Science / Information
Marine Litter (ML) is a new field to be studied and there are many knowledge gaps and uncertainties that need to be underpinned by science – research.
80% of the ML found in eastern and southern shores of the Mediterranean is made of plastic. Most of the ML found in the Mediterranean Sea (10 out of 12 items) is made of single use items. All sources of ML are originally land-based and therefore there is a need to integrate efforts across ecosystems (land and sea) to develop effective measures.
There is now clear evidence of the presence of micro-plastics within the stomach of birds, fish, turtles, whales,… and the impact of entanglement of macro-plastics injuring and killing fauna. However, there is lack of knowledge about the effect of micro-litter on the health of biodiversity, and on human health, as consumers of microlitter (through fish, and Seafood).
ML monitoring protocols are being developed by several initiatives in the Mediterranean region (MedSeaLitter, Plastic Busters, …) and there is a need to agree on common effective measures to be used at transboundary level.
PANACeA project will build on lessons learned from these initiatives and from the work developed at EU level to make some recommendations transferable and useful for the Mediterranean region.
At a local scale, the outcome of joint collaboration between national scientific research institutions such as IEO and local government monitoring schemes and annual ML removal programs (e.g ABAQUA) has allowed sampling surface micro plastics (< 5 mm) in coastal areas. Cooperation between different stakeholders provides new data essential for determining sink and sources of ML enabling better understanding and providing scientific backed solutions.
Taking into account recent data on the oceanographic currents and the nature of the Mediterranean Sea, there are hotspots of ML accumulation in the South-Eastern side of the basin and scarce tools to address the issue.
Advancing in this field, recent assessment risk studies have provided evidence on impacted marine species mainly in coastal areas. These findings call for effective management efforts to be directed in these areas to minimize the impacts of ML on valuable ecological species and habitats.
Scientific evidence, underpinning information and regional indicators on ML of various sorts will become available progressively on platforms including the MEDPOL-INFO RAC database on ML and the Interreg Med Biodiversity Protection Platform. These platforms could be linked to the VKC of the Union for the Mediterranean.
Practice / Management
Some Marine Protected Area (MPA) managers are implementing measures to reduce the effects of litter on biodiversity (case study on Marine Protected Area of Gaiola in Naples) but there is a need to make these measures adoptable and transferable to other areas.
Many practices are not well coordinated because they are linked to different legislation in many regions of the Mediterranean concerning solid waste and ML management.
Though there are awareness raising campaigns taking place in the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean; there are nevertheless serious issues to consider on the capacities and infrastructures in place in some countries (proper sanitary and waste management systems,…) to effectively reduce litter related pressures and impacts on their coastal and marine ecosystems.
For proper regional action in the Mediterranean, common legal frameworks and infrastructure solutions are insufficient; which is hindering the reduction of ML quantity and its impact on species and full ecosystems.
Policy / Governance
Local authorities have the mandate to manage the coasts and need to ensure more effective collaboration with other regions in terms of waste and coast management to effectively reduce the effects of ML in the region.
Common joint monitoring protocols (with sub protocols) are essential tools to support regional policy and appropriate practices within and outside MPAs.
The Barcelona Convention is the only Mediterranean wide policy with adequate provision in terms of protocols, but Member States are not necessarily taking these protocols into account in their national legislation.
The Implementation of the Integrated Monitoring and Assessment Programme of the Mediterranean Sea and Coast (IMAP) would strengthen the effectiveness of the ML management. IMAP Guidance document proposes a harmonized approach of monitoring marine pollution at the regional level using common indicators on ML (CI 22 and CI 23), in addition to a candidate common indicator on trends in the amount of litter ingested by or entangling marine organisms.
Science, Practice, Policy
The evidence and data generated by science and research need to be synthesized into coherent and compatible formulae to become useful and coherent and effectively support policy-making.
The linear, take-make-dispose process in plastic packaging using a linear economic system needs to be adapted into more sustainable business models and then translated into Action Plans. Changing the legislative and economical system to support green entrepreneurship is therefore an essential step to reduce litter at the source. More information and actions and measures are underdevelopment within the ACT4Litter project.
The MAP Secretariat is providing technical assistance to the Mediterranean countries supporting the development of legal frameworks for the banning of single-use plastic bags and for promoting Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes at national level.
Opportunities from the workshop
Coordination amongst institutions leading ML initiatives is essential to integrate results together and provide a direct intake for policy makers, particularly region-wide data and indicators and applicable solutions to tackle ML (prevention and impact reduction).
An integrated, holistic approach and concerted action is needed to act on ML in the Mediterranean. Though monitoring protocols are currently being developed, a regional common tool would be desirable to facilitate application, transfer and scalability. Best practices in prevention should be assessed and extended to southern and Eastern Mediterranean regions, as only transboundary action along the region can be really effective.
The engagement of local communities and developing green entrepreneurship initiatives could offer opportunities to support livelihoods through a greener economy based on waste related businesses and with a strong educational, reduction and prevention component. Tackling ML in the Mediterranean and in Mediterranean Marine Protected Areas specifically effectively involves a change of the socio-economic model at all scales, which will require the active involvement of public authorities and institutions, the private sector and the final consumers.
Dania Abdul Malak – European Topic Center, University of Malaga, Spain
Salud Deudero – Spanish Institute of Oceanography, Spain
Maria Cristina Fossi – Plastic Busters, University of Siena, Italy
Malek Ghandour – Amwaj of Environment Association, Lebanon
Eleni Hatziyanni – Environment and Spatial Planning, Region of Crete, CPMR Intermediterranean Commission
Omar Khaber – Coastal Wastes Agency, Algeria
Julien LE TELLIER – UN EnvironmentMediterranean Action Plan Coordinating Unit, Greece
Maurizio Simeone – Regione Campania, Italy
Eleonora De Sabata – Clean Sea Life, Italy