Assessing the amount of marine litter on beaches of Mediterranean Coastal and Marine Protected Areas. Filling in the knowledge gaps via a participatory-science initiative. MIO-ECSDE. Vlachogianni Th.  MIO-ECSDE, 2022

The Mediterranean Sea is one of the areas most affected by marine litter worldwide. Marine litter is found lying on the shores, as well as floating anywhere from the surface to the bottom of the sea. Even in pristine environments of the Mediterranean, such as coastal and marine protected areas, marine litter is building up, threatening habitats and species. Impacts vary from entanglement and ingestion, to bio-accumulation and bio-magnification of toxics released from litter items, facilitation of introduction of invasive species, damages to benthic habitats, etc.

Effective and targeted measures to address the growing threat of marine litter in the Mediterranean are hampered by the lack of reliable, coherent and comparable data. This fact is highlighted by the ‘In Depth Assessment of the EU Member States’ Submissions for the Marine Strategy Framework Directive under articles 8, 9 and 10, that provides insights on the assessment of the environmental status of the Members States with regards to Descriptor 10 (Marine Litter). According to the aforementioned assessment, half of the Member States have limited, very limited or no data at all with regards to marine litter. Similar findings on the lack of marine litter data are reported in the UN Environment/MAP Quality Status Report (UN Environment/MAP, 2017).

Throughout the years Mediterranean NGOs have significantly contributed to providing data and information on the temporal and spatial distribution of marine litter found stranded on beaches, through dedicated monitoring surveys, adopt-a-beach schemes or beach clean-up campaigns. Furthermore, several Mediterranean countries within their monitoring programmes are considering community-based data collection initiatives as an essential tool to fill in the marine litter knowledge gaps. The involvement of NGOs in data collection is seen to be a cost-effective way to gather required evidence and detect the emerging issues supporting public authorities to improve efficiency with less administrative burden.

Within this context, MIO-ECSDE set up and implemented a participatory-science campaign in order to fill in the knowledge gaps with regards to marine litter found on beaches of coastal and marine protected areas of the Mediterranean and provide fit-for-purpose data for the effective management of marine litter. The campaign was carried out within the framework of the Annual Programme of MIO-ECSDE supported by the EU LIFE Programme (Operating Grant for NGOs).

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