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European Parliament Climate

Impact of low-frequency active sonar (LFAS) on marine life

   Fri 06/12/2002

Is the Commission aware that in a report to Congress the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission expressed concern that if the LFA system is deployed worldwide, ‘all species and populations of marine mammals could possibly be affected’(1)?

Is the Commission aware that little is known about the long-term impacts of LFA and other high-intensity active sonars on marine life or ecological processes?

Is the Commission aware that the U.S. National Research Council has expressed concern that LFA and other high-intensity active sonars could affect the marine food chain, including zooplankton and fish? Is it aware that fishing leaders in Plymouth, UK are asking for research to be done on the effects of the Royal Navy’s sonar on local fish stocks, citing a decline in some species since sonar exercises began in the area?

Is the Council aware of the recent wash-up in the Canary Islands of 15 beaked whales, 14 of which died, an event that coincided with naval exercises held in conjunction with NATO’s Mediterranean fleet, with the autopsy showing that they had suffered brain lesions and damage to the inner ear? Is the Commission aware that the noise pollution emitted by LFA and other high-intensity sonars violates the U.N. Law of the Sea Convention?(2)

Given the Member States’ obligations under Council Directive 92/43/EEC,(3) what steps does the Commission intend to take to ensure that the Directive is respected?

Recognising that this technology can affect a range of species and degrade marine habitat worldwide, what research is planned in Europe to study the impact of LFA and other high-intensity sonars on marine life, and the cumulative and synergistic impact of several nations simultaneously deploying these technologies? What specific measures has the Commission considered with a view to studying or regulating the proliferation of this technology in European waters or among its members?



  • (1) Effects could range from ‘death from lung hemorrhage to disruption of feeding, breeding, nursing, acoustic communication…and other vital behavior.’
  • (2) 1982 United Nations Law of the Sea Convention: Article 196 requires that countries must ‘take all measures necessary to prevent, reduce and control pollution of the marine environment resulting from the use of technologies under their jurisdiction or control’; Articles 204-206 require the preparation and dissemination of environmental impact assessments.
  • (3) JO L 206, 22.7.1992, p. 7.