The European Parliament has called for a halt to loud naval
sonars until their effect on marine life has been determined.
The lawmakers passed a resolution Thursday calling on the 25 EU
member states to adopt a moratorium on the deployment of
high-intensity active naval sonars until a global assessment of
their cumulative environmental impact on marine mammals, fish and
other marine life has been completed.
The measure, tabled by the Committee on Environment, Public
Health and Food Safety, was approved by a wide margin with 441 votes
in favor, and only 15 against with 14 abstentions.
The resolution asks the European Commission to conduct a study
and to provide an assessment of the impact of current practices in
Striped dolphin stranded on an Irish beach (Photo
courtesy Irish Whale and Dolphin
Group)It points out that there is a growing
body of research which confirms that the very loud sounds produced
by high-intensity active naval sonars pose a significant threat to
marine mammals, fish and other ocean wildlife.
Green Party MEP Caroline Lucas said, "There can be little doubt
that these sonar devices are responsible for the deaths of thousands
of marine mammals, some of them endangered and protected species."
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) called the vote
"a positive step toward protecting whales and their environment."
Sound is essential to whales, dolphins and porpoises for
navigation, communication and finding food, IFAW said.
"Any disturbance that undermines their ability to transmit or
recognize sounds may jeopardize their capacity to function and, over
the long term, to reproduce and survive," said IFAW, explaining that
sonar and other forms of ocean noise may be linked to whale
Joel Reynolds, director of the Marine Mammal Protection Protect
at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the vote was, "an
unequivocal expression of the democratic will of the people of
Europe, recognizing that nations can protect their own security and
simultaneously safeguard the health of our oceans simply by using
common sense steps to prevent injury from high intensity sonar
during training and testing."
Scientists have discovered that bursts of intense, loud sound can
tear the tissues around cetaceans' brains and ears, causing bleeding
One of the many types of sonar used to locate undersea objects.
(Photo courtesy Royal
Navy)But U.S. and European navies favor the
use of sonar to detect the new high tech, quiet submarines before
they can get close enough to do any damage.
Ocean noise will be on the agenda of two upcoming events,
The second meeting of the Parties to a European regional cetacean
conservation treaty November 9 to 12 in Palma de Mallorca will vote
on a resolution on the harmful effects of military sonar on marine
Also, the final stakeholders meeting on the EU Marine Strategy,
hosted by the Dutch Presidency in Rotterdam, November 10-12, will
debate major threats to the marine environment prior to the
publication of an official proposal on this issue by the European
Although underwater noise is not formally included in the working
document of the stakeholders meeting, IFAW urges participants and
the European Commission to consider underwater noise as "a serious
but yet unregulated form of pollution in our seas."
In August 2003, the U.S. Navy was prevented by a federal judge in
California from deploying a new high-intensity sonar system in
peacetime because of the dangers it might pose to whales and