Harmonising Marine Litter Monitoring for plastic free oceans

22 October 2018

Harmonising Marine Litter Monitoring for plastic free oceans

“Connected by ocean currents, marine litter spreads across the North-East Atlantic and Wider Caribbean Region hence joint measures to reduce the pollution through assessment and improved management are essential.”


Collaboration OSPAR-Cartagena Convention

Marine litter experts from the Caribbean and OSPAR regions gathered on 18 and 19 October 2018 to discuss marine litter monitoring during a two-day workshop in Miami, Florida, USA. The workshop was organised by the UN Environment Programme as Secretariat to the Cartagena Convention (CEP) and the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute, as co-hosts for the Caribbean Marine Litter Node, with support from the OSPAR Commission (OSPAR). This was a direct result of a commitment made by OSPAR and CEP at a United Nations (UN) Conference held in New York in June 2017 on the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 (#OceanAction17198). In addition to the direct oceanic connection, the Cartagena Convention and OSPAR Commission share several common Contracting Parties including The Netherlands, France and the United Kingdom.

Objectives of the workshop

The objectives of the workshop in Miami were to discuss best practices on harmonised monitoring, and to assess the effectiveness of monitoring and managing marine litter data, with the ultimate goal of developing recommendations for a uniform litter monitoring and management programme, supported by countries and stakeholders in the Caribbean.

Participants and topics covered

Participants included country representatives and NGO marine litter experts in the Caribbean region. On behalf of OSPAR, a Marine Litter Monitoring surveyor from the Netherlands presented the OSPAR method and its development, data management and data analysis processes. Participants were very interested to learn that the OSPAR marine litter data supported the development of a Regional Action Plan that contributed to the new EU Plastics strategy.

It became clear that there are various successful initiatives being implemented by different organisations in the Caribbean region, and that there is a need to streamline the data collection, management and reporting processes. The group addressed the ownership and usage of the litter data and explored ways forward for a ‘hybrid’ approach, using different monitoring schemes combined. One example of such an approach provided an overview of a recent pilot project initiated by WWF on Bonaire, which combines the OSPAR methodology, the Ocean Conservancy’s Clean Swell app and the Project AWARE Dive Against Debris underwater data card.

In addition to technical discussions on how to collect and store data, the participants engaged in lively discussions about solutions to prevent litter from entering the oceans. Various solutions were discussed, including: improving land-based waste management, implementing and enforcing bans on certain single-use plastic products, awareness raising programs, recycling incentive schemes and industry engagement.

Additional topics of discussion included the future role of the Caribbean Node to facilitate the work of the Global Partnership on Marine Litter, how to support the further implementation of the Caribbean Regional Action Plan for Marine Litter, how best to assist Governments of the Wider Caribbean in meeting their obligations under the Cartagena Convention, and marine litter research priorities.

Outcome and next steps

As a follow up to the workshop, an assessment will be prepared, which will include the different monitoring procedures in the Caribbean Region, including OSPAR, and with recommendations on methodology, data management and governance. The evaluation and recommendations will be presented to and considered by the Contracting Parties at the next Cartagena COP in March 2019.

The meeting was an important milestone for collaboration across the Atlantic, with all participants now looking forward to continued knowledge sharing and cooperation for plastic free oceans.

The generous financial support from the Governments of Sweden and the Netherlands, which supported this important activity, were also recognized.