(Above) Chesil Officer Marc Smith with Guillemot by Angela Herron (Below) Rescued Guillemot by Marc Smith
A major victory has been won in the battle to ensure adequate protection for our marine environment as the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) announce they have decided to reclassify Polyisobutelene (PIB), making it illegal to discharge any amount into the sea.
Devastating sight of dead seabirds on Dorset coasts
Earlier this year, we were devastated to see the sight of over 4,000 dead or dying seabirds washed ashore on Dorset’s beaches after two separate spills or deliberate releases of the chemical PIB into the sea. Working from the Fine Foundation Chesil Beach Centre at Portland, Dorset Wildlife Trust conservation officers rescued many hundreds of birds and transferred them for cleaning by the RSPCA.
Campaign by various wildlife organisations
Quick action from conservation groups including The Wildlife Trusts (including Dorset Wildlife Trust), RSPB, and the RSPCA led a concerted campaign backed by thousands of public signatures and letters to MPs to ask the IMO to reclassify PIB as a ‘noxious liquid substance’.
The substance, which has been likened to PVA glue in consistency, coats the feathers of birds such as guillemots, razorbills and gannets, rendering them unable to fly or maintain core body temperature. Beaches in the South West of England were a sorry sight, as birds came ashore with every high tide.
Safeguarding our seas and sea-life for the future
Dorset Wildlife Trust Chief Executive and marine biologist, Dr Simon Cripps, said, “Today’s decision is a real step forward to ensure the safeguarding of our seas and sea-life for future generations. This success shows what can be done by organisations working in partnership to orchestrate public opinion. It is not acceptable that shipping uses our seas as a dumping ground for such dangerous wastes. I commend the International Maritime Organisation for their prompt action in response to our urgent request for reclassification of this dangerous chemical.”
For more information about the polyisobutene (PIB) pollution in the English Channel, please click here.
Notes to Editor
For more information please contact Sally Welbourn at Dorset Wildlife Trust on 01305 264620.
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Dorset Wildlife Trust works to champion wildlife and natural places, to engage and inspire people and to promote sustainable living. Founded in 1961, DWT is now the largest voluntary nature conservation organisation in Dorset, with over 25,000 members and over 40 nature reserves. Most are open daily and there are visitor centres providing a wealth of wildlife information at Brooklands Farm, Lorton Meadows, Kingcombe Meadows and Brownsea Island Nature Reserves, The Purbeck Marine Wildlife Reserve and the Urban Wildlife Centre at Upton Heath Nature Reserve. DWT plays a key role in dealing with local environmental issues and leads the way in establishing the practices of sustainable development and engaging new audiences in conservation, particularly in the urban areas.
The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) is the United Nations agency responsible for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships. It consists of 170 member states, including the UK.
Polyisobutene (PIB), also known as polyisobutylene or butyl rubber, is a non-toxic and non- aggressive substance, used for example to manufacture chewing gum, adhesive tape and sealants. It is also very sticky - PIB is what makes cling-film stick to whatever it touches. In shipping, it is often used as a thickening agent for industrial lubricant oils. As a substance, it is generally colourless or light yellow, odourless, tasteless and cannot easily be identified. One of its special properties is that it is the only form of rubber that is completely impermeable to gas as well as water.
PIB is transported around the world on a regular and increasing basis. The global consumption of PIB was over 850,000 tonnes in 2011, with the USA as the leading producer, but Belgium and France together produce almost a fifth of the PIB market. The UK is a major importer. As a consequence, there is considerable transport of PIB around the UK and Western Europe. Global consumption is forecast to increase by around 40% by 2017 to 1.2 million tonnes per year