HELCOM-Invitation: Minister Barbara Hendricks insists on less marine litter

Source: Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (Helsinki Commission)

Helsinki, Finland – New regional action plans to combat marine litter in Baltic Sea and North-East Atlantic have been key topics during the annual tour of the German Federal Environment Minister, Barbara Hendricks few days ago in Stralsund, Germany. The Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (Helsinki Commission, HELCOM), upon invitation, gave insight into its achievements in protecting the Baltic marine environment and the 2-month old Regional Action Plan for Marine Litter. Representatives of the municipality, civil society and the media joined the Minister’s troupe in learning details about the litter issue at the local level.

“The actions against this urgent conservation issue are now intensifying at many fronts, as the meeting of G7 heads of state and government proved in the beginning of June this year. We need to create ownership, in particular as regards the local and the regional level. Global combat against marine litter can’t succeed without strong support from the Regional Seas Conventions,” said Barbara Hendricks, German Federal Minister from the Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety. ”As the tour today has shown, the importance of local level should not be disregarded, whether in sufficient management of shipping disposals at ports or safer practices concerning fishing nets.

“The only way to ensure that the actions against litter are accomplished for real is that all actors join the governments’ work,” urged Monika Stankiewicz, Executive Secretary of HELCOM. HELCOM launched last June the complete Action Plan for Marine Litter for the Baltic Sea, listing over thirty specific regional actions which are required for unburdening the Baltic Sea from litter.

The list of actions in the HELCOM litter plan covers waste management and sewage water systems; remediation and removal of dumpsites; and tackling top items such as microparticles, polystyrene foam, plastic bags, sanitary litter in sewage, and bottles and containers.The Action plan for marine litter also covers sea-based sources which entail developing best practices for handling waste from fisheries and ships, as well as collection of abandoned fishing gear such as ghost nets. As according to research, most of marine litter derives from households and consumer practices, actions addressing education and outreach on marine litter are also included in the document.

Consumer behaviour is the top reason for marine litter in the Baltic Sea. 48 percent of marine litter in the Baltic Sea originates from household‐related waste, including sanitary waste, while waste generated by recreational or tourism activities would add up to 33 percent. The amounts of litter collected in selected Baltic beaches ranged from 76 items/100m at rural beaches to 237 items/100m at urban beaches. Different beach types were monitored in 2012/2013 in Estonia, Latvia, Finland and Sweden. There are an estimated 150–450 tons of lost fish nets in the seabed of the Polish territorial sea and Polish exclusive economic zone alone

Source: Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (Helsinki Commission)