LIFE LEMA and European policies on the challenge of reducing marine litter

basura marina en las playas LEMA

Marine litter is considered as one of the 11 determining factors for achieving good environmental status in our seas by 2020.

At an international level, the General Assembly of the United Nations has acknowledged for the first time the issue of marine litter in its Résolution Océans et Droit à la Mer of 2005. In it, the Assembly encourages decisions-making on the new challenge derived from the consumption model. The worldwide action plan started to take form only in 2011 with the Honolulu strategy, a global document elaborated during the 5th international Conference on marine litter, which has the objective to avoid, reduce and manage marine litter.

In the last years, numerous international reports have been written on specific themes, like the specific study of micro plastics in the marine environment that was produced by a group of experts on scientific aspects of the marine environment’s protection (GESAMP, 2015). Another example is the study of the impact of micro plastic on the species of fish destined to human consumption conducted by the United Nations for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). In 2016, the secretariat of the Convention on biological diversity published a study analyzing the state of art and the potential prevention of the impact of marine litter on coastal ecosystems’ biodiversity. Those are all reports that testify of the increasing preoccupation for impacting ecosystems, human health and economy. The framework directive “ Strategy for the Marine Environment” (2008/56/CE) recognizes at a European level the problem of marine litter, identified like one of the 11 descriptors (no.10) necessary to attain a good ecological state of the marine environment by 2020. The MAPAMA (Spanish ministry of agriculture and fishing) presented in spring 2016 the Measures Program for Spain.

LIFE LEMA has the will to answer the need for establishment of European policies and requirements in terms of marine litter. Marine litter is no.10 of the Strategy for the Marine Environment, which means is it considered one of the 11 determinant factors for attaining a good ecological state of the seas by 2020. In 2016, member countries have presented to the European Community their programs of measures to face the 11 descriptors. Meetings with experts will be organized in LIFE LEMA for the research of common answers to apply and follow measures for eliminating the impact of this waste. LIFE LEMA’s invited experts will share their points of view with partners to face one of the objectives of the European Strategy for the Marine Environment: definition and analysis of the best actions to put in place in crossborder seas, like for instance the Bay of Gascogne.

Also, LIFE LEMA will discuss the lines of action identified by the European Fund for the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries by implicating fisherman’s associations to analyze their way of fishing waste and their efficiency. LIFE LEMA will evaluate, thanks to the contribution of groups of experts and consulting groups participating to the project, the efficiency of fishing boats equipped to collect waste. It will do so by analyzing the potential diversification of commercial fishing’s activity. In new policies, the fishermen community is a key element to reduce volume of marine litter. But the implication of this community is still to be defined and the debate between need for specialized boats for fishing and the volunteer action put in place during the fishing activity is still opened.

It should be mentioned that LIFE LEMA’s project, which works to apply the EU’s directives, is also a reflection of the support of the states that joined the project of worldwide engagement formulated during the United States Conference in 2012 (Rio+20) on Sustainable Development. This engagement entails taking action for reducing the effects of marine litter. LIFE LEMA is a potential supporting tool to attain this objective, by contributing to prevent future damages on the coastal and marine environment.