A few days ago, on March 13th, 2017, a large-scale NATO manoeuvre called ‘Dynamic Manta’ started south of Sicily. This manoeuvre, which lasts for several days and is still ongoing, involves navy ships of 10 NATO member states and serves, among other things, as a submarine detection exercise. At the same time, environmentalists in Morocco report the stranding of a five-meter Cuvier’s beaked whale.

The cause of the stranding has not yet been officially determined. However, OceanCare points to the fact that in recent years several strandings of this particular whale species coincided with navy manoeuvres involving active sonar for submarine detection. These sonar systems use extremely intensive low or mid frequency sonic waves which have a huge reach and impact. “It wouldn’t surprise anyone if this whale stranding, too, had been caused by such sonar systems”, says OceanCare president Sigrid Lüber, pointing to more than a dozen atypical strandings in recent decades that have been linked to military activities.

Expectations are low that this incident will be thoroughly investigated, although this would be absolutely necessary. “Military activities take place in secrecy and are typically exempted from environmental regulations”, criticises Nicolas Entrup, consultant to OceanCare and NRDC. He adds: “There is need for reform. We have to make sure that human activities do not endanger species and sensitive ecosystems.”