18 Apr 2014

Guidance on monitoring of marine litter in European seas

Waste floating on polluted water.
Comparable quantification of marine litter across Europe is important for the planning of measures and checking on their efficiency.
© EU, 2014

The JRC released a guidance document for the monitoring of marine litter in European seas. It provides the Member States with recommendations and information in order to support establishing monitoring programmes, a milestone in the implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD). Through the Directive, EU Member States committed themselves to the development of strategies to achieve good environmental status of European seas.

The report "Guidance on Monitoring of Marine Litter in European Seas" proposes protocols for the monitoring of litter and micro litter (small litter fragments below 5 mm) in various compartments of the marine environment such as seashore, seafloor, sea-surface and biota. The comparable quantification of marine litter across Europe, by the use of common methodologies, is important for identification of the sources, planning of measures against marine litter and for checking the efficiency of these counter-measures.

The protocols presented in this report describe the different steps needed to observe, identify, sample, analyse and quantify litter. It also provides information on the financial costs of litter surveys and possible tools to conduct them.

The master list of items facilitates reporting and consists of a set of over 200 categories of litter items classified by type of materials. It includes core items which occur in all regions, such as cigarette ends or plastic bottles, and regionally specific items such as octopus pots, which only occur in some sub-regions. To a certain degree, the list also allows users to make inferences about the source of the litter (fisheries, shipping) and the potential harm that would result, such as the risk of entanglement or ingestion e.g. by birds, mammals, turtles or fish.

The use of standard lists and definitions of items will enable the effective monitoring of measures to tackle marine litter on both a local and regional scale. This will further aid in devising appropriate measures and set priorities to combat litter pollution of the marine environment.

The guidance document has been prepared by the MSFD Technical Group on Marine Litter and will be regularly reviewed and updated based on feedback from the Member States.

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