CleanSea: Knowledge and policies against marine litter
Europe’s marine natural resources encompass a vast natural capital that supports economies, societies and individual well-being. Marine litter is widely recognized as a threat to marine ecosystems and a major societal challenge to manage. The recently completed, EU funded and IVM led CleanSea project has developed a host of new insights and tools to address this challenge.
CleanSea’s aim was to generate new information on the impacts (biological, social and economic) of marine litter, develop novel tools needed to collect and monitor litter and protocols needed for monitoring data (litter composition and quantities) and evaluate the impact of mitigation strategies and measures in order to provide policy options to policy makers in the EU.
The objectives were achieved through multidisciplinary work, using several methods and approaches. Biological impacts of marine litter were studied as well as technical aspects of marine monitoring. New monitoring tools and applications were developed and tested. Socio-economic impacts of marine litter were investigated at various levels and barriers to good environmental status (GES) were identified, providing a justification for the development of management measures and policy options. Institutional analysis was combined with a participatory approach in order to identify and assess management measures, strategies and policy options in collaboration with stakeholders that reduce marine litter and alleviate diverse ecological and socio-economic impacts. Integration and synthesis of the project results culminated in a GES road map. The CleanSea Stakeholder Platform provided the foundation for interactions between all researchers and relevant stakeholders in the Black Sea, Mediterranean, Baltic and North East Atlantic regions, as well as at EU level.
Close collaboration for input from and exchange of information with the MSFD Marine Litter Technical Subgroup (TSG) was important to the CleanSea Consortium and was facilitated by CleanSea partners who are also active members of the TSG.
IVM dealt with the overall project management and coordination. Among others a professional dissemination package, including a documentary film, informative website, social media, a multi-language brochure and other publications, and a large final public symposium were organised. In addition, dissemination in the academic world took place through several articles in peer reviewed scientific journals.
CleanSea comprised top scientific groups from eleven European countries distributed over the four marine regions of Europe. It also included six SMEs, four of them focused on technological innovation of monitoring and litter collection, mitigation and recycling tools. CleanSea has tackled the marine litter problem from a broad interdisciplinary perspective and built up an array of tools, methods, knowledge about impacts, management measures and policy options. By searching for new paradigms and integrating knowledge and methods not previously integrated, CleanSea has contributed concrete elements to the efforts towards significant marine litter reductions in Europe. The project has not only improved (and provided tools for further improvement of) our knowledge of the sources, presence, composition, dispersion, transformation and impacts of plastics and other waste in the sea. It has also shown that preventing marine litter is possible, that there is a wide range of measures and policy instruments that can achieve this, and that it makes economic sense to do so.
More information on the CleanSea project and its outcomes can be found on the project website: www.cleansea-project.eu.
Authors: Heather Leslie and Frans Oosterhuis