Sea Hawk Faces Stricter Scrutiny from EPA

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Family-owned and -operated New Nautical Paints, the makers of Sea Hawk marine paints, is operating under an environmental compliance program that requires strict monitoring and reporting requirements for the next three years. The program is one of several punishments that a U.S. District Court judge in Miami handed down in December after New Nautical Coatings, its owners, and two employees pleaded guilty to violating U.S. laws regulating the manufacturing and distribution of pesticides.

New Nautical Coatings CEO Erik Norrie, who pleaded guilty to willfully conspiring to knowingly distribute and sell an unregistered pesticide, was sentenced to three months in prison. President David Norrie, who pleaded guilty to willfully conspiring to obstruct the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), was sentenced to five months in prison and six months of home confinement. Former vice president Jason Revie and sales manager Tommy Craft were each sentenced to one year of probation on related charges.

According to court documents, New Nautical Coatings manufactured an antifouling paint, Biocop, which contained tributyltin methacrylate (TBT), a chemical compound found to have significant harmful effects on marine life. TBT paints such as Biocop are pesticides subject to registration with the EPA. Until about 15 years ago, TBT was one of the most popular antifouling pesticides and was used in bottom paints made by all major manufacturers.

The International Convention on the Control of Harmful Antifouling Systems on Ships banned the use of ban TBT in 2001. The ban went into effect in 2008, when the requisite number of countries had signed the treaty. Although the U.S. supported the treaty from the start, it did not sign on until 2012. In March 2005, after a long phase-out period, the EPA cancelled New Nauticals registration for Biocop, making it unlawful for the company to make the paint for sale in the U.S. after Dec. 1, 2005. At the time, Sea Hawk was the last U.S. manufacturer of TBT paint.

According to court documents, New Nautical continued to produce Biocop for sale in the United States from 2006 through 2009.

Practical Sailor has not tested tin-based Biocop for more than a decade when, as far as we knew, Sea Hawk had ceased U.S. distribution. The similarly named Biocop TF (tin-free), which we currently test and was our highest recommended paint in 2008, contains no tributyltin. According to New Nautical Coatings, there was no way any of the paint samples we tested during the past decade contained tributyltin.

Practical Sailor has been independently testing and reporting on sailboats and sailing gear for more than 45 years. Supported entirely by subscribers, Practical Sailor accepts no advertising. Its independent tests are carried out by experienced sailors and marine industry professionals dedicated to providing objective evaluation and reporting about boats, gear, and the skills techniques required to cross oceans. Practical Sailor is edited by Darrell Nicholson, a long-time liveaboard sailor and trans-Pacific cruiser who has been director of Belvoir Media Group's marine division since 2005. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license, has logged tens of thousands of miles in three oceans, and has skippered everything from pilot boats to day charter cats. His weekly blog Inside Practical Sailor offers an inside look at current research and gear tests at Practical Sailor, while his award-winning column,"Rhumb Lines," tracks boating trends and reflects upon the sailing life. He sails a Sparkman & Stephens-designed Yankee 30 out of St. Petersburg, Florida.

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