Junior Heritage Minister Malcolm Noonan has joined a chorus of opposition by those concerned about Russia conducting military exercises off the Irish Coast for the potential impact of sonar on marine life.
In a statement last night, the Minister of State for Housing, Local Government and Heritage said: “I am deeply concerned at the news that military exercises are to be conducted by Russia in the deep seas within Ireland’s Exclusive Economic Area.
"While we do not know the nature of these exercises, we do know that underwater sounds such as active military sonar can have devastating consequences for cetaceans including some of our rarest marine mammal species, notably the deep-diving and rarely-seen Blue whale, Sperm whale and beaked whales,” the Green TD wrote.
"It can cause significant disruption to their hearing systems and normal behaviour, and may lead to permanent or even lethal injury. I have written to both Minister Coveney and the Russian Ambassador to express these concerns.”
He added; “Ireland’s marine mammals have been the focus of considerable research efforts over the last three decades and the understanding of species occurrence, abundance and distribution has improved markedly in that time.
"Most recently the ObSERVE project, run jointly by my Department and the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications, mapped cetaceans through aerial and ship-based surveys over a three year period and across an extensive area of our off-shore waters. The second phase of this project – ObSERVE 2 – is currently ongoing.”
His comments come after Foreign Affairs Minister, Simon Coveney said that plans by Russia to hold navy military exercises off the coast of Ireland next month are "not welcome".
The artillery drills at the start of February will take place in international waters, but within Irish controlled airspace and the country's exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Mr Coveney said the exercises are to take place 240 kilometres (150 miles) off the Irish south-west coast.
Fishermen have also vowed to disrupt the exercises to protect biodiversity and marine life in the area.
Members of the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation (IS&WFPO) are planning to peacefully disrupt Russia’s planned military exercise in waters off the Irish coast.
Their concerns follow comments by Russia’s ambassador to Ireland Yury Filatov this week that the exercises are “nothing to be concerned about”.
During a press conference in Dublin, he said Russia has no plans to invade Ukraine or any other country and that the “real story” is the continuing Nato “propaganda campaign”.