A milestone in the protection of the oceans was reached yesterday as a global ban on tributyltin (TBT) - one of the most toxic chemicals deliberately released into the sea - entered into force.
TBT is an organic additive often used in marine antifouling paints, as it swiftly kills organisms such as barnacles, algae and mussels which naturally attach themselves to hard surfaces, including on the sides of ships, thus ensuring their smooth passage through the water and reducing fuel consumption.
The problem is that TBT leaks out from the paint and into the surrounding water, affecting marine life and seeping into the food chain.
Heard of sea snails changing sex, or oysters seeing their hard shell going all soft and mushy? These are but two known adverse TBT effects on marine species. The decline of commercially harvested oysters along the Atlantic coast of France and the UK has been attributed to TBT contamination. TBT has also been found far from shipping lanes in albatrosses, whales and fish.The International Convention
The International Convention on the Control of Harmful Antifouling Systems for Ships obliges its signatories to ensure that no vessels using TBT-containing paint go under their flag or call at their ports.
“TBT belongs not in the sea but in the poison cupboard, and this agreement will help put it firmly back there,” says Stephan Lutter, International Policy Officer with WWF Germany.
But take-up of the agreement has been slow, with many of the large shipping states having yet to sign and implement the agreement into their national legislation. Whereas WWF is applauding the commitment of the 34 states that have ratified the agreement so far, the conservation organisation urges all 168 member states of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to join.
Source: WWF Related EVISA Resources
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last time up-dated: September 18, 2008