Navy Sonar and Marine Mammals

From Michael Sellers

I’m starting to do some digging and thinking about story elements for “what comes next”. I’m not ready to start connecting the dots — but I am starting to come across some “dots” that are interesting. So — without saying that this is an area that will specifically figure in Way of the Dolphin, I thought you might enjoy starting to see some of the things that I’m coming across that are interesting to me.

One topic that is definitely interesting is the probable connection between navy mid-range sonar and beachings of dolphins and whales. There’s a lot “out there” in the media about this. Look up Ken Balcomb on the internet — he’s one of the top authorities on this and was the subject of a fascinating New York Times Magazine article a couple of years ago. The link I just gave you is a link to that article and it’s fascinating reading. There was a time when I was considering modeling Hawk in EOD on Balcomb, but ultimately I decided not to go down that road.

The issue of Navy Sonar causing mass beachings of whales and dolphins is also gaining some celebrity attention — which among other things means that we might be able to get some low-cost, high-value celebrity support if we highlight this subject matter.

So…with that as background — here’s an article that just appeared in the Navy Times. (By the way, Navy Times is not an official publication of the Navy.)

James Taylor joins anti-sonar campaign

By Philip Ewing – Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Sep 12, 2007 13:08:07 EDT
Marine mammals learned Tuesday they’ve got a friend — in James Taylor.

The gentle-voiced folk singer-songwriter has joined an environmentalist campaign to stop the Navy from training with medium- and low-frequency sonar because he and other critics say it’s cruel to the ears of whales and other marine mammals.

In a letter posted on the National Resources Defense Council’s Web site, Taylor wrote that he’s not anti-military — his father was a Navy doctor and his family “loves” the Navy — but that he’s against the “acoustic onslaught” that he says so afflicts undersea animals that they beach themselves to escape it.

“Imagine a sound so disorienting or so painful that you jump out of the sea and die on the beach rather than be subjected to it for another minute! From a whale’s point of view, the Navy’s sonic assault must seem like torture,” Taylor wrote.

Taylor is the most recent celebrity to join the NRDC’s campaign against Navy sonar training; other high-profile backers include ex-“James Bond” Pierce Brosnan; Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong; and Laurie David, ex-wife of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” star Larry David.

The Navy has acknowledged in certain past cases that its sonar causes pain to marine mammals, and commanders are required to make sure there are no whales or other marine animals in areas where it plans to train with sonar. But Navy officials refuse to impose a wholesale ban on using sonar, and point to research that shows whales will beach themselves for a range of causes, not just sonar or other loud noises.

The Navy also won its most recent court decision concerning the use of sonar. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Aug. 31 overturned a lower court’s ruling that banned sonar training.

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~ by Michael D. Sellers on September 19, 2007.

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