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Military exercise begins after concern for whales in Gare Loch

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media captionAn attempt was made on Thursday to move the whales out to sea

A military exercise has gone ahead following unsuccessful attempts to herd whales away from its base on the west coast of Scotland.

Rescuers feared bottlenose whales in the Gare Loch could be sensitive to ship sonar.

However, as the exercise is taking place in deep waters beyond the loch, rescuers confirmed they had "no major concerns" on Monday.

The whales returned to the area despite three attempts to move them.

image copyrightReuters
image captionWhales could still be seen in the area on Friday

Warships, aircraft, marines and troops from the UK, Nato and allied forces will take part in the military exercise named Joint Warrior, which is due to run until 15 October.

It is the largest military training exercise in Europe and began one of its bi-annual operations on Saturday.

Under normal circumstances, several vessels would berth at headquarters at Faslane.

A spokesman for the Military of Defence confirmed that only one Nato ship sailed to HM Naval Base Clyde on this occasion due to Covid restrictions.

It then met a number of other vessels - mostly from the Royal Navy's Carrier Strike Group - out on deeper waters further north to carry out the exercise as planned, he confirmed.

Other vessels will be berthed elsewhere - including at Glasgow's King George V Dock and in Greenock.

'No effort' to swim out

The British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) previously said there was "circumstantial evidence" to suggest there were five whales in the area, but only three were so far confirmed to be in Gare Loch.

The charity raised concerns that the whales had spent a long time in the area, which is not their natural habitat, and that one of the whales looked "skinny".

image copyrightSTEVE TRULUCK AT SEA

Over time, it is feared the whales could grow weak and may not have the strength to make the journey back out to sea.

Rescuers from the BDMLR attempted to move the whales using a number of boats in formation on Thursday.

However, the animals swam back to the Gare Loch and remained in the area over the weekend.

Heidi Holland, area co-ordinator for Argyll and Bute, said the charity would continue to monitor their movements.

image copyrightReuters

"If the whales try to leave the Gare Loch, the exercise could push them back - but as it stands they are making no effort to make their way out," she said.

"Given the current location of the exercise, we have no major concerns. As it is much further out the land should protect the whales from any damaging effects."

Related Topics

  • Ministry of Defence
  • Whales
  • Marine conservation

More on this story

  • Rescuers' efforts to herd whales from Gare Loch 'unsuccessful'