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Coalition Urges UN Curbs on Harmful Ocean Sounds

Coalition Urges UN Curbs on Harmful Ocean Sounds
UNITED NATIONS - An environmental coalition urged the United Nations on Wednesday to take steps to protect whales, dolphins and other marine life from the powerful sound waves used in oil and gas exploration and by the world's navies to navigate and detect submarines.

Marine scientists believe there is a link between the use of high-intensity sound and recent mass strandings of whales and dolphins in waters off Greece, Hawaii, New Zealand and elsewhere around the world since 1985, said the Ocean Noise Coalition.

In each of these cases, the strandings took place near high intensity sonar or near the use of high-powered industrial "air guns" used in oil and gas exploration, the coalition grouping over 120 different organizations told a news conference at UN headquarters.

Intense sound can also seriously injure or kill fish and drive down the catch rates of commercial fishing operations, according to scientific studies cited by the coalition, which includes the Swiss-based World Conservation Union, Chile's Centro de Conservacion Cetacea and the US-based Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council.

"It is time to pay attention to the studies showing that air guns and sonar-type signals can seriously injure and kill fish," a coalition statement said.

"The fact that several studies show that fish catch rates are significantly lowered by noise from air guns indicates that increasing levels of human-produced noise in the ocean can significantly and adversely affect the food supply, employment and economies of many nations," the statement said.

The groups are trying to convince delegates from 148 nations to take action on the issue during their consultations this week in New York on oceans and marine law.

The European Parliament and the International Whaling Commission are among groups recognizing intense ocean noise as a threat to marine life and backing international controls, they said.

Some governments including the United States, however, have argued that sonar use cannot be regulated internationally as it is a matter of national security.

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