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23.05.2003 – 08:51


ASMS: Deadly noise attack in the world's oceans

    Wädenswil (ots)

  NATO and US Navy are violating international laws with their low frequency sonar tests in the oceans. This is the conclusion of the Swiss expert on Sea Law Alexander von Ziegler in a report for the ASMS, a Swiss NGO for whale and dolphin conservation. Noise can kill cetaceans and other creatures in the oceans. The consequences of continual exposure to military noises are disastrous.

    Noise creates stress. Aircraft noise, traffic noise, settlement noises - a continual subject everywhere. However, nobody mentionned until now, that noise produced by humans also has increasing negative effects on our oceans. This noise comes, above all, from boat engines and - recently - from low frequency military sonars. Warships send out sounds with levels of up to 240 decibel - louder than a jet aircraft. Sound waves are spreading much quicker underwater than in the air and are reflected/bounced off by bigger objects. This is how foreign ships can be detected.

    Naval forces, particularly the NATO and the US Navy, do not want to renounce the use of sonar systems in the future. In order to track quiet enemy submarines at long range, military forces plan to permanently send out very loud low frequency signals in 80 percent of the world's oceans in the future. With drastic consequences, as whales and dolphins orientate themselves with the help of a kind of natural sonar system which can be hugely disturbed by the artificial sonar noise. The cetaceans suffer from stress, loose their orientation and can become stranded.

    During the last years, there have been registered worldwide whale strandings in alarming frequency which occurred at the same time as sonar experiments. Beaked whales which are not usually known to become stranded are particularly affected: in 1991 24 beaked whales were stranded on the Canary Islands, in 1996 12 beaked whales in Greece, in 2000 14 beaked whales, two humpback whales and one dolphin on the Bahamas, and 13 beaked whales in 2002 on the Canary Islands. Evidence from autopsies on stranded whales proved the impact of sonar noise: damage of the inner ear, hemorrhage in the brain and the lungs, bloodshot eyes.

    The US Navy admits in a study on the reasons of the strandings on the Bahamas in March 2000: "The tactical mid-frequency sonar systems which were used on board of the ships of the US Navy are probably the reason for the injuries of the whales." Nevertheless, the US government officially gave the Navy the permission to use the new highly efficient LFAS technology (Low Frequency Active Sonar) in 75 percent of the world's oceans. Americas security comes before the conservation of the cetaceans, states the US administration.

    With this the American government is violating international law, if the disastrous impact of LFAS systems on cetaceans is confirmed. This is the conclusion of Alexander von Ziegler, expert on Sea Law and private lecturer for International Commercial Law at the University of Zurich/Switzerland, in a report for the Swiss NGO ASMS. In his study, Ziegler is listing seven international agreements which are being ignored. The lawyer emphasizes that this is also against the Precautionary Principle and the binding norm of international common law.

    Therefore, the ASMS demands that the US government and the NATO keep to the UN Law of the Sea and other agreements. Moreover, it is to create an independent global environmental report on the impact of the - literally - ear splitting noise of LFAS on the living in the world's oceans. "As long as such a report will be finished and evaluated, the use of LFAS has to be abandoned", demands Sigrid Lueber, president of the ASMS. "There is still not enough information and secured knowledge about the long term effects of sonar noise on our ecosystem."

    This request is supported by a current petition of the ECSO (European Coalition for Silent Oceans). This coalition consists of 37 organisations from 12 European countries.

    On June 14, prior to the IWC (International Whaling Conference), ASMS organizes the event 'Whale Song & Noise Attack' at the Tempodrom Berlin in cooperation with WDCS and Liquid Sound. Further information under www.silentoceans.org.

ots Originaltext: ASMS (dolphin and whale conservation)
Internet: www.newsaktuell.ch

ASMS (dolphin and whale conservation)
Sigrid Lueber
Oberdorfstrasse 16
Postfach 30
CH-8820 Wädenswil - Switzerland
phone        +41-1-780'66'88
mobil        +41-79-475'26'87
Fax          +41-1-780'68'08
Internet: http://www.asms-swiss.ch
Internet: http://www.silentoceans.org
Internet: http://www.whale-zone.ch

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