Ocean view … the law can scupper those plastic islands

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The tide of plastic polluting our oceans is a violation of international law and  campaigners are calling for a new global treaty to end  the problem.

A new report presented to a Royal Geographical Society reveals clogging the sea with plastics is against existing agreements. It also demands international pressure is applied to governments that fail to prosecute the dumping of waste in our waters.

Environment journalist Oliver Tickell says his report is backed by ClientEarth, the legal group that sued the UK over air pollution failures.

Oliver says marine plastic litter can already be controlled through the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS); the London Convention; the MARPOL Convention; the Basel Convention; Customary Law, and many other regional agreements.

He quotes Article 194 of UNCLOS which says states should “prevent, reduce and control pollution of the marine environment from any source.

“Measures shall include, inter alia, those designed to minimize to the fullest possible extent… the release of toxic, harmful or noxious substances, especially those which are persistent, from land-based sources… and shall include those necessary to protect and preserve rare or fragile ecosystems as well as the habitat of depleted, threatened or endangered species and other forms of marine life.”

Tickell adds: “Amid all the hand-wringing over ocean plastic, the fact that it’s actually illegal has scarcely been mentioned. Sadly, very few states are in compliance with those obligations they have committed to.

He believes small islands suffering the worst impacts of marine plastic pollution may be fearful of confronting more powerful countries responsible for dumping. China, India and Indonesia are among the worst.

A spokesman for ClientEarth said: “Under current international law, states already have the obligation to prevent, control and reduce marine plastic pollution.

“A new convention might impose more specific action, but the political energy needed for a new international agreement could be put to better use.”

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