Volume 2 8 / N u m b e r 4/April 1994
Being non-biodegradable and in some cases nonphotodegradable owing to the addition of ultra-violet light stabilizer and anti-oxidants they are found on beaches all over the world and it is thought that seabirds and fish may ingest large quantities of these particles. According to the report increasing production of plastics by the Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) as well as inadlequate shipping and waste disposal methods have led to a large increase in the plastic pollution of the sea and beaches of the Gulf. As the plastic pellets are high density polyethylene, they float readily in sea water and hence are found beached in large quantities, usually accumulating at the top of the shore. They tangle with weeds, agglomerate with the frequent tar balls and often become covered by moving sand. Although the east coast of the Gulf of Oman is polluted in this way, the west coast of the Arabian Gulf is much more heavily affected. In 1990, the SABIC annual production of polyethylene was 500,000 tonnes of polyethylene, only one of the plastics manufactured, and the production is expected to double by 1995. The authors of the report pointed out the need to establish whether the pellets are posing any substantial ecological problems as the plastic pollution of the beaches study showed the pollution to be heavy when compared with the rest of the world. PHILIPPA AMBROSE
Pellets are not the only form of plastic debris to become mixed with beached oil in the Arabian Gulf.
Plans to Refill the Dead Sea Israel is planning to build canals linking the Mediterranean Sea with the Dead Sea. The canals will use the fact that the Dead Sea is 400 m below sea level to generate hydroelectric power which in turn would be used to drive desalination plants sited along their length. The plan is not new and was first proposed 10 years ago but shelved because of Arab opposition. The project is now backed by Israel, its neighbours and the World Bank who has already indicated that it is willing to raise financial support. Two canals are proposed running from the Mediterranean and the Red Sea to the Dead Sea, one via Haifa and Beit She'on and the other from the southern part of the central coastline.
The canals will generate cheap electricity by exploiting the low elevation of the Dead Sea. The desalinated water produced will be used to promote agricultural development in nearly arid regions. The projects will also have the added advantage of stemming the longterm fall in the level of the Dead Sea which is presently threatening the exploitation of potash and other natural resources on the eastern shore. There has already been an offer from Italy to fund a feasibility study for a projected Red Sea-Dead Sea Canal which would run for 280 km. The canals will cost between $750 million and $1.5 billion each, with an additional S1 bn for the string of desalination plants. The plants, powered by at least 800 MW of electricity, would produce up to 1 billion cu m of fresh water a year, or half the quantity being currently consumed by both Israeli and Palestinian population in the area. The whole project has been revived by Israeli Energy Minister, Moshe Shahal because of the prospect of early peace with Jordan which controls the eastern shore of the Dead Sea.
Canadian Cod Stocks in Trouble Cod stocks on the Grand Banks (area 3NO) off Canada have shown a continuing decline in size and are now less than one-quarter the size of a few years ago according to some recent research. The North-West Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) manage this international fish stock which can also be caught outside Canada's 200 mile offshore limits. An attempt has been made by Canadian fisheries minister, Brian Tobin, European Union (EU) Fisheries Commissioner Yannis Paleokrassas and the British Fisheries Minister Michael Jack, to put an end to the over-fishing of these important cod stocks which straddle the Canadian 200 mile limit. A special NAFO review of the cod stock will be carried out in March 1994. Particular concern about controls centres around the vessels sailing under registration in Panama, Honduras, Belize and other countries as they operate outside the regulations and quotas of the NAFO. Strict E U regulations mean that member countries penalize any vessels violating the quotas and Canada will now take similar action to protect the cod. No fishing of the cod will be allowed for the time being to try and counteract the severe depletion and allow the fish stock to recover.
American Concern over Ballast Pests Growing concern over the number of ballast borne pests in US waters has resulted in a Bill approved by the House of Representatives. Aquatic, non-indigenous species (ANS) have been found in 24 out of 27 surveyed ships in the US over a 4 month study and 360 197
Marine Pollution Bulletin
different organisms in the ballast waters of 160 vessels from Japan entering Oregon. The Bill addresses this problem by requiring the US National Research Council's Marine Board to evaluate any technologies and practices available which could prevent the spread and introduction of ANS in US waters. If suitable technologies are found they will need to be fitted to any existing vessels as well as any ship designs. The Bill expects the technologies to be practical, safe, environmentally acceptable and to have the ability to
monitor their success. The National Research Council's Marine Board will be expected to report to the US Congress on these technologies within 1 year if the Bill becomes law. One introduced organism alone, the zebra mussel, had contaminated the Great Lakes in the 1980s and estimated $4-$8 billion will be needed in the next decade to keep this pest under control. With 226 US parts being visited by foreign vessels it is thought that 15 billion US gallons of ballast water are dumped into the surrounding waters every year.