Is the U.S. Navy Accidentally Bombing Killer Whales?

© Cascadia Research Collective

Last month, the body of a 3-year-old killer whale washed ashore in Long Beach, Washington, bearing injuries which indicate it had suffered severe trauma. While its exact cause of death may never be known for certain, one biologist who examined the orca says he believes the animal's fatal wounds were the result of an explosion -- leading some to suspect that ongoing training exercises by the U.S. Navy in the orca's critical habitat are inadvertently blowing up endangered killer whales.

The dead orca, labeled L112, belongs to a protected killer whale population known as Southern Residents, of which as few as 87 individuals remain in waters off of Washington State and Canada. Yet despite this fact, and their listing as an endangered species, the U.S. and Canadian Navies routinely detonate bombs and use sonar in the orca's narrow habitat, both of which are potentially lethal to marine life.

Although it is protocol for the navy to ensure no animals will be harmed by their war games, biologist Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research believes L112 was the victim of a bomb blast -- not a boat strike or predator attack:

“L112 has injuries that are more consistent with an explosion—they were instantaneous and massive and lethal right away. So I believe in this case it’s a bomb blast rather than sonar.”

In an interview with the Epoch Times, Balcomb goes on to say that the death of this young Southern resident killer whale is probably just the most recent in a string of animal casualties resulting from naval exercises, and that other members of her pod could have been killed as well.

"[The U.S. Navy] is authorized to drop about 100 bombs a year out there in the area where these whales feed, and they’ve been doing this for about 15 years,” says the biologist. “There’s been a number of whales over the past years that have washed ashore with what’s usually described as blunt-force trauma. Many of them—and I’ve seen four myself—are consistent with a blast-type trauma of this nature”

Further examination will be conducted to paint a clearer picture of just what killed L112, but U.S. and Canadian Navies have already denied that naval exercises could have caused the death of that endangered killer whale. Nevertheless, conservationists are urging for the use of bombs and sonar in the orcas' protected waters to cease.

Balcomb, who is himself a former servicemen in the U.S. Navy, says he understands the importance of training exercises -- just not when the well-being of orcas is put at risk. “I would like them to look at the evidence that we’re actually killing these whales with this bombing.”

Tags: Animals | Oceans

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