Marine litter is recognized as a persistent and growing problem with environmental, economic, safety, health and cultural implications that expand beyond borders. Together with the emerging microplastics pollution (threat to marine environment caused by plastic particles of a diameter smaller than 5 mm) and negative impact of the derelict fishing gear (lost and abandoned fishing nets) to the marine species and habitats, it raised the need for a joint action on regional level which goes beyond borders of these particular issues.
Under the umbrella of the DeFishGear project activities, besides strong focus on sustainable management of human activities having an impact on the marine environment, substantial importance has been given to the involvement of different stakeholders on all levels. Importance of inclusion of the ecosystem approach to the management of human activities having an impact on the marine environment, while integrating the concepts of environmental protection and sustainable use is the key message delivered with the Conference on Sub-Regional Cooperation on Marine Litter Management in the Adriatic-Ionian Macro-Region held in Split, Croatia, on March 25th, 2015, to all stakeholders.
The Conference has provided a discussion platform for more than 40 participants: marine litter experts from all seven countries of the Adriatic Sea, representatives of the national Ministries for Environmental Protection and Environmental Agencies, Water Agencies, European Commission, Coast Guard representatives, and Non-Governmental Organizations. The Conference with the format of a Regional Experts Meeting was truly successful, as it managed to assemble fair representations of the institutions (from public and NGO sector) – regional leaders in ML research and management – which created setting for qualified discussion of the state-of-the-art issue in ML management in Adriatic region. This was by large possible due to the fact that many of the institutions with the most experience in ML issues are already assembled as partners within the DeFishGear project. The forum at the Conference was widened by invitation of several most active regional NGOs, identified by survey recently implemented within the project. The discussion was also informed by the results of the surveys of the regional national authorities, local authorities and NGOs, on ML and ML management issues.
The main conclusions of the Conference were the following:
- Marine litter is a significant problem, the growing one, in the Adriatic region. Although there is no fully established monitoring to support this conclusion, it is based on the experience of experts, NGOs and local authorities dealing with the ML. There is also growing awareness of the problem within the most affected sectors of the economy (tourism and fisheries).
- There is significant lack of data and knowledge regarding the ML, as the comprehensive ML monitoring and management framework is yet to be established, even in the countries in the region, with the most advanced environmental management practices and systems.
- DeFishGear project is at the very forefront of ML management research and testing, especially with its focus on formulation and testing of ML monitoring practice (which is at the moment, the absolute priority), and integration of the ML management practices within the fisheries sector (which has also been recognized as high priority area for action). Consequently, through its pilot activities, the project will generate body of experience and know-how, which could significantly contribute to mainstreaming of the demonstrated practices within the national contexts in the Adriatic region.
- Taking into account the specific regional ML-related challenges, threats and opportunities, the set of priority ML measures for the countries in the region were identified, including: 1) ML Monitoring, with focus on identification of hot spots and critical trends; 2) Full integration of ML consideration into the waste management priorities; 3) Integration of ML related measures and practices into fisheries sectors; 4) Integration of ML related measures and practices into tourism sector; 5) More systematic ML related awareness raising and education efforts; 6) establishment of regional cooperation in ML management.
- Within the next phase of the project, the above set of measures will be further elaborated and formulated in format of policy recommendations, drawing from both experience of the project’s pilot activities and all other accumulated body of relevant knowledge and experience (both from the Adriatic and other EU regions).
- Some of the most important speakers at the Conference were: Mr. Ljubomir Jeftic (government-designated expert and environmental services professional), Mr. Ognjen Skunca (Representative of the Croatian Institute for Development and International Relations), and Mr. Luigi Lazzaro (Representative of one of the largest Italian Environmental Associations-Legambiente).
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