New E.U. targets to reduce marine litter

Loggerhead sea turtle eating plastic bag in Argostoli harbor
Sea turtles often mistake floating plastic for food. Marine litter is a significant contributor to juvenile adult sea turtle mortality.

Members of the Barcelona Convention have adopted a plan to manage marine litter in the Mediterranean Sea, with a target to achieve a “good environmental status” by 2020. The decision was taken on the last day of the 18th ordinary meeting of the contracting parties, which took place earlier this month in Istanbul, Turkey.

In the three months leading to its adoption, the European Commission's Environment Directorate-General completed an open consultation process. During this time, individuals, organizations, and government agencies submitted their opinion and proposals on the current working document that describes EU policies, legislation, and initiatives to tackle marine litter.

Plastics in sea turtle stomach
More than 3200 pieces of marine debris found in the large intestine of a juvenile green turtle found dead in Brazil. Image taken from

The policies adopted include plans for more efficient waste and coastal management, scientific research, and raising public awareness about the issue. However, it is commonly accepted that the amount of litter in the Mediterranean Sea is already much higher than acceptable levels and will continue harmin the sea and species living in it. To combat this, the policies include plans for “litter fishing,” practically employing manned and automated vehicles that roam the seas collecting litter that may have been drifting in the sea for years.

Marine litter is a significant cause of mortality for adult sea turtles and the adopted policies are a welcomed outcome of the meeting. Research on marine litter both in its abundance around the waters of Kefalonia and its impact on the coastal environment and our sea turtle population is an important aspect of our ongoing research. We hope that with the application of the adopted policies throughout the Mediterranean Sea, our data will eventually start showing a decline of marine debris in the years to come.


Written by Nikos Vallianos | .

Tags: conservation, Kefalonia, threats, research, habitat degradation, waste management, European Union, marine litter