VILNIUS - The Helsinki Commission expressed its concern over the increasing amount of WWII chemical munitions being discovered by fishermen in the Baltic Sea.
Based on statistics published last month, as many as 25 incidents of corroded chemical munitions caught by fishermen in the sea were
reported in 2003, the commission said. This is the highest amount in the past decade.
Most of the munitions - lumps of mustard gas, sneeze gas and tear gas 's were completely corroded and immediately released by the fishermen, though some were taken on land and disposed of.
The commission said most of the dangerous findings were made east of the Danish Bornholm Island, where large amounts of chemical munitions were dumped after WWII.
Over the period 1995-2002, about 3-11 incidents were reported yearly, with total weight amounting to - but not exceeding 512 kilograms.
The Helsinki Commission said the reason for the increased number of such discoveries were due to the munitions drifting and more fishing near dump sites. Normally these areas are marked on nautical maps with signs saying "anchoring and fishing not recommended."
However, fishing in these areas is not prohibited.
Algirdas Stankevicius, director of the Center Of Marine Research, told the Baltic News Service there was no proof of the presence of chemical munitions in Lithuania's territorial waters.
"No chemical munitions have been dumped in Lithuania's territorial waters, but a region is marked some 70 nautical miles west of Klaipeda, which is believed to contain chemical munitions. The region where Russian military buried chemical munitions is rather big - a part of the territory is in Sweden's economic zone, a part belongs to Latvia and merely 10 percent is in the Lithuanian economic zone," said Stankevicius.
Immediately after WWII, the Soviet Union and its allies dumped about 2,000 tons of bombs and shells containing chemicals in the Baltic Sea, mainly in Swedish and Latvian zones. Scientists still disagree on the threat constituted by the chemicals and solutions to the problem. Some say that the chemicals will gradually fragment after their metal coverings break up without posing a threat to the marine environment, while others say that the substances will kill marine life.