Texas Sized "Kill Zone"
The U.S. Navy has developed an extremely powerful (low frequency) sonar to detect "quiet" submarines, and it has applied for a permit from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to deploy it. However, based on newly available scientific information, we know that this low frequency sonar emits a shock wave that at 150 to 160 decibels can kill whales, other marine mammals and marine fish by rupturing the membranes surrounding their lungs, swim bladder, brain and auditory air spaces. The second lethal effect of the shock wave involves the activation of supersaturated gas in marine animals' blood and in their cells to form small bubbles which, like the "bends" can block the flow of blood to the brain (causing stroke) and can rupture the cell walls. This effect will be greatest in deep-diving animals (such as bluefin tuna, swordfish, bigeye tuna and deep-diving whales) that will have the highest levels of supersaturated gasses in their blood and cells.
The source level of this sonar is 240 decibels (equivalent to the intensity of a Saturn rocket). But, because low frequency underwater sound can travel hundreds of miles with little loss of power, it will actually create a "kill zone" several hundred miles in diameter. NATO naval exercises using low frequency sonar conducted off Greece in 1996 killed whales that were more than 100 km away. In the final EIS for its sonar system, the Navy admits that an intensity of 160 decibels (a lethal level) will be felt several hundred miles away from the source. This will create a "Kill Zone" the size of Texas.
The Navy says it wants to deploy this sonar in 80% of the world's oceans (omitting only the Arctic and Antarctic). It has already been, or is to be used in many areas that are prime habitat of marlin, swordfish, bluefin tuna, mako sharks, bigeye tuna, sailfish, spearfish, wahoo, yellowfin tuna and many other premiere game fish (and their prey species). Such areas include the Bahamas, the continental shelf off New Jersey, North Carolina, the Azores, Canary Islands, California, Hawaii, etc. During the spring-early summer, the deep channels between the Bahamas and the larger Caribbean Islands are the center of spawning for swordfish, white marlin and blue marlin of the North Atlantic Ocean. As also described on our website (see below), these species' prime summer-fall feeding grounds include (1) the edge of the continental shelf (between the 100 and 1000 fathom lines) from just below Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, to the eastern tip of Georges Bank off Massachusetts; (2) similar areas along the edge of the continental shelf in the northern Gulf of Mexico; and (3) the Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands (following the extension of the Gulf Stream as the Azores Current and then the Canary Current). The Navy has not evaluated the consequences of its sonar on marine fish.
The Navy can not proceed unless it is given a permit issued by NMFS, which must consider the sonar's effects under authority of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act. NMFS is in the final stages of making its determination, so time is of the essence. For more detailed information on the worldwide effects of high intensity sonar on whales and other marine mammals, visit the website of the Ocean Mammal Institute (www.oceanmammalinst.org).
The Biodiversity Legal Foundation and James Chambers submitted an analysis of the new scientific information on April 4, 2002. It describes the real severity of the effects of low frequency sonar on not only marine mammals but also most species of fish.  Of particular concern is its effects on the world's large pelagic species - billfish, tunas, sharks and their prey.  A copy of the BLF letter to NMFS' Director can be found HERE
What can YOU do?
Express your concern in a letter to NMFS' Director (and send copies to your representatives in Congress and members of the Bush administration). And pass this alert on to others so they can act, too.
"Democracy is not a spectator sport."
Other Pages

Severity of Atlantic Population Declines

White Marlin ESA Listing Petition

Sonar Effects Described

List of All Pages on this Website

James R. Chambers, Principal
Chambers and Associates
9814 Kensington Parkway
Kensington, Maryland 20895-3425
(Tel) 301-949-3003
(Fax) 301-949-3003
[email protected]

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