Submitted by Scientific Solutions, Inc.
Regulations are currently in place, or are being developed, that require suspension of marine activities that may injure, kill, or significantly harass whales if they are known to be in the vicinity. However, the two methods used today to determine if whales are nearby -- passive sonar and visual identification -- are inadequate. "Passive sonar presumes that the whales are vocalizing, which is very often not the case," said Dr. Peter J. Stein, Scientific Solutions' president. "Visual identification only works during daylight hours when sea and weather conditions are calm and clear, and presumes whales are surfacing within view."
Scientific Solutions worked closely with leading marine mammal experts to determine safe levels of active sonar soundings that will not injure whales. During the research, scientists will lower a device called a transducer, which will emit a low-power, high-frequency click that will be reflected back if there are whales in the area. In addition to collecting information on how well the system works and how performance can be improved, the tests also will demonstrate that safe levels of active sonar can be used to identify the presence of whales without negatively affecting natural behavior. A crew of leading marine mammal experts will be observing the tests throughout the duration of the research project, and will have the authority to suspend the tests if they believe that natural behavior is being negatively affected.
"If our tests prove effective in noting the presence of whales under all conditions, it will be a major step forward in human efforts to protect their populations," Stein said.
Testing is being conducted under the auspices of a permit issued on Dec. 24, 2003 by the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service of the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration in compliance with regulations established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Scientific Solutions has posted a website at www.whalesafety.net with additional details about the investigation.
Founded in 1992 by Dr. Peter J. Stein, a scientist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Scientific Solutions Inc. performs underwater acoustic research for environmental, commercial and government applications, and develops instruments to make a variety of measurements in harsh environments. The company is located at 99 Perimeter Road, Nashua, N.H. 03063; telephone (603) 880-3784
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