Marine litter management in the Adriatic Sea: enhanced cooperation between UNEP and IMELS

Marine Litter management is of key importance to the biodiversity, whose sustainability the MED Biodiversity Protection Community is protecting and promoting. In the Mediterranean however, and in the Adriatic more specifically, millions of litter items saturate the coasts and endanger the biodiversity.

(Rome, 11 February 2019) - Protecting the biodiversity in coastal areas first begins by properly managing marine litter. Biodiversity Protection and Marine Litter Management are utterly connected. “In the Adriatic, 1.5 kg of waste produced per inhabitant per day on average. [...] It is estimated that there are 0.5 billion litter items lying on the seafloor, the majority of which are plastics, with devastating effects on marine biodiversity, but also on our health, and on vital human activities for the economy of this region, such as fisheries and tourism” stated the United Nations Environment Programme - Mediterranean Action Plan (UNEP MAP) in a recent article.

In response to this alarming assessment, UNEP MAP and the Italian Ministry for Environment, Land and Sea Protection (IMELS) have signed in September 2016 a cooperation agreement, whose main results were presented during the Regional Meeting on Marine Litter Best Practices, organised by the Marine Pollution Assessment and Control component of MAP (MED POL) in Turkey, on October 2018. Specific pilot projects, which followed this cooperation agreement, were presented on this occasion, such as the project “Adopt-a-beach”. This specific project aims, on the one hand, at keeping beaches clear, and, on the other hand, at raising awareness and educating citizens on marine litter in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro.

On a similar complementarity and inclusive note, during a conference of the ACT4LITTER project (studying joint measures to preserve natural ecosystems from marine litter in the Mediterranean protected areas within the MED Biodiversity Protection Community, Mr. Leone, Coordinator of UNEP MAP, clearly stated that “the way forward [to the preservation and protection of these areas n.d.l.r] must go through forging partnerships for action that amplify the impact of the work of individual actors in government, civil society, scientific community, private sector, international organizations, so as to effectively promote reduction and prevention measures”. The enhanced cooperation between UNEP and IMELS, with the support of the Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Response Centre for the Mediterranean Sea (REMPEC) and the Regional Activity Center for Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP/RAC), as well as through these various projects throughout the Mediterranean and the Adriatic are part of such process.

Marine Litter management is and should continue to be promoted, something on which the MED Biodiversity Protection Community is constantly working, not only through the aforementioned ACT4LITTER project but also others such as MEDSEALITTER, aiming at developing Mediterranean-specific protocols to protect biodiversity from litter impact at basin and local marine protected areas' scales.