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Issues That Affect Whales

What if. . .

  • What if a Navy project has the potential to deafen every marine mammal? It does! Low Frequency Active (LFA) Sonar is an experimental sonar system that the Navy designed to detect enemy submarines in the deep ocean. LFA sonar finds submarines by bombarding them with low-frequency sound waves. The problem is this: Many marine mammals and other sea life are dependent on their sensitive hearing to communicate with their mates and young, find food, and follow migration routes. The ear-splitting sound from LFA can travel more than 300 miles at levels known to disturb whales. At close range, this noise can destroy a whale's eardrums. It can cause lung bleeding and even death. At greater distances it can disrupt mating, feeding, and other essential activities — perhaps communication or proper direction for migration. You can learn more by doing a Web search for "LFA Sonar." What would you like leaders to consider as they think about two important issues: national security and protection of marine mammals?
  • What if pollution in the ocean and air is contaminating marine mammals? It is! Although most of us do not associate contaminants with the Alaskan environment, contaminants called PCBs and DDTs are present in Alaskan food chains. The transient orcas ("killer whales") around Kodiak, Alaska, for example, have some of the highest contaminants of any marine mammal sampled in the world. Contaminants from World War 2 dump sites and U.S-banned pesticides are raining down on us from Asia. The contaminants "load" in the bodies of these top predators. Will gray whales be affected along with killer whales? How can you find out more?
  • What if cruise ships were exempt from the Clean Water Act? They are! These huge vessels discharge about 50,000 gallons of raw sewage a day per ship — and it goes straight into the ocean. How does raw sewage affect not only marine creatures like gray whales, but also the beaches where people vacation? Use the Internet to learn more, and see what some people are doing.
  • What if natural gas industries and tourism want to build in or near the birthing and calving grounds or migration route of the gray whales? Several proposals have been made, but most have been defeated. What problems would be caused in whale habitat by increased tourism and everything needed to attract, entertain, and house tourists?
  • What if gray whales were hunted and killed again? (This caused them to become endangered.) In some places, they are! A Web search can help you find out the latest news on whale hunting of various whale species.
  • What if people who own large ships gave money to help study issues that affect marine mammals? Some are! The Ocean Fund of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. was established in 1996. Grant money goes to various organizations working to protect the ocean environment. What could you do to encourage more money for such research?

Try This! Tackling Tough Issues
Where do you stand on an issue? How do you come to make your stand and form an opinion on any particular topic of controversy? This activity provides opportunities for paraphrasing, making inferences, and building opinions using a cognitive organizer called a PMI. Use it for a guide to take you through a process for making an educated stand on any issue/debate of current interest and study:

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