AQUA-LIT will develop a toolbox of innovative ideas and methodologies to prevent marine littering from aquaculture activities and to remove litter from aquaculture facilities.
Marine litter, a multi-sectoral and complex problem with significant impacts on the globe’s marine and coastal environments, is a world-wide problem of increasing concern given the affections in ecosystems, economies and human health. Given its intrinsic link to various sectors and policy areas, marine litter is a topic that has been targeted in several frameworks at national, regional and international levels, calling for urgent action for reducing, monitoring, quantifying, removing, preventing and recycling the different types of marine litter.
From the different types of marine litter, plastics account for the majority of debris in the Ocean and despite it is considered that most of marine plastics come from land-based sources, 20% of the ocean plastic pollution comes from ocean-based sources, being 65% of the of those plastics released at sea mainly a result of fishing and aquaculture activities.
Considering that the EU is the fifth largest producer of global fisheries and aquaculture; considering that boosting the aquaculture sector has been a goal for the Commission since the Common Fisheries Policy reform and more recently in EU's Blue Growth strategy; and considering that worldwide aquaculture is the fastest growing food- producing sector, with an expansion rate of 8% per year, AQUA-LIT considers crucial: (1) to understand better how aquaculture activities (separate from fishing activities) are littering the Ocean through monitoring and quantification frameworks, (2) to provide littering preventive measures that help reduce the input of litter from the aquaculture industry and that can be applied as the sector keeps expanding, (3) to provide mechanisms that help reduce the existing marine debris coming from aquaculture activities, (4) to provide solutions for recycling the collected plastic waste, aiming towards a more circular economy and (5) examine what policies need to be adapted or put in place to underpin these practical actions.
For this reason, in line with the new EU Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy, AQUA-LIT will provide the aquaculture sector with a toolbox that can showcase existing, under construction and already implemented tools, case studies, best practices, as well as a database that creates links between stakeholders for addressing the three main components of marine littering: prevention and reduction, monitoring and quantification, and removal and recycling. The scope of the toolbox will encompass three sea basins: the Mediterranean Sea, the North Sea and the Baltic Sea basins and it will be accessible through an online platform and a mobile app. Furthermore, AQUA- LIT will assess the current policies and give policy recommendations for better decision ¬making in the aquaculture sector, create a transferability plan for sharing all the results and knowledge obtained to EU oversea territories, like the Azores, and it will create an exploitation strategy for setting up local working groups that can ensure the sustainability of the project after its termination.