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Time to ban toxic boat paint pollution

Press release from World Wildlife Fund | October 16, 2006

WWF is calling on countries attending a meeting of the International Maritime Organization to ratify legislation to bring an end to the use of chemicals used in shipping industry paints.

During the IMO meeting this week, the global conservation organization is calling on member countries to ratify their own five-year-old legislation to bring an end to this senseless pollution.

In particular, WWF is submitting a paper to the IMO meeting on Tributyltin (TBT) pollution on a global scale. It shows the impacts on mussels, oysters, clams, abalone and gastropods, as well as high contamination of a range of other marine animals such as skipjack tuna and harbour porpoise.

"This is a scandal the world should be ashamed of," said Dr Simon Walmsley, Head of WWF-UK's Marine Programme. "Forty years after TBT's negative impacts were first identified and five years after the legislation to ban it was agreed TBT is still used, indiscriminately polluting global marine life and our food chain."

Only 17 out of 166 member countries of the IMO have ratified the legislation. However, the majority of the shipping industry supports a ban, with only the unscrupulous operators still using it. The leading paint companies have stopped producing TBT since 2003 and market commercially viable alternatives instead.

"This is the most toxic chemical ever deliberately released into the marine environment and there is no excuse for using it," Dr Walmsley added.

A recent WWF report, Chain of Contamination: the Food Link, revealed that TBT and its derivatives were found contaminating foods from around Europe. TBT was widely used in anti-fouling paints to prevent marine organisms from sticking to the hulls of boats and ships. However, the negative impacts of TBT, first suspected in the late 1960s, has been shown to change the sex of dog whelks as it is an endocrine disrupting chemical, has caused oyster crops failures in France, and has closed shell fish farms. It contaminates wildlife in the open ocean as well as in coastal waters.

However, by 2008, EU legislation will ban the use of TBT on EU-flagged vessels and any ship painted with TBT will be refused entry to EU ports.


editors note
* The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is a United Nations agency that promotes cooperation among governments and the shipping industry to improve maritime safety and to prevent marine pollution.

* Seventeen IMO member countries have agreed to the TBT legislation. These are: Antigua & Barbuda, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Denmark, Greece, Japan, Latvia, Luxembourg, Nigeria, Norway, Poland, Romania, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Spain, Sweden, Tuvala and Mexico. The four leading paint companies who are not using TBT are: International Paints, Hempel, Jotun and Chugoku.

For further information:
Anthony Field, Deputy Head of Press
WWF-UK
Tel: +44 1483 412379
Email: afield@wwf.org.uk

Article has been adapted from a news release issued by World Wildlife Fund. Click here for the original news release.

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