Following action by The Wildlife Trusts, RSPB and RSPCA the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) decided to reclassify Polyisobutelene (PIB), under the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), making it illegal to discharge any amount into the sea.
The IMO is stopping ships from discharging PIB at sea after birds covered in the sticky substance were washed up on the Channel coastline. Over 4,000 seabirds washed ashore, dead or dying between February and May, after there were two separate spills. The substance which has been likened to PVA glue in consistency, coats the birds feathers, rendering them unable to fly or maintain core body temperature.
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), it was decided to change the classification of high viscosity PIBs 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.
This was a decision which was expected to take years and the efforts of all those who lobbied so hard in the Channel Islands should not be forgotten.
Thanks go out to GSPCA, JSPCA, Durrell, La Société Guernesiaise, La Société Jersiaise and the National Trust for Jersey who joined the AWT campaign and all of their Facebook and Twitter followers! The Birds On The Edge report can be read here.