Meditation Focus #126

Preventing Marine Life Devastation by Deadly Military Sonar


What follows is the 126th Meditation Focus suggested for the next 2 weeks beginning Sunday, March 6, 2005.


1. Summary
2. Meditation times
3. More information related to this Meditation Focus



Once again a new tragic episode of dolphin beaching is being widely reported. And once again the use of powerful military sonar is being blamed as the most likely cause for the death of these gentle, intelligent beings who are also still being slaughtered by some tuna fishing fleets, notably from Mexico, and by Japanese fishers near the fishing village of Taiji. Several similar massive strandings and the resulting death of dolphins, whales and porpoises have been previously reported in the Canary Islands, the Bahamas, North Carolina, Hawaii, Washington state, Greece, Puerto Rico, and Portugal, each time near areas where high intensity active sonars have been used by the US Navy and NATO. Low Frequency Active Sonar is a dangerous technology and its use is being challenged worldwide. It has been reported that LFA sonar sound has been measured at 140 decibels 300 miles away from the sonar source. Some mid-frequency sonar systems can put out over 235 decibels, as loud as the giant Saturn V moon rocket at launch. Sound of this intensity can cause actual physical damage, resulting in internal organs being severely damaged. Scientists believe the powerful sonar sound waves either rupture the mammals' sensitive hearing or scare them into surfacing from deep water too quickly, resulting in decompression damage – known in human divers as the bends. Sound is crucial to whales, dolphins and porpoises and some other marine species for navigation, communication and finding food. Any disturbance that undermines their ability to transmit or recognize sounds may jeopardize their capacity to function and, over the long term, to reproduce and survive. There is increasing scientific evidence showing that noise pollution from various sources (e.g. high intensity military sonar, shipping, drilling and construction noise, sea-bed explorations and extraction activities) can disturb, injure and even kill whales and other ocean life.

After the International Whaling Commission and other international scientific agencies issued reports supporting the link between active sonar and whale deaths last year, and in light of research indicating a link between the mass strandings of whales and nearby naval use of sonar, the European Parliament voted 441 to 15 last October to urge member states to cut back on sonar in EU waters and to create a multi-national task force to draw up agreements on limiting emissions. However, the Pentagon insists that national security must take priority. The Bush administration is strongly opposing international efforts to restrict the Navy's use of active sonar anywhere in the world, putting it at odds with European allies and several key ocean-protection organizations. The Pentagon even managed to persuade Congress to modify the Marine Mammal Protection Act in ways that critics say reduce protection for whales. The LFA hyper-loud speakers are being deployed to reach deep-sea nuclear submarines wherever they may be. The death and injury of thousands of sea creatures is considered by the US military as unfortunate, unavoidable, collateral damage. When the Navy’s LFA sonar is fully deployed, 80 percent of the world’s ocean could be polluted with sound. Sound so loud, according to the Marine Mammal Commission’s 1997 report to Congress, that uncountable numbers of living creatures will die.

Please dedicate your prayers and meditations, as guided by Spirit, in the coming two weeks, and especially in synchronous attunement at the usual time this Sunday and the following Sunday, to contribute in preventing worldwide marine life devastation at the hands of a military establishment bent on getting its way despite the overwhelming evidence proving the catastrophic consequences of its underwater detection and communication technology. Let us envision instead a world where the respect for other life forms, especially for species whose intelligence and kindness is remarkable, has become an incontrovertible reality in everyone's minds and hearts, leading to uncompromising precautions to protect them and their habitat in a global effort to restore the fragile balance of the Web of Life everywhere on Earth. May all humans soon connect with the Life Force in them that created and nurtured the vast and uniquely magnificent ecosystems perpetuating Life on Earth, so as to understand and honor their deep connections with all other life forms, for the Highest Good of All.

This whole Meditation Focus has been archived for your convenience at

Please note that a Special Equinox Meditation Focus will soon be issued and that it will feature information on the 11th ANNUAL SOLAR WAVE 2005 taken from as well as information on the forthcoming Three Spiritual Festivals and Global Ascension Meditation.


i) Global Meditation Day: Sunday at 16:00 Universal Time (GMT) or at noon local time. Suggested duration: 30 minutes. Please dedicate the last few minutes of your Sunday meditation BOTH to the healing of the Earth as a whole and to reiterate our willingness and desire - if we so choose - to receive assistance from our space family in order to help set things on a path towards a new era of global peace, love and harmony for all. See the Earth as healthy and vibrant with life, and experience the healing of all relations as we awaken globally to the sacredness of all Life and to our underlying unity with All That Is.

ii) Golden Moment of At-Onement: Daily, at the top of any hour, or whenever it better suits you.

These times below are currently corresponding to 16:00 Universal Time/GMT:

Honolulu 6:00 AM -- Anchorage * 8:00 AM -- Los Angeles * 9:00 AM -- Mexico City, San Salvador & Denver * 10:00 AM -- Houston * & Chicago * 11:00 AM -- Santo Domingo, La Paz, Caracas, New York *, Toronto *. Montreal *, Asuncion & Santiago 12:00 AM -- Halifax *, Rio de Janeiro & Montevideo 1:00 PM -- Reykjavik & Casablanca 4 PM -- Lagos, Algiers, London *, Dublin * & Lisbon * 5:00 PM -- Jerusalem, Johannesburg, Geneva *, Rome *, Berlin *, Paris * & Madrid * 6:00 PM -- Ankara *, Athens *, Helsinki * & Istanbul * & Nairobi 7:00 PM -- Baghdad *, Moscow * 8:00 PM -- Tehran * 8:30 PM -- Islamabad 9:00 PM -- Calcutta & New Delhi 9:30 PM -- Dhaka 10:00 PM -- Rangoon 10:30 PM -- Hanoi, Bangkok & Jakarta 11:00 PM -- Hong Kong, Perth, Beijing & Kuala Lumpur +12:00 PM -- Seoul & Tokyo +1:00 AM -- Brisbane, Canberra & Melbourne +2:00 AM -- Wellington +4:00 AM

+ means the place is one day ahead of Universal Time/Greenwich Mean Time.

* means the place is observing daylight saving time (DST) at the moment.

You may also check at to find your corresponding local time for tomorrow if a nearby city is not listed above.


This complement of information may help you to better understand the various aspects pertaining to the summary description of the subject of this Meditation Focus. It is recommended to view this information from a positive perspective, and not allow the details to tinge the positive vision we wish to hold in meditation. Since what we focus on grows, the more positive our mind-set, the more successful we will be in manifesting a vision of peace and healing. This complementary information is provided so that a greater knowledge of what needs healing and peace-nurturing vibrations may assist us to have an in-depth understanding of what is at stake and thus achieve a greater collective effectiveness.


1. Dolphin Beaching Followed Sub's Exercises
2. Stranded dolphins die in Florida Keys
3. US navy will oppose plan to restrict pinging that can kill whales
4. U.S. Set to Oppose Efforts To Restrict Use of Sonar
5. Defending the Silence of the Seas 
6. Blue Planet: The Fading Songs Of Whales
7. Whale stranded off WA coast
8. Protecting Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises from the Harmful Effects of Man-Made Ocean Noise
9. IFAW and NRDC Applaud EP Resolution on Saving Whales from Naval Sonar
10. Seven Rare Whales Found Dead on New Zealand Beach
11. President Bush Entangled in Tuna/Dolphin Issue
12. Toxic Warning: Dolphin Meat is Poisoning the Japanese People
13. Help Stop the Largest and Cruelest Slaughter of Dolphins in the World!
14. Irrawaddy Dolphins Gain Trade Protection Under CITES; WWF Urges Countries to Stop All Live Captures
15. Environmentalists Say Sound Wave Research off Yucatan Threatens Marine Life
16. At Least 55 Whales Die in New Zealand Mass Stranding Officials Say
17. Russian oil and gas should make way for western grey whale: scientists



Dolphin Beaching Followed Sub's Exercises

March 05. 2005

KEY WEST, Fla. - The Navy and marine wildlife experts are investigating whether the beaching of dozens of dolphins in the Florida Keys followed the use of sonar by a submarine on a training exercise off the coast.

More than 20 rough-toothed dolphins have died since Wednesday's beaching by about 70 of the marine mammals, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary spokeswoman Cheva Heck said Saturday.

A day before the dolphins swam ashore, the USS Philadelphia had conducted exercises with Navy SEALs off Key West, about 45 miles from Marathon, where the dolphins became stranded.

Navy officials refused to say if the submarine, based at Groton, Conn., used its sonar during the exercise.

Some scientists surmise that loud bursts of sonar, which can be heard for miles in the water, may disorient or scare marine mammals, causing them to surface too quickly and suffer the equivalent of what divers know as the bends — when sudden decompression forms nitrogen bubbles in tissue.

"This is absolutely high priority," said Lt. Cdr. Jensin Sommer, spokeswoman for Norfolk, Va.-based Naval Submarine Forces. "We are looking into this. We want to be good stewards of the environment, and any time there are strandings of marine mammals, we look into the operations and locations of any ships that might have been operating in that area."

Experts are conducting necropsies on the dead dolphins, looking for signs of trauma that could have been inflicted by loud noises.


In this photo released by the Florida Keys News Bureau, marine mammal volunteer rescuers tend to rough-tooth dolphins before the mammals were loaded into a Publix Supermarket semi-trailer Saturday, March, 5, 2005, in Marathon, Fla. The mammals were transported to the Marine Mammal Conservancy in Key Largo. More than 20 rough-toothed dolphins have died since Wednesday's beaching by about 70 of the marine mammals, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary spokeswoman Cheva Heck said Saturday. The Conservancy to is to care for 24 dolphins, while six others have been divided among two other rehabilitation facilities. (AP Photo/Florida Keys News Bureau, Bob Care)

More pictures at




Stranded dolphins die in Florida Keys

Remaining 31 being given Pedialyte

March 4, 2005

MARATHON, Florida (AP) -- Nineteen dolphins that became stranded off the Florida Keys have died, including 13 who were euthanized, officials said Friday.

More than 30 others will be moved to rehabilitation facilities Saturday.

The dolphins were euthanized after blood tests showed 13 of them were "not likely to recover at all and that they are suffering," said Laura Engleby, a biologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service.

"Some were still not swimming on their own, and they couldn't hold themselves up," Denise Jackson of the Marine Mammal Rescue Team said.

More than 60 rough-tooth dolphins beached themselves Wednesday on flats and sandbars about a quarter mile off Marathon. Rescue teams moved the dolphins to a nearby canal where veterinarians have been conducting medical tests.

The remaining 31 live dolphins were being given Pedialyte -- a drink normally given to dehydrated human babies -- and fresh water, Jackson said.

Teams planned to move them by Saturday morning to rehabilitation facilities along the Keys or on the mainland, officials said.

Marine mammals may become stranded when they are sick, injured or disoriented, Engleby said. Scientists performing necropsies will take genetic samples to determine whether the dolphins all came from the same population.

Rough-tooth dolphins normally inhabit deep waters in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.

Marathon, in the middle of the Florida Keys, is about 46 miles east of Key West.



US navy will oppose plan to restrict pinging that can kill whales

IAN BRUCE, Defence Correspondent

March 02 2005

THE US navy is to oppose international efforts by Nato and the EU to restrict the use of warship sonar emissions which could kill or injure sea creatures including whales, dolphins and porpoises.

A policy document is being drawn up by the Pentagon which will put the US at odds with many of its European allies over the use of "active pinging", the technique used to pinpoint the location of hostile submarines by beaming powerful underwater sound waves designed to bounce off their hulls.

Britain went to the lengths of trying to design a whale-friendly sonar to be fitted to all Royal Navy warships, although the Ministry of Defence was forced to admit last year that it still had the potential to be harmful to marine mammals.

UK policy is to switch off the system when whales are detected nearby and steer clear of known breeding grounds, although the navy says the health of marine life still has to take second place to military necessity on operations.

Scottish wildlife campaigners say they fear that whale-pods may already be fleeing their breeding and feeding grounds off the north-west coast because of the frequency of naval exercises involving sonar emissions.

An estimated 27 species of marine mammals visit Scottish waters.

The European Parliament voted 441 to 15 last October to urge member states to cut back on sonar in EU waters and to create a multi-national task force to draw up agreements on limiting emissions, but the Pentagon insists that national security must take priority.

American environmentalists say there is clear evidence that naval manoeuvres have caused the beaching of whales and dolphins in the Canary Islands, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, and Portugal in the last three years.

About 400 marine animals, including some of the Moray Firth's famous bottlenose dolphins, beach themselves around the UK every year.

Scientists believe the powerful sonar sound waves either rupture the mammals' sensitive hearing or scare them into surfacing from deep water too quickly, resulting in decompression damage – known in human divers as the bends.

The US navy says it is essential to be able to train sailors on sonar detection, especially since the recent increase in countries buying or building ultra-quiet diesel-electric submarines designed to operate close inshore and pose a direct threat to shipping or of launching cruise missiles against inland targets.

The Pentagon managed to persuade the US congress to modify the Marine Mammal Protection Act three years ago in ways which critics say have already reduced protection for whales.



U.S. Set to Oppose Efforts To Restrict Use of Sonar

By Marc Kaufman

Washington Post Staff Writer

February 28, 2005

The Bush administration is strongly opposing international efforts to restrict the Navy's use of active sonar anywhere in the world, putting it at odds with European allies and several key ocean-protection organizations.

Although allies have become increasingly concerned about research indicating a link between the mass strandings of whales and nearby naval use of sonar, the new U.S. position, being finalized last week, puts national security first.

"The U.S. strongly opposes any international regulatory framework addressing military use of active sonar because of the potential to restrict the ability of individual States to balance the relevant security and environmental interests," the new policy reads.

The new position is described as a "consensus" agreement among government agencies, but it touched off a contentious internal debate -- one primarily between military officials who say unrestricted sonar is needed to train sailors and protect ships, and wildlife specialists who believe the sonar may be killing whales and other marine mammals with its loud bursts of sound. An official who participated in the discussion and was told not to discuss it publicly said the debate got "very heated."

Although an initial Pentagon and Navy draft was four pages long and itemized, in sometimes harsh terms, the service's views on why international sonar regulations are dangerous, the final draft is more restrained.

But the major recommendation remains what the Navy initially proposed: that any efforts to limit the global use of sonar through international negotiations should and will be actively resisted. The military also succeeded in resisting efforts to leave the policy open for changes if evidence of harm becomes more conclusive.

Administration officials declined to comment on the sonar document. But officials at the Defense Department, the State Department, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration did not dispute its contents and conclusions.

Michael Jasny, a senior consultant with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said last week that he -- and some government officials involved in the debate -- were disappointed that the Navy opposed international efforts to address and better control sonar use.

"This was an opportunity for the Navy to lead the international community in stopping this needless assault on whales and other marine life," he said. "Instead, the Navy is turning the clock backwards and is dragging the rest of the U.S. government along with it."

The Navy prides itself on being a good environmental steward of the oceans and says it is committed to conducting active sonar in a way to minimize risk to marine mammals. The service is also the world's largest funder of ocean research.

But with increasing evidence that sonar may injure some whales, dolphins and porpoises, the "consensus document" acknowledges that sonar can be harmful. "Research concerning active sonar's potential effects has demonstrated that, under certain circumstances and conditions, use of active sonar has an effect upon particular marine species," a near-final draft says.

The new policy was formulated at the request of the U.S. mission to NATO, and is expected to be made final and official soon.

European officials, and nongovernmental groups here and in Europe, have focused attention on the use of sonar by the military alliance, and have proposed some potentially significant changes.

After the International Whaling Commission and other international scientific agencies issued reports supporting the link between active sonar and whale deaths last year, the European Union began to move toward a tightening of restrictions on sonar use. In October, the European Parliament voted 441 to 15 to urge member nations to cut back on active sonar use in European waters, and to create a multinational task force to develop agreements regarding sonar and other intense ocean noise.

The issue of whether the intense sounds of active sonar can cause whales and other marine mammals to beach themselves has become increasingly contentious as more unusual strandings have been noted. Most recently, three species of whales stranded along the North Carolina coast during a two-day period in January. Navy officials say their sonar did not cause the stranding but report that sonar was used during that time in deeper waters. Three dozen whales died in the incident.

Those deaths, which are being investigated by NOAA, follow other whale strandings close to naval sonar maneuvers off Hawaii, Washington state, the Canary Islands, Greece and the Bahamas. The Navy acknowledged that its sonar caused the 2000 Bahamas stranding, but has said there were as-yet-undiscovered reasons for the others.

In response to the 2002 Canary Islands stranding, which occurred as a Spanish-led NATO maneuver was taking place, Spain stopped all sonar exercises in the area.

The Navy not only has pushed hard for unrestricted use of traditional mid-frequency active sonar, but also has spent millions of dollars on a global, low-frequency sonar detection system. Concern that sonar could harm whales initially arose in relation to deployment of the new and more powerful low-frequency sonar systems, but the Bahamas incident and others all involved mid-frequency active sonar.

Much of the ongoing debate has involved when and where the Navy can train sailors in sonar use, which officials say can be properly done only at sea. They say that a new generation of less-sophisticated but "quiet" diesel submarines pose a new threat to the country, especially in coastal waters. They also say new international agreements on sonar are not needed because domestic legislation, which applies to U.S. Navy activities overseas, already balances ocean environmental concerns with national security needs.

The Pentagon has been actively involved in efforts to change some of those laws, and in 2003, it persuaded Congress to modify the Marine Mammal Protection Act in ways that critics say reduce protection for whales.

Scientists have offered several theories about how the sonar might be harming whales. Some believe it ruptures their sensitive ears, while others say it scares them and causes ultimately fatal dashes to shore. Still others think it causes deep-diving whales in particular to swim to the surface too quickly, causing a kind of marine mammal version of the bends.



Defending the Silence of the Seas 


News Analysis

Special to the Planet (03-04-05)

Imagine you are walking downtown with the two kids in tow. It’s Saturday afternoon. The streets are bustling with people. Suddenly, The Noise, louder than anything you’ve ever heard, blasts your attention. It sounds like the pulsing pressure of a motorcycle, grating like a car alarm, with the intensity of a foghorn blasting right into your ears. What the? It’s so LOUD! Gotta get away. Where is it coming from? People on the street are running every which way, hands glued to their ears, eyes squinting with pain. Not that way. Not there. Try inside the building. Where’s Susie? You look down at her terrified face. Blood is trickling from her ears. Her eyes are about to explode. You can’t bend down to carry her because your hands are locked over your ears. It doesn’t help. The Noise is blaring inside your head. You head into the building. The pulsing. The grating. Machine guns are shooting into your ears. People are falling over each other. You can’t hear their screams. You only feel the pulsing pain. And the warm blood running down your neck.

A horror something like this happens to the intelligent animals that live in the sea, whales and dolphins, when the U.S. Navy activates its hyper-loud, under-water sound blaster called Surveillance Towed Array Sensor System (SURTASS) Low Frequency Active (LFA) sonar. The Navy’s LFA sonar blasts The Noise so loudly that whale ear drums break, their sinuses explode, blood hemorrhages in their brains and lungs. In March, 2000, immediately after a Navy LFA sonar test in the Bahamas, fourteen whales ended up "stranded"; their dead bodies washed up on the sand. Biologists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute examined them and observed the tissue damage. The Navy’s test blared The Noise at 195 decibels (dB). LFA sonar’s full operating volume of 240 dB is 20,000 times LOUDER.

Under the sea, sunlight dims quickly. Deeper than 100 ft., little can be seen. Whales and dolphins use sound to find food, to evade danger, to watch over their young, to communicate with their mates, and to keep their group together as they swim on their migrations. Their sense of hearing is highly developed and very sensitive. They can hear much better than humans, and like bats, they use sound echoes to locate prey and each other. While we use sight to orient ourselves, to know where we are and to communicate, whales and dolphins use hearing. Caught within the radius of The Noise, sea mammals get disoriented. They can’t hear, they can’t see, they don’t know where they are, or which way is up. They loose their young. Those not killed from tissue damage starve from deafness.

As sound travels outward from its source, it attenuates. Yet, even at distances between 100 to 200 miles from the LFA, where the 240 dB Noise diminishes to "only" 160 dB, severe tissue damage still occurs in sea mammals. Deafness, disorientation, and other dysfunctions occur wherever The Noise is louder than 120 dB, more than 1,000 miles from the LFA source.

Why is the Navy sound-blasting the silent seas? Navy documents claim they need loud, "active" sonar to detect enemy submarines over long distances. But Rear Admiral Malcom Fages has pointed out that passive (silent) listening systems are more effective. Former Director of the U.S. Naval Weapons Lab, Dr. Charles Bernard, says that active sonar identifies the source vessel and highlights our own submarines as well as enemy subs, thereby placing our own personnel in jeopardy. LFA would alert an enemy to our intention to track them. It would give them warning to take evasive action.

Others have said that the Navy needs active sonar to communicate with our deep-water nuclear subs. Normally, these fully-loaded behemoths deploy large, floating antennas to pick up low-frequency radio waves in order to know whether to launch their nukes and go to war. But when they are in "stealth" mode, deep under water where radio waves don’t penetrate, only sound messages travel through the dark ocean’s depths. So, to control our nuclear arsenal, the Navy must send sound signals to its subs. The LFA hyper-loud speakers are being deployed to reach them wherever they may be, The death and injury of thousands of creatures is considered unfortunate, unavoidable, collateral damage.

A strange thing happens to sound deep under the sea. Within the first 400 to 500 feet, wave action and warming from the sun keep the water turbulent. Below the turbulent surface area lies a stable layer of deep water called the isothermal sound channel, capable of conveying sound over thousands of miles with little attenuation. Eons ago, whales discovered this and use it for navigation and long distance communication. When the Navy’s LFA sonar is fully deployed, 80 percent of the world’s ocean could be polluted with sound. Sound so loud, according to the Marine Mammal Commission’s 1997 report to Congress, that uncountable numbers of living creatures will die. What will happen to the ecology of the ocean? What will happen to our source of seafood? What will happen to us, if we allow such pain and suffering to be unleashed upon other feeling beings? Will we still be able to call ourselves human? Or will we become "golem," soul-less creatures in human shape?

"National security", "homeland security", "protection from terrorists," these are the magic mantras that fuel the Navy’s single-minded quest to wire up the seas like a huge loudspeaker. So focused are they on this one technology that their response to thousands of objections to the Navy’s Environmental Impact Statement on deploying SURTASS-LFA has been to seek exemption from the environmental review process. Undeterred that the LFA technology is not as effective, and also more dangerous, than passive sonar, the Navy has not seriously looked at alternative technologies. There are other ways to communicate with our hidden nuclear submarines. Effective methods exist that would not damage and possibly destroy nearly all sound-sensitive sea creatures.

One such alternative is the use of Local Acoustic Transducers (LATs). These are relatively inexpensive, floating devices that contain radio receivers and low-level acoustic transducers (speakers). When the Navy needs to communicate with a particular sub, a coded message could be sent via satellite to the floating radio buoys. Only the buoys nearest the specific sub would activate its sonar transducers. Being closer to the sub, its sound would not need to be as loud as the LFA sonar. Being specifically activated, the total amount of noise in the sea would be greatly reduced, and the sea animals and fish would be spared suffering a horrible death. Inexpensive buoys could be anchored to the sea floor, and be regularly replaced if they were dislodged. Highly sensitive microphones on the subs would enable them to receive communications within a range of several hundred miles from each floating LAT. Enough LATs could be deployed so that each sub would be within range of two or three LATs to assure accurate communication.

Perhaps even better technologies are possible as well. But none will be explored unless the Navy is stopped from deploying SURTASS-LFA sonar. Funds for this deadly program (over $ 350 million has already been spent) should be reassigned to other methods. Our Senators and Congress representatives need to know that we are concerned and opposed to the Navy’s sonic blasters. Gordon England, Secretary of the Navy, and Donna Weiting, Chief of the National Marine Fisheries Service, as well as President Bush and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld need to know that destruction of the silent sea and most of the ocean’s life is not a viable option for living on Earth.

Bruce Joffe is the founding principal of GIS Consultants in Oakland, which provides geographic information planning, management, and public policy services to public agencies.



Blue Planet: The Fading Songs Of Whales

Air guns used as sources for marine seismology. These ship-towed arrays explode high-pressure air against a diaphragm to send sound shock waves through the water and the ocean floor. Reflections from layers within the sediments of the sea floor are now the main method of finding oil reservoirs.

by Dan Whipple

Boulder CO (UPI) Feb 09, 2005

Most people know the modern world is a noisy place, but they might not be aware the oceans have gotten to be considerably noisy as well - and they are getting noisier, to the detriment of whales and other marine mammals.

Ship traffic alone in the oceans is increasing noise levels by 3 decibels to 5 decibels per decade, according to Roger Payne, a biologist and founder and president of the Ocean Alliance.

Payne, who has studied the behavior of whales for nearly 40 years, discovered that humpback whales sing songs, and that the sounds of finback and blue whales can carry great distances underwater.

"The sounds made by whales propagate across oceans," Payne told UPI's Blue Planet. "Blue whales make a low moan, which would be heard thousands of miles away - before the ocean was polluted with ship traffic."

Payne pointed out that 99.999 percent of the evolution of whales took place without any sounds from ships.

"Now they are just roaring everywhere," he said. "In the North Atlantic, noise has reduced the area in which two finback whales can hear each other by four orders of magnitude" - or 10,000 times.

Undersea oil exploration is adding to the problem. The industry uses powerful air guns to search for hydrocarbons lying deep beneath the ocean floor. These ship-towed arrays explode high-pressure air against a diaphragm to send sound shock waves through the water and the ocean floor. Researchers listening for whales in the mid-Atlantic have heard this seismic testing being conducted off the coast of Mauritania in Africa, thousands of miles away.

Still more noise comes from the U.S. Navy's sonar equipment, used to detect submarines. There is considerable evidence the mid-range sonars the Navy employs drives beaked whales onto beaches.

"There is sufficient evidence to conclude that high-intensity sounds are harmful and, on occasion, fatal, to marine mammals," Payne said.

Following exposure to sounds from sonar or air guns, beaked whales may swim rapidly to a beach, and die there of overheating if not returned to the sea by human intervention.

The Navy is also developing low-frequency radars to listen for quiet diesel submarines used by Russia, China and others. There is considerable controversy over whether these radars will harm marine mammals. A federal court already has blocked their use in the Pacific basin.

According to a report on ocean noise prepared by the Natural Resources Defense Council, research by the Navy's low-frequency radar program and underwater loudspeakers deployed by the Scripps Institute found "gray whales exposed to 120-decibel sounds tend to deviate from their migration paths and ... sperm whales faced with higher levels can fall silent for hours or days; yet the significance of these reactions is uncertain, and their cumulative impact, like those of the rise in ambient noise, is unknown."

The NRDC report added that each loudspeaker in the radar system's wide array can generate 215 decibels, which is as intense as the noise produced by a twin-engine fighter jet at takeoff. Some mid-frequency sonar systems can put out over 235 decibels, as loud as the giant Saturn V moon rocket at launch.

Evidence of the harm such a barrage of sound can do began to surface in March 2000, when members of four different species of whales stranded themselves on beaches in the Bahamas after a U.S. Navy battle group had used active sonar in the area. Investigators found the whales were bleeding internally around their brains and ears. Although the Navy initially denied responsibility, the government's own investigation established with virtual certainty the strandings were caused by the use of active sonar. Since the incident, the area's population of Cuvier's beaked whales has all but disappeared, leading researchers to conclude they have either abandoned their habitat or died at sea

"The Navy's Scientific Research program never tested the full source level of (Low-Frequency-Active sonar) on marine mammals," wrote Marcia Green, head of the Ocean Mammal Institute in Reading, Pa., of the incident. "The Navy has not followed the advice of their own hired scientists and has inappropriately extrapolated to conclude that LFAs is safe to deploy at levels of at least 5,000 times more acoustic intensity and 70 times more pressure than test levels."

Lt. Christine Ventresca, a Navy spokeswoman, told Blue Planet that in 1996 a $2 million study, conducted by leading scientists, concluded the potential impact from the Surveillance Towed-Array Sensor Low-Frequency Active, or SURTASS LFA, was negligible, both in direct effects and in changing biologically important behavior such as mating.

"Despite what you've been told, sonar has never been connected with any marine mammal strandings," Ventresca added. "It was not in use when marine mammals were stranded in the Bahamas."

The National Marine Fisheries Administration issued a rule permitting the use of SURTASS LFA, but it was blocked in court. It is now used only in limited areas of the Pacific for training.

"I feel it doesn't help to attack the Navy," Payne said. "They are actually doing their best to learn about these problems and do something about them. If we attack them too hard, we'll just get bizarre behavior."

Ventresca said the Navy actually is one of the largest funders of marine mammal research, providing 50 percent of all funds to examine the impact of human-generated sounds on the animals.

Not that such research needs to uncover basic answers. The effects of noise on animals can be dramatic. In severe test conditions, mice undergo audiogenic seizures, which is a nice way of saying they die from excessive noise.

Payne said early in his career he saw what appeared to be an audiogenic seizure by a wounded young whale that was being circled by a noisy boat.

The natural audio environment of the ocean is particularly rich and surprising - if you're a whale. Payne and fellow researcher Scott McVay discovered humpback whales produce "long complicated rigamaroles" that repeat every 10 minutes.

"They sing songs, which my former wife discovered were in fact changed by the whales over time," Payne said. "That's very unusual. Humpback whales make these wild arias, which are changed totally over a period of five years. These sounds are built according to many of the same rules that human composers use to compose our songs."

Blue Planet is a weekly series examining the relationship of humans to the environment, by veteran environmental reporter Dan Whipple.



Whale stranded off WA coast

February 16, 2005

THE beaching of a Gray's Beaked whale off Western Australia highlighted the need for more research into whale and dolphin strandings, the Federal Government said today.

Environment Minister Senator Ian Campbell said attempts are continuing to save the whale which stranded itself off WA's Busselton coast

"The reasons behind whale and dolphin strandings remain unknown," Senator Campbell said in a statement.

"The Australian Government is very concerned about this issue and we are working hard to save as many of these majestic animals of the deep as we can - and to find out why it happens."

Senator Campbell said the Government was still awaiting post-mortem results from an earlier beaked whale stranding on Rottnest Island less than a month ago, the twentieth stranding of the species in WA in the last 20 years.

He congratulated the Conservation and Land Management Authority for their efforts in trying to save the whale and said work was underway to build an Australian Marine Mammals Strandings network.



Protecting Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises from the Harmful Effects of Man-Made Ocean Noise

November 12, 2004 — By The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)

(Palma de Majorca, Spain – 12 November 2004) – Delegates from 16 countries meeting in Majorca, Spain this week adopted a resolution recognizing man-made ocean noise as a dangerous pollutant which can disturb, injure and even kill whales and other marine species.

The meeting of the parties to ACCOBAMS (the United Nations Environment Program’s Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans of the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and Contiguous Atlantic Area) comes two weeks after the European Parliament adopted a groundbreaking resolution to protect marine mammals from high-intensity active naval sonar. Last week, Spain reacted to a series of mass whale mortalities in the Canaries by announcing a moratorium on the military use of active sonar in waters around the islands.

This commitment by the ACCOBAMS parties and the important precedent set by the Spanish initiative are, "significant steps forward in the fight against ocean noise pollution," said Lesley O’Donnell, Director of IFAW EU.

Andrew Wetzler, a senior lawyer with NRDC added: "Whales and dolphins are being killed and injured by this largely unregulated form of pollution. This ACCOBAMS resolution and the European Parliament decision two weeks ago demonstrate a growing international consensus that something must be done to control underwater noise."

The ACCOBAMS resolution urges Parties to:

Avoid any use of damaging man-made noise in habitat of vulnerable species and in areas where marine mammals or endangered species may be concentrated;
Intensify national and international research on the issue;
Develop alternative technologies and require the use of best available control technologies and other mitigation measures in order to reduce adverse impacts; and Consult with any professions conducting activities known to produce underwater sound that could harm cetaceans, including military authorities, recommending, "extreme caution be exercised in the ACCOBAMS area." The scientific committee of the agreement has also been charged with developing a common set of guidelines on these activities by 2007.

Sound is crucial to whales, dolphins and porpoises and some other marine species for navigation, communication and finding food. Any disturbance that undermines their ability to transmit or recognize sounds may jeopardize their capacity to function and, over the long term, to reproduce and survive.

There is increasing scientific evidence showing that noise pollution from various sources (e.g. high intensity military sonar, shipping, drilling and construction noise, sea-bed explorations and extraction activities) can disturb, injure and even kill whales and other ocean life. In Greece in 1996, 12 beaked whales were killed following a military exercise, and in the Canaries there have been at least seven cases of whale strandings and deaths since 1985 that have been associated with military sonar.

These forms of harmful noise are currently unregulated by the European Union, although any energy source (noise) is recognized as a form of pollution under UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea).

Note to editors:

Song of the Whale, the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s (IFAW) new whale research vessel has been anchored in Palma de Majorca since 7 November 2004 to support the ACCOBAMS meeting of parties (9-12 Nov 2004). It has been open to the public and has welcomed school groups on board, in order to provide them with information on whales in the Mediterranean. The work of the Song of the Whale can be followed through the team’s web diaries at

The ACCOBAMS agreement is a regional agreement open to states adjacent to the Mediterranean Sea, Black Sea, or contiguous Atlantic area. Its aim is to reduce the threat to cetaceans in these waters and to improve our knowledge of these animals. It is the first Agreement binding the countries in these two sub regions and enabling them to work together on a matter of general interest. The agreement has been open for signature in Monaco since 24 November 1996, and it entered into force on the 1st of June 2001. It has been signed and ratified by sixteen states, including Spain, Portugal, France and Greece.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is an international, non-profit NGO dedicated to wildlife conservation and animal welfare, with 14 offices and more than 2 million supporters worldwide. IFAW seeks to reduce commercial exploitation of animals, protect wildlife habitats and assist animals in distress, promoting policies that advance the well-being of both animals and people. Over the past two decades, IFAW scientists and funded research projects have made significant contributions to marine conservation and science and IFAW offices have campaigned for measures to protect cetaceans from threats such as bycatch and ocean noise.

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a non-profit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 1 million members and e-activists, served from four offices in the United States. NRDC’s Marine Mammal Protection Program works to safeguard whales, dolphins and porpoises worldwide, focusing especially on habitat protection and, during the past decade, the problem of ocean noise pollution.

Bridget Jones, mobile: +44 (0) 7747 567 628, Ursula Woodburn, mobile: +32 498 114859 Editors: For more information visit and



IFAW and NRDC Applaud EP Resolution on Saving Whales from Naval Sonar

October 28, 2004 — By International Fund for Animal Welfare

STRASBURG, Austria — In adopting a Resolution on the environmental effects of high-intensity active naval sonars, the European Parliament has shown its strong support for the need to regulate and reduce one of the most significant threats to whales.

An overwhelming majority of MEPs called on the EU Member States to:

Pursue the adoption of moratoriums and restrictions on the use of high-intensity active sonars in naval operations, including within the framework of NATO;

Develop alternative technologies;

Immediately restrict the use of high-intensity active sonars in waters under their jurisdiction.

The resolution also urges the European Commission to conduct studies on the potential impact of active sonar on the marine environment, to assess the effects of current practices in EU waters and develop legislation for the European Union.

Used to detect and localize underwater targets, military active sonar can significantly harm marine life. Working like a floodlight, it emits sound waves that can sweep across hundreds of kilometers in the ocean. This requires the use of extremely loud sound, which has been likened to that produced by a rocket at takeoff. Such a noise can injure whales' sensitive organs and even kill them. Among the most dramatic impacts associated with high-intensity sonar is mass stranding of whales.

"The increasing use of active sonar by militaries around the world threatens the survival of numerous marine species, including entire populations of whales and porpoises", said Frederick O'Regan, president of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). "This is a global problem that must be solved through international cooperation, and the resolution adopted today by the European Parliament is a significant step toward that goal."

Green Party MEP Caroline Lucas said: "There can be little doubt that these sonar devices are responsible for the deaths of thousands of marine mammals, some of them endangered and protected species."


EDITORS NOTE: Recent whale deaths and strandings associated with the use of high-intensity sonar:

Greece, Kyparissiakos Gulf (12-13 May 1996)
Stranded: 12 beaked whales
Killed: At least 8
Bahamas, Northeast and Northwest Providence
Channels (15-16 March 2000)
Stranded: 17 of multiple species
Killed: At least 7
There is evidence that the entire population of beaked whales in this area was killed or displaced
Canary Islands, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote (24th September 2002)
Stranded: 14 beaked whales (various species)
Killed: 11 beaked whales.
At least six of eight previous cases of beaked whale strandings in the Canary Islands (since 1985) coincided with military exercises.



Seven Rare Whales Found Dead on New Zealand Beach

March 02, 2005 — By Associated Press

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — The carcasses of seven rare Gray's beaked whales have been found on an isolated northern New Zealand beach where they apparently were stranded, the Conservation Department said Wednesday.

The four adults and three calves likely became stranded on Waikuku Beach on North Island at least a week before conservationists found them, the department said in a statement

The department has never before recorded a mass stranding of this many Gray's beaked whales on mainland New Zealand, ranger Niki Conrad said in the statement.

Patrick Whaley, the agency's biodiversity program manager, said whale strandings were common in the area but until now had involved only one or two of this species. Scientists still don't understand why or how such strandings occur.

Samples of the whales are to be sent to the nation's main museum, Te Papa in Wellington, for analysis, as very little is known about the species, he said. Gray's beaked whales are now rarely seen alive in New Zealand's waters.

About 80 to 85 pilot whales get stranded on New Zealand's coasts every year, and there is usually about one mass stranding of the species a year. In 1985, 450 pilot whales became stranded on Great Barrier Island off North Island's east coast and rescuers successfully refloated 324 of them.



President Bush Entangled in Tuna/Dolphin Issue

October 27, 2004 — By David Phillips and Mark J. Palmer

The Bush Administration's record of warping, suppressing, and ignoring science that undermines their pro-business political agenda keeps worsening. In no issue is this more explicit than the recent federal court decision from a lawsuit filed by Earth Island Institute and nine other environmental groups against the Administration's attempts to weaken the "Dolphin Safe" tuna label.

Dolphins and tuna form mixed schools in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean. In the late 1950's, tuna fishermen switched from using poles and lines to chasing the dolphin schools and encircling them with giant purse seine nets as a way to catch the tuna swimming below. More than 7 million dolphins have been killed by this fishing technique. In response to a campaign by Earth Island and other groups, the U.S. tuna industry adopted a strict policy of buying and selling only tuna caught without chasing and netting dolphins. In 1990, Congress adopted these standards for use of a "Dolphin Safe" label.

Congress re-visited the tuna/dolphin issue in 1997, pushed by the governments of Mexico and Venezuela and their high-paid lobbyists to allow their tuna back on US supermarket shelves.

In a compromise worked out by Senators John Kerry and Barbara Boxer, Congress mandated that no weakening of the "Dolphin Safe" label standards could take place so long as scientific studies showed that chasing and netting dolphins harmed dolphin populations. The results of these government studies were dramatic: Dolphin populations, despite low reported mortality, were not recovering at all. The government scientists, backed by outside experts, concluded that the separation of baby dolphins from their mothers during the chase, false reporting by bribed or intimidated onboard observers, and other factors were to blame for the continued harm to dolphins by the tuna fishery.

But those scientific conclusions did not sit well with the Bush Administration. On December 31, 2002, President Bush's Commerce Secretary Evans issued a "no significant adverse impacts" finding for dolphins, allowing Mexico, Colombia, and other tuna fishing nations to label their tuna as "Dolphin Safe" and sell it in the U.S. Earth Island and our coalition sued.

On August 9, 2004, Federal Judge Thelton Henderson overturned the Bush Administration's weakening of the "Dolphin Safe" label as the Administration illegally ignored scientific evidence. He ordered the permanent prohibition on the use of a "Dolphin-safe" label on any tuna products caught by netting dolphins. Judge Henderson's ruling exposes the Bush Administration's deceit in ignoring its own scientists and caving in to Mexican demands to allow dolphin-deadly tuna back into US with a phony label.

In his 51-page decision, Judge Henderson slammed the Bush Administration, stating that in his 24 years on the bench, he had never seen a record of action by a government agency that "contained such a compelling portrait of political meddling."

He added: "(T)he record convincingly demonstrates that the Secretary (of Commerce) nonetheless proceeded to sacrifice the integrity of the decision-making process by disregarding the best available scientific evidence in favor of political and diplomatic considerations."

The Bush Administration ignored its own government scientists, endangered dolphins, deceived American consumers, and undercut the 14-year-old "Dolphin Safe" policy adopted by U.S. tuna fishing companies. All this just to favor two tuna companies in Mexico that can 80% of that nation's tuna and stand to gain millions of dollars by using a phony "Dolphin Safe" label to fool U.S. consumers.

Not many months ago, a large group of laureate scientists, many of who are prominent Republicans, called upon President Bush to cease the unprecedented and flagrant abuse of science. Unfortunately, the abuse continues.

David Phillips is Executive Director of Earth Island Institute and directs the International Marine Mammal Project. Mark J. Palmer is Assistant Director of IMMP. They can be reached at marinemammal@earthisland



Toxic Warning: Dolphin Meat is Poisoning the Japanese People

February 01, 2005 — By Earth Island Institute

Three international environmental organizations -- the Elsa Nature Conservancy (ENC) of Japan, the International Marine Mammal Project of Earth Island Institute (EII), and One Voice -- warned today that dolphin meat sold to the Japanese people is highly contaminated with mercury, methylmercury, cadmium, DDT, and PCBs. Despite the scientific evidence of dangerous contamination, the Japanese government provides no warning to its people that eating dolphin meat is a serious health hazard.

Dolphin meat on the market in Japan can be mislabeled as "whale" meat. Fishermen drive dolphins into shallow bays and nets, where some are harpooned and butchered in blood-filled waters. Other dolphins are sold for high profits to aquariums around the world.

"The people of Japan have long suffered from severe pollution and contamination," explained David Phillips, Director of EII. "Dolphin and whale meat are seriously contaminated with poisons that can injure, sicken, and kill people. Yet, the Japanese government has taken no steps to protect its people from harm."

"If the people of Japan knew the truth, they would refuse to buy the poisoned meat of dolphins and whales that have been brutally slaughtered," stated Ric O’Barry, Lead Investigator of One Voice, "But the government and the fishing industry keep this dangerous secret hidden from the Japanese people. It is time for the Japanese government to end the slaughter of dolphins and end the poisoning of its people."

ENC acquired a slice of meat from a bottlenose dolphin that was butchered in Futo on November 11, 2004. ENC sent the sample to Hokkaido where Dr. Tetsuya Endo of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Hokkaido, examined it for mercury contamination. Highly polluted, it contained 19.2ppm (parts per million) of mercury, 48 times higher than the maximum advisory level of 0.4ppm set by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry of Japan.

Mercury can cause severe damage to the brain and nervous system in adults, and is particularly dangerous for young children and pregnant women. To avoid contamination, consumers in Japan are advised to avoid buying dolphin or "whale" meat.

International teams of scientists have analyzed hundreds samples of whale and dolphin meat sold in Japan. They reported to the International Whaling Commission that more than 90% of the samples exceeded limits for one or more pollutants. One sample had more than 1,600 times the permitted level of mercury. The average level of mercury was more than 5 times the maximum allowable level, while the average concentration of methyl mercury was 4 times the maximum level.

MEDIA ALERT: VIDEO FOOTAGE and PHOTOS of the dolphin drive fisheries of Japan is available from Earth Island Institute by calling (415) 788-3666 or faxing (415) 788-7324. For further information, including stores that sell dolphin and whale meat, visit



Help Stop the Largest and Cruelest Slaughter of Dolphins in the World!

In the Japanese fishing village of Taiji, fishermen are rounding up and slaughtering hundreds and even thousands of dolphins right now.

After driving pods of dolphins into shallow coves, the fishermen kill the dolphins, slashing their throats with knives or stabbing them with spears. Thrashing about, the dolphins take as long as six minutes to die. The water turns red with their blood and the air fills with their screams.

This brutal massacre — the largest scale dolphin kill in the world — goes on for six months of every year. Even more shocking, the captive dolphin industry is an accomplice to the kill.

Taiji —the Killing Zone

A huge amount of blood is swirling with the currents after a pod of Risso's dolphins has been eradicated in the most gruesome way imaginable. The dolphins fought for their lives even as their guts were ripped from their bellies and blood gushed out of their blowholes.

Between October 1st - December 13th 2004 the fishermen of Taiji reported the capture 609 dolphins (389 bottlenose dolphins and 220 Risso's dolphins) to the Fisheries section of Wakayama Prefecture. While most of the 609 dolphins were slaughtered for human consumption, dolphin trainers selected some of the young and unblemished dolphins for use in captive dolphin swim programs and dolphin shows.

During the hunting season that began October 1st 2003 and ended March 30th 2004 the fishermen of Taiji killed 1,165 dolphins:

444 Striped dolphins
197 bottlenose dolphins
102 Pantropical spotted dolphins
293 Risso's dolphins
117pilot whales
12 false killer whales

In that same period they captured 78 dolphins for sale to dolphinaria:

67 bottlenose dolphins
6 Risso's dolphins
5 pseudo orcas

A measure of our success

Japanese fishermen kill the largest number of dolphins anywhere in the world and dolphins and porpoises face grave danger in Japan's coastal waters when the annual hunt begins. This year the drive fishery, a method in which dolphins are forced ashore and hacked to death, has taken place in Taiji and Futo. We traveled to both of these fishing villages to document the massacres and expose them to the world.

In Taiji the annual dolphin hunt starts October 1st and continues through March 30th. Here, the massacre of dolphins is strongly encouraged by three local dolphinariums that purchase show-quality dolphins at a high cost and ship some of them off to othe facilities in Japan and abroad.

We were able to film the entire capture procedure in January last year when more than 100 bottlenose dolphins were forced ashore and some 20 dolphins selected by dolphinaria. Several dolphins were killed during the selection process and our powerful footage was recently aired by the BBC in a documentary entitled "Dolphin Hunters" and has been viewed by more than 300 million people worldwide.

This kind of major international exposure is the last thing the fishermen and the dolphin captivity industry want, and it came as no surprise to us that they were fuming with anger upon our return to Taiji in October.

Since the beginning of our campaign to expose the barbaric methods used to capture and kill dolphins, the fishermen have gone to extreme effort and expense to prevent us from carrying out our documentary work. What they are doing to the dolphins is so brutal; they know they have to conceal it from the rest of the world to avoid a huge international outcry.

The fishermen have driven a large pod of bottlenose dolphins into the killing cove.
They are cutting off the dolphins' escape with two nets placed 50 feet apart.
Photo by Helene O'Barry

They used to carry out the massacres in a large lagoon by a public road, but the mounting exposure has forced them into one last hiding place; a small cove hidden between two mountains. The cove is part of a public park and tourists from all of Japan come here to walk the picturesque trails along one of the most spectacular coastlines in the world.

During the drive fishery season, which lasts six months out of the year, the fishermen take the area into their possession, employing exceptionally hostile tactics to keep westerners and Japanese tourists away from the cove while dolphins are being killed. In doing so they have created a threatening and sinister atmosphere in an otherwise beautiful and friendly village.

Hiding their activities the best they can has been part of the fishermen's policy for years but they have now taken their cover-up to a new, fanatic level. Supported by local authorities they have banned us from climbing the mountain from where we can see the killing cove.

They are so scared of our cameras; they have tied barbed wire around the trees we used to climb to photograph the massacres and at the top of the mountain have installed a hideous wall made of fabric and plastic to block our view. They have tied metal chains to trees everywhere along the paths leading to the killing cove. Attached to the chains are signs with hand-written words of warning: "Keep Out!" and "No trespassing!"

After the massacre the water remains red with blood for hours and the ludicrous signs warning people of non-existent dangers such as "Falling rocks!" and "Mud-slides!" are not removed until after the sea has washed the blood away and all evidence of the butchery has vanished.

The fishermen have even erected a large piece of fabric across the mouth of the cove to prevent us from photographing the bloodbath from a boat and as further proof of their deep-rooted fear of the truth being known to the world have placed a gigantic piece of blue tarp across the entire killing cove so we can't film the massacres, not even from a helicopter.

The fishermen have succeeded in hiding the massacres almost to perfection but their strategy is backfiring in a way they probably did not anticipate. The dolphin slaughter is surrounded by so much contemptible deception and is so profoundly guarded; it has raised much curiosity among the visiting Japanese tourists who wonder what the secrecy is all about. We spoke to many of them and the one thing they kept asking was: "What are the fishermen doing behind the blue tarp that's so terrible that no one is allowed to see it?"

The extreme cover-up is undermining one of the fishermen's principal justifications for killing dolphins: That it's a tradition they are proud of. If they are truly proud of killing dolphins, then why are they so frantic about hiding it? The fact that they hide the bloodbath behind blue tarp, chains, barbed wire and walls of fabric reveals that they are well aware that the dolphin massacres, once fully exposed, will be viewed as deplorable by the rest of the world, including the Japanese people.

The fishermen spend a lot of time waving large signs in front of our camera lenses, yelling, "Don't take photos!" What they are really saying is, "We have something to hide."

By acting so hostile and secretive, they involuntarily bring more attention to themselves and the dolphin massacres. As a young girl visiting from Tokyo put it: "I never realized that dolphins are being killed here until I saw that creepy-looking blue plastic covering the lagoon."



Irrawaddy Dolphins Gain Trade Protection Under CITES; WWF Urges Countries to Stop All Live Captures

October 11, 2004 — By World Wildlife Fund US

Bangkok - The international community today voted to prohibit commercial trade of critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphins, concluding they are so rare that any trade for aquariums and dolphinaria is a threat to the species.

Conservation of Irrawaddy dolphins is a priority for World Wildlife Fund, which praised the decision today by the member countries of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Stopping the live capture of Irrawaddy dolphins for display in aquariums is an important step in ensuring a future for the species, according to WWF experts.

"Most legitimate zoos and aquariums already refuse to display Irrrawaddy dolphins because of their endangered status and because they don't live long in captivity, but there remains an active trade in them for dolphin shows and water parks across Asia," said Karen Steuer, WWF senior policy adviser. "With this CITES listing, we are urging member countries to prohibit any trade, even trade to aquariums that may be considered noncommercial."

The CITES decision places Irrawaddy dolphins on Appendix I, where it joins species like great apes and tigers that are so endangered that no international commercial trade is allowed. There is no recent global population estimate for Irrawaddy dolphins, but there has been a decline in numbers across their Asian range and they are likely to number fewer than 1,000.

The main threat to Irrawaddy dolphins everywhere is drowning in fishing nets. The small dolphins live in shallow waters near shore or in rivers and suffer high death rates as bycatch in fishing nets. Irrawaddy dolphins in the Philippines, for example, are down to fewer than 70 individuals and will soon disappear if nothing is done to keep them from drowning in nets.

Irrawaddy dolphins are found in small, geographically isolated populations from Australia to India to the Philippines. Their ability to live in both salt water and fresh water makes them popular with dolphin shows, where fresh water tanks are cheaper to maintain. They are also easily trained and highly charismatic, making them popular attractions.

At least 50 individuals have been caught for public display since 1974; 12 alone have been captured from Thailand since the 1980s. The country of Thailand proposed increasing trade protections, uplisting them from Appendix II to Appendix I, at the CITES meeting here this week.

"This proposal by Thailand reflects the growing significance given to coastal conservation since the government restructuring in 2002," said Robert Mather, country representative for WWF-Thailand. "We're encouraged by this development and believe that Thai communities will actually see a greater economic benefit from the development of ecotourism around Irrawaddy dolphins in the wild than from live trade."

Irrawaddy dolphins migrate into rivers in the upper gulf of Thailand at the end of the rainy season each year, offering a chance to see them upclose. In Songkhla Lake in southern Thailand, there have been only six sightings of Irrawaddy dolphins since 2001. The Mekong River population in nearby Cambodia and Laos numbers fewer than 80 and is threatened by bycatch and the recent development of unregulated gold mining activities that leach cyanide and mercury into the river.



Environmentalists Say Sound Wave Research off Yucatan Threatens Marine Life

January 14, 2005 — By Lisa J. Adams, Associated Press

MEXICO CITY — Scientists working off the Yucatan Peninsula are preparing to use sound waves to search for information about an asteroid that may have wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

But environmental activists are trying to shut the project down, saying the technology could harm whales, sea turtles and several varieties of fish that provide a livelihood for thousands of Mexicans along the gulf coast.

Marine seismologists from the University of Texas Institute of Geophysics, the Geophysics Institute at Mexico's Autonomous National University and Cambridge and London universities will use underwater seismic pulses to learn more about the Chicxulub (pronounced Sheek-shoo-LOOB) Crater, a depression measuring about 120 miles in diameter and centered just outside the port of Progreso, 190 miles west of Cancun.

The same technique is routinely used by scientific research vessels around the world to study earthquake faults, tsunami dangers and climate change, scientists say. It is used in Mexico by the state oil monopoly, Pemex, to search for new energy reserves.

But Rosario Sosa, president of the Yucatan-based civilian Association for the Rights of Animals and their Habitat, said the sound waves "damage the brain, or damage the cochlea of the ear, and disorient the animals so that they beach themselves or crash into boats."

"They are no longer capable of looking for food using their sonar," she said.

Scientists acknowledge there's evidence that points to Navy sonar causing whales to beach themselves. But they say there's no proof that seismic pulses have harmed marine animals, though much more research is needed to draw firm conclusions.

Thus far "there has not been any significant evidence that there is any harm being done to the marine animal population," said Maya Tolstoy, a research scientist with Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

The observatory is in charge of operating the Maurice Ewing, the research vessel from which the scientists will work, about 50 miles offshore. The boat is owned by the U.S. National Science Foundation.

Located half-onshore and half-offshore, the Chicxulub Crater is believed to have been carved by a comet or asteroid 65 million years ago, and occurred simultaneously with the mass extinction of species, including the dinosaur.

It is the largest and best-preserved "impact" crater on Earth, said Gail Christeson, a University of Texas marine seismologist involved in the project.

Researchers will send sound waves into the seabed via compressed-air guns to try to create the three-dimensional structure of the crater and learn the speed of the asteroid or comet, the angle at which it hit the Earth, and its effects on the environment.

The information could lead to knowledge of how to respond to possible future asteroid hits, Christeson said. She said the research also will help scientists to better understand the aquifer system of the Yucatan because the crater controls the water supply.

But Sosa says that after the Maurice Ewing conducted research in the waters between the Baja California peninsula and mainland Mexico in October 2002, two beached whales were found in the area with evidence of damage to their ears.

She also says activists have come across dead dolphins and turtles in the gulf coast state of Campeche, where Pemex uses seismic pulses to explore for oil. An additional concern is that the sound waves could threaten fish stocks -- the livelihood of about 30,000 families along the Gulf coast.

Christeson says she has participated in at least four seismic cruises, "and we have never seen any effect on marine life."

"It has been observed that the Navy sonar may have contributed to strandings of marine mammals," said Christeson. "Our sounds source is different from navy sonar. The amplitude is less and we also fire intermittently, so we will put a short burst of sound in water every 20 seconds. The Navy sweeps through different frequencies."

Mexico's national Environment Department granted the Maurice Ewing permission to operate after the scientists agreed to take along independent specialists to monitor sea animals; allow flight and underwater acoustic monitoring; work only during the day when it is easier to notice the animals; and maintain a 3,800-yard safety radius around the ship. The government will conduct its own monitoring flights as well, officials said.

The scientists also have agreed to stop testing when the presence of marine mammals is detected, and will gradually raise the sound wave decibels to warn the animals and give them a chance to leave the area.

The activists, who claim to represent 100 national and international organizations, say that's not good enough.

Benjamin White of the Washington-based non-governmental Animal Welfare Institute initially planned to tie himself with a rope to a fishermen's boat that would ride alongside the Maurice Ewing to prevent it from conducting the tests.

Now faced with orders banning them from approaching the boat, the protesters are considering peaceful weekend demonstrations in front of Yucatan state offices.

"I'm here as long as it takes to shut them down," White said.



At Least 55 Whales Die in New Zealand Mass Stranding, Officials Say

November 30, 2004 — By Associated Press

WELLINGTON, New Zealand - Rescuers were working feverishly Tuesday to float two whales stranded for two days on a North Island beach, where 55 pilot whales carcasses litter the sand, conservation officials said.

The mass stranding of 75 pilot whales was only discovered Monday and rescuers found only 21 still alive when they reached the isolated scene, Conservation Department area manager John Gaukrodger said.

Rescuers believe the whales may have been chasing food when they stranded on Opoutere Beach, on North Island's east coast overnight Sunday.

By midmorning Tuesday 18 of the mammals had been refloated by rescuers who used a large digger to channel water to the animals, keeping them wet while waiting for a high tide later Monday.

Three coaxed back out to sea during Monday night were too weak to handle the conditions and were turned back into shore by rescuers for another attempt Tuesday. One was refloated during the morning.

Gaukrodger said volunteers had worked for 18 hours nonstop keeping whales moist and trying to get some movement as they lay on the beach and waited for the tide.

"Lying in one pozzie (position) for some time is not good for them," he said.

The mammals weakened condition meant they may have to be euthanized if efforts to refloat them failed.

Rescuers had been too busy trying to save whales to think much about the carnage around them on the beach he said, adding, "it is quite a morbid scene."

The mass stranding is the first around the New Zealand coast this southern hemisphere summer.

Australian authorities said Tuesday that a total of 115 whales and dolphins had died after swimming onto beaches on two southern Australian islands.

Ninety-seven mammals -- 72 pilot whales and 25 bottlenose dolphins -- died after beaching Sunday on King Island between the Australian mainland and the southeast island state of Tasmania.

On Maria Island, 450 kilometers (280 miles) away, another 19 dead pilot whales were beached Monday.

More than 30 rescuers dragged 24 whales -- each about four meters (13 feet) long and weighing one ton -- into deep water in an exhausting 10-hour rescue operation that ended Monday night, officials said.

The risk that the rescued whales would beach themselves again appeared to have passed by Tuesday morning.

Scientists have still to explain the factors which trigger such mass strandings by the giant sea mammals.



Russian oil and gas should make way for western grey whale: scientists

Feb 16,

GENEVA (AFP) - Leading scientists urged Russian authorities to consider suspending one of its largest oil and gas exploration projects off its Pacific coast in order to save the endangered western grey whale.

The independent panel of scientists concluded in a report commissioned by the Sakhalin Energy Investment Company that there were huge risks from the project in the gray whales' feeding ground north of Russia's Sakhalin Island, especially in the construction phase.

The report said "anticipation and avoidance of potential risks" was essential.

"The most precautionary approach would be to suspend present operations and delay further development of the oil and gas reserves in the vicinity of the gray whale feeding ground off Sakhalin," it added.

If that was not possible, authorities should adopt "utmost prudence", the World Conservation Union (IUCN), which assembled the 14 scientists, said.

There are only about 100 western grey whales left and the species is regarded as "critically endangered".

The scientists said the whales were at risk from oil spills, ship strikes during pipeline construction, physical damage to their habitat and feeding ground, and noise and disturbance from building work.

While they welcomed the exploration authority's investment in research on the whales, they said there had not been enough evaluation of the impact of the three pipeline proposals in Sakhalin II.

All appeared to carry varying degrees of risk, the report added.

Exxon, Shell and BP are involved in well explorations projects but some have suspended construction work.

The environmental group WWF called on Shell, which is planning an offshore drilling platform and a seabed pipeline, to follow the report's recommendations

"If Shell routes this pipeline right through the heart of the whales' feeding grounds, it is potentially condemning them to extinction," said Paul Steele, WWF's chief operating officer.

See also:

Ocean Planet
Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition which celebrates the spectacular diversity of the oceans and examines the environmental issues they now face.

Links & Web Resources Regarding LFAS Issues (Comprehensive but out of date)

Stop LFAS Worldwide Network
The Stop LFAS Worldwide Network offers an on-line informational resource via this interactive newsletter.

More related links

Blasting of seas with sound violates many laws, says federal judge

Greenpeace actions to save dolphins, whales and other marine life forms

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