Magazine article Oceanus

Sonar Alters Whales' Behavior

Magazine article Oceanus

Sonar Alters Whales' Behavior

Article excerpt

A team of international researchers has documented evidence for the first time that sonar altered the behavior and movement of beaked whales.

Beaked whales have stranded on beaches during sonar training exercises, prompting concern that sonar disrupted their behavior and precipitated the strandings. In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Navy could continue sonar training but needed to minimize possible impacts on whales. Yet beaked whales are elusive deep divers that are seldom observed and difficult to study, so no one knew how they were affected by sonar, or at what levels, until now.

"We know so little about beaked whales because they prefer deep waters far offshore, where they can dive on one breath of air to depths of over a mile for up to an hour and a half," said Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution biologist Peter Tyack, lead author of the report published March 2011 in the journal PLoS ONE (Public Library of Science).

The team conducted complementary experiments. During sonar exercises at the Navy's undersea testing range near Andros Island in the Bahamas, the researchers used a Navy array of underwater microphones to listen for the biosonar clicks that beaked whales make to search for prey. …

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