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IMO Meeting Adopts Amendments to Regulate Marine Geoengineering

IMO18 October 2013: The 35th Consultative Meeting of Contracting Parties to the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter, 1972 (London Convention) and 8th meeting of Contracting Parties to the 1996 Protocol thereto (London Protocol) concluded with the adoption of amendments to the London Protocol addressing marine geoengineering.

The amendments provide for the regulation of marine geoengineering under the new Protocol article 6bis, which states that "Contracting Parties shall not allow the placement of matter into the sea from vessels, aircraft, platforms or other man-made structures at sea for marine geoengineering activities listed in Annex 4, unless the listing provides that the activity or the sub-category of an activity may be authorized under a permit."

In addition to amendments under article 6bis, Parties to the London Protocol also adopted a new Annex 4 on “Marine geoengineering” which lists Ocean Fertilization, defined as “any activity undertaken by humans with the principle intention of stimulating primary productivity in the oceans.” Under the Annex 4 listing, ocean fertilization excludes conventional aquaculture, or mariculture, or the creation of artificial reefs. Parties also adopted an Assessment Framework under Annex V relating to matters that may be considered for placement under Annex 4. Under the Assessment Framework, Contracting Parties should consider advice on proposals for activities listed from independent international experts of an independent international advisory group of experts.

The London Convention has been in force since 1975, and its objective is to promote the effective control of all sources of marine pollution and to take all practicable steps to prevent pollution of the sea by dumping of wastes and other matter. The London Protocol entered into force in 2006, and it prohibits the dumping of wastes and other matter at sea except for those on a short permitted list. The London Protocol amendments will enter into force 60 days after two-thirds of the Contracting Parties have deposited an instrument of acceptance. [IMO Press Release] [IMO Background: London Convention and Protocol] [IISD RS Story on the Adoption of an Assessment Framework for Ocean Fertilization]