War Games and a Fragile Ecosystem
A two week long military exercise, which began October 6th, off of the shores of Scotland have many conservation and environmental groups such as the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society worried about the impact that the display will have on the are a's environment and marine life. The military exercise is a joint war game between military forces of the UK and eight allied nations of NATO including the US and France and will feature the display and weaponry of 29 naval battle ships along with 4 submarines and 60 aircraft which are scheduled to fly over 100 missions each day.
The exercise, which is occurring off of the West Coast of Scotland, is designed to practice a scenario of NATO forces launching an attack against a terrorist action sponsored by an enemy state. The main concern of environmental and conservation groups is that the bustle of military activity is taking place in an area that is extremely rich with marine life and a critical area for vulnerable species including 24 varieties of whales and dolphins, such as harbor porpoises and mink whales, as well as other highly threatened marine life including the rare basking shark.
With so much activity taking place in the area, some worry that not only will it disrupt the normal patterns and day to day life of these marine animals, but the loud noises caused by the display could cause considerable harm to the marine life, cetaceans in particular. The weaponry display will include bombing, missile practice, and other showcases of modern weaponry all of which are live amo demonstrations. Whales, dolphins, and porpoises (cetaceans) are extremely vulnerable to sound. The sensitive hearing that they posses help them to navigate, find food, communicate with others, and bond with their offspring and other pod members. Noise pollution such at that caused by the “Joint Warriors" display, can cause considerable damage to whales and dolphins to the extent that some become disoriented, loose the ability to communicate, or become deaf. Noise pollution has even been known to cause severe hemorrhaging, standings, and other related deaths. This use of live rounds also presents a substantial risk for disturbing, injuring, or even killing some of the local marine life.
The exact impact that this enormous amount of noise is causing may be unknown but the risk to the local marine life is very high and has many worried about the devastation that will be left in its wake after the exercise ends on October 16th.