Putting conspiracy to bed for Cape Cod's stranded dolphins, it wasnt U.S. Navy SONAR

The paths of six dolphins tracked using special satellite tags attached to dolphins released by the IFAW MMRR team.Last week, I participated in a conference call with the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The United States Navy and NOAA have an ongoing operational plan that monitors for any stranding events that may be related to naval activities. 

Throughout this event we have asked NOAA about the status of any planned exercises by the US Navy. They have regular meetings and detailed protocols with the US Navy for monitoring actions along the east coast of the US. 

The Navy has not conducted a major training exercise in the Northeast US within the last 24 months.  Currently there is only one active area of the Mid-Atlantic coast and according to both parties; Operation Bold Alligator 12, did not involve active sonar. 

This was an amphibious training exercise that would not have affected animals in Cape Cod Bay. There was also a COMPTUEX training that occurred off the coast of North Carolina through Florida from January 11 - February 12, 2012, again far away from Cape Cod’s shores. 

The fact is we know there has been no naval sonar activity in our region within a proximity affecting the coast of Massachusetts and these particular animals. Again, the acknowledged Mid-Atlantic activity is simply too far away to drive these dolphins to strand. 

Also, if we approach this logically: if activity off the mid-Atlantic were causing this event, we would also see similar mass strandings stretching along the coastline between here and there.  But, we are not.  I have spoken with other stranding network members, and no else is seeing above average numbers of common dolphin strandings.

We are seeking information on any other industrial activities off the coast of Massachusetts during this period, but given the inhospitable nature of the North Atlantic in winter, we don’t expect there is much going on.  Furthermore, there is nothing so far in our examinations of the deceased dolphins that is consistent with evidence of acoustic trauma.

Many lab results are still pending, and we are just now beginning to really analyze our data as the stranding event seems to be slowing down (hopefully ending!).

Stay tuned as we continue to rule things out and continue the hunt for possible scientific causes.


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Senior Program Advisor
Senior Program Advisor
Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
Manager, Marine Mammal Rescue and Research
Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
IFAW Veterinarian
Gail A'Brunzo, Manager, Wildlife Rescue
Manager, Wildlife Rescue
Katie Moore, Deputy Vice President, Conservation and Animal Welfare
Deputy Vice President, Conservation and Animal Welfare
Loïs Lelanchon, Animal Rescue Program Officer
Animal Rescue Program Officer
Shannon Walajtys
Manager, Animal Rescue-Disasters
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Consulting Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy