A male Orca found badly decomposed on a beach near the Hebrides missile range at West Gerinish off the coast of Scottish's South Uist island on 30 January 2015 Photo: Mike Merritt / Steve Duffield

By  Ben Farmer, Defence Correspondent
6 Feb 2015

(The Telegraph) – The secretive hunt for a suspected Russian submarine of the Scottish coast may have led to a spate of whale and dolphin deaths, conservationists have alleged.

Dozens of whales and dolphins have been washed up dead on the coasts of Scotland and Ireland in the past two months, and their deaths may be linked to military sonar used in the search, a protection group has said.

The sighting of a suspected Russian submarine sparked a major military operation to track the mystery vessel in late November.

Warships, patrol planes, and submarines are all believed to have joined the search, which continued into January.

Fifteen Cuvier’s beaked whales, which dive deeply and are known to be affected by sonar, are among the mammals washed up over the same period. Common dolphins, a minke whale, a sperm whale, pilot whales, a fin whale, and harbour porpoises have also washed up.

Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), said the mass stranding “could be linked to a reported search by British navy warships for a suspected Russian submarine.”

It said: “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.”

However one Naval source said the link was “pretty tenuous” because the search had not involved active sonar.

He said: “We have not been pumping sound out into the ocean. This was a much broader game of cat and mouse using sonars that just listen.” […]

Peter Evans, a whale expert at from the SeaWatch Foundation, said active sonar had been shown to affect whales and change their diving patterns, but it was very difficult to get evidence for individual cases.

He said: “Although people do tend to point the finger at sonar, and sometimes they might be right, you can’t be certain of what it is.” [more]

Hunt for Russian sub may have caused spate of whale and dolphin deaths



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