Navy rules out sonar use as cause of mass whale stranding on Kauai

State lawmakers to hold hearing after mass whale stranding on Kauai
Updated: Oct. 16, 2017 at 8:35 PM HST
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(Image: Liane Sasan)
(Image: Liane Sasan)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - What caused a mass stranding of pilot whales on Kauai last week Friday remains a mystery, but lawmakers are demanding answers.

"We need to figure out what data has been collected, what findings there are so far, and hopefully learn what it is that's causing this. Or at the very least, rule out what we know absolutely is not," said State Rep. Chris Lee, chair of the House Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection.

NOAA officials say it may be several weeks before they get the full necropsy results, but lawmakers want to hold a hearing at the state capitol within the next week.

"I want to make sure that people know exactly what these whales died from," Kauai representative Dee Morikawa said.

NOAA says no whales have beached themselves since Friday, and crews have spotted healthy pods swimming near Kauai.

In a statement, the Navy confirmed it does not have any reports of any sonar use within five nautical miles or 24 hours of Friday's incident that left five whales dead at Kalapaki Beach.

Morikawa says she also wants assurance from the state that the recent rat poison drops on Lehua Island did not play a role in the whales' deaths.

On September 12th, the Department of Land and Natural Resources conducted its third and final drop of rat poison on Lehua Island, even though concerns were raised that the poison was killing fish and other marine life.

Morikawa says the timing is questionable.

"We have another drop and we have this major whale beaching. I think it's just too coincidental," she said.

Island Conservation, the organization that led the Lehua Island eradication efforts, says the likelihood of the rodenticide impacting pilot whales is "bordering on the impossible."

"We know, with the highest degree of confidence, that the Lehua Restoration Project and the rodenticides applied in that project have virtually no chance of contributing to the whales' demise," the organization said.

Wildlife officials say whales strand themselves for a variety of reasons -- most often because of natural disease -- but the exact cause is unknown.

In February, more than 650 pilot whales beached themselves on the shores of New Zealand. More than half of them died.

And in June, locals in Sri Lanka banded together to push about 20 pilot whales back to sea.

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