November 25, 2013 at 1:18 am #1266MikeKeymaster
Scientists puzzled by straying mammals
August 28, 2006
BRIGANTINE, N.J. ” Hooded seals, bottlenose whales and a manatee have
been spotted in the waters of the northeastern U.S., leaving marine
biologists puzzled as to why they have strayed from their natural
The presence along the Jersey Shore of mammals who normally swim in much
warmer or colder waters took a troubling turn recently with the
discovery of three of the seals on New Jersey beaches. All were
suffering from starvation or exposure.
Those seals and two others found in North Carolina and Virginia â€”
all of them pups about six months old â€” are being cared for at the
Marine Mammal Stranding Center. The center has never had to rescue any
in the summer months before, according to founding director Bob
The sudden influx has Schoelkopf and others searching for clues.
“We’ve never had this rate of strandings in the summer months, and we
really have no definitive idea why it’s happening,” Schoelkopf told The
Philadelphia Inquirer. “And why these animals are turning up in all
these strange places. It’s truly a mystery.”
The bottlenose whales, which normally are found in the North Atlantic,
have also been sighted along the East Coast, Schoelkopf said. And a
manatee, whose habitat is chiefly the warmer waters off Florida, made
its way up the Hudson River through New York City this month and was
last spotted off Cape Cod.
Studies conducted by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in
Massachusetts and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the
University of California at San Diego suggest the strange migrations
could be attributed to underwater noise created by long-range sonar testing conducted by the Navy and to expanded global shipping.
Whales, dolphins and other marine mammals use sound signals to mate and
communicate with each other and may be misreading the man-made sounds.
“We’re very concerned about this because we think the research is clear
that the sonar testing can have an adverse impact on the marine
environment,” said Michelle Duval, a senior scientist with Environmental
Defense, a Washington-based nonprofit advocacy group.
The group has opposed the establishment of a 500-square-mile sonar range
in the Atlantic Ocean off the North Carolina coast.
Navy officials said the studies don’t prove any long-term effects of
sonar on marine mammals.
At the Brigantine facility, one of only a half-dozen federally licensed
centers on the East Coast that aid stranded mammals, resources are being
strained as workers dip into reserve supplies of fish to feed the seals.
If the seals survive, they will be taken to Maine and released into the
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