More than 110 participants from 18 Mediterranean countries came together at the Plastic Busters MPAs hybrid capitalization conference organized in the beautiful city of Vlora, located in the Karaburun-Sazan MPA. The two-day event, held from the 23rd till the 24th of February 2022 and entitled “Learning together: how to curb marine plastic pollution in Mediterranean MPAs” was graced by the presence of high-level officials such as the Deputy Minister of Tourism and Environment of Albania, Vilma Bello, the General Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism and Environment of Albania, Ledina Beqiraj Agalliu, the Prefect of Vlora, Flamur Mamaj, the Coordinator of UNEP/MAP Tatjana Hema, the UfM Head of the Environment and Blue Economy Sector, Alessandra Sensi, the Senior Expert of the EC Directorate General of Environment Michail Papadoyannakis. The event was organised jointly by the Ministry of Tourism and Environment of Albania together with MIO-ECSDE and project partners.

The importance of the Plastic Busters MPAs project in tackling marine litter in the Mediterranean was highlighted by Tatjana Hema, the Coordinator of UNEP/MAP, in her intervention where she stated: “We are happy to have supported and contributed to the Plastic Busters MPAs project since its launch back in 2018. The project has an important agenda merging the topics of marine litter, marine environment pollution and Mediterranean MPAs, all priority topics also for UNEP/MAP. I am pleased to see that the experiences obtained are shared herewith today and that a momentum for replication is being built so that the project can continue to contribute to the implementation of the upgraded regional plan for marine litter management in the Mediterranean.”

The conference featured the knowledge, know-how and experiences obtained by the implementation of the Plastic Busters MPAs demonstration and replication actions addressing the entire management cycle of marine litter, from monitoring and assessment to prevention and mitigation. The project’s valuable results and achievements were possible thanks to the foresight and great support of bodies like the Union for the Mediterranean that labelled the overall initiative already back in 2016. The UfM Head of the Environment and Blue Economy Sector Alessandra Sensi highlighted that “The Mediterranean leads by example: Plastic Busters shows how commitment and unprecedented collaboration on marine litter and circular economy, can make the difference and influence the development of the region through scientific evidence and associated decision making”.

It has been almost 4 years since Plastic Busters MPAs started on its journey to address marine litter in Mediterranean MPAs and the project has achieved a lot: a first-of-its-kind comprehensive diagnostic analysis of the presence and effects of marine litter in Mediterranean MPAs; marine litter monitoring and assessment tools and approaches; showcases and guidelines of best practice measures, particularly focused on slashing single-use plastics in Mediterranean MPAs, and so much more.

The conference’s deliberations came to an end with a field visit to the Karaburun-Sazan MPA, which marked the official completion of the Plastic Busters MPAs marine litter monitoring and mitigation pilot actions in the MPA. The MPA managers and officials from the Ministry of Tourism and Environment of Albania in their final remarks committed themselves to continuous exploitation and cascading replication of the project results and outputs towards litter-free coasts and sea in Albania.

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