Marine litter Round Table at Blue Eco Forum, Barcelona

diapositiva1Where are we as to knowledge and instruments to achieve Good Environmental Status regarding Marine litter in the Mediterranean Sea?

Organized by EUCC Mediterranean Centre

Date: Friday 25th November, 14h – 16h
Venue: Maritime Museum, Barcelona
Language: Spanish and English (simultaneous translation)

workshop is an opportunity to wrap up the gains on scientific knowledge and on policy instruments to address marine litter in the Mediterranean since the entry into force of the policies and instruments. The final objective is to assess where the key gaps are which need to be urgently addressed by science and policy to reach GES. This workshop takes place within the Blue Eco Forum.

Litter found in the sea can range from large fishing nets to microscopic-sized litter, often resulting from gradual fragmentation of bigger items. Marine litter is a consequence of our current paradigm of linear use of resources and our inability to fully deal with the volume of waste this produces. It presents a challenge to society and to our economic and political systems to mitigate marine litter damage to our oceans and welfare much more effectively and without delay.

At a global level, UNEP and partners acknowledged the challenge launching on 2012, at the Rio+20 conference, a global initiative on marine litter. In this framework the UNEP Mediterranean Action Plan (MAP) Contracting Parties adopted in 2014 an Action Plan for Marine Litter abatement which is a legally binding instrument. The UNEP MAP Ecosystem Approach process is feeding of knowledge and data this process.

The European Commission is playing an active role through marine litter research and policies directed towards solution. There clearly is an increasing awareness about marine litter, which led to the inclusion of marine litter as a separate descriptor within the 2008 Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD). According to the MSFD, Good Environmental Status (GES) for marine litter should be reached in 2020, meaning that ‘the properties and quantities of marine litter do not cause harm to the coastal and marine environment’. For doing so, EU member states embarked on an initial assessment of the state of the marine environment regarding marine litter, put in place monitoring programmes and are adopting programmes of measures for its abatement.

Scientific knowledge is underpinning the process and efforts have been placed on gaining data on quantities, types, distribution, sources, physical and chemical impacts, and so forth in order to be able to set baselines, targets and indicators to quantify progress to litter free seas and oceans and to define effective measures.


Round table with experts interventions followed by a debate with the public.


Introduced and moderated by Carolina Pérez, EUCC Mediterranean Centre

Carolina counts with a long-standing experience with coastal and marine policy studies and projects in Europe and has collaborated with a wide range of stakeholders at national and regional level in the field of monitoring, preventing and management of marine litter. Her experience record includes among others leading the communication component of the EU FP7 project CleanSea and acting as regional partner on an EU  support project on MSFD implementation in the Mediterranean related to monitoring programs and programs of measures with especial focus on marine litter.

Do we have sufficient knowledge? Where are the most urgent gaps?

Maria Ferreira.jpegMaria Ferreira, Coastal & Marine Union-EUCC; member of the Secretariat of the EU MSFD Technical Group Marine Litter)

  • Latest progresses on the work of the Technical Group ML
  • Methodologie to assess “harm” and identify marine litter sources

foto-sarda-263x295Rafael Sardà, Centro de Estudios Avanzados de Blanes (CEAB), CSIC

  • Current knowledge on marine litter amounts, composition, distribution and hotspots in the Mediterranean
  • Urgent knowledge gaps to address


CleanSea Amsterdam low resolution-25

Pedro Fernández, EUCC Mediterranean Centre

  • Key findings and recommendations from the interdisciplinar research in PF7 project CleanSea

Are existing policy and instruments adequate? What are we still lacking?

magali-outters-1Magali Outters, Regional Activity Centre for Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP/RAC), UNEP MAP

  • Status of implementation of the Regional Plan
  • Preventive measures pursued by  SCP RAC and main challenges


Marta Martínez-Gil, División para la Protección del Mar, MAPAMA

  • Status of Spanish implementation of EU and UNEP MAP obligations.
  • Measuring the effectiveness and next steps


ann-dom-pic2Ann Dom, Seas at Risk


  • Civil society organisations lobbying for policy instruments at the EU level
  • Major achievements and barriers, next targets


mvtMaria Vidal i Tarrasón, Catalan Waste Agency

  • Role of regional governments implementing these policies
  • Catalan experience and the upcoming initiatives to this end


enrique-agbarEnrique Gutíerrez, Aigües de Barcelona

  • Local action to control marine litter input
  • Sewage system management in Barcelona and metropolitan area

Estimated 1 455 tonnes of plastic floating in the Mediterranean

Source: Science for Environment Policy

A rough total of 1 455 tonnes of floating plastic is present across the Mediterranean, estimates a new study. Researchers gathered floating plastics using trawl nets and found that microplastics with a surface area of around 1 square milimetre (mm2) were the most abundant size of plastic particles found.

Plastics are among the most commonly used materials and, as a result, plastic waste is found throughout the marine environment. It has been estimated that 4.8–12.7 million tonnes of plastic were released into oceans worldwide in 2010. Plastics can have a number of impacts on marine ecosystems, including entanglement of and ingestion by wildlife, and can accumulate through the food chain. Micro-plastics are particularly harmful to marine animals due to their small size and ability to adsorb other pollutants. Plastics can also have adverse impacts on human health and industry, affecting tourism, fishing and aquaculture.

This study examined the size, distribution and abundance of floating plastics within the north-western and central Mediterranean Sea, in accordance with established classifications under the European Union Marine Strategy Framework Directive1 (MSFD). The Mediterranean Sea has a population of approximately 100 million people living within 10 km of the coastline, giving high potential for plastic accumulation.

The researchers used a trawl with a mesh size of 333 µm net to collect plastics from the surface of the water across four Mediterranean regional seas (the Sea of Sardinia, the Tyrrhenian Sea, the Ionian Sea and the Adriatic Sea). Plastics were divided into three size categories: microplastics (less than 5 mm), mesoplastics (5–25 mm) and macroplastics (25–1 000 mm).

The plastics were dried and weighed, and for each of the 71 trawls, the researchers recorded the plastic weight concentration in grams of dryweight per square kilometre (g dw km−2) and plastic particle concentration as the number of plastic items per square kilometre (items km−2).

A total of 17 495 items were collected within the trawl samples, including 16 719 microplastics, 691 mesoplastics and 85 macroplastics. Plastics made up almost 97% of the manmade debris found and were in all 71 samples. Weight concentration ranged from 7.43 to 9292.24 g dw km-2. Particle concentration ranged from 8 999 to 1 164 403 items km−2. Microplastics with a surface area of around 1 mm2 were the most abundant particle size found.

The highest particle concentration by weight was found in the Gulf of Taranto in the Ionian Sea (9 298.2 g dw km−2) and the highest concentration by particles was found between the Greek Islands of Antipaxi and Lefkada (1 164 403 items km−2). Assuming that the range of concentrations of plastic in the sampled areas is similar across the entire region, the researchers give a rough estimate of 1 455 tonnes of floating plastic within the Mediterranean.

In contrast to other seas, the high variability of surface currents in the Mediterranean means that concentrations of plastic are less stable and less likely to remain in set locations. However, the researchers identified four potential areas of plastic accumulation due to currents and other factors, such as coastal populations, tourism and plastic washing into the sea from rivers. These areas are the Otranto Strait, the northern coast of Sicily, the Ionian Islands and the Menorca Channel.

The study is one of the first large-scale surveys of plastic waste in the Mediterranean. The researchers say that the issue of floating plastic waste is likely to get worse as increases in global plastic production, inadequate waste-management systems and human behaviour all contribute to the problem. Measures to increase social awareness and efforts to reduce the release of plastic waste into the oceans are, therefore, recommended.

Source: Ruiz-Orejón, L.F., Sardá, R., Ramis-Pujol, J. (2016). Floating plastic debris in the Central and Western Mediterranean Sea. Marine Environmental Research, 120: 136-144. DOI: 10.1016/j.marenvres.2016.08.001.



Climate change rate to turn southern Spain to desert by 2100

Southern Spain will be reduced to desert by the end of the century if the current rate of greenhouse gas emissions continue unchecked, researchers have warned.
Anything less than extremely ambitious and politically unlikely carbon emissions cuts will see ecosystems in the Mediterranean change to a state unprecedented in the past 10 millennia, they said.
The study, published in the journal Science, modelled what would happen to vegetation in the Mediterranean basin under four different paths of future carbon emissions, from a business-as-usual scenario at the worst end to keeping temperature rises below the Paris climate deal target of 1.5C at the other.
Temperatures would rise nearly 5C globally under the worst case scenario by 2100, causing deserts to expand northwards across southern Spain and Sicily, and Mediterranean vegetation to replace deciduous forests.
Even if emissions are held to the level of pledges put forward ahead of the Paris deal, southern Europe would experience a “substantial” expansion of deserts. The level of change would be beyond anything the region’s ecosystems had experienced during the holocene, the geological epoch that started more than 10,000 years ago.
“The Med is very sensitive to climatic change, maybe much more than any other region in the world,” said lead author Joel Guiot of Aix-Marseille University. “A lot of people are living at the level of the sea, it also has a lot of troubles coming from migration. If we add additional problems due to climate change, it will be worse in the future.”
He said that while his study did not simulate what would happen to production of Mediterranean food staples such as olives, other research showed it was clear the changes would harm their production. Climate change has already warmed the region by more than the global average – 1.3C compared to 1C – since the industrial revolution.
The real impact on Mediterranean ecosystems, which are considered a hotspot of biodiversity, could be worse because the study did not look at other human impacts, such as forests being turned over to grow food.
Further information
Science article

Sea turtle rescue centres- First ever Mediterranean map launched


A new online map of sea turtle rescue centres in the Mediterranean has been created by MEDASSET.  The new tool was launched at the 41st Congress of the CIESM (Mediterranean Science Commission) in Kiel, Germany (12-16 September 2016).

The “Database & Online Map of Sea Turtle Rescue & First Aid Centres in the Mediterranean” is a new project by the Mediterranean Association to Save the Sea Turtles (MEDASSET) which was prompted by a paper by Ullmann and Stachowitsch (2015) that called for ‘better information on the number and types of rescue facilities on a Mediterranean scale’.

The sea turtle rescue centres are presented to the public via a new interactive Google Map that is managed by MEDASSET.  The primary aim is to provide open access to accurate and current information on all facilities that rescue and care for sea turtles in the Mediterranean. At the same time, the new tool helps increase awareness about the existence of the network of facilities.

“Up-to-date information has been provided by each facility, making this a most reliable source” remarked Liza Boura, Project Manager.  The information includes the facility location, type, contact details and volunteer opportunities.  The map will be periodically updated, maintained and improved after launch.

Facilities that do not currently appear on the map but wish to be included are invited to contact MEDASSET.  Relevant organisations can freely use this new tool by embedding the Google Map on their websites.

Oceana expedition in Malta concludes after 140 days at sea

Oceana, the project partner tasked with carrying out marine surveys, has concluded its at-sea research in Malta to explore deep-sea areas, underwater caves and sandbanks within the LIFE BaĦAR for N2K project.

The project, co-financed by the EU, and comprising the Environment and Resources Authority (project leaders), the Maltese Ministry for Sustainable Development, the Environment and Climate Change, the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, and the Department of Biology of the University of Malta, apart from Oceana, is the most comprehensive video survey of unknown marine areas ever undertaken in Malta and aims to achieve effective protection for three different habitats  of high ecological value. Its preliminary findings include the identification of hundreds of species, large reefs of cold water corals and caves discovered 300 m below the surface.

“The findings from Malta are impressive and include species that hadn’t previously been recorded in the Mediterranean. The footage and samples compiled will require years of analysis to be fully valued but in the shorter term they will serve as the basis to create marine protected areas that help preserve this natural heritage and restore its abundance. We hope that other countries undertake similar actions to improve their understanding and protection of their marine environments,” said Ricardo Aguilar, expedition leader and research director at Oceana in Europe.

The total surveyed area amounts to 2,974.72 km2, of which 2,923.80 km2 are offshore. In comparison, the total land surface of the Maltese archipelago is just 316 km2, which shows the extent and importance of this project. The project was divided in two expeditions (2015 and 2016), and utilised an ROV (underwater robot) able to reach depths of over 1000 m, and divers using underwater scooters to enhance speed. A total of 206 ROV transects (up to 1039 m deep) and 42 scuba dives were carried out.

Read more

CBCMed library, a knowledge sharing platform showcasing the concrete results of funded projects


A guide of ecotourism best practices in the Mediterranean, a plan for the strategic development of the Sousse city in Tunisia, a set of recommendations for boosting the investments of economic diasporas, a mobile app to find the nearest restaurants offering authentic Mediterranean food: these are some of the contents that you will find in our library, a knowledge platform designed to highlight the tangible results of the 95 cooperation projects funded in the framework of the ENPI CBC Med 2007-2013 Programme.

The library offers the possibility to look for a specific project by its acronym and search the database by different criteria such as thematic cluster and type of deliverable.

We invite you to explore the library if you want to learn about the concrete achievements of cross-border cooperation in the Mediterranean area and to get inspired while drafting a project idea under the new ENI CBC Med Programme.

Please note that project deliverables are currently being uploaded so do not hesitate to visit the library on a regular basis.

Visit the library

A new report on Marine Litter Assessment in the Mediterranean

Source: UNEP/MAP

thumb_news2UNEP/MAP has launched its new updated Marine Litter Assessment in the Mediterranean on 26 May 2016, within the framework of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA), held in Kenya, Nairobi.

Marine litter has been confirmed as a critical issue in the Mediterranean, exacerbated by the basin’s limited hydrologic exchanges with other oceans, as well as pressures from its densely-populated coasts, highly-developed tourism, along with the impacts of 30 percent of the world’s maritime traffic transiting the Mediterranean sea and additional inputs of litter from rivers and heavily urbanized areas.

The report is based on the 2008 assessment of the status of marine litter in the Mediterranean prepared by UNEP/MAP MED POL, and reconfirms a number of its findings.

Compared to the 2008 assessment, this updated report provides data on waste and plastic inputs to the sea for each Mediterranean country and specifies the most important sources of litter, changes in their composition and transport patterns presenting updated results of modelling and provides a comprehensive review of existing data for the four compartments of the marine environment (beaches, surface, seabed, and ingested litter).

It also provides original data and information on micro-plastics, on derelict fishing gear and their impact and details the general reduction measures, especially those that are important for the Mediterranean Sea. The results of monitoring and national and regional studies on marine litter have been also integrated.

To download the report, click here