Submarine tracking exercises performed by NATO in the North Atlantic this summer might be the cause of regular whale strandings this summer, Vísir reports. Nothing can be asserted in these matters but according to Edda Elísabet Magnúsdóttir, a biologist from the University of Iceland, the repeated whale strandings this summer have some hints that they are caused by the NATO training exercises.
“Considering that we know that these submarine training exercises have been taking place in the eastern North-Atlantic, and off the coast of Norway, and these instances have been happening mainly in the eastern North-Atlantic. It’s mostly in the UK isles and Scotland especially where these deep-sea whales have been stranding. Here in Iceland we mainly have the bottle-nosed whale and the pilot whale, as those are our most common deep-sea whales”, Edda commented.
There have been some cases in the Faroe Islands this summer. It is the sounds from the submarines that affect the inner ears of the whales, which leads to whales losing their sense of direction and they’re in turn more likely to strand. “This phenomenon has been extensively researched. If the whales hear noise pulses while deep sea diving they have been known to surface too quickly, and simply contract decompression sickness, so this can simply put be life-threatening for them”, said Edda.
The Icelandic Marine & Freshwater Research Institute has been notified of an unusually high number of whale strandings this year, Vísir reports. Increased military activity, for example exercises, have often been thought the most plausible explanation for increased whale strandings. The institute has received 30 reports so far of whale strandings this year, which is the highest amount since the record year of 2008, when the institute was notified of 38 whale strandings.
“We have also been witnessing some species in increased numbers and other species declining so of course that can be the reason. If you have a higher density of these deep-sea whales then there is a higher chance of having more instances of strandings. But it raises a very large questions mark why so many of them are heading so close to shore this summer”, Edda explained.
Other explanations have been put forward for the increased whale strandings. Edda Elísabet mentioned some of the possible reasons in a short interview with Mbl.is. A desperate search for food might drive the whales closer to shore, while algae poisoning is an unlikely explanation.
NATO anti-submarine warfare exercises have taken place this summer as well as the last one in the North Atlantic, under the name Dynamic Mongoose, The NATO Allied Maritime Command reports.