Expert says data may link sonar to orca death

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by GARY CHITTIM / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @gchittimK5

KING5.com

Posted on February 17, 2012 at 2:37 PM

Updated Friday, Feb 17 at 11:27 PM

Scott Veirs of the Salish Sea Hydrophone Network is up to his ears in marine mammal detective work this week.

Since the discovery of a dead endangered southern resident orca on the Washington coast last weekend, Veirs has been investigating the possibility of a link between the death of the orca and exercises conducted by the Canadian Navy. He said he has married sounds from his network which revealed sonar use by the Canadians near the San Juan Islands last week, and the locations of the Navy ships, available online to anyone.

He has placed their location near the recorded sightings of orcas in the resident L-pod at roughly the same time. He has also detected what he and other members of the network describe as sounds consistent with an underwater explosion.

Veirs said he wonders if the dead orca, also a member of L-pod, may have been exposed to either a deadly dose of sonar or an underwater blast.  Initial inspections of the orca's carcass showed it had suffered extreme trauma but no visible signs exterior wounds.

Veirs said the injuries, deep bruising and discolorations are common affects of percussion wounds suffered by mammals being too close to an explosion.

The Canadian Navy is cooperating with investigators. It has admitted to using sonar in that area during those dates but so far, has not responded to the reports of an underwater blast.

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