Could British navy hunt for Russian sub be linked to whale deaths?
The mass stranding of rare, deep-diving whales along the coast of Ireland last December could be linked to a reported search by British navy warships for a suspected Russian submarine.
Eight rarely sighted Cuvier’s beaked whales have been found off the Irish coast in recent weeks together with a number of common dolphins, a minke whale, a sperm whale, pilot whales, a fin whale, and harbour porpoises.
The total of 33 whales and dolphins washed up dead on Irish shores so far this year is a record.
Cuvier’s beaked whales are the deepest diving of all whales and dolphins and usually hunt for food many miles off shore. Last year a number of Cuvier’s beaked whale deaths in Crete were thought to be due to military exercises in the area.
Investigations following Britain’s largest mass dolphin stranding in 2008 concluded that the only realistic cause was military exercises taking place in the area at the time.
Noise pollution threatens whale and dolphin populations, interrupting their normal behaviour, driving them away from areas important to their survival, and at worst injuring or sometimes even causing their deaths. For whales and dolphins, ‘listening’ is as important as ‘seeing’ is for humans, yet there are still no international regulations regarding noise pollution in the world’s seas.