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By: Sarah Sharkey
Off the coast of southern California, fishermen are throwing bombs. Yes, legitimate bombs, at seals and sea lions. The purpose is to scare them away from nets that they might otherwise raid. It does work, because who wouldn’t be scared away by a bomb being thrown at you!
According to SCUBA divers, the sound carries for kilometers underwater and the passing acoustic wave feels like a punch in the chest. SCUBA dives have started to avoid areas where they can see commercial fishing boats to avoid the bombs. Unfortunately, the seals and sea lions aren’t so lucky. They need to be in the same area because those boats are hunting for the same food source.
The practice is lawful under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The act allows for fishermen to use nonlethal methods as a deterrent to gear or catch damage. Apparently, bombs are allowable in this endeavor.
The bombs don’t just affect seals and divers, the blasts are also physically damaging whales in the area. A study in 1989 by NOAA on dolphin carcasses, showed severe impacts of these blasts. They witnesses pulverized muscles and shattered bones at close range bombs. No research has been able to be done on live mammals near the blast zones, so the practice will persist until there are facts to back up the argument that the practice should be stopped.
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