Strasbourg, 16 January 2003
Low Frequency Active Sonar (LFAS) submarine trackers:
EURO MPs CHALLENGE NAVY'S ASSAULT
(Strasbourg - 16/01/2003) WARSHIPS fitted with submarine-seeking sonar devices that are killing marine mammals and depleting already-threatened fish stocks should be banned from European waters, Euro MPs today urged during a debate in the plenary in Strasbourg.
Strandings of marine mammals have become more commonplace following tests of the devices: more than 17 whales, dolphins and porpoises were beached in March 2000 following US tests near the Bahamas. Nine died following bleeding of the eyes, brain and lungs. A NATO investigation admitted an earlier 1996 mass stranding of Curvier's Beaked Whales in Greece in the wake of Low Frequency Active Sonar (LFAS) tests could not have been caused naturally. Most recently, 15 beaked whales died after being washed up on the Canary Islands following military manoeuvres in the area by NATO's Mediterranean fleet. Autopsies showed they had suffered brain legions and inner ear damage.
Dr Caroline Lucas , whose South East England constituency contains key naval bases, one of the UK's largest fishing fleets and hundreds of miles of coastline, said:
"We call for an immediate moratorium for the use of LFAS in European waters. Scientists are reporting a link between LFAS and the deaths and beaching of marine mammals, some of which are legally protected endangered species. Fish stocks, already severely depleted around the UK, have also been affected by tests, according to the industry itself."
"It is completely irresponsible - not to mention illegal under international law - to continue testing or using this technology until these links have been properly investigated."
A cross-party group of more than 60 MEPs have signed a motion proposed by Green Euro-MP Caroline Lucas supporting a moratorium on LFAS use until a full environmental impact assessment is carried out, as required by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Low Frequency Active Sonar (LFAS) submarine trackers have been under development for over a decade, by NATO members including the UK and the US and other states. They work by bouncing low frequency sounds at high volumes off the ocean floor, allowing operators to spot any large objects - such as submarines - disrupting the signal.
The sounds used are up to 200 billion times louder than those which normally disturb marine mammals, causing internally bleeding, deafness and lung damage in dolphins and whales and sparking an epidemic of strandings wherever LFAS has been tested.
"The EU must act where NATO and member states have failed. LFAS technology must be subject to a rigorous environmental impact assessment to determine how many dolphins are dying and how much irreparable damage the sonar is doing to the marine environment - and in the meantime there must be no further testing or use of LFAS in European waters," Dr Lucas added.
"Scientists are reporting that LFAS is not only killing off marine mammals and threatening bio-diversity in our seas, but that it is threatening fish stocks in UK waters. These claims must be properly investigated, both to protect our fish stocks and marine environment and to ensure NATO members meet their obligations under international law.”