Norway: a controversial research project on whales suspended after the drowning of a cetacean

A controversial research project on whale hearing has been temporarily suspended in Norway after a cetacean drowned, researchers announced on Wednesday (June 7th). Conducted every summer since 2021, the Norwegian Defense Research Institute (FFI) project involves capturing minke whales in the Lofoten archipelago. The animals are subjected to hearing tests before being released.

This scientific campaign aims to accumulate knowledge for “setting limits for human-made noise in the oceans”. Lasting four years, it should normally last until the summer of 2024. But the experiment was strongly denounced by animal defenders, who evoke “cruel and useless experiments” dangerous to whale welfare.

The animal got caught in a net

On the night of Friday June 2 to Saturday June 3, one of the cetaceans died after bad weather damaged the research project facilities. According to the FFI, the bad weather created an opening below a net, in which a whale engulfed. “Our theory is that the whale got caught in the lead netting strip”said the project manager.

After the drowning of the animal, an indefinite break was decided to shed light on the exact circumstances of the accident. “We warned that these experiments (…) would lead to the death of whales”commented the spokesperson for the association Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC). No whale should be forced into a cage and have electrodes under its skin.”

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