The findings of a government investigation into the causes of a mass stranding of pilot whales in the Kyle of Durness, Scotland in 2011 are set to be released according press reports.
In July 2011, WDC assisted British Divers Marine Life Rescue in a long and difficult rescue where we successfully returned 44 pilot whales to the open ocean. Unfortunately more than 20 whales died as a result of the stranding which occurred in an area where military activities were taking place. WDC understand that post mortems carried out on the scene showed that, with the exception of one whale, all of the whales were healthy. The Navy have denied claims they were to blame for the deaths despite claims that large 1000lb explosives were used around the time of the stranding.
After the stranding, WDC formally requested a full investigation, which Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) have now undertaken. WDC also requested details from the MOD of the types of activities that were being conducting in the area at the time, and the size of the detonations that were taking place.
For a number of years WDC has been calling on the MOD to undertake a Strategic Environmental Assessment of all its activities that take place in its two offshore exercise areas in the UK – one of which is off the west coast of Scotland and includes the Cape Wrath range.
WDC reiterates that such an assessment is now critical to ensure that the management and mitigation of all MOD activities are fit for purpose and can protect Scotland’s valuable marine wildlife. In addition the MOD should review its activities around Cape Wrath and ensure that management and mitigation are sufficient to ensure the safety of whales and dolphins in the area – such measures might include aerial surveys in the vicinity before clearance is given to detonate explosives, to ensure the area is clear of whales, dolphins and other marine wildlife.
WDC eagerly awaits the release of the final report from Defra.