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Whales and sounds

Low-frequency acoustic noise implicated in Baja California whale deaths.

Laura DeFrancesco(defrancesco1@earthlink.net)

Marine biologists and oceanographers are working together to investigate the death of two beaked whales off the coast of Baja California last month — the latest in a string of whale strandings and deaths linked to underwater acoustic noise. Previous beaked whale strandings and deaths have been associated with medium-to-high frequency acoustic noise, generated by US Navy and other NATO forces, but the Baja deaths are the first to implicate low-frequency noise as possibly harmful to marine mammals.

On September 24, the dead whales were discovered on the shore of an island in the Sea of Cortez by a group of vacationing marine biologists. One of them, Jay Barlow, is head of coastal marine mammal research in California for the National Marine Fisheries Service. After finding the whales, he and his companions spotted a vessel in the bay and radioed for help, only to learn that it was engaged...

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