Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Sonar soundwaves 'drive terrified whales to their death onshore' - 15th Mar 2011

Soundwaves from underwater military sonar are far more distressing for whales than was previously thought and drives some terrified creatures to their death onshore, a new study has show.

Scientist say beaked whales may also react with terror to noise from offshore wind turbines and oil and gas exploration.

Two years ago Europe's largest military exercise held in Scottish waters was at the centre of a row when conservationists claimed two whales had been harmed by sonar.

The new study by researchers at St Andrews University looked at the effects of sounds on the behaviour of beaked whales in the Bahamas.

Researchers played sonar sounds to whales in the wild and recorded their reactions using electronic tags attached to their bodies.

Prof Ian Boyd, who led the study, said: 'We showed that the animals reacted to the sonar sound at much lower levels than had previously been assumed to be the case.

'We stopped exposing the animals to the sounds before there were any dangerous effects but it was clear that these whales moved quickly out of the way the sonars. We now think that, in some unusual circumstances, they are just unable to get out of the way and this ends up with the animals stranding and dying. Read More