• July 3, 2015


In 2008 we highlighted the environmental damage the British Military had caused at Cape Wrath in Northern Scotland . At that time fires in the coastal area used for military exercises caused by live firing of munitions got out of control and caused over 400 acres of environmentally sensitive heath land to be damaged the MOD themselves admitted that the damaged area would take some years to regenerate.

Today it was revealed that the deaths of a large number (at least 19) of long finned Pilot Whales near the range in 2011 was caused by military activity (the disposal of ordnance on the sea bed) at the military range.

There is a news report here.

There is also a much more comprehensive report on the stranding and death of the mammals at this site.

It is the fourth pdf file at that link which contains the assessment of the sequence of events that led to this significant loss of marine life.

With characteristic understatement the marine scientists employed by DEFRA to draw up the report suggest how such events can be avoided henceforth by adopting the following measures in ‘mitigation’:

“1) Consider deployment of acoustic monitoring equipment in the waters around Garvie Island to properly characterise the extent and magnitude of the detonation blast profile. Systems for real time monitoring are available and this is probably more effective in the long term and more reliable in poor weather.
2) Consider deployment of passive acoustic monitoring equipment as a tool to assess the presence of ecolocating odontocetes in the critical area.
3) Train and use marine mammal observers to be stationed on appropriate vantage points to scan for cetaceans along a section of coastline either side of Garvie Island . Develop systems for relaying this information to the NDG.
4) Improve communication systems between members of the disposal team and shore based observers.
5) Wherever possible, use a type of charge to deactivate the device which burns out rather than explodes the target device. This was suggested by members of the NDG as a technique routinely used in some parts of the world. It has a good success rate, but no significant extra cost in terms of time, resources or diver safety. Given the potential damage to marine life from the ‘high order’ explosions of conventional disposal techniques, it is questionable why this method has not been used routinely in the past.
6) Avoid serially detonations in a small time window.”

With the greatest of respect to these eminent scientists the one certain way to avert future environmental vandalism by the military in the Cape Wrath area is to close the range facility completely.

Ironically this range is so ‘valuable’ to NATO because most other member States including the US will not have this sort of military live firing activity in their own backyard. As we recorded several years ago the activity by the US in particular was stepped up because protests forced them to close their own ranges off Puerto Rico .

NATO regularly uses the area of North and West Scotland for military exercises and the deaths of significant numbers of marine mammals stranded on washed ashore in both Western Scotland and North West Donegal are most likely attributable to military exercises involving the use of live explosives or high powered sonar’s.

J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information
Celtic League


(Please note that replies to correspondence received by the League and posted on CL News are usually scanned hard copies. Obviously every effort is made to ensure the scanning process is accurate but sometimes errors do occur.)


The Celtic League was established in 1961 and has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It works to promote cooperation between these countries and campaigns on a broad range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, monitors all military activity and focuses on socio-economic issues

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