Towards a Clean, Litter-Free European Marine Environment through Scientific Evidence, Innovative Tools and Good Governance
Marine litter is widely recognized as a threat to Europe's marine ecosystems. It is a major societal challenge because it impacts the vast natural marine capital that supports economies, societies and individual well-being. Political and public awareness about marine litter has been increasing over the last few years. Marine litter is identified as a descriptor for determining Good Environmental Status (GES) under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD). Europe aims to achieve GES by 2020 and CleanSea - the first ever framework program research project dedicated to marine litter - will provide key scientific knowledge and tools for marine litter action plans.
The CleanSea project will i) provide a comprehensive characterization and analysis of the marine litter problem (biological, chemical, social, economic, legislative and policy-oriented) in the EU's four marine regions, ii) propose innovative monitoring tools and standard protocols to facilitate monitoring marine litter in a harmonized way, and iii) present management measures and policy options to meet MSFD and other international objectives regarding marine litter. Outreach activities (e.g. documentary film) are designed to maximize the project's impact,
transparency and relevance in addressing the marine litter issue. The project's unique combination of disciplines will provide key input into a European roadmap for marine litter reduction. Results will be made available to Member States in order to be applied in their MSFD implementation planning and goals. Project outcomes will benefit the MSFD, but important links also exist with the Thematic Strategy on the Prevention and Recycling of Waste, the Waste Framework Directive, the Common Fisheries Policy, the Water Framework Directive and the
EU-funded Horizon 2020 Capacity Building/ Mediterranean Environment Programme. Management measures and strategies highlighted in CleanSea may also contribute to the 'Europe 2020' related Flagship initiative on 'Resource Efficiency'. Measures and policies that promote upstream sustainable production and use of plastics or recycling of waste that will be highlighted in the Road map are also relevant in this context. In that sense, CleanSea is complementary to the BIOCLEAN project funded under 'The Ocean of Tomorrow 2012' coordinated initiative. The promising tools being developed by SMEs in CleanSea can be available for MSFD monitoring and future research.
With a Consortium diverse in expertise and experience, CleanSea aims to break down interdisciplinary barriers by synthesizing data and knowledge generated across its 5 RTD work packages. Advanced techniques in the fields of (eco)toxicology, analytical chemistry, satellite imaging, engineering, oceanographic modelling and materials biodegradation testing will be used to assess the distribution, fate and impacts of marine litter. The participatory approach, policy analysis, ecosystem services mapping and economic policy instruments evaluation will be applied to identify financial, social and governance barriers to GES - and to recommend effective policy options and management measures to remove these barriers. Researchers interact via the CleanSea Stakeholder Platform and are well-represented at marine litter and waste conferences worldwide as well in the European Commission's Technical Subgroup on Marine Litter.