University professor stresses links between US Navy sonar and whale strandings

Oct 06, 2008

Earlier this summer, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review a series of lower court rulings that restrict the Navy's use of sonar in submarine detection training exercises off the coast of Southern California. The court is due to hear arguments in the case this week.

For many years, George Mason University professor Chris Parsons has been tracking the patterns of mass whale strandings around the world. In his most recent paper, "Navy Sonar and Cetaceans: Just how much does the gun need to smoke before we act?" Parsons and his co-authors bring together all of the major whale and dolphin strandings in the past eight years and discuss the different kinds of species that have been affected worldwide. They also strongly argue for stricter environmental policies related to this issue.

"Generally, if there is a large whale stranding, there is a military exercise in the area," says Parsons. "Sonar is killing more whales than we know about."

Parsons is a national delegate for the International Whaling Commission's scientific and conservation committees, and on the board of directors of the marine section of the Society for Conservation Biology. He has been involved in whale and dolphin research for more than a decade and has conducted projects in South Africa, India, China and the Caribbean as well as the United Kingdom.

Though Parsons believes that there is a good chance the U.S. Supreme Court will rule in favor of the Navy, he thinks there is a chance for a win-win situation on both sides.

"If the Navy uses proper mitigation efforts, it can still perform its exercises and affect less of the whale population," he says. However, he argues they need to avoid sensitive areas completely, and have trained, experienced whale experts as lookouts when performing these exercises—"not just someone who has watched a 45-minute DVD, which is sadly the only training most naval lookouts get with respect to finding and detecting whales."

Even with all these efforts, however, Parsons worries that sonar is affecting many more whales than we even know about. "Eventually the Navy may have to reconsider the use of certain types of sonar all together. They could be wiping out entire populations of whales, and seriously depleting others."

Source: George Mason University

Explore further: Vietnam rice boom heaping pressure on farmers, environment

Related Stories

Report: Diversity of New England plant life threatened

4 hours ago

From picturesque coastal estuaries of Cape Cod to the soaring White Mountains, much of New England's rich native flora is fighting for survival against increasing odds, according to what conservationists call the most comprehensive ...

Uber ramps up safety efforts after criticism

10 hours ago

Uber said Wednesday it was ramping up safety in response to rape allegations against a driver in India and growing concerns about background checks for operators of the popular ride-sharing service.

Recommended for you

Drought damage leads to widespread forest death

11 hours ago

The 2000-2003 drought in the American southwest triggered a widespread die-off of forests around the region. A Carnegie-led team of scientists developed a new modeling tool to explain how and where trembling ...

Good luck and the Chinese reverse global forest loss

11 hours ago

Analysis of 20 years of satellite data has revealed the total amount of vegetation globally has increased by almost 4 billion tonnes of carbon since 2003. This is despite ongoing large-scale deforestation ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.