Prevention Is Better Than The Cure When Tackling Marine Litter In The North East Atlantic

22 October 2014

OSPAR countries are now putting into practice their commitment to tackle the issue of marine litter in the North East Atlantic. Following the adoption of the Marine Litter Regional Action Plan, experts met in The Hague this week to discuss the practical implementation of the plan to address the unacceptably high levels of litter in some parts of the region.

The diverse and enthusiastic group, representing 15 countries along with the EU (and observers from Seas at Risk and KIMO), agreed that tackling litter at source was the key to solving the issue, which is impacting on all the world’s seas and oceans.

Actions to combat sea-based sources include identifying options to address key waste items from the fishing industry and aquaculture as well as analysing penalties and fines for waste disposal offences at sea. However, as an estimated 80% of marine litter is thought to originate from land, the plan also includes a number of measures to combat this by engaging both industry and the public. These measures include; engaging with industry and other authorities to develop best environmental practice and prevent litter ‘escaping’ into the marine environment, along with actions looking at plastic bags, micro plastics in personal care and cosmetic products and the harm caused by cigarette butts.

John Mouat, OSPAR Deputy Secretary stated:

“OSPAR Countries in adopting the marine litter Regional Action Plan have recognised that the only way to reduce marine litter is through a collective action. Key to this is the involvement of stakeholders, including industry and NGOs, whose expertise will be critical in addressing the many sources of litter and plastics in particular.

Thousands of tonnes of litter still end up in the North East Atlantic every year; whilst actions to remove litter can help, the only way to reduce the problem is to stop litter reaching the sea in the first place. Therefore the RAP has a range of actions aimed at preventing litter entering the marine environment.

Full details of the Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter can be found on OSPAR’s website