The Celtic League, an organisation which helps to monitor activities in the Irish Sea for fishermen and the environment, is concerned about another NATO exercise in the area.This will be of concern to local County Down fishermen, especially the prawn and scallop boats that fish out of Portavogie, Ardglass and Kilkeel.
Fishermen off Western Scotland, North Donegal and in the Irish Sea need to keep a very close eye on their trawl warps as the annual Joint Warrior (JW) NATO exercise gets underway this weekend.
Additionally wildlife on shore and marine mammals are also under threat. Warnings are also already in place for leisure craft users and ferries.
The Exercise runs from (today) 26th March to the 6th of April it will involve activity with submarines, warships, aircraft, mine warfare, live firing and gunnery Activity, and the use of sonar and the denial of GPS Services on occasion.
Celtic League spokesman Bernard Moffat said: “During a previous exercise period trawlers have been snagged by submarines and although the MOD and NATO say they adhere rigorously to safety rules in the case of the Co Down trawler MV Karen it was months before they admitted the incident. Indeed some queries about the affair by the Celtic League are still unanswered.
“As regards wildlife and marine mammals, the MOD say environmental assessments have been carried out although they admit the exercise areas straddles many Areas of Special Scientific Interest and Marine Protected Areas. There will be limitations on sonar use and strength a belated recognition that this is the cause of many marine mammal strandings after such exercises.
“In previous JW exercises, serious damage was done to wildlife-rich heath land in Scotland due to fires caused by live firing and large numbers of marine mammals died directly as a result of clear up of live munitions post exercise.
“The annoying thing about these twice yearly JW exercises around the Celtic areas of these Islands is that they attract warships, submarines, aircraft and troops from NATO countries as far afield as Turkey and the United States and yet in their home countries popular pressure has curtailed military exercise activity.
“During the exercise so called GUNFACTS and SUBFACTS will be issued daily by the MOD plus there is an MOD hotline for Mariners. Additionally the Coastguard at Belfast, Clyde and Stornoway will have twice daily broadcasts
“Additionally the Russians will be present as well – although they will not have had an invite!
The Celtic League established in 1961 has branches in the six Celtic Countries including the Isle of Man Mannin branch. It promotes cooperation between the countries and campaigns on a range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, military activity and socio-economic issues.
The link for the main web pages is below: