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Executive Summary for June 1st

In our weekly summary, we report on the European Commission’s proposed plastics law, the death toll from Japan’s whale hunts and the International Maritime Organization’s interest in regulating autonomous ships.

Published on June 1, 2018 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

European Union Looks for Big, Bold Action on Plastics

The European Commission continues the continent’s push to tackle ocean-polluting plastic waste with new proposed measures that would ban or reduce the use of 10 items that commonly end up as litter.

The target list includes items that make up 70 percent of litter in European waters or on beaches, such as food containers, straws, cotton swabs, plastic cutlery and fishing gear. Items with readily available alternatives would be banned entirely, and those that are harder to replace would be subject to targets to reduce, use and improve recycling rates. Plastic producers could also face obligations for covering waste management costs.

The commission is urging action on the proposed plan, which would have to be approved by European Union member states, before the European Parliament holds elections in May 2019. Next week, G7 nations will also take part in an annual meeting hosted this year by Canada, which has made ocean plastics a priority issue for the summit.

The Death Toll From Japanese Whaling

Japan killed 333 minke whales in 2017 during its controversial summer hunts in the Southern Ocean, a new report released by the International Whaling Commission and authored by Japan researchers said. Of those, 53 were immature and 122 were pregnant females, attracting anger from animal and conservation advocates.

Japan claims to kill whales to serve scientific research. But it had to scale back its hunt after 2014 when an international court found its quotas weren’t justified for those purposes, according to the Guardian. Now it hunts under a reduced quota of 333 individuals – but is one of the few nations in the world to engage in the practice since a global moratorium on whaling was imposed in 1985, and is currently the only country to do so in the Antarctica region. After scientists sample the animals’ tissue, the meat is usually sold and eaten.

IMO Looks at First Steps to Regulate Autonomous Ships

After a meeting in May, the International Maritime Organization, the regulatory body for global shipping, launched a study of how it might set the rules of the road (or the shipping lane) for emerging autonomous technologies.

The so-called regulatory scoping exercise will take place within a committee devoted to maritime safety and consider situations that require various levels of human involvement.

Seafarers, whose jobs could be threatened by advances in seaworthy automation, consider unmanned vessels a threat to safety at sea, though others say these technologies will improve safety and save costs. Long before massive cargo ships ply the high seas without a human in sight, it is more likely that smaller ships sailing closer to shore will utilize such technologies. The world’s first entirely crewless autonomous ship is expected to launch from Norway some time this year.

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