THE Ministry of Defence has been urged to divulge details of naval exercises in Scotland after an “unusual cluster” of whale deaths.

It comes after a whale was found dead a matter of weeks after rescuers tried to herd it away from a major military exercise.

The northern bottlenose whale was part of a pod which had been spotted in Gare Loch in Argyll and Bute earlier this month.

Rescuers had attempted to herd the animals out of the area ahead of the Joint Warrior military exercise, which took place from October 4-15.

The MoD has been asked to explain its sonar activity over the period amid concerns it could have contributed to an “unusual” spate of whale strandings.

In a four-day period from October 13, five members of deep-diving species were found dead on the nation’s coast.

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Three northern bottlenose whales were discovered – two, including the one from the Gare Loch pod, stranded on coastlines of the Firth of Clyde while the other was discovered in the Western Isles.

Two Sowerby's beaked whales also died after stranding on the Lothian coast in east Scotland. All five were alive when they stranded.

Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme (SMASS), part of Scotland’s Rural College, is investigating the deaths.

It found the Sowerby’s beaked whales “showed an unusually high number and distribution of gas bubbles throughout the tissues”, which can sometimes be suggestive of nitrogen emboli and decompression sickness (DCS).

“Given how sensitive beaked whales are to underwater noise, specifically naval sonar, we have to consider noise-mediated DCS as a possible cause for these two strandings,” a statement read.

“We are therefore in the process of trying to find data on sources of noise in this region, including putting a request for activity logs to the MOD following the recent Joint Warrior naval exercises.”

The northern bottlenose whales were too decomposed to establish whether they had been affected by noise overexposure.

The SMASS statement added: “One of the animals stranded in the Clyde had been positively identified as one of animals seen around the Clyde for the past couple of months, and this animal in particular was not in great body condition, had not fed recently and was dehydrated.”

The Royal Navy has been approached for a comment.

Joint Warrior is the largest military exercise of its kind in Europe, with 11 nations taking part. It saw almost 100 aircraft and dozens of ships deployed across Scotland.