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Norway to conduct whale sound experiment, despite protests

A research team intends to capture a dozen juvenile minke whales off the coast of Norway and use sensors placed on their skin to measure their brain responses in response to sound.

The research team conducting the experiment say it is designed to understand what types of human-made ocean noise affect whales, as human-made sound can impact hearing and behavior. ‘an animal and cause it stress.

“We have virtually no knowledge of their hearing, and it is important that noise regulators know what type of noise might affect them,” Petter Kvadsheim, chief scientist at the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment (FFI), told CNN. He added that the team will not be testing the animals’ noise tolerance, nor their behavioral response to sound.

“We expose them to the lowest sound they can hear to find their hearing threshold, using electrophysiological methods developed for use on newborns,” said Kvadsheim, who is the co-principal investigator of the experience. He added that the experiment is ongoing.

But 50 international scientists and veterinarians have called on the Norwegian prime minister to cancel the trial, writing in an open letter that the capture and duration of the experiment “has significant potential to cause injury and stress, potentially resulting in capture myopathy. ” Capture myopathy is a non-infectious condition in wild and domestic animals in which muscle damage results from extreme exertion, wrestling, or stress, and can be fatal.

“Little is known about the sedation or stunning of wild whales and dolphins, and so it is rarely attempted. Available data indicates that sedation of baleen whales in the wild could be fatal,” said the UK organization Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), which spearheaded the letter, said in a separate statement.

“We already know a lot from observational studies of how high amplitude human-made noise affects baleen whales, so the proposed research is not only dangerous and unethical, it is also redundant, ”they added.

The Norwegian Food Safety Authority, which approved the trial, acknowledged that the experiment of catching the whales, keeping them in an enclosure for 3-4 days and tagging them, “involves distress. and moderate discomfort for up to six hours “.

Ole Aamodt, head of the Norwegian Food Safety Authority’s veterinary department, said the experience was considered to be “moderate” in severity.

‘Animal procedures as a result of which animals are likely to experience moderate short-term pain, suffering or distress, or long-term pain, suffering or mild distress, as well as procedures which may cause Moderate alteration of the well -being or general condition of the animals, are classified as moderately severe, ”Aamodt said.

“There is no indication that this experience should be considered severe,” he added.

“We believe that the purpose of the experiment is well described and justified, and that this justifies the burden on the animals,” he said.

Norway to conduct whale sound experiment, despite protests

But in a statement of concern, the 50 international scientists who signed the letter said it was an “understatement”, adding: “This process is likely to cause considerable stress to the whale, leading to the panic, creating a dangerous situation for whales and humans.

More than 64,000 people have signed a petition calling for an end to the experiment.

“We have gone through a very thorough planning and authorization process to minimize the risk,” Kvadsheim told CNN.

“We expect the animals to experience some level of stress, but we have vets who monitor their health and well-being throughout the procedure. If the animals are in danger or in distress, they will be released. “, he added.

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