[ exact phrase in "" • results by date ]

[ Google-powered • results by relevance ]


News Home

Subscribe to RSS feed

Add NWW headlines to your site (click here)

Sign up for daily updates

Keep Wind Watch online and independent!

Donate $10

Donate $5

Selected Documents

All Documents

Research Links


Press Releases


Publications & Products

Photos & Graphics


Allied Groups

Wind farms blamed for stranding of whales  

Credit:  By Simon Johnson, The Telgraph, www.telegraph.co.uk 15 March 2011 ~~

Offshore wind farms are one of the main reasons why whales strand themselves on beaches, according to scientists studying the problem.

Environmentalists have blamed submarines’ sonar and a ground-breaking study has confirmed that sonar does disturb the navigation of whales but it has suggested that offshore wind farms, as well as oil rigs, and even passing ships, posed an even greater threat.

Scientists at the University of St Andrews studying beaked whales, a species that frequently becomes beached in Britain, concluded that they were extraordinarily timid creatures that were scared “by virtually anything unusual”, despite being the size of a rhinoceros and weighing the same as a London bus.

The findings suggest that more strandings can be expected as ministers are planning a major expansion in the number of offshore wind farms, especially off the coast of Scotland, which is an area where whales congregate to feed.

In an attempt to gauge the effect of different noises on beaked whales, scientists played sonar sounds to whales in the wild and tracked their responses using an electronic tag attached to the mammals.

The tag measured all the sounds heard by the whales and their subsequent swimming movements.

Prof Ian Boyd, the project’s chief scientist, said: “There has always been an association with sonar and the stranding of beaked whales, but now we really have proof this is the case.

“The sonar sounds that are used in naval anti-submarine exercises to detect submarines probably makes the beaked whales ‘get herded’ and pushed ashore. “But, maybe even more importantly, we have discovered that beaked whales are scared by virtually anything unusual.”

He said other sounds were more dangerous than sonars because they could be heard constantly. This might affect the feeding and reproductive cycles of whales.

“The general levels of sound that humans make in the ocean from all sorts of sources like ships, oil and gas exploration and renewable energy may be a much more serious problem for beaked whales and some other sensitive species,” he said. The research showed the whales were much more responsive to lower levels of sonar than previously thought, and that they moved quickly to avoid the sound.

Prof Boyd concluded that in some unusual circumstances they are unable to escape the area, become confused and disorientated and end up stranded.

Although the beaked whales in the trial had heard sonar before, they were still frightened by it and did not appear to have developed any form of “immunity”.

Now the link between noise pollution and strandings has been proven, he said he hoped new, quieter ships could be designed and their sonar could be switched off when not in use.

About a dozen whales – usually beaked or sperm whales – become stranded in Britain every year.

The Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust, a charity that monitors whales off the Scottish coast, branded the report “crucial” and said scientists were only now beginning to appreciate the mammals’ sensitivity to noise. A spokesman said she was concerned about “loud or persistent” sounds being added to the seas every year in the form of more ships and wind farms.

Correction: whales and wind farms

Scientists studying why whales strand themselves said yesterday there is no known direct link between those strandings and off-shore wind farms, although the construction of turbines may affect the mammals’ behaviour.

Prof Ian Boyd, of the University of St Andrews, said the construction of offshore renewable energy sites is likely to cause some species to move to other areas and to distrub their feeding and reproductive cycles. At present it is not possible to predict precisely how this will affect their populations.

However, he wished to correct a report on this website this week that said there was a proven link between off-shore wind farms and strandings.

The professor said a quotation attributed to him in a press release issued by the university, which discussed strandings related to sonar emissions from naval vessels and which suggested renewable energy sources also contributed to the disturbance of whales, had been taken out of context.

We are happy to make this clear.

Source:  By Simon Johnson, The Telgraph, www.telegraph.co.uk 15 March 2011

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding
Donate $5 PayPal Donate


News Watch Home

Get the Facts Follow Wind Watch on Twitter

Wind Watch on Facebook


© National Wind Watch, Inc.
Use of copyrighted material adheres to Fair Use.
"Wind Watch" is a registered trademark.