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On Monday, 10th December, OceanCare and UNEP/MAP held a joint workshop at the Fish Forum 2018 of the General Fisheries Commission of the Mediterranean (GFCM) on the prevention and reduction of marine litter in the Mediterranean Sea. The panelists speaking were Fabienne McLellan (OceanCare), Gaetano Leone (UNEP/MAP), Iryna Makarenko (Black Sea Commission), Joanna Toole (FAO) and Dr Andrea Stolte (WWF Deutschland). Nicolas Entrup moderated the event. The elaborations and discussions among the participants based on the panelists presentations were developed into recommendations The discussions between the participants based on the panelists’ presentations were then elaborated into recommendations.

In the Mediterranean Sea a sixth gyre has formed. The average density of plastic in the Mediterranean is comparable to that in open ocean gyres. The Mediterranean is distinguished from other gyres by containing a higher proportion of larger plastic items – fragments dominate (87,7% of floating plastic debris). There is also increasing evidence that microplastics are increasingly common in fish and invertebrates in the Mediterranean Sea.

The sustainable development goals of the United Nations

The SDG 14, and in particular target 14.1 provides a clear goal to significantly reduce marine pollution by 2025 which will contribute to sustainable development and sustainable fisheries. Facing a projected increase by up to 33% of global plastic production, threatens achieving SDG 14.1 and makes the call to action even more urgent.

Ghostnets

When it comes to abandoned, lost and discarded fishing gear there are a lack of incentive programs which are encouraging fishermen to engage. But there is also witnessed poor enforcement of existing measures in place. Also, behavioral patterns by our society leading to an unsustainable lifestyle of overconsumption needs to be taken into consideration when looking at the barriers to achieve change.

Four urgent recommendations to the GFCM

Among the detailed list of recommendations OceanCare will submit to the GFCM are four matters of particular urgency:

  1. Efforts and approaches on regional and international scale must be harmonised and coordinated.
  2. Such coordinated efforts should incentivise best practice approaches towards a measurable reduction of litter.
  3. Solutions for macro- and microplastics in the marine environment must go far beyond the problem of waste – we need a functioning circular-flow economy that deals sustainably with raw materials and reduces waste to a minimum.
  4. The workshop has confirmed that ports are largely lacking disposal facilities for fishing gear and marine litter. Harbour reception and waste management need to be improved for fishing gear and other litter retrieved from the sea. Incentive programs need to be developed and implemented.