Activity in Loch Gruinard
The gale force winds that are blowing over us provide plenty of time for us to think about the navy activity that is happening here in the Minch. Exercise Joint Warrior happens twice a year for two weeks at a time (until a few years ago it was three times a year). Eight nations descend upon Scottish coastal waters to train with the UK to prepare for war. Joint Warrior is the biggest joint nations military exercise in Europe and it’s happening here, right here.
The wind has not only given us time to think about this but to talk to the community around us. Those who live here are all too familiar with the war games being played out on their doorstep. Fishermen, commercial whale watch operators and residents alike, all report that when they start seeing navy activity in the Minch, they stop seeing marine wildlife. And it’s not just the Minch that is feeling the brunt of all this military activity – the military training is occurring throughout the UK, including at Cape Wrath and Pembrokeshire.
The MoD state in recent press releases that it recognises the impact of military activity and takes its environmental responsibilities very seriously. WDCS have requested details of the measures taken by the MoD to ensure that the marine environment is fully protected during these games that involve anti-submarine warfare, counterterrorism, close-air support, electronic warfare and minesweeping training. But the truth is, after sustained activities including almost 60 years of on-going military exercises and no on-the-ground environmental monitoring to date, we’re not sure that the MoD is taking its environmental responsibilities seriously enough. Is the MoD doing enough to ensure the protection of the marine environment?
As far as we are aware the MoD has conducted no Environmental Impact Statement that considers the long term and cumulative impacts of continuously conducting such massive exercises in the Minch, or elsewhere. All other marine users, for example oil and gas and marine renewable industries, are expected to demonstrate environmental responsibility before being allowed to operate in the marine environment (although of course there remain flaws in this process) and we should expect no less from the MoD.
We look forward to receiving a response from the MoD to our request for information about the exercise and to working with them to ensure increased efforts towards ensuring the protection of our marine species in the future - in the Minch, and everywhere that they exercise.