Marine Litter

Marine litter is defined as any solid material which has been deliberately discarded or unintentionally lost on beaches, on shores or at sea. The definition covers materials transported into the marine environment from land by rivers, draining or sewage systems or winds. It includes any persistent, manufactured or processed solid material.

Our latest assessments: Quality Status Report 2023


Briefing note for the thematic assessment

Abundance, Composition and Trends of Beach Litter: Beach litter levels remain high with plastic items predominating. Over the last six years, significant decreases in litter and plastic abundance have been observed at the OSPAR Maritime Area scale and in four OSPAR Regions. To substantially reduce marine litter, it is necessary to continue current efforts and take additional measures.

Composition and Spatial Distribution of Litter on the Seafloor: Seafloor litter is widespread across the area assessed; fisheries-related items and plastic materials predominate. The Bay of Biscay and the Iberian Coast had a higher probability of litter collected than both the Greater North Sea and Celtic Seas. In the Greater North Sea, the probability of litter collected has increased.

Marine Litter ingested by Sea Turtles: There is a high incidence of litter ingestion by sea turtles in the Bay of Biscay, Azores and Macaronesia, but with regional differences. Mean abundance of ingested plastics was 9,6, 16,3 and 16,3 pieces respectively. This new common indicator provides the baseline for further monitoring and evaluation of trends.

Plastic Particles in Fulmar Stomachs in the North Sea: Currently 51% of beached North Sea fulmars have more than 0,1g of plastics in their stomachs, exceeding the Fulmar Threshold Value (Fulmar-TV) of 10%. This reflects the abundance of floating litter and provides an indication of harm. The amounts of ingested plastics have decreased significantly in the period 2009 to 2018.

Wastewater feeder report

Production and consumption of plastics feeder report