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nowpap news October - December 2017 -FOCUS ON MICROPLASTICS

message from NOWPAP Coordinator

Lev Neretin, NOWPAP Coordinator

Dear NOWPAP Members, partners and friends!

I am pleased to introduce the next digital edition of the NOWPAP Newsletter that covers our activities and presents regional and global news of the last three months of 2017.

It was a busy period for NOWPAP Regional Activity Centers and Coordinating Unit that culminated in the 22nd NOWPAP Intergovernmental Meeting held on December 19-21 in Toyama, Japan. The meeting was a prime time to reflect on our common achievements of the year and consider future development to be shaped in the emerging Medium-Term Strategy 2018-2023. But most importantly, it was a time for our extended NOWPAP family to get together to share progress, views and aspirations for the regional mechanism. It was a successful meeting that resulted in the approval of a record NOWPAP budget, fully fledged work programs of our Regional Centers reflecting upon evolving regional environmental priorities, and the introduction of a new NOWPAP Special Projects modality among several important meeting decisions.

Starting from this Newsletter we plan to continue introducing NOWPAP projects and faces behind them. I hope you would enjoy reading about research on microplastics led by Mr. Nikolai Kozlovskii of the NOWPAP Pollution Monitoring Center in this issue. There were some important meetings and events organized by our Regional Centers with brief summaries presented in the newsletter. Please also pay attention to some interesting news and developments in the region presented to you as a digest from various media sources.

We would very much welcome your comments and suggestions on how to improve this publication as we strive to make it more interactive and owned by all of you. We wish all readers of the Newsletter a happy and prosperous 2018 and looking very much forward to exciting collaborations and partnerships in 2018!

With warm regards,

NOWPAP RCU Team (Lev, Ning, Chika, Jihee, Kotoe, and Soh Young)

Contents

  1. Pioneering Microplastics Research in the Russian Far East - Interview with Mr. Nikolai Kozlovskii
  2. News from NOWPAP Regional Activity Centres (RACs) & Regional Coordinating Unit (RCU)
  3. Fostering Partnerships
  4. Working with Communities
  5. Marine News Digest
  6. Engage with the UN Environment
  7. Interns Corner
1. Pioneering Microplastics Research in the russian far east - Interview with dr. Nikolai Kozlovskii

Nikolai Kozlovskii, researcher at the NOWPAP Pollution Monitoring Regional Activity Centre (POMRAC) specializing in microplastics, talks to Kotoe Kuroda on key findings of his recent research project ‘River discharge of microplastic pollution in the Peter the Great Gulf’.

Mr. Nikolai Kozlovskii, NOWPAP POMRAC

On starting up Microplastics Research

Actually, in my first year as a researcher, I was offered to study atmospheric contaminants. However, Dr. Anatoly Kachur, Director of POMRAC, insisted that I should study microplastics. It turned out to be an interesting work!

This research started when Ms. Yana Blinovskaya, the International Coastal Cleanup Coordinator for Russia for Ocean Conservancy, a global NGO, and I attended a session on microplastics during a workshop organized during the North Pacific Marine Science Organization (PICES) 2014 Annual Meeting in Yeosu, Republic of Korea. While many other PICES countries were already undertaking research on microplastics, there was not much on the topic in the Far Eastern (Pacific) region of Russia. Thus, we started this research under the Regional Action Plan of Marine Litter of NOWPAP.

On Research Findings

Map showing survey area of the research "River discharge as a source of microplastic pollution in the Peter the Great Gulf"

Objectives and Methods

To identify possible land-based sources of marine microplastics, the structural and numerical differences between microplastics in water samples from tidal zones and eight different rivers in the Far East of Russia were compared. In tidal zone samples, UV light causes plastics degradation and thus we could not assess rates of plastics input. In the case of rivers, we could calculate the rate of plastic flowing downstream by setting up a Neuston net to filter the flowing water and catch samples. Comparing these samples by using mathematical calculations, we could find the rate of microplastics input from land-based sources. Microscopic examination and Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) spectrometry were used to determine sample characteristics.

Microplastic particles analyzed in river water samples

Results

We were amazed to find that the composition of microplastics found five miles away from the estuary was the same as in river samples. This suggested to us that river input was a large source of marine litter in this region.

In two to three river samplings conducted per site, microplastics were found only in the Tumen and Suifen Rivers. Both rivers are transboundary draining areas with large population density; we suspect this is the main cause for elevated concentrations of microplastics. The Tumen River basin has at least three times as much population as the Russian city of Vladivostok with 600,000 inhabitants, while the Suifen River has at most 500,000 people.

We hypothesize that microplastics are mainly from domestic, industrial and agricultural sources with the prevalent source varying from site to site. In the Tumen River and on the estuary shores, the prevailing type of microplastics was foamed polystyrene, while in the adjoining marine coastal water we observed large amounts of colored and irregularly shaped secondary plastics (i.e., degraded plastic pieces).

One memorable site was the Tumen River estuary. Especially during heavy rain, the whole area was totally polluted with expanded polystyrene (EPS). The sediments were so white as if they were covered by snow. It was a really impressive sight if not for the pollution it caused!

A picture taken while sampling on the Tumen River

Future Research

This research is just a starting point. We hope that in the future, we will study river input of microplastics on a larger scale, especially on transboundary rivers, through cooperation with NOWPAP colleagues from other countries. Also, the samples in this research were collected in summertime, but samples in October showed lower microplastic concentrations. This is probably due to a weaker current in autumn and we need to have more seasonal studies.

Furthermore, I think there will be more impressive results as we intend to work with marine biologists. We looked only at concentrations and hotspots of microplastics pollution, but by working with biologists and ecotoxicologists, we could look further at the impacts of microplastics on organisms in the region. For example, there is a debate on whether microplastics have a strong eco-toxicological impacts. Some think there is not much impact while some fear that biodegradation of plastics could cause reproductive problems in target organisms and other issues at the individual organism or ecosystem level. When it comes to plastic waste, we are aware that incineration of plastics without proper facility management and control of emissions, could produce toxic substances such as dioxins and furans.

My Motivation for Do further research

Firstly, I want to complete my PhD thesis! Moreover, there is still not much data on this topic so our new data is interesting. In the Russian Far East, we feel like pioneers in this field!

Acknowledgements

In addition to various people who helped with the sample collection and measurements, NOWPAP colleagues, including Dr. Sanghee Hong of the Korean Institute of Ocean Science and Technology (KIOST), Dr. Atsuhiko Isobe of Kyushu University and Dr. Keiichi Uchida of the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology, taught me how to conduct measurements and identify the plastic particles. I would like to express my deep gratitude to them all.

2. News from NOWPAP Regional Activity Centres (RACs) & Regional Coordinating Unit (RCU)
CEARAC - Special Monitoring and Coastal Environmental Assessment Regional Activity Center

The 1st Workshop on Major Pressures on Marine Biodiversity in the NOWPAP Region

The 1st Workshop on Major Pressures on Marine Biodiversity in the NOWPAP Region was held on 24 October 2017 in Tokyo, Japan to review the first draft of the “Assessment of Major Pressures on Marine Biodiversity in the NOWPAP Region”.

The draft was prepared by CEARAC Secretariat based on the pilot assessments in 2014-2015. The report aims to show current status of three major pressures (eutrophication, non-indigenous species and habitat modification) in the NOWPAP region. To explain the current status of major pressures, CEARAC used the DRIVERS, PRESSURES, STATES, IMPACTS and RESPONSES or DPSIR framework, an assessment methodology revealing relationship between the cause and effects of the status of marine biodiversity.

After reviewing the draft, it was decided to look for additional data to refine the DPSIR assessment. The report will be finalized in early 2018.

2017 CEARAC Expert Meeting on Eutrophication Assessment in the NOWPAP Region

The 2017 CEARAC expert meeting on eutrophication assessment in the NOWPAP region was held on 18 October 2017 in Qingdao, China to review the on-going CEARAC activity on trial application of the Screening Procedure, a preliminary assessment in the NOWPAP Common Procedure for eutrophication assessment.

Participants of the CEARAC Expert Meeting on Eutrophication Assessment

Four experts from NOWPAP member states reported their assessment results. CEARAC Secretariat introduced a WebGIS map for eutrophication assessment. Two invited experts provided informative reports on eutrophication and Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB) in the NOWPAP region, and introduced eutrophication operational monitoring program conducted by China.

The meeting also discussed how to refine the current assessment method and developed a plan for future activities. Participants agreed to continue coastal eutrophication assessment in the NOWPAP region, refine uniform criteria in the Screening Procedure and the WebGIS map, refine the Screening Procedure including selection of parameters, and reconstruct the WebGIS map to make it accessible from China.

DINRAC - Data and Information Network Regional Activity Center

The following is a summary of DINRAC activities between October and December 2017.

  1. DINRAC representative attended the 14th NOWPAP POMRAC Focal Points Meeting in 25-26 October 2017 in Vladivostok, Russia.
  2. DINRAC representative has attended the NOWPAP Intergovernmental Meeting in 19-21 December in Toyama, Japan, and reported about DINRAC activities on Marine Environmental Data, Marine Environmental Standards, the Information Collection on Endangered/Threatened Marine Species.
  3. DINRAC coordinated among leading experts in finalizing the compilation on the data and information on Endangered/Threatened Marine Species.
  4. DINRAC was continuously adjusting and compiling the data and information into the new ZCMS Information Management System with more user-friendly interfaces such as graphics, search functionality by years and sub-categories of data.
  5. DINRAC was preparing the draft programme of work and contract for the 2018-2019 biennium.
MERRAC - Marine Environmental Emergency Preparedness & Response Regional Activity Centre

the 2017 International Maritime Disaster Response Conference

December 7th 2017 marked the 10 years since the Hebei Spirit oil spill incident. During the incident that occurred near the Port of Daesan, Republic of Korea, some 10,900 tons of crude oil spilled, polluting about 70km of the western coast of Korea. Damage claim requisition reached USD 3.8 billion and the affected coastal ecosystems took about 4 years to show signs of recovery.

In commemoration of this historic incident, around 240 participants from international and national organizations, including delegations from NOWPAP member countries (People’s Republic of China, Japan, and the Russian Federation), Canada, USA, IMO, IOPC Funds, ITOPF, OSRL and IPIECA gathered in Busan for the 2017 International Maritime Disaster Response Conference, which included the NOWPAP MERRAC Expert Meeting. The conference was organized by Korea Coast Guard and co-organized by NOWPAP MERRAC.

Delegates of the 2017 International Maritime Disaster Response Conference

The conference was held to develop a future work plan for the increased capacity to address maritime disasters. As input for future plans, 13 presentations were made reviewing major oil spills, the latest national policies, technologies and future outlooks of maritime disaster response.

Presentations and discussions during the conference

Combined with the Conference, the R&D technology exhibition was prepared outside of the conference room and also, maritime disaster response exercise were carried out at the pre-arranged exclusive port of Busan by Korean Coast Guard and Marine Environment Research and Training Institute of KOEM.

R&D technology exhibition and the maritime disaster response exercise

Though the international conference with 3 sessions in 2 days seemed too short to share all valuable experiences, the conference was a great success with fruitful results.

POMRAC - Pollution Monitoring Regional Activity Center

Since 1 October 2017 to the end of 2017, NOWPAP POMRAC participated in three major events related to NOWPAP and partners activities.

On 25-26 October 2017, NOWPAP POMRAC organized its 14th Focal Points Meeting in Vladivostok, Russia. The Meeting discussed the results of POMRAC activities during 2016/2017 biennium, developed the workplan and budget for 2018/2019, and discussed NOWPAP Medium-Term strategy for 2018-2023.

NOWPAP POMRAC representatives took part in the joint PEMSEA-NOWPAP Regional Integrated Coastal Management Training of Trainers (ICM ToT) Workshop on 20-24 November 2017 in Quezon City and Batangas (Philippines). The course was designed to equip participants with better understanding and enhanced knowledge, skills and resources in organizing and conducting Integrated Coastal Management (ICM) training for their national agencies and local governments. During this event, NOWPAP member countries presented their national efforts on ICM implementation and shared views on further development of the ICM cooperation in the NOWPAP framework.

POMRAC also made contributions at the Regional Workshop for Asia and the Pacific in support of the second cycle of the Regular Process for Global Reporting and Assessment of the State of the Marine Environment, including Socioeconomic Aspects, held on 29-30 November in Bangkok, Thailand. The workshop organized under the auspices of the United Nations, enabled participants to put forward their views on the scope and structure of the second cycle of the Regular Process.

POMRAC attended the 22nd NOWPAP IGM, where the budget and workplan for POMRAC activities in the biennium of 2018-2019 were approved.

NOWPAP Regional Coordinating Unit

the 22nd NOWPAP Intergovernmental Meeting Agrees To Update Strategies for Marine and Coastal Protection

From 19 to 21 December, representatives of Japan, People’s Republic of China, Republic of Korea and the Russian Federation gathered in Toyama, Japan for the Twenty-second Intergovernmental Meeting (IGM) of the Action Plan for the Protection, Management and Development of the Marine and Coastal Environment of the Northwest Pacific Region (NOWPAP).

Addressing the opening session, H.E. Mr. Tamaki TSUKADA, Deputy Assistant Minister of International Cooperation Bureau, Global Issues, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan, said that NOWPAP provides an effective regional cooperation platform for dealing with emerging and shared marine environmental issues. “There is no better time than now for NOWPAP member states to assess developments in ocean protection, review their strategy and adopt policy guidelines,” he said.

Participants at the 22nd NOWPAP Intergovernmental Meeting

The 2017 IGM endorsed NOWPAP priorities for the next six years set out in the NOWPAP Medium Term Strategy (MTS) 2018-2023, which aim to align its vision with the global sustainable development agenda. The proposed MTS 2018-2023 envisions "a resilient Northwest Pacific marine and coastal environment, supporting sustainable development for the long-term benefit of present and future generations". This is to be promoted by leveraging the best scientific knowledge to inform policy- and decision-making and promoting intra-regional cooperation and synergy among project activities.

The 22nd IGM also approved a significant step up in funding to US$1,300,000 for NOWPAP activities for the 2018-2019 period, to be implemented by four Regional Activity Centres and RCU that focus on assessing the state of the coastal environment, monitoring pollution levels and developing marine disaster preparedness and response capacities of member states.

Taking note of the growing threat to the Northwest Pacific coastal and marine environment from marine litter, in particular microplastics, the Meeting called on NOWPAP member states to step up Action Plan activities to prevent, monitor and remove marine litter at national and local level, working through the Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter adopted in 2008. It endorsed a proposed special project to monitor and assess the impact of the growing microplastics pollution in the region, which will be led by the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences.

Owara dancing performance during the official meeting reception hosted by Toyama Prefecture (upper panel) and the view of Toyama City (lower panel)
3. Fostering Partnerships

Joint PEMSEA-NOWPAP Integrated Coastal Management Training of Trainers (ICM ToT) Course Held

From 20-24 November 2017, PEMSEA Resource Facility and NOWPAP co-organized the Integrated Coastal Management (ICM) training course in Manila and Batangas, Philippines, aimed at mid-career professionals working in the field. 15 participants from PEMSEA Network of Learning Centers and 4 participants from NOWPAP POMRAC learned how to deliver effective ICM training courses on the ground in their countries.

The course covered basic principles of ICM development and implementation, including case studies and fieldwork culminating in the formulation of ICM action plans. On November 23rd, NOWPAP organized a session on marine litter management for workshop participants, followed by a special joint NOWPAP-PEMSEA session on further development of ICM related activities as a part of the NOWPAP Medium-term Strategy 2018-2023. Leading experts from NOWPAP member states attended the session. The training and dialogue among participants were important steps in further strengthening ICM in the region through the NOWPAP mechanism in cooperation with PEMSEA.

Participants at the joint PEMSEA-NOWPAP ICM ToT Course

Mr. Nikolai Kozlovskii, participant from POMRAC, noted that the training was impressive due to the large scope of issues covered and the participation from the two large areas – the Northwest Pacific and Southeast Asia. He stated that, “It was one of the best events we joined this year,” and stressed how his specialist field on microplastics is an integral part of ICM, alongside eutrophication and biodiversity management.

NOWPAP attends Global Dialogue on Technology for Resilient Cities

On October 17th and 18th 2017, NOWPAP attended the Global Dialogue on Technology for Resilient Cities organized by the UN Environment International Environment Technology Centre in Osaka, Japan. Over 100 participants including city/state/ministerial officials from Asia, international organizations, NGOs, and universities attended the dialogue to explore how technologies can contribute to urban resilience against environmental impacts, especially on waste issues.

Some of the themes covered in the presentations were Global Technology Mechanism, national to city scale waste management strategies, project finance, and public education. One distinctive case study that made participants grin was the North-South city exchange between Sao Paolo, Brazil and Copenhagen, Denmark where Sao Paolo, inspired by Copenhagen’s “Recycling is gold” campaign, successfully raised awareness about waste issues by painting their waste collection trucks into gold.

Global Dialogue on Technology for Resilient Cities

Many in attendance emphasized that technological solutions are available for many environmental problems, but that the lack of the enabling environment supporting technology adoption, including effective laws, policies and human capacities is hindering technology transfer. Furthermore, it was noted that technology must be used strategically and needs to be evaluated according to specific project areas. Lessons about waste management, technology transfer practices and beyond would help NOWPAP to further enhance outreach and tackle marine litter issues in a systemic way.

4. Working with communities

NOWPAP Presents at the "Productive sea and marine environmental conservation" Symposium in Toyama, Japan

On December 21st, 2017, Toyama Prefecture of Japan jointly with the Northwest Pacific Region Environmental Cooperation Center organized an international environment symposium on environmental cooperation in the Northwest Pacific region. Toyama Prefecture Governor Mr. Takakazu Ishii made an opening remarks followed by the Director of the Asia and the Pacific Office of the UN Environment, Dr. Dechen Tsering.

"Productive sea and marine environmental conservation" symposium, 21 January 2017

Various presenters, including all four Directors of the NOWPAP Regional Activity Centers and NOWPAP Senior Coordinator and well-known Japanese researchers talked about environmental issues and solutions for the protection of the marine and coastal environment of the Northwest Pacific region at the symposium. Students of Takaoka High School made an engaging presentation about the use of digital media in schools to mobilize students for action combating marine litter. The meeting was well attended with more than 60 people present; many were high school students from Toyama Prefecture.

International Exchange Festival 2017 in Toyama

On November 12, 2017, NOWPAP RCU communicated the importance of international cooperation on tackling marine environmental issues, and explained the role of NOWPAP by holding an information booth at the International Exchange Festival 2017. The Festival was held to foster understanding of different cultures and was attended by citizens of all ages and nationalities of Toyama City.

Pictures from the International Exchange Festival 2017 in Toyama
5. marine news digest
People's Republic of China

Worldwide Impact of China’s Ban on Import of Waste

Starting 01 January 2018, China has banned import of 24 categories of solid waste, including certain types of plastics, paper and textiles and set new limits on contamination levels of domestic recyclable waste. In a communication to the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Government of China explained that this was necessary to protect the environment and public health in the country [5]. With almost half of the world’s plastic waste exports and other recyclables (an estimated over 7 million tons in 2015) [6], being processed by China, the impact of the ban is being felt worldwide.

Accumulation of trash

Garbage pile-ups have already been reported at disposal sites in Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom and other European nations as well as at port cities like Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region of China [5]. Recycling firms are now looking to export the accumulating waste to Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia and Viet Nam but recycling capacities in these countries are insufficient [5, 8]. Furthermore, the import ban could lead to a rise in recycling costs and taxes and countries exporting waste would need to reduce waste and develop domestic waste processing capacities [5].

The import ban can also have some unintended consequences for China itself. For example, a Chinese plastic recycling firm laid off some workers following the lack of waste to recycle [3]. Also, manufacturers using recycled material to make their products will need to find alternatives [5]. Although the Government of China says that the ban would have a positive impact on domestic waste processing, Adam Minter, author of “Junkyard Planet: Travels in the Billion-Dollar Trash Trade”, claims that since China-generated waste is more toxic than the imported variety, health risks for workers employed in the recycling industry in China would increase [7].

But overall, China's ban on waste import has sent a strong message to the global plastics recycling industry. It should lead ultimately to a significant positive impact on the waste management industry in the country, including reduction in marine plastic litter. The ban is also incentivizing waste exporting countries to produce less waste and make less contaminated recyclables. For example, Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May has pledged to eliminate avoidable wastes within 25 years and urged supermarkets to introduce plastic-free aisles [5]. In late January 2018, a new policy was outlined by the European Commission to promote plastic recycling and it is considering taxation for throwaway plastic items as well as introducing new quality standards [4].

Plastic waste recycling plant in Toyama, Japan

Erik Solheim, Executive Director of UN Environment hopes that countries take China’s decision as a “wake-up call” to re-consider their plastic consumption. He encourages nations to take care of their own waste instead of seeking alternative dumping grounds [4].

Although this is not a complete assessment of the likely impact of the ban, this brief analysis shows that often policy measures that have both, positive and unintended negative consequences in complex systems like waste management. There are lessons to be learned on how domestic measures aimed at promoting environmental and public health, provide incentives to improve global environmental standards.

References

  1. Brook Benedict, “The toxic towns in China recycling Australia’s unwanted waste.” October 15, 2017. Accessed January 25, 2018.
  2. Cole Christine, “China bans foreign waste- but what will happen to the world’s recycling?” Independent. October 25, 2017. Accessed January 25, 2018.
  3. Davis Becky and Ding Lilian, “中国の廃棄物輸入禁止策、世界のリサイクル産業に波紋.” AFP BB News. January 24, 2018. Accessed January 25, 2018.
  4. Doyle Alister, “China’s plastic trash ban is spur to recycle: U.N. Environment.” January 30, 2017. Accessed February 1, 2018.
  5. Freytas-Tamura Kimiko, “Plastic Pile Up as China Refuses to Take the West’s Recycling.” The New York Times. January 11, 2018. Accessed January 25, 2018.
  6. Global Imports of Plastic Scrap by Country and Year” Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries. Figures based on UN Comtrade Database on April 14, 2017.
  7. Minter Adam, “China’s War on Foreign Garbage.” Bloomberg View. July 21, 2017. Accessed January 25, 2018.
  8. Plastic waste ‘already building up in UK’ following China’s ban.” The Telegraph. January 2, 2018. Accessed January 25, 2018.
  9. Tomlinson Chris. “China crushes U.S. recycling, at least for now.” January 12, 2018. Accessed January 25, 2018.
  10. Wang Zicheng, “Commentary: China no longer dumping ground for foreign waste.” Xinhua. December 30, 2017. Accessed January 25, 2018.

the Sanchi Oil Tanker Accident: NOWPAP response and potential environmental impacts

News compiled on 06 February 2018.

On 06 January 2018, the Panama-registered Iranian oil tanker Sanchi (IMO:9356608), transporting 136,000 tons of oil condensate from the Islamic Republic of Iran to the Republic of Korea, collided with the grain carrying cargo ship CF Crystal (IMO:9497050) about 160 nautical miles off the coast of Shanghai, China. The oil tanker, ablaze, drifted till 14 January to a point about 280 km southeast [1] from the collision site where it sank after a huge blast [2]. All 32 crew members are confirmed or presumed dead [3], and the cause of the collision is still unknown [2].

On receiving information on the mishap, following the decision of the impacted country of China, NOWPAP Regional Oil and Hazardous and Noxious Substances (HNS) Spill Contingency Plan was not activated. However, since the first days of the disaster, NOWPAP Marine Environmental Emergency Preparedness and Response Regional Activity Centre (MERRAC) continues facilitating regular information exchange among NOWPAP competent authorities (Coast Guards) using the oil and HNS spill accidents Online Reporting System (POLREP). Japan's and Korea's Coast Guards were on site shortly after the accident and since that time supported major rescue and spill response operations of China's Maritime Safety Administration. Regular NOWPAP Joint Exercises conducted regularly among Coast Guards of Member States during last several years established strong working relationships among competent authorities resulting in smooth communication and information sharing after the Sanchi accident.

Two firefighting boats work to put out the fire on the Sanchi on Jan. 10, before it sank. Credit: Associated Press

Impact on the marine environment

Water samples tests near the sinking site conducted by China’s Ministry of Transport found above-average density of oil substances in 11 out of around 360 samples. In its press release the Ministry suspected that some damage to the marine environment has been made [13]. In contrast, the Ministry of Agriculture of China reported that “no abnormalities have been found in ocean life from the 110 samples collected in a second survey” [14].

So far no negative impacts to fisheries and marine ecosystems were reported in Japan [15]. Global environmental NGO Greenpeace released a statement on January 15th 2018 with the information that the accident site is an important spawning ground for many commercial fish species such as the Bluefin leatherjacket and the swordtip squid. The area is also a wintering ground for common edible species such as hairtail, yellow croaker, chub mackerel and blue crab as well as a migratory pathway for marine mammals including whales [6].

Compared to heavy crude oil, condensate is more flammable and explosive, but dissipates in the water more easily [8]. Because of the soluble nature of the condensate, there are no effective ways of removing these oils from water as experts opined [9]. Marine spills of oil condensate can result in chronic pollution for considerable period of time, requiring often institution of fishing bans [9].

Media reports quoted Captain Shin Ohnuki, General Manager of the Japanese Association of Marine Safety saying that “the semi-transparent nature of condensate makes it difficult to see the extent of damage to wildlife [7]." Professor Seiichi Uno from Kagoshima University considers that in this situation, environmental impacts will remain temporary and local though there may be some impacts to corals and the efforts to remove oil should be continued [16].

Responses to the Incident

Since the collision, China has been working with other countries such as the Republic of Korea and Japan in conducting search and rescue efforts, firefighting operations [17], patrol and contamination containment through oil removal amongst others [18, 14]

An area within 30 nautical miles of the sunken tanker has been corralled off and no fishing activities were allowed as a precautionary measure [14]

A day after oily substances were found on Japanese shores, the Japan’s Cabinet Office announced the establishment of a branch to monitor the oil spill. Clean up operations are taking place in and around Amami Island [15].The Japanese government is working closely with local authorities and analyzing the oils found on its coasts. [Oil-like’ substance pollutes Japanese beaches following tanker explosion]

The National Oceanography Centre at the University of Southampton, United Kingdom has calculated that the Sanchi spill can reach islands off southern Japan within a month [10]. The Centre’s simulation results are available here.

Next Steps

As researchers from around the world scramble to find answers how to minimize the impact of the Sanchi spill, they realize that scientific knowledge of the behavior of condensate in the sea, as well as data from the incident are lacking [11]. Rick Steiner, former professor, University of Alaska and a specialist in oil spills, and Katya Popova, a modeller at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, have emphasized the need for environmental monitoring programmes to assess the impact of the Sanchi spill. Mr Steiner stressed that monitoring by the Chinese government at the wreckage site must be extended further downstream [11].

In the editorial on Jan. 22, the daily Japan Times said “mitigation” was critical in the long run. This may involve updating oil spill recovery plans and strengthening international cooperation in this field [12].

At the time of the Newsletter submission and shifting efforts from oil spill response and cleanup towards environmental risks management, member states are currently considering several options for necessary action to be taken in the framework of the NOWPAP mechanism.

Disclaimer: The article is not a full updated account of the Sanchi incident and its aftermath nor expresses official position of the UN Environment or NOWPAP and its Member States.

References

  1. 上海沖沈没のタンカー、油の流出拡大 環境汚染に懸念.” Asahi Shinbun Digital. January 17, 2018. Accessed January 19, 2018.
  2. Mullany, Gerry. "Huge Oil Spill Spreads in East China Sea, Stirring Environmental Fears." The New York Times. January 15, 2018. Accessed January 18, 2018.
  3. "Sunken tanker Sanchi: Four oil slicks seen, says China." BBC News. January 18, 2018. Accessed January 18, 2018.
  4. Berke, Jeremy. “An oil spill off China’s coast is the world’s biggest since Deepwater Horizon – and it more than tripled in size over the weekend.” Business Insider. January 22, 2018. Accessed January 31, 2018.
  5. Lockwood, Deirdre. “Sanchi oil spill continues; ecological impacts still unclear.” Chemical and Engineering News. January 29, 2018. Accessed January 31, 2018.
  6. Sanchi oil tanker collision and sinking - Greenpeace East Asia and Greenpeace Japan factsheet. PDF. Greenpeace East Asia and Greenpeace Japan , January 15, 2018.
  7. Terashima, Terrence. "What does the Sanchi oil spill mean for the environment?" CGTN. January 17, 2018. Accessed January 18, 2018.
  8. Factbox: Condensate – a convenient yet explosive fossil fuel.” Reuters. January 8, 2018.
  9. Hess, Glenn. “Burning Iranian oil tanker raises environmental concerns for China’s coast.” CEN RSS January 11, 2017. Accessed January 18, 2018
  10. "How Sanchi’s spill could spread.” Reuters. January 26, 2018. Accessed January 31, 2018.
  11. Carswell Cally. “Unique oil spill in East China Sea frustrates scientists.” Nature. January 24, 2018. Accessed January 31 2018.
  12. A costly message from the Sanchi.” Japan Times. January 22, 2018. Accessed January 31, 2018.
  13. "Sunken tanker oil may have reached Japan beach." NHK World News. Feb. 2nd 2018. Accessed February 06, 2018.
  14. Hong'e Mo. "Seven vessels helping clean Sanchi site." China Daily. Feb. 2nd 2018. Accessed February 06, 2018.
  15. "Tokyo takes more steps to deal with Sanchi oil spill." The Japan Times. Feb. 2th 2018. Accessed February 06, 2018.
  16. "奄美の油漂着 専門家「1か月ほど続くおそれ」." MBC News. Feb. 5th 2018. Accessed February 06, 2018.
  17. "“桑吉”轮昨日再发爆燃后沉没 13日救助人员登轮搜寻到两名遇难者并带回“黑匣子”." 中国交通新闻网. Jan. 15 2018. Accessed February 06, 2018.
  18. "‘Oil-like’ substance pollutes Japanese beaches following tanker explosion." Reuters. Feb. 3rd 2018. Accessed February 06, 2018.
Japan

<Poor Autumn Salmon catches> can Coastal water temperature rise be a reason? Experiment to increase return rates

December 5 2017: The autumn salmon catch in Iwate Prefecture is stagnating. Although salmon hatcheries resumed operations after the Great East Japan Earthquake, the overall situation is not getting better and effects to businesses may start to appear. The prefecture points to warming of coastal waters as a reason for the phenomena and specialists are conducting experiments to increase return rates of hatchery salmon fish.

Salmon is often served in Japanese meals

Drifted Poly Tanks Returns This Winter. Kita-Kyushu City "Don't Touch It And Report It" [Fukuoka Prefecture]

December 14 2017: On the 13th, Kita Kyushu City announced that they collected 39 polyethylene tanks that drifted to the northeast coast of Wakamatsu Ward. Two of them contained acidic liquid and the city health and environment research center will analyze them. The city said, "Hydrochloric acid and sulfates were detected in the past. If you find them, don't touch it and report it."

Polytanks were found on the coasts of Kita Kyushu, Japan
Republic of Korea

S. Korea pushes to build world's largest LNG-powered vessel

September 25 2017: South Korea will launch a pilot program to build the world's largest vessel powered by liquefied natural gas (NLG) in a bid to support more green shipping and develop associated industries, the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said on Monday.The ministry said it will join forces with local shipyards, builders and state institutes to develop a class of 180,000-ton LNG-propelled vessels.

Russian Federation

Arctic development left Russian environment damaged

December 28 2017: The development of parts of the Arctic North of Russia has left its environment at risk from scrap materials and oil residues, a regional leader said. Sakhamin Afanasyev, the minister of ecology for the Sakha republic, the largest in Russia, said companies working in the extreme climate have spent about $138 million this year on protecting the environment. Most of the amount was spent on treatment, waste management and emission abatement strategies.

Global Meetings

The 3rd session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-3) Commits to a Pollution-Free Planet and Awards Environmental Champions from China

4-6 December 2017, Nairobi, Kenya. Attended by over 4,000 participants, the 3rd session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-3) focused on the theme “Towards a Pollution-Free Planet” and successfully became the first UNEA to issue a Declaration by environmental ministers. The Declaration stated that nations would accelerate efforts to prevent, mitigate and manage all forms of pollution.

#BEATPOLLUTION campaign monument at the UNEA3 conference venue

“Today we have put the fight against pollution high on the global political agenda,” said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment in the official press-release after the Assembly. “We have a long struggle ahead of us, but the summit showed there is a real appetite for significant positive change. It isn’t just about the UN and governments, though. The massive support we have seen from civil society, businesses and individuals – with millions of pledges to end pollution – show that this is a global challenge with a global desire to win this battle together.”

Out of the 13 Resolutions adopted at UNEA-3, one was on marine litter and microplastics. Of relevance to NOWPAP, the Resolution encourages Member states to establish harmonized standards and methodologies for measuring marine litter and microplastics and to implement action plans for preventing marine litter and microplastics, encouraging resource efficiency, including prevention and increasing collection and recycling rates of plastic waste and re-design and re-use of products, materials and avoiding the unnecessary use of plastic and plastic containing chemicals of particular concern where appropriate.

Also at UNEA-3 was the presentation of the UN’s highest environmental award, the Champions of the Earth Award. Three out of six award winners are from P.R. China.

Mobike, the world’s largest smart bike-sharing company, was awarded for expanding bike sharing as an alternative to motorized transport and avoiding CO2 emissions equivalent to 1.24 million cars off the road per year.

Mobike on the streets

Saihanba Afforestation Community has increased forest cover in Saihanba at the southern edge of the Inner Mongolia autonomous region from 11.4% to 80% since they started their afforestation in 1962. The planted forests now supply clean water to the Chinese capital and Tianjin areas.

Saihanba, Inner Mongolia

Wang Wenbiao, Chairman of Elion Resources Group received the award for taking leadership in combating desertification in Inner Mongolia. The project is a prime example of how private companies can generate profits while making important contribution to sustainable development.

Marine litter

plastic may be yummy for corals, according to Duke University's Research

Research by Duke University  suggests that corals ingest many microplastic types and prefer unfouled microplastics over microplastics colonized by bacteria. Since corals do not have eyes, it cannot choose to ingest microplastics from its looks. Rather, it may be the taste of various additives in microplastics that trigger microplastics ingestion. Further research is needed to find the biological effects of plastic compounds on corals feeding as well as to determine which chemicals contained in the microplastics make ingesting them attractive.

References: "Corals Seem to Like the Taste of Microplastics." Sea Technology. December 2017. and "Taste, Not Appearance, Drives Corals to Eat Plastics." Duke Nicholas School of the Environment. October 24. 2017.

6. Engage with the un environment

BreatheLife campaign

Air pollution causes 1 in 9 deaths globally.

BreathLife is a campaign run by the WHO, UN Environment and Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (CCAC). It mobilizes cities and people to bring air pollution to safe levels by 2030 and to protect people's health and reduce climate change. The campaign website has insightful facts about air pollution in cities around the world.

Don't forget to also join the UN Environment's ongoing #Cleanseas Campaign

as well as the #Beatpollution Campaign

7. Interns Corner

Youth participation and the Oceans Momentum at the 23rd UN Climate Change Conference

Kotoe Kuroda, Intern at the NOWPAP RCU Toyama Office, attended the United Nations Climate Change Conference – the 23rd Conference of Parties (COP 23) – held in Bonn, Germany from 6 to 17 November 2017, as a delegate of the Japanese NGO ‘Climate Youth Japan’ that works with youth on climate change issues. Below is a first person account of how her participation helped her to better understand the role of youth in tackling climate change.

My main aim of attending COP23 was to find out why youth should attend these conferences. Since this was my first time at such a large conference, I often felt unsure whether I was using my time there effectively. Nevertheless, time flew by with some sleep deprived nights as I observed numerous negotiations and side events, joined actions and meetings of the YOUNGO (youth constituency under the UNFCCC), interviewed youth from other countries, helped run side events hosted by Climate Youth Japan, and still made time to savour German culinary delicacies! After the two weeks conference, my mission for attending the COP was fulfilled, and I returned back having understood the importance of enlarging the momentum of youth and ocean agendas in fighting climate change.

"The Seas Are Rising and So Are We" Action by YOUNGO Oceans Working Group at COP23 Bonn Zone, November 17 2017

Youth Momentum

I found the answer to my question of why youth should attend such conferences. It could be summarized in a phrase referring to a Fijian “drua” or canoe that I heard at the Conference. The drua was sent to COP23 venue by Frank Bainimarama, COP23 President and Prime Minister of Fiji, as a symbol of global unity as all the world is in the same boat facing climate change. But the phrase I heard added a detail to this drua. The phrase was “While those who navigate the boat are the old wise ones, those who row the boat forward are the young people.”

Kotoe Kuroda with a Fijian guard in front of the drua at COP23 Bula Zone

Ocean Momentum

My participation in COP 23 also helped me realize the urgency of protecting our marine environment from climate change. I had the opportunity to listen and watch first-hand statements and presentations by experts on the impacts of climate change on the marine environment including sea level rise, coral bleaching and declining fish stocks.

Thankfully, a significant outcome of COP 23 was the launch of the Ocean Pathway Partnership (OPP), a COP 23 Presidency initiative, emphasizing the important relationship between oceans and climate change. It will put this issue firmly on the future UNFCCC agenda. The video below gives a flavour of Fiji style celebration to mark the OPP launch – “Bula” (Cheers, welcome, hello etc. in Fijian)!

NOWPAP Internship Program application Period Continues

The Regional Coordinating Unit of the Northwest Pacific Action Plan (NOWPAP) is seeking applications from qualified candidates for two internship positions in NOWPAP offices in Toyama, Japan and Busan, Republic of Korea. The NOWPAP internship is on a non-reimbursable basis and provides selected candidates with a first-hand experience working for the United Nations in the field of environmental affairs and public communications. Applications for 2018 are opened until the posts are filled.

Contact us

United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment) Northwest Pacific Action Plan (NOWPAP) Regional Coordinating Unit, Toyama Office

5-5, Ushijima-shinmachi, Toyama-shi, Toyama, 930-0856, JapanTel:+81-76-444-1611 / Fax:+81-76-444-2780

United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment) Northwest Pacific Action Plan (NOWPAP) Regional Coordinating Unit, Busan Office

152-1 Sirang-ri, Gijang-eup, Gijang-gun, Busan 619-705, Republic of Korea Tel: +82-51-720-3001 / Fax: +82-51-720-3009

Prepared and designed by:

Kotoe Kuroda, NOWPAP RCU Toyama Office Intern

Credits:

Created with images by Bilderjet - "drinking straw straw color" • Anemone123 - "team spirit cohesion together" • Tegan Mierle - "untitled image" • Pexels - "bundle jute rope newspaper" • coombesy - "rubbish trash waste" • yoppy - "焼鮭" • shankar s. - "Environmentally friendly public transport" • Rincewind42 - "IMG_20170819_115250_HDR" • PublicDomainPictures - "bubble fun colors" • Petter Rudwall - "Industrial factory" • StartupStockPhotos - "student typing keyboard" • Alexandra E Rust - "Phone"

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