Government of Spain Decision


The Government of Spain Decision on the Use of Ocean Noise around the Canary Islands

2004

Act of Publication to the Official Journal of the Convention of collaboration between the Ministry of Defence and the Government of the Canary Islands relating to the measures that need to be taken in order to avoid mass backed whale strandings such as those occurred in the Islands of Fuerteventura and Lanzarote in September 2004.

- The Convention -

The Parties,

(…)

Explanatory

Having regard to:


I. (…)


II. The present policy of the Ministry of Defence relating to the conservation and protection of the environment is based on the concept of sustainable development, meaning that technological development should be compatible with the respect for nature. This policy includes the prevention and the struggle against pollution of the environment embracing, among others, measures that aim to reduce pollution, to limit noise and toxic emanations and to control and evaluate consequences of damage to nature caused by military activities.


III. On the 24 September 2002 and during the following days, mass strandings of several species of cetaceans of the family of the beaked whale (ziphioides) occurred on the Islands of Fuerteventura and Lanzarote. Theses strandings coincided with military manoeuvres carried out within the same zone.


IV. The Ministry must investigate the impact of military exercises such as the use of active sonars on cetacean population.


V. It is in the interest of the population, of the Government of the Canaries and of the Ministry of Defence to coordinate investigations into the possible causes of death of the beaked whales among themselves.


VI. After the mass strandings a Permanent Committee for Investigation was set up, with the aim of understanding the aforementioned causes. The Committee was made up of delegates from the following bodies:


-         Former "Council of territorial policy and environment", today called, "Council for Environment and Territorial management (Directorate General of the Natural Environment) of the Canaries Government"

-         Naval Command of the Canaries

-         Hydrographical Institute of the Marina

-         Canaries Institute for Marine sciences

-         University of Las Palmas de Grand Canaria, Department of Morphology - Unity of Pathologic anatomy, either from the School of Veterinary studies or the Vice-rectorate for investigation within the mentioned University.

-         University of Laguna, Department of Marine Biology

-         Society for the studies of cetaceans of the Archipelago Canario (SECAC).

-         Cabildo de Gran Canaria's Wild Fauna Rescue Centre

 

VII. After one year of activity, the Committee ended its works and came to the following conclusions:


1.      Recognizing, on the basis of the provided data, the existence of a permanent population of beaked whales (ziphioides) on the Southeast coasts of the Island of Fuerteventura.

2.      Whereas, the epidemiological and pathological results of the strandings concluded that there was scientific evidence of the existence of an embolic (gas and/or fat) mechanism associated with the exposure of the ziphioides to some active sonars.

3.      It is stated that ziphioides, due to their biological, anatomical, physiological and ecological characteristics are particularly sensitive to loud emissions of acoustic energy.

4.      At the present stage, there isn't any conclusive data concerning the range of frequencies and intensity the above-mentioned mechanisms produce.

5.      Whereas, information is missing on the behaviour of this family [of cetaceans], within its natural environment, and of its levels of distribution in other parts of the Archipelago of the Canaries.    

6.      Whereas, it is stated that the studied zone has particular oceanographical characteristics which include a deep acoustic canal and an aquatic flora rich in nutriments.

 

VIII. For all the reasons mentioned above, and until the harmful frequencies and intensities are known, the Committee recommends:

1.      To define a zone in which the use of active antis-submersible sonars is prohibited.

2.      To apply a certain form of protection to this zone.

3.      Carry out detailed studies in other parts of the Archipelago, wherein special protection would be needed. For this purpose, it is recommended, to include, to the National Plan for R&D a chapter dedicated to the biological, physiological, sanitary and pathological characteristics and the national distribution of these cetaceans.

4.      Work on (modelling and systems) the acoustic characteristics that define the frequency and intensity ranges, which have harmful effects on ziphioides.

5.      Until the data is known, apply the precautionary principle to its maximum extent, which would allow responsible decisions to be made and thus avoid harming biodiversity.

 

Clauses

The Parties have decided to:

Article 1- Aim of the Convention

This Convention establishes the basic conditions of the collaboration between the Ministry of Defence and the Government of the Canary Islands with the aim of putting into practice the recommendations for measures to be taken by the permanent committee in the view of the investigation into the mass beaked whale strandings which occurred on the 24 September 2002 and later on the Islands of Fuerteventura and Lanzarote to avoid such occurrences in the future.

 

Article 2 Measures to be taken

1.      The Ministry of Defence, coordinating with the Government of the Canary Islands, will proceed to the definition of a zone within which the use of anti-submersible active sonars is prohibited without prejudice to the needs of the national defence for specific cases.

2.      The Government of the Canaries will study and carry out the needed initiatives in order that this maritime zone should receive adequate protection for the management of its resources and for a better protection of nature within.

3.      The Permanent Committee for Investigations, set up in article 3 of the present Convention, will carry out biological, anatomico-patological, physiological, oceanographical and acoustic studies in the Archipelago of the Canaries with the purpose of giving recommendations on whether it is necessary to take special measures of protection in defined zones and to define the margins of the frequencies and intensities which could cause injury to the beaked whales.

4.      The Ministry of Defence and the government of the Canaries, until the results of the above mentioned studies are known, agree to apply the precautionary principle as far as possible, which would allow responsible decisions to be made and thus avoid harming biodiversity.

5.      The operational use of Marine's devices will take precedence over the predictable (expected?) use of these devices within the investigation proceedings motivated by the present Convention. (Please check the Spanish version the meaning of this sentence is not really clear).

6.      The studies and investigations that are the object of the present convention will be defined by the Council for Environment and Territorial management of the Canaries government, through the Directorate general of Natural Environment.

 

Article 3. Permanent Committee for investigations

To ensure the efficient implementation of the objectives of the present convention and the measures laid down above, a Permanent committee for investigations will be set up as follows:

  • The committee is made up of two delegates of the Council for Environment and Territorial management, one of them acting as the president, the other as the Secretary of the Committee.

  • One delegate from the University of Las Palmas de Grand Canaria, Department of Morphology - Unity of Pathologic anatomy, either from the School of Veterinary studies or the Vice-rectorate for investigation within the mentioned University.

  • One delegate of the University of Laguna, Department of Marine Biology

  • One delegate form the Canaries Institute for Marine sciences

  • One delegate from the Society for the studies of cetaceans of the Archipelago Canario (SECAC).

  • Three delegates form the Marine, to be designated by the Chief Admiral of the General Staff of the Marine. 

 

Article 4. Monitoring Commission

A Commission for the monitoring is set up and is made up of:

- Two delegates from the Council for environment and territorial management of the Government of the Canaries Islands.

-  Two delegates of the Ministry of Defence.

The chair of this Commission is held by semesterial rotation of the designated delegates of each Party. The rotation will start with the chair of the Council for Environment and Territorial management of the Canaries government.

The missions of this commission are to resolve the problems of interpretation and of fulfilment, which could occur with respect to the present Convention.

The Monitoring Commission will meet at any time whenever necessary, on the request of any of the Parties.

(..)

 

Article 5. Funding and form of the contributions to payment

The costs of the investigations, targeted by the present convention, are estimated to a maximum of 360.607 EUR, which will be totally financed by the Ministry of Defence.

(…) On the modalities of transfer of the funds from the Ministry to the Council.

 

Article 6. Duration and Extension of the term of the Convention

The duration of the present Convention will be extended until December 2004, with the possibility of annual renewal following mutual agreement of the Parties and with the inclusion of an addendum mentioning the Parties' express request for renewal of the measures to be taken and the costs that each Party would assume.

 

Article 7. Causes of extinction

(…)

 

Article 8. Legal nature

The present Convention has an administrative nature, thus its interpretation and implementation are ruled under the jurisdiction of the administrative courts. (..)

.........

 

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