A minke whale has died in a test facility for researching the hearing ability of marine mammals in Norway. The facility in Lofoten was damaged in a storm, the whale got caught under one of the underwater barrier nets and drowned, the responsible research institute of the Norwegian Ministry of Defense (FFI) announced.

The Norwegian-American research project will be temporarily stopped until the incident has been investigated and all routines have been checked.

The accident affects the entire research team very much, explained FFI chief researcher Petter Kvadsheim. Great efforts have been made to ensure safety and animal welfare in the tests. “The fact that we lost a minke whale before the start of this year’s trials because the test facility was damaged in a storm is the worst that could have happened.”

Whales rely on sonic communication to travel the oceans. Man-made noise can interfere with this. On the Lofoten Islands in the north of the whaling country of Norway, as part of the four-summer project, whales were to be caught, tested for several hours and then released again.

This was intended to research what minke whales hear – according to the FFI, the knowledge collected should then be used to set limit values ​​for man-made noise in the sea. Several whales have swam into the test site over the past two summers, but no tests have been conducted.

The project has been controversial from the start. In May 2021, the whale protection organization Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) called on behalf of dozens of researchers for the tests to be stopped due to concerns about stress and injuries.