A cleaner and healthier Mediterranean Sea: Mediterranean solutions towards zero pollution impacts on biodiversity and health.

On 4 June 2021 the Interreg Mediterranean Biodiversity Protection Community project, led by ETC-UMA, hosted the online workshop: “Mediterranean Pollution, Biodiversity and Health” with support from MEDCITIES and the UNEP/MAP Regional Activity Center Plan Bleu. Over 70 partners and experts from around the globe gathered for this event to find the best solutions to combat marine litter impacts across the Mediterranean

This event was held during the EU Green Week 2021, which placed “Zero Pollution for Healthier People and Planet” under the spotlight.  On 4  June, key players in the fight against marine pollution across the Mediterranean region, came together to discuss how we can enhance and strengthen our existing efforts to reduce marine litter, and to mitigate its impacts on our marine biodiversity and health. Scientists, decision-makers, NGOs, civil society and other interested stakeholder groups all shared their knowledge and perspectives to help refine our key recommendations and to showcase the many initiatives ongoing in the region.

It was an action-packed day with a number of inspiring presentations and plenary discussions from expert facilitators and speakers. The workshop, mainstreamed via Facebook, centred around three main focus areas:

  • Session 1- What do we know about European and Mediterranean marine litter impacts on biodiversity and health?
  • Session 2: Policy efforts to tackle marine litter at different scales.
  • Session 3: Solutions to reduce marine litter pollution and impacts on biodiversity and our health. 

Following our informative sessions and interactive discussions, participants were equipped with a better understanding of the current knowledge, policies, gaps and solutions to respond to the call for actions. Our call for actions invited participants to help revise the 9 key recommendations for combating marine litter, developed by partners as part of the PANACeA project in 2018.  An opportunity was also provided to show their commitments to a cleaner and healthier Mediterranean by signing the ecosystem-based approach declaration

Our first session showed us the many different ways that marine organisms can be impacted by litter, and the current efforts to monitor and assess marine litter and its impacts across the region. Dania Abdul Malak (ETC-UMA Director) introduced us to an online knowledge-based tool, MedBioLitter, that compiles Mediterranean marine litter impact on biodiversity related studies so they can be used to further our research and ensure evidence-based decision making.

We learned that marine pollution does not just affect biodiversity and pollution but there are a number of direct and indirect ways it can also affect our health and well-being, and therefore is an issue that we should all be extremely concerned about. Despite the significant advancement in our knowledge over the past decade, it is clear that there remains a lot more for us to learn about marine litter and its impacts. Scientists need to work together so that they can harmonise knowledge and solutions that can be used to mitigate impacts of Marine Litter in the Mediterranean.

 

 

In session two we heard about the many initiatives and policies to fight marine litter at a project, national and regional scale, and the important need to drive forward a more circular economy. Our experts showed us that we need a new “global” treaty that will deal with plastics and mobilize actions at all levels (producers, consumers and decision-makers) and across the entire plastic loop - from extraction to production, to the use and post-use of plastic.  

PlasticBusters MPAs is a regional project supported by the Interreg Mediterranean programme. The project addresses the whole management cycle of marine litter, from monitoring and assessment to prevention and mitigation, and is piloting a number of practical measures to reduce marine litter in the region

Our last session of the day showcased a number of ongoing initiatives and practical solutions that are being, and can be, taken to help combat marine litter, and how stakeholders and civil society can be involved in these initiatives. We also heard how important it is to make sure knowledge and tools are transferred and capacity built at the local level. We all agreed that it is the responsibility of each and every one of us and not just decision-makers, to help in this fight against marine pollution and that we all have a role to play in that battle. 

 

 

In our call for actions, participants reviewed the 9 key recommendations from 2018. The majority thought that tackling marine litter at the production and consumption level was one of the most important recommendations to combat marine litter. As a result of this workshop and the prioritisation exercise, and with input from experts and participants, our revised recommendations towards combatting marine litter in the Mediterranean are:

1.     Reduce and eliminate unsustainable production and consumption to decrease marine litter

2.     Increase awareness of marine litter and its impacts, across the wider society, and ensure the involvement of youth, civil society and local partners in marine litter monitoring and mitigation

3.     Increase cross-border cooperation (especially with non-EU countries) to share knowledge and harmonise marine litter mitigation actions and policies

4.     Increase cross sectoral collaboration for tacking marine litter impacts on biodiversity and human health, and for the inclusion of Ecosystem-Based Management principles in other sectoral policies

5.     Address and reduce sea-based sources of marine litter

6.     Improve marine litter data and information across the entire Mediterranean region

7.    Support the transfer of knowledge and management tools between local managers and stakeholders for managing, monitoring and mitigating marine litter and its impacts

8.   Refine, improve and harmonise marine litter-related assessment protocols, and support the development of Mediterranean-wide monitoring protocols

9.    Ensure the sustainability of achievements through links with other regional marine litter databases, and the upkeep of relevant regional knowledge databases

Although it is clear that we have a long and complex road ahead of us towards zero pollution, the workshop highlighted that we are a concerned and dedicated Mediterranean community, made up of all sorts of different stakeholder groups, and it doesn’t matter to which group we belong, we are all part of the problem and therefore we ALL need to be part of the solution!

Our sincere thanks to all our speakers and participants who contributed to making this a truly insightful and interesting event and showed that by working Together we CAN make a difference!

If you want to learn more about marine litter and how to monitor and manage it in protected areas, register to our coming workshop on 29 June 2021.

 

Want to meet our EU Green Week speakers? Check them on the related files!

This are our 9 recommendatinos for ZERO POLLUTION!