Letter to the Editor - The Cairns Post
19 August 2013
To the Editor,
In the 19 August 2013 edition of The Cairns Post there was an article entitled “Call to cut sonar near pods”. The article contains a misleading statement which I need to correct.
The article quoted Mr Ben Cropp stating, “As the naval boat was approaching the whales stopped, turned around and hugged my boat. It was quite obvious that the sonar was affecting the whales and they had turned back and came on the blind side of the boat”.
The inference that the naval vessel was operating sonar in the area of Low Isles off Port Douglas appears to be without foundation. The Royal Australian Navy has no record of any of its sonar-fitted ships operating in that area over the last month.
The primary use of naval ships sonar is to locate submarines. In the area Mr Cropp claims this incident occurred, there would not have been any requirement to transmit sonar. I should also point out that not all naval vessels are fitted with sonar capable of affecting marine life.
The Navy has very strict environmental guidelines which have been developed with marine acoustic experts and marine biologists over a number of years. These regulate location, transmission, frequencies, power and buffer zones to ensure no marine life can be adversely affected. Additionally, the Navy has restrictions which direct all sonar operations to cease if whales are sighted.
The article was misleading and painted an incorrect picture of the Navy’s environmental responsibilities—ones that we take very seriously.
Vice Admiral, Royal Australian Navy
Chief of Navy