Thursday, November 8, 2012

Navy Sonar Testing and its Effects on Cetaceans

     As most people are aware, a majority of cetaceans use echolocation as a means of navigating their way around the world's oceans. It would come as no surprise then that anything using similar sonar system, such as large navy vessels, has a major impact on the abilities of these animals to navigate for a duration of time. Sound in general is a sense that whales, dolphins, and porpoises have fine-tuned to help them locate food, potential mates, and maintain contact within some of the more socially inclined species, primarily dolphins.
    As Navy vessels continue to perform tests using advanced sonar systems, they have the potential to cause extreme harm in the ability of a dolphin, whale, etc, to effectively navigate, and can lead to strandings in extreme cases. Often, cetaceans will abandon their current habitat (I say current because a large number of cetacean species frequently migrate) ahead of their generally scheduled departure, which, as we've learned from many other species in lecture, can have a drastic effect on the structure of the local environment. The article I found discusses the proposed increase in the amount and types of tests that will be conducted by the Navy, which has the potential to cause far more damage to cetaceans despite the fact that they will be carried out over a larger area rather than in secluded pockets. In my opinion, it seems as if the Navy is neglecting basic facts about sonar. Sound travels much farther in water than in air, and by expanding the area in which tests can be conducted, there is a much greater chance of cetaceans being deafened over the expanse of the range. I suppose one of the major questions that needs to be asked is: how is it possible (if at all) for the Navy to develop a way of conducting tests without risking the lives of cetaceans? Perhaps there should be more strict policies on the frequency of these tests and especially on where they may be conducted.
Navy raises sonar impact on dolphins, whales dramatically

As an add-on, here is a photo of a new toy the Navy may install on some of their ships to disable torpedoes. This could cause some serious problems for our flippered friends.

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