Volume 24/Number 5/May 1992
force in recent years. No precise data concerning this phenomenon, which was observed in localities well removed from sources of pollution, are available. Often changes in climate are acknowledged to be at the root of natural population fluctuations; the 1980s saw a worldwide decline in corals, due to the death of Zooxanthelles caused by exceptionally high temperatures in the upper water layers caused, in turn, by anomalous meteorological events in 1982-83. We are indeed facing serious problems in the degradation of the marine environment, problems which must be constantly monitored and resolved by good planning, as in fact, happens in many countries. The mass media must of course awaken public opinion to these facts but the attitude must be responsible and support from competent scientific world is essential. Over-reaction,
inaccurate knowledge of information, and a desire to 'get there first' lead to disinformation which in the long run tires the public and renders it sceptical or suspicious. Actually, in Italy, even though there are serious concerns for the quality of the sea environment in some places, there are still unspoilt areas or areas which could easily recover. However, coastal protection is still unorganized and there is not yet a marine park worthy of the name; instead pollution is seen on every hand as inevitable even where the ecological situation is happily normal and where it should be kept like that. The greatest threat comes from the danger of crying wolf too often, making the real perils of degradation and pollution less credible and blurring our ability to distinguish the true degree of gravity in the situation. C. ~DGNETTI
EP Concern over Arms Dumps The European Parliament has put forward a request that member states provide maps showing the position of places at sea where arms and munitions have been dumped, often in secret. It is believed that huge quantities of live explosives (mines and torpedoes) and toxic gases such as cyanogen, phosgene, and yperite lie on the bottom of the North Sea and Baltic Sea. Similar large scale dumping is also known to have taken place off the Adriatic Coast, in the Bay of Biscay, the Atlantic Ocean, the Irish Sea, and the Skaggerak. The European Parliament condemned the practice of disposal of dangerous products at sea without first assessing related risks and believe it vital to have information pinpointing the whereabouts of dumps, the type of arms or munitions and their quantities. It also requested that Germany carries out an investigation into the case of the Danish island of Bornholm in the Baltic Sea, where some 200 000 t of German chemical weapons from World War II are thought to have been dumped in 1965. It is believed that there may be an ecological time bomb 400 m in length sitting on the sea bed at 85 m depth.
Baltic Clean-up There is to be a major clean-up effort within the Baltic Sea. The move comes seventeen years after the Helsinki Convention on the protection of the Baltic Sea was signed in 1974. The programme is to be partly financed by roans from the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the European Investment Bank and the Nordic Investment Bank. The
programme's main aim is to reduce the amount of pollution in the Baltic Sea by 50% by 1995. There is considerable concern over the state of the Baltic Sea, which receives pollution from the activities of 71 million people, two thirds of which are in Eastern Europe. The Baltic Sea is almost enclosed with a single outlet, a strait 25 km wide opening into the North Sea. The flushing time of the sea is 30 years, ten times that of the North Sea which at present is the focus of most public concern. Apart from huge quantities of industrial waste each year, Scandinavian paper mills are estimated to dump 200 000 t of carbon tetrachloride into the Baltic. One million tonnes of nitrogen enters from agricultural run off and waste water and at least 50 000 t of phosphate comes from detergents. In the past it has been difficult to arrive at any decision because of the shortage of funds in Eastern Europe. It is hoped that the change in the political climate in the area will allow closer cooperation between Baltic coast countries and more effective monitoring, as well as making new funds available.
Dutch Set to Extract More Aggregate from the North Sea The Dutch have established a major new sand and gravel handling terminal at the Port of Amsterdam. The Amsterdam port management has constructed a new harbour basin specially for the sand and gravel trade in response to the changed environmental climate in the Netherlands in which river dredge aggregates are to be phased out in the next few years. It is the intention of the Dutch government gradually to revoke licences for inland extraction and dredging and encourage the industry to seek other sources. The new Amsterdam facility has been established 223