Dolphin and Whale News ArticlesExcerpts of key news articles on dolphins and whales
The Navy is refusing to detail its sonar use for a federal court in a case involving potential harm to whales, saying the information could jeopardize national security. The Natural Resources Defense Council is suing the Navy to ensure sailors use sonar in a way that doesn't harm whales and other marine mammals. Critics say active sonar, which sailors use by pumping sound through water and listening for objects the sound bounces off of, can strand and even kill marine mammals. A U.S. Congressional Research Service report last year found Navy sonar exercises had been responsible for at least six mass deaths and unusual behavior among whales. Many of the beached or dead animals had damaged hearing organs. In considering the lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper issued an order for the Navy to submit data for the case on when and where sailors have used sonar since 2003. The Navy said in its new release that it refused to comply citing state secrets privilege. Joel Reynolds, a Natural Resources Defense Council attorney, said he would challenge the Navy's position. "This latest invocation of state secret privilege is one more attempt to deprive the public of the information it needs to determine whether the Navy is illegally and needlessly endangering the marine environment," Reynolds said.
Note: What this and almost all other media articles on this subject fail to mention is that traditional radar used used since before WWII does not harm whales and dolphins. It is only sophisticated new systems that are causing mass deaths of these intelligent mammals around the world.
The Trump administration is preparing to take an important step toward future oil and natural gas drilling off the Atlantic shore, approving five requests from companies to conduct deafening seismic tests that could harm tens of thousands of dolphins, whales and other marine animals. The ... announcement by the National Marine Fisheries Service, a division of the Commerce Department, to issue "incidental take" permits allowing companies to harm wildlife is likely to further antagonize a dozen governors in states on the Eastern Seaboard who strongly oppose the administration's proposal to expand federal oil and gas leases to the Atlantic. Federal leases could lead to exploratory drilling for the first time in more than half a century. In addition to harming sea life, acoustic tests — in which boats tugging rods pressurized for sound emit jet-engine-like booms 10 to 12 seconds apart for days and sometimes months — can disrupt thriving commercial fisheries. Seismic testing maps the ocean floor and estimates the whereabouts of oil and gas, but only exploratory drilling can confirm their presence. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill that soiled the Gulf of Mexico resulted from an exploratory drill. Nearly 2.5 million dolphins would be harassed or possibly killed by acoustic sound blasts each year in the ... Atlantic, and nearly half a million pilot whales would be impacted. The Obama administration denied six permits for seismic testing weeks before Trump took office ... out of concern for wildlife and fisheries.
Japanese fishermen drove a large group of dolphins into the shallows ... and, hiding from reporters and TV cameras behind a tarpaulin, killed at least 30 as the annual dolphin hunt that sparked protest in the West entered its final stages. Both the U.S. and British ambassadors to Japan have strongly criticized the "drive killings" of dolphins citing the "terrible suffering" inflicted on the marine mammals. Every year the fishermen of Taiji, in western Wakayama prefecture, drive hundreds of dolphins into a cove, select some for sale to marine parks, release some and kill the rest for meat. On Tuesday, at least 30 dolphins out of the group of more than 200 held in the cove since Friday were herded by boat engines and nets into a killing area of the Taiji cove. Before the killing began, fishermen pulled a tarpaulin in front of the cove to prevent activists and reporters from seeing the killing. A large pool of blood seeped under the tarpaulin and spread across the cove. "A metal rod was stabbed into their spinal cord, where they were left to bleed out, suffocate and die. After a traumatic four days held captive in the killing cove, they experienced violent captive selection, being separated from their family, and then eventually were killed today," Sea Shepherd Conservation Society activist Melissa Sehgal told Reuters. The annual hunt has long been a source of controversy and was the topic of "The Cove", an Oscar-winning documentary that brought Taiji into the international spotlight.
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Federal wildlife officials raised a formal alarm on [August 8] over the deaths of scores of bottlenose dolphins in waters off the east coast, saying that a fast-spreading infection could be attacking dolphin populations from New York to Virginia. At least 124 of the mammals have washed onto beaches since July, all of them dead or dying, a spokeswoman for the National Marine Fisheries Service said. The agency, which is responsible for monitoring and protecting marine mammals, declared the deaths to be an “unusual mortality event,” opening the way for federal help in finding the cause. In July alone, 89 dolphins were beached, seven times the usual number. Tests on one dolphin carcass have uncovered possible signs of morbillivirus, an infection similar to canine distemper that ravaged East Coast dolphins over a 10-month span in 1987 and 1988. More than 700 dolphins were stranded from New Jersey to Florida during that outbreak, one of the worst on record. But news reports state that other dolphins stranded this summer had pneumonia, and officials said that it could take weeks to pin down the precise cause, if one is found. Unusual mortality events are declared when a marine mammal die-off is judged unexpected, large and in need of immediate attention. Investigators have failed to find a cause of death in roughly half the 60 mortality events declared since the first one in 1991. There are undoubtedly more dead or sick animals at sea that have gone undetected, officials said. The bulk of the deaths, at least 64, have occurred off the coast of Virginia. At least 18 strandings have been recorded in New York waters and 26 off New Jersey.
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The Navy plans to increase ocean warfare exercises, conduct more sonar tests and expand coastal training areas by hundreds of square miles — activities that could harass, injure or disturb the habitats of hundreds of thousands of marine mammals, federal records show. The Navy is seeking federal permits to broaden an existing range off the Pacific Northwest and dramatically expand exercises and sonar use in the Gulf of Alaska. The Navy's plans have ignited a debate with environmental groups that say the service underestimates the long-term impact of its activities and fails to restrict training sufficiently in marine sanctuaries and other areas where it is likely to affect sensitive species. The plans to expand training off the Pacific Northwest, where the service's exercise areas reach into the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, have drawn about 3,500 public comments, most in opposition. Critics of the Navy's plans point to its use of new sonar systems that can disrupt marine mammals' brain function and behavior, noting that even brief disorientation or other "temporary" effects can have serious consequences, such as changes in reproductive activity. Among the most serious concerns is the potential for whales to strand themselves on beaches: Since 2000, there have been at least four instances in which mass strandings of whales have been associated with the Navy's sonar use, federal records show.
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A Sunday Times investigation has exposed Japan for bribing small nations with cash and prostitutes to gain their support for the mass slaughter of whales. The undercover investigation found officials from six countries were willing to consider selling their votes on the International Whaling Commission (IWC). The revelations come as Japan seeks to break the 24-year moratorium on commercial whaling. An IWC meeting that will decide the fate of thousands of whales, including endangered species, begins this month in Morocco. Japan denies buying the votes of IWC members. However, The Sunday Times filmed officials from pro-whaling governments admitting: - They voted with the whalers because of the large amounts of aid from Japan. One said he was not sure if his country had any whales in its territorial waters. Others are landlocked. â€” They receive cash payments in envelopes at IWC meetings from Japanese officials who pay their travel and hotel bills. - One disclosed that call girls were offered when fisheries ministers and civil servants visited Japan for meetings. Barry Gardiner, an MP and former Labour biodiversity minister, said the investigation revealed â€śdisgraceful, shady practiceâ€ť, which is â€śeffectively buying votesâ€ť.
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The United States is facing increasing international pressure to place limitations on the use of military sonar ... that has been linked to mass strandings of whales. The European Union Parliament -- the most prominent of four international bodies that have taken up the matter in recent months -- called in October for its member states to develop a moratorium on all types of military sonars, which use powerful sound to locate objects such as submarines. According to studies cited by the EU and the other world bodies, noise can interfere with the survival of the ocean creatures that depend on sound to navigate, find food, locate mates, avoid predators and communicate with one another. At high decibel levels, noise can kill. The U.S. Navy is the biggest user of midfrequency active sonar in the world -- and government officials have been loath to require permits to regulate its use. In more than a dozen instances dating back to the 1960s, however, whales have stranded themselves on the beaches and sometimes died at the time of naval training exercises miles away using midfrequency active sonar. An unprecedented stranding of 16 beaked and minke whales in the Bahamas in 2000 brought worldwide attention to military sonar. A NOAA investigation concluded that a Navy testing maneuver using midfrequency sonar -- by far the most commonly used type of sonar -- was the likely cause. Necropsies found signs of brain hemorrhaging, which is consistent with injury from sound.
Navy training and testing could inadvertently kill hundreds of whales and dolphins and injure thousands over the next five years, mostly as a result of detonating explosives underwater, according to two environmental impact statements released by the military [on August 30]. The Navy said that the studies focused on waters off the East Coast, the Gulf of Mexico, Southern California and Hawaii from 2014 through 2019, the main areas that the service branch tests equipment and trains sailors. Most of the deaths would come from explosives, though some might come from testing sonar or animals being hit by ships. According to the reports, computer models show it may kill 186 whales and dolphins off the East Coast and 155 off Hawaii and Southern California. But Michael Jasny, senior policy analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the Navy was underestimating the effect its activities on marine mammals. For example, he pointed to a study by government and private sector scientists published just last month in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society showing mid-frequency active sonar can disrupt blue whale feeding. The study says feeding disruptions and the movement of whales away from their prey could significantly affect the health of individual whales and the overall health of baleen whale populations. Jasny said the Navy's ocean activities are "simply not sustainable." "These smaller disruptions short of death are themselves accumulating into something like death for species and death for populations," Jasny said.
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White House officials for more than a year have blocked a rule aimed at protecting endangered North Atlantic right whales by challenging the findings of government scientists, according to documents obtained by the Union of Concerned Scientists. The documents, which were mailed to the environmental group by an unidentified National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration official, illuminate a struggle that has raged between the White House and NOAA for more than a year. In February 2007, NOAA issued a final rule aimed at slowing ships traversing some East Coast waters to 10 knots or less during parts of the year to protect the right whales, but the White House has blocked the rule from taking effect. North Atlantic right whales, whose surviving population numbers fewer than 400, are one of the most endangered species on Earth, and scientists have warned that the loss of just one more pregnant female could doom the species. Some shipping companies have opposed the NOAA proposal, saying slowing their vessels will cost the industry money. The documents, which House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) released yesterday, show that the White House Council of Economic Advisers and Vice President Cheney's office repeatedly questioned whether the rule was needed. Waxman, who sent a letter to the White House asking for an explanation, said the exchange "appears to be the latest instance of the White House ignoring scientists and other experts." Since NOAA initially proposed the regulation, at least three right whales have died from ship strikes and two have been wounded by propellers.
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A dolphin swam up to two distressed whales that appeared headed for death in a beach stranding in New Zealand and guided them to safety, witnesses said. The actions of the bottlenose dolphin -- named Moko by residents who said it spends much of its time swimming playfully with humans at the beach -- amazed would-be rescuers and an expert who said they were evidence of the species' friendly nature. The two pygmy sperm whales, a mother and her calf, were found stranded on Mahia Beach, about 500 kilometers (300 miles) northeast of the capital of Wellington, said Conservation Department worker Malcolm Smith. Rescuers worked for more than one hour to get the whales back into the water, only to see them strand themselves four times on a sandbar slightly out to sea. It looked likely the whales would have to be euthanized to prevent them suffering a prolonged death, Smith said. "They kept getting disorientated and stranding again," said Smith, who was among the rescuers. "They obviously couldn't find their way back past (the sandbar) to the sea." Along came Moko, who approached the whales and led them 200 meters (yards) along the beach and through a channel out to the open sea. "Moko just came flying through the water and pushed in between us and the whales," Juanita Symes, another rescuer, told The Associated Press. "She got them to head toward the hill, where the channel is. It was an amazing experience. The best day of my life." Smith speculated that Moko responded after hearing the whales' distress calls. "They had arched their backs and were calling to one another, but as soon as the dolphin turned up they submerged into the water and followed her."
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Surfer Todd Endris needed a miracle. The shark ... had hit him three times, peeling the skin off his back and mauling his right leg to the bone. That’s when a pod of bottlenose dolphins intervened, forming a protective ring around Endris, allowing him to get to shore, where quick first aid provided by a friend saved his life. The attack occurred ... at Marina State Park off Monterey, Calif. “Truly a miracle,” Endris [said]. “[It] came out of nowhere. Maybe I saw him a quarter second before it hit me. But no warning. It was just a giant shark.” The shark, estimated at 12 to 15 feet long, hit him first as Endris was sitting on his surfboard, but couldn’t get its monster jaws around both surfer and surfboard. “The second time, he came down and clamped on my torso — sandwiched my board and my torso in his mouth,” Endris said. That attack shredded his back, literally peeling the skin back, he said, “like a banana peel.” But because Endris’ stomach was pressed to the surfboard, his intestines and internal organs were protected. The third time, the shark tried to swallow Endris’ right leg, and he said that was actually a good thing, because the shark’s grip anchored him while he kicked the beast in the head and snout with his left leg until it let go. The dolphins, which had been cavorting in the surf all along, showed up then. They circled him, keeping the shark at bay, and enabled Endris to get back on his board and catch a wave to the shore. No one knows why dolphins protect humans, but stories of the marine mammals rescuing humans go back to ancient Greece, according to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society. The shark went on its way, protected inside the waters of the park, which is a marine wildlife refuge. Endris wouldn’t want it any other way. “I wouldn’t want to go after the shark anyway,” he said. “We’re in his realm, not the other way around.”
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The U.S. Navy wants to teach sailors how to hunt submarines off the coast of Jacksonville, but it's trying to prove its proposed undersea-warfare-training range won't hurt the world's most endangered whale. Concern about harm to the North Atlantic right whale from military sonar, vessels and torpedoes might pose a stumbling block to the proposed $100 million training range, which could be built near the whale's protected calving area. The U.S. Navy announced earlier this year that it wants to build the undersea-warfare-training range in a 662-square-mile zone nearly 58 miles off Jacksonville. Environmentalists fear whales could die from being run over by ships or becoming disoriented from the sonar. "Under federal law, environmental issues have to be placed on par with other national interests, including economic concerns and military training," said Michelle B. Nowlin, supervising attorney for the Environmental Law and Policy Clinic at the Duke University School of Law. "The courts have been very clear there must be a balance of those interests." Federal reports say the death of even one pregnant female could risk the species' survival. That's why more than a dozen conservation groups have opposed a permanent range for the sonar-based warfare training near the calving grounds. Military sonar, broadcasting an active midfrequency signal at 235 decibels, has a lethal history, with a dozen cases worldwide of mass whale and dolphin strandings and evidence of damage to their hearing after underwater exercises.
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Hundreds of dead dolphins washed up Friday along the shore of a popular tourist destination on Zanzibar's northern coast, and scientists ruled out poisoning. The bottleneck dolphins, which live in deep offshore waters, had empty stomachs, meaning that they could have been disoriented and were swimming for some time to reorient themselves. They did not starve to death and were not poisoned. In the United States, experts were investigating the possibility that sonar from U.S. submarines could have been responsible for a similar incident in Marathon, Florida, where 68 deep-water dolphins stranded themselves in March 2005. A U.S. Navy task force patrols the East Africa coast as part of counterterrorism operations.
Federal marine specialists have concluded that Navy sonar was the most likely cause of the unusual stranding of melon-headed whales in a Hawaiian bay in 2004. The appearance of as many as 200 of the normally deep-diving whales in Hanalei Bay in Kauai occurred while a major American-Japanese sonar training exercise was taking place. The report is the latest in a series of scientific reviews linking traditional mid-frequency naval sonar to whale strandings. The active sonar used by navies sends out loud pings of sound that seem to frighten and disorient whales. The effect was documented off Greece in 1996 and established later during naval exercises in the Bahamas, off the Canary Islands and off Spain. In the 2000 Bahamas stranding, a local marine biologist collected some of the whales that died onshore and froze them for later study -- which helped NOAA conclude that sonar was the likely cause. Michael Jasny, a senior consultant with NRDC, said the NOAA report was worrisome. "Once again, the Navy's denial has been contradicted by the official government investigation. It's time for the Navy to stop this needless infliction of harm."
Naval maneuvers and submarine sonars in oceans are a new factor among many threatening dolphins, whales and porpoises that depend on sound to survive, the United Nations and marine experts said on Wednesday. "These low frequency sounds travel vast distances, hundreds if not thousands of kilometers from the source," [Mark Simmonds of the Whale and Dolphin Society] told Reuters. UNEP said underwater sonar and military maneuvers threatened more than 4 percent of species, although Simmonds indicated all were affected. In October, a coalition of environmental groups sued the U.S. Navy over its use of sonar, saying the ear-splitting sounds violated environmental protection laws. The report by UNEP and the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) says species like the Beluga whale, Blanville's beaked whale and the Goosebeak whale are seriously at risk from noise pollution.
Dozens of dolphins and sea lions trained to detect and apprehend waterborne attackers could be sent to patrol a military base in Washington state, the Navy said Monday. The base is home to submarines, ships and laboratories and is potentially vulnerable to attack by terrorist swimmers and scuba divers. Several options are under consideration, but the preferred plan would be to send as many as 30 California sea lions and Atlantic Bottlenose dolphins from the Navy's Marine Mammal Program, based in San Diego. Dolphins ... are trained to detect underwater mines; they were sent to do this in the Iraqi harbor of Umm Qasr in 2003. Sea lions can carry in their mouths special cuffs attached to long ropes. If the animal finds a rogue swimmer, it can clamp the cuff around the person's leg. The individual can then be reeled in for questioning. The last time the animals were used operationally in San Diego was in 1996, when they patrolled the bay during the Republican National Convention. The Navy has been training marine mammals since the 1960s and keeps about 100 dolphins and sea lions. Most are in San Diego, but about 20 are deployed at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Ga. The Navy is seeking public comment for an environmental impact statement on the proposal.
The Navy has acknowledged that vessels on maneuver off Hawaii in July used their sonar periodically in the 20 hours before a large pod of melon-headed whales unexpectedly came to shore in the area. The acknowledgment added to an already contentious debate over whether the sound from sonar has been causing marine mammals to strand. Navy officials said that a review of the July 3 incident indicates that two ships turned on their sonar between 6:45 and 7:10 a.m., by most accounts just before the unusual movement of almost 200 deep-water whales to the shoreline of a Kauai bay. The Navy had said earlier that no sonar was used until more than 90 minutes later, well after the animals came ashore. "Every time the Navy changes its story, it reduces its credibility on this issue," said Cara Horowitz, a lawyer with the Natural Resources Defense Council. Residents and government officials worked throughout July 3 to steer the whales back to open water, and all made it except one newborn calf that died of starvation. The Hawaii incident is the third significant one involving sonar and marine mammal strandings near the United States since 2000. The stranding of 17 whales of various kinds off the Bahamas in 2000, which resulted in the death of at least six of them, occurred during a major Navy maneuver. Navy officials at first said there was no connection between their exercise and the stranding, but later acknowledged that the loud sound from the sonar had caused the animals to flee ashore.
Wild dolphins are struggling with high levels of mercury and industrial pollution in the oceans off the coasts of Florida and South Carolina. The pollution is putting their immune system on constant alert, which makes it less able to fight off bacteria, fungus, viruses and parasites in the water, according to a study in the journal PLOS ONE. The industrial pollution was strongest in the oceans near Charleston, South Carolina in the US. Organic compounds released into the water accumulate in microorganisms – that are eaten by fish, which are in turn eaten by dolphins. The toxins become more concentrated in each step of the food chain. Large amounts of mercury were found in dolphins that live in the Indian River Lagoon. Previous research has shown that the Indian River Lagoon dolphins developed a fungal skin disease because of their suppressed immune systems and new viruses. Some of these are also potentially infectious to humans. By comparison, the dolphins kept in the Georgia Aquarium had fewer diseases and their immune systems were under a lot less stress. This is because the environment at the aquarium is more tightly controlled for water quality. Keeping dolphins in captivity comes with its own impact on the overall health of the mammals. Dolphins are highly intelligent and have complex social structures that can't be maintained in small tanks. As a result, dolphins in captivity live shorter lives than those in the wild.
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Scientists have made the first discovery in 100 years of a new river dolphin species in the waters of the Araguaia river in Brazil's vast Amazon rainforest. The discovery of the Inia araguaiaensis was officially announced earlier this week in a study posted online by the Plos One scientific journal. The study's lead author, biologist Tomas Hrbek, of the Federal University of Amazonas in the city of Manaus, said the new species is the third ever found in the Amazon region. "It was an unexpected discovery that shows just how incipient our knowledge is of the region's biodiversity," Hrbek said by telephone. "River dolphins are among the rarest and most endangered of all vertebrates, so discovering a new species is something that is very rare and exciting." He said: "people always saw them in the river but no one ever took a close up look at them." Hrbek added that scientists concluded the large dolphin was a new species by analysing and comparing DNA samples of several types of dolphins from the Amazon and Araguaia river basins. There [are] about 1,000 Inia araguaiaensis dolphins living in the 2,627km-long (1,630 miles) river.
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Something that has been missing from San Francisco Bay since World War II appears to be making a comeback: Harbor porpoises are showing up in growing numbers, and researchers are trying to understand why they're returning. Bill Keener ... is with Golden Gate Cetacean Research, a nonprofit group focused on studying local porpoises, whales and dolphins. Harbor porpoises, ... feeding in the middle of a busy shipping lane, spin as they go after schools of herring and anchovies. Seeing this behavior is huge for Keener because harbor porpoises are notoriously shy in the open ocean. But the fact that they're here at all is what's most remarkable. Keener and his colleagues have identified 250 porpoises with their photos by looking for unique scars on the animals. The big question, though, is why harbor porpoises disappeared in the first place. Keener says the bay has always been porpoise habitat. Sightings were common until the 1930s. "There were a lot of things going on during World War II that could have caused [the decline]," he says. Water quality has dramatically improved since the 1970s, which may be bringing the porpoises back.
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