Did MoD inadvertently kill whales off the Scottish coast?

Exercise Joint Warrior

Sowerby’s beaked whales have been found stranded and dead on the Lothian coast and northern bottlenose whales have suffered the same fate, one at Stornoway in the Western Isles and two in the Clyde sea lochs . Marine experts believe that they had died from decompression sickness which is commonly called the bends. They’re both deep diving species and recently NATO has been conducting wargames around the Scottish coast. Experts are wondering whether the two events can be linked. There are two possibilities as to why the wargames might have killed these whales. Firstly, sonar can force whales from the deep too quickly which can cause gas bubbles to form throughout their tissue includiing lung, liver and intestinal tissues. Secondly, the noise created by firing live rounds can have the same effect, it is believed.

Exercise Joint Warrior

Exercise Joint Warrior. Photo: Forces.net website.

Investigators from the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme are making enquiries of the MoD following the recent Joint Warrior naval exercises. The exercise ended on October 15 and it was tracked by the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust on their vessel Silurian using hydrophones and other equipment. Most of the exercise took place around Scotland’s north, north-west and north-east coasts. Regarding a different occassion, naval sonar is being investigated as a cause for more than 90 whales being washed up along the Scottish, Irish and Icelandic coasts in 2018. Comment: it is disappointing that a two-year investigation remains incomplete. Surely two years is long enough?

The Navy said that they do all they can to ensure that their sonar does not damage marine life and that they take their environmental responsibilities very seriously. The exercise involved 11 nations with 28 warships, two submarines and 81 aircraft.