Attempts are to be made to herd a whale pod to safety as warships and submarines arrive on the Clyde ahead of a major international military exercise.
Rescuers will use boats to try to guide the northern bottlenose whales back out to sea from Loch Long as there are concerns that the navy activity could put them in danger.
A number of ships have already arrived on the Clyde ahead of Exercise Joint Warrior, which begins next week.
The FS Premier Maitre L’Her docked alongside Azamara cruise liners in Glasgow’s King George V dock yesterday, joined by NS Leopold of Belgium on Thursday morning.
They’re the first of eight frigates from navies around the world to head for the dock in preparation for the training drills, which will involve thousands of military personnel.
A number of other ships will be based at Faslane, with aircraft also set to be involved.
On a cold & wet day, a very warm welcome to the French 🇫🇷 Warship FS PREMIER MAÎTRE L’HER who has arrived into #KGV this morning before Exercise Joint Warrior 202 #JW202 – Bienvenue à #Glasgow @MarineNationale @FRDefence_UK @FranceintheUK @cgfEdimbourg @NATO_MARCOM @PeelPorts pic.twitter.com/7BLK4V3KLQ
— RN in Scotland (@RNinScotland) September 30, 2020
Belgian frigate BNS Leopold 1 arriving Clyde this morning for Joint Warrior exercise @jointwarrior @RoyalNavy @BelgianNavyDOPS #frigate #jointwarrior #shipping #naval #clyde #scotland pic.twitter.com/fae3ESc8o7
— sheila weir (@WeirSheila) October 1, 2020
— Iain Cameron (@ScotlandDX) September 30, 2020
The British Divers Marine Life Rescue Medics (BDMLR) have been monitoring the whale pod for the last month in and around the River Clyde.
A pair of whales first seen in Loch Goil were then spotted at the mouth of the Clyde near Millport on the Isle of Cumbrae.
Since then five whales have been spotted in separate locations in Loch Long, with some entering smaller lochs nearby.
The team, with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and locals, has been carrying out routine monitoring of the whales to prevent any disturbances to them.
The MoD alerted the BDMLR to the planned Exercise Joint Warrior in the area and, as whales are particularly sensitive to underwater sounds, the rescuers hope to herd the animals out to sea using a number of boats on Thursday.
A spokesman for BDMLR said: “This will be a very carefully planned operation carried out under our licence from NatureScot for exactly this type of situation where we need to try to move free swimming cetaceans to safety.
“This of course does come with risks of its own and there is no guarantee it will be successful given the depth of water and distance that needs to be covered, so will be undertaken with as much care as possible.
“We will of course reassess our actions and options if the whales decide that they will not go.
“We are very grateful for all of the support the team has had from the local residents and boat operators who have offered their assistance with this, as well as the MoD, who will be joining the BDMLR rescue boat coming in from Fife to carry out this operation.
“All we can do now is wish everyone involved the very best and hope for a positive outcome.”
Northern bottlenose whales are a deep-diving species of cetacean normally found off the edge of the continental shelf to the west of the UK and Ireland.
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