IMO to ban seabird death chemical
The RSPCA has welcomed the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) action to ban ships around the world from discharging all forms of high viscosity polyisobutylene (PIB) into the sea during tank cleaning operations.
The charity, along with a number of other wildlife organisations have announced the fact that they are pleased with the decision to ban the substance. PIB was the chemical which was the chemical responsible for the deaths of over 4,000 seabirds on the south west coast earlier this year.
The tradgedy in the south west was the largest marine pollution incident of its kind in the region since Torrey Canyon.
Earlier today a meeting took place within the IMO’s working group on the Evaluation of Safety and Pollution Hazards of Chemicals in London. They came to the conclusion to change the classification of high viscosity PIBs in order to require full tank pre-wash and disposal of all residues at port and prohibit any dicharge at sea from 2014.
This will also apply to new “highly-reactive” forms of PIB, which are currently being transported un-assessed.
This move was reccommended by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) on behalf of the UK government. This reccommendation came after vigourous campaigning by the RSPB, other wildlife charities and the public.
The Marine Policy Officer for the RSPCA, Alec Taylor, said: “We are delighted with the action taken by the IMO. The global trade in PIB products is increasing and with it the risks to our precious marine environment.
“Today’s global ban on the deliberate discharge of high viscosity PIBs into our seas is a real step forward and one that we hope will end this particular pollution threat to seabirds and other marine life.”
In two separate incidents, between February and April this year, over 4,000 seabirds, of at least 18 species, mainly guillemots, were washed up on beaches from Cornwall to Dorset.
The majority of the birds that washed up were dead, however, some were alive and taken to the RSPCA’s West Hatch Wildlife Centre for treatment.
The MCA then carried out an investigation which revealed that the birds had been smothered with high viscosity PIB. Which is the same substance that was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of seabirds off the Dutch coast in March 2010.
Speaking on the RSPCA official website, the charity’s Senior Wildlife Scientist Adam Grogan said: “We welcome this decision. Our staff worked around the clock, washing and treating these poor birds in January and April and it was heartbreaking seeing the pitiful state they were in. Hopefully this will help stop incidents like these happening again, and save wildlife from suffering and dying like this in the future.”
Joan Edwards, Head of Living Seas for The Wildlife Trusts, said: “We welcome today’s ban. The thousands of dead and dying seabirds witnessed earlier this year were the most visible victims of mismanagement.
“Impacts on other parts of marine life support systems may have been just as widespread, and more serious. Not to mention the impacts on tourism of dead seabirds on the beach – particularly pressing in south-west counties which rely so heavily on summer visitors.”
So, bird lovers around the world can be pleased to know that seabirds around the globe will be safer going forward, following this latest piece of action from the IMO.