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Below is a brief "history" of LFAS with important information.
For a more recent update, go to:

BACKGROUND on Low Frequency Active Sonar - (LFAS):
Some of what appears below was written in 2001.
More updated information and pre-written letters (for sending) will be added soon. See above link.

ALSO, look for Links at bottom of this page linking to important information about the proposed "End" of the "Dolphin Safe" Tuna label, (which isn't really "Dolphin Safe.")

The U.S. Navy plans shortly to deploy (actually, they have tested it since 1998) one of the loudest noise-makers ever invented by humans throughout the world's oceans. Low Frequency Active (LFA) Sonar is a sophisticated system of underwater speakers and microphones designed to detect "enemy" submarines at long distance by blasting immense, powerful sounds into the ocean and detecting the echoes.

Many marine species, such as whales, depend on sound to find their food, to communicate with their mates and young, and to navigate in the oceans. Imagine a sound so loud traveling such long distances that it can kill or seriously damage sensitive ears and drown out all other sounds. The Navy has pronounced the LFA Sonar system impacts as "negligible," "minimal," and "not biologically significant." But they don't really know, because the sound levels produced by LFA Sonar have never been tested on marine life. Furthermore, a number of incidents of stricken whales connected with local use of Navy Sonar systems from around the world have emerged.

LFA Sonar not only threatens sensitive marine life such as whales, dolphins, seals and sea lions, sea turtles, and fisheries. It is a threat to humans as well - divers and the military, and, when used inshore as Earth Island believes is the main objective, swimmers, surfers, fishermen, and snorkelers, too. Besides, it simply won't work strategically to protect the Navy, as giving out such loud sounds will act as a beacon for any lurking "enemy" for targeting purposes. The LFA sonar will also reveal "friendly" Navy submarines to our opponents. In a world of cruise missiles with pinpoint accuracy and "smart" torpedoes, not to mention low-tech terrorism, LFA Sonar is an obsolete relic of the Cold War. As alternatives, the Navy has developed new passive listening systems that are much more sophisticated at detecting submarines and which pose little threat to the environment.

June 2001
Celebrities Reach Out

We wanted to pass along to you our message about the Navy's plans to blast the world's oceans with a dangerous new sonar system, and the urgent need for us to fight back. As an NRDC Earth Action subscriber you've most likely already taken action on behalf of the whales and marine mammals threatened by this perilous new technology -- and we thank you. Now, please do us the great favor of forwarding our message to everyone you know -- your friends, family, co-workers, discussion groups -- encouraging them to join us in this critical battle.

Sincerely yours,

James Taylor
Pierce Brosnan
Jean-Michel Cousteau


Dear Friend,

The three of us have never teamed up like this before. But we all share something in common: a deep love of the ocean and marine mammals. That's why we're very disturbed by a U.S. military program that, if approved, will soon be bombarding millions of whales and dolphins around the world with intense noise.

You may have read about the U.S. Navy's "Low-Frequency Active" (LFA) sonar program. The military has been testing this new, high-powered system in secret for years. Now, the Navy wants to deploy it across 80 percent of our planet's oceans. LFA sonar is designed to detect enemy submarines by flooding vast expanses of the oceans with sound. Leaving aside the military wisdom of this sonar -- which is still in dispute -- the environmental dangers are becoming increasingly clear.

Here's the problem: LFA noise is billions of times more intense than that known to disturb whale migration and communication. Whales and dolphins depend on their sensitive hearing for survival. To put it simply, a deaf whale is a dead whale. Deafening noise from the LFA system will interfere with the vital biological activities of marine mammals. Scientists fear that long-term exposure to LFA could push entire populations over the brink into extinction.

Inevitably, there will also be marine mammals unlucky enough to swim too close to LFA loudspeakers. Imagine an acoustic wave so powerful that, even at substantial distances, it can destroy your hearing, cause your lungs or ears to hemorrhage, or even kill you. We've already seen a glimpse of the resulting carnage. Last year, whales from four different species stranded themselves and died on beaches across the northern Bahamas during a Navy military exercise. All but one of the dead animals examined by researchers had suffered hemorrhaging around the inner ear -- the telltale sign of acoustic trauma. The U.S. Navy's own report concluded that it is "highly likely" that the stranding was caused by the use of mid-frequency active sonar. But despite this tragic event, the Navy now wants to deploy LFA, the most extensive active sonar system ever devised.

We know that different frequencies will affect different marine mammals and that the lower the frequency, the farther it penetrates the ocean. We believe it is unconscionable to expose marine mammals around the world to more high intensity sonar. If you agree, then please join us in taking immediate action; it will take you only a few seconds.

Just go to . The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Ocean Futures Society (OFS) have set up this web page to make it easy for you to send electronic messages of protest to your U.S. senators and representative. Congress is now deciding the Navy's funding for next year -- tell them to "Turn Off LFA Sonar" by cutting off its funding.

And please forward this message to your family, friends and colleagues. NRDC used web activism to help generate a million messages of protest to Mitsubishi and, just last year, stopped the company from destroying the last unspoiled birthing ground of the Pacific gray whale.

Congress cannot ignore millions of us. Together, we can keep whales and dolphins safe from high-powered sonar.

Thank you for your time and your concern.

Sincerely yours,

James Taylor
Pierce Brosnan
Jean-Michel Cousteau

For more information about NRDC or
how to become a member of NRDC, please contact us at:

Natural Resources Defense Council
40 West 20th Street
New York, NY 10011
212-727-4511 (voice) / 212-727-1773 (fax)
General email: nrdcinfo@nrdc.org
Earth Action email: nrdcaction@nrdc.org

Interesting Letter to Senator Daniel K. Inouye

Dear Friends of the Whales:

I was really bothered by the it's-all-ok form letter I received from Senator Inouye in response to my concerns about LFA. I am enclosing my answer to his form letter. This guy could really make a difference. We need to put pressure on him to answer the relevant questions. He needs to hear from us all. More than once!
Take care and keep up the good work!
Love and whale spouts, Vivienne

Senator Daniel K. Inouye
U.S. Senate
Suite 722, Hart Senate Building
Washington, DC 20510 June 11, 2001

Dear Senator Inouye
Thank you for your communication. In your letter, you said, "The SURTASS LFA system is viewed as vital to the national security interests of our nation and has received favorable recommendations from many independent experts and institutions." Nevertheless you pledged to work toward the goal of "a favorable accommodation" for both sides. I would like to reflect on these three points:
1) LFA is vital to our national security
2) LFA has received favorable recommendations
3) Your pledge

Before doing so, I believe it might be helpful to mention a glitch in your communication. You addressed me as "Mr. Viverdon Roe". My name is Vivienne Verdon-Roe. I am not a Mr. It would be correct to address me as Ms Verdon-Roe or as Dr. Verdon-Roe. Well, we all make mistakes, but a more careful closer look can help us to get it right. Toward that end let's continue.

1) As far as SURTASS LFA being vital to our national security interests, have you heard that the Navy has two new passive technologies, Advanced Deployment Systems (ADS), which is being tested off the California coast, and another system, Towed Arrays equipped with Acoustic Rapid Commercial-off-the shelf Insertion (ARCI) processing? Both of these systems have the potential to achieve the strategic goal of locating "quiet" submarines without the environmental costs of LFA sonar. Admiral Malcolm I Fages, Director of the Navy's Submarine Warfare Division, touted the progress of these passive systems in congressional hearings, June 2000. Admiral Fages affirmed their ability to detect advanced diesel submarines at ranges previously thought to be "unobtainable". In your prominent position in the senate, as chair of the Subcommittee on Defense in Appropriations, you must have heard that some experts have noted that LFA sonar has the disadvantage of highlighting the location of the source vessel as well as other U.S. ships and submarines. This would compromise our own security by placing our own personnel in jeopardy. In the light of this information LFA sonar seems not to be vital to our national security, but may well be detrimental.

2) Regarding the notion that the LFA sonar system has "received recommendations from many independent experts and institutions", I think we would do well to consider if there were any financial arrangements between the Navy and these "independent" entities. I'll cite what the United States Marine Mammal Commission (1996) had to say about LFA sonar: "If the LFA sonar is made available for world-wide employment as proposed, all species and populations of marine mammals could possibly be affected. The possible effects could include: death from hemorrhage and other tissue trauma; temporary or permanent hearing loss or impairment; disruption of feeding, breeding, nursing, acoustic communication and sensing or other vital behavior, abandonment or avoidance of traditional feeding, breeding or other biologically important habitats; psychological and physiological stress, making animals more vulnerable to disease, parasites and predation." And that's just a sample of the possible negative consequences mentioned by the United States Marine Mammal Commission. In reading the final Environmental Impact Statement you will find that many independent experts and institutions have written to the Navy opposing this technology in no uncertain terms. Please take a look at the more that one thousand (1,000) intelligent informed and impassioned comments. Far from a consensus that LFA sonar is safe, as the Navy claims, the vast majority of comments by experts warn that the Navy has not adequately addressed what the long-term cumulative effects of LFA sonar, at full strength, would be on marine life. Many experts are extremely concerned about the connection between active sonar and mass strandings of whales and other marine mammals. Again this is a crucial subject the Navy has failed to address. The following quote from Drs. Hal Whitehead and Lindy Weilgart, of Dalhousie University, made in 2000, pertains to this issue of mass strandings.

"We have as conclusive evidence as is possible to obtain in a natural setting that noise can be fatal to whales Both the Greek and Bahamian strandings were unpredictable... Given the depths of our lack of knowledge, the only prudent course is to err on the side of caution. If we are to have learned anything from our sorry legacy of DDT, acid rain, global warming, ozone depletion, PCBs over-fishing, etc., it is that we pay long and heavily for blundering recklessly and arrogantly onward and asking questions later. We have been given two strong warnings in the form of these strandings. We ignore them at our own peril." Scientists have described the Navy's EIS as more of a propaganda document designed to justify all the expenditures, than an objective scientific assessment.

3) As to your pledge to work toward a favorable accommodation for both sides, I cannot figure out what you mean. Please tell me what you have in mind. It seems clear that we have the potential for an environmental disaster so the most reasonable course is to apply the Precautionary Principle of no precipitous action. But the Navy is moving to deploy as soon as possible. The Navy has shown no sign of paying any attention to the negative evidence concerning this redundant and potentially catastrophic technology. Since we are in a state of ignorance concerning the long term effects of LFA sonar on marine life, and since the Navy has safer technology available, doesn't it seem to you that it's a needless risk to deploy this technology? Congressional oversight hearings would allow experts to present vital evidence enabling decision-makers to make a better informed, wiser choice. Will you act in support of congressional oversight hearings? Your role as Chair of the Subcommittee on Defense, of the Senate Appropriations Committee, gives you the opportunity to demonstrate wisdom or folly on this global issue. I await your response in hopes that you will turn your careful attention to this matter and address my serious concerns. Sincerely.
Vivienne Verdon-Roe, Ph.D.

Int'l Marine Mammal Project -NOT "Dolphin Safe Tuna Dolphuman contact -Sample letters to send & info What to do -Updates-letters, links on LFAS
LFA Sonar Stop Whaling! NRDC Court Case on LFAS
Alert! -Dolphin Capture, Solomon Islands Future Link Ecstatic Dolphin Journeys with Matisha