Sonar and Marine Mammals: A Summary

Written by on May 23, 2013 in Marine Life, Whales & Dolphins

With recent marine mammal strandings and new reports on the effects of sonar, now is probably a good time for a quick summary about sonar and marine mammals. Here’s what’s happened so far this year…

Common dolphin, Delphinus delphis.

Common dolphin, Delphinus delphis. Photo credit: NOAA NMFS.

Last month, a group of whales became stranded on beaches in Scotland and the nearby military training exercises were blamed. One whale died and three others were successfully returned to the water but the training exercises were altered in order to avoid any other complications.

Shortly after that, a study was published regarding the reasons for the UK’s largest dolphin stranding a few years ago. In 2008, more than 20 common dolphins stranded on the south coast of Cornwall and the new report confirms that naval exercises in the area were the most probable cause.

A similar study found that the mass stranding in Denmark in April 2005 was also due to naval activities. Based on the injuries sustained by the stranded harbor porpoises, the researchers determined that the sonar use by the navy distracted and disoriented the porpoises which caused them to become entangled in fishing gear.

Back in March, the California Coastal Commission rejected a plan by the U.S. Navy for sonar and explosives training based on the impact that training would have had on marine mammals. Last month, this topic was featured on NPR — listen to their summary of the issue below.

And finally, this video from the National Resources Defense Council does a pretty good job of helping you feel just how loud and disruptive sonar can be…and (sadly) they have plenty of examples to support their conclusion that sonar is a “lethal sound.”

To learn more, check out some of these links:

Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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