Maui bans displays of captive cetaceans / U.S. Navy uses depleted uranium in coast waters

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Date: Tue Jan 21 2003 - 16:34:11 EST

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    Maui bans displays of captive cetaceans

    Captive Cetacean Displays Banned
    by Becky A. Dayhuff

    January 15, 2003

    The County Council of Maui recently made the Hawaiian county the 17th
    city or county in the United States to ban displays of captive
    cetaceans.

    “The Council finds that cetaceans (dolphins and whales) are highly
    intelligent - and highly sensitive - marine mammals,” the legislation
    prohibiting the displays states. “The Council further finds the presence
    of cetaceans in the Pacific Ocean surrounding Maui County provides many
    cultural, spiritual, and economic benefits to the County’s residents.
    The Council also finds that the exhibition of captive cetaceans leads to
    distress living conditions for these animals. Therefore, the purpose of
    this ordinance is to prohibit the exhibition of captive cetaceans
    (dolphins and whales).”

    Violators are subject to imprisonment for not more than one year and
    fines of as much as $1,000.

    Hundreds of letters and a petition signed by more than 15,000
    individuals calling for the ban had been received by the members of the
    Council.

    “This matter received more public support than any other matter in the
    history of Maui County,” said Council member Jo Anne Johnson.

    “Maui will now be recognized as a place where whales and dolphins will
    all live free and in the wild,” said Council member Alan Arakawa. “This
    decision proves we can do what is right.”

    Sources
    Environment News Service
    www.ens-news.com/ens/nov2002/2002-11-18-09.asp#anchor5
    Maui Bans Whale, Dolphin Exhibits

    -------------------------------------------

    From: http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/103402_fife09.shtml

    Toxic ammo is tested in fish areas
    U.S. Navy uses depleted uranium in coast waters

    Activists may go to court
    January 9, 2003

    The Navy routinely tests a weapon by firing radioactive, toxic
    ammunition
    in prime fishing areas off the coast of Washington, raising concerns
    from scientists, fishermen and activists.

    The Navy insists the use of depleted uranium off the coast poses no
    threat to the environment. Depleted uranium, known as DU, is a highly
    dense metal that is the byproduct of the process during which
    fissionable uranium used to manufacture nuclear bombs and reactor fuel
    is separated from natural uranium. DU remains radioactive for about 4.5
    billion years.

    Cmdr. Karen Sellers, a Navy spokeswoman in Seattle, also said there are
    no hazards to the servicemen and women on board the ships, adding that
    “all crew members are medically monitored” to ensure their safety.

    But a coalition of Northwest environmental and anti-war activists say
    they are considering seeking an injunction to halt the tests.

    “The Navy is willing to put us all at risk, including its own sailors,
    to improve its war-fighting capabilities,” said Glen Milner, of Ground
    Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, one of the groups weighing a suit to
    stop the Navy tests. Milner received information on the Navy’s tests of
    depleted uranium ammunition off the coast in a memo released in response
    to a Freedom of Information Act request.

    No major studies apparently have been done on the effects of such
    weapons in the ocean. Where depleted uranium munitions have been used in
    combat on land, such as in Iraq during the Gulf War, or in tests on
    land, such as Vieques island in Puerto Rico, they not only give off
    relatively small amounts of radiation, but produce toxic dust that can
    enter the food chain.

    Seattle environmental attorney David Mann asked, “How can the Navy fire
    depleted uranium rounds and spread radioactive material into prime
    fishing areas off our coast?”

    Sellers, however, said that only 400 to 600 rounds would be fired during
    a typical test at sea. And even though these tests have been going on
    since 1977, she said Navy environmental experts say that the DU
    dissolves very slowly in the ocean.

    “It would be too diluted to distinguish from natural background uranium
    in the sea water,” she said.

    The weapon in question is the Phalanx, also known as a Close In Weapons
    System. Such a system is on virtually all U.S. Navy combat ships. It
    includes radar and rapid-fire 20mm guns. The guns are capable of firing
    up to 3,000 or 4,500 rounds per minute of depleted uranium, a superhard
    material prized for its armor-piercing ability.

    The Defense Department says the military uses the munitions “because of
    DU’s superior lethality against armor and other hard targets.”

    Although depleted uranium emits radiation, a second, potentially more
    serious hazard is created when a DU round hits a hard target. As much as
    70 percent of the projectile can burn on impact, creating a firestorm of
    ceramic DU oxide particles. The residue of this firestorm is an
    extremely fine ceramic uranium dust that can be spread by the wind,
    inhaled and absorbed into the human body and absorbed by plants and
    animals, becoming part of the food chain.

    Once in the soil, DU can pollute the environment and create up to a
    hundredfold increase in uranium levels in ground water, according to the
    U.N. Environmental Program

    The Defense Department said DU munitions are “war reserve munitions;
    that is, used for combat and not fired for training purposes,” with the
    exception that DU munitions may be fired at sea for weapon calibration
    purposes.”

    Another Navy spokeswoman described those firings at sea as “routine” and
    says they occur regularly off both the East and West coasts.

    “If the firing is with DU, it’s probably with what we call the Close in
    Weapons System, and it is routine,” said Lt. Brauna Carl, a Navy
    spokeswoman in Washington, D.C., and a former gunnery officer who has
    worked with DU weapons.

    When asked if the tests of DU rounds posed any health hazards, she
    replied, “God, I hope not. All I know is I haven’t started glowing.”

    But Milner says, “It just makes sense that if DU can contaminate land
    and get into the food chain, then it would do the same thing in the
    sea.”

    Robert Alverson, president of the Fishing Vessel Owners Association in
    Seattle, said he was “very troubled” to hear that the Navy was using
    depleted uranium off the coast of Washington. “I don’t like what I’m
    hearing,” he said.

    The Navy memo obtained by Milner described a June 2001 operation by the
    USS Fife, an Everett-based destroyer. The memo said the Fife would
    conduct gunnery operations with depleted rounds in what was described as
    areas W237C and W237F.

    These areas are designated Navy Warning Areas and are about 25-100 miles
    off the coast between Ocean Shores and Ozette, south of Neah Bay,
    according to Milner.

    “These are certainly prime fishing areas” for some salmon, flounder and
    other bottomfish, Alverson said. “It is folly to be testing anything in
    this area that might contaminate the natural food supply.”

    “How would the Navy feel about eating fish caught there?” he asked.
    Alverson said even the perception that fish might be contaminated could
    scare consumers and have dire consequences.

    “If any species ever turns up with radiation, it would be devastating to
    the fishing industry,” he said.

    Leonard Dietz, a research associate with the private, non-profit Uranium
    Medical Research Centre in Canada and the United States, said that the
    degree of environmental contamination the DU rounds will cause in sea
    water depends on what kinds of targets were hit and how much DU was
    fired.

    “Corrosion of the DU by sea water would occur over a long time,” said
    Dietz, who with Asaf Durakovic, director of the center, and research
    associate Patricia Horan, published a landmark study on inhaled DU that
    showed Gulf War veterans still had DU in their urine nine years after
    the war.

    “The end result is that the ocean becomes a dumping ground for the spent
    DU penetrators and they add to the (natural) uranium content of sea
    water,” he said.

    The Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action is one of five peace and
    environmental organizations already involved in a federal lawsuit
    against the Navy for violations of the Endangered Species Act over the
    Trident D-5 nuclear missile upgrade at the Bangor submarine base.

    DEPLETED URANIUM HAZARDS

    The Pentagon has sent mixed signals about the effects of depleted
    uranium, saying there have been no known health problems associated with
    the munition. At the same time, the military acknowledges the hazards in
    an Army training manual, which requires that anyone who comes within 25
    meters of any DU-contaminated equipment or terrain wear respiratory and
    skin protection, and says that “contamination will make food and water
    unsafe for consumption.”

    Some researchers and several U.S. veterans organizations say they
    suspect depleted uranium of playing a role in Gulf War Syndrome, the
    still-unexplained malady that has plagued hundreds of thousands of Gulf
    War veterans.

    See also:
    Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action
    http://www.gzcenter.org

    US forces have trained on Vieques for 60 years (Jan 11)
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/2648111.stm The United States
    Navy is to stop using the Puerto Rican island of Vieques for military
    training exercises. Vieques’ 8,000 residents have long objected to the
    use of their island as a bombing range, especially as depleted uranium
    (DU) shells have been linked to rocketing cancer rates there.
    Chronic Casualties (Jan 5)
    http://www.kentucky.com/mld/heraldleader/news/local/4877717.htm Years
    after serving in the Persian Gulf War, Dr. James Stutts of Berea still
    fights crippling symptoms, the cause of which he can’t fully explain.
    There are tens of thousands like him.

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