Tackling marine plastic litter nationally and globally
Assess the problem, develop a national action plan, regulate and raise awareness. These key steps are crucial to addressing sea-based sources of marine plastic litter.
The GloLitter Partnerships Project, implemented by IMO in collaboration with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), has been the first global project focused on marine litter from sea-based sources, to follow these steps. It has supported 10 lead partner countries and 20 partner countries. Seven National Action Plans (NAPs) have been published which address marine plastic litter from shipping and fisheries - and others are in the final stages.
Amparo Perez-Roda, Fisheries Officer in charge of pollution from fishing operations, Technology and Operations Team, Fisheries and Aquaculture Division of FAO, told a side event (5 July) alongside the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 80) session that abandoned, lost and otherwise discarded fishing gear is a key source of marine plastic litter.
As a country with “small islands and big oceans”, with many fishing boats in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), the process has been challenging in Vanuatu, according to Lloyd Fikiasi, Deputy Commissioner International / Legal Affairs, Vanuatu Maritime Safety Authority, and GloLitter National Focal Point in Vanuatu. He highlighted the need to get all relevant national agencies involved, including shipping and fisheries.
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“With the support of the GloLitter project, we are in the process of finalizing our National Action Plan. Once that is finalized, it will give guidance for all our national agencies to mainstream the task of addressing marine plastic litter,” Mr Fikiasi said.
Madagascar was one of the first countries to develop its National Action Plan under the project. Adonis Tafangy, Head of Madagascar Delegation, Director of Legal Affairs, International and Environmental Affairs, Port Maritime and Waterways Agency of Madagascar, reiterated the need to have all stakeholders involved.
He highlighted the challenge of collecting data in the first instance, such as identifying the number of fishing vessels with licenses to fish off Madagascar, and of finding out whether fishing gear was imported or manufactured locally. Asked about how to address the issue of discarded fishing nets being thrown overboard, he said: “This is addressed in the National Action Plan. It is about regulation – and about awareness and promotion of good practices.”
GloLitter Partnerships Project brings together IMO and FAO, with funding support from the Government of Norway and contributions from the Governments of Australia and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Tamara Barabadze, GloLitter Partnerships Project Manager, Department of Partnerships and Projects at IMO, said the GloLitter Project has seen countries commit on a significant scale to the importance of addressing sea-based litter on global, regional and national levels, which has resulted in a growing portfolio of ongoing and planned IMO-FAO joint projects in this area.
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“The challenges of marine plastic litter from shipping and fisheries may be significant, but through good partnerships they are not insurmountable,” said Jose Matheickal, Chief, Department of Projects and Partnerships, IMO.
The RegLitter project (2023-2027), supported by the Government of the Republic of Korea, will focus on Asia region countries, supporting the implementation of National Action Plans developed under GloLitter. It will assist other countries in the region to develop and implement their own National Action Plans, and initiate pilot projects on the assessment of marine plastic litter categories and quantities whilst supporting more regional partnerships.
The Plastic Reduction in the Oceans: Sustaining and Enhancing Actions on Sea-based Sources (PRO-SEAS) project is currently under development with the support from the Global Environmental Facility through FAO. The plan is that it will run between 2025 and 2029. If confirmed, the aim is to build on GloLitter achievements and to support five or six countries to implement already existing National Action Plans.
PRO-SEAS, supported by the Global Environment Facility, will aim to bring a new dimension by using the circular economy approach, connecting shipping and fisheries agencies with national waste management systems to ensure sustainable management of plastic waste from sea-based sources. PRO-SEAS will aim to support research to estimate categories and amounts of marine plastic litter in the selected countries.