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A French naval ship. File photo Shutterstock/Matthew Talboys
La Resistance

Marine groups call on French government to stop military exercise near Irish waters

The exercise began from 2am this morning.

MARINE GROUPS HAVE demanded that the French government cease a military exercise taking place near Ireland’s southwest waters due to concerns about the impact on wildlife.

The exercise, which France had told Irish authorities could “potentially” include an area of Ireland’s EEZ around 200km southwest of its territorial waters, was originally due to take place later this month.

However, it was later brought forward to start at 2am this morning.

The Department of Transport issued an updated marine notice to vessels in Ireland’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) yesterday outlining that it had been rescheduled to take place 2am to 4pm for several days starting 21 June.

In a statement, the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) said it has “expressed concern to the French embassy regarding the planned military exercise”.

“Although we understand they are not planning to use active sonar, which can lead to mass strandings of beaked whales who are particularly sensitive to the mid-frequencies used, the explosion of missiles in the sea can cause local impacts,” it said.

The IWDG said that the detonation of missiles, on impact with the sea, will “cause a large sound wave which can esonify a wide area with a massive acoustic shock wave”.

“How far this shock wave extends is uncertain, but it would be many kilometers from its epicentre, particularly in deep canyon systems where acoustic trapping situations can occur due the variability in the bathymetry.

“If missiles are used in sensitive marine habitats where whales and dolphins are likely to occur, this may lead to increased mortality,” it said.

“IWDG calls on the French government to cease this planned exercise until we are assured that there will be no impact.”

Speaking on C103, Patrick Murphy, CEO of the Irish South & West Fish Producers Organisation, said it was formulating a plan to “look for a moratorium on these exercises to be excluded from Irish EEZ for at least 10 years”.

“I think that’s a reasonable request and we will be hoping for support from everybody to get this. We have to protect our marine areas,” Murphy said.

“I’m hoping that we will get support for this intervention and this hopefully future possible change.”


He said they would ask Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney to raise the issue as a member of the United Nations Security Council and to “look for a moratorium and be a world leader in protecting marine areas from these activities”.

“We believe that there should be a precautionary approach taken here” and the relevant parties should “err on the side of caution”, Murphy said.

“You can’t undo damage that’s been done in our waters.”

Ahead of the exercise, the French Embassy in Ireland said that it was “in ongoing contact with the Irish authorities in relation to a military exercise planned later this week taking place in an area of the Atlantic Ocean off the French coast”.

The embassy said that “as indicated to the Irish authorities via the standard procedures, the area affected may potentially include a small piece of the southern extremity of Ireland’s EEZ as a security pattern, approximatively 200km southwest of Ireland territorial waters”.

“No French Navy vessels will be in the Irish EEZ during this exercise,” it said.

“As a close EU partner, France will maintain close contact with the Irish authorities throughout the period of the military exercise.”

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