ANIMAL GROUPS SEEK A TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER (TRO)
IN SAN FRANCISCO COURT TO STOP SONAR EXPERIMENTS ON 3,000 CALIFORNIA GRAY WHALES.
COALITION OF WHALE FRIENDS. PRESS RELEASE.
Hilo based attorney, Lanny Sinkin, acting on behalf of Gray Whales and Humpback Whales, as well as a number of US and Australian animal and environmental groups, will request that the Federal District Court act to immediately restrain Dr Peter Tyack from experimenting on Gray Whales. A TRO Hearing has been set down for l0.00am, Wednesday 8th January, at Court 1, 17th Floor, Federal Court House, 450 Golden Gate, San Francisco. Case No: 03-0078.
Dr Peter Tyack of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute intends to begin deploying sonar from Pacific Gas & Electric's property at Point Buchon from January 8th -24th. Dr Tyack has targeted Gray Whales at a time when the migration pulse is composed principally of heavily pregnant whales and newborn calves.
At the recent International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting in Japan, the US delegation revealed that the Gray Whale population has crashed by 9,000 animals to a low of l7,000.
With no evidence of recovery and a continuing low calf count, the deployment of mid and high frequency sonar at unprecedented levels has the potential to send the species to extinction, said Mr Sinkin.
Dr Tyack intends to broadcast sonar at levels of l80dB 1 uPa. This is the equivalent of standing next to an F-16 taking off.
Leading whale expert and research biologist, Ken Balcomb said in his deposition in support of the TRO that : 'It is a published fact that avoidance behavioural responses have been shown to occur in a variety of marine mammals from a variety of underwater sound frequencies at RL (received levels) less than 140dB 1 uPa.
Several species of beaked whales have been accidentally killed by exposure to high intensity underwater sound. Sound-sensitive beaked whales occur along the California coast coincident with the migration of the Gray Whales, he says.
Ken Balcomb's deposition highlights the little known fact that whalers used intense underwater sounds (eg Asdic, a 14-20kHz active sonar device) to increase the efficiency of their catch when chasing whales. The behaviour of many whale species was greatly modified when exposed to the Asdic device which has similar frequency characteristics to the device Dr Tyack is proposing to use.
Interference with Calf Communication.
Dr Tyack's intended frequency levels have the capacity to interfere with calf communication, says Mr Sinkin. This fact has been well documented in a California Coastal Commission hearing on an experiment on sea lions proposed by NMFS in 1999 which used sonar devices broadcasting at frequencies that the CCC ruled would interfere with calf communication.
" Dr Tyack has stated that he will broadcast at similar frequencies, "says Mr Sinkin.
" We have no research on the effects of mid and high frequency sonar on calves in utero, or newborn calves. What we do know is that broadcasts at 180dB are recognized by the US Navy, the scientific community and at least one Federal Judge as harmful to the extent of causing physical injury."
"This experiment targets more than 20 per cent of an extremely vulnerable and fragile population," says Mr Sinkin.
"Through a process of deceptive amendments to his original permit, Dr Tyack has legally flawed consent from NMFS to 'Take and Harass' 417,000 whales and dolphins in huge geographic areas across the planet. Many of these species are listed as endangered."
"Hawaian Humpback Whales are Dr Tyack's next target.
It is simply unacceptable that the Humpback Whales in Hawaian waters should again be subjected to sonar experiments."
" It is unacceptable that nearly half a million cetaceans should be subjected to frequency and decibel levels that are known to cause harm. The public has a right to know the full extent and ramifications of these experiments which have not been subjected to any Environmental Impact Study."
" We are taking this legal action on behalf of the Gray and Humpback Whales, seeking standing on their behalf and on behalf of concerned Human groups."
" Gray Whales and Humpback Whales must not be used as living biological models for sonar experiments. They have a right to exist in peace. I will be requesting that the Court nullify the NMFS Permit in its entirety."
For further information:
Call Robin Mankey, Sea Sanctuary Inc. for media interviews with Lanny Sinkin. Her cell is: 650 208 3825.
On behalf of
Hawai'i County Green Party,
Australians for Animals,
Stop LFAS Worldwide Network,
Channel Islands Animal Protection Association,
Sea Sanctuary Inc.
Robert Puddicombe, Naturalist.
Written and authorized by Sue Arnold, Australians for Animals.