Calls for “silent” underwater bomb disposal to protect marine life


Estimates suggest that there are around 100,000 tonnes of explosives in the seas surrounding the UK, many of which are left over from World War II.

Although explosives have remained intact for many decades, they pose more and more problems for developers considering sites for new offshore energy projects.

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The most common method of disposal is to detonate devices where they are located.

Underwater explosions cause shock waves that can travel for miles across the sea, potentially deafening – and killing – marine life like whales and dolphins

But the explosions cause major shock waves that can travel many miles underwater, causing damage to sea creatures, as well as the release of toxins and chemical wastes into the water that can impact biodiversity.

A UK government report into the stranding and death of 19 pilot whales off the north coast of Scotland in 2011 was most likely caused by the sound of the detonation of submerged bombs.

A debate took place in Westminster, in response to a request from John Nicolson of the SNP.

The MP for Ochil and South Perthshire called for a modern technique known as lower order blast, which could be “several hundred times quieter”, to be used in place of the traditional detonation.

Pollution was thought to have stranded a group of 16 pilot whales on the Fife coast in 2012, but a UK government report concluded that a similar incident, which killed 19 of the animals in the Kyle of Durness a year earlier, had probably been caused by naval ammunition disposal activities

He said: “These explosions will kill any marine life nearby.

“If they don’t die instantly, the pressure wave causes traumatic damage, such as injuries, hemorrhages and decompression sickness.

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“Marine biologists tell us that even if they survive the initial blasts, they can deactivate aquatic mammals such as whales, porpoises and dolphins.

“Without hearing, they cannot communicate or navigate, resulting in mass failure.”

He continued, “Simply put, this alternative system makes bombs safe without detonating them.

“It allows a small charge to enter the bomb casing without detonating it.”

“It burns the explosives and the device becomes safe.

“This system dramatically reduces emissions and noise, dramatically reducing danger to wildlife and the local environment. “

There was multi-party support for appeals.

Speaking after the debate, LibDem Christine Jardine, MP for West Edinburgh, said: ‘It is just not enough that blowing up these devices remains the preferred method when there is an electronic alternative that does not cause not the same damage to the seabed. or marine life.

“We have seen significant whale strandings around our shores – like in Kyle of Durness 10 years ago, when 19 of them died and DEFRA (Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) discovered that the only probable cause was a nearby munitions operation.

“With major developments to come, the government should encourage the use of an alternative technique that has been used safely for over 15 years and that could help us protect our wildlife from these events.

“We know that our seas are currently threatened by plastic waste and climate change, and these explosions add another danger.

“This is a positive step we could take to protect our marine life and our seabed. “

The offshore wind industry is booming, with a significant increase in the number under construction or planned in UK coastal waters.

These include the Neart Na Gaoithe, Moray East and Seagreen programs in Scotland.

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