Derelict Fishing Gear Management System in the Adriatic Region.

Marine litter (any persistent, manufactured or processed solid material discarded in the marine and coastal environment) is one of the major threats to marine ecosystems in the Mediterranean Sea with environmental, economic, safety and health as well as cultural impacts. An effort to assess the status of marine litter (abundance, type and distribution) at regional level was made by UNEP/MAP and collaborating NGOs in 2008. The economic impacts of marine litter have not been assessed yet in the region. Marine litter related data are sporadic and limited in terms of time and space when it comes to individual countries (e.g. Initial assessment for MSFD by EU member states clearly illustrated that). Lack of knowledge on scientific data on marine litter in the Adriatic is acknowledged by the EC (MSFD) and the Barcelona Convention (BC) secretariat, giving indices to start regionally synchronized assessments to serve as a basis for effective marine litter management programmes.

The Adriatic Sea is a semi-enclosed basin with slow currents and long water retention time, which makes it very vulnerable to persistent pollution related to marine litter, most of which is composed of plastic materials. Trans-boundary effects are very evident with floating marine litter traveling across borders. Fisheries and aquaculture sectors are contributing to marine litter in the region, while other contributing activities are tourism, shipping, inadequate waste management at all stages, discharged industrial waste, etc.

Enforcement of relevant policies is weak mostly because of low awareness of the problem and poor coordination between different national and local administrations dealing with solid waste issues. Only few countries have policies related specifically to marine litter. Local administrations and municipalities are ultimately responsible for the management of coastal litter in the region. The role of the relevant ministries is limited when it comes to control aspects. The marine litter management issue gained momentum with the entering into force of the BC LBS Protocol,the ICZM Protocol and Special area under MARPOL Annex V. The need is to tackle the issue of marine litter with concrete initiatives.

DeFishGear project’s overarching aim is to reduce marine litter in the Adriatic, with focus on activities involving fishermen. These lost fishing gear may continue to fish for years (estimated time for plastic fishing net breakdown is ca. 600 years), a process referred to as »ghost« fishing. The project will also facilitate management efforts, where a proper monitoring and sub-regional database is absolutely necessary and needs to be developed in collaboration with all countries in the region as envisaged also in the Ecosystem approach to the management of human activities, adopted by countries under the BC.

DeFishGear project will result in a strategy for reducing marine litter pollution in the Adriatic Sea by involving different stakeholders (fishing industry, researchers, policy-makers, NGOs and recycling industry). At the end of the project, the Adriatic region will have the first assessment of marine litter pollution based on data in pilot areas, better knowledge on microplastic pollution and its effects on marine biota and pilot actions in place that will continue in reducing marine litter after the project ends. These outputs will help achieving a Good Environmental Status in line with the MSFD (Descriptor 10). The project will foster collaborative policy frameworks in order to implement the ICZM protocol at cross-border level, aiming at improving the scientific knowledge underpinning decisions on coastal zone management strategies and options.

Specific objectives are to develop a coordinated and integrated strategic approach at cross-border level for quantifying and monitoring marine litter and microplastics (beaches, water column, seabed). This will be achieved by building up and putting in place a synchronized monitoring protocol for marine litter assessment in the Adriatic area. Common protocols on marine litter assessment (sampling and analysis) and new knowledge on technical protocols for sampling and analyzing of microplastic will be disseminated in all participating countries; To construct a marine litter Geographic Information System (GIS) by unifying and implementing existing databases held by different governments, in order to improve the interconnection among Adriatic countries and the flow of information; To develop a collaborative activity among different entities (by encompassing several regional authorities as FB’s or associate partners), strengthening joint Adriatic governance on marine litter management, in order to find and test tools in the framework of ICZM; To reduce marine litter and to implement a system for the recycling of materials from fishing gears through different pilot studies around the Adriatic (e.g., fishing for litter), in order to reduce and prevent marine pollution; To establish cross-sectorial cooperation in the region building up of a forum where scientists, administrators and stakeholders can exchange ideas and data in order to reduce the gap between their diverging approaches. This will be achieved by developing a permanent cooperation network of relevant experts in the field of marine litter in the region and improving the sharing of know-how and experiences; To perform a socio-economic analysis of marine litter impacts on coastal communities, through the assessment of beach cleaning costs, recreational benefits of reduction of marine litter, costs regarding damage to ships and fisheries vessels and equipment due to marine debris; To raise awareness among different stakeholders resulting in a change in attitudes and behavior, through public outreach and public participatory activities.