Campaigners call for ban on seabird killer


This pair of guillemots were casualties of pollution by PIB. Pic: RSPB

Three leading wildlife organisations have joined together to call for the ban on the discharge of polyisobutene (PIB), which has killed hundreds of seabirds.

The disaster of hundreds of seabirds dying along England’s southern coast because of marine pollution has prompted the RSPB, the RSPCA and The Wildlife Trust to write to Transport Minister Stephen Hammond, alerting him to the growing threat.

The three charities are urging the minister to take a lead in driving an international reclassification of the man-made substance to prohibit the discharge of PIB at sea. PIB renders seabirds helpless, restricting their mobility and preventing them from feeding as the chemical coats their plumage. There have have been two pollution incidents involving PIB along the South Coast this year, and at least three others around European coasts in recent years.

The chemical is used in the manufacture of a range of products including lubricants to football bladders, chewing gum to cling film, and it is also used to control the thickness of oils.

It can be legal to discharge PIB when ships wash out their tanks at sea, but these permissions are based on tests carried out under laboratory conditions and no consideration is taken of what happens when the chemical meets sea water, beyond whether the substance floats or sinks.

In the sea, however, the polyisobutene transforms into a glue-like, ‘waxy’ formation, coating the feathers of birds, preventing them from diving and finding food.  Alec Taylor, the RSPB’s marine policy officer, said: “This material is a killer which has claimed the lives of thousands of seabirds, causing many to suffer a lingering death.  It cannot be right that it is legal to release it in any quantity into our seas.”

The three wildlife charities are calling on the Minister to write to the International Maritime Organisation to request a review of PIB’s hazard status under the Marpol Convention, which states it is legal to discharge PIB when a vessel’s tanks are flushed at sea. The campaigning group 38 Degrees has also launched an e-action urging the government to take action.

12 responses to “Campaigners call for ban on seabird killer

  1. Interesting. Always reassuring that permissions are based on lab tests that may bear no relation to the relevant conditions…! All the best, RH

  2. Reblogged this on Spots, Stripes and Double Helix and commented:
    So many issues around ocean pollution – but each one tackled gives our wildlife a chance.

  3. Reblogged this on Pete's Favourite Things and commented:
    Yet again we find ways to screw up our world!

  4. How horrid! How good of you to post it! Will reblog.

  5. Reblogged this on MOONSIDE and commented:
    Hundreds of birds are dying at the hands of PIB. Please pass the word along so PIB can be banned before hundreds more die.

  6. I have heard of this. Another sad testiment to our abusive neglect of life

  7. Reblogged this on Science on the Land and commented:
    argylesock says… Since timr6 wrote about polyisobutene (PIB) on his blog Green Living London, Mike Palmer started a petition to the UK Government. If you want PIB banned from our seas, you could sign

  8. Hello.This post was really interesting, particularly because I was looking for thoughts on this matter last Monday.

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