An independent review panel including experts from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), NOAA, the International Whaling Commission, and the government of Madagascar has confirmed that at least one mass stranding of whales was the result of sonar in a report released by the WCS on Sept. 25, 2013.
The 2008 stranding of 100 melon-headed whales in the Loza Lagoon system in northwest Madagascar was the result of the use of a multibeam echo sounder system operated by a survey vessel contracted by ExxonMobil Exploration and Production (Northern Madagascar) Limited.
A coordinated effort on the part of Madagascar, European agencies, and the scientific community of the United States managed to save the majority of the beached whales. Those whales that died were inspected for disease, signs of predation, and any other causes that could have produced mass stranding.
The consensus of opinion is that this mass stranding event was caused by a multibeam echo sounder system. The experts identified the frequencies used and determined what frequency caused the whales to beach.
Multibeam echo sounder systems are used in oil exploration, mining, and by the military.
The research is the first to prove that mass stranding in whales can be caused by certain frequencies of sonar that are routinely used.
The researchers hope to provide a set of frequencies that can be avoided to prevent whale stranding.