Session Chairs: Francois Galgani, French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea (IFREMER); Thomas Maes, Center for Environment, Fisheries, and Aquatic Science (CEFAS)

 This session is dedicated to scientists, stakeholders, institutions and managers to present and discuss their experience on large scale assessment of marine litter and propose solutions for a simple and efficient monitoring of marine litter in the world oceans.

 A global monitoring plan for marine litter could be an important component to provide a harmonized organizational framework for the collection of comparable monitoring data on marine litter from different regions. This will allow scientists to identify changes in marine litter concentrations over time, as well as identifying regional and global environmental transport mechanisms. It will also provide a tool to better assess the effectiveness of measures and actions taken within the frameworks of wider initiatives and policies, actions plans and global agreements.

Such a process will need various steps before a complete implementation. Data and information collection, including capacity-enhancement activities and the development of regional monitoring reports, will have to be organized, possibly under the responsibility of contracting parties or regional organizations of several UN Regions. This will need to be followed up by a group to better coordinate the implementation of the global monitoring plan and the consideration of a global monitoring report. Large scale monitoring has been already addressed nationally or internationally within different initiatives, processes or frameworks, such a MSFD, G7 or actions from large NGOs. These will need more coordination, support and strategy to optimize and rationalize the initiative.

To address this, to fill the knowledge gaps and propose a simple strategy for an harmonized monitoring the global ocean, this IMDC session will discuss and define a strategy for information gathering, including capacity building and establishment of strategic partnerships in order to fill the identified data gaps.




Defining the baselines and standards for microplastics analyses in European waters (JPI-O BASEMAN)

presenting: João Frias (GMIT, Ireland); authors: João Frias (GMIT, Ireland), Gunnar Gerdts (), Jesus Gago (IEO), Martin Hassellöv (University of Gothenburg), Tanja Kögel (NIFES), Christian Laforsch (University of Bayreuth), Soledad Muniategui Lorenzo (Universidade da Coruña), Barbara Scholz-Böttcher (ICBM)

Since the middle of last century rapidly increasing global production of plastics has been accompanied by an accumulation of plastic litter in the marine environment. Large plastic items degrade and become fragmented over time and together with micro-sized primary plastic litter from consumer products these degraded micro-fragments lead to an increasing amount of small plastic particles, so called “microplastics” (MP). Although awareness of the potential risks is emerging, the impact of MP on aquatic ecosystems is far from being understood. A fundamental issue precluding assessment of the environmental risks arising from MP is the lack of standard operation protocols (SOP) for MP sampling, detection and analysis. Consequently there is a lack of reliable data on MP-concentrations and polymer-composition in the environment. Comparability of data on MP concentrations is hampered by a huge variety of different methods, each generating data of extremely different quality and resolution. Although MP are recognized as an emerging contaminant in the environment, currently neither sampling, extraction, purification nor identification approaches are standardised, making the increasing numbers of MP studies hardly -if at all- comparable.

BASEMAN is an interdisciplinary and international collaborative research project that aims to overcome this problem. BASEMAN teams experienced scientists (from different disciplines and countries) to undertake a profound and detailed comparison and evaluation of all approaches from sampling to identification of MP. BASEMAN’s project outcomes will equip policy makers with the tools and operational measures required to describe the abundance and distribution of MP in the environment. Such tools will permit evaluation of member state compliance with existing and future monitoring requirements.


Making the grade: Deriving a standardised marine litter pollution index

presenting: Scott Wilson (Macquarie University, Australia); authors: Scott Wilson (Macquarie University, Australia), Krista Verlis (Macquarie University)

Several approaches to evaluate the broader impacts of marine litter pollution have been designed. These include the OSPAR convention in Europe that uses marine litter beach surveys and plastic ingestion by seabirds as indicators for loads and speculative impacts. Some studies have developed indices for evaluating marine litter loads such as the “clean coast index”, while others have suggested the use of key indicator items to monitor changes over time. There are however, limited working examples that currently record marine debris levels and provide a comprehensive risk-based approach to monitoring this pollutant over time.

We describe a marine litter pollution assessment scheme that will evaluate and assign a score to the degree of pollution specific to a region. Based on litter survey data, this assessment focuses on selected key indicator items relevant to the region (e.g. plastic bags, beverage containers, and cigarette butts), their number, and perceived hazardous nature. This scoring system follows a risk-based assessment, utilising the traffic light system of green, orange and red, that prioritises the need for management action. This approach could also be used to support environmental health assessments and broader water quality report carding for a region.

Our presentation will describe the step-based approach we have designed in addressing this multi-faceted problem and from which preventative or reduction strategies can be measured against. The versatility of this marine litter pollution assessment scheme and the applicability to a range of stakeholders will be discussed.


Simultaneous assessment of macro and micro marine litter pollution in different compartments in the central Adriatic Sea, central Mediterranean sea

presenting: Andreja Palatinus (Institute for Water of the Republic of Slovenia, Slovenia); authors: Andreja Palatinus (Institute for Water of the Republic of Slovenia), Manca Kovač Viršek (Institute for Water of the Republic of Slovenia), Mateja Grego (National Institute of Biology, Marine Biology Station Piran), Oliver Bajt (National Institute of Biology, Marine Biology Station Piran), Jasna Šiljič (Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries), Ana Hace (Morigenos – Slovenian Marine Mammal Society), monika Peterlin (Institute for Water of the Republic Slovenia)

Marine litter in the Adriatic sea has gotten attention in recent years, but still facing lack of data on quantities, composition, fate and sources of marine litter. A research expedition using a sailing boat was organized in the Croatian waters of the central Adriatic sea, with the aim to collect combined data on marine litter pollution. An 8-day expedition,was organized by the Slovenian Institute for Water in collaboration with four other research organizations from Slovenia and Croatia. The aim of the expedition was to perform simultaneous sampling of macro and micro litter in different compartments (sea surface, sea bottom, beach) in order to quantitatively and qualitatively assess pollution with litter, especially in comparison between open waters and enclosed channel waters. At the same time marine mammals and turtles presence was being obesrved. The applied methodology of macro and micro litter sampling and analysis was regionally synchronized under the scope of the Derelict Fishing Gear Managament System (DEFISHGEAR) project, co-funded by the European Union, prior to this expedition and successfully used in practice. Marine LitterWatch mobile application, developed by the European Environment Agency was used for beach litter assessment. In total, 17 floating marine litter surveys were made, 3 beaches were analysed for macro litter presence, 27 samples were collected using the manta net and samples subsequently analysed in the laboratory for microplastic presence, 21 sea bottom samples were collected with the Van Veen grab and subsequently analysed for microplastic presence in the laboratory.


The use of beached bird surveys for marine plastic litter monitoring in Ireland

presenting: Heidi Acampora (Marine & Freshwater Research Centre, Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, Ireland); authors: Heidi Acampora (Marine & Freshwater Research Centre, Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, Ireland), Ian O’Connor (Marine & Freshwater Research Centre, Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology)

Governments all around the world are being urged to monitor litter sources and inputs, and to mitigate the impacts of marine litter, which is primarily composed of plastics. Seabirds are highly susceptible to entanglement and ingestion of litter at sea. The aim of this research is to investigate the feasibility of using Northern Fulmars (Fulmarus glacialis) and/or other potential species of seabird as an indicator for floating marine debris in Ireland. From the inception of the project to date (45 months), 226 birds comprising 20 different species have been collected and subsequently investigated. The research has evolved from relying on beached birds to also investigating availability of birds at seabird colonies during the breeding season. As a result, of the 226 individuals examined, 157 were beached and 69 were collected at colonies during fieldwork or by wardens. In total, 19% (n=43) of 14 different species were found to ingest litter, mainly plastics. Ninety three percent (n=16) of Northern Fulmars sampled had ingested litter. When comparing beached vs colony collected birds; for beached birds (19 species, 157 individuals) 22.9% (n= 36) ingested plastic litter. The average mass was 0.1944 g and average number of pieces was 6.4. In birds collected at breeding colonies (11 species, 69 individuals) 10.1% (n= 7) contained plastics. The average mass was 0.0040 g and the average number of pieces was 1.04. These preliminary results show that multispecies of seabirds in Ireland are ingesting marine litter, mainly plastics, as in many other countries in the world. monitoring seabird litter ingestion has the potential to form part of a wider marine litter monitoring programme that can help to inform mitigation and management measures for marine litter.


Composition and abundance of marine debris stranded in beaches of Sri Lanka: Results from the first national survey

presenting: R R M K P Ranatunga (University of Sri Jayewardenepura); authors: R R M K P Ranatunga (University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Sri Lanka), R R M K P Ranatunga (University of Sri Jayewardenepura), Jin Yong Mok (Korea Maritime Institute), Kyung Shin Kim (Korea Maritime Institute), Su Yeon Hong (Ocean Research Institute), Young Rai Choi (Florida International University), A J M Gunasekara (Marine Environment Protection Authority)

Sri Lanka regards one of the top-ranked countries with mismanaged marine debris. No studies have been conducted to find the status of the marine debris and rationale for such a ranking. This study provides the first assessment of marine debris washed ashore on 22 beaches along the coast of Sri Lanka. There were 4.1 large (>25mm) and 158 small (5mm-25mm) debris per square meter of the beach. By usage classification, packaging material (55%) dominated the consumer products (25%) and fishing gear (20%). Plastic was the highest contributing (93%) material. Beaches close to a river mouth, city or with a barrier had greater debris accumulation. Eastern coast had significantly higher small debris density possibly due to strong north-eastern monsoon currents. Findings show that the Sri Lankan beaches are moderately polluted with marine debris compared to other Asian countries and sound policy based debris management mechanism is essential. Strong marine debris management program is needed for Sri Lanka with sound policy measures to address the debris issue. Findings showed no exceptional accumulation of marine debris on the beach though Sri Lanka ranked 5th among worst marine debris polluters.


Microplastics in beaches in the Peninsula of Baja California, Mexico

presenting: Teresita de Jesus Piñon-Colin (Universidad Autonoma de Baja Calfornia, Mexico); authors: Teresita de Jesus Piñon-Colin (Universidad Autonoma de Baja Calfornia, Mexico), Fernando Toyohiko Wakida (Universidad Autonoma de Baja California), Ruben Rodríguez-Jimenez (Universidad Autonoma de Baja Calfornia), Eduardo Rogel-Hernandez (Universidad Autonoma de Baja California), Miguel Angel Pastrana-Corral (Universidad Autonoma de Baja California)

Twenty one beaches in the Baja California Peninsula in Mexico were sampled to evaluate the microplastic concentration. The extraction of the microplastics was conducted by the density method using a sodium chloride solution and the identification using infrared spectroscopy. The median abundance was 99 particles kg-1, with a range between 13 and 266 particles kg-1. A median concentration of 147 particles kg-1 was found in the sites located on the Pacific Ocean, being higher than the concentration of the sites of the Gulf of California (84 particles kg-1). This is due to a higher population density in the Pacific Ocean coast of the Peninsula and probably due to marine currents. As expected the micro plastic concentrations were in those beaches located in urban areas. Being fibers the most frequent microplastic morphology found in the samples with a 92% of the total. The chemical composition found with FTIR-ATR identified on beaches was poliacrylic, polyacrylamide, polyethylene terephthalate and a type of nylon polyamide. The microplastics are mainly from discharges of treated wastewater, tourism and fishing activities.