Sonar Mapping Blamed For Mass Stranding of Melon-Headed Whales in Madagascar
A panel of experts has confirmed that the 2008 mass stranding of whales in Madagascar was caused by high frequency mapping sonar system.
An independent review panel that included experts from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), NOAA, and International Fund for Animal Welfare, International Whaling Commission and the government of Madagascar looked into the 2008 mass stranding of melon-headed whales in the Loza Lagoon system in Madagascar.
The panel has confirmed that the stranding of approximately 100 melon-headed whales was triggered by an acoustic stimuli emitted by a multi beam echosounder system operated by a survey vessel contracted by ExxonMobil Exploration and Production (Northern Madagascar) Limited the day before.
Most of the beached whales were dragged out from the lagoon system and returned to the open sea. Those whales that didn't make it back to the waters and died were sent for necropsy to look into the cause of the mass stranding. They wanted to check whether it was a disease outbreak or a natural calamity that steered such a disaster.
"The potential for behavioral responses and indirect injury or mortality from the use of similar MBES [multi-beam echosounder systems] should be considered in future environmental assessments, operational planning and regulatory decisions," the report quoted the panel members.
This is the first known marine mammal mass stranding event linked to high frequency sounds. This report has led to a flood of concern over the harsh impact of sound on the marine mammals. Such high frequency mapping sonar systems are not only used by oil companies but also by the hydrocarbon industry, military and other research vessels.
"Mass stranding response is challenging under the best of circumstances. Together with local individuals and the government of Madagascar, we provided the expertise to rescue as many animals as possible and medical care to those that stranded alive," Katie Moore, Director of Animal Rescue at IFAW said in a statement. "Equally important was to gather as much data as possible from the animals to address the root cause of the stranding. We are pleased to see the ISRP report and its conclusions, which will hopefully be used in shaping future conservation policies."
Recently, researchers at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland discovered the missing link behind naval exercises around the world and the mass stranding and beaching of marine mammals. They claimed that whales move away from the intense military sonar used by navies to hunt submarines.
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