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Volunteer for active service – WDCS and HWDT need YOU!

Wild Scotland members, WDCS, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society and the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust (HWDT) are calling for volunteers to join their research team to help monitor the effects on whales and dolphins of NATOs latest Joint Warrior military exercise, which takes place off the west coast of Scotland this October.   

With environmental concerns growing following the unusual and worrying behaviour recorded during WDCS and HWDT field work in the region last May (2009), the two charities are once again uniting forces to record the potentially negative effects of these naval activities on whales and dolphins, and have launched an appeal today for volunteers to help.    

The boat survey will run from 4th – 13th October and both charities are looking for people who can assist with vital onboard data collection.  As part of the research team, you will be fully trained in scientific study methods and will help us to collect visual observations of the amazing marine wildlife in this beautiful part of Scotland. You will also learn about acoustic research and help to monitor the underwater sounds of the deep.

The cost of participation is £800.00 per person and includes your berth on the Silurian, HWDT’s specialised research vessel, and all your meals for the duration.   

Joint Warrior is a major exercise led by the UK and involves 12 NATO and Allied Nations.  At-sea operations are conducted for two weeks and occur twice every year, with up to 85 aircraft, 22 ships and 3 submarines taking part in the massive international exercise.  Military sonar used during the exercises emits intense, loud noises that can disturb and harm whales and dolphins, which rely on their sensitive hearing to navigate, find food and communicate.  

On the 12th May this year, the joint field research team observed two minke whales within an hour displaying unusual and worrying behaviour. At the same time they heard military sonar on the hydrophone – sometimes so loud that they could not keep the headphones on.  The whales were recorded travelling in the same direction at high speed, regularly leaping clear of the water. This behaviour, known as ‘porpoising’, is more typical of dolphins and rarely seen in undisturbed whales

WDCS Head of Scottish Policy, Sarah Dolman who was leading the land-based research at the time, stated “Western Scotland is one of the most important marine habitats in Europe. We are concerned about the potential impacts that these massive and regular exercises, including Exercise Joint Warrior, are having on our marine wildlife. The UK Ministry of Defence should conduct a full and transparent Environmental Impact Assessment – like those recently undertaken by the US Navy – as a matter of urgency.”

To find out more about this exciting opportunity and to become a member of our boat based research team, please contact Morven Summers, HWDTs volunteer coordinator at: or 01688 302620.

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