Navy sonar believed to be cause of multiple whale stranding in Guam

KUAM news reports that on Monday, March 23, 2015 the Navy was conducting exercises using sonar, when three beaked whales beached themselves.

The U.S. Navy is now confirming that the day three whales were beached in Southern Guam, sonar testing was in fact being conducted. But Joint Region Marianas is waiting for test results to confirm whether in fact there’s a connection.

Michael O’Connell was doing construction work on his friend Steve Addison’s property in Merizo Monday morning when all of a sudden he saw a whale stuck on the reef. Immediately he along with his friends dropped what they were doing called the proper authorities and rescued the beaked whale. But that wasn’t the only rescue that day – one of O’Connell’s friends also rescued another beaked whale also in the Merizo area.

And yet there was another report of a beaked whale in Merizo, but that one didn’t make it alive.

According to Department of Agriculture biologist Brent Tibbats, these types of whales generally live in the open ocean or in deep water. Tibbats adds that beaked whales are associated with underwater sounds such as sonar which have caused them to beach in the past.


According to the Pacific Daily News, divers who were in the water on March 23 reported hearing loud pinging noises. One biologist believes there is a link between the sonar use and the whale beachings.

Divers who were in the water the same day a dead whale was found in Merizo reported hearing loud “pinging” sounds in the water.

Guam Department of Agriculture fisheries biologist Brent Tibbatts believes the noises indicate the use of sonar and said divers recorded video with the loud noises.

“I’ve heard from free-dive fishermen in Merizo and two dive boats at Blue Hole and in Agat that reported loud pinging while divers were in the water that morning,” said Tibbatts.

The Navy confirms that it was conducting sonar exercises that morning:

Joint Region Marianas public affairs officer Lt. Tim Gorman said on Monday, March 23, ships taking part in the Multi-Sail 2015 exercise left Naval Base Guam and their first use of sonar was at 10 a.m.

But the navy is denying that its sonar is to blame. Instead, the blame earthquakes that happened one and two days before the stranding:

“Marine mammals strand and die from natural causes including illness, disease, predation, and other environmental factors,” Gorman said. “For instance, a 4.7 magnitude earthquake took place on March 21 and a 5.5 magnitude earthquake took place on March 22 east of Guam. We don’t know yet if they played a role in the stranding,” Gorman said.

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