Check out this post on our Notes on Nature blog. Great stuff!
Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
By Helene Jessop, Conservation Assistant, South West
The RSPB has written a piece for The Ecologist on the recent PIB seabird incident and our call for change. We’ve set out a five-point plan of what we think needs to happen, so that further tragic incidents are prevented.
To recall, between 29 January and 6 February 2013, more than 500 seabirds were killed or rendered helpless by a pollution event off the south coast of England. Many more died at sea. The pollutant was polyisobutene or PIB, which has killed thousands of other seabirds in the Irish and North Seas.
Marc Smith, Dorset Wildlife Trust, witnessed the tragedy: “It was heart-breaking seeing birds washing up along the shore. Some were so covered in this horrible substance they were stuck to the beach – still alive but unable to move. Exhausted, freezing and emaciated - they were the lucky ones. Dead birds littered the beach”.
RSPB says IMO must act now to prevent another disaster
Polluting discharges at sea are regulated by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). Yet it’s still legal with conditions to discharge PIB and other hazardous chemicals into the sea when washing out cargo tanks. The RSPB believes this must change. We’re calling on the IMO to implement our five point plan with the view to making discharges of PIB and similar substances into the sea illegal.
Our five point plan requires the following:
See the original article here for more details, and find out about RSPB’s campaign for better protection for our spectacular seabirds at www.rspb.org.uk/marine
The RSPB thanks Abbotsbury Swannery, Chesil Bank & Fleet Nature Reserve, Dorset Wildlife Trust, RSPCA and South Devon Seabird Trust for their actions in this latest incident. RSPB staff and volunteers monitored beaches in Cornwall, Devon and Dorset.
Guillemot: Portland Bird Observatory
Following the success of highlighting the issues of unsustainable fishing practices, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall last night launched his new ‘Save our Seas’ campaign. This campaign moves beyond fish and highlights the need for better protection for the marine environment through a network of marine protected areas (MPAs) across the world’s oceans and seas. Hugh’s programme highlighted the benefits for those fishing outside MPAs through increased catches because stocks are able to replenish themselves from within the protected area.
The RSPB has long been a champion for MPAs throughout the UK (and globally) – we fought for years to get legislation passed in England, Wales and Scotland that would give greater protection for our marine environment and we are now calling for an ecologically coherent network of MPAs to be designated and managed to protect the full diversity of marine wildlife. Such sites would protect important wildlife by ensuring activities that might damage them are properly controlled, and if necessary, excluded, while allowing effective management to take place of non-damaging or sustainable activities.
Hugh’s new ‘Save our Seas’ campaign couldn’t be more timely as his cause highlights the desperate need for MPAs just as the Government is consulting on a suite of sites called Marine Conservation Zones or MCZs, in the waters around England.
However, we are extremely worried about the lack of ambition in the current consultation in English waters and that none of the processes to identify MPAs (in England, Wales and Scotland) will deliver protection for the important areas used by seabirds at sea for feeding, etc. And in Northern Ireland, we are still campaigning for the legislation (through a Marine Act) to designate MPAs.
For this reason, the RSPB will continue its campaign for the better protection of the marine environment and especially its seabirds for the coming year, with actions targeted at the relevant governments. This is significant step towards better marine conservation in the UK and we need your help to convince the four UK governments to make a difference. If you are interested in supporting us, please sign up to this‘Safeguard our Sealife’ blog for updates. Our next action, in early March, will focus on the current MCZ consultation in England, with future actions focussing on the consultation in Scotland later in the summer, with timetables yet to be determined in Wales and Northern Ireland.
After a week where pollution of our marine environment has been so much in the news, I was shocked to read that DEFRA appear to be resisting the plastic bag levy for England. After previously making encouraging noises about introducing a charge for these wildlife-killers, Richard Benyon has now said it 'may not be the best option' due to pressures on household budgets.
Billions of plastic bags are discarded each year - and only 6% get recycled. Both Ireland and Wales have shown that a small levy effectively reduces plastic bag use by 90% or more. Yes, household budgets are under pressure, but we can all avoid paying for plastic bags by reusing the bags we already have (plastic and otherwise). That's the whole reason it works.
Discarded plastic bags kill wildlife and are a pointless, needless waste of resources. Making a tiny charge works, and polls show the public support the move. Why are DEFRA still resisting this no brainer all round win?
If you want to encourage DEFRA to make the right choice, add your name to Break the Bag Habit today.
Plastic bag on beach: Craig A Rodway
This has been a significant week for our marine environment.
Yesterday MEPs voted on the future of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). We are delighted that they overwhelmingly voted in favour of the proposed reforms. We believe the reform will pave the way to the restoration of fish stocks, a healthier marine environment, and a better future for fishermen.
Dr Euan Dunn, our head of marine policy said:
“The European Parliament deserves huge credit for taking the pulse of public opinion and discarding the sticking plasters of the past, and instead opting for the radical surgery that fisheries management has been crying out for. As a result we hope that Europe’s seas and all those who depend on them will have a brighter future.”
This is great news.
Though our joy about the CFP result is of course tempered somewhat by the disaster of the stranded south coast seabirds. The pollutant has been identified as polyisobutene (PIB), which is used for a wide range of purposes, from fuel additives to chewing gum.
PIB currently has the lowest hazard classification under the international shipping regulations MARPOL (category Z, substances presenting a minor hazard to either marine resources or human health and therefore justifying less stringent restrictions on the quality and quantity of discharge into the marine environment)
Although there are some restrictions, it is perfectly legal to discharge certain amounts of this ‘minor hazard’ into our marine environment when vessels wash out their tanks.
PIB is believed to have been responsible for over 4,000 seabird deaths in at least three other incidents around European coasts in recent years. We believe the current classification does not take into consideration the impact on marine wildlife when PIB is mixed with sea water.
If you can bear it, take a look at a video from the Portland Bill Observatory. Scroll down the page to 2 February, the video is below some still images of stranded guillemots. Please note that rescuers were unable to save this poor bird as it was entirely inaccessible at the base of steep cliffs - this film was taken from the cliff top. I don’t think anyone seeing this heartbreaking video could describe PIB as ‘a minor hazard’.
We are calling for the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to urgently reclassify PIB, and implement regulations that prevent it from it from causing any further incidents like those seen this last week.
If you want to help us continue our work to safeguard our sealife , you can make a donation online here. Thank you.
Dead guillemots: Marc Smith, Dorset Wildlife Trust