Norway’s plan to capture and subject minke wales to hearing experiments has been met with backlash as dozens of vets and scientists from around the world raised concerns.
The experiment, described as “unacceptable,” will see 12 juvenile minke whales caught in nets off Lofoten, Norway.
They will be held between two rafts for up to six hours to measure their hearing with electrodes under the skin before satellite tagging the whales after which they will be released.
But wildlife charity Whale and Dolphin Conservation has written to Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg on behalf of more than 50 experts, calling for the cancellation of the trials, warning “they are completely unacceptable from a conservation, scientific and animal welfare point of view”.
A statement of concern signed by the scientists and vets warns the tests have significant potential for causing injury and stress and could lead to “capture myopathy” – harm to or death of wild animals as a result of stress or exertions fighting capture and restraint.
The experts also raised concerns that the project risks the safety of researchers, while they say the potential emergency sedation of the whales is not acceptable.
The Norwegian Food Safety Authority, which awarded the permit for the research by the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment, said it believed the results would benefit both minke and other whales as more would be learned about how noise pollution in the ocean can disturb the animals.
It also said it believed the consequences for animal welfare have been assessed carefully, and the procedure and decision to grant permission were justified.
The Norwegian Defence Research Establishment said the study is funded by US oil and energy authorities, fishery authorities and the US Navy with a goal to protect animals from man-made sonar and seismic noise.
Vanessa Williams-Grey, policy manager at Whale and Dolphin Conservation, and one of the signatories, said: “This experiment is both ill-conceived and unnecessary – we already know that human-made noise in our ocean damages and disturbs whales.
“We have grave concerns about the animal welfare implications.”