What species suffered mass strandings in 2004 and 2008 due to sonar tests?


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Sonar tests by ExxonMobil oil researchers as well as similar tests by the U.S. Navy were determined by an independent panel of experts to be the key cause of beachings by approximately 100 Melon-Headed Whales in Madagascar in 2008. A vessel used by oil and gas company employed a multi-beam echosounder system to map the ocean floor. Fleeing the audio onslaught, the melon-headed whales fatally beached themselves on the shoreline of the Loza Lagoon in northwest Madagascar.

The oil industry is far from the only culprits in this audio attack. In 2004, approximately 200 melon-headed whales were stranded in Hanalei Bay in Kaua’i, Hawaii. Locals, who had gathered in canoes for a canoe-blessing ceremony, happened to be in the bay’s waters at 7 a.m. when they witnessed  the whales arrive in a single-wave formation on July 3, 2004. For the next 24 hours, the whales were observed swimming back and forth from shore to bay.

The whales needed human assistance to return to the open waters, which they did around 11 a.m. on July 4 after 28 hours of being herded into the bay. Only one juvenile died in the stranding. A necropsy revealed no infections or obvious cause of death aside from malnourishment. Researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association determined that sonar testing on July 2-3 in nearby waters by the U.S. Navy was the most likely contributor to the stranding.