Skip to main content

Anti-Fouling Paints

Volume 77: debated on Wednesday 24 April 1985

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) what estimate he has made of the effect on the environment of marine anti-fouling paints, other than those which are organo-tin based, if his proposed ban on organo-tin anti-fouling were to be implemented;(2) what meetings concerning anti-fouling paints Ministers in his Department have had with representatives of

(a) users of anti-fouling paints, (b) manufacturers of anti-fouling paints, (c) shellfish growers and (d) other interested parties;

(3) if he will give figures for the total number of pleasure craft, including motor boats and yachts (a) 12 m and below in length and (b) above 12 m in length;

(4) if he will list the concentrations of tributyl-tin oxide in the natural environment at each location where either the Pacific oyster or the native British oyster is cultivated or fished for as many years since 1955 as records permit;

(5) what volume of tributyl-tin oxide is estimated to leak into the environemt annually from anti-fouling the hulls of (a) private vessels less than 12 m in length, (b) private vessels above 12 m in length, (c) merchant ships, (d) naval vessels, (e) fishing boats less than 12 m in length and (f) fishing boats above 12 m in length;

(6) what types of anti-fouling paint would be available to yachtsmen and fishermen with vessels below 12 m in length if his proposed regulations on the use of tributyl-tin oxide become law.

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what alternatives to tributyl-tin oxide are available to the manufacturers and users of anti-fouling paints; and what their effects on the natural environment would be.

I have been asked to reply to the question put to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.All anti-fouling agents work by making the surface to which they are applied unsuitable for the marine organisms which try to settle and grow there. Organo-tin based paints act by the continuous release of organo-tin compounds which are toxic to such organisms. They are also toxic to other marine organisms. Scientists at the Government's fisheries laboratory have measured the concentration of tributyl-tin oxide at sites where the Pacific and the native British oysters are cultivated and at some other sites around the coast. The results were obtained over the period 1982 to 1984. No information is available prior to 1982. The results are summarised in a short paper, copies of which have been placed in the Library of the House.If the draft regulations on which comments are currently being sought were introduced without change, yachtsmen and others would be able to use any anti-fouling paint not prescribed by the regulations. The most likely alternatives are formulations based on copper, with or without small quantities of organo-tin compounds. Copper-based formulations have been available and have been widely used for many years without giving rise to concern on environmental grounds.Information is not available on the amount of tributyl-tin oxide released into the environment annually from anti-fouling paint used on different categories of vessel. The Government's intention in proposing regulations is to protect the marine environment, particularly the shallow estuarial and inshore areas which are often very rich in marine life and important nursery areas and sometimes support valuable commercial fisheries. Where there are large numbers of small craft moored for long periods in shallow waters with insufficient water exchange, then tributyl-tin compounds leached from anti-fouling paints can reach dangerous concentrations. By preventing the sale and use of such paints on small pleasure craft this danger can be prevented. The proposed regulations are accordingly aimed specifically at small pleasure craft. The 12 m cut-off point was chosen, for the purpose of consultation, following an analysis of the export and import statistics which indicated that this length would encompass about 80 per cent. of the relevant category of boat.

I met representatives of the shell-fish growers on 4 February at their request and representatives of the Paintmakers Association on 22 April. There have been no such requests from either the users of anti-fouling paints or from other interested parties. The paint manufacturers and boating interests have also had several meetings with my officials.