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#MarineWildlife - The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) has issued a joint statement with fellow marine wildlife conservation groups on what's been labelled as "an unusual mortality event" involving Cuvier's beaked whales in Scotland and Ireland.

Last month, scientists in Scotland said they were baffled by the "unusually large number" of strandings of the deep-water whale species, rarely seen because they feed so far below the surface.

More recently, the Sunday World reported on further strandings on beaches around Ireland – leading some experts to point the finger at the suspected use of sonar in the British navy's alleged search for a rogue Russian submarine at the end of last year.

The joint statement says there are "many case studies from the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and Mediterranean Sea where mass strandings of this species were linked to exercised using military sonar.

"Furthermore, a controlled exposure experiment has demonstrated prolonged reactions by some beaked whale species to navy sonar."

However, only anecdotal evidence of any naval sonar activity in the affected areas exists, and the Naval Service has told The Irish Times that it had no knowledge of any such activity over that period.

Similarly, the Department of Energy said no seismic surveys had been conducted offshore since October, and that any such surveys – a significant source of underwater noise that can be harmful to cetaceans – must comply with National Parks and Wildlife Service Guidelines.

The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - Could the recent mass strandings of Cuvier's beaked whales in British and Irish waters be connected with the recent real-life 'Hunt for Red October'?

Last month scientists in Scotland were baffled by an "unusually large number" of strandings of the deep-water whale species, rarely seen because they feed so far below the surface.

And as the Sunday World reports, even more have been found washed up on beaches around Ireland since then, amid an alarmingly high rate of cetacean strandings for the start of this year that includes the killer whale beached in Waterford last week.

While the recent severe weather systems from the Atlantic have been suggested as a possible cause, another culprit might be the British navy's search for a rogue Russian submarine at the end of last year.

Mick O’Connell of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) says that loud sonar such as that used to detect submarines can distress deep-diving whales into surfacing too fast and getting 'the bends'.

It's believed that all eight of the beaked whales washed up in Ireland died in the same incident.

Though their actual cause of death cannot be determined, decompression sickness has been suggested as reason for the earlier Scottish whale deaths.

The Sunday World has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - An "unusually large number" of Cuvier’s beaked whale strandings in western Scotland in recent weeks has baffled marine scientists, as The Scotsman reports.

Five of the rarely seen species were found washed up on Scotland's west coast in late December, a five-fold rise on the annual average.

And as Dr Conor Ryan of the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust states, there are "no obvious clues as to what is causing such an obvious increase in strandings."

Recent stormy conditions may be a factor, he said, but alone they don't explain "why we are finding just one deep-diving species in such high numbers."

According to BBC Earth, Cuvier's beaked whales are the deepest diving of any large marine wildlife, plunging almost 3km into the depths in search of food, thanks to a unique physiology that allows them to withstand the crushing pressures and lack of oxygen.

It's possible that the whales may have succumbed to 'the bends' – which killed 14 beaked whales that washed up in the Canaries in 2002 – but the poor condition of the carcasses has ruled out any clues that a postmortem might provide.

The Scotsman has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

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