Thursday, September 23, 2010

OSPAR ministers urged to tackle marine litter

Environment ministers meeting at this week's conference on the
protection of the north-east Atlantic in Norway must take action
against marine plastic debris, also known as 'garbage patches', a
coalition of green groups has said.

New research released earlier this year found that plastic debris in
the North Atlantic could be as large as the giant patch floating in
the Pacific Ocean. The Dutch government raised the issue at an EU
ministerial meeting in October 2009.

In a manifesto to be presented on Friday at the meeting of OSPAR
convention on the north-east Atlantic, the NGOs call on ministers to
reduce marine debris by 40% by 2020 and end the problem within a
generation. The issue should be a priority for OSPAR, they say.
Measures recommended include bans on plastic bags.

Other measures recommended include a general ban on all waste
discharges from ships to the sea as part of the International Maritime
Ogranisation's MARPOL convention, and increased reuse of plastic
containers through deposit schemes.

The ministers are expected to adopt an environmental strategy for the
region for the period 2010-20. It is not clear whether it will include
specific measures to tackle marine litter. A report on the state of
the north-east Atlantic will also be unveiled.

Other issues to be discussed include new legal instruments to improve
the protection and conservation of threatened species and habitats.
This may include the establishment of Marine Protected Areas in areas
beyond national jurisdiction.

The ministers are also expected to discuss the prospect of a
moratorium on all deep sea oil drilling projects in the North Sea.
Germany's environment minister Norbert Röttgen, initially a strong
advocate, has watered down his position on the issue.

In July, an OSPAR expert committee reported reduced discharges of
radioactive substances into the ocean due to changed practices and
improved waste treatment. Last year, the convention's signatories
agreed to legalise the undersea geological storage of carbon dioxide.
This week's conference will finish on Friday.


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