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Summary of the First Conference of the Parties for the Minamata Convention on Mercury

24th-29th September, Geneva, Switzerland.

The Zero Mercury Working Group (ZMWG) closely followed the First Conference of the Parties for the Minamata Convention on Mercury (COP1) in Geneva, Switzerland, 24th-29th of September 2017 and intervened as appropriate[1]. We were pleased to see the COP1 reached consensus on pending matters from prior meetings of the Intergovernmental Negotiation Committee (INC) which resulted in establishing an effective Convention operational framework for achieving significant mercury reductions.

Our main priorities for COP1 included adoption of forms and guidance that was approved at INC 7, and addressing the issues of reporting, waste thresholds, interim storage guidelines, effectiveness evaluation, and matters for future action, which included the following decisions.

  • Article 3 guidance on identifying mercury stocks, and the forms/instructions for complying with mercury trade consent and related certification requirements;
  • The product and process exemption forms and associated register of exemptions under Article 6 of the Convention; a registrar will be kept by the Secretariat and these will also be available to the public
  • Article 8 (air emissions) guidance on BAT/ BEP, options for existing facility control requirements, preparing emissions inventories, and selection of “relevant sources” within the specified source categories; and
  • The Guidance for preparing the ASGM National Action Plan (NAP) under article 7.

COP1 also saw significant progress concerning various other ZMWG priorities, including :

Reporting:          Forms were adopted for use by Parties to report back on the measures undertaken to meet Convention obligations and on the effectiveness of those measures.  In particular, ZMWG most welcomed the decision for a shorter reporting cycle for supply and trade, reporting per year data on a biennial basis. For other obligations, Parties will report every four years. It was also agreed that each Party will submit its first biennial report by 31 December 2019 and its first full report by December 2021. Parties are also encouraged to submit an electronic form,  and the Secretariat is requested to make the Parties electronic reports available.

Furthermore, it was agreed that Parties would provide access to their data related to mercury emissions, under Article 8. Parties would also provide the rational on how they plan to ensure that facilities responsible for at least 75% of the emissions from a source category are subject to controls.

Waste Thresholds:          COP1 established an intercessional work group to further elaborate on waste thresholds, building on a document introduced by Japan. As recommended by NRDC/ZMWG, the terms of reference for the working group were focused more on determining which mercury wastes warrant thresholds rather than assuming thresholds are appropriate for all wastes. The expert group will identify the types of waste that fall within the categories specified in paragraph 2 of Article 11, provide related information; prioritising the types of waste identified that are most relevant for the establishment of waste thresholds, and identify possible approaches to establishing any needed thresholds for those prioritised waste for consideration at COP2. We were also pleased to see COP1 approving the participation of civil society within the working group, another ZMWG priority.

Interim Storage:                             COP1 requested the Secretariat to undertake further revision of the draft guidelines through input from relevant experts, including technical experts from the Basel Convention and present a revised draft for consideration at COP2. Provisional use of the current draft guidelines is encouraged.

Effectiveness Evaluation:             COP1 adopted a draft road map for establishing arrangements both for providing comparable monitoring data and elements of an effectiveness evaluation framework, as ZMWG had sought.  To that end an ad hoc group of experts was established including 25 experts nominated by the Parties – 5 per region, as well as 10 civil society experts, including NGOs, as observers.

Matters for Future Action (Article 3) - (Article 14):              Several matters were brought up for consideration. Under Article 3, trade in mercury compounds was one of several issued identified for future consideration by the COP. In regards to Article 14 – Capacity building, technical assistance and technology transfer, Parties and other stakeholder were invited to submit relevant information on capacity building, technical assistance and technology transfer for the Secretariat to compile and present at COP2.

Despite progress made, challenges remain, both related to the location and structure of the Minamata Convention Secretariat and the Memorandum of Understanding regarding the financial mechanism of the Convention with the Global Environmental Facility (GEF). The Secretariat will be temporarily located in Geneva, with further review of arrangements at COP2.

In summary, the final road map is now in place to ‘zero down’ global mercury pollution, but critical work remains.   ZMWG looks forward to a productive second meeting of the Conference of the Parties, which will be held in Geneva 19-23 November 2018.   

[1] All ZMWG interventions are available on our website http://www.zeromercury.org/index.php?option=com_content&;;view=article&id=309:unenvironment-minamata-mercury-cop1-24-29-september-2017-geneva-switzerland&catid=54:developments-main-category&Itemid=104

Home Press Releases Mercury in Fish a Global Health Concern: Warrants Immediate United Nations Action
Mercury in Fish a Global Health Concern: Warrants Immediate United Nations Action PDF Print
Tuesday, 10 February 2009 01:00

February 10, 2009

Pollution Probe and the Canadian Environmental Law Association endorse Canadian
release of report from international coalition

Toronto, ON — In advance of next week’s United Nations meeting to discuss an international treaty on mercury, public interest organizations from across the globe today released a report on the global health hazards created by mercury contamination in fish. The international Zero Mercury Working Group reports that the worldwide health impacts of methylmercury in fish are substantial. They are demanding an effective response from governments and the United Nations.

The Zero Mercury Working group (www.zeromercury.org) is an international coalition of more than 75 public interest non-governmental organizations from around the world formed in 2005. The aim of the group is to continually reduce emissions, demand and supply of mercury, from all sources we can control, with the goal of eliminating mercury in the environment.

“Mercury contamination of fish and mammals is a global public health concern,” said Michael Bender, report co-author and member of the Zero Mercury Working Group. “Our study of fish tested in different locations around the world shows that widely accepted international exposure levels for methylmercury are exceeded, often by wide margins, in each country and area covered.”

According to the report, Mercury in Fish: An Urgent Global Health Concern, the risk is greatest for populations whose per capita fish consumption is high, and in areas where pollution has elevated the average mercury content of fish. In cultures where fish-eating marine mammals are part of the traditional diet, mercury in these animals can add substantially to total dietary exposure. These factors have contributed to substantial methylmercury exposure among the Inuit.

Eating large amounts of fish, or even small amounts of high-mercury content fish can cause mercury poisoning. Of most serious concern are the impacts of mercury on the developing brain, especially when exposure occurs in the womb. Toxic effects on the brain may also occur in adults and children with methylmercury intake above reference levels. Research also suggests that methylmercury exposure increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The impacts on the brain from mercury are well understood and eating fish is the single largest exposure source. However, we also know that fish is a very healthy food choice. Ironically, eating

fish provides excellent nutritional support to healthy brain development. The solution is not for people to stop eating fish. Instead, educational efforts must ensure that people follow fish advisories: they should choose low-mercury fish and limit or avoid those known to have high mercury content. For example, for Inuit it is recommended to eat more sea-run arctic char, which is very low in mercury, and less marine mammals that have been found to have higher mercury levels. Fish advisories are issued by Health Canada. Since fish species and fishing practices vary widely across Canada, provincial governments and many local public health authorities also issue guidance on choosing low-mercury fish.

Education is essential to reduce human exposure to mercury; however, it should not be a substitution for the ultimate goal to reduce mercury concentrations in the environment to the lowest level possible. Mercury contamination from human activities exists on a global scale and calls for a global response. Global reduction and elimination of mercury is necessary to protect human and environmental health. Based on the findings of the report, Pollution Probe and the Canadian Environmental Law Association join our international counterparts in endorsing the recommendations in Mercury in Fish: An Urgent Global Health Concern. We further recommend the following actions in Canada:

  1. The Government of Canada should support the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Governing Council in establishing an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) for the purpose of negotiating a free-standing legally binding instrument on mercury at the upcoming mid-February meeting in Nairobi.
  2. 2. Canada should demonstrate leadership and ban non-essential uses of mercury in products and processes.

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For More Information, please contact:

Rebecca Spring, Project Manager, Pollution Probe
(416) 926-1907 x23 8, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it '; document.write( '' ); document.write( addy_text18115 ); document.write( '<\/a>' ); //--> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Michael Bender, Mercury Policy Project (802) 223-9000, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it '; document.write( '' ); document.write( addy_text82465 ); document.write( '<\/a>' ); //--> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Kathleen Cooper, Senior Researcher, Canadian Environmental Law Association 705-341-2488 (cell) This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it '; document.write( '' ); document.write( addy_text59550 ); document.write( '<\/a>' ); //--> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

The report is available on the websites of:

Mercury Policy Project: www.mercurypolicy.org,

Canadian Environmental Law Association www.cela.ca

Canadian Partnership for Children’s Health and Environment www.healthyenvironmentforkids.ca

For more information on fish advisories, please visit:

Health Canada advisory: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/securit/chem-chim/environ/mercur/cons-adv-etud-eng.php

Ontario Ministry of Environment Sport Fishing advisory: http://www.ene.gov.on.ca/envision/guide/

Toronto Public Health fish consumption advisory: http://www.toronto.ca/health/fishandmercury/advice eat fish.htm