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Risso's dolphin at surface

My lucky number – 13 years studying amazing Risso’s dolphins

Everything we learn about the Risso's dolphins off the coast of Scotland amazes us and...
Dead sperm whale in The Wash, East Anglia, England. © CSIP-ZSL.

What have dead whales ever done for us?

When dead whales wash up on dry land they provide a vital food source for...
Risso's dolphin © Andy Knight

We’re getting to know Risso’s dolphins in Scotland so we can protect them

Citizen scientists in Scotland are helping us better understand Risso's dolphins by sending us their...
Pilot whales pooing © Christopher Swann

Talking crap and carcasses to protect our planet

We know we need to save the whale to save the world because they are...
Fin whale (balaenoptera physalus) Three fin whales Gulf of California.

Speaking truth to power – my week giving whales a voice

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting is where governments come together to make decisions about whaling...

Why do whales and dolphins strand on beaches?

People often ask me 'why' whales and dolphins do one thing or another.  I'm a...
A spinner dolphin leaping © Andrew Sutton/Eco2

Head in a spin – my incredible spinner dolphin encounter

Sri Lanka is home to at least 30 species of whales and dolphins, from the...
Orca (ID171) breaches off the coast of Scotland © Steve Truluck.

Watching whales and dolphins in the wild can be life changing

Whales and dolphins are too intelligent, too large and too mobile to ever thrive in...

Important developments for naval sonar and impacts of pile driving

WDC was pleased to be asked to present at the first public forum (that I know of) on Sea Mammals and Active Sonar Symposium this week. You can see our contribution: sonar_symposium_2015.pdf. This is the first of two big noise developments that I want to mention.

Whilst we are always impatient for developments to mitigate impacts to move more quickly, and for navies to develop more robust planning strategies, it was a very welcome step that European (Norway, Netherlands, UK, France, Germany, Denmark and Sweden) and US Navies gathered to discuss the management measures that they each undertake to protect marine life during military exercises. Such collaboration and focus on robust ways to mitigate behavioural  impacts, as well as injury, is a solid step forward.

Things are less encouraging on the pile driving front. We now have the first calculated evidence of the potential for harbour porpoise populations to be seriously affected by the accumulation of pile driving undertaken to build wind farms by all nations in the North Sea. The report states that the impacts of seismic surveys for oil and gas deposits are of the same order of magnitude as piling to install wind farms.

Impacts for both avoidance (disturbance) and injury have been presented. The results predicted average reduction in the North Sea porpoise population of 23% from 2016 to 2022 under one scenario provided in the scientific report. This study does not consider the additional impacts that porpoises and seals face other than pile driving or seismic surveys, such as those due to pollution, being caught in fishing nets or because of reductions in prey availability.

The UK and devolved governments need to seriously consider this important scientific report – and revise their current marine mammal mitigation policies accordingly. The existing German mitigation measures to reduce the noise at the source (which are much more advanced and precautionary than those adopted in the UK) lead to a major reduction in porpoises that are disturbed. To be able to meet our legal commitments, and to protect porpoises and seals from disturbance and injury, all countries in Europe need to make much more effort to reduce noise pollution at the source when building offshore wind farms – either by not piling or by using source reduction mitigations.  

WDC have continuously raised concerns about the potential impacts of pile driving to porpoises and other species.