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Sonar was being tested when whales were beached

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The U.S. Navy is now confirming that the day three whales were beached in Southern Guam, sonar testing was in fact being conducted. But Joint Region Marianas is waiting for test results to confirm whether in fact there's a connection.    

Michael O'Connell was doing construction work on his friend Steve Addison's property in Merizo Monday morning when all of a sudden he saw a whale stuck on the reef. Immediately he along with his friends dropped what they were doing called the proper authorities and rescued the beaked whale. But that wasn't the only rescue that day - one of O'Connell's friends also rescued another beaked whale also in the Merizo area.

And yet there was another report of a beaked whale in Merizo, but that one didn't make it alive.

According to Department of Agriculture biologist Brent Tibbats, these types of whales generally live in the open ocean or in deep water. Tibbats adds that beaked whales are associated with underwater sounds such as sonar which have caused them to beach in the past.

O'Connell's hoping that's not the case, telling KUAM News, "You really can't speculate on what happened; it's really unfortunate, all three of them beached themselves. We are lucky to get two back out, who knows what's at fault."

So could the incident with the whales really be linked to sonar testing? KUAM News spoke Friday with Captain Shan Byrne, the commodore of Destroyer Squadron 15, who confirms that they had sonar exercises during a multi-sail exercise. The training is described as an exercise designed to assess combat systems, improve teamwork and increase war fighting capabilities in the 7th Fleet area of responsibility. Participating in the exercise for the first time was the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, nearly 2,400 sailors, 8 ships participated in the exercise in and around waters near Guam from March 23-27.

Byrne said, "We did use some sonar training while we were out here we focused some training on anti-submarine warfare; we also anti-surface warfare and anti-air defense warfare, so all the key skills but we did do some sonar training, yes."

So, if sonar was used in the exercise which started this past Monday, the same day the beaked whales were beached could there be a link? According to Joint Region Marianas spokesperson Lieutenant Tim Gorman, he does not believe it is related. He adds the sonar testing was conducted at 10am on Monday 15 miles northwest of Apra Harbor. He adds however the Navy is waiting for test results from the Department of Agriculture for final determination.   

The beached whales were reported to authorities at 10:30.

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