Marine pollution policy under fire
By Rob Edwards, Environmental Editor
27th June 2004
Government attempts to protect the marine environment from pollution have been rejected as inadequate by a Labour-dominated House of Commons committee.
The environment, food and rural affairs committee condemned ministers for failing to respond to growing fears about oil spillages and toxic chemical leaks at sea. Eleven of the committee’s 17 members are Labour Party members.
“We are extremely disappointed,” the committee said. “We regret that the government’s response does not represent a serious attempt to advance policy in this area.”
The committee published a major report on the marine environment in March, concluding that it was “imperative that urgent action is taken to prevent further decline in the marine environment”.
It criticised delays in introducing a scheme designed to protect particularly vulnerable areas, many around the Scottish coast. It backed calls for a new Marine Act to deliver more co-ordinated protection.
The committee published the government’s response last week, but ministers made no firm commitments.
The committee replied by calling on the government to withdraw its response and produce “a more substantive document” within six weeks.
“It should set out a more robust and urgent policy for dealing with the problems faced by the marine environment,” the committee said
Labour member Mark Lazarowicz MP added: “It is important for the government to turn fine words into action.”
He was supported by the environment group WWF. It points out that the Minches, the straits that separate the Western Isles from Skye and the mainland, are particularly at risk. A Maritime and Coastguard Agency study suggests between 1000 and 5000 ships use the Minches every year. A year ago this week the MV Jambo, a Cypriot vessel, sank in the Minches with 3300 tonnes of zinc on board. There were fears that toxins would leach out from the cargo and poison marine life.
According to Kevin Colcomb, of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the toxins were naturally dispersed: “It was something that we saw as a potential problem, but luckily it turned out not to be very serious.”