WEBINAR: Marine litter – how to monitor and suppress the threat that floats in our seas

Author: F. Dokoza

Marine litter is a rising issue around the world, and its presence is particularly problematic in protected areas. We organized the second in a series of webinars of the LIFE Artina project to introduce the community of nature conservationists to the problem of marine litter in protected areas and the amount floating in our seas on March 28, 2023, and as part of the project’s Strategy for Replication and Transfer, by which the European LIFE Program ensures that the knowledge and experience gained through the project’s implementation are applied in other areas as well.

The webinar “Marine litter – how to monitor and suppress the threat that floats in our oceans” included a presentation of the protocol for monitoring marine litter used as part of this project, the results obtained during their implementation, and recommendations for suppressing and reducing the amount of litter.

Marine litter monitoring was carried out in Lastovsko otočje Nature Park from October 2019 to May 2021. Saplun, Sito, and Kremena beaches meet the criteria necessary for the implementation of these protocols Monitoring was also done on the sea surface on the Park’s western and southeastern sides. Monitoring of the sea’s surface was carried out to acquire insight into the amount and composition of floating litter, as well as the direction from which it arrives in this area, while marine litter on beaches was collected and categorized into categories (plastic, treated wood, metal, ceramics/glass, textiles, medical waste, rubber).

In addition to the protocol for monitoring marine litter on beaches and sea surface the project also used a simplified monitoring protocol for all interested individuals, associations, clubs, volunteers… A monitoring protocol for children was used during the implementation of educational activities for the youngest children, which is a very simple way to introduce children to the problem of marine litter. During the discussion following the webinar, it became evident that the majority of the attendees are highly interested in all of the protocols employed, and some plan to adopt them in their areas.

The data obtained during the monitoring implementation and communication with the local community, as well as in collaboration with the employees of the Lastovsko otočje Nature Park, were used to create recommendations for the reduction of marine litter and its future monitoring, which is important for the project’s future sustainability. The recommendations were provided as part of the webinar, and it was underlined that they are applicable in all protected and isolated locations with minor alterations.

After the monitoring, results, and recommendations were presented, a discussion began about the problem of collecting biological waste as one of the recognized problems of restaurants and hotels in this area, as well as the source of a large amount of polystyrene, i.e. Styrofoam pieces on the beaches. Given that one of the assumptions was that these were fish boxes fragments, the question arose about the potential replication of the LIFE Artina project, which would include, in addition to the continuation of marine litter monitoring activities, the possible replacement of polystyrene fish boxes with boxes made of more sustainable materials.

Following this webinar, three more will be held on the topics of seabird bycatch, project educational activities, and the proclamation of marine protected areas.