Navy's Sonar Blasts Killing
Whales And Dolphins

By David Derbyshire
The Telegraph - UK

Deafening sonar booms are giving whales and dolphins fatal doses of the bends, according to research.
Scientists believe they may be startled by the sound from submarines and forced to ascend too quickly. Researchers have shown for the first time that deep diving marine animals can suffer from decompression sickness - a potentially deadly condition experienced by divers who resurface too quickly.
They are calling for more research into the dangers of sonar and tighter controls on its use.
Post mortem examinations on 14 whales stranded during a naval exercise in the Canaries last year revealed bubbles of gas in their blood and holes in their internal organs - symptoms of the condition. Tests on dolphins and whales stranded on Britain's coasts over the past decade have revealed similar damage.
A team at the Zoological Society of London and the University of Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, studied beaked whales and Risso's dolphins stranded on Britain's coasts between 1992 and 2003.
Dr Paul Jepson, from the society's UK Marine Stranding Project, who reported the findings in Nature, said: "We discovered that a small number of stranded animals had gas bubbles and associated tissue injuries.
"Although decompression sickness was previously unheard of in marine animals, we concluded that a form of marine animal decompression sickness was the most likely cause.
"This new evidence from our study of marine mammal diseases in the UK challenges the widely held notion that cetaceans (whales and dolphins) cannot suffer from decompression sickness."
The link with sonar emerged when 14 beaked whales were stranded in the Canary Islands four hours after a Spanish-led naval exercise in September 2002. Ships in the area were using mid frequency sonar. The exercise ended when the stranded whales were discovered.
Post mortem examinations of 10 whales revealed more evidence of the bends.
© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2003.



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