An operation hoping to escort a pod of whales away from the area of a planned navy exercise has been temporarily paused.
A flotilla of boats organised by British Divers Marine Life Rescue is aiming to divert the northern bottlenose whales out of the Gare Loch before activity commences on Exercise Joint Warrior.
Warships have already arrived on the Clyde, prompting fears over the safety of the whales, who are active in waters near Faslane naval base.
Rescuers managed to herd the pod as far as Rhu Point at the loch’s mouth, however the animals then turned back.
A post on the BDMLR Facebook page said: “The whales were successfully herded towards the mouth of the loch earlier today, however as the whales reached Rhu Point, they changed direction and headed back towards Garelochhead.
“The boats have stopped to refuel and regroup, the operation will then continue. With an increasing amount of traffic on the water our spotters on shore are finding it difficult to monitor the movement of the animals.”
A number of navy ships, submarines and aircraft from UK, NATO and other allied forces will take part in training exercises around the Scottish coast from Sunday onwards.
The bi-annual exercise will involve thousands of military personnel.
Update: Whales just spotted 🐳 near Faslane naval base. They don’t seem to want to be herded. The rescue flotilla is away in the distance. pic.twitter.com/6ajukoGlhW
— Ciaran Jenkins (@C4Ciaran) October 1, 2020
Earlier today, a spokeswoman for the Royal Navy said: “The first attempt this morning to move the pod was working well until they reached the Rhu Channel.
“The pod then broke off and went back to Garelochhead. Attempt number two is currently under way.”
A pair of whales first seen in Loch Goil were spotted at the mouth of the Clyde near Millport on the Isle of Cumbrae some weeks ago.
Since then five whales have been spotted in separate locations in Loch Long, with some entering smaller lochs nearby.
Northern bottlenose whales are a deep-diving species normally found off the edge of the continental shelf to the west of the UK and Ireland.
A spokesman for the Royal Navy at Faslane told the PA news agency that members of Queen’s Harbour Master (QHM) Clyde, based at HM Naval Base Clyde, met BDMLR on Wednesday.
Several vessels from the Ministry of Defence Police’s Clyde Marine Unit are involved with representatives from the QHM Clyde organisation – both on the water and in harbour control.
An MoD spokesman also said: “The Royal Navy takes its environmental responsibilities very seriously and continues to work with the relevant UK authorities to ensure all practical measures required to reduce environmental risk and comply with legislation are taken.
“A necessary series of safety checks is observed and an environmental risk assessment is carried out before any underwater task is undertaken by MoD, to minimise any potential risk to marine life.”
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