The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) welcomes participants of the 3rd Global Meeting of Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans to Monaco this week. The meeting assembles a number of marine environmental experts from several UN bodies to reinforce activities to protect the marine environment. Given its unique position as the only marine laboratory in the UN system, the IAEA’s Marine Environment Laboratory (IAEA-MEL) is well-placed to act as host.
There are a number of crucial issues to be considered at this meeting of the Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans of considerable interest and relevance to IAEA–MEL. They include the implementation of the Global Plan of Action (GPA) for the protection of the marine environment from land-based activities, the chemicals-related conventions of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the legally binding instrument on Persistent Organic Pollutants.
The IAEA–MEL was founded in 1961 with a strong endorsement from the Principality of Monaco. This support has continued, as witnessed most recently with the provision of larger, newly refurbished premises on the Port of Monaco two years ago. The laboratory was originally established to investigate the effects of nuclear weapons testing on the marine environment. The IAEA remains the competent UN Organization with respect to marine radioactivity and the use of radionuclides to understand marine environmental process. However, activities at MEL have expanded to other areas of marine pollution in response to requests and needs of other UN Organizations, notably UNEP and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO. Thus, MEL has expertise in the investigation of heavy metals, petroleum hydrocarbons, Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) and marine biocides.
The Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans are of particular importance to the Marine Environment Laboratory. MEL has had a long history of collaboration with UNEP and the Regional Seas programme, notably through its Quality Assurance programmes and expertise in Marine Analytical Chemistry. The laboratory has served to underpin the Regional Seas Programme, ensuring the acquisition of a database comprising reliable and comparable measurements for a wide range of marine pollutants, encompassing both organic and inorganic contaminants. Today MEL co-operates closely with the Mediterranean Action Plan, the Black Sea Environment Programme and the Kuwait Action Plan. The laboratory is now assisting the Caspian Environment Programme with a contaminant survey in sediments from that region.
Expected outcomes from the meeting are a revitalization of the Regional Seas programme and strengthened international linkages. Having coordinated the Inter-Agency (IAEA / UNEP / IOC / UNESCO) Programme on Marine pollution, IAEA–MEL welcomes such initiatives.