Rescuers race to herd whales away from military exercise in Scotland

GARE LOCH, Scotland (Reuters) - Rescuers are racing to herd a group of whales out of a Scottish loch ahead of major military exercises that conservationists fear could distress the giant cetaceans.

The pod of northern bottlenose whales, which can dive to depths of 2,000 metres and rarely visit coastal waters, were first noticed around Loch Goil but then ended up in the Clyde.

Five of the whales - which can grow up to 11.2 metres in length and weigh over 7 tonnes - have been spotted around the Loch Long area and have entered some of the smaller lochs nearby ahead of a military exercise due shortly.

“As whales are particularly sensitive to underwater sound, we have been concerned about the effect it may have on the animals,” a spokeswoman for British Divers Marine Life Rescue said.

The spokeswoman said a team were trying to “to herd the animals out using a number of boats in formation to get them back to open sea.”

Europe’s largest military exercise - Joint Warrior - begins on Saturday with its headquarters at at Faslane naval base next to Gare Loch.

Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Stephen Addison