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How does navy blasting affect marine mammals?

A B.C. conservation biologist wants the Royal Canadian Navy to conduct more research on the effects of underwater blasts on marine mammals.

Dr. Rob Williams is concerned about sound waves from Royal Canadian Navy tests

B.C. conservation biologist Dr. Rob Williams says the Royal Canadian Navy should be working with the scientific community to mitigate the sound effects of underwater testing, but the Navy says its current testing is adequate. (CBC)

A B.C. conservation biologist wants the Royal Canadian Navy to conduct more research on the effects of underwater blasts on marine mammals.

Dr. Rob Williams says scientists have documented whales and porpoises killed by blast effects from underwater tests by the U.S. Navy, but there is little empirical research.

That's why he wants the Canadian navy to work with scientists when it sets off blasts in the ocean around Vancouver Island

"If someone has made the decision that this is in the best interest of Canada's national security, then this is an opportunity to do some experiments," said Williams.

But Danielle Smith, an environment officer with Maritime Forces Pacific, says the navy already uses a bubble curtain to deaden sound waves when it conducts underwater tests at Whirl Bay, near Victoria.

"As part of the field component to obtain the permit from DFO [Fisheries and Oceans Canada] we did have to undertake a study," she said.

Smith says if its surveillance boat spots marine mammals in the area, testing is postponed. She says the navy doesn't see the need for further research.

But Williams says navy studies use mathematical modelling and not empirical evidence to reach their conclusions. He says scientists don't really know how well the bubble curtain works.

On mobile? Click here to see a map near Whirl Bay, Victoria, B.C.

With files from Lisa Cordasco

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