Whale death prompts investigation into Canadian Naval exercise

Whale death prompts investigation into Canadian Naval exercise

 

In the wake of mass dolphin deaths in Peru, another incident has occurred that may be the result of using high-powered sound waves beneath the ocean.  Earlier this year, a female West Coast Orca whale washed up on the shores of Washington State.  This was shortly after a sonar testing run by the Canadian Navy, and it has prompted an investigation into the death by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The investigation is aimed at finding out whether the sonar testing had anything to do with the death of the whale.  Sonar is known to create problems with whales, causing them to become confused, which leads to them rising quickly from whatever depths they are at and sometimes causing a condition similar to decompression sickness.  This can lead to death due to damage to the brain and other tissues. 

The presence of wounds on the whale’s head, chest and right side are consistent with the results of acoustic damage.  In addition, killer whales were spotted in the same area as the testing just hours after the exercises.  The area in which they were spotted is a location where they have never been seen before, suggesting that they were fleeing the sonar’s effects.

The West Coast Orca is an endangered species, and only 87 of them are estimated to still be alive.  This death would be a violation of the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act, as well as other conservation laws that are in place in Canada.

Currently, more tests need to be conducted to verify whether the Canadian naval fleet was at fault.  By comparing the trauma on the whale corpse to the type of sonar testing that was being done, a more accurate picture can be established. 

Activists are trying to prevent such events in the future by implementing a ban on sonar testing in all areas where these whales range.  The naval testing area overlaps with their protected habitat, which means they will remain in danger until the boundaries are redrawn.