Whale Dies On Outer Banks Beach, Renewing Sonar Debate

Another whale has beached itself on the Outer Banks, and officials are looking at recent sonar training exercises off the Virginia coast as a possible cause.

A 15-foot female beaked whale had bleeding around both ears, but a scientist who performed a necropsy couldn't say what caused the whale to beach. Sonar can harm whales, including beaked whales that live deep in the ocean off the continental shelf.

A spokesman for Fleet Forces Command says sonar exercises took place about 150 miles offshore of Virginia Beach, about 10 days before the whale got stranded at Kill Devil Hills.

The Navy has proposed building a sonar training range near Camp Lejeune about 50 miles off the coast that would allow its crews to sharpen their submarine hunting skills. But there are concerns about sonar's impact on marine mammals. In January 2005, 37 whales beached and died on the Outer Banks. The Navy said its sonar exercise was several days earlier and more than 200 miles away.