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Euro MP blames UK Government for Thames bottlenose whale death

News Release Scottish Conservatives

23rd January 2006

Euro MP Struan Stevenson has blamed the UK Government for the death of the bottlenose whale in the Thames at the weekend.  The UK Conservative Fisheries Spokesman says that if Britain adhered to the requirements of the EU’s Habitats Directive

Under the directive, Member States are required to grant strict protection to whales, dolphins and porpoises, to designate special areas of conservation and to undertake comprehensive surveillance to ensure that cetaceans are not at risk.

Speaking in Brussels, Struan Stevenson, a former President of the Parliament’s Fisheries Committee, said:

"The European Commission has already launched infringement proceedings against the UK for not adequately monitoring how effectively our cetacean population is being protected.  A first written warning was sent to the Government at the end of last year.  However, the tragic death of this bottlenose whale, together with the on-going massacre of dolphins in the English Channel and off the coast of South West England, will almost certainly lead to a referral to the European Court of Justice.

"In the past month alone 20 dolphin carcasses have been washed up on beaches from Falmouth to Whitsand Bay.  Eleven were discovered on a single day.  Most of them bear scars consistent with having been caught in pair-trawling nets used primarily by vessels targeting sea bass outside the UK’s 12-mile limit, or in gillnets set by inshore fishermen within the 12-mile limit.  Either way, the UK government has a duty to provide adequate protection to these animals and it is clearly failing in that duty.

"There is also increasing evidence that Low Frequency Active Sonar (LFAS) used by the US and British Navy can cause injury and death to fish, whales, dolphins and porpoises over vast areas of the marine environment.  LFAS is used to detect quiet submarines in shallow, confined waters.  Scientific analysis has shown that injuries caused by these sonars have led to whales and dolphins becoming disorientated, stranding and dying.  Even fish exposed to LFAS signals have suffered internal injuries, eye haemorrhaging, auditory damage and subsequent death.  I understand that a post mortem examination of the dead bottlenose whale is being conducted to see if this may have been the cause of its losing its way and swimming so far up the Thames.  Alternative methods for underwater surveillance exist and should be used in preference to these noise pollutants which are now known to cause widespread death and injury to fish and sea mammals.

"I intend writing to Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg, asking him to investigate whether the death of this whale and the increased death of dolphins around the UK coastline is further evidence that the UK has failed to implement fully the Habitats Directive."