Floating litter in the Black Sea: abundance and composition

Source: Science for Environment Policy

Reliable data regarding marine debris pollution in the Black Sea are lacking. This study provides the first account of the abundance and types of litter floating in the north-western part of the Sea. This information will help to develop effective solutions for marine litter in the region and therefore to achieve the EU objective of ‘Good Environmental Status’ by 2020.

Marine litter is a growing problem that poses a threat to aquatic wildlife, human health and the economy. However, attempts to understand the scale of the problem have been sporadic. In several regions, the occurrence, abundance and distribution of marine litter remain unknown. The Black Sea is one such example.

This expanse of water is particularly vulnerable to pollution, as it is almost completely enclosed, surrounded by industrialised countries, home to shipping routes, fisheries and tourist activities, and a large drainage basin. Although a known vulnerable area, data on marine litter in the region — and in particular debris floating on the surface — is lacking.

This study therefore attempted to quantify floating macrodebris in the Black Sea, specifically in the north-western zone, through a visual survey. The survey was conducted during a research cruise in June 2014 as part of the EU funded project CoCoNet1. The researchers assessed all floating debris larger than 2 cm in an area off the Romanian coast, between the Danube delta and port of Constanta.

All observations were made by the same observer during the daytime and in good weather conditions. The size, type and position of debris were recorded. Items were split into two categories: anthropogenic marine debris, which included styrofoam and plastic, and natural marine debris, which was subdivided into wood, algae and others. The densities of floating debris were estimated using Black Sea Commission recommended methodology.

Overall, 30 sampling areas were surveyed during the cruise, covering an overall length of 186 km, and a total of 225 floating items were sighted. The most abundant debris was natural in most locations, likely because the region is close to the Danube delta, the best preserved river delta in Europe2. Most of the objects sighted were pieces of wood or other debris from rivers (75.5%). However, plastics were by far the most abundant type of man-made litter, comprising over 89% of all anthropogenic items sighted.

Although natural litter outnumbered anthropogenic equivalents, the latter still represents a significant problem. The authors say the amount of man-made litter found was high and comparable to reports from other offshore and coastal locations, including the Mediterranean Sea.

This study sheds new light on floating debris in Romanian waters, finding litter densities peaking at almost 136 items per square kilometre in some areas. However, data is still lacking compared to other regions and these results are just a baseline snapshot of the situation. The authors recommend regular basin wide surveys to fully quantify the problem and to identify the main sources and accumulation areas. This will pave the way for measures to mitigate the problem.

The researchers also say that the enforcement of regional strategies for marine litter should be improved, as should international cooperation. Regardless of where it comes from, once litter arrives in the marine environment, currents and winds transport it across borders. Addressing litter in the Black Sea therefore requires the collaboration of all bordering states.

1. Towards COast to COast NETworks (COCONET) is supported by the European Commission under the Seventh Framework Programme. See: www.coconet-fp7.eu

2. Source: UNESCO. See: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/588

Source: Suaria, G., Melinte-Dobrinescu, M., Ion, G. & Aliani, S. (2015). First observations on the abundance and composition of floating debris in the North-western Black Sea. Marine Environmental Research 107: 45-49. DOI: 10.1016/j.marenvres.2015.03.011


World’s oceans clogged by millions of tons of plastic trash

Source: Reuters

The world’s oceans are clogged with plastic debris, but how much of it finds its way into the seas annually? Enough to place the equivalent of five grocery bags full of plastic trash on every foot (30 cm) of every nation’s coastline around the globe.

That’s according to scientists who released research on Thursday estimating that a staggering 8 million metric tones of plastic pollution enter the oceans each year from the world’s 192 coastal countries based on 2010 data.

Based on rising waste levels, they estimated that more than 9 million tons would end up in the oceans in 2015.

Experts have sounded the alarm in recent years over how plastic pollution is killing huge numbers of seabirds, marine mammals, sea turtles and other creatures while sullying ocean ecosystems.

China was responsible for the most ocean plastic pollution per year with an estimated 2.4 million tons, about 30 percent of the global total, followed by Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Egypt, Malaysia, Nigeria and Bangladesh.

The United States was the only rich industrialized nation in the top 20, and it ranked No. 20. Coastal EU nations combined would rank 18th.

The trash encompasses just about anything imaginable made of plastic including shopping bags, bottles, toys, food wrappers, fishing gear, cigarette filters, sunglasses, buckets and toilet seats.

“In short, you name it and it is probably somewhere in the marine environment,” said Kara Lavender Law, a research professor of oceanography with the Massachusetts-based Sea Education Association.

The estimates were based on information including World Bank data for trash generated per person in all nations with a coastline, coastal population density, the amount of plastic waste countries produce and the quality of their waste-management practices.

“I think this is a wake-up call for how much waste we produce,” said University of Georgia environmental engineering professor Jenna Jambeck.

The researchers calculated that 275 million tons of plastic waste was generated in the 192 coastal countries that year, with an estimated 8 million tons entering the ocean and a possible range between 4.8 million and 12.7 million tons.

“The most pressing need is to capture plastic waste to prevent it from entering the environment,” Law said. “This means investing in waste management infrastructure, especially in those countries with rapidly developing economies.”

“In high-income countries, we also have a responsibility to reduce the amount of waste, especially plastic waste, that we produce,” she added.

The research was published in the journal Science.

(Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Sandra Maler)

Plastic waste dominates seafloor litter in Mediterranean and Black Sea surveys

Source: Science for Environment Policy

Researchers have trawled coastal areas of the Eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea for waste and found up to 1211 items of litter per km2. Plastic bags and bottles were some of the most commonly found items. They present the results in a recent study, which they say supports Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) implementation, as well as efforts to discourage plastic carrier bag use.

Marine litter has a range of damaging impacts. For instance, marine creatures can become entangled in floating nets or eat the litter. Floating litter can also transport non-native species into new environments and tiny plastic fragments, ‘microplastics’, have been shown to be long-term sources of pollutants, such as phthalates.

This study, conducted under the EU PERSEUS project1, assessed marine litter on the seafloor of five areas in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea — three gulfs in Greece, one gulf in Cyprus and one bay in Romania.

The researchers say this study highlights the need for action to tackle marine litter and is relevant to ‘descriptor 10’ of the MSFD. This is one of eleven qualitative criteria describing ‘good environmental status’ listed by the Directive and states that ‘Properties and quantities of marine litter do not cause harm to the coastal and marine environment‘. An important first step in satisfying this descriptor is to quantify marine litter. There is only limited information on quantities in the Mediterranean and Black Sea, however.

The study trawled the seabeds of the five areas for litter at a total of 94 sampling stations in early 2013. The researchers point out that rocky areas cannot be trawled, and that they focused on fishing grounds with sandy or muddy floors.

In total, 5398 items of marine litter were collected. The majority (3269) came from the Saronikos Gulf near Athens, where 1211 items were gathered per km2 of area trawled. The Limassol Gulf in Cyprus was the cleanest area, with 46 items collected and a litter density of 24 items/km2.

In all areas except the Constanta Bay in Romania, the majority of items were made of plastic. Nearly all (95%) items from the Saronikos Gulf were plastic, which exceeds the global average of 75%. Between 60-67% of finds in the Limassol Gulf, the Gulf of Patras and the Echinades Gulf were plastic. The figure was 45% in the Constanta Bay.

Half of all plastic items (49.6%) were bags. This result provides further support for the EU decision to reduce the use of plastic bags, the study says. Bottles accounted for 17.5% of plastic waste and sheets 13.5%. Fishing debris, such as lines and nets, contributed 6.7% of all plastic litter. After plastic, metals were the most common material, at 8.7%–22%, depending on the area, of items found. Glass and ceramics accounted for 6–22% of litter.

In all areas, over half (50.8–71.8%) of litter was between 5 x 5 cm and 20 x 20 cm in size. Small items, under 5 x 5 cm, also made up a significant percentage of litter, with ranges between 7% and 23%. Small fragments are a particular concern because they are difficult to remove from the sea, and are more likely to be ingested by animals or to transfer pollutants.

1. PERSEUS (Policy-oriented marine Environmental Research for the Southern European Seas) is supported by the European Commission under the Seventh Framework Programme. See: http://www.perseus-net.eu

Source: Ioakeimidis, C., Zeri, C., Kaberi, H. et al. (2014). A comparative study of marine litter on the seafloor of coastal areas in the Eastern Mediterranean and Black Seas. Marine Pollution Bulletin 89(1): 296–304. DOI:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2014.09.044.

Contact: cioakeim@hcmr.gr

Distribution and assessment of marine debris in the deep Tyrrhenian Sea (NW Mediterranean Sea, Italy)

Source: ScienceDirect

Authors: Michela Angiolillo, Bianca di Lorenzo, Alessio Farcomeni, Marzia Bo,
Giorgio Bavestrello, Giovanni Santangelo, Angelo Cau, Vincenza
Mastascusa, Alessandro Cau, Flavio Sacco, Simonepietro Canese


Marine debris is a recognized global ecological concern. Little is known about the extent of the problem in the Mediterranean Sea regarding litter distribution and its influence on deep rocky habitats. A quantitative assessment of debris present in the deep seafloor (30–300 m depth) was carried out in 26 areas off the coast of three Italian regions in the Tyrrhenian Sea, using a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV). The dominant type of debris (89%) was represented by fishing gears, mainly lines, while plastic objects were recorded only occasionally. Abundant quantities of gears were found on rocky banks in Sicily and Campania (0.09–0.12 debris m−2), proving intense fishing activity. Fifty-four percent of the recorded debris directly impacted benthic organisms, primarily gorgonians, followed by black corals and sponges. This work provides a first insight on the impact of marine debris in Mediterranean deep ecosystems and a valuable baseline for future comparisons.

Spatial pattern and weight of seabed marine litter in the northern and central Adriatic Sea

Source: ScienceDirect

Authors: P. Strafella, G. Fabi, A. Spagnolo, F. Grati, P. Polidori, E. Punzo, T. Fortibuoni, B. Marceta, S. Raicevich, I. Cvitkovic, M. Despalatovic, G. Scarcella


The present study analyzes spatial distribution and typology of marine litter on the seabed in the FAO Geographical Sub-Area 17 (northern and central Adriatic Sea). Two surveys were conducted during fall 2011 and 2012 and 67 stations were sampled each year. Litter items were collected using the “rapido” trawl, a modified beam trawl commonly used by the Italian fishermen to catch flat fish and other benthic species. Marine litter in the catches was sorted and classified in 6 major categories (plastic, metal, glass, rubber, wood, other). Plastic litter was further subdivided in 3 sub-categories based on its source: fishing nets, aquaculture nets and other. Plastic was dominant in terms of weight followed by metal and other categories. The highest concentration of litter was found close to the coast likely as a consequence of high coastal urbanization, river inflow and extensive navigation associated with the morphological and hydrological features of the basin.

Modelling the transport and accumulation of floating marine debris in the Mediterranean basin

Source: Science Direct

Authors: J. Mansui, , A. Molcard, Y. Ourmières


In the era of plastic and global environmental issues, when large garbage patches have been observed in the main oceanic basins, this work is the first attempt to explore the possibility that similar permanent accumulation structures may exist in the Mediterranean Sea. The questions addressed in this work are: can the general circulation, with its sub-basins scale gyres and mesoscale instabilities, foster the concentration of floating items in some regions? Where are the more likely coastal zones impacted from open ocean sources?

Multi-annual simulations of advected surface passive debris depict the Tyrrhenian Sea, the north-western Mediterranean sub-basin and the Gulf of Sirte as possible retention areas. The western Mediterranean coasts present very low coastal impact, while the coastal strip from Tunisia to Syria appears as the favourite destination. No permanent structure able to retain floating items in the long-term were found, as the basin circulation variability brings sufficient anomalies.


A comparative study of marine litter on the seafloor of coastal areas in the Eastern Mediterranean and Black Seas

Source: ScienceDirect

Authors: C. Ioakeimidis, C. Zeri, H. Kaberi, M. Galatchi, K. Antoniadis, N. Streftaris, F. Galgani, E. Papathanassiou, G. Papatheodorou


In the present work, abundance, spatial distribution and qualitative composition, of benthic marine litter, were investigated in five study areas from the Eastern Mediterranean and Black Seas (Saronikos, Patras and Echinades Gulfs; Limassol Gulf; Constanta Bay). Surveys were performed using the monitoring protocol proposed by the Technical Group for Marine Litter. Densities ranged from 24 items/km2 to 1211 items/km2, with the Saronikos Gulf being the most affected area. Plastics were predominant in all study areas ranging from 45.2% to 95%. Metals and Glass/Ceramics reached maximum values of 21.9% and of 22.4%. The size distribution of litter items showed that ⩾50% fall into medium size categories (10 × 10 cm, 20 × 20 cm) along with an elevated percentage of small-sized (<5 × 5 cm) plastic litter items. The comparative analysis of the data highlighted the dependence of the marine litter problem on many local factors (human sources and oceanographic conditions) and the urgent need for specific actions.