Whales flee from the loud military sonar used by navies to hunt submarines according to new research.
With the increase of new technologies, and with them constantly changing, the oceans are increasingly cluttered with human-made noise which can disturb even the largest animals on Earth according to Live Science.
Whales depend on vocalizations to communicate with other individuals in their species over long distances.
Researchers are saying that “sonar blips that the U.S. military uses in underwater navigation, object-detection and communication are feared to mask whale calls, deter the marine mammals from their habitats and damage the animals’ hearing.”
Live Science reported:
“Mid-frequency sonar signals (between 1 kHz and 10 kHz) have been blamed for mass stranding’s of deep-diving beaked whales before.
There are fewer cases of sonar-linked strandings of baleen whales, those that have plates for filtering food rather than teeth, like blue whales.”
Business Insider reported:
“Beaked whales, the most common casualty of the strandings, were shown to be highly sensitive to sonar.
“But the research also revealed unexpectedly that blue whales, the largest animals on Earth and whose population has plummeted by 95% in the last century, also abandoned feeding and swam rapidly away from sonar noise.”
The strong response observed in the beaked whales occurred at noise levels well below those allowed for US navy exercises.
Stacy DeRuiter, from the University of St Andrews in Scotland, who led one of the teams stated that “This result has to be taken into consideration by regulators and those planning naval exercises.”
Sarah Dolman, at charity Whale and Dolphin Conservation stated “Noise pollution threatens vulnerable populations, driving them away from areas important to their survival; and at worst injuring or even causing the deaths of some whales and dolphins.
Business Insider reported that the US Navy part-funded the new studies but said the findings only showed behavioral responses to sonar, not actual harm.
Nonetheless, Kenneth Hess, a US Navy spokesman, said permit conditions for naval exercises were reviewed annually and added: “We will evaluate the effectiveness of our marine mammal protective measures in light of new research findings.”
The Navy is working to make sure their sonars aren’t harming the animals, in fact, they do use animals, such as dolphins, to help in their efforts.
The Navy compares its dolphins to security patrol dogs or those used to sniff for bombs or drugs.
It will be interesting to see how these new findings will affect future plans for the Navy and their sonar testing.
[Image by Avenue via Wikimedia Commons]