Monitoring the impact of litter in large vertebrates in the Mediterranean Sea within the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD): constraints, specificities and recommendations

Source: ScienceDirect

Authors: F. Galgani, F. Claro, M. Depledge, C. Fossi


In its decision (2010/477/EU) relating to the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD, 2008/56/EC), the European Commission identified the following points as focuses for monitoring:

(i) 10.1.1: Trends in the amount, source and composition of litter washed ashore and/or deposited on coastlines,

(ii) 10.1.2: Trends in the amount and composition of litter in the water column and accumulation on the sea floor,

(iii) 10.1.3: Trends in the amount, distribution and composition of micro-particles (mainly microplastics), and

(iv) 10.2.1 Trends in the amount and composition of litter ingested by marine animals.

Monitoring the impacts of litter will be considered further in 2014. At that time, the strategy will be discussed in the context of the Mediterranean Sea, providing information on constraints, protocols, existing harm and research needed to support monitoring efforts.

The definition of targets and acceptable levels of harm must take all factors into account, whether entanglement, ingestion, the transport and release of pollutants, the transport of alien species and socio-economic impacts. It must also reflect on the practical deployment of “ingestion” measures (10.2.1). The analysis of existing data will reveal the potential and suitability of some higher trophic level organisms (fish, turtles, birds and mammals) for monitoring the adverse effects of litter. Sea turtles appear to be useful indicator species, but the definition of an ecological quality objective is still needed, as well as research on alternative potential indicator species.


Outcomes from Berlin Conference: comprehensive marine litter issue paper

The final Issue Paper of the “International Conference on Prevention and Management of Marine Litter in European Seas” (10-12 April, 2013) and the posters exhibited at this event are now available on the conference web-site (

The final Issue Paper as well as the Message from Berlin were presented to the Marine and Water Directors at their current meeting (May 30-31) in Dublin. They thanked Germany and the European Commission for the successful organisation of the conference, welcomed this opportunity to debate possible solutions for marine litter in detail and took note of the Issue paper and the « Message from Berlin ». Furthermore the Marine and Water Directors agreed to consider marine litter in depth at their next meeting in Vilnius in December 2013. They asked the Marine Strategy Coordination Group and, if relevant, the EU Technical Subgroup on Marine Litter to follow up on elements discussed, in particular by looking at those aspects of the « Berlin message » which are linked to the implementation of the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive. They also stressed the need to define ways to liaise with waste directors on the marine litter issue. Some relevant tasks related to the identification of land-based sources especially of microplastics and to land-based measures concerning improved marine protection are already incorporated in the now approved work programme 2013 – 2015 of the Common Implementation Strategy for the Water Framework Directive. Last but not least the Marine Directors agreed to support the work undertaken in the Regional Sea Conventions in combating Marine Litter, including the development of Regional Marine Litter Action Plans.