In June 2021, a dubious US government–funded attempt to study minke whales’ response to ocean noise began in the northern Norway region of Lofoten. (See AWI Quarterly, summer 2021.) It involves stretching a net between islands to herd migrating juvenile minke whales into an enclosure and, from there, into a modified aquaculture pen, where electrodes would be attached to determine how they might react to active sonar from naval operations and noise from oil and gas exploration. The whales could be held up to four days before release. Even one of the project co-leads acknowledged, “Anyone who has worked with wild animals knows that when they are handled by humans, they will be stressed.”
During the study’s first phase in 2021, six whales, including a humpback and several adult minkes, swam into the net, though none were tested. One apparently broke through, highlighting the risk of entanglement for whales, seabirds, fish, and other marine life. AWI and our Norwegian and international colleagues continue to urge the government of Norway to revoke its approval of this potentially cruel and dangerous experiment. Unfortunately, the project resumed in May 2022.