Irish Whale Deaths Likely Caused By Navel Sonar

Up to eight Cuvier's beaked whales have been found dead on Ireland's west coast within a week ( Gareth and Amanda Doherty )

According to expert Dr Simon Berrow, of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, the deaths of five beaked whales found along Ireland’s west coast may have been caused by naval sonar.

Three of the five whales washed ashore in County Donegal on August 4th while another was discovered about 12 miles away. The fifth, was also discovered in County Mayo on the same day.

A stranded Cuvier’s beaked whale on Gola Island, off Co Donegal. Photograph: Donegal IWDG/Facebook

The deaths were attributed to sonar as they were considered highly unusual and all deaths were of the same cause. Dr Berrow told BBC News NI, “To have this number in a single day is certainly highly unusual. Typically, incidents of this kind are associated with acoustic trauma linked to active sonar.”

Beaked whales are the deepest diving whale species in the sea and Dr Berrow mentioned that at species is especially susceptible to sonar activity at such depths.  The whales were unlikely to have died of starvation or disease because they were “chronic conditions that would manifest over a longer period”, he added.

The Irish Navy currently does not have sonar capabilities but the Royal Navy which aligns with the belief the result of death was from military sonar.  Dr Berrow added that, “There is an exercise military zone to the west of Scotland, west of the outer Hebrides. If this event occurred in British waters, which it could easily have done, then these animals drifted towards the Irish coast.”

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