Silurian Field Season Begins
Silurian – the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust (HWDT) research vessel – will set sail on the 2nd April to survey for marine mammals during the NATO Joint Warrior Military Exercise. This monitoring expedition marks the start of the 2017 field season aboard Silurian.
The crew will be joined aboard by a team of citizen scientists from the UK and USA to conduct visual and acoustic surveys; the data collected will be used to determine any effects on the behaviour and occurrence of marine megafauna during the bi-annual exercise.
Joint Warrior is a massive UK led exercise conducted annually in the Spring and the Autumn in the waters off the west coast of Scotland.
Military sonar, used during the exercises, emits intense noise that can disturb and harm whales and dolphins, because they rely on sound for navigation, foraging and communication. Naval sonar, more commonly linked to mass stranding events of deep diving whales, has also been associated with minke whale strandings in the Bahamas and in North Carolina.
Lauren Hartny-Mills, HWDTs Science Officer, says “During previous surveys, which have coincided with the Joint Warrior exercises, HWDT has observed minke whales moving at high speed and leaping clear of the water, at the same time as military sonar was detected on the hydrophone (an underwater microphone). This behaviour is unusual here and is rarely seen in undisturbed whales. The long term impact of such disturbances or exposure to sonar are largely unknown.”
On the west coast of the US, close to Seattle, similar rapid fleeing behaviour in response to sonar has been observed in killer whales and dolphins.
During the exercise, the Trust is asking people in the area to be vigilant and report any sightings of marine mammals in the area. You can report sightings on the HWDT website (www.hwdt.org) HERE or call the office on 01688 302620.
Pippa Garrard, HWDTs Community Engagement Officer, adds, “Hebridean communities play a vital role in increasing our understanding of marine mammals on the west coast of Scotland. With such a large survey area, HWDT depends on the public to report their encounters. Please take the time to report your sightings, and let us know of any behaviours observed. We will also be monitoring sightings reports, for any indications of stress, in order to prevent mass-strandings or injury to cetaceans in the area. If you see an animal in distress, please contact BDMLR on 01825 765546.”
If you are keen to participate in the Autumn Joint Warrior Survey and contribute to this vital monitoring project, please CLICK HERE.
You can track Silurian live HERE using AIS. Follow her as she undertakes marine mammal surveys in the waters off the west coast of Scotland.
Image of two common dolphins and warships taken during Oct 2016 Joint Warrior Survey