The Government has recommended that unexploded bombs located in the sea should be detonated quietly to protect whales, dolphins and porpoises. The announcement comes following a long running campaign championed by actress Joanna Lumley that WDC has supported.
The Stop Sea Blasts campaign called for a change in the way unexploded war munitions found in the water are disposed of, instead using deflagration technology that drastically reduces the underwater noise caused when a bomb is detonated.
It is thought that around 100,000 tonnes of unexploded wartime munitions still sit on the ocean floor in UK waters. Scientists calculated that detonations in the North Sea are injuring and possibly killing thousands of porpoises every year. The disposal blasts can cause injuries to marine mammals, damage their hearing and affect their navigation and communication within their groups. This can lead to stranding on shorelines.
In 2011, 19 long-finned pilot whales stranded and died at the Kyle of Durness, Scotland, after they entered the bay at high tide. The report into the stranding concluded that bomb disposal operations in the area in the days leading up to the tragedy were likely to have caused the whale strandings.
The new Government policy paper published states that the effects of noise associated with blasts are “key environmental concerns’, and that alternative lower noise methods were preferred. Whilst it is good news that whales and dolphins may now be protected from munitions exploding underwater, there are still some unanswered questions around the use of deflagration, including potential for toxic pollution. But there should be less noise pollution as a result of this decision.
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