Bush: Go ahead, Navy, burst the eardrums of all sea mammals

“According to the government, there isn’t enough evidence to demonstrate a connection, so it’ll come down to environmentalists filing lawsuits.”

And according to Bush, there isn’t enough evidence to prove global warming, so we should just drop environmental restrictions on factory output. According to the cigarette companies, there isn’t enough evidence to connect smoking to cancer. Guess we should let kids smoke, too.

Fuck that.

This is one of those things where I have to side with the environmentalists just because if the government is wrong, we can’t bring those whales back to life.

Same with global warming and drilling in that preserve in Alaska. Let’s err on the side of caution, because it will be difficult to repair the damage if we’re wrong.

From the report:

Pathologists concluded that the
hemorrhages occurred before death and would not necessarily have been fatal or have caused
permanent hearing loss in terrestrial mammals. However, such hemorrhages are debilitative and
may have compromised hearing or navigational abilities, resulting in disorientation and subsequent
stranding.

The most likely cause of the observed trauma was either acoustic or impulse injuries. Pathological
analysis alone cannot differentiate between far-field blast effects and acoustic induced injury from
single or multiple events. However, review of acoustic records show that no explosions occurred
at the time of the strandings. Therefore, by deduction, it is reasonable to assume that the
hemorrhages were acoustically induced. The beaked whales showed evidence of overheating,
cardiovascular collapse, and physiological shock, a cascade of physiological events that commonly
results in death after stranding. They were the most likely immediate cause of death, although the
offshore acoustic event triggered this cascade of events.

During a brief time period when ship B operated its AN/SQS-53C system at a higher
power setting, the model indicates sound pressure levels greater than 180 dB no more than 5,000 m
from the source horizontally, and 1,400 m vertically. This period of increased Source Level is not
likely to have caused all 17 strandings because it did not move in a south to north pattern nor cover
the whole 240 km span of the stranding sites. All these are very narrow swaths in comparison to the
width and depth of the Providence Channels, and most likely in comparison to the distribution of
the beaked whales in question.

Sounds like cause-effect to me. I think a reasonable solution is the Navy shouldn’t use them (excepting wartime) if there’s whales detected either optically or acoustically within 3 miles (possibly more). Getting them to actually look rather than just saying they are is the problem, I think.

Sounds like cause-effect to me.

Science doesn’t work by ‘sounding like’ something. :)

None of those passages demonstrates a connection. Whales beach themselves all the time and no one knows why. The reports you dug up (good work, btw!) simply show scientists struggling with possible explanations.

I’m all for making the Navy be more careful. (FWIW, according the LA Times article today, the Navy even issued a sort of tentative mea culpa.)After surfacing under a Japanese trawler last year, I think hurting whales is the least of their problems. But I don’t think you can make a case for there being a demonstrable link between the beached whales in Greece in '96 and the Bahamas in 2000 and the Navy’s sonar tests.

 -Tom

Which do you object to?

  1. It is extremely likely the ear damage in the whales was sonar-induced.

  2. It is extremely likely the whales beached themselves due to ear damage.

I can see 2) being not entirely supported by the evidence, but 1)? Did the whales have a contest?

  1. It is extremely likely the ear damage in the whales was sonar-induced.

  2. It is extremely likely the whales beached themselves due to ear damage.

I can see 2) being not entirely supported by the evidence, but 1)? Did the whales have a contest?

Exactly. BTW, “not entirely supported” is waffling. Let’s call it what it is: “not supported”.

Contrary to your statement that the Navy tests killed whales, there’s no evidence the whales beached themselves because their ears were injured. There’s no demonstrable cause/effect relationship here.

Whales beach themselves all the time and we don’t know why. So when whales beach themselves after a sonar test, you can’t reasonably infer it was because of the test.

Having said that, I’m not in favor of blowing out the ears of whales with medium frequency sonar. I find that girls like you less when you don’t take environmentally friendly political stances, particularly when they relate to wildlife. So, save the whales. Down with the industrial/military complex. Stop the navy bombing in Puerto Rico. Rumsfeld is a fucker. Remember Agent Orange. And so forth.

 -Tom

The current theory is that whales use a combination of sonar and the earths magnetic field to figure out where they’re going; they certainly can’t see for shit. I’d assume removing some or all of their navigational senses just might result in wrecks, the same way it’s damn hard, but possible, to walk around without eyes. In this case, our eyes are the equivalent of their ears.

So, if they can’t tell where they’re going, and they can’t tell how deep the water is (I think they know that through whale-sonar), then wouldn’t it be a likely implication that they could run into a island?

Not that I’m some kind of stereotypical environmentalist or anything; I think Kyoto’s a waste of time.

“Whales beach themselves all the time and we don’t know why. So when whales beach themselves after a sonar test, you can’t reasonably infer it was because of the test.”

Riggghht. Groups of sixteen whales don’t beach themselves at the same time “all the time.” If they did, there wouldn’t be any whales.

I’d assume removing some or all of their navigational senses just might result in wrecks.

Who said anything about removing their navigational senses? Are you saying the ear damage meant they couldn’t detect land masses? Was this mentioned, or even implied, in the interim findings you cited? Are you saying all beached whales are the result of damaged ears? Were all of the beached whales in the Bahamas and Greece similarly damaged? If they navigate by the earth’s magnetic field, are you saying sonar damages that as well? And why should we assume low-frequency sonar (the testing in question) has the same effect as medium frequency sonar?

You’re making assumptions that leave a lot of questions unanswered. If you shut down military testing based on assumptions, an awful lot of military testing is going to be shut down. Where do you draw the line?

That’s a rhetorical questions, since I presume you draw the line at shutting down low-frequency sonar testing. I draw the line at letting testing proceed with certain limits.

Not that I’m some kind of stereotypical environmentalist or anything; I think Kyoto’s a waste of time.

Hey, cool, we agree on something. :)

 -Tom

“I draw the line at letting testing proceed with certain limits.”

Well, given that everyone here was reacting to Bush’s decision to proceed with the PRACTICE of using this sonar, outfitting two ships with the shit and sending them on their mission, WITHOUT further tests… welcome to the club. We have nothing to argue about.

Right?

Thank ya.

given that everyone here was reacting to Bush’s decision to proceed with the PRACTICE of using this sonar

Wrong, Mr. Green, on two important counts:

  1. The sonar that might have injured the Bahamas whales was medium frequency. The Navy is testing is low frequency sonar.

  2. The Navy is implementing safety procedures for testing the low frequency sonar, including staying out of littoral regions (12 miles from shore) and checking for the presence of mammals, turtles, and scuba divers.

    -Tom

Where in the article does it say that Bush has approved this “testing” that you say you approve of with “certain limits?” I don’t see testing being described, I see practice. Bush has approved USE of the technology. Not testing, USE.

Here is a quote from the Wired article:

“‘Marine mammals are unlikely to be injured by the sonar activities and … the sonar will have no more than a negligible impact on marine mammal species and stocks,’ agency officials said in a statement Monday.”

Does that sound like “testing” to you? They’ve already decided what “impact” the sonar has. They aren’t testing, they’re using the shit. They haven’t committed to testing what effect the sonar has on animals, they’ve decided on arbitrary rules without proof that this will preserve the safety of wildlife.

If you search google, apparently the current theory is that whales, dolphins, and other ocean-going underwater large mammals bad eyesight use a combination of the earth’s magnetic field and sonar to navigate; they’ve got some sort of magnetic north detector in their brains. You need working ears to hear the sonar returns; I’d imagine their case was like walking around the outside world relying only on sound - they’ve lost one of their senses. This isn’t directly stated in the report, but it’s an obvious extrapolation.

I have no idea if loud noises are what causes every whale beaching, but it seems awfully likely that’s what did it in this case.

‘And why should we assume low-frequency sonar (the testing in question) has the same effect as medium frequency sonar?’

Assuming they can hear both frequencies, it’d probably have roughly the same effect. Do you think a 200db tuba would hurt your ears less than a 200db trumpet?

The obvious solution that no one appears to get is that they shouldn’t use really loud sonar near whales in peacetime, because it’s at the very least going to hurt them badly. I can’t figure out why the military refuses to agree.

We’re pretty happy about the whole thing.

http://www.salon.com/news/wire/2002/07/15/whales/index.html

Where in the article does it say that Bush has approved this “testing” that you say you approve of with “certain limits?”

Mr. Green,

I don’t know what article you’re talking about, but what I read was in Tuesday’s LA Times. A representative from the National Marine Fisheries Service (part of the Commerce Department) spelled out the restrictions on the Navy’s use of low frequency sonar. The Navy has to submit quarterly reports to the Fisheries Service, which has the right to stop the testing (the Fisheries Service says it will have “negligible impact” on marine wildlife).

I say “testing” because it’s not a currently implemented technology. There’s only a single ship that uses low frequency sonar.

 -Tom

Yes, there is a uniquely American arrogance; it was poor wording on my part to suggest that there wasn’t. The “City on a Hill” concept has been embedded in American political and cultural thought since 1630. Personally, I’m one of those that believe that we’ve done a pretty good job of walking the walk as well as talking the talk, but I freely admit that my views are colored by my background as a second generation immigrant. In any case, that’s a pretty fruitless argument and wasn’t the point of my original response.

Whether or not you dislike the current administration is pretty much irrelevant. I’d just like to know how you defend this statement in the context of the Afghanistan example you gave:

“Anyone who ain’t wearing an American flag on his arm better watch the fuck out, 'cause the American military is coming through and all losses not wearing a US uniform are acceptable.”

I defend it by pointing to the thousands of Afghan civilians our military has slaughtered in the past few months. Please see the following article for documentation:

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/allnews/page.cfm?objectid=12005343&method=full

Sample paragraph:

“Out of sight of the television cameras ‘at least 3,767 civilians were killed by US bombs between October 7 and December 10…an average of 62 innocent deaths a day’, according to a study carried out at the University of New Hampshire in the US. This is now estimated to have passed 5,000 civilian deaths: almost double the number killed on September 11.”

Read it and weep. Literally.

Here is the difference though. Are we intentionally doing this or are these stray bombs? Because what happened on September 11 was a calculated attack on a non-military target with the express reason to kill as many civillians as possible. I am sad that we have killed civillians in Afganistan but I am convinced that we are not trying to kill them. In war you are going to have civillian casualties when they are near the main fighting. What would you propose we do? Not go into Afganistan? Wait for them to blow up the next target while we sit on our ass?

– Xaroc

That article you link to is by John Pilger, who’s a single minded purveyor of an especially foamy-mouthed brand of anti-Americanism. To paraphrase something someone said about Noam Chomsky, Pilger hasn’t met an American foreign policy he can’t call genocide.

Pilger aside though, and taking into account that nobody’s really pro civilian casualties (aside from the Islamists that Pilger excuses and every awful totalitarian regime inspired by the Marxist ideas Pilger supports), what would your response to 9/11 have been? I’m honestly curious.

If I remember correctly, that casualty number was arrived at by accepting every Taliban report of civilan casualties at face value and adding them up.

A LAT survery showed them as about one-third that number.

http://www.mattwelch.com/archives/week_2002_06_02.html#963