HWDT monitor Joint Warrior exercises in the Hebrides
Joint Warrior is a UK led tri-service multinational exercise that involves numerous warships, aircraft, marines and troops. It is the largest military exercise in Europe, bringing together all three services, plus other nation’s forces. These exercises typically occur twice a year, in the spring and autumn months.
HWDT believe that it is incredibly important to monitor cetacean presence during these exercises, we have been conducting dedicated Joint Warrior surveys since 2009. Military sonar, used during the exercises emits intense loud noise that can disturb and harm whales and dolphins, which rely on their sensitive hearing to navigate, find food and communicate. As the only organisation collecting long term monitoring data in this area, we are best placed to observe the potential effect of naval activities.
Our spring joint warrior survey took place from 1st to 7th April. During the seven-day survey, we covered an impressive 405.6 km, with our citizen scientists spending over 33 hours on effort, whilst also collecting over 33 hours of acoustic recordings.
Forty three recordings of military sonar were made, with 24 of those recordings ranked as loud to loud enough to obscure other oceanic sounds by our volunteers.
During the survey, there were 18 marine mammal sightings of nineteen individuals. Harbour porpoise were the most commonly sighted marine mammal with eight sightings of nine individuals. We also counted 1699 birds during the survey, with many oceanic birds returning for the summer season. Razorbills were the star of the survey with over 1,000 seen in one day!
We also visited some spectacular anchorages, appreciating the sunset at Dunvegan on the Isle of Skye, and enjoying the beaches on Sanday, the island next to Canna.
All of the volunteers on board were awesome! Even when the weather meant that we couldn’t survey (in a Northerly force 9) we played games, learnt new ID skills and ate a lot of cake! Thanks to all of you - you were so much fun! We couldn’t collect this new and vital data without you.
Thanks also to Scottish Natural Heritage who help fund the data collection programme aboard Silurian.
Feeling inspired to get involved with our marine conservation efforts? Alongside our standard Expedition Surveys, we also have another Joint Warrior monitoring survey scheduled for the Autumn. Come and join us on board for your chance to contribute to our research and encounter some of the amazing wildlife we have in our waters!