Michael Jasny wrote U.S. Navy Implicated in New Mass Stranding of Whales.
Yesterday afternoon, while the U.S. and other navies played war games somewhere offshore, Cuvier’s beaked whales began stranding along the southern coast of Crete. Those on the scene knew right away what they were dealing with, for yesterday’s strandings were only the most recent in a line of similar calamities in the region, going back two decades. And in this case, as in the previous ones, all signs point navy.
Cuvier’s beaked whales are a remarkable species. They have the deepest recorded dives of all marine mammals, some descending an astonishing 3000 meters below the water’s surface before coming up for air. Favoring deep water, they don’t strand nearly as often as coastal species, and they don’t strand in number, and they don’t strand alive.
Yet that is exactly what happened yesterday. Beginning around noon, three Cuvier’s beaked whales came ashore in one spot along the Cretan coast, two others beached some 17 kilometers further west, and two more turned up nearby. All were alive when they stranded.
For Greece, none of this is new. In 1996 and again in 1997, dozens of beaked whales of the same species turned up along the Peloponnesian coast; in 2011, they stranded on the island of Corfu as well as the east coast of Italy, across the Ionian Sea. In each case, navies were training with high-powered sonar in the area. Indeed, according to the Smithsonian Institution and International Whaling Commission, every beaked whale mass stranding on record everywhere in the world has occurred with naval activities, usually sonar, taking place in the vicinity.
And yesterday was no exception. For the last week, the U.S., Greek, and Israeli navies have been running a joint military exercise off Crete known as Operation Noble Dina. The exercise includes anti-submarine warfare training, which requires the use of high-powered military sonar."