Joanna Lumley calls for safer disposal of WWII bombs in British waters to protect whales


A campaign led by actress Joanna Lumley is calling for unexploded WWII bombs in the seas around British to be quietly ‘burnt out’, rather than violently detonated. 

It is estimated that some 100,000 tonnes of unexploded wartime munitions lurk in Britain’s waters — much of which needs clearing to make way for new wind farms.

However, the traditional way of disposing of these bombs on the sea bed — blowing them up with another explosive device — has the potential to harm marine life.

Not only can blast waves physically injure whales and dolphins, but the sound of the explosion can damage their hearing, which is key for navigation and communication.

Confused and disoriented by the sounds, the marine mammals can end up stranded on beaches and shorelines — a situation which can easily prove fatal.

The continued use of the ‘blow-it-up’ approach is ‘completely nuts’, Ms Lumley said — especially given that there is a far less dangerous approach available. 

A campaign led by actress Joanna Lumley is calling for unexploded WWII bombs in the seas around British to be quietly ‘burnt out’, rather than violently detonated. Pictured, a 500 kilogram unexploded World War II bomb on the sea floor

Not only can blast waves from WWII bombs being detonated physically injure whales and dolphins, but the sound of the explosion can damage their hearing, which is key for navigation and communication. Confused and disoriented by the sounds, the marine mammals can end up stranded on beaches and shorelines, as pictured — a situation which can easily prove fatal

Not only can blast waves from WWII bombs being detonated physically injure whales and dolphins, but the sound of the explosion can damage their hearing, which is key for navigation and communication. Confused and disoriented by the sounds, the marine mammals can end up stranded on beaches and shorelines, as pictured — a situation which can easily prove fatal

The film star and marine conservation charities are calling instead for the use of a more measured approach in which a smaller charge is used to burn the bomb out.

This process, dubbed ‘low order deflagration’, ignites the unexploded bomb’s contents without actually setting it off — and hundreds of times quieter as a result.

The ‘Stop Sea Blasts’ campaign launches just weeks after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced plans for wind farms to power every British home by 2030.

‘It’s crazy to me that wind farm developers — aided by government regulations that are far too relaxed — are able to just blow up bombs that are left over from the Second World War,’ said Ms Lumley.

‘Of course, we need to be finding new ways of getting our energy, such as offshore wind power – I fully support that.’

‘It just seems completely nuts to me that we are allowing these giant explosions to cause considerable harm to some of our most precious whale and dolphin species when there is a viable alternative available — and a British-inspired one too.’

Low-order deflagration was developed by Chippenham-based explosives company Alford Technologies back in the early 2000s — and has the added advantage of being cheaper to implement than its less subtle counterpart.

Ms Lumley has teamed up with animal welfare organisations Advocating Wild, Marine Connection and the World Cetacean Alliance to launch the Stop Sea Blasts campaign and help minimise the harm to our sea life.

Unfortunately, damage has already been done by the detonation technique. 

In 2011, for example, 39 long-finned pilot whales became stranded — and 19 eventually perished — at the Kyle of Durness, an inlet on the north coast of Scotland, after they entered the bay at high tide.

A Government report subsequently concluded that bomb disposal operations in the area in the days leading up to the tragedy were ‘the only external event with the potential to cause’ the whale strandings.

Experts estimate that each detonation may cause up to 60 marine mammals to lose their hearing. At present, some 50 such explosions are unleashed in British waters each year — a figure likely to rise as demands for wind farm construction increases.

Unfortunately, damage has already been done by the detonation technique. In 2011, for example, 39 long-finned pilot whales became stranded — and 19 eventually perished — at the Kyle of Durness, an inlet on the north coast of Scotland, after they entered the bay at high tide

Unfortunately, damage has already been done by the detonation technique. In 2011, for example, 39 long-finned pilot whales became stranded — and 19 eventually perished — at the Kyle of Durness, an inlet on the north coast of Scotland, after they entered the bay at high tide

Ms Lumley, pictured, has teamed up with animal welfare organisations Advocating Wild, Marine Connection and the World Cetacean Alliance to launch the Stop Sea Blasts campaign and help minimise the harm to our sea life

Ms Lumley, pictured, has teamed up with animal welfare organisations Advocating Wild, Marine Connection and the World Cetacean Alliance to launch the Stop Sea Blasts campaign and help minimise the harm to our sea life

‘To date, detonating large ordnance in the marine environment has been a necessary method in attempts to build offshore wind capacity that will enable us to reduce our carbon footprint,’ said Marine Connection co-founder Liz Sandeman.

Despite the end benefits, she explained, ‘detonating 500 kilogram explosives has far more serious consequences that cannot be fully mitigated — including auditory damage to marine mammals.’

‘For whales and dolphins […] ammunition removal by blasting is a particular hazard as it can cause severe physical injury, hearing loss or death.’

‘Less harmful, evidence-based alternatives are available — and government regulators and wind farm developers should immediately take notice.’

Stop Sea Blasts has launched a petition on Change.org.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk