ashore with exploded eardrums and bleeding from their sinuses. I understand the need for such sonar, but the possible impact it will have on our marine life seems a bit high. Also, see NRDC's comments on this issue for more background

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