whale.jpgFor years, environmentalists and the U.S. Navy have been duking it out over a new class of ultra-loud sonars -- and whether the machines are bad for the local whale population. The Navy says it needs the active sonars, to track quiet, electric submarines that roam coastal waters. But the devices can crank up to 238 decibels -- 4.3 billion times as loud as the sounds that can cause people pain. Green groups say that whales, which rely on their hearing to mate, feed, and navigate, are effected even more dramatically. Sometimes, they even run aground as a result.The Navy has long disputed that its sonars have harmed any whales. But now, according to the Washington Post, the service "has acknowledged that vessels on maneuver off Hawaii last month used their sonar periodically in the 20 hours before a large pod of melon-headed whales unexpectedly came to shore.""There is no evidence of a relationship here between the sonar use and the whale behavior," a Navy spokesman said.

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