Thirty-three whales have died in a mass beaching off the coast of County Donegal, in Northern Ireland, according to the BBC News. Most of them were females and their calves. (There is also a video at this link.)
Scientists are trying to understand how the group of long-finned pilot whales got stranded on Rutland Island, near Burtonport. They believe this is the same pod that was spotted in the Outer Hebrides just a week ago, at the end of October.
The Amazing Pilot Whale
Despite its name, the long-finned pilot whale is actually a member of the oceanic dolphin family. Weighing in at more than three tons, and measuring more than 6 meters in length, these creatures are also amazing divers, capable of reaching depths of up to 600 meters. They have a potential lifespan of more than 50 years.
Pilot whales also have a strong family network, so when just one member of the pod strands, the rest of the group tends to follow, leading to mass stranding like this one.
Sonar Signals Led Them Astray?
But why did that one whale go ashore? Some animal rights’ campaigners believe that Royal Navy sonar equipment could have disturbed the navigational skills of these deep diving whales, leading them to beach themselves.
Sonar Equipment Banned In The U.S.
In the past the Royal Navy has denied that sonar noise from its warships could cause whales to beach. The United States begs to differ. The U.S. Navy was ordered not to use mid-frequency sonar during training exercises from 2007 to 2009, after a judge found in favor of activists who argued that the devices harmed marine mammals in the area.
Scientists are currently taking skin and tissue samples from these whales, so let’s hope they find some answers. What a tragic story.
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