Whales suffer the bends: study

A new study offers evidence to support the theory that beaked whales get the bends when they surface rapidly, possibly after being startled by naval sonar.

HONOLULU — A new study offers evidence to support the theory that beaked whales get the bends when they surface rapidly, possibly after being startled by naval sonar.

The report could help scientists understand why beaked whales appear to be more vulnerable to the potentially harmful effects of sonar than other marine mammals.

Together with other studies, the results may also help scientists and regulators think of how navies could adjust their sonar use during training to prevent beaked whale strandings and deaths.

“It provides more evidence that beaked whales that are being found dead in association with naval sonar activities are likely to be getting decompression sickness,” said Robin Baird, a marine biologist at Cascadia Research Collective and one of the report’s authors.

The study, published online this week in the journal Respiratory Physiology and Neurobiology, uses data gathered from three species in the beaked whale family. Two of the species, Cuvier’s and Blainville’s, were observed in Hawaii waters. The third, northern bottlenose whales, were studied off Nova Scotia, Canada.

Military ships use mid-frequency active sonar by firing bursts of sound through the water and listening for an echo off a vessel’s hull.

The technology has become increasingly important to the U.S. Navy as other countries, including China, have added quieter, harder-to-detect diesel-powered submarines to their fleets.

In 2000, several beaked whales washed ashore with bleeding around their brains and ears during Navy exercises in the Bahamas.

Scientists believe the bleeding may have been caused by bubbles that formed in the whales’ bloodstreams when they surfaced more quickly than normal.

The Navy has since agreed to adopt some measures to protect whales, such as having ships turn off their sonar when sailors spot marine mammals nearby.

But it has strongly resisted many more stringent restrictions, saying there isn’t enough scientific evidence to require them.

The Navy is also pushing for more research in the area, budgeting $26 million annually over the next five years to understand how marine mammals hear and how sound affects them.

The new beaked whale study was also funded in part by the Office of Naval Research.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Carl’s Jr. in Red Deer area closed

Co-owner of Carl’s Jr. in Gasoline Alley was caught using his bare hands to handle sauce in 2017

Cattle Show set to return to Stettler Jan. 31st and Feb. 1st

“Stettler, historically, has been a very strong cattle community. It was a real hub for the cattle industry.”

Quebec MP Gerard Deltell says non to Tory leadership

OTTAWA — Quebec MP Gerard Deltell says he’s decided not to enter… Continue reading

Studies question assumptions on industrial damage to Wood Buffalo park

New research suggests Canada’s largest national park is not drying out from… Continue reading

WATCH: Canadian kid shovelling snow video goes viral

Rory might just be Canada’s most popular toddler right now, thanks to… Continue reading

Your community calendar

Jan. 22 Downtown House Senior Center (5414 43 St.) in Red Deer… Continue reading

Hikers rescued after frigid night on Eagle Mountain in Coquitlam, B.C.

COQUITLAM, B.C. — Five hikers stranded on Eagle Mountain in Coquitlam, B.C.,… Continue reading

SpaceX launches, destroys rocket in astronaut escape test

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — SpaceX completed the last big test of its… Continue reading

Canada’s Jeff Smith wins way back to PDC pro darts tour via qualifying school

WIGAN, England — Canadian Jeff Smith has won his way back to… Continue reading

Skate Canada to wait on final decision for world championship team

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — Ice dancers Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier headline the… Continue reading

Canadian golfer Lee finishes in fifth place at Singapore Open, Kuchar wins

SINGAPORE — Canadian golfer Richard T. Lee shot 1-over 71 on Sunday… Continue reading

Armed Forces being mobilized to help Eastern Newfoundland dig out

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — The federal government is mobilizing the Armed Forces… Continue reading

Couple together for nearly 65 years die on the same day

ARNOLD, Mo. — A couple who had been together for nearly 65… Continue reading

Most Read