Human-generated noise noted as key factor endangering whales off East Coast

Canadian scientists say human-made sounds in the ocean are a key factor contributing to the threatened status of three types of whales off the east coast.

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada released its findings today on the sei whale, fin whale and Sowerby's beaked whale following a gathering of 43 scientists in St. John's, N.L., over the weekend.

Researchers who study marine mammal populations say that the continuing low numbers of the sei whale in the aftermath of decades of whaling led them to ask for an endangered designation.

They also found that the fin whales and the Sowerby's beaked whales should continue to be designated as species "of special concern."

Hal Whitehead, the co-chair of the marine mammals sub-committee, says the whales' assessments are linked to fishing gear entanglements and the whales being struck by the increasing number of large ships in the Atlantic Ocean.

The Dalhousie University scientist says that in addition, the growing levels of noise from ships, navy vessels and ongoing seismic exploration for oil and gas is impeding the whales communication and survival.