Pilot Whales Maybe Victims of Friendly Fire by The Navy


BY Kirsten Massebeau and Barbara Napoles

Pilot whales are again discovered on the Gulf of Mexico that lies within the Navy’s Atlantic Training Range. NOAA’s update:

“The U.S. Coast Guard continued to search for the stranded pilot whales during the weekend with no luck. Around 1pm Sunday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found 11 dead pilot whales on Snipe Point in the lower Keys about 6 miles north of Sugar Loaf Key. We believe these are part of the original pod of 51 stranded pilot whales. A rescue team is in route”.(source)

Whales were riding the tide. When the Gulf emptied they were left on the shelf.

Whales were riding the tide. When the Gulf emptied they were left on the shelf. By NOAA

NOAA ,scientists and ocean activists believe the whales that stranded on Snipe Point, north of Sugarloaf Key are part of the original 51 whales that stranded at Highland Point.

Whales trapped on ocean shelf by low tide.

Whales trapped on ocean shelf by low tide.

Barbara Napoles, experienced ocean navigator, and Floridian,explained it simply: “The current carried the whales to Snipe point, the Gulf is like a bowl that empties it’s contents into the Atlantic at low tide”.

It could be speculated that the whales were unable to navigate due to acoustic damage. They were simply carried by the current and as the Gulf emptied the whales were stranded on the shallow shelf between the keys.

Activists are wondering why NOAA/NMFS seems unaware of the Naval exercise taking place in the Atlantic Training Complex especially considering  there is an OPAREA  A danger zone is a defined water area used for target practice, bombing, rocket firing or other especially hazardous military activities, (a restricted air space used for Naval Exercises and Training) in the Florida Keys:” Via NOAAthe team is waiting to hear from the Navy.”(source)

The “Spartans” of NAS Jacksonville-based Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 70 operate the MH-60R anti-submarine Seahawk helicopter from onboard the Bush and her accompanying ships”.(source) The MH60R helicopter used during the Bush Strike Group Comptuex training exercises is fully loaded, a deadly weapon that has the ability to kill, harm, “take” whales and dolphins. The MH60R is indeed equipped with an impressive array of defensive and counter defensive weaponry:

  • Sonobuoy launcher
  • Raytheon AN/AQS-22 advanced airborne low-frequency (ALFS) dipping sonar.
  • Lockheed Martin AGM-114 Hellfire anti-surface missiles.
  • The MH-60R can carry up to three ATK mk50 or mk46 active / passive lightweight torpedoes.
  •  7.62mm machine gun
  • Lockheed Martin AN/ALQ-210 electronic support measures system (ESM)
  • Electronic warfare systems include the ATK AN/AAR-47 missile warner,
  • Laser warning system
  • BAE Systems AN/ALQ-144 infrared jammer and
  • AN/ALE-39 chaff and flare decoy dispenser.
  • Raytheon AN/AAS-44 detecting / tracking system
  • Forward-looking infrared (FLIR) and laser rangefinder.
  • Telephonics AN/APS-147 multimode radar, which has inverse synthetic aperture (ISAR) imaging and periscope and small target detection capabilities.
  •  AN/APS-153 radar, with the automatic radar periscope detection and discrimination (ARPDD) capability.

“Scientists will arrive Monday to take samples of these 11 whales to determine cause of death. They are hoping to get better samples to investigate possible disease or biotoxin (e.g., red tide) causes. While there is no evidence to suggest sonar trauma, the team is waiting to hear from the Navy”.(Source)

NOAA/NMFS decision to wait until Monday to even begin the necropsy process on these whales is in itself negligent. The bodies of the whales will  have been decomposing for at least 18 hours and exposed to the elements. In addition, their denial that the whales showed signs related to acoustic trauma ie, disorientation, and inability to navigate as discussed in this article: Underwater sonar systems really DO cause whales to become stranded – because the high frequencies disorientate themseems they are trying to cast the blame away from the Navy and the cetacean victims of their friendly fire.

Short finned pilot whale

Short finned pilot whale by Pablo Gil

While Naval readiness is important when do we begin to question the clear cutting of our oceans by the ever increasing Naval exercises taking place in the waters off our shores. It’s time to clean up our own back yard and question the activities of the Navy and NOAA/NMFS who have rubber stamped their activities.

Update 12/9/2013

We understand that NOAA and the Navy cannot reveal or acknowledge COMPTUEX Naval Exercises because of National Security as was the case with the Cape Cod Strandings. We will be updating as necropsy results become available that we will begin trying to obtain via: the Freedom of Information Act. We encourage all activists to follow up as well.

Follow the NOAA updates on the pilot whales : Here

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