The mass stranding event (MSE) in Cornwall UK last year points to Navy sonar. But if you read through the very comprehensive report you can see why it is difficult to arrive at unimpeachable scientific conclusions.
“A period of naval exercises involving a variety of high intensity acoustic sources were conducted around the time of the MSE, but evidence of one of more specific naval activities that tightly coincided in time and space with the likely initial onset of the MSE were absent in all the records of naval activities released under the Freedom of Information Act.”
The term “tightly coincided in time” is at issue because the exercises were conducted within 60 hours of the strandings – close enough to not be eliminated as a cause, but not so close as to indicate sonar as a definitive reason for the stranding.
The report is quite thorough and illustrates why it is so difficult to ascertain causation for any stranding event.
This illustrates why the US Navy can state with scientific certainty that “only 37 whales have stranded as a consequence of Navy sonar.”
In science there is no Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) act that can indict criminals because they always seem to be around the scene of a crime. We can only look at the correlations and make our informed assumptions.
A vaguely academic article published in the “National Maritime Foundation: Advancing India’s Maritime Interests.” argues that environmental groups are actually agencies set up by adversarial governments to hobble the Navy’s readiness capabilities through environmental “lawfare.”
I’m sure that the US Navy has an editorial board that weighs the degree of “sparkle” in the pieces they circulate to foreign publications. “Sparkle” being a term used by “intelligence” folks to frame predatory journalism; how much ‘lie’ you can infuse in a piece to influence readers in some particular way. The piece quoted smells highly of this. India readers are not going to question the implied enmity between the US and Russia or China, they will continue to see the US as “hero” being attacked from within by nefarious forces like NRDC and the Humane Society.
While this article was published in a foreign military publication, we are not exempt from military propaganda here at home – even in the academic circles of professional scientific conferences.
Back a couple of years ago Secretary of the Navy Donald Winter presented a PowerPoint slide show on the impacts of Navy sonar on marine life. In his presentation there was a slide that compares with relative dot sizes how many marine mammals are killed in fishing operations (Big Giant dot) with how many have been killed by sonar (only 37 – represented by this itty-bitty dot).
The actual numbers are much more than disputable because the 37 moralities they chose to represent were the stranded beaked whales from the Bahamas and from the Canarias – that due to necropsies were indisputably linked to acoustic trauma. The thousands more animals that happen to wash up on shore coincident to a Naval maneuvers are not represented on the slide because they are considered “anecdotal.”
Whale hearing specilist Darlene Ketten pulled this zinger slide out again last summer at the Paris Acoustics08 conference. I took her to task on this; both the disputability of the slides numbers as well as the question of its pedegree, to which she mumbled something about feeling like she was in a French Surrealist film (Cocteau, no doubt).
But the slide has legs, and showed up again last week at the Acoustics Society Meeting, held in Portland. This time it was in the presentation for the Marine Mammal Noise Exposure Criteria presentation – at a session I was hosting. I did let the presenter know that the slide seriously pollutes the scientific integrity of the rest of the work. But being that the work is funded largely by the US Navy, I guess the “quid-pro-quo” for the funding is that the slide needs to get some screen time.
Along with the slide is the text (also used by Winter and Ketten) that all of the money “wasted on litigation” could be much better spent on bio-acoustic impacts research. Of course without the litigation posed by environmental NGO’s such as NRDC and the Humane Society, it is unlikely that any money would be allocated to research on bio-acoustic impacts because the situation would not be perceived as a “threat to national security.” And so it goes…