From British daily The Independent:
By Emily Beament, Press Association
Tuesday, 16 June 2009
Naval exercises could have contributed to the mass stranding of 26 dolphins on the Cornish coast a year ago, a scientific report found today.
The pod of dolphins beached themselves at four separate locations around the Percuil river near Falmouth in June last year after Navy exercises in the area involving surface ships and a submarine.
At the time, rescuers said they believed the worst mass stranding of the marine mammals in UK waters was the result of the dolphins being panicked by an underwater disturbance. …
Sarah Dolman, ocean noise campaigner for WDCS, said: “The post-mortem results have shown us that those [common] dolphins that died were healthy animals prior to stranding.
“Something frightened them ashore, way up inside the river system, where this species in not generally known to go.
“The unusual behavioural response of all these groups of otherwise healthy animals was triggered by something.
“An ‘error of navigation’ would not lead this many dolphins to strand, and other groups to behave in such an unusual manner, on the same morning – but over a distance of 20km.”
She called on the Ministry of Defence to conduct transparent environmental assessments of its exercises to see what effect they were having on marine life, and to suspend use of sonar once a stranding occurs until rescued animals are out of danger.
The mass beaching in Cornwall was one of two unusual stranding events of cetaceans – the group of marine mammals including whales, dolphins and porpoises – last year.
No cause could be found for the other event, in which a number of long-finned pilot whales and various species of beaked whale were found stranded in Scotland, Wales and Ireland over a three-month period at the beginning of 2008.
The annual report for 2008 from the UK Cetacean Stranding Investigation Programme, also published today, revealed the number of dead and stranded whales, dolphins and porpoises increased by 6.2% on the previous year.
Some 583 cetaceans were reported to the programme, of which 485 were found stranded and dead, 81 were live strandings and 17 were found dead at sea.
The most common species reported were harbour porpoises which were mainly found to have died of starvation, disease, attacks by bottlenose dolphins or as a result of being accidentally caught by fishermen, and short-beaked common dolphins, which mostly died as a result of stranding themselves live, the report revealed.
New Sub “War” Range May Harm Rare Whales, Critics Say: here.
Vast Mediterranean driftnets killing thousands of dolphins illegally: here.
Killer whales visit ‘social clubs’: here.
Northern bottlenose whales strandings: here.