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U.S. Navy Implicated in New Mass Stranding of Whales

Michael Jasny

Posted April 2, 2014 in Reviving the World's Oceans, Saving Wildlife and Wild Places

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Thumbnail image for Ziphius_1-4-2014_SE_Crete_Greece.jpg

Yesterday afternoon, while the U.S. and other navies played war games somewhere offshore, Cuvier’s beaked whales began stranding along the southern coast of Crete.  Those on the scene knew right away what they were dealing with, for yesterday’s strandings were only the most recent in a line of similar calamities in the region, going back two decades.  And in this case, as in the previous ones, all signs point navy.

Cuvier’s beaked whales are a remarkable species.  They have the deepest recorded dives of all marine mammals, some descending an astonishing 3000 meters below the water’s surface before coming up for air.  Favoring deep water, they don’t strand nearly as often as coastal species, and they don’t strand in number, and they don’t strand alive. 

Yet that is exactly what happened yesterday.  Beginning around noon, three Cuvier’s beaked whales came ashore in one spot along the Cretan coast, two others beached some 17 kilometers further west, and two more turned up nearby.  All were alive when they stranded.

For Greece, none of this is new.  In 1996 and again in 1997, dozens of beaked whales of the same species turned up along the Peloponnesian coast; in 2011, they stranded on the island of Corfu as well as the east coast of Italy, across the Ionian Sea.  In each case, navies were training with high-powered sonar in the area.  Indeed, according to the Smithsonian Institution and International Whaling Commission, every beaked whale mass stranding on record everywhere in the world has occurred with naval activities, usually sonar, taking place in the vicinity.

And yesterday was no exception.  For the last week, the U.S., Greek, and Israeli navies have been running a joint military exercise off Crete known as Operation Noble Dina.  The exercise includes anti-submarine warfare training, which requires the use of high-powered military sonar.

Each of these events is tragic in its way, but this one feels particularly cruel.  Just last year, the Scientific Committee of ACCOBAMS, an agreement for the conservation of whales and dolphins in the Mediterranean and Black Seas, drew a map where sonar training should be avoided.  One area on the map is off southeastern Crete—exactly where the new mass stranding occurred—around a highly sensitive marine area known as the Hellenic Trench.  But Greece fought the recommendation, and it wasn’t adopted. 

Now experts are despairing that, with stranding after stranding, the region’s beaked whale populations are being decimated.  

Beaked whales that have died from sonar exposure—at least the ones recovered in time for investigation—have suffered from a suite of severe, telltale pathologies, similar to those seen in decompression sickness, or the bends.  Sonar is believed to kill them by disrupting their dive patterns.  The ones that reach shore are considered the tip of an iceberg.

Stranding responders, including Dr. Alexandros Frantzis, the Scientific Director of the Pelagos Cetacean Research Institute, have asked the Greek authorities to intervene so that military sonar will no longer be used in the area in the days ahead.  The same urgent request must be made of the U.S. Navy, which appears to have participated in this exercise without complying with U.S. law. 

This event and others like it keep driving home a simple fact: military sonar and marine mammals don’t mix.  How many more whales must die before navies agree to avoid important and vulnerable marine mammal habitat, like the area identified off Crete?  Continuing to operate as the principals have in this instance approaches something like reckless indifference, like barrelling a truck down a crowded city street.  Our oceans are large enough to accommodate whales and military training, if our navies had the will to do the right thing.

To demand that the Navy protect whales, please go here.

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Comments

Roman VankoApr 2 2014 02:17 PM

Take measures about conservation of the lifes whales!

Andrea FrancoApr 2 2014 02:25 PM

Please stop this terrible action it affects us as a whole, it's not just about the whales it's about the planet and it's well being! Stop the ignorance and greed!

Ron & Marian GlassApr 2 2014 02:27 PM

This is horrendous!!!!! Please STOP these so called Games!!! You are killing off our sea mammals!!!!

GonzalezApr 2 2014 02:30 PM

Please stop this! The ocean is their HABITAT. Please don't make them suffer when they have no other choice but to live there AND every right to live a happy, healthy life.

Elizabeth EganApr 2 2014 02:57 PM

Please, have some compassion and care for the world you live in and STOP.

Jessica Duranczyk Apr 2 2014 03:06 PM

STOP!!

Claudia SebastianiApr 2 2014 03:07 PM

We can't be so irresponsible!

Lars EickhoffApr 2 2014 03:09 PM

War and to play war is a destructive activity...with the only goal...to show power, authority...and to destroy. There will be always and ever innocent casualities. Humans, animals, nature...The question is: Who gave them the power to operate?...we, you, all of us...the human race is agressive and ignorant...so the results as well.

vasiliki kalkaniApr 2 2014 03:59 PM

so sad! I wish for an end to wars, ...like... NOW!???!!! the innocent suffer the most.. :(

Vivian NrienApr 2 2014 04:06 PM

Please stop destroying this planet with unnecessary blasting. We are destroying our oceans and our planet.

Athena HagenApr 2 2014 05:24 PM

These exercises are doing far more harm than good! Please stop!

claudia christiansenApr 2 2014 06:59 PM

As an American, I'm particularly appalled by news of this blatant disregard for the welfare of whales, these magnificent creatures of the seas.. Just when Japan gets what it deserves regarding whales, WE are playing war games! Time for us to cease whale killing, regardless of "reason" OR "proof"

Captain Watson, what of this do we do to stop this?

I hereby volunteer!

FromApr 2 2014 08:18 PM

Hey you, in the submarine! You're asleep. Wake up and save some lives. Now.

LeeApr 2 2014 08:23 PM

This makes me sick
It's not like it's a surprise to the military
Plenty of info here

http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental.htm#applications

joey racanoApr 2 2014 08:29 PM

Rare Whales Get Rarer

The US Navy has it out for the Beak
Their a 'Force for Good' with a real mean streak
The rarest of the whales is getting in the way
And the Navy has a lotof war games to play

The US Navy doesn't care about the Beak
It isn't any safety for the whales they seek
The Navy's making noise and it's louder underwater
It's dangerous to whales and to your son and daughter

The Navy doesn't give a crap about your whales
General Dynamics, maybe- and Raytheon sales
Pretending to be heroes but they're corporate crooks
Removing all the Beaks from the history books

jr

The Propaganda in the LA Times says the Navy just saved the lizards:

http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-navy-night-lizard-recovery-20140401,0,5203763.story

But the sad reality yesterday was:

With the US Navy going ape-shit offshore, the rarest whales in the world washed up yesterday, one after another...

http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/mjasny/us_navy_implicated_in_new_mass.html

joey racano

Caryn Massey Apr 2 2014 11:32 PM

comment.

sharon roseApr 2 2014 11:53 PM

It's hard to believe how selfish and cruel some humans are. Save these whales from human greed and lack of caring.

Jennifer BechtoldApr 3 2014 01:03 AM

Please end this

Carla Saks Apr 3 2014 03:30 AM

Please stop destroying our planet and precious animals

Michaelle EdwardsApr 3 2014 04:00 AM

Here on Kauai, we have seen similar actions from whales trying to escape the sonar from the Navy.. The military are DECIBULLIES! How selfish and ignorant for us to think we are the only species that matters and the ocean is our dumping ground for chemical and noise pollution.

NateApr 3 2014 04:04 AM

Good thing they are only being decimated, instead of losing a number higher than 10 percent

KapitkomApr 3 2014 04:16 AM

So let me get this straight. A bunch of people protest over the mass stranding of whales caused by the US navy while they dont give a damn about the mass stranding and the killings of people US navy (and their friends) is causing around the world? Wow! I am amazed with the amount of hypocrisy . The same people that not only support but also finance the mass stranding and killing of people (including childrent) around the world, become extremely sensitive when it comes to whales...only whales. No wonder the planet is a mess. Both actions are equally horrible to me. Get your governments to stop killing people, while at the same time you act towards protecting whales and the planet in general. Living your life is not an exclusive right in the US and the UK.

Thaddeus BrejwoApr 3 2014 04:55 AM

I was a navy aviation anti- submarine operator in in the early 70's. We lowered a sonar boom in the water but it was not as powerful as what subs and ships use. The practice depth charges we dropped by hand out of the door upset me tremendously. I was torn between my loyalty and the devastation of what the war games was doing to all life in and out of water. I requested and received and honorable discharge. I am scuba diver and have seen the desasters first hand.

Stefanie TolskiApr 3 2014 06:19 AM

The damage this does to life in the ocean is proven so how can they keep going? This needs to stop. Reading through the comments before, I am always suprised about the thought that people who speak up for animals or the environment, do not care about suffering or killings of humans. I am sick of hearing this. I absolutely care and speak up for humans as well. Careless behavior that kills can be seen in EVERY country and needs to be brought to attention: I hope the sonar issue will get more and more. Stef from Germany.

jimApr 3 2014 06:27 AM

kapitkom why are you being so ugly to people? your acting like a hater. Because we defend whales and other species of the planet does not mean we are pro war. Just guessing I would guess 99% of us are antiwar. What country are youfrom . Could it be Iceland or maybe Denmark.

azhar khanApr 3 2014 07:33 AM

Just Stop

elven galadhrimApr 3 2014 07:34 AM

:'(

KapitkomApr 3 2014 07:55 AM

Glad Thaddeus and Stefanie can be reasonable with their thoughts.
Jim, nobody is ugly. The truth is ugly and that is not my fault. I am not a hater, I just indicated something that others did not. Do you see me hating somebody specific? Hate (and love) comes if you deserve it, it does not come verbally. The majority of antiwar people in the world are actually supporting war with their lifestyle. I am sorry, I am failing to see how antiwar people refuse to finance the states that consider war their primary occupation. If anyone's state is looking for a reason to start a war and people keep financing that state or they prefer to maintain all their life standards of living than losing a piece on protesting the war and the killing of people, then they are not so antiwar to me. Again, antiwar does not come verbally, you either gain it or you dont.
To the point. There was a decision about Japan in the Arctic a few days ago. Hypocrisy again. It only bans Japan in the Arctic and just because Australia is concerned. Everyone knows what "scientific" reasons are, everyone knows that NOT only Japan hunts whales, everyone knows that other countries are involved in whaling, yet the world plays with words and meaningless international court "verdicts". It is so obvious to me, when human life becomes so meaningless for the ones in power, animals and the planet is not a considerable value.
And Jim, stop checking my name on google, I am not Scandinavian or have any connection. My origin is irrelevant with the matter.

Gary BalabanApr 3 2014 08:17 AM

Stop killing whales!!!!

catherine cunninghamApr 3 2014 11:42 AM

Stop!!!

martin jonesApr 3 2014 12:52 PM

stop killing whales

spas yaketovApr 3 2014 01:29 PM

stoooop

Daniela cazzanigaApr 3 2014 02:23 PM

Peccato ci siano persone che fanno queste cose orribili agli animali

Kim AdamsApr 3 2014 02:53 PM

Our world's natural resources like animal welfare should be a higher priorities then war games or practice. The shameful slaughter of whales and whatever else sea life is being harmed is recklessly destroying natural resources. Our World's resources. It's time to take a stand against shameful act's of unnecessary violence.

Daniela KolevaApr 3 2014 03:12 PM

We must treat animals with respect. Stop tasting and using sonars near areas with animals and fish. They deserve to live!

Joan SadlerApr 3 2014 03:34 PM

How horrible! Please stop this.

Uschi OttApr 3 2014 04:11 PM

How horrible you have to stop it .we need thiese animals they are so intelligent and Amazing

Desislava YorgovaApr 3 2014 04:12 PM

Stop!

Tom KlooteApr 4 2014 01:12 AM

this is a disaster and the thick heads in the military need to be replaced with some kind of intelligent professionals , why do you think this type of stuff keeps going on, maybe we should take our own military to the international court just to make a point and ask for an IQ test be performed and kick out the no minds until we end up with some smarts running these little battle trials.......

Bob IndaApr 4 2014 01:23 AM

Clearly whales and dolphins being possibly so intelligent as us are far more evolved so they don't war on their own species. What are we as humans trying to prove with these military exercises other than having the ability to obliterate members of our own kind. We humans are dum and far to ego driven.

Nicky Hann Apr 4 2014 03:17 AM

Please show a little concern for the environment It does not actually belong to you.

Stanislava KoparanovaApr 4 2014 05:32 AM

This can be liable of international crime - it is called Ecocide.
But could and should be better prevented.
I see lack of knowledge in cases like this, and/or underestimation of the importance - good communication with environmentalists is what can prevent disasters for everyone, both the military and the earth.
Ecocide is already a crime in a few countries, and internationally as a war crime.
To make civil international laws protect the ecosystems, and prevent future cases like this one, our involvement as citizen is the most important of first steps - you can do your part now, check out here
www.endecocide.org
www.iecc-tpie.org/en

ByronApr 4 2014 06:37 AM

It's sad and whale biologist have known and proven for a long time that sonar causes these whales to come up suddenly cause nitrogen narcosis or the bends.

But the military has a duty to protect its country and from their point if a couple of whales die who cares as moving them could cost a lot of $$ and with everything happening in Ukraine don't expect these whale deaths to finish any time soon.

Christine HORNECKERApr 4 2014 10:40 AM

RESPECT for the whales and STOP the nightmare !!!

Veselin Ganchev Apr 4 2014 03:27 PM

Stop killing all kind of animals.

Kitty BjörnramApr 4 2014 05:19 PM

This needs to stop! We have to consider that there is lives everywhere, we shouldnt forget that It's not only the humans that are living here, we are sharing this planet with others. Don't think about yourself all the time.
We really don't need this!

Nileeni MandiraApr 5 2014 12:45 AM

Are - We - Not - Humans - Anymore ... ?

Janie AcutApr 5 2014 03:44 PM

Please stop hurting these precious beings. You're so self centred!

Sibylline - Faune marineApr 5 2014 09:19 PM

It's happening the same, just now, with a mass common dolphins stranding in parallel of Navy exercises in France (Gulf of Gascony)

mayaApr 6 2014 02:28 PM


I can only say ... even in "peacetime"-Man kind are fighting the worst of wars-The one with Planet Earth - Wasn't Earth our only home ... and have we lost control over our man kind activities for good! ? ! All this makes me, us- the majority of normal, conscious people in the world very, very sad ... If we do not stop this crazy machine machose game and start behaving like humans and not as some " genius mad beast "...very soon we are done with ...I,we all are so very, very sad for this balance of aggresive power and not of Harmony and Care are leading us straight to helll...Now that we are the so colled "Masters of the World"- has the time not commed for us to take off the Mad Beast Fur off and dress up as SHEPHERDS and at last be what Lord created us for...Sad...Sad...Helpless...Thank you to the author ♥


Susan Somerville-FranzApr 6 2014 02:42 PM

This is totally uncalled for behavior; killing sea life and
you have no right to do this, even if you think you do. Just please stop this.

Jacqueline TeunissenApr 7 2014 04:07 PM

Please stop this cruelty!!

bello antonioApr 8 2014 02:17 AM

stop this cruelty!

catharina längleApr 8 2014 06:31 PM

In the name of the Great Mother STOP IT!!!!
NOW!!!

Me TooApr 9 2014 06:43 AM

If the United State Navy engaged in activities violating United States law, as this article claims, then those brass who made the decision to do so need to be held legally accountable.

Marnie BraunApr 9 2014 08:00 AM

Don't do this to God's creatures who are so incredibly beautiful!

Silvia MartinovaApr 9 2014 09:00 AM

I join the group: stop killing whales!!!

MariaApr 9 2014 09:53 PM

Please work together as a miltant force and environmental force to cease such harm to marine mammals and also protect them from human harmful behaviours such as the Denmark slaughters for passaging into manhood. It's respect for life.

yiota karamichaliApr 10 2014 06:18 PM

Stop killing animals stop

Comments are closed for this post.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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