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Seabird death chemical to be banned
Wildlife charities have welcomed the International Maritime Organisation's (IMO) swift action to ban ships across the world from discharging all forms of high viscosity polyisobutylene (PIB) into the sea during tank cleaning operations. PIB was the chemical responsible for the deaths of over 4000 seabirds on the south west coast earlier this year.
The tragedy, the largest marine pollution incident of its kind in the region since Torrey Canyon, shocked thousands of people.
At a meeting of the IMO's working group on the Evaluation of Safety and Pollution Hazards of Chemicals (ESPH) in London today, it was decided to change the classification of high viscosity PIBs to require full tank prewash and disposal of all residues at port and prohibit any discharge at sea from 2014. This will also apply to new "highly-reactive" forms of PIB, which are currently being transported un-assessed.
The recommendation to do this had been made by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) on behalf of the UK Government, following vigorous campaigning by wildlife charities and the public.
Alec Taylor, Marine Policy Officer for the RSPB 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."
Between February and April this year over 4000 seabirds, of at least 18 species, mainly guillemots, were washed up on beaches from Cornwall to Dorset in two separate incidents. The majority were dead, but some were alive and taken for treatment by the RSPCA at their West Hatch Centre. The subsequent MCA investigation revealed that the birds had been smothered with high viscosity PIB. The same substance was also responsible for the deaths of hundreds of seabirds off the Dutch coast in March 2010.
RSPCA 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."
Peter Burgess, Devon Wildlife Trust's Conservation Advocacy Manager said; "This is an important decision for wildlife. It's pleasing to see how quickly the IMO has acted and heartening to hear that local people's concerns have helped build momentum towards achieving this. However, we do see the PIB incidents of 2013 as a wake-up call. Dead and dying seabirds washed up on some of the south-west's most popular beaches were hard to ignore. But how many unseen and unreported activities are damaging our precious marine wildlife in undersea habitats that are almost completely unprotected by law?"
The public response to the tragedy was significant, with more than 25,000 people signing petitions organised by 38 Degrees and Avaaz calling for a ban on the discharge of PIB.
Alec Taylor from RSPB added; "There was a lot of hard work by RSPB, other wildlife charities and the MCA, with support from several MPs on the south west coast. But the huge support we received from members of the public, many of whom experienced the effects of this pollution first hand as they walked the beaches, was perhaps the clinching factor in achieving such a quick decision to prevent discharges of harmful PIBs."
For further information, images or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Tony Whitehead, RSPB Press Officer, 01392 453754, 07872 414365
Grahame Madge, RSPB Press Officer, 01767 695221, firstname.lastname@example.org
Katya Mira, Senior Press Officer, RSPCA, 0300 123 0290, 07969352878 email@example.com
Anna Guthrie, Media & PR Manager, The Wildlife Trusts 01636 670075 / 07887 754659 firstname.lastname@example.org
This is what has been agreed in more detail:
1. All PIB products greater than 224 molecular weight (MW) and all new highly reactive PIB products will now become a separate Category X set of products under Annex II MARPOL, banning their discharge at sea and requiring full prewash, with all residues removed to shore. PIBs identified in Cornwall, Devon and Dorset were all over 1000MW, and PIB's chemical profile indicates that viscosity remains low up to 400-600MW.
2. PIBs lower than 224MW remain at Category Y under Annex II of MARPOL.
3. MARPOL is the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution From Ships, which regulates the marine transportation and discharge of oil and other hazardous substances. The IMO is the United Nations agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships.
Please sign this petition to help save the lives of hundreds of seabirds
who might be affected the next time damaging chemicals are legally discharged in
Help our government realise the damage caused by recent events which could have
been avoided if action was taken sooner!
SO FAR OVER 3000 BIRDS HAVE DIED!!
Guillemots, razorbills, fulmars and even puffins, gannets and skuas have been pulled off the beach!!
Now it is confirmed PIB has been found on dead spider crabs, dogfish and in the stomachs of sand eels??? Is it entering our food chain??
PIB is commonly used in enginefluids as well as chewing gum and sealants, it is currently legal to discharge this
substance into the sea over 12 miles offshore. This also happens to be where many
of the seabirds affected spend most of their time diving and fishing for food.
It is totally unacceptable to just do nothing; we have to investigate the
source of these large scale spills, and move to control all substances which
have the potential to damage our delicate marine environment and the creatures
that live within it.
THIS MUST NOT HAPPEN AGAIN!!
Please, please sign this petition to help our Minister for the
Environment, Richard Benyon, realise how important this issue is!!
Our sea creatures have enough problems to contend with without also being so
needlessly hit by this too.
Please click the link below to go to a video made by Steve Trewhella in
February showing rescuers hard at work….
Thank you for taking the time to sign and read this now please please don’t forget to SHARE!!
WANT TO DO MORE...................
Sign the second Petition at
The center who are looking after the birds.... RSPCA West
Hatch....are running short of funds so any donation would be greatly received
to help get the survivors back into the wild!! Thank you!
Also if you find any birds
alive call the RSPCA on 03001234 999.
Cornwall Wildlife Trust are
recording numbers of dead birds so if you see any please call them on 0845 201
2626, this information is very important to help put further pressure on the
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) is the UK authority that responds to pollution from shipping and offshore installations. The MCA is regularly called upon to react to a wide range of maritime incident. Please fire off a quick email to them to ask exactly what they are doing to identify the perpetrators and make sure this won't happen again. Email: email@example.com. We need to ensure all is being done to investigate this disaster!!
Write to your MP or MEP! You can copy and paste the petition and send an adapted version to your MP via email.......this will only take a few minutes but the more pressure we put on our Government the better!!