News FocusEcology

A Roaring Debate Over Ocean Noise

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Science  26 Jan 2001:
Vol. 291, Issue 5504, pp. 576-578
DOI: 10.1126/science.291.5504.576

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An unusual, nearly simultaneous grounding of 16 whales in the Bahamas last March and controversy over a new U.S. Navy sonar system have increased interest in studying how noise affects marine life. Many researchers have long suspected that the pinging noises produced by some sonars can deafen and daze some kinds of whales, leaving them vulnerable to stranding and shark attack. If the researchers are right, the findings from the Bahamas could disrupt routine naval operations and put pressure on shipping firms and oil and gas drillers, whose activities produce different kinds of potentially problematic noises.