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To: Simon Coveney TD, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade. Leo Varadkar, Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, and Deputy Micheál Martin.



Russia has announced its navy will stage an expansive set of hypersonic and missile exercises from the Pacific to the Atlantic involving all of its fleets as a show of strength amid a rise in military tensions with the West. The missile tests will take place in the first week of February off the coast of Cork, but are also planned in the Mediterranean, the North Sea, the Sea of Okhotsk, the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean from the end of January to the end of February.

The Department of Transport has advised that “management of Irish Air Traffic Control Airspace is a matter for the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA)”, who have stated that “all civilian aircraft will be routed away from the area” and has confirmed that a warning, known as a Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM), will be issued to commercial aviation.

Ireland’s minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveny has raised the issue with the Russian ambassador to Ireland Yuri Filatov and is recommending that citizens avoid any unnecessary travel to the country at this time.

The Ocean Research & Conservation Association of Ireland (ORCA Ireland), has also created an Online Petition, which began in 2018, to send to relevant government agencies, seeking to BAN all Military Sonar Activities in Irish waters, and we seek to gain knowledge the types of underwater testing being conducted in Irish waters, so all necessary mitigation measures be put in place to ensure vulnerable deep diving cetacean species are protected.

The location of the Russian naval exercises are taking place approximately 240km off the south west coast of Ireland within the EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) 200 nm limit. According to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), under international law, states are entitled to carry out naval exercises in another states EEZ.

A country has no legal sovereignty over its EEZ, but it does have exclusive rights to exploit the resources contained within it. Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), cetaceans may be considered a “marine living resource” and it explicitly notes migratory marine mammal conservation, stating that member states must “cooperate to conserve, manage, and study such marine mammals (and other migratory species) in the EEZ and the high seas”.

Furthermore, member states should “cooperate with a view to the conservation of marine mammals and in the case of cetaceans shall in particular work for their conservation, management and study”.

The potential risks sonar poses to cetaceans received international attention with a mass stranding of deep diving offshore Cuvier's beaked whales (Ziphius cavirostris), Northen bottlenose whales (Hyperoodon ampullatus) and Sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) across the north and west coasts of Ireland, in October 2018. Following this unusual mortality event (UME), ORCA Ireland expressed concerns about the threats posed to cetacean populations by active sonar and highlighted cetacean mortalities and sonar-related stranding events in other parts of the world.

There is extensive scientific literature detailing direct and indirect links to chronic exposure to military sonar, which may elicit avoidance behaviour, to more severe impacts such as mortality. Deep diving cetacean species are more vulnerable to the impacts of active military sonar, as they spend the majority of their time at great depths and depend heavily on their own bio-sonar for foraging, communication and navigation. Beaked whales can dive to depths of greater than 2000 meters, but when exposed to acute noise pollution, such as the pulses from active sonar testing, they may ascend too rapidly, causing gas bubble lesions to form in their blood vessels and get "decompression sickness", also known as "divers disease" or the "bends".

In more severe cases, permenant and temporary hearing damage may lead to errors in navigation and result in mass strandings, particularly of highly social species such as long-finned pilot whale (Globicephala melas).

Please join us in our efforts to BAN MILITARY SONAR IN IRISH WATERS!!!

Sign the petition below and we will add your signature to the list of ocean warriors that are trying to protect Irish oceans from the harmful impacts of noise pollution.

Why is this important?

We want an investigation to be implemented into the mass stranding of at least 16 offshore deep diving cetaceans, beaked whales which occurred from August 3rd to August 25th 2018, along the north-west coast of Ireland from Co. Mayo, Donegal and Co. Antrim.

Simultaneously, 13 beaked whales stranded off the Scottish coasts and 2 more were reported stranded in Iceland. These are minimum estimates of mortality as they do not account for animals which may have sunk to the seabed or animals stranded in remote places and remain unreported. Previous studies on cetacean carcass drift have suggested that strandings represent a minimum of at sea mortality; depending on drift conditions carcasses may not always wash ashore, thus, the actual number of dead animals may be much higher (Peltier et al., 2014).

Other mass stranding events of beaked whales around the world indicate beaked whales are susceptible to death or injury directly (temporary/permanent hearing damage) or indirectly (gas embolism, ( also known as the 'bends' ) due to extremely loud man-made oceanographic noise such as that produced by low and mid frequency naval sonar and certain types of acoustic survey used to examine the sea floor and below. Mass strandings of beaked whales associated with naval exercises have been recorded in Greece, the Canaries and the Bahamas. With no certain cause of these beaked whale mortalities on Irish shores having yet been established, this needs to be recognised as an unusual mass stranding event (UME) in an effort to identify the potential cause(s) and perhaps prevent future stranding events.

Beaked whales are among the most diverse yet least understood groups of marine mammals.owing to their deep-water oceanic existence and typically inconspicuous surface behavior. Feeding in depths often exceeding 1000 m, most species are rarely seen; some have never been identified alive at sea and are known only from beach-stranded carcasses. According to the IUCN Red List, approximately 40% of marine mammal species are considered Data Deficient, whereas for the Ziphiidae, 90% are Data Deficient. Population trends for all beaked whale species are listed as unknown on the IUCN Red List. Ziphius and Mesoplodon are the two beaked whale genera known to suffer impacts from naval sonar activities. They exhibit strong behavioral responses to certain types of active sonar, resulting in altered movements and space use for prolonged periods after exposure (e.g., several days). In more extreme cases there can be physiological consequences leading to death or stranding. Mass strandings of beaked whales throughout the Northern Hemisphere have been associated with offshore military activity (Moore & Barlow, 2013). It is important that we aim to mitigate these stranding events and reduce human impacts on beaked whales in Irish waters.

Thank you for taking the time to address our concern,

Kind Regards,

Emer Keaveney,
Executive Director, ORCA Ireland.


Maps © Stamen; Data © OSM and contributors, ODbL


2022-01-26 14:30:51 +0000

1,000 signatures reached

2019-02-21 21:46:01 +0000

500 signatures reached

2018-08-23 08:21:58 +0100

100 signatures reached

2018-08-15 12:20:57 +0100

50 signatures reached

2018-08-14 21:53:59 +0100

25 signatures reached

2018-08-14 17:51:59 +0100

10 signatures reached