Marine litter Management in the Adriatic Sea: Enhanced Cooperation between UNEP and IMELS

Marine Litter management is of key importance to the tourism sector, whose sustainability the MED Sustainable Tourism Community is protecting and promoting. In the Mediterranean however, and in the Adriatic Sea more specifically, millions of litter items not only saturate the coasts and endanger the biodiversity but also have negative impacts on the Mediterranean tourist destinations.

(Rome, 1 March 2019) - Sustainable Tourism and Marine Litter Management are utterly connected. “In the Adriatic, 1.5 kg of waste produced per inhabitant per day on average. [...] It is estimated that there are 0.5 billion litter items lying on the seafloor, the majority of which are plastics, with devastating effects on marine biodiversity, but also on our health, and on vital human activities for the economy of this region, such as fisheries and tourism” stated the United Nations Environment Programme - Mediterranean Action Plan (UNEP MAP) in a recent article.

Towards the objective of addressing the issue of marine litter management, UNEP MAP and the Italian Ministry for Environment, Land and Sea Protection (IMELS) have signed in September 2016 a cooperation agreement, whose main results were presented during the Regional Meeting on Marine Litter Best Practices, organised by the Marine Pollution Assessment and Control component of MAP (MED POL) in Turkey, on October 2018. Specific pilot projects, which followed this cooperation agreement, were presented on this occasion, such as the project “Adopt-a-beach”. It aims, on the one hand, at keeping beaches clear, and, on the other hand, at raising awareness and educating citizens on marine litter in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro. Clean beaches are essential in the framework of sustainable tourism, and even more in those destinations evolving around the sun and sea model.

Cooperation aiming at strengthening marine litter management is of the utmost importance to consider for the MED Sustainable Tourism Community, which also work towards that aim, through projects such as BLUEISLANDS, analyzing seasonal variation of waste as effect of tourism. This project brings together 14 partners from 8 countries and aims at identifying, addressing and mitigating the effects of the seasonal variation of waste generation on MED islands as an effect of tourism. Among others objectives, it aims at analyzing the correlation between the quantified waste generated and both the number of tourists and the presence of litter in the coastal environment will be examined. In a survey conducted as part of this project, the results showed that: “on average, the accumulation rate of marine litter was of 0.08 items/m2/day during the low season and of 0.25 item/m2/day during the high season. This represents an average increase of +205% of marine litter during the high season. Depending on the type of beach considered, this increase goes from +309% for the touristic beaches, to +327% for the beaches mainly used by locals and to 68% for the remote beaches. These results clearly show the seasonal variations of the “visible” marine litter (plastic bottles, cigarette butts or even small pieces of plastic of less than 5mm).”

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