British navy linked to beached whales
BRITISH naval activity off the Scottish coast may have led to the mass beaching of 35 pilot whales on a Donegal island at the weekend.
Tests got under way on the tiny Rutland Island off Burtonport yesterday to determine whether the pod of adult and juvenile whales that washed up on Saturday was the same group being monitored in the outer Hebrides in Scotland last weekend.
Stormy weather has prevented experts from Britain travelling to the remote island to carry out post-mortem examinations.
Simon Berrow of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group confirmed yesterday that deep-diving pilot whales can beach because of gas embolism brought on by acoustic trauma.
"Naval exercises use a low frequency active sonar which is known to affect whales very badly. We are aware that the British Navy had been in the area off Scotland last weekend, although they have not confirmed that exercises were taking place," he said.
A team from the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, led by Dr Ian O'Connor, was on site yesterday to document and photograph the whales.
In the 1960s, 60 whales beached off West Kerry. In 2001, 40 pilot whales beached, off the North Kerry coast. Donegal County Council Road's section will be working closely with the National Parks and Wildlife Service to dispose of the animals, some of which weigh about 1,000kg.