They are Germany’s only whale species. Harbor porpoises are severely threatened by underwater explosions from aerial bombs. And there will continue to be explosions in the North and Baltic Seas.
According to a new study, blasts in the sea are life-threatening for porpoises.
A total of 24 dead porpoises from the Baltic Sea were autopsied, and in ten cases it was shown that the animals had been injured in underwater explosions, the University of Veterinary Medicine in Hanover said. The background was detonations of aerial bombs from the Second World War.
Animals suffer serious injuries
Underwater blasts could “have a serious impact on porpoises,” said Ursula Siebert, head of the Institute for Terrestrial and Aquatic Wildlife Research at the University of Veterinary Medicine. In the ten animals, the experts found pathological dislocations and fractures of the middle ear bones, bleeding in the acoustic fat of the lower jaw and the auditory system as well as the melon, an organ important for echolocation. Such injuries could only be caused by strong pressure waves such as explosions, it said.
One of the porpoises also had severe bleeding and hematoma in the muscle and fat layer, which indicates “blunt blast trauma”. Another juvenile porpoise with blast injuries was caught. Such injuries are likely to have significantly reduced the ability of the animals to orientate themselves. Siebert emphasized: “This underlines the high direct and indirect damage potential of the blasting.”
More blasts will follow
Harbor porpoises are Germany’s only whale species – and are highly endangered. According to the information, the 24 dead animals were found between September and November 2019 on the Baltic Sea coast of Schleswig-Holstein – a few weeks after 42 British aerial bombs without soundproofing were blown up near the Fehmarn protection area.
The amount of old ammunition in the German North Sea and Baltic Sea is huge. Blasting is also used for the construction of offshore wind turbines, so porpoises and other marine animals must be better protected, Siebert demanded. “The blasts also ensure that the animals change their behavior significantly and are under stress.” Detonations trigger extreme noise levels that are fatal for most animals in the vicinity and can also cause significant damage at a great distance.
According to earlier information, at least 180 dead porpoises were found on the German Baltic Sea coast in 2019. dpa
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