UN urges action to stop sea pollution from shipping

LONDON (Reuters) – The world’s top maritime body berated countries for failing to deliver on promises to protect the world’s oceans at a weeklong meeting that closed on Friday, and pressed them to act. The UN International Maritime Organization (IMO) criticized governments for failing to ratify important anti pollution laws, sometimes for years after they were agreed. IMO Secretary-General Efthymios Mitropoulos singled out commitments to curb the spread of invasive alien species through untreated ship ballast water, and a paint chemical used to stop organisms attaching themselves to ship’s hulls that is toxic to wildlife. Environmentalists consider the threat to biodiversity due to invasive alien species second only to habitat loss. Mitropoulos said he was concerned that the slow pace of ratification would damage the marine environment and urged delegates to «exert whatever influence you have at home» to approve the law. «I would encourage early action so that the maritime community may not be accused of neglecting it’s duty towards this beautiful planet,» he told delegates who attended for a series of meetings. On anti-fouling ship paint that contains the toxin Tributylin (TBT), only 17 of 166 IMO member countries have ratified the legislation agreed to five years ago, despite the industry supporting the ban. The WWF accused countries party to the IMO of contaminating wildlife and allowing TBT to enter the food chain. «This is a scandal the world should be ashamed of,» said Simon Walmsley, head of the WWF’s UK Marine Program. «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.»