Whales Off Scotland Threatened by Imminent US Military Exercise

October 5th, 2020 - by New York Daily News & Military.com & The Hill

Brits Try to Guide Whales Back to Sea Ahead of Giant Military Training Event

Joseph Wilkinson / New York Daily News & Military.com

 (October 4, 2020) — British wildlife lovers are trying to save five whales that have migrated abnormally close to the Scottish coast. The rescuers are in a race against time because a massive, multinational military exercise is scheduled to start in the area on Monday.

The pod of northern bottlenose whales has been spotted in various lochs in western Scotland near Glasgow, according to British Divers Marine Life Rescue. At least one of the whales has been described as “skinny” due to lack of food in the area, the BBC reported.

Usually, the 30-foot whales spend their time in much deeper waters, diving up to 3,000 feet below the surface. The Scottish lochs they’ve been spotted in are only about 80-feet deep.

BDMLR has been monitoring the whales for a month, but now a giant, twice-a-year NATO military event, called Exercise Joint Warrior, is scheduled to take over the area for 11 days beginning Monday.

“Whales are particularly sensitive to underwater sound,” BDMLR said. Therefore, “the decision has been made to attempt to herd the animals out using a number of boats in formation to get them back to open sea.”

The plan is to make noise to distract the whales and guide them into deeper waters, one volunteer told NBC News.

The effort started strong Thursday, according to a BDMLR update, but the whales reversed course in the evening and the novice nautical shepherds had to refuel and regroup.

Marine Wildlife Experts Attempting to Move Whales Away from UK Naval Exercise

Zack Budryk / The Hill

(October 1, 2020) — British marine wildelife experts plan to attempt to redirect a pod of whales out of the waters of Scotland ahead of major European naval exercises.

Exercise Joint Warrior is scheduled to begin this weekend in a chain of sea lochs on the country’s west coast, but animal rights activists have said sonar from naval ships will place whales at risk, according to The Associated Press.

Ships, aircraft and troops from France, Germany, Turkey, Japan, Canada, the Netherlands and the US are scheduled to be involved in the exercises, which will last through Oct. 15.

The British Divers Marine Life Rescue told the BBC that at least five whales have been seen in the Long Loch area and that some have entered adjacent, smaller bodies of water.

“It is very unusual for them to be in coastal waters, however we have had similar incidents in recent years where animals of the same species have entered lochs, including Loch Long, that have subsequently left of their own accord without intervention, and presumably have succeeded in returning to their proper habitat,” a spokesman told the outlet.

“We recently became aware that a significant military exercise is due to begin next week, and as whales are particularly sensitive to underwater sound, have been concerned about the effect it may have on the animals,” the spokesman added.

British Divers Marine Life Rescue Medics plan to attempt to turn the whales back out to sea using military boats and the group’s rescue boats, according to the AP. However, they said, “there is no guarantee it will be successful, given the depth of water and distance that needs to be covered.”

The animals are northern bottlenose whales, which live predominantly off the west coast of the UK and Ireland.

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