How Much Sound Is Too Much for Our Marine Mammals?

Rep. Neil Abercrombie
Rep. Neil Abercrombie

COCONUT ISLAND (KHNL) -- Sound is important to whales and dolphins for food, navigation, and communication. But, too much man-made sound can be deadly for these creatures.

Three main sources cause loud, sometimes deadly sound for marine mammals. Ships, oil drilling, and naval sonar. The Marine Mammal Research Program at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology is working to find out exactly how much noise is too much, for the animals.

Meet kina. A false killer whale, she and these bottlenose dolphins have some of the very best sonar detection in the world. But, they're so sensitive to noise, too much can be deadly.

"All of the creatures of the sea depend on us to exercise the right kind of stewardship this is particularly true for military exercises and what we want to do is make certain that we have the right information as to what might have an adverse affect in the ocean as a result of actions caused by human beings," said Rep. Neil Abercrombie.

Without injuring them, these tests tell scientists how much noise will.

Congressman Neal Abercrombie is here today to discuss more than 6-million dollars of federal funding, that will help aid this and similar research.

"This research is unique its extraordinarily valuable, not just from a military perspective but from a scientific perspective in teaching us about the inner world," said Abercrombie.

They know man-made noise in the ocean isn't going to stop. But, they want to be able to set tangible baselines, and limits. So, that when disagreements arise, they can be settled scientifically.

"The Superferry will end up in the courts, the navy things end up in courts, everything ends up in court. And then the courts have to make decisions. What do they make their decisions based on -- on someone's opinion or on real science? asked program director, Dr. Paul Nachtigall.