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Government Delays For Five Years Signing Up To United Nations Treaty For Marine Environment Protection – PODCAST

22nd June 2016
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Ballast water discharges can carry invasive species Ballast water discharges can carry invasive species

Five years ago the Department of Transport told the United Nations agency dealing with safety at sea and the marine environment that it was preparing to ratify a treaty drawn up by the UN intended to control the spread of invasive marine species which could cause damage in Irish waters, possibly wiping out native marine species and causing damage to the marine environment generally.
Five years later, while 51 nations around the world have signed the Ballast Water Management Convention drawn up by the International Maritime Organisation, Ireland still hasn’t done so, despite a request from the Secretary General of the Organisation.
The treaty is designed to counter the threat to marine ecosystems caused by potentially invasive species carried across the oceans of the world in ships’ ballast water. Ballast water is essential to the safe and efficient operation of modern shipping, providing balance and stability to unladen and partly laden ships. Because shipping transports up to 90 per cent of the world’s traded commodities, it is reckoned to transfer up to 5 billion tonnes of ballast water around ports of the world every year and that is claimed by scientists to be the main cause of introducing non-native species from one country to another.
When Peru, this month, became the 51st State to accede to the Treaty to try to control this problem, I asked the International Maritime Organisation if Ireland had ratified…


“Not yet” I was told from IMO Headquarters in London, with the additional quote from their spokesperson… “but it is apparently intending to … Well that is what Ireland said in 2011” and they sent me a copy of Marine Notice No.47 of 2011 from the Department of Transport which stated that “Ireland’s maritime administration is at present preparing the legislation that is required and intends to ratify the Convention when this process is complete…”
Five years later, the IMO suggested to me that it might be worth asking why Ireland had not signed… I did and the Department told me…that “provision to give effect to the Convention was made in the Sea Pollution Miscellaneous Provisions Act of 2006. Now that’s ten years ago, but it seems a Statutory Instrument has been drafted by the Department to give effect to the Convention in Irish law. However, subject to some legal clarifications the Department expects that the Order will be enacted only …” shortly after the Convention comes into force…”

zebra mussel boat

Zebra mussels on the hull of a boat

Thereby hangs the rub…This treaty has actually been hanging around since 2004, that’s 12 years ago, even as the problems of invasive species increased with specific threats identified in Ireland by Government task forces, to freshwater river systems, lakes and coastal areas. To come into effect it needs a minimum of 30 States to approve it which would represent 35 per cent of world merchant shipping tonnage. 51 States have done so but they represent only 44.87 per cent of tonnage. Ireland’s access would only add .02 per cent tonnage, but the Secretary General of the IMO has appealed to every nation to support the Convention… so why is Ireland delaying, saying that it won’t sign until the Convention comes into force… in other words waiting for other nations to support it while Ireland won’t?
Senator Grace O’Sullivan is the Green Party’s spokesperson on the environment and says Ireland could push the treaty along if the Government would sign it, while Richie Flynn, Executive of IFA Aquaculture on behalf of fish farmers, isn’t surprised by the failure to sign, but it doesn’t please him.
Hear their views and the Podcast above.

Published in Island Nation

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