We focused on the potential danger posed to mariners by the NATO exercise Joint Warrior 2016 – 1 which gets underway from midnight tonight but another potential threat is to the environment from pollution or the impact of naval sonar on marine life.
The Hebridean Whale and Dolphin trust has carried out some research on this in recent years and you can find some information on their site (link);
During last years exercise Whale and Dolphin watchers carried our research and observation and it’s to be hoped that this type of monitoring will be undertaken again.
The value of marine mammals and conservation work to protect them has been ongoing for years now. The value of cetaceans to both the eco-balance has never been in doubt but latterly the potential for eco tourism has also been recognised most notably via the ‘Wild Atlantic Way’ project off the North and West of Ireland.
There is little doubt now that concentrated military exercises (and JW 2016-1 is one of the largest for years do have an on impact marine mammals because of the vast array of sonar devices (shipboard, submarine and air dropped) that are deployed.
Nor does the potential for damage end once the exercise has concluded and the military forces that have gathered disperse.
In July 2011 one of the worst examples of whale stranding occurred off the west of Scotland when 19 pilot whales came ashore in the Kyle of Durness 44 others were freed due to the efforts of local people although its thought some of these may have died later. Initially the event was unexplained but it was eventually linked to the destruction of unexploded ordnance left over from military exercises in the area. After a thorough enquiry DEFRA concluded that the explosion of the devices damages the mammals hearing and ability to navigate (link);
It took four years to publish the findings which put some distance between the incident and the conclusions. However similar events could occur again and one has to ask of all the areas that NATO spans why it seems to concentrate its exercise activity so regularly in the sea areas of the west of Britain.
Are the coastal communities of Scotland, Ireland, Wales and Mann a ‘soft touch’? Does our environment not matter?
Image: Twelve of the 19 pilot whales which stranded at the Kyle of Durness following disposal of four large unexploded bombs in the area.
Issued by: The Manx branch of the Celtic League
TEL: 01624 877918 or 07624 491609
THE CELTIC LEAGUE
The Celtic League established in 1961 has branches in the six Celtic Countries including our own Mannin branch. It promotes cooperation between the countries and campaigns on a range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, military activity and socio-economic issues
The link for the main web pages is below: