Chair of International Dialogue on Underwater Munitions (IDUM) meets Justin Trudeau at Opening of Veterans Affairs Office in Sydney

I got up out of bed today wondering how I would continue to create awareness on the devastation, that more than 60 years of sea dumping of weapons are having on our human health and depleting fish stocks. Thousands of underwater munitions sites off Nova Scotia, sites in the St Laurence River, Great Lakes, West Coast of Canada, 1700 sites in the North Sea, sites on the Great Barrier Reef, and the list goes on.

In our CHEMSEA (Search and Assessment for Chemical Weapons), EU Funded Program, we learned that in munitions sites the Cod fish has tumors, stress on their kidneys and livers, and extra fish diseases.  Most alarming to me, was the impact on the juvenile fish ability to reproduce that could have a major impact on the global decline of fish stocks.  We also found that arsenic from the mustard gas is spreading across the Baltic Sea Seafloor.

Sea dumped chemical and conventional munitions, can also be easily recovered and reused on the public as a terror weapons. This was demonstrated with presentations at a side event at Organsaition for the Prohibition of Chemical (OPCW) HQ in cooperation with IDUM, Lithuanian Ambassador, Lithuanian Deputy Foreign Minister and a Dutch Munitions Expert.

Last month, I received a request for assistance in The Hague, The Netherlands from an Ontario family in Canada, who’s child picked up a bomb on a beach near Halifax and put it in their car driving it more than 1000 kilometers from Nova Scotia to Ontario, putting themselves and the public at risk.  After receiving the request, I informed the family to get away from the bomb and contact the Police to request EOD assistances.

I am aware of five Canadians killed in Canada and five Americans killed in the US from sea dumped munitions. In US and Baltic waters chemical weapons have burn people, including children, and where munitions and lumps of mustard gas are regularly caught in nets along with fish for humans consumption.  Most recently, at the 8th Meeting of the Parties to ASCOBANS, they adopted Resolution: Addressing the Threats from Underwater Munitions, identifying the threat from both conventional and chemical underwater munitions.

Underwater Chemical and Conventional Weapons are:

Human Health Threat

Environmental Threat

Energetic (explode) Threat

Recover and Reuse Threat

In 2004, First Nations and I attended, Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans Hearings in Ottawa, as an expert witness and People impacted by underwater weapons. The Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans recommended:

•      Must be greater federal government involvement by departments and agencies other than Department of National Defense (DND)

•     Must be a substantial, long-term, financial and scientific commitment by federal government

•     Government of Canada should call on the United Nations to organize a conference with several other coastal countries on this serious issue.

The Senate Committee Recommendation are vault today for the Government of Canada to implement. More importantly, this is an opportunity for a Country/Leader to become a champion on at the United Nations on underwater munitions.

If these Silent Killers are left unchecked in our waters, the chemical releases from them will eventually meet one another destroying fish stocks and our ocean.  There isn’t one treaty, convention or protocol that addresses chemical, conventional or radiological underwater weapons.  We need an urgent United Nations conference to discuss policy, science, technology and potential responses. Sea dumped munitions effects coastal and landlocked countries that consume fish, thereby being a multilateral concern. We need constructive engagement at the United Nations, rather than disengagement to develop solutions, partnership, and create greater international cooperation.

But most of all we need an international Leader like Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada to understand our concerns to “Call on the United Nations” for a conference on underwater munitions.

By the end of the day, I felt like the tides may be changing after meeting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.  We did not discuss underwater munitions, I only had an opportunity for a photo and to shake hands. Hopefully, there is an opportunity in the future to engage his Government to discuss a global underwater munitions conference.

Terrance P. Long, Chair, International Dialogue on Underwater Munitions (IDUM) & International Technology Advisory (ITAB) on Sea Dumped Weapons (SDW’s), The Hague, The Netherlands