Fort Richardson Ordnance Detonations and the Harbor Porpoise: A Case Study in Marine Mammal Bioacoustics
Hearing is extremely important for cetaceans because it is their “principal sense” (Weilgart, 2007) thus the harbor porpoise and other marine animals are highly dependent on sound for survival. This is why we should care about the impact of noise on animals like the harbor porpoise. Since sound travels so well in water, an explosion, sonar, boat noise, etc. can affect a very large area and thus many different species of marine mammals. Although military actions such as low frequency sonar have made recent news, noise has been affecting cetaceans, especially beaked whales, since at least 1991 (Weilgart, 2007).
This study is an investigation of the possible impacts of artillery detonated on land on harbor porpoise hearing and covers some of the history of Fort Richardson, the legal and historical aspects and history of this type of concern, the science and physics of sound, marine mammal hearing and general biology of the harbor porpoise. Data were collected at the Fort Richardson Army base during June of 2007 by researchers from the University of Connecticut and the University of Rhode Island and will be used to determine the possible impacts that these detonations could have on the harbor porpoise.