Norway Postpones Cruel Noise Bombardment of Whales
In April we urged you to speak out against a disturbing experiment on juvenile minke whales in Norway claiming to study the impact of ocean noise on baleen whales. Experimenters had planned to capture 12 juvenile whales, hold them captive for up to four days, and subject them to noise bombardments against their collective wills. However, they failed to test, let alone successfully capture, any suitable whales, and the study has been temporarily suspended.
When the experiments, which are a collaboration between the National Marine Mammal Foundation and Norwegian Defense Research Establishment (and also notably funded by the U.S. agencies), were first announced, it was met with broad and swift condemnation. Many animal protection organizations joined us in our call, and a petition by 50 researchers from across the globe asking the Norwegian authorities to cancel the study gathered over 60,000 signatures. We, and the whales, are grateful for this temporary reprieve.
Under the permit issued by the Norwegian Food Safety Authority, also known as Mattilsynet, animal experimenters were allowed to drop a nearly mile-long net to trap as many as 12 migrating minke whales before forcing them into smaller cages. Once caught, experimenters intended to restrain them for up to six hours while measuring their brain waves via electrodes inserted under their skin to see their reaction to various sound frequencies.
The very act of capturing juvenile whales, caging them for days, and subjecting them to noise inundation would be disturbing and could cause short-term bodily harm — if they panic — or long-term psychological trauma. While baleen whales’ hearing is less understood than other cetaceans, there is already plenty of data indicating man-made ocean noise from shipping, military sonar, and energy exploration is a serious stressor for whales, among other species, that can cause physical and behavioral responses, interrupt their ability to navigate, breed, care for their young, communicate with each other and find food. In extreme cases, it can cause physical injuries and death.
That said, Norway is declaring that the cancellation is only temporary and that experimenters plan to move ahead with this travesty next year. Unless Norway can come up with a nonviolent, unobtrusive way to study the whales' hearing without damage to their eardrums, the country can expect strong opposition from us and our supporters next year.
If you’d like to help us in our efforts to protect all animals, wild and domestic, please consider making a donation. If you haven’t already, please express your dismay over these planned experiments and Norway’s yearly whale harpooning which brutally kills hundreds of whales every year.