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Beached Whales Confused by Navy Sonar?

Scientists in Ireland are trying to establish how and why 33 pilot whales, mostly mothers and calves, beached themselves and died on Rutland Island. This is one of the biggest mass whale deaths of these animals in Irish history.

“These whales had been around the area for a few days,” said Dr. Simon Berrow, coordinator of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group. “Local people had been going out to see them. A group of around 30 pilot whales had been being monitored in the outer Hebrides, Scotland last weekend for fear of their live-stranding. This may be the same group.”

The fear was that the whales would become confused or actively injured by sonar being used by the British Navy, which was conducting exercises in the same area.

A spokesperson for the Royal Navy said when the whales were spotted, the closest ship was 50 miles away.

But in the United States, the U.S. Navy was ordered not to use mid-frequency sonar during training exercises from 2007 and 2009, after a judge found in favor of campaigners who argued the devices harmed marine mammals in the area.