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Maritime Forum

Map of the Week – Seabed litter - Fishing related items density

The Map of the Week on seabed litter shows the density of fishing related items at the seafloor expressed as the average number of items collected by fish-trawl surveys over the period of one year. Note that the absence of collected data in some...


Overall, it is estimated that more than 150 million tonnes of plastics have accumulated in the world's oceans, while 4.6-12.7 million tonnes are added every year. [1] Fishing related items and other marine litter are a major hazard for marine life as animals can get entangled or ingest the litter items, exposing them to harmful chemicals. These harmful compounds can also make their way up through the food chain threatening human health on a global scale. Moreover, marine litter causes serious economic damage with valuable, recyclable resources lost at sea, polluted beaches driving away tourism, and fishermen’s catches including more and more litter. Every year, around 640,000 tons of fishing equipment are lost or abandoned in oceans and seas (referred to as ghost gear). In addition, the growing offshore aquaculture sector relies on ropes made from 100% petrol-based, non-biodegradable plastic that also threaten marine ecosystems. [2]

European legislation aiming to reduce marine litter and pollution includes policies to ban certain single-use plastic items, encourage ship operators to deliver all waste to ports, improve the rules on reporting of lost fishing gear, restrict the use of microplastics in products (e.g. in cosmetics or detergents) and reduce emissions of microplastics to the environment. [3] Furthermore, in 2021, the European Commission will adopt the action planTowards a Zero Pollution Ambition for air, water and soil – building a Healthier Planet for Healthier People”. Marine litter is one of the 11 descriptors analyzed to assess Good Environmental Status in the framework of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD). The Directive requires European Union Member States to ensure that "properties and quantities of marine litter do not cause harm to the coastal and marine environment".

Many initiatives are being undertaken to reduce marine litter, including items from fishing and aquaculture, to the benefits of the sustainable blue economy and all stakeholders. The new EuroNews episodeReducing plastic in fishing and aquaculture: what alternatives to protect our oceans?’ presents projects that address the issue of plastic marine pollution caused by derelict fishing and aquaculture gear. [2]The BIOGEARS project is developing eco-friendly biodegradable ropes for use in mussel and seaweed culture. The OCEANETS project develops tools to prevent loss of fishing nets at sea, and tests a pilot plant to recycle recovered fishing gears into high quality polyamide yarn that can be used for the production of sports gear. A previous Euronews episode on the dangers of marine litter highlighted the work carried out in the framework of the marGnet project dedicated to the mapping and recycling of marine litter and ghost nets on the sea-floor. The Adrinet project aims to put an end to the harm caused by abandoned fishing nets. Both professional fishermen and divers are taking part in this scheme to protect the seas and their workplace. [4]

Wish to know more about marine litter in general, how this issue can be addressed and actions towards healthy and clean seas?

  • Dive into the map of the week to learn about the density of fishing related items at the seafloor.
  • Explore the European Atlas of the Seas to look at other map layers related to marine litter.
  • Register to participate in the online workshop ‘How LIFE addresses marine pollution’ planned on 20 May in the framework of the European Maritime Day conference.
  • Save the date: the 2021 Green Week which will take place from 31 May to 4 June 2021 will focus on zero pollution.

Access the map

The data in this map are provided by EMODnet.