Activists have criticised the Royal Navy for harming whales and other sea animals by blowing up bombs underwater.
An earlier report from the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) blamed the deaths of 19 whales in Scotland on the Navy’s detonation of undersea explosives. According to Defence Procurement Minister Jeremy Quin, there’s been 107 controlled underwater explosions in British waters over the past 10 years.
However, while checks are carried out to ensure there’s no wildlife in the area, the wide-spanning impact of these detonations can harm mammals like whales and dolphins as far as 30km away, with as many as 60 animals becoming deaf with every one explosion, campaigners say.
The majority of bombs are German explosives that fell to the seabed during the Second World War. The Navy clears them – aka detonates them – when they’re found in the way of construction plans or if they pose any nautical hazards.
As reported by The Times, Quin revealed the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has acquired more than 600 systems designed to handle the bombs without an explosion, making for a more humane means of clearing ordinance. However, this ‘low order deflagration’ hasn’t been used by the Navy at all.
‘Low order deflagration’ involves the use of a charge which burns through the casing of the bomb itself, igniting the explosives inside without causing a blast that ripples through the sea.
This offers a ‘substantial reduction in acoustic output over traditional high-order methods, with the peak sound pressure level and sound exposure level observed being typically more than 20 dB lower’, scientists earlier found in a National Physical Laboratory study.
Defra’s 2015 report explained how the loudness of an explosion can damage hair cells in the ears of whales, leaving them ‘functionally deaf… long-finned pilot whales are known to follow other members of the pod and appear to spook relatively easily’, as per The Guardian.
Danny Groves, from the Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) non-profit organisation, said, ‘We support the use of less damaging methods of ordnance clearance and the MoD should be no exception. As our allies in the fight against climate change, we should be looking to protect whales not destroy them.’
In response to the criticism, an MoD spokesperson said, ‘We support the use of less damaging methods of ordnance clearance and the MoD should be no exception. As our allies in the fight against climate change, we should be looking to protect whales not destroy them.’